Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a direct-sequel to the highly successful Assassin's Creed 2 (which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide since its release last November), continuing the story of Ezio Auditore, whish is now a 40-year old Master Assassin. So we have Vincent Pontbriand, a Producer at Ubisoft Montreal, which is ready to answer all questions of UGDB regarding the next Assassin's Creed game.
UGDB: Please, introduce yourself briefly – what is your current job position, what is your professional experience in the game industry, etc.?
My name is Vincent Pontbriand and my position is Producer at Ubisoft Montreal
UGDB: We already know that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will take place in Rome and Ezio Auditore will return as the main protagonist, but can you tell us more about the story and the setting of the new game?
Soon after the events in Rome’s Sistine Chapel, Ezio seeks inner peace and retreats to his Villa in Monteriggioni. Meanwhile, Cesare, the ambitious, young general of the Papal forces, strikes back at the Assassins for the attack on the Pope. Setting up his battalions overnight, Cesare attacks the heart of the Assassin order and catches by surprise Ezio and his allies early morning.
Defeated, his stronghold shattered to ruins and his allies either imprisoned or dead, Ezio journeys to Rome – the heart of Borgia power, where greed and corruption reigns supreme and citizens are ruled through fear by the Pope and his forces – for his decisive fight against the Templers. This time around, Ezio has matured, he is more than 40 years old; he sees a much bigger picture. Ezio will become a leader, someone who unites the struggling Assassin order against the forces of the Borgia and the Templars. Rome will become a safe haven for the Assassins, the beginning of a Renaissance for the Assassin order.
Ezio will expand his notoriety and influence and bring the wonders of Renaissance to Italy’s capital as a way to fend off the Papal establishment. As the stakes reaches new height, he will use new tactics, new skills and new technologies in order to defeat his nemesis. No longer driven by revenge, Ezio meets new allies and foes and will forever change humankind’s history.
UGDB: What about the new locations and environments? In which ways you are going to top those presented in Assassin’s Creed 2 and can you tell us a bit more about their dimensions, variety, and historical accuracy?
For the locations, we’ve decided to make the biggest city ever created in any Assassin’s Creed
game so a lot of the action takes place directly in Rome (less loading required this time since Rome is one huge map)! Again, Rome is a huge playground and with the Rome Upgrade system, the secret locations, the side missions, brotherhood recruitment and management, collectibles, factions upgrades and so on, there is constantly a lot to do! Also, there are unique missions, which require Ezio to travel to other locations in Italy (Naples, Monte Circeo, etc.)! You’ll get to visit the interior of various landmarks or get to travel to a small countryside city to destroy a unique war machine designed by your friend Leonardo. Finally, Rome is also the most varied city we’ve created, in terms of architecture and number of landmarks! There are many different districts in the city, from Antique to Medieval and to the Renaissance district.
With Assassins’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.
UGDB: It seems that you’ve made quite a research creating all these details? Can you share with us some of the most interesting facts that you have encountered while doing all of this studying?
Absolutely! 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 usable for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Most of the details used in the production of Assassin’s Creed: 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.
An interesting fact is that during the XV century, the population of Rome was around 50 00 and 60 000 people – its lowest population count in centuries. While it is mostly impossible to know many people “live” virtually in the Rome of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
because there are no inhabitants to speak of, I think we are able to have enough characters on screen so players believe Rome is a living and breathing world.
UGDB: The big new feature in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood that has everyone talking is the multiplayer. What are the multiplayer modes and can you explain to us how it will play out and provide some gameplay examples?
We will various game modes in the multiplayer. So far, we’ve introduced the wanted mode of the game. In this game mode, players have 10 minutes to reach the higher score by killing other players. Your target is assigned by the system and you can only kill that specific target. You can’t interact with the other players unless they are either your target or your pursuers.
If you kill innocents you will trigger the “Open conflict”. Your position will be revealed to your target and he will have the ability to Escape to cancel you contract.
If the target has identified one of his pursuer, he can Stun him to cancel the contract on him and score.
UGDB: Do you plan to make the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed a core part of the franchise, should fans of the singleplayer be put under any fear that the story will falter because of more effort being put into the multiplayer?
