'We've had to redefine development' - Assassin's Creed team

'We've had to redefine development' - Assassin's Creed team
Michael French

By Michael French

May 9th 2007 at 11:30AM

Developers working on Ubisoft Montreal's big hope for next-gen talk design and production.

Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Desilets, producer Jade Raymond and technical director Claude Langlais have been discussing the design motives and processes involved when making their new game at Ubisoft Montreal - with Desilets describing the game as "a sports game with swords and free running".

This hybrid concept forms the core of the new game and has meant the development team has had to rethink or rebuild many of its design, production and technical duties - as explained in the cover feature in this month's Develop.

"Personally, my own grail is to give action players the same freedom of movement found in sports games, but also a similar experience where no two ‘matches’ are the same," said Desilets.

"Our goal is to create a world in which the player can interact with everything with no suspension of disbelief," he said, reasoning: "Place a highly mobile and skilled character in a fully interactive living environment and the possibilities are endless."

Creating an interactive world full of environmental detail that the game character can interact with has, however, meant that the artists on the production team are finding themselves in an equally hybrid design-reliant role.

Explained producer Jade Raymond: "The design decision to make everything interactive required us to completely redefine the way artists work. That was one of the production challenges that we had early on in development.

"On most games modelers and level artists spend most of their time thinking about making great looking levels, but on Assassin’s Creed, artists also have to learn level design rules. Since we have huge open cities it is not possible for any one person to own the creation of a whole map. Artists instead have to work cooperatively to build the city, some focusing on houses, others on landmarks and others on objects. Furthermore it’s not enough just to make sure that your house looks good and fits within budgets. On Assassin’s Creed, artists have to start by making sure that their design works with the character and level design rules and only after that can they think about making it look good."

Meanwhile, Assassin's Creed has also acted as a template for all of Ubisoft Montreal, helping the studio build its next-gen tool pipeline for both the game itself and the studio as the whole.

“Most of the engine and tools used for Assassin’s Creed were built from scratch,” said Claude Langlais, technical director.

“A critical part of the development was having a dedicated tools team (peaking at seven programmers) to build, support and evolve quality tools all along the project. Modeling is done in 3dsMax for environment and ZBrush for characters. We have about 43 programmers on the project right now, a bit less than half working on QA and core technology applied to the game, the rest focusing their effort on game content.”

More from Desilets, Raymond and Langlais - and an interview with Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat - can be found in the latest issue of Develop, which can be downloaded here.