CGSociety :: Game Production Focus
7 December 2010, by Paul Hellard
Ubisoft tackled the 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' by approaching it fast. Fighting furious, big and complex.
From Ubisoft's Montreal studio up the end of Saint-Laurent Boulevard, right around the planet to the relatively new Singapore digs at Fusionopolis Way in the Symbiosis Technology Park, the common goal was in everybody's sights. Make 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' the must-have product of the franchise. Ubisoft also has studios in Paris, San Francisco and Shanghai. Each studio boasted an international crew, from every corner of the globe. While each studio had their own areas of the game to produce, Montreal's Ubisoft was 'base camp', and perhaps pumped hardest.
Gaëlec Simard was the Mission Director for 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' in the Montreal studio.
"When we started the project, we knew we wanted more secret locations in the game, like maps as Side Quests," he explained.
"We also wanted to push these maps further and make some of them even more part of the main story line.
The story team analyzed what could be done and it became clear to the producers here that having Secret Location-like maps in the Present would be awesome and that our Singapore studio were the ones with the expertise to create that.
So the team in Montreal worked closely with the team in Singapore to deliver this new experience as well as delivering more Side Quests with new variations."
"All up, about 300 people worked on 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood', for almost a year," says concept artist DongLu Yu from Montreal. "We managed to keep the majority of the team from previous 'Assassin's Creed' games.
With some high expertise, dedication and professionalism, we were able to launch 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' right on schedule, on the 16th November 2010."
The original 'Assassin's Creed' is set during the Crusades period, while 'Assassin's Creed II' and 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' take place during the Renaissance.
The big challenge for the concept team was they had to create 30 square kilometers of Rome, which is about three times bigger than the previous areas created in the earlier games.
A lot of research was needed to recreate the city as realistically as possible at that era: The architecture, city design, etc.
A team of six artists worked on environments and character designs, pretty similar to the team for 'Assassin's Creed 2'. 'The Assassin's Creed' franchise pays very high respect to history, so some members of the team travelled to Rome to gather a large amount of photo resources to support the visual design of the city. Ubisoft also hired historians to provide history-related facts and suggestions to the production team. "The concept art team's biggest challenge is to achieve a balance between respecting historical facts and integrating creative elements to provide inspiration for level artists and designers," explains DongLu.
There are three visual themes developed for the architecture of 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood'. Renaissance inspired from Baroque style; Medieval inspired from Gothic style; and Antique inspire from Roman style. Different visual themes are distributed throughout the game to enhance the gameplay and the story flow. The visual quality holds a modern look due to the photographic treatment. "Photographic treatment is resulting from the combination of different lens effects and film
effects, such as lens blur, lenses of different focal lengths, film grain, realistic color and lighting treatment," says DongLu. "Furthermore," she explains, "with the rebuilding of Rome, the main character (the dude with the hoodie), Ezio can upgrade the look and functionality of some of the key buildings and shops, granting him access to more equipment and resources. Besides the architectural evolution, there are also the contextual themes to add more life and variety to diverse locations including: Carnival, Ruins, Fields, Battlefield, Market and others.
"Different color palettes are offered for the same location, depending on time of the day," explains fellow concept artist Olivier Martin. "We also use two seasons, winter and summer, so depending on the season there are some color changes as well. These variations allow the player to be drawn into the gameplay even more.
They add drama and realism to the setting. Moreover, a unique emblem color is used to identify different groups, such as mercenaries, assassins, thieves and courtesans.
In 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood', the players will encounter many of the regular characters from 'Assassin's Creed II'. Ezio has grown older and wiser, and he is ready now to be a leader. He wears a sleeker and more mature suit to reflect this change.
Also, in Brotherhood, Ezio will have friends to help him on his mission against the Templars, so more design variations will be seen there. In the multiplayer mode, unique characters have been created: Courtesan, Barber, Priest, Noble (Banker), Prowler Executioner, Doctor, Blacksmith, Soldier (Captain), Smuggler, Engineer (Merchant), Footpad, Thief, Hellequin and Mercenary. They are all equipped with their personalized assassination moves and weapons.
Olivier de Rotalier, the Ubisoft Singapore studio director talks about the team secured at the Symbiosis studio working hard on 'Brotherhood'. "Over here in Singapore," he begins, "we have a great mix of talented junior artists together with experienced veterans in this industry, encompassing concept artists, texture artists, 3D modelers, sfx and lighting specialists.
The quality of our contributions to 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' and 'Assassin's Creed 2' is reflective of the number of high calibre talents that we have."
Olivier de Rotalier aims to grow towards a 300-strong studio in the coming years in Singapore. Now, after two and a half years of operation, they are shifting to a new office space where it will be twice the current size, boosting capacity and connecting into what will be a hub of activity for future game production. As far from Montreal as you can possibly be, with projects like 'Brotherhood', Singapore is very much part of the Ubisoft world.