As a leader in the action/adventure genera, we are confident we can offer a significant innovation to our franchise by introducing a fresh and unique multiplayer. The multiplayer has been in development for around 2 years in Annecy. These are the guys who have developed the famous MERCS vs SPIES multiplayer mode for Splinter Cell
. The development of the multiplayer does not affect at all the development and quality of the singleplayer mode. The two teams work in parallel and we have people who are working on assuring the synergy of both of them! So both singleplayer and multiplayer modes will definitely make an excellent and coherent package.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
’s core team is composed of most of the senior staff from the previous two installments. Our veteran developers have now over five years of experience on the Assassin’s Creed
franchise alone. Some these guys have gained experience on the Prince of Persia
and Splinter Cell
franchises before joining us. Assassin’s Creed
is a team effort; the team knows the tools and the intricate knowledge needed to crafting a compelling experience and building a believable world. All of this experience enables us to create more in less time.
UGDB: In the end of Assassin’s Creed 2, Ezio was a true fully-fledged assassin, so what new skills and acrobatics will he develop in the sequel?
Ezio now has new fighting skills. For the combat, our motto for the game is now strike first, strike fast. Experienced players who can start a combo and keep it going will become very deadly! How combo works: You start attacking an opponent, if you chain a set number of attacks called ‘combo-kill’ (# is set per weapon type) you will kill that enemy. From that point, you can chain attacks on other enemies and the Kill string will continue until you are hit by another enemy or that you stop attacking. Performing Counter-kills keep you in the combo string, so you can quickly react to enemy attacks to keep chaining kills.
This time around you can carry heavy weapons around the city without having to drop them after a fight and you can ultimately throw these same heavy weapons at your enemies. You need to lock on your enemy and hold down “X” on Xbox or “Square” on PlayStation 3 to charge, and release to throw. The aiming is automatic after you’ve selected the enemy you want to throw your weapon towards.
In terms of free-running, we have new ways to navigate in the city! We are definitely refining the horse in the game. There are also new props to use in the city. Merchandise lifts were first used during the medieval era to move heavy loads up and down. For Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
, we’re always trying to think of new ideas to help the player get around the city in a cool and useful way. The lift will help players climb up many stories in the blink of an eye. These will be scattered through the city of Rome.
This lift will also be found in the multiplayer and can be used strategically to escape your pursuer or chase down your prey!
UGDB: Following the previous question, what are some of the new weapons and can we expect more Leonardo Da Vinci-type gadgets?
Yes, Ezio will get new gadgets… a crossbow, poison projectiles and a… parachute! Historically, the first parachute design appeared during Italy’s Renaissance and is, in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
, provided to Ezio by Leonardo da Vinci. It is an historical fact that Leonardo designed a parachute and his sketches were published in his Codex Atlanticus, dated 1485. Ezio, once again the test subject of Leonardo’s inventions, will be able to use the parachute to glide in the air and recover from potentially deadly falls. However, due to technical issues with Leo’s design, the parachute can’t be stored and re-used. Thus, players must use it carefully for situationsrequiring a quick escape. Once used, players will have the opportunity to purchase the parachute’s materials at shops around Rome – enabling Ezio to use the parachute once more.
UGDB: Can you share some more information about the missions, their variety and their execution in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood? Can you give us some examples?
There are various types of missions for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
that are not necessary part of the main mission path. Here are a few:
The city of Rome is under the influence of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, and Ezio needs to claim “Borgia towers”, which host the Holy Father’s infantry throughout the city to reduce the military presence and thus decrease His Holiness’ influence. This will help bring back Rome’s prosperity and free the population from the oppression of the Papal soldiers. Each Borgia tower brought down by Ezio frees a specific zone enabling players to begin the rebuild process and allowing investments and upgrades to various buildings. These actions improve the area which is reflected through the area’s mood and its inhabitants whose lives will improve.
In order to claim the Borgia towers, players must first infiltrate a militarized zone around the tower and then track and kill the tower leader. There are various approaches to get to the leader and sometimes, a stealthy approach is required while other times players will have to use all of Ezio’s combat skills. In order to destroy the tower, players are confronted with a climbing puzzle and then must set the Borgia tower on fire– which is very spectacular!
Killing the Borgia leader and taking down the tower (Check out the commented GamesCom 2010 demo online) is completely optional in the game while killing the main targets is mandatory in the main path. Of course, the story progresses through the assassination of main targets while taking over Borgia towers will affect the Rome Upgrade System and the wealth of the people in that area. Clearing Borgia towers can also be done strategically… For example, I might want to clear a Borgia Tower before I jump into a main assassination mission in the same area to reduce the number of guards in this area. So, in the end, both of these mission types have different approaches but can be completed strategically and are strongly interrelated.
