Assassin’s Creed 2 EP14: Free Shave & A Haircut

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 19, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 76 comments

Link (YouTube)

At one point in this episode Josh is trying to leap along a line of wooden beams protruding from the wall. Suddenly his character embraces the wall. Then Josh begins the run again and Ezio leaps AWAY from the wall.

That particular problem is happening to me a lot, and I think it comes down to an ambiguity in the controls: Are they character-relative, or camera-relative? If Ezio is aligned to run along the beams, but the camera is pointed away from the wall, then what happens when I press “forward”? Is Ezio going to move forward from his perspective (along the wall) or from my perspective? (Away from the wall.)

Some games use one, some games use another. It gets really confusing when the camera is facing a wall, Ezio is pointed along the wall, you push the stick to the side, and the camera begins to swing around behind behind him as he moves.

Here it’s a little more frustrating because there are intended “lines” of movement, and the game tries to interpret your intended path. If your manipulation of the controls is telling Ezio to move “diagonal” away from the wall, he’ll continue to move directly along it, or directly away from it, depending on which is closest to what you’re suggesting through the controls. As the player, you can’t feel that you’re telling Ezio to move diagonally, because he’s moving straight. You think, “Ah! Holding the stick forward and slightly to the side like this is making him run forward! I’ll keep doing that.” Then the camera shifts, or you move the stick very slightly. Suddenly your diagonal suggestion is closer to “away from the wall” than to “along the wall”, and Ezio leaps out into space for seemingly no damn reason.

Green is where the player’s input is telling Ezio to go.  Yellow is where Ezio is actually going.  The player is unaware that they’re giving bad directions because Ezio is moving as desired.
Green is where the player’s input is telling Ezio to go. Yellow is where Ezio is actually going. The player is unaware that they’re giving bad directions because Ezio is moving as desired.

This problem became really severe for me once I reached Venice. There are a lot more non-ninety-degree walls along the canals, and all too often I find myself slamming into walls or leaping into the water.

It’s very similar to the frustrations you get with auto-aim: Players have trouble understanding the correct thing to do when the game does so much auto-correction that they can’t see mistakes until they become severe.


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76 thoughts on “Assassin’s Creed 2 EP14: Free Shave & A Haircut

  1. Bubble181 says:

    Best and easiest solution: have a lot less auto-correction on your controls. If I want to aim or move to a specific spot, please don’t move me differently just because you, the maker of the game,thinks it’s more logical, practical or whatever to go that way.

    Same thing in another context: my girlfriend’s cellphone’s continuously auto-correcting what she types. Completely infuriating and actually costs money – sicne it auto-corrects all kinds of text-shorthand (which I don’t like either…) to their full words – she’s suddenly sending 2 or 3 times as many texts!

    Why is it people insist on having a computer decide what a person wants to do? It’s useful in some cases, sure, but at least give the option to turn it off!

    …Oh, and because it’s the very first time ever for me: first!

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It is actually helpful in this game most of the time.For example,when you are doing those runs over the roofs,itd be at least 10 times harder without autocorrecting.The problem is more in the camera,which focuses on some pretty absurd angles most of the time.

      1. Rosseloh says:

        Agreed. Those Assassin tombs would have been a lot easier if the timed sections didn’t have the camera force-change constantly. Come on, Ubi. I can’t move my thumbstick to the 100 degree mark because I don’t have a thumbstick. I can only press “S+D” and hope that you’ll interpret it correctly, because my usual method of steering (the camera/mouse) was just taken from me.

    2. Eruanno says:

      I’ve actually turned off the auto-correction on my phone for this very reason. It kept suggesting so many words I didn’t want to type that I spent more time dismissing them and re-writing that it took less time simply to type it all out manually. (I think it’s supposed to learn what words I use most often and try to auto-correct that, but I can’t be bothered to wait for it to catch up…)

    3. krellen says:

      Why is it people insist on having a computer decide what a person wants to do?
      Because Steve Jobs decided computers should be for everyone, not just the educated. As soon as Grandma and Bubba-Joe had to use the computer, you had to correct for their mistakes.

