News about Assassin's Creed Unity from E3
Sara, June 10, 2014

During the last days on has been released a Q&A with the ACUnity Creative Director, Alex Amancio. You can read it below or on website. Enjoy!

Why Unity? What does it mean?
Unity refers to the shared experience aspect of the game, the unification of the single player and online mode. With Unity, we are uniting the core pillars of the Assassin's Creed experience and ushering it online — to be shared amongst four friends. Unity also refers to the new narrative approach that we are taking for present day.

Can you give us more details on the shared experience mode? The shared experience impacts the game in different ways. For us, it meant much more than engaging in basic gameplay actions with someone else (like pressing a switch at the same time as another player in order to open a door and access the next level). In Assassin's Creed Unity, we wanted more than basic actions, we wanted to create a genuinely
complementary gameplay. What we really wanted is for players to become much stronger when they team up and play in groups, and tackle varied and open-ended challenges by using their complementary skills. At a certain distance, players will also be able to share rewards. The shared experience is strengthened by the fact that the universe of Unity is much tougher, and the fights harder.

How long will the ACU shared experience (Coop) campaign is?
We expect players to play about a third of their total game time in shared experience modes. Moreover, we have conceived these missions to be played and replayed in different ways. Players will explore their environments, discover secret passages and create their own opportunities. This will have a direct impact on their gaming experience and the rewards they receive. All of these missions can be played solo and with up to three friends.

Are there single player missions in ACU?
Just like the heroes of the past Assassin's Creed games, Arno has his own story. The main missions of the game will unfold this very personal story. But we wanted to go further and remind the player that the character he's playing remains an Assassin. And Assassins do not only embark on their own quests (like Ezio avenging his family), they have to pay their dues to the Assassins council. So players will have to complete what we have called Brotherhood missions, in shared experience, to fulfill their duties towards the Assassins.

Assassin's Creed Unity is one of the biggest games so far attempted by Ubisoft. How do you organize such a massive undertaking?
We are aware of the fact that developing games of that magnitude is very challenging. For us, this process compares to an expedition conquering unexplored territories. In order to reach that objective, over the last few years, we have been developing tools that allowed us to automate many redundant elements that used to take a lot of the development team's time. From now on, the team can focus on quality rather than on functionality. Without these technological evolutions that speed up the process, it would have been technically impossible to create a new universe with the scope of Assassin's Creed Unity.

Assassin's Creed is a project developed by studios all over the world. Can you tell us how many studios are involved and who leads the development?
Montreal is the lead studio with support from nine other Ubisoft studios. We also have a dedicated team taking care of the inter-studio collaboration. That means, every minute of the week, somebody is working on Assassin's Creed Unity somewhere in the world. When they all believe in the vision and all push to achieve it, the results are spectacular ©.

What is the story of Assassin's Creed Unity? Where does it take place?
At the dawn of the 18th century, revolution is brewing. After years of oppression, the people of France rise up against the inept aristocracy. Amidst the chaos of revolution, a young man named Arno embarks on a path of redemption. Driven by guilt for his perceived involvement in the death of his adoptive father, Arno joins the Assassins and sets off on a quest to eradicate the conspirators, a new radical branch of the Templars, who are pulling the strings of the Revolution and preparing the coming of a new world order.

What are the forces at play? What is the Templars' role in the story?
The French Revolution is not a "clean" revolution. There were a lot of different factions during this period of time and a large majority of the factions that existed at the beginning of the French Revolution had disappeared by the end, since the moderates were often executed for their political views. This happened constantly throughout the Revolution. The more the Revolution progressed, the more extreme it became.
To this day, historians still argue on the actual sequence of events of the French Revolution and on the responsibilities of all the different factions.
In Assassin's Creed Unity, we have uncluttered our vision of history to focus on the essence of the times. The different factions are the loyalists, the moderates and the revolutionaries. Among each faction, there are nobles and commoners. And above all those factions, working in the shadows, are the Assassins and the Templars, fighting their age-old struggle. The player will notice that an entity is pulling the strings of the Revolution and manipulating the factions to reach its objectives.
As for the Templar side it is explored a lot in Unity. That's as much as we'll say for now.

