Assassin's Creed Brotherhood: Did the team cheat when making Rome?
17th Nov 2010 | 10:29
Hello, and welcome to day three of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood week on psm3mag.com. With only two days to go until Brotherhood UK's release (lucky US gamers have already been playing the game for a day now), the global reviews are out. The verdict? The average score is 91%, just a single percentile lower than our score of 92%, which we awarded the game in our exclusive PS3 review - in the new issue, currently on sale...
During yesterday's blog we spoke to the ACB devs about how they went about developing the characters of both Ezio and Desmond in the new game. Today, the team talks about how they built Rome - the biggest Assassin's Creed world to date. You'll find their revealing Q and A below.
As ever, if you want more Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, snap up the new issue from all good supermarkets and newsagents. If you like what you see, we've got a killer subscription offer on right now - see it here. If you're an Assassin's Creed fan (duh, you're reading this) you won't find better access to your favourite series anywhere else. Print not your thing? Listen to the team chatting about the game in the latest Podcast.
PSM3: Why did you opt for Rome in Brotherhood, as opposed to the other major cities in Europe?
Mohamed Gambouz, Art Director: When we went location scouting in Italy three years ago, we already knew that we wanted to set the game in the Italian renaissance, so Florence, Venice and other Tuscan cities were a must. When we went to Rome we instantly knew that this city, the sheer size of it could support an entire game in itself.
Genevieve Dufour, Production Manager World: With Assassin's Creed, we always strive to be the historically accurate in the representation of the cities and the events that are in the game. Research is the foundation on which our work is based on, so long as it provides players a unique and entertaining experience.
At the beginning of the production of Assassin's Creed 2, we did a lot of research on the Italian Renaissance and the XVth century in general. We studied the period through various medium such as books, TV series and movies. Yet, I think we were most surprised how the Internet was a wonderful source of information as we found a lot of pictures, paintings, drawings and maps that helped us understand and capture the feel and the history of the period. Also a few members of the team went to Italy to scout the cities such as Venice, Florence and of course, Rome.
As soon as Asssassin's Creed 2 was finished and released, our first step was to bring out all the material we had, especially the elements about the city of Rome, and chose what was relevant and useable for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Most of the details used in the production of Brotherhood come from pictures taken by the team during their initial trip in Italy. Yet again, drawings of the period found on the Internet helped us develop an idea how to represent the landmarks during this period has some iconic monuments have changed over the years. For example, Bufalini's map of Rome (dated of 1551) was chosen as our document of reference when designing the city's layout. We actually went to the minutia of importing the map into our engine and then scaling it until the size felt right.
PSM3: What was the most challenging aspect of building Rome in Brotherhood? Feel free to give a technical answer if you need.
Mohamed Gambouz: One of the achievements I'm most proud of is that we managed to reproduce such complex, open, and large city without compromising on the visual diversity and the richness of details that lies within, obtaining this wasn't an easy task, we had to decide very early in the production a perfect balance between size and complexity of the city to make it fit in memory and framerate limitations.
PSM3: In AC2 all the cities had very unique flavours. Are you worried players will tire of a single city before they finish the game?
Mohamed Gambouz: Having a big city like Rome comes with its requirements, one of these was to make the variety between areas strong enough so players don t get bored or lost exploring the city, as inspiration we used the 3 architectural styles referring to 3 main periods from the history of Rome: Antique with ancient roman architecture, medieval with gothic architecture and Renaissance with baroque architecture.
Christopher Weiler, Level Design Director: It was decided fairly early that we would divide that world into 3 major areas or districts. Knowing that Assassin's Creed is based on three major gameplay axis' we decided to focus one of each gameplay with a world area. So in the end Downtown was Social Stealth, Countryside was Combat and the Antique became the Free-run focus. This in turn had an impact on the art as we needed a city like feel for downtown, more open spaces for fighting in the countryside and a lot fo ruins and columns for free-running in the Antique.
PSM3: So Rome is the biggest and most historically rich city you've created. How challenging has it been to create it in such a short time period, especially considering how much it's changed between now and the 15-16 century?
Steve Masters, Lead game designer: We had to do a lot of historical research for this and we have historians digging up old maps for us, that kind of thing. We're using period maps to make sure we have access to the most accurate lay of the land that we could, and of course the classic pieces of architecture there like the Colosseum or the Capital Hill - they're so iconic and so ancient that it's kind of hard to get them wrong.
But at the same time you have to look at things like the attitudes towards the ruins at the various different time periods, and you know, some of the really old areas, the ancient ruins were actually like ghettos back then in those days. So having to dig in and do all that research - it's time consuming but at the end we have something that's really very high fidelity.
PSM3: What kind of percentage of development time was needed just to create Rome?
SM: Within the team we have a sub-section called the 'World Team' and it's made up of a bunch of talented people who are just solely dedicated to realising the city of Rome. That's their only job - from doing the research to finding out the lay of the land to actually modelling it and texturing it and all that.
PSM3: Have you had to add or remove anything from Rome for the sake of the gameplay?
SM: You know for that sort of thing, for example, we look at the distance between roads and things like that to help the free-running system, and what we do is we'll find if a road is too wide to make a jump, and we really want to be able to make that jump, we find period architecture features that would actually fit within the buildings themselves and we'll extend, for instance, rooftop ledges. And if you look back at old paintings of the period you'll find very similar features all over the place. So we take a little bit of liberty with the buildings that aren't named, basically the houses and the shops and the general structure of Rome, but of course for the landmarks we keep them as is.
There's more to come...
In tomorrow's blog: the ACB devs chat about multi-player, and offer advice on how to get the edge on your opponents. See you then.