    4. NihilCredo says:

      It’s neither the best nor the easiest solution – you’d be tearing your eyes off very quickly if Ezio failed every jump in which you aimed slightly diagonally – and the comparison with a phone’s autocorrect is neither here nor there.

    5. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Auto-correct at one end, “nintendo-hard” at the other. I know which I’d prefer, since there’s probably not an infinitely-adjustable continuum…

  2. This has been an issue with games for a quite a while. I mean, it was the same for the original AC, though I don’t remember it being quite as pronounced. I think that’s because the city designs didn’t include as many diagonals.

    Even though the fundamentals of the gameplay are different, I first noticed this disparity of control you’re talking about when I played GTA IV for the first time.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It helps when you can move the camera with your mouse,so you dont use that many diagonal movements.The camera still sucks though.

    That kill at 11:45 was awesome.And you can do even cooler ones from higher places.Its one of the great things in this game.

    That last kill was hilarious.Its much more fun to watch someone fall like that than when it happens to you,especially in a crucial moment.

  4. Xanyr says:

    Josh… you’re my hero

    1. I know, I was laughing my ass off starting at about the halfway mark to the end.

  5. noahpocalypse says:

    Again, does Mumbles have an Xbox? If not, you could be playing Arkhum Asylum before she is Shamus! Don’t lose such a tactical advantage!*

    *Admittedly, I’m not quite sure what to do with that temporary advantage… Yet.

    1. Eruanno says:

      Aaaagh, Arkham City not out until tomorrow in Europe…! *Twitching*

      1. GiantRaven says:

        And thus begins the eternal struggle between needing to play as Batman (or more importantly, Nightwing) and needing to eat any time soon…


    2. Mumbles says:

      My boyfriend is bringing over his Onlive console this weekend to play Batman BITCCHHESS

      1. Wait, you have a boyfriend?

        Does he know?

        1. Methermeneus says:

          I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if a hundred nerds suddenly cried out in disappointment and were suddenly silenced.

          1. Dante says:

            Just cause you’re a goalie doesn’t mean you can’t score!

          2. Sumanai says:

            I feel it should be “…hundreds of shippers…” or did everyone stop the Mumskarn-shipping?

  6. Vlad says:

    I got used to the controls in AC2 (just finished it yesterday), but it’s true that in the beginning I ran a lot into walls. I tried playing it with both a controller and M+KB and I found the latter to be much, much more precise when directing Ezio. Maybe I just suck at wielding analog sticks, but I ran a lot less into walls with my keyboard because of better direction-corrective reflexes and easier camera-aiming with the mouse.

  7. Irridium says:

    In Brotherhood it’s worse.

    I really wish developers would stop trying to predict where I want to go, and instead just let me go where I tell the character to go. Yes there would still be issues, but at least I would know the reason for those issues, which helps me fix the problem(meaning me not sucking as much).

    1. Hal says:

      Agreed, the problem does, indeed, persist into Brotherhood.

      Not that I didn’t enjoy the game. But I gave up very early on getting a perfect “sync” on every challenge, as some of them require absolutely flawless executions, something that is often sabotaged by exactly what Shamus describes above.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’m with Daemian’s earlier comment on this one. While the game’s “intuition” does occasionally screw up and the fixed camera, when it turns on, sometimes made me just jump and pray the game interprets the direction correctly you cannot imagine the world of pain we would be in if they just removed the auto-correcting. On your average rooftop shortcut you’re doing a dozen or so aimed jumps, these have varying length, height and often come in a series (such as when you’re moving from a chimney to a pole, to a swing, to another pole, to another pole…) while being on a timer, and chased by enemies, and ending with an epic jump from the rooftop to stab a guy walking three floors below… I would seriously burn the disc and scatter the ashes if I had to do all of this using the old “jump and watch where your shadow is” from a typical 3D platformer.