The French Revolution is a key historical period, what makes this period pivotal in history?
It was far more than a simple rebellion against an unpopular King; it was a total rejection of repressive feudal principles that had endured for centuries. The French Revolution gave the middle finger (and the guillotine) to anyone who supported the old social order of Europe.
The French Revolution was a time of firsts. It included the first-ever assault on the entire concept of organized religion. The first genuinely populist uprising (which was put down by other revolutionaries). The first modern police state, with show trials, informants, and public executions.
On the brighter side, it included the first clear enunciation of modern liberal principles that we in the West take for granted. For all our focus on the American Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man predated the American document by a year. The French Revolution saw the birth of the charter of rights; it's the inauguration of a new world.
It also gave way to Napoleon's war that changed not only Europe, but also the entire world. It is during that time that the old way was replaced by the new. The other nations kept their monarchic structure, but the French Revolution made everyone realize that this model was doomed. A new system had to be found, and the foundations of that new system were laid.
At the individual level, it was exceptionally bloody; nearly all of the victims were civilian. It was a time of terror in which no one was safe. A man could be sent to the guillotine on his neighbor's whim. In sum, it was an extraordinarily violent, cruel, and momentous decade that took Europe by surprise. And while we might think we know what happened, there are plenty of stories from that time which have, until now, escaped popular imagination.
In essence, it's the perfect template for an Assassin's Creed game.

Can you please introduce us to the new protagonist, Arno? What is Arno's back story?
Arno is driven by the guilt of his perceived fault in the death of his adoptive father and that drives him on a redemption quest. The Assassins are a means to an end for him, at least at the beginning.
He is a charismatic character with a good sense of humour, but he's also a no nonsense kind of guy, so his humour often comes off as sharp and witty. This sharpness also seeps out into his physicality and his fighting style is more deadly than what you might be used to seeing in Assassin's Creed.

Beside Arno, who are the main historical characters of the story?
All throughout the game, the player will be able to cross path with a huge cast of famous historical figures such as the Marquis de Sade, Louis XVI, Napoleon, Robespierre or Mirabeau. These characters left their marks on history and have very unique personalities. We can't wait for players to discover them.

Assassin's Creed Unity is powered by the new Anvil engine, what is it and what does it enable your team to do?
Making a game of that magnitude with such a level of detail involved a great deal of people and took a very long time. But it remained a virtually impossible task without the proper tools. Since we are making more and more realistic games, we had to create the right tools to meet this challenge properly. When those tools were created, the team could do away with all the redundant work and focus on quality tasks, not only on the functional aspect of the game. It allowed us to automatize the repetitive tasks like building placement. One of the many example we have is « Paris Pβtι », which allowed us to place a district very quickly before letting the artist focus on the details of the buildings by makings layouts and focusing their creative juices on shaping rich interior atmospheres.
Built with next-generation hardware and online environment in mind, the new Anvil has three major pillars support which powers Assassin's Creed Unity;

  • THEATRE — New state-of-the-art tools that enables us to push the boundaries of cinematic performance and animation. It is those ingredients that enable us to bring us closer to true dramatic performances.
  • ZEN — Zen is our new system for productivity and infrastructure. It's a game-changing pipeline in how we deal with next-gen assets and the interaction between global production team.
  • CITY LIGHTS — Games are catching up to CG-level of quality and thus, high definition graphics are no longer the differentiation factor. True differentiation comes from mastery of volumetric cinematography; the ability to master art direction in a 3D physical space. City Lights encompasses all the tools that enable us to create a realistic Paris that is more immersive on a cinematographic scale.

The 3 AC pillars (Navigation, fight and stealth) have been completely rebuilt from the ground up. Could you tell us how it affects the player?
  • Navigation: This time around, our idea with navigation was to deliver a greater feeling of freedom to the player by allowing him to go anywhere he wants, anyway he wants. As the player will discover and explore the dense city of Paris, we didn't want to restrain him to a certain numbers of predefined paths that our designers created especially for him. By rethinking navigation, we have added more control and precision, giving the player a ton of options to move within the city at all levels, interior and exterior. For instance, it is now possible to free run up and down on any side of any building which makes navigation more efficient. In Unity, you don't have to use a haystack in order to reach the ground level anymore, you can now take the path you fancy!

