Creed : Interview with Jade Raymond
Producer at Ubisoft Montreal -
Raymond, producer at Ubisoft Montreal, was kind enough to answer some of our questions
concerning their upcoming game : Assassin's Creed.
Gazette : Can you give us some details about your previous games ?
Raymond : Yes of course, first, I was programmer on a bunch of games at Sony
like Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. I started the development on a Charlie's Angel
game but it never shipped. I was producer on a massively multiplayer game called
"There" and finally was the producer on The Sims online before coming
Xbox Gazette : How
long has Assassin's Creed been in development ? Can you present the main designers?
Jade Raymond : Assassin's Creed has been in development for over two years.
Immediately after shipping Prince
of Persia the sands of time a small core team was given the mandate
to create a new IP specifically designed to take advantage of next-gen hardware.
Patrice Desilets: Creative Director, David Chateauneuf Level Design Director,
Alex Drouin Animation Director and Richard Dumas Lead Gameplay programmer already
had a ton of ideas of where they wanted to take next gen gameplay. Claude Langlais
and Dominic Couture who led the technology for Sands of time had their own vision
for the engine and tools of the future. The fact these people as well as other
core members from The Sands of Time had already worked together means that they
were up and running with a long list of ideas to prototype from day one. I joined
the team a few months into conception to help give more focus to the team's pre-production
efforts, add a little more structure to the milestones and build out the team.
While the core team is same core team from The Sands of Time we have also added
specialists from other teams at Ubisoft and the Game industry at large. Ubisoft
asked us to redefine the action genre for the next-generation of consoles and
the only way to achieve such an ambitious goal is to put together the right team:
People who have proven that they can work together to deliver a hit as well as
experts with diverse backgrounds.
Gazette : Can you describe for our readers the principles of Assassin's Creed?
What kind of game is it ?
Jade Raymond : We set the bar really high.
We've taken one of the most senior teams in the industry and challenged them to
redefine action gameplay for Next Generation Systems. These are our creative best,
they have all worked together before and they each have over 8 years worth of
ideas that they are anxious to put into practice now that the consoles have caught
up. The team decided to focus on crowd and freedom of movement to deliver new
emergent types of gameplay. The Crowd has been designed as a living a breathing
obstacle that you can influence though your second to second actions as well as
through longer term strategies. The character has over 1000 distinct moves and
can interact with everything in the environment. These elements are pretty cool
on their own but the magic lies in how they come together. Patrice Desilets, Assassin's
Creed's creative director calls his philosophy organic design and I think it's
this approach paired with the team's experience and ambition that is making the
game different and great but you will have to judge for yourself when the game
Xbox Gazette : What
were your sources of inspiration for Assassin's Creed ?
Jade Raymond :
Obviously we had a lot of inspirations and references, but here's how it started:
Patrice Desilets our Creative Director as well as some other key members of our
Creative team read a book about the Assassins and then started to do a lot of
research about the clan and the 3rd crusade. The more we discovered about these
people, the more we wanted to make the game. Even the Assassin Motto "Nothing
is True, Everything is permitted" fits the game medium perfectly. We developed
our main character, Altair as a forward thinking missionary of sorts, on a mission
to end the 3rd crusade.
: Is the game more directed towards fiction or History?
: Actually the game is directed at the same time towards fiction and history.
It's a speculative fiction, and it's a fun genre to work in. By grounding a story
in reality, you increase its credibility. Suspension of disbelief becomes easier
because it's happening in our world. You're exploring cities that still exist
today - encountering infamous individuals whose names everyone knows - witnessing
battles that really occurred.
the same time, because our setting is far removed in time (this is nearly 1000
years ago), there's plenty of freedom to tweak people's personalities and motivations.
It's fun to explore the idea that something else was happening beneath the information
gleaned from historical textbooks. People are also fascinated by "History's
Mysteries" and the Templar Treasure was ripe for exploring. What did the
Templars find beneath Solomon's Temple? Why did they want it? Where is it today?
Gazette : How did your try to avoid potential religious tensions with a game
focused on the crusades?
Jade Raymond : Well, we obviously did not
make this game with a political agenda. First and foremost, our goal is to provide
a new type of entertainment experience based on crowd gameplay and new levels
of interaction with a living game environment.
said it's important to note that historically the Assassins had their own philosophy
- quite different from that of the Crusaders or the Saracens and did not alley
themselves with either side. Since they were a sort of mystic secret society almost
nothing about their actions or cause can be confirmed. This historic ambiguity
has allowed us to portray the Assassins as a forward thinking group with the single
objective to stop the war. Knowing that our subject is controversial by nature
we have dealt with religion as a purely historical background element. We have
worked with cultural experts throughout production to make sure that we treat
sensitive topics with respect. In Assassin's Creed, Crusaders (and the Saracens)
are not the Assassin's true enemy. War is - as are those who exploit it.