      1. Shamus says:

        I’d like a mode where it shows which way it thinks you’re pointing. Like, there would be this glowing line radiating from you according to the stick, even if Ezio isn’t following the line. You’d notice that, “Hey, I’m running along this wall, but the line is pointing out into space. I’d better pull it back in.” It probably wouldn’t take long to get a feel for how it really worked, and then you’d be able to understand when Ezio did seemingly random things.

        I’m not certain it would work, but I’d love to try it and find out.

        1. Nyctef says:

          This is the kind of thing that Assassin’s Creed 2 did well – but with the enemy AI instead. Actually being able to see the AI state with icons above their heads made them seem a lot more reasonable, even if their actual patterns didn’t change that much.

        2. Piflik says:

          And then there would be a million of idiots claiming that this feature breaks their immersion…

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            No there wouldnt,because animus.

  8. GM says:

    Amazing this episode is lively and fun :)

    By the way do you people know whether it is possible to fix Sennheiser PC160 Headset by exchanging the cables or i should just think of another headset.

    I only hear sound from one side,which is something.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Warranty, or get a new one.

  9. Sydney says:

    I wish games would let me turn off all auto-everything. Hold the camera static relative to my character unless I explicitly move it (clip it into walls and blind me, I don’t care), move my character exactly as I direct, move my crosshairs exactly as I direct. It would be harder, but more fair.

  10. twm says:

    I’ve always been impressed by how little people criticize the plattforming controls in AC2. I read a bunch of reviews and no one, not even Yathzee said how annoying they could be. Maybe it’s a thing about the PC version, I don’t know.

    1. bit says:

      I’m playing it on PS3, and honestly the platforming works perfectly fine. I mean, there are screwups, but 90% of those are from having my thumb stupidly glued to the button that makes you jump goddamn everywhere, the other 10% being a margin of error present in any game you play.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats because asscreed has the best platforming controls up to date.90%,if not more,of the annoyance with the controls is because the camera is crappy.

    3. Viktor says:

      AssCreed is several games in one. It’s a stealth game, a parkour game, and a button-mashing fighting game. The controls for 2 of those are perfect. The controls for the third are decent. That’s an incredible achievement, despite the problems.

      And I do think PC has something to do with it. Dual sticks meant he usually didn’t deviate too far from what I wanted him to do.

      1. NihilCredo says:

        I think a device like a Belkin Nostromo or a Logitech G13 would be the perfect PC support for games like AC.

        That said, I had little real problems with just keyboard + (10-button) mouse, as soon as I figured out that the controls were camera-relative.

        1. peter says:

          it would, if it’d actually work.
          logitech stated they didn’t mean for you to use the stick as, well, a regular control stick, but rather something to pick weapons and the like. it shows.
          a lot of games don’t actually work with the g13, you end up assigning regular keys to the stick rather than using its joystick function, which solves nothing.

      2. GiantRaven says:

        Assassin’s Creed is a stealth game?! Boy was I playing it incorrectly…

        1. Mathias says:

          It’s a stealth game in the context that it’s possible to complete every mission in stealth, it just requires a lot of patience and a heap of luck. The Carnevale mission that Shamus is on according to his twitter feed is one of few forced stealth sections that I remember (and by far the most difficult bar maybe the end mission, but by the end you should have some skill at dodging guards).

  11. Knight of Fools says:

    The big problems I had were situations when the camera glued itself to a specific spot, but you had to have the finesse of an analogue stick to nail that jump that’s somewhere between the 45 degree angles you can run in. Especially when you’re being timed and have to start all over if you mess it up. I raged quite a bit when that happened. There’s also times when the camera decides to swing itself around and glue itself to another spot, and you’re not sure whether to correct your controls or not, so end up flying off into space.

    That’s mostly the problem in dungeons, though. I did just fine city jumping – I even got good at it, because you could adjust the camera ever so slightly to go exactly where you need to. When the game decides what to do with your camera, though, it’s terrible.

  12. decius says:

    I only played AC:B, and apparently I just got the mouse/keyboard controls there. It’s always camera-relative, and there are only a couple of points where the camera is forced into a bad angle to show you where to go.