  • Combat: We have completely re-invented the combat based on a new philosophy. For us, fighting was two things: the player deals with several enemies or the player deals with one enemy. Before Unity, we focused on the latter but discarded the former. When an enemy was attacking while we were fighting another one, the only possible move was the counter and the only thing the player could do was to switch to a new enemy. Now, we have built a new system where the player can deal with different enemies (move away from one, get close to another...). It makes combat easier to learn but at the same time it's deeper: attack, dodge, and parry.
    And then another layer is the different types of enemies ("archetypes"). For example, the player will not be able to parry, only to dodge a certain type. When fighting several enemies of different kinds, all with unique strengths and weaknesses, we wanted the player to enter the flow state and make each fight unique and challenging. This makes fighting
    more difficult, because we wanted to go back to the roots of the game, which remains a stealth game.
    The end result is that enemies truly attack in groups, making the combat more challenging yet more rewarding. The strategy of "waiting in line to get countered" is no more. You have to be pro-active. You have to adapt yourself. And sometimes, you'll have to retreat before you die —and this is where our Stealth Mode comes into effect.

  • Stealth: Stealth has always been the main AC pillar. We have re-designed all the pillars, but we are particularly proud of what we have managed to achieve on this one, because this element reinforces the very heart of Assassin's Creed.
    First of all, we have added what we call Stealth Mode, which is triggered at the touch of a button. When the player enters Stealth Mode, all his actions are stealthier. The player will make less noise and will be less likely to be detected.
    Secondly, we have added a cover system to allow our players to feel more connected to their direct environment. You can now use the various architectural elements present in the game to hide.
    Thirdly, we have rethought the stealth within the crowd. Now that we have real crowds with more than thousands of NPCs, if the player tries to hide, he can do so simply by entering the crowd. The player now has more tools and more possibilities to act stealthily. The result is that in Unity, the player has the stealth levers to use this pillar exclusively. It was very important for us that the player could act like a true Assassin: attack, disappear in the shadows, let the enemy panic and take advantage of his confusion to strike again.

With a scope this huge and a world this big, how are you keeping things fresh throughout the experience?
The more we expand the world, the more details we add, and the more the player will want to interact with the environment and do all sorts of interesting things. We soon realized we had to pack the world of Unity with activities so as to make it as rich as possible. For this game, we are not limited to the main story path; there are all sorts of different stories happening in Paris.
In order to fill this universe to the brim, we added ton of side content and activities (murder mysteries, Paris stories, crowd events, treasure hunt, etc.) where the player can feel like being a part of this living and breathing city. In this dense universe of Unity, we wanted the player to feel like he was living during that time. For the first time, it is now possible to cross the path of many unique individuals and learn about their stories and also take part in them. On top of that, the game has a deep progression system.

Assassin's Creed Unity certainly marks a revolution in Crowd interactions and Al, what exactly pushes it to the next level?
We have been able to increase the amount of NPCs displayed on screen from barely a hundred to more than thousands, but the crowd itself is very systemic. This reduces repetitions and certain elements will occur even if the player is not triggering them. For example, when the player sits on a bench, he will be able to see different factions fight or merchants set up their shops. Everything happens in a more systemic way. These big crowds are also giving more stealth option to players. For instance, if you try to hide, you can do so simply by entering the crowd.

Can you talk about the scale of Paris?
Paris is huge and constantly bustling with activities. With more our massive crowds, interior spaces, underground networks and all the different systemic elements, we have managed to create a rich sandbox with many adventures and rewards. In order to entice players to explore this systemic open-world, we have to make sure that they believe in this world. Immersion is the best and most important technique to achieve this objective.
To achieve this level of immersion, we built Paris to be more lifelike than any previous Assassin's Creed cities that we built so far, with for example 1:1 scale buildings.
Additionally, the player will be able to explore a lot of interiors in Assassin's Creed Unity. There are also monuments, like Notre-Dame, that can be visited and that have been faithfully realized. All in all, the player will be able to explore hundreds of different interiors in Paris. And those interiors will not be empty spaces; they will be full of characters, rewards, stories, social hubs, merchants and what we call Social Clubs.
Moreover, the interior spaces open new navigation routes. In previous Assassin's Creed games, the player could escape in the streets while climbing walls or reaching rooftops. Now, the player can escape by entering through a window, climbing a flight of stairs and exiting through the first story window before jumping on the rooftop. Even if the interior of the building is empty, there might be a barred door inside. If the player has the necessary skill to open that door, he might find an interesting surprise. It definitely adds an extra layer of exploration.