Gazette : Who is Altaïr, and what happened to his finger?
Raymond : At the start of our game, Altair is a disgraced Master Assassin
sent to kill nine men in order to end the Third Crusade. Over the course of the
story, players will experience his re-induction into the order, his rise through
the ranks of the Assassin Brotherhood.
His full name is Altair Ibn'La-Ahad
which roughly translates into "Altair, Son of None." Orphaned as a child,
he was taken in by the Assassin's and raised amongst them.
First and foremost,
he has been commissioned to end the Third Crusade. To do so, he must seek out
those responsible for leading and exacerbating the conflict. The targeted murder
of immoral individuals is his primary method of achieving his goal. Along the
way he will discover that the Crusades themselves are simply a cover for a much
larger conflict - one in which he will play a pivotal role.
mythology is that each Assassin receives this spring loaded knife during a rather
violent initiation ceremony where the ring finger is cut off in order to make
room for the blade. I would like to leave some aspects of the blade a mystery.
Suffice to say that it is related to uncovering the truth.
a lot to be discovered about our hero over the course of the game. What does it
really mean to be called the "Son of None?" Why do many of his enemies
and allies seem to know more about him than he does? Why are they reluctant to
share this information with him? Will he find the courage to conquer his personal
demons and overcome his character weaknesses?
Gazette : Which weapons will Altaïr be able to use in the game?
Raymond : Altair will have both melee & short range weapons. Details about
this aspect of the game will be revealed later.
Gazette : There seems to be some strange distortions that appear in the trailer,
and a "loading" message. Can you explain this to us?
: All I can say for now right now is that as you assassinate the people responsible
for the horrors of the third crusade; you also uncover a plot with much greater
and far reaching implications. I don't want to reveal too much but suffice to
say that the conspiracy even touches on subjects that are relevant to you and
Xbox Gazette : Can you describe
the gameplay, and how to control the movements of the hero?
: In my opinion the more game rules can mirror real-life rules, the better
players are able to suspend their disbelief and be immersed in the game. With
a foundation in real world rules, games can be made even more accessible to the
non-gaming public because of their familiarity with those rules. The way you move
your character in the environment and interact with the world surrounding you
should be very intuitive. We did a lot of playtesting that informed us that players
still have the need to understand "action groups" when they control
the character. So we now have a hybrid system that helps the player understand
the puppeteering style controls in an even clearer way. Legs, for example, are
used in "Free-Running" situations and "Free-Hands in "Crowd
Interaction" situations. It's the same body-part based system, rationalized
to be even more intuitive, in all situations. And believe me when I say, there's
a lot of situations!
: The crowd seems really important in Assassin's Creed. Can you describe its
interactions and the AI?
Jade Raymond : Altair's interactions with
the crowd are based on a social dynamic, meaning we want to achieve a certain
level of social realism in his interactions. In most games, it's not considered
unusual to run around with your gun out and no one taking any notice. In fact,
the very idea of running all the time is a bit silly; no one does this in real
life! Thus, Altair has two modes in the game: a socially acceptable "low
profile" mode, where all his actions are modified to help him blend in socially.
In the second "high profile" mode, Altair goes into all-out hero mode,
but simultaneously becomes more conspicuous, possibly putting his mission at risk.
the player progresses through the game, he has the option of helping certain groups
of people. These missions are optional for the player, but they always have an
impact on the social gameplay: groups of NPCs could turn from hindering the Assassin
to helping him. For example, helping an order of Monks might cause a group of
wandering priests to no longer call out the Assassin and warn the guards when
he gets spotted. They might even go so far as allowing the player to blend in
with them, giving easy access to heavily guarded areas of the city.
The crowd and the AI systems have always been a core component
of the gameplay. To say that this had a huge impact on the team is an understatement:
we've put a massive amount of engineering effort in realizing an AI system that
makes a large medieval town come alive. We're aggressively using technologies
and strategies that are truly pushing the limits of what next-gen consoles can
Xbox Gazette : How will
Assassin's Creed differ from other games like Prince of Persia?