    Then again, I did grind the holodeck until I got gold medals on everything, and I used that to learn all the controls. Then I learned about chain-kills (stab one guy and throw a knife at or shoot another), and my short killstreak score jumped radically, nearly quadrupled.

    1. Klay F. says:

      I played AC1, AC2 and AC:B on PC and I naturally assumed that the controls would automatically be camera-relative (with various fixed-camera BS naturally) like there are with EVERY SINGLE Prince of Persia game. And whaddyaknow? Turns out I was right and I never had a single problem with the controls.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “and there are only a couple of points where the camera is forced into a bad angle to show you where to go.”

      If by couple you mean at least 2 in every dungeon,youd be correct.

  13. Eärlindor says:

    Oh man, when you stabbed the herald in the face… xD

    1. Bentusi16 says:

      Ohhh man I laughed so hard, because it was just so out of the blue and brutal. It was like “DAAAAANG”. Ezio does mean things to civilians that he doesn’t do to guards.

      1. Jakale says:

        I never figured out how you’re supposed to bribe those guys and I think I did the same as Josh the first time around, so I just stuck to posters and the occasional murder-able street dude if one happened by.
        Thinking about it now, I guess money tossing might work, but that seems a bizarre way to make a transaction.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Nope,you just “head” them(the one used to talk to people,”E” I think).

          1. Narida says:

            And don’t forget to pickpocket your money back xD

          2. Steve says:

            You bribe them by giving them head?

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Of course.No male can resist such a bribe.Too bad Josh didnt show you the minigame with this.

  14. Hitch says:

    Needs more Yakkity Sax.

    Also, Josh has a choice, he can bribe this guy or murder him. Which will he choose?

    1. ACman says:

      Damn. Ninja’d.

      But yes, I concur, significant sections of yakkity sax would have improved this dramatically.

    2. Hitch says:

      I just wanted to add, beating up guards to tear down wanted posters should negate any benefit of tearing said posters down. I think that was covered in the episode, but it bears repeating.

  15. Klay F. says:

    I don’t get why everyone else seems to be having this problem except for me. Is the concept of always keeping the camera directly behind your avatar that alien to people (this statement obviously disregards the Prince of Persia style tomb sections)? Do people not realize that keeping your orientation and therefor reference frame the same all times is a good thing? I only ever went someplace I wasn’t intending to go about once in maybe a hundred times. I’m not trying to lessen other people’s problems with it or say that problems don’t exist, I just don’t understand.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well Shamus is talking about the controller,so my guess is that camera is a bit harder to move with one than with a mouse.I too had no problem with it,except in the damn dungeons when you have to beat the clock.

      1. Klay F. says:

        I admit that actually playing games with a gamepad controller rarely even occurs to me (even though I have an xbox that I rarely use), mostly because the concept of using a controller to play a game is usually what I would constitute as self-torture.

        Since the concept is alien to me, I’m willing to accept that playing an AC game might be frustrating with a controller.

        I also agree with you about the fixed-camera dungeon thing. However, since every Prince of Persia game has done this exact same thing I just chalked it up to Ubi trying to artificially increase the difficulty like they always do and instantly forgot about it.

      2. Eruanno says:

        Hmm, I guess I’m a crazy person for thinking third-person games are easier to play with a controller…

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          With a fixed camera,probably true.With a loose one,probably not true.

    2. modus0 says:

      So, what do you do when you’re being chased and you make a quick jump to the left? Does the camera automatically swivel to stay behind you, or do you now need to press Left to go Forward?

  16. BeamSplashX says:

    You guys slay me (and in Josh’s case, EVERYONE).

  17. The Defenestrator says:

    “Okay, here’s the guy I need to stab in front of a dozen witnesses to reduce my notoriety.”

  18. Nidokoenig says:

    I know you guys worry that you don’t really have much on-topic commentary to make about this game, but honestly, Josh could be scrolling through a phone book and it’d be a riot.