Leonardo War Machines:
The war machines pose a major threat to Ezio. These are all based on drawings Leonardo made for actual inventions. One of them is the naval cannon which can render useless an entire boat fleet in minutes. Mounted on top of a gondola, the cannon shoots flare which enflames the sails of boat, making them immobile and useless. Another war machine is Leo’s version of the machine gun. On top of a chariot is a mounted wheel with multiple small cannons. Like the chamber of a revolver, each cannon is one shot – transforming the mounted wheel into a deadly, but primitive, machine gun. Another one is probably one of the most famous designs of Leonardo DaVinci, the armoured tank…! The screenshots tagged along should speak for themselves…
Ezio’s going to need to destroy them to stop Cesare’s advance through Italy. We’re not going to reveal how Cesare got a hold of the plans for these inventions just yet. There will be more about this closer to launch of the game
UGDB: What about the side assassination missions?
We have the highest number of side assassination missions yet. They are very challenging and fun to complete. The much appreciated secret locations are also back in the game! Rebuilding Rome will also take a lot of investment for the players as well as recruiting and upgrading your own assassin’s guild.
Or course, the main mission path as a strong storyline with lots of varied mission to complete! We are definitely confident this is the most polished Assassin’s Creed
experience we’ve created so far!
UGDB: In the previous Assassin’s Creed games horses were a transportation only feature, but in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood we’ll use them for combat as well. Can you shed some light on the new use of the horses?
One thing we are doing with the horse is the concept that the ‘Horse is Alive’. It means that in certain contexts, the player can let the Horse decide on his movement to focus on other things… such as your next move… air assassinate from the horse or…?
The horse will play a major role in missions and free-roaming and can now be used in acrobatic sequences as well as advanced combat. You will have the ability to use melee weapons against enemies on horse in a joust-like fashion, both enemies circling around each other and fighting, or using ranged weapons such as the crossbow while sitting on the horse.
The horse will also be effective for executing quick escape strategies during tense situations.
Ezio can use his horses in multiple ways, including combat, and his assassins are no different. When called by Ezio, brotherhood assassins can use horses if the situation calls for it – for example if Ezio is chasing a target on a horse. This is very useful if you want to surprise enemies and use the chaos and confusion created by your allies to target a specific individual during the melee.
UGDB: It's been confirmed that there will be more modern day sequences featuring Desmond. Can you tell us more on that?
Vincent Pontbriand: Assassin’s Creed
at its core is the story of Desmond Miles, so we’re pushing that story even further as well. We’ll start closing some of the doors we’ve been opening since the beginning of the franchise. Also, expect to visit, alongside Desmond, unique places that you would never have imagined exploring!
UGDB: The British composer Jesper Kyd scored the previous two games and in our opinion he made great soundtracks. Will he return as a composer for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood?
Oh, yes, Jesper Kyd is definitely working with the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
team on the soundtrack of the game.
UGDB: Can you share some interesting stats with us about the development of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – for example, from how much time you are working on the game and what is the size of the team working on it, what is the development budget, how much time we’ll need to complete the solo game, etc.?
The Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
team is composed of a few hundreds of developers! Many of them have previously worked on Assassin’s Creed 1
and Assassin’s Creed 2
so they have a lot of experience with the brand and the game engine. We have teams working on Assassin’s Creed
lead by Montreal in various cities throughout the world: Annecy, Quebec, Bucharest, and Singapore.
Just the Montreal world team is composed by 47 persons. 15 level artists, 3 modelers and 4 textures artists who work on the visual aspect of the game. 4 city designers and 3 gameplay integrators are in charge the city layout and the gameplay included. 2 lighter artists, 5 concept artists, 2 technical leads, 2 devtesters and 6 different directors and assistant directors completes the team. The world team of Assassin’s Creed
is one of the biggest team of the studio and is formed by the most talented artists of the company.
UGDB: Last year, just a couple of weeks prior Assassin’s Creed 2 premiere we saw a series of three short live action films called Assassin's Creed: Lineage. Are you thinking about making something similar for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood?
We are not working on any short films for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
but our new Ubisoft transmedia team is definitely working on various Assassin’s Creed projects!
UGDB: Assassin’s Creed 2 had two DLCs [The Battle of Forlì and Bonfire of the Vanities], which many thought as cut off levels from the original game on purpose. Do you have plans for making any DLCs prior Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood launch? Maybe this time multiplayer oriented?
We have not announced anything yet regarding DLC for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
UGDB: Assassin’s Creed 2 made his way on the PC platform more than 4 months later than the console versions. Do you consider making the same with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood or we can expect a simultaneous release for all platforms?
The PC version of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
has a Q1 2011 release date.