Social stealth, or how inconspicuous one could remain in public environments, was a key ability to master for a member of the Assassin Order.
A Master Assassin knew that targets were unable to prepare themselves for a covert strike completely. For the Assassins, remaining unexposed was the safest way to move about without catching the attention of guards, arousing the crowd or alerting an assassination target. Thus, avoiding attention was vital to the survival of Assassins during their assassination missions.
Based on the second tenet of the Creed, remaining anonymous was a priority for members of the Order; Assassins achieved greater chances of success during investigations and assassinations when they did not arouse suspicion. It was vital for Assassin apprentices to understand the people, and utilize them, or other surrounding elements to their advantage. To this effect, Assassins used crowds to mask their approach, create distractions, and only revealed themselves during assassinations when necessary.
Whether performing silent executions or public assassinations, Assassins struck at the most appropriate moment, where they could accomplish a covert kill and also run or hold their ground against guards when required. Whether approaching a target from behind and killing them with the Hidden Blade, or gently pushing past a crowd before bursting through the guards on a rampage charge towards a target, the knowledge of social stealth was an indispensable skill. Though mastering an assassination was a priority, mastering the approach to the act was equally important for Assassins.
During the Third Crusade, the Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad's current social status was displayed on the heads-up display (HUD) of the Animus virtual machine, either via the social status icon or witness indicator. The social status icon switched to the witness indicator under context – they were never displayed simultaneously. The witness indicator only appeared when Altaïr was in the presence of guards who were not in open conflict with him. In all other cases, the social status icon was visible.
The social stealth system kept track of how much attention nearby guards paid to Altaïr and his actions. Citizens and guards would react differently, depending his actions around or towards them. Whilst walking within the cities and Kingdom, Altaïr was able to force people out of his way and gently push past them. Though the former attracted attention and prompted some citizens to shove him in retaliation, Altaïr was able to pass through the crowd much more quickly. Gently pushing or moving past civilians would attract no attention, but took more time in crowded areas.
Socially unacceptable behavior would increase the attention that guards and civilians paid to Altaïr's presence. Remaining anonymous, completely avoiding arousing suspicion and publicly expressing only socially acceptable behavior would enable safe travel through city streets. Should guards chase Altaïr, he was able to use the following places as hiding spots:
- Groups of scholars
- Benches (only when occupied by two civilians)
- Piles of hay
- Rooftop gardens
Remaining anonymous refilled Altaïr's synchronization bar. When Altaïr attracted excess attention, omnipresent guards would recognize his identity as an Assassin, and attempt to kill him, eliminating his anonymity and forcing him to seek a hiding spot. An important and dependable way to assure anonymity was to blend. Since Assassins dressed in attire similar to religious scholars, a change in Altaïr's mannerisms to mimic a group (folding the hands and assuming a prayerful stance) ensured a slow, yet safe passage through guarded entrances and areas.
Social status icon
The witness indicator distinguished the different awareness levels of guards near Altaïr. Shaped differently from the social status icon, it had an eye in its center that glowed yellow or red, depending on the soldiers' level of awareness.
- Unaware: A yellow witness indicator meant that the guards near to Altaïr were either unaware or suspicious. An unaware soldier had his hands to his side, oblivious of the threat posed by Altaïr.
- Suspicious: A suspicious soldier was slightly cautious of Altaïr's presence, but not enough to attack or draw his sword. Instead, he rested his hand on his sword hilt, with the blade drawn slightly. Unaware and suspicious guards were unlikely to attack, unless provoked. The witness indicator glowed yellow whilst soldiers were suspicious of Altaïr, or unaware of him.
- Informed: A flashing red witness indicator meant that guards near to Altaïr were extremely suspicious, and prepared to attack him. An informed soldier had his sword fully drawn, ready to engage in combat, due to his suspicion of the Assassin; during this state, guards were provoked easily. Altaïr could escape by blending with scholars, or killing the suspicious guards. All soldiers within the Kingdom were always informed, as were certain patrol squads found in city districts.