    About the Assassin Interrogation Method, I vaguely remember from my very short time playing Assassins Creed DS that there was a pressure-point based interrogation mini-game, based on Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents. You’d sneak up behind someone, press a button to start the mini-game, tap various points and drag the stylus to twist their arm in rhythm, then get a text dump of the information and get a choice of whether to kill the person or not, rather than just stab someone and get them to dump exposition.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Josh could be scrolling through a phone book and it'd be a riot.”

      An april fools episode?

      1. Nidokoenig says:

        Yeah, that sort of thing. It’d be a fun escalation from Railroad to Nowhere. I am wondering how Josh would screw up reading the phonebook, though. “Breaking News, everyone in Milwaukee whose surname begins with A mysteriously passed away earlier today”.

        1. Eruanno says:

          I’d like to see how Josh plays The Sims…

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Desert Bus.

        1. Mathias says:


  19. Destrustor says:

    Is it bad that when I read Mumbles’ title I immediately thought ” oh god she’s drunk again”?

    Is it worse if I was disappointed that she wasn’t?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Theres still hope,since they make these titles for all 4 episodes,so maybe she gets drunk during the game.

  20. Gamer says:

    If you don’t put any directional inputs in while free-run/sprinting, Ezio just assumes you want to go forward. This little tip helped me out sometimes in the PS3 version when I couldn’t control the camera.

  21. James says:

    “smoke bombs, just more evidence that they should go to the far east and make a ninja version”

    in AC : Revelations Ezio wheres black, is in Constantinople, and has EVEN MORE BOMBS.

    i think its safe to say Ezio = Ninja Assassin man with Goatee.

  22. karln says:

    re the inevitable Desmond game that ends the series, personally I’m really hoping they’ll use this idea that Desmond is starting to experience his ancestors’ memories outside the Animus to intersperse Desmond’s sections with various ancestors’. Events in 2012 could trigger memories that are relevant and helpful. It would be awesome.

  23. If you want to see a game with some more annoying auto-correction ‘platforming’ try inFamous. Very helpful when trying to jump onto something. VERY annoying when trying to jump on something when there’s multiple possible things all around it.

  24. Vect says:

    Actually, the Templar Conspirators are being hunted down so that Ezio can figure out where Rodrigo “Fat Jeremy Irons” Borgia and company are meeting in secret. In the Death Dimension, their last words are hints about the time/location.

  25. Darthricardo says:

    Wow, I guess Assassin’s Creed is really only properly playable on consoles… I played it on the PS3, and I guess having multiple axes of variable intensity works way better for steering Ezio around than only 8 axes of a single intensity each. Disappointing, really.
    Also, that was goddamned HILARIOUS. Just sayin’.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nope,it works pretty well on pc.Josh is just rushing it.He wouldnt be any better on a console either.

  26. Mathias says:

    “Because you’re the good guy.”

    Although Assassin’s Creed, even from the earliest one, was always about the “good guys versus the bad guys”, I feel like they stripped out a lot of the philosophy of the Assassins and Templars in AC2.

    In the original, the Templars were a faction that wanted complete peace through coercion. They wanted to control everyone’s minds so that there would be no war anymore. Their whole plan was to take the Piece of Eden and let everyone live in the illusion of a free world.

    The Assassins, on the other hand, were a preemptive group. Kill one man to save a thousand lives, but know who that one man is. A great example of this is when Al-Mualim tells Altaà¯r about the meeting between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, and Altaà¯r’s first question is whether he needs to kill them, with Al-Mualim answering that it’s a really bad idea because the thousands of bloodthirsty crusaders won’t go home just because their head honcho’s dead. It was always about delivering the kill that would make a better world.

    A lot of that seems to be stripped out of Assassin’s Creed and Brotherhood, perhaps a result of the swap in creative directors (if I recall, they switched between AC1 and AC2, though it might be between AC2 and Brotherhood) that lead to it being more of a good vs. bad conspiracy story than you just being in one faction’s camp throughout the game.

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