: I've heard a lot of comparisons: Splinter Cell, Hitman, Shadow of Colossus,
Prince of Persia, GTA,
All of these are great games so it's quite flattering
but our goal with Assassin's Creed was to use the new tech to deliver new types
of gameplay and a more relevant experience. If we finish our work as planned then
the feel of the final game should be quite unique.
biggest difference with Splinter Cell is that Assassin's Creed is not a stealth
game. We do have a feature called social stealth. A rule that says that you are
hidden as long as you are behaving in a socially acceptable way. But this rule
results in a much more fast paced type of gameplay then traditional stealth that
is based on staying hidden in shadow, especially since you are trying to blend
into the chaos of a crowd in the midst of one the bloodiest wars in history. Besides
the difference in pacing there is also a difference in the amount of freedom given
to the player. We have recreated the entire Holy Land, 3 major cities as well
as all of the countryside in between. The player is free to roam the countryside,
explore cities, and participate in side quests and missions to help the population
or complete main Assassination missions. All of these objectives can be accomplished
in a variety of ways and in the order that suits the player's mood. We put a lot
of emphasis on player creativity and set the whole game experience up so that
you can develop your own playing style and adjust the level of difficulty and
adrenaline to your liking.
Xbox Gazette : Can we travel freely
from one city to another in the game?
Jade Raymond : As a matter of
fact yes. Not only you'll be to able to travel freely from on city to another
but we are also trying to do something a little different that was not possible
before. We focused on building a character that can do over 1000 contextual moves,
and paired this new freedom of movement with a highly interactive environment
and crowd lets players develop their own style. Any architectural detail that
sticks out more then 2 inches can be used as a hold for your hands or feet. Not
only can create your own path on the rooftops you can also create your own flashy
or subtle style for doing so or skip the roofs entirely and use a strategy through
the crowd. Place a highly mobile and skilled Assassin in a fully interactive living
environment and the possibilities are endless.
Gazette : What will the music be like? Who is the composer?
: Our music composer is Jesper
Kyd. Even though the action takes place in the Holy Land during the
3rd crusade, we really want the game to have very modern and cutting edge style.
Our music signature aspires to be inline with the emotional & the gameplay
experience that the player will live instead of concentrating on portraying a
specific setting. Of course, each city will have its own style, faithful to each
specific culture. But our focus is to give each location a music treatment that
will represent the emotional experience the player will undergo.
Gazette : Which new possibilities do the "next gen" consoles give
you for this > kind of action game? What makes AC a "next gen" game?
Jade Raymond : This game would never have been possible on the last generation
of consoles. Our goal with Assassin's Creed was to use all of the Next Gen processing
power to deliver a totally new game experience, focusing on interactivity and
immersion. We're aiming to create a world in which the player can interact with
everything and where there is no suspension of disbelief because for example some
doors can be opened but other can not. We have started with the concept that the
player should have full control over the Assassin's body and that the Assassin
should be able to interact with the world in an intuitive and natural way. The
new gameplay comes from how the living and breathing world reacts to your second
to second actions. The need for artificial puzzle elements like moving walls or
fire traps disappears because for the first time we can base our gameplay on social
rules and the natural traps found in real cities.
So each player will be able
to tune the difficulty level of the game when choosing how he behaves in the world.
He will make the challenge easier if he follows the social rules and achieve all
sorts of side missions prior to his main assignments or harder if he decides to
create havoc in the city before completing his mission.
Gazette : Will there be any differences between the Xbox 360 and the PS3 versions
of the game in terms of content?
Jade Raymond : I hate to answer in
such a lame way but I can't say right now...
Gazette : Will the game have any multiplayer mode?
Jade Raymond :
Assassin's Creed will not feature any multiplayer or coop modes.
Gazette : Can we expect a demo and other downloadable content on the Marketplace?
Jade Raymond : Who am I to stop you from expecting? ...But I can't confirm
anything at this point in time.
Gazette : Can you explain us why Ubisoft didn't confirm the Xbox 360 version
Jade Raymond : Our ambitions with AC are high: we're aiming
to deliver a completely new gameplay experience on a brand new engine. With AI,
physics, animation and Graphics ambitions like ours we weren't sure how many consoles
we could support. But we always wanted to share our Next-Gen vision with as many
gamers as possible. We have just recently been able to prove to ourselves that
we will be able to deliver on both systems without sacrificing the quality or
innovation of our original concept.
Gazette : Are we going to see a sequel or more? and will they be set in a
different time of history ?
Jade Raymond : It's too early to say anything
about possible sequels. Right now, the whole team and all our efforts are focused
on one game and that's already more than enough!
Gazette : Many thanks for your time and your answers !
Related links :
Creed 2 review
Creed official site
Xbox 360 interviews
Gazette, October 6th 2006
Thanks to : Jade Raymond,
Cédric Crausaz, Ubisoft