In cities, if Altaïr revealed himself to a main target or assassinated him, a city alert was triggered. In this state every guard and archer in the city became informed and would most likely attack on sight. Alarm bells also tolled and the Synchronization Bar turned red. Altaïr needed to return to the city's Assassin Bureau while out of sight in order to cancel this alert.
The social stealth engine of the Animus 2.0 differed from its predecessor, which allowed additional features to be monitored. The Assassin Ezio Auditore was able to blend into any crowds, bribe heralds, and either hire courtesans or thieves to distract specific targets. He could pickpocket civilians for florins, and ran the risk of being pickpocketed himself. Ezio was able to hide in carts of hay, flower petals, and autumn leaves, and dive underwater to escape from pursuers. Doing so, however, was not necessarily an effective form of escape since Seekers could search for Ezio in hiding spots. Evading guards was far easier since Ezio was able to leave a hiding spot at any time.
The notoriety icon, set next to the synchronization bar, indicated Ezio's level of notoriety amongst guards. When caught undertaking socially unacceptable deeds, his notoriety in that individual city or location increased.
- Killing or fighting civilians
- Becoming detected by guards in a restricted area
- Bumping into a stationary guard, without the gentle push or brushing aside
- Being caught pickpocketing civilians
- Being caught looting bodies
- Being caught carrying bodies
- Knocking into minstrels
- Being discovered in a hiding spot by Seekers
- Causing guards to flee from fights
- Killing guards in open conflict
- High profile assassinations
- Killing Borgia messengers and pickpockets
- Hijacking guards' horses
- Knocking into civilians carrying objects (eg. crates), causing them to drop the object, in the presence of guards
- Removing a "Wanted" poster in the presence of guards
- Removing wanted posters would lower Ezio's notoriety by 25%, however if guards saw this act, the Assassin would receive a small increase in notoriety, and a guard would shove him. If a poster was located on the wall of a Borgia Tower, igniting the tower would not lower Ezio's notoriety.
- On bribing heralds, Ezio's notoriety was lowered by 50%. After this, the Assassin could pickpocket the heralds to retrieve the 500 florins he had bribed them with, however, this would cause a slight rise in notoriety. He could also kill and loot heralds after bribing them, though it yielded the same results.
- Assassinating officials who gave false witness, or selected key guards, would reduce Ezio's notoriety by 75%. This was the most effective way to lower high levels of notoriety, however, it was usually only available when Ezio attained a significantly high level of notoriety.
States of notoriety
When the notoriety meter reached full capacity, guards were on constant lookout and always suspicious of Ezio. As such, they would attack him almost immediately after they caught sight of him. However, when the notoriety meter was empty, dubbed "incognito", guards would not pay attention to Ezio's presence unless he moved into restricted areas or committed socially unacceptable acts.
Special capes obtained by Ezio would enable a permanent incognito state in certain cities and areas when worn, which he could acquire by completing main memories or by completing certain tasks. However, the Auditore cape possessed an opposite effect; when worn, Ezio would become permanently notorious in any city during the 15th century.
Social Status Indicator
The Social Status Indicator (also known as SSI) of the Animus 2.0 contained two components:
An arrow located above a guard's head indicated Ezio's level of detection by them.
- When the arrow turned yellow, this indicated that the guard had begun investigating Ezio's actions and had become alert to his surroundings. The amount of time needed for a guard to recognize Ezio depended from the type of guard observing the environment and his actions. Running will cause the yellow arrow to fill faster.
- When the arrow turned red, the guard had recognized Ezio and would immediately engage him in combat, or pursue the Assassin if he attempted to flee.
The Social Status Indicator, instead of being located to the left of the synchronization bar, was a frame that surrounded the mini-map on the bottom-right of the Animus 2.0's heads-up display. The indicator's colors were the same from those in the Animus 1.28.
