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For Honor dev: ‘We never intended for players to unlock everything'

“[Unlocking everything] doesn’t really make any sense.” Game director Damien Kieken explained how the design philosophy behind For Honor led to its library of hard-to-get unlockables.

Player criticisms about the grind-heavy nature of For Honor, namely recent complaints that it would take 2.5 years or $732 to unlock all the customizations in the game, prompted discussion within Ubisoft Montreal about the core design philosophy that fuels the studio’s hack-and-slash combat game. 

Speaking on a weekly livestream, game director Damien Kieken explained that when given the choice to provide only a few customization unlocks that could be easily collected or large amounts of cosmetic options that not every player would unlock, the development team behind For Honor opted for the latter.

“What we forecasted is that most players would play one to three characters, and that’s what really we see today in our game,” said Kieken. “Most players focus on one character, on one hero, and others go up two or three heroes. All the design is based around that.”

Kieken likened this aspect of For Honor’s design to World of Warcraft or games in the multiplayer online battle arena genre, saying that players aren’t meant to unlock all the customization options for every single character in the game. 

Rather, the game was designed with the assumption that players would only really devote time to a couple characters and would spend their hard-earned in-game currency on customizations they particularly liked, rather than trying to buy out the whole store across every hero type.

“We never anticipated players who would want to unlock everything in the game, because that’s not how the game is used or played today by our players,” said Kieken. “What we’ve done in the progression design is that we’ve focused on unlocking the gameplay content first. That’s why you get all the feats before reputation one. It’s 5 hours of play per hero, because it’s in those first 5 hours that you know ‘do I like this hero or not?’”

From there it takes about 30 hours of gameplay to fully upgrade a character’s gear. After that, players are able to work towards unlocking cosmetic items that have no bearing on gameplay, and were designed as endgame content rather than must-have unlockables.

The full conversation with Kieken can be found on Ubisoft’s YouTube channel, and begins at about the 23:30 mark.

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