Assassin's Creed 2: Artworks and QA
Ubisoft is finally unveiling Assassin's Creed 2 a bit more today. No images of the game unfortunately, but a few artworks and more importantly a quite informative Q/A session.
Update: Added the teaser trailer.
Could you introduce yourself and explain your role in the project?
My name is Sébastien Puel. I am the Producer on Assassin’s Creed 2. My role is to manage the production team and to ship the best game.
On which platforms will Assassin’s Creed 2 be available?
Assassin’s Creed 2 will be available on PS3, X360, PC and also on PSP. I am in charge of the PC, X360 and PS3 versions. Assassin’s Creed 2 will be released during Holiday 2009.
Who is in charge of the development?
The game is mainly developed by Ubisoft Montreal on PS3, X360 and PC and more than 300 people are currently working on the project.
How is Assassin’s Creed 1 linked with Assassin’s Creed 2?
Assassin’s Creed 2 is the direct sequel of Assassin’s Creed so of course, there are a lot of similarities, but the team is working very hard on increasing the overall scope of the game structure and on adding more depth and variety to the core Assassin’s Creed game play. Apart from that, there are many other links with Assassin’s Creed.
We are using the Scimitar/Anvil development engine that was conceived for the first Assassin’s Creed and used for other games such as Prince of Persia and Shaun White Snowboarding. Also, we have a technical team working hard on upgrading and adding new features to Anvil. Through the years of working with this engine, we have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience.
The game features a huge interactive world but this time set in another era, the Italian Renaissance. You play not only as an assassin but as a young Italian noble seeking to uncover the truth. There is also a great deal of elements that we are improving that are the fundaments of the Assassin’s Creed brand: Freedom, crowd behavior, fluid animations, intense combat, free-running, blending, memorable assassinations, detailed realistic settings…
What new things can we expect in Assassin’s Creed 2 that distinguishes the experience from the one we enjoyed in Assassin’s Creed 1? What are your ambitions behind one of the biggest and still young franchise in the video game industry?
What we do in Assassin’s Creed 2 is quite simple: take the best of Assassin’s Creed and bring it to the next level! Assassin’s Creed was an astonishing experience; I believe it brought entirely new elements to the industry: allowing players to fluidly navigate an urban environment while enjoying visual perfection and quality of control; it immersed players in a believable and mature experience inspired by historical events, while recreating a rich and believable crowd that was only possible on this generation of consoles. Of course we will keep and improve on all those elements: even more gorgeous city landscapes, more animations, a captivating and epic story, more ways to interact with the crowd … But our main focus is diversity in each aspect of the game: more variety in missions and objectives, more variety in gameplay, more weapons, more diverse assassinations and deep character progressions, etc. These will all help to make the experience evolve through the game. We really want Assassin’s Creed 2 to be unpredictable and have the player wonder after each main assassination: ‘and now, what’s next!?’
What is the storyline of the game?
To help the assassins in their quest, Desmond will be exploring his DNA to find another ancestor’s memory: Ezio Auditore Di Firenze; a nobleman who lived at the end of the 15th Century in Italy. Betrayed by the ruling families of Italy, Ezio embarks upon an epic quest for vengeance. To his allies, he will become a force for change - fighting for freedom and justice. To his enemies, he will become a boogey man – dedicated to the destruction of the tyrants abusing the people of Italy. On his quest for vengeance, Ezio – and Desmond through Ezio’s story – will uncover a much bigger plot: A conspiracy rooted in Assassin’s Creed and that still impact the world of Desmond – our very world.
Why did you choose the Italian Renaissance as the next setting for Assassin’s Creed?