- White: Ezio's status was "anonymous"
- Red: Ezio was in open conflict with guards.
- Yellow: Ezio had broken the pursuing guards' line of sight, whilst in open conflict with them.
- Blue: Ezio was "vanishing" from view, though guards were still searching for him.
- Green: Ezio was "hidden", having lost the guards pursuing him, or unaware to any guards present.
In addition, the mini-map displayed an orange circle when guards' line of sight was broken. This orange circle represented the area where guards were actively searching for Ezio. Exiting the circle greatly increased Ezio's chances of escape without the need to hide; though the guards were still able to see him from within the indicated area.
In Constantinople, Ezio had to contend with two factions, the Ottomans, who would only attack if they saw him doing something illegal, and the Byzantines, who were on the hunt for any Assassins and would attack him on sight. Performing illegal actions increased the Templars' awareness of the Assassins, and led to an attack on an Assassin Den should it become high enough. Any of the following would also increase Templar Awareness:
- Renovating shops, banks or faction buildings
- Recruiting apprentices
- Recapturing an occupied Assassin Den
- Purchasing landmarks
- Killing guards in open combat (Ottoman or Byzantine)
- Killing civilians of any kind, except officials
- Being stabbed by Stalkers
Ezio could decrease Templar Awareness by bribing heralds (100 akçe, 25% decrease), killing Stalkers (25% decrease), or killing officials (50% decrease). Templar Awareness could also be made irrelevant once Ezio has raised seven of his apprentices to the level of Master Assassin and assigned them to protect an Assassin Den, preventing further attacks.
When incognito, Ratonhnhaké:ton could walk or run freely, and did not attract attention unless doing something illegal. When his notoriety was at level one, guards would notice him when he passed, but would not become hostile unless he lingered for too long, or did something illegal.
At level two notoriety, guards would become suspicious of him on sight and try to approach him, and would attack him if he stayed in their sight for a short while.
Finally, at level three notoriety, the Jäger forces would be introduced and would actively search for him. Following this, guards would attack Ratonhnhaké:ton on sight, and the commotion would usually attract a large number of guards and Jäger soldiers. At this notoriety level, bells would also be heard ringing constantly in towns, alerting the guards to Ratonhnhaké:ton's presence.
Ratonhnhaké:ton could reduce his notoriety in Boston and New York to incognito by tearing down wanted posters, or through bribing town criers and printers. Hovever, unlike Ezio, it was impossible to Ratonhnhaké:ton to retrieve the bribe from the crier by pickpocketing him. Additionally, Ratonhnhaké:ton was unable to reduce notoriety in the Frontier, where soldiers would constantly attack him; he was only incognito in the area belonging to the Continental Army at Valley Forge, or in forts he had captured for them.
Another addition to the social stealth engine of the Animus 3.0 was Ratonhnhaké:ton's ability to blend with any group of civilians. This was common by market stalls, leaning against walls or boxes, sitting on benches, and sometimes on the ground in an alley. From there, as a guard approached, Ratonhnhaké:ton could assassinate from these spots, performing an environmental kill.
For the Assassin Aveline de Grandpré, notoriety was raised individually for each of her three personas, with the Assassin persona having a minimum level one notoriety status. Aveline could reduce her notoriety level in New Orleans by three different methods for each of her personas, tearing down wanted posters as a slave, bribing corrupt magistrates as an Assassin, or assassinating false witnesses as the lady.
Aveline's personas also held distinctive traits that aided in social stealth, such as her Slave persona, which was able to blend easily with other slaves by picking up and transporting cargo throughout the city.
- In Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, there are additional hiding spots, including large barrels and boxes, behind certain walls, and the inside of doorways.
- Due to their dense and tight armour, Brutes took a longer amount of time to recognize Ezio.
- In Assassin's Creed III, using fast travel instantly removed all of Ratonhnhaké:ton's notoriety. It is unknown whether it's a bug or a feature.