Down at the Ubisoft booth at PAX Aus I was able to get an interview with Hugues Ricour, the Senior Producer on Assassin’s Creed IV:Black Flag. He shared some details with us such as the challenges and benefits of working in a big team and some of the new features we can look forward to in Assassin’s Creed IV. Check out the full interview below.
CC: Assassin’s Creed is being developed by eight studios and over 1000 people. How you do go about managing a development team of that size and ensuring consistency and quality in the final product ?
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is indeed developed by eight studios for Ubisoft and it’s a very interesting challenge trying to get everyone to collaborate nicely with all the efforts into technology, game design and art direction and making sure there is consistency. The way it works is we have one creative director and he makes the critical decisions. We have one producer. They are both based in Montreal. The producer is in charge of collaboration and making sure that everyone has the same tempo, same schedule and uses the same technology.
We started the big co-development structure with the first Assassin’s Creed. We developed a very nice way to communicate between studios, we know eachother well, we have a team in place dedicated to collaboration, we have tools like the weekly videos we send to all the studios. We work in the same engine, the same build. It has its challenges of course, however it works and it makes us ready to innovate and ready to take on new challenges every year.
CC: Will there be any elements of the old Assassin’s Creed games returning ?
Assassin’s Creed IV is a good continuity on the previous establishment, especially Assassin’s Creed III. They did great work with the naval battles and the studio I come from, Singapore studios, were involved in having the first shot at the naval battles.The tree climbing worked really well, they had a great combat system, we took this and we’re taking it to the next level and also next-gen this year as well. Edward the main character will have a number of abilities that you will discover as you play the game.
CC: Why was it decided Assassin’s Creed IV would revolve around pirates and did you perform alot of research on the topic ?
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came quite naturally after the push that we did for naval battles in Assassin’s Creed III. The first playtest we did with the ship combat, the return was phenomenal, the ocean simulation looked really good so we knew we were onto something. The golden age of piracy in the 17th to 18th century was a great period of histroy to research and work with. We read alot of books, did a few trips. Some of the guys even went to the Carribeans and so on, came back with ton of references and good stories. The writers did phenomenal work to put together a very compelling story that’s very true to what happened. It’s part of the DNA of the franchise to make sure we stay close to the real historical events and characters of that time. So the pirates in Assassin’s Creed IV are not the kiddish and traditional pirates that you have in mind, they are very serious ones and very true to that era.
CC: Assassin’s Creed III also featured ship battles, have ship battles been improved since then ?
So the naval combat in Assassin’s Creed IV has evolved, as I mentioned the ocean simulation took a new step this year with beautiful graphics. We worked on the AI and improved the depth of the weaponary that your main ship, the Jackdaw, will have. The economy system really matters because you have to unlock and then buy upgrades for the Jackdaw, otherwise you will have a really hard time against Man o’ Wars or bigger ships as you progress through the game.
CC: Will there be any new features in the multiplayer for Assassin’s Creed IV ?
The multiplayer is constantly evolving as well and the reception is getting better and better. At E3 they showcased a new game mode where you can customise your rules and the way you want to play and I think that was a very big success.
CC: We have been told ship battles won’t be appearing in multiplayer. Can you tell us why that is?
The main challenge we took on this year was to create a seamless world and a huge world to explore. So the big technology push was to make it so you can literally explore two thirds of the Carribeans, and go from ship to ship through boarding sequences and visit an island and get back on your ship, climb up there then go visit another island and so on. That gives us a huge toy and tons of objectives and activities so that was really the focus on this game.
CC: Have there been any additional features added to the combat system this year ?
So Edward Kenway will have a few weapons that you have not seen before. His a dual sword specialist. He has four pistols which you will unlock through the game and they allow you to kind of clear the area when you have too many enemies on you. There’s a huge push for stealth and one of the weapons to do that is a blowpipe with various types of darts. There are tons of new features and depth added to the combat system.
CC: Where does this game fall into the Assasin’s Creed timeline ?
Black Flag is a prequel to Assassin’s Creed III, it happens a few years before. Edward Kenway is actually the grandfather of Connor and the father of Haytham, so you will discover much more about the stories of these characters.
CC: That brings me to my next question. Will we have any specific references to the character of Haytham from Assassin’s Creed III ?
So I will not give any spoilers and I won’t reveal too much about the story. I really hope you play the game. The game is coming out on October 31st in Australia and I’m pretty sure you guys will love it.
CC: Thank you very much for being here with us today Hugues. One final question that the fans want to know, will we ever see Desmond again ?
(Laughs) In the game you are going to play yourself as an employee of Abstergo. And the Desmond story is kind of over, now it’s about you and that gives us alot of opportunities to go back in history.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will be releasing on all current gen consoles on October 31st and next gen consoles upon release. You can check out the latest trailer for the game here.