When we defined the Assassin’s Creed franchise, we knew we wanted to talk about pivotal periods in history: the moments where everything changes, that define the world in which we are living today. That was exactly the case with the first Crusade: this period defined the balance of power between Civilization and Religion for the centuries to come. So when we started Assassin’s Creed 2, we asked ourselves the same question. What is the next defining moment in History? The answer was pretty easy to find: in a few years and in a very small place, a handful of men of genius radically changed EVERYTHING; they invented a modern vision of the world, where men were at the center rather than God. They invented a new way of representing the world (the invention of perspective), they changed politics, architecture, the art of modern war and diplomacy – they invented the banking system as we know it and even advertising! One man even invented planes, helicopter and tanks! Those men were Botticelli, Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Medici. The place is Italy. The time was the end of the 15th century and it is called Renaissance, literally a Rebirth. This is the History as we learnt it. But those were also cruel times, ruled by war, treason and murder! Of course we found very interesting to picture this in an Assassin’s Creed game and cast a new light on those astonishing events.
What can you tell us of the art style of the game and the general visual experience the game will offer in bringing the 15th century Italian Renaissance to life?
Visual quality and its accuracy to the look and feel of the period is a big part of the franchise. From a strict technical point of view, we have the chance to work with great tools – and the best thing is that we also improved on this side since Assassin’s Creed 1. Assassin’s Creed 2 will feature better lighting and even more detailed environments than Assassin’s Creed. But certainly, the most important thing is that we are now playing with some of the world’s most beautiful urban environments: Venice, Florence, Tuscany are all a real treat for the eyes in 3D just as in real life. Our art team managed to perfectly render not only the streets, houses, water canals and beautiful palaces of those cities, but also the unique mood and light of Italian cities of the 15th century. Walking at night alone in the maze of streets that defines Venice is a real fantasy come true… Now, exploring Venice will be possible directly from your living room.
Assassin’s Creed 2 presents us with a new protagonist. We see that Ezio has a new appearance and probably a much different personality since he is not from the same era. What have been your inspirations behind the design of Ezio?
The Assassin’s brotherhood lives on, its creed remain timeless although its members change over time. Ezio is at first glance a young Renaissance nobleman but Assassin’s blood flows through his veins. Like Altair, he is mysterious and has extraordinary natural talents; he is master of his emotions and is very efficient in the art of killing. But at the same time, Ezio is made of his own past: he is well mannered, and able to interact with all different classes of society. As he is Italian, we also wanted to give him a special … inclination for women: he is a seducer. But most importantly: Ezio is someone marked by fate: the decadence of his powerful family certainly plays a great role in the man he becomes. Ezio’s quest will first be driven by vengeance, a strong will to retaliate against the ones who were responsible for the fate of his once prosperous family. This honorable will to avenge his loved ones will lead him to unknown territory and something much bigger than his own quest for vengeance and justice…
Can you describe some of the new skills and movements that will make Ezio a masterful assassin?
Ezio will have a whole new set of aptitudes in different fields – to navigate the world, to stay out of sight, to fight and to assassinate. In terms of navigations, we, of course, wanted to adapt the main character to the new environments in the second game. Since a good part of the action takes place in Venice, Ezio is able to dive and swim. Expect to be able to strategically use those new skills to your advantage for various missions. Ezio will also have the possibility to blend into any kind of group of citizens in the crowd, making the navigation all the more fun and believable. Also, he won’t have to be static in a group; players will be able to move in a group while blended and really roam around the city from one group of people to another. The crowd is a central element in Assassin’s Creed and for the second game; we really want the players to feel that every NPC is an opportunity. The free-running in the cities is more fun and fluid than ever. We have developed new abilities and cool moves that will feel fresh when running in Venice and keep the player on the spot while climbing a building. The new “climb leap” move gives the player the opportunity to launch himself a couple of meters high in the air while climbing a vertical building to reach a higher ledge that would be inaccessible without this move.
Many new skills concern the fighting system – without naming all the new possible moves, Ezio can master a great amount of weapons: long pikes, axes and warhammers to name just a few. As those are heavy weapons, Ezio won’t have to carry them all the time: he will now be able to disarm his enemies and leave his weapons behind. Since Ezio will not be carrying a weapon at all times apart from his hidden blade and throwing knives, he needs to be able to use his hands more efficiently when fighting. Therefore, Ezio will be able to fight using his bare hands against enemies any time in the game and perform various punches, kicks, grab movements, headbutts...