The combat feels different, what are the improvements?
There's actually two phases in combat — the "chase" and then the "melee" fight. For chases, and stealth in general, we removed some of the rules that we had in previous games that made it felt staged. This time around, we decided to start from scratch, and use the following basics: line of sight and the player's last known position. When we first prototyped this, we could already see it was taking us into a very interesting direction: it made chases feel like you were outsmarting NPCs rather than just outrunning them. On top of that, it greatly improves stealth because we are relying on clear and easy to understand rules. That's why we are actually displaying the player's last known position in the chases and stealth portion of the games — it is valuable information that the player can act upon. For the melee portion of the fight, we went with a "fencing" philosophy in mind — we wanted the player to be conscious of the moves he was making and the time it was taking to execute them. That's why we removed counter-kills from the fight — it was a risk-free, win-all solution. It's a bold choice, but ultimately it pays off because we put back some challenge in the fight — if you have 5 armed guards around you, no matter how quick you are, at one point you are going to be hit.

All the details are really impressive (e.g. dust particles). In two words, can you tell us about the major graphic improvements?
Well, 3 words: Totally new render. We are harnessing the power of the new generation of consoles and the new Anvil engine with physically-based lighting, global illumination, atmospherics and high-dynamic range. We can now get beautiful images with great detail.

Can the players enter and leave at any time during a friend's play session?
Yes — depending on the missions. We have built a tech that allows player to join and quit sessions as they are going on. It also allows player to invite their friends during a mission. However, some missions will not allow it because they have some constraints where a player that appears out of nowhere would probably cause more harm than good.

Single Player
Notre Dame looks so big. Compared to real life, how big it is?
It's actually quite close to the actual scale — that's why our version of Paris is so impressive. Every landmark in the game stands out even more than in previous AC games, and it feels more real than ever before. The scale helps that feeling, but also the details — we never had buildings with so many details. If you look at Notre-Dame, with all the angles it has, the gargoyles, the architectural details, the spires... it's really, really impressive. It took one person on our team 8 months to create! Even for us — we see it every day, but there's always that sense of awe when you see one of the landmarks Paris is known for.

We took note that Arno descended rapidly Notre Dame without having to jump in a haystack, can you tell us more about this new navigation feature?
In ACU, we have a new navigation system that enables the player to free run up and down. Before, it was very limited by the ingredients. If the player was not using the ingredients (e.g.: poles, posts...), navigation was slower and more difficult. Today, we are proud to announce that the game has become much more fluid because the entire city is now fit for navigation. We have tried to reduce navigation friction as much as possible to make it seamless and allow the player to go anywhere at any time!

We thank once again where we found this Q&A.

Also, some news found online highlight the possibility to customize your own character in the co-op mode, not only aesthetically, but also as for weapons, abilities and so on. Every player will be able to choose his/her gaming style. It’s also officially confirmed that this chapter won’t include the multiplayer as we knew it (player vs player), which will be replaced by the shared experience mode.
Every player who takes part in the co-op mode will play as Arno on his/her own screen, while friends will have the appearance of the other Assassins. However the team missions will be an integral part of the plot.

As for the setting, ACUnity will be set exclusively in Paris with the exception of Versailles e and the little village around it. Paris will be divided in 7 districts different from one another, each of them characterised by a personalized theme, characters and crowd, managed by a dedicated artistic team. Also, the map will be the biggest ever made, way bigger than the one in Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag.

As for the present day, Amancio promises a particular approach in which, in some way, we will play as "ourselves". However there are no additional information, except that it will be different from what we saw in Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag anyway.

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