Assassin's Creed Revelations Developer Interview
Ubisoft Montreal speaks to us about the latest Assassin's Creed.
Published on Aug 3, 2011
We chat to lead game designer Alexandre Breault about what players can expect from Assassin's Creed Revelations.
This Assassin’s Creed game has quite an ambitious subtitle in the name ‘Revelations’. The whole series revolves around secrets and mysteries, both in the past and with Desmond in the future. Will we finally get the answers to those questions? And just how satisfied will players be?
One thing is for sure: players will be given a lot of answers in Revelations. A good chunk of them will be about Ezio because we’ll know exactly what happens to him in the end. And we know that a lot of players want to know what happened to Altaïr after they finished playing him; there’s a lot of mystery around him.
He’s always being referenced in Assassin’s Creed games so we’ll get to discover what happened to the Assassin’s Guild between Altaïr and Ezio’s time. As for Desmond, there are interesting reveals about what happened at the end of Brotherhood and the motivation for that, as well as setting up what is waiting for him afterwards.
I think one of the key elements about Revelations is that it’s the converging point for the three assassins in the game, and through it we are revealing the most important information for each one of them. We’re asking, and answering the question, ‘What was the real purpose of Altaïr and Ezio?’, and through them revealing the true path for Desmond.
For Desmond’s part, an important element of the gameplay will be him in the Animus and him trying to find a way out of the Animus cyber-world in the ‘Black Room’. And that’s providing us with a totally new setting. I can’t say what exactly that will be, but I can tell you that, since it’s all in the Animus, it gives us a freedom that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
It’s an opportunity to do something really interesting and introduce gameplay that could only be done in this fantasy environment. We’re taking this chance to create something totally new that will really surprise the player.
It sounds like the three Assassins will have plenty to do both in and out of the Animus. Assassin’s Creed Revelations sounds like a much bigger game. How have you approached mission structure given that scope?
An element we’re really working on is to make sure that the introduction of the missions are really organic. The early demo [in which Ezio fled across a fleet of burning ships] was a really a good example of that. In previous Assassin’s Creed games it felt like there was a clear beginning and end to a mission – they were very segmented.
We’re trying to make them flow more naturally within the game. We’re able to have scripted events that trigger missions once you approach a point, and then the mission flows from there. We’re doing that for main missions and side-missions as well.
Some of the optional missions you’ll do will just be events that are triggered around the city, and then you’ll have the option to do them or not as you choose. It won’t necessarily be based on interaction, with a character asking you if you want to start the mission. So it’s a more fluid approach that grabs the player and drags him into a immersive experience
Everything we’ve seen of the game so far appears to have a far more cinematic approach than before. What prompted this, and how does it affect gameplay?
What we’re really trying to do is focus on the key moments of the game to make them as cinematic as possible. We want to show the player the full impact of his actions within the game and let him see what’s really happening around him.
That’s an element we’re really focusing on, and trying to raise it to the highest visual quality possible. But, at the same time, we’re aware that one of the strong points of the Assassin’s Creed games is the freedom that we give players, and we want to make sure that, even as we give that cinematic feeling, it’s not at the cost of the player’s freedom.
It’s really about trying to find the right blend of cinematic moments and the openness of the Assassin’s Creed gameplay for an experience that is really intense and interesting for the player.
The series is famous for letting players interact with famous historical figures. What can you tell us about the new Mocam facial animation system you’ve created to help bring them to life?
One of the elements that’s really interesting about Mocam is that, while it creates a lot of high-fidelity character expression and movement, the actor doesn’t need to look like the character he’s playing. It’s a system that’s able to interpolate the facial movements of one person and apply them to any model. That gives us a lot of flexibility with our actors.
They’re also able to act with their whole body, as the system isn’t just limited to the head. Mocam doesn’t create a clash between facial expression and body movement – it’s all integrated. It allows realistic facial expression, but not at the cost of actor expression as normal mo-cap does.
This series has come to be associated with high quality, and each game has improved on just about every aspect of the one before, graphically, narratively and in gameplay. What was the most challenging thing that you had to tackle as you tried to create this ‘finale’ of the Ezio Trilogy?
That’s quite a hard question, but for me the hardest element is just the scope. The Assassin’s Creed games have such huge scope and so many gameplay systems in them. Our biggest challenge was to be able to find a way not just to expand that scope but make everything feel like it works better.
In that sense, I think one of the core features that we’ve added is the hook blade, which was really hard because it was something that touched both navigation in the world and combat, which are both core to the game.
The way we decided to introduce it is to make sure it was creating a bridge between those two systems – making the navigation faster and more fluid for players, as well as a way to enter and leave combat. It also had to be very helpful in combat and an improvement to the hidden blade.
It was about finding the right way to consolidate all those existing elements and I think it was a really interesting result. And that was true about all the new features we built into the Assassin’s Creed Revelations, from combat to the dynamic city you play in.