One hidden blade is fun but two is better. This time, Ezio will have one hidden blade on each arm. The main hidden blade will be on his left arm and the secondary hidden blade on his right arm. Imagine all the possibilities in new assassination moves, counters and upgrades using two hidden blades. Finally, we added a lot of new assassination moves – Ezio is able to assassinate, with a specific move, from virtually anywhere in the city: from roofs, hiding spots, water, ledges etc …
These are just but a few of the new skills Ezio brings to the table; he has many more tricks up his sleeve…
The Renaissance is famous for having been the crucible for some of the most talented and renowned figures of history. Will we be able to meet some of those historical figures?
This was one of the main reasons why we chose Renaissance and Italy. When you decide to go there, you’ve got a hell of a cast and lots of information on them! Leonardo Da Vinci for instance is one of the main secondary characters. For Ezio he is at the same time a mentor and … a weapon crafter. Expect some surprises from this genius mind, one example being the double hidden blade. The player will also be able to meet some of the Legends of this time: the Medici, Machiavelli... When doing our research on these historical characters, we were fascinated by all the cool stories we could tell about them and how we could use recorded facts and tweak them so that it suits our story very well. We want the players to learn about these characters and specific sides of them, both factual and fictional. We are proud to say that the Assassin’s Creed franchise is one of the rare games that can serve as an excellent source of information and knowledge for an historical period. The Renaissance is much richer in terms of archived information over the Middle Ages and we could really push our research to make the best story possible with many historical characters.
The entire game play/mission structure in Assassin’s Creed 1 was semi-linear and kept the same structure through the 9 assassinations. Will Assassin’s Creed 2 feature more missions and a wider variety in the structure and how the story unfolds?
The game structure and the mission system was the most central element for us to improve. We are redefining the mission game play structure to give gamers a more enjoyable & rewarding experience. Here are the three major points we will modify:
1) The variety/number of available missions
2) The number of mission givers
3) How the story and the missions unfold to the player
We are now telling a story in a way that is intended to be very unpredictable. There is no more ‘X assassinations’ to perform but a story that develops through a great amount of mission givers. Some will give you an assassination mission, others an intimidation or information-gathering mission etc… There is no limit now to the types of challenges we can give to players. We are very careful on creating a lot of variation in the types of gameplay and pace we are proposing. But we also want the player to have a real freedom and opportunity to explore and ‘use’ the world we have created, at his own pace. Cities are now filled with a great amount of missions that the player can do if he chooses so: for instance, you can now decide to get rid of witnesses if you feel you are getting too famous after a not-so-stealthy assassination, or help thieves pursued by guards. Each of these tasks are optional, but will bring you interesting rewards if you accept to fulfill them.
Crowd interaction was one the big promises of Assassin’s Creed 1. How will you improve the crowd interaction for the second game and the role of the NPCs for blending/stealth/attack…?
In Assassin’s Creed 2, you have been betrayed by the ruling Italian Families – you will have to learn how to interact and use the ‘common people’ or, like we call them in the game, “the underworld”, to get your revenge. So you can generally consider that the crowd is on your side (except of course if you behave too badly!). First, any crowd NPC can help you to hide – just go into a group and press the blend button to enter a crowd and lower your chances of being noticed by guards. The crowd can help you to stealth through the city but aren’t 100% stealth proof as guards have various awareness levels depending of their class. We have also added a new “notoriety system” where your actions in the city will impact your notoriety and how you are “wanted” in the city. You will get more updates of the “notoriety system” soon. There are many other features in the game related to the use of crowd and we will definitely reveal more in the coming months.
Have you implemented any new forms of less traditional gameplay?
For Assassin’s Creed 2, there will be various new types of gameplay to break and vary the flow of the game and add intense “WOW” moments, one of them involving a certain flying machine that Leonardo Da Vinci conceptualized and developed. Ezio will be able to launch himself from a high point in the air flying around the city to reach specific location quickly and with the effect of surprise. Travelling with the flying machine will require precision and timing.
About the game
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