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Old 08-30-2007, 02:27 PM
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Default Assassin's Creed Preview

We saw a lot of cool stuff at last week’s annual Penny Arcade Expo, but few things had the crowd abuzz like the live Assassin’s Creed demo on the second day. As the members of the crowd slowly filtered into the auditorium, we all felt like we’d be getting the chance to see something special. After all, this was the first time that the general public was getting to see the highly anticipated Ubisoft in action, as it had only been shown to the press up until that point. We all tried to get a glimpse at what was being set up for us on the big screens, and there was more than a little grumbling when the word “E3 2007 Demo” appeared under the game’s logo on the title screen. Still, we had a feeling that we’d be seeing (and learning) more than ever.

Once the lights had dimmed, the game’s Creative Director, Patrice Desilets, took the stage to begin the presentation. He explained that we wouldn’t only be seeing the game in action, as the team had decided that this was a great time to go into greater detail about what went into designing Assassin’s Creed. According to the first Powerpoint slide, the presentation that we’d be seeing was titled “From Theory to Reality,” and it would give us a taste of the development process, from preproduction to the actual coding. He kicked things off by giving us a brief personal bio, explaining that he cut his teeth on a number of, um, “lesser” titles before finally making his mark as the Designer of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Perched like a bird of prey.

It turns out that Assassin’s Creed has actually been in development since just after that game successfully shipped, and that the core PoP stayed intact to bring this one together. The first important slide gave us list of numbers, as Desilets explained that the game will feature three main cities (Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem) that are part of a single giant kingdom. You’ll actually be able to ride from one city to another, and he let slip that you may have to fight your way through the Crusaders at times. The kingdom between the cities looks absolutely huge, and we’re definitely interested to see what’s in store for us there.

He then proceeded to tell us that the game will feature 200 different, generic characters, meaning you won’t keep seeing the same guy over and over again. There will also be a stunning 10,000 animations in the game, ensuring that the characters move through and interact with their environment realistically. The final number was one that we were impressed by: twenty. That’s the total number of hours that it takes Patrice to play through the game, so you can expect that it’ll take common folks like us quite a bit longer.

Next, Desilets gave us a glimpse into his design choices. He explained that, from the outset, the team at Ubisoft Montreal wanted to “redefine the action/adventure” genre, just as they did with PoP. He said that he had spent some time reading a book about the world’s secret societies and that he was fascinated by the chapter on the Hashashins, a group that rose to prominence (well, as much as a secret society can) during the Crusades as they assassinated both Crusaders and corrupt Muslims alike. This probably explains the disclaimer before the demo that basically stated that the game was made by a “racially diverse.” You can read into that what you will.

After giving us a little bit of history behind the development, we were treated to some never-before-seen target footage, which is industry-speak for “this is what we hoped our finished game would look like.” It looks like the team at Ubisoft Montreal has succeeded in every way, as the footage looked a lot like what we’ve seen of the game so far. It basically consisted of Altair leaping, flipping, and fighting his way through an ancient city. One thing that we noticed that we haven’t seen in the final game, however, was the use of the environment, as our hero knocked down a stack of crates in order to create some room between him and his pursuers. Hopefully that’s something that we’ll be able to do when we get the game for ourselves!

Next up was a brief talk about what some of us had a chance to see back at the 2006 Game Developers Conference. At that point, the game was simply referred to as “Project Assassin,” and the talk simply consisted of some early tech demos showcasing the combat, climbing, and jumping mechanics. It used a placeholder character (the illustrious Fishmonger), and Desilets explained some of the overarching ideas behind the design. He said that the game’s climbing is based on the human scale, and that Altair can grab anything that sticks out 2 inches or more. While the jumping is on the same scale, he jokingly noted that our hero can leap a distance of about 26 feet, which is just a shade shorter than the current world record.

Altair will be competing in the 1191 Olympic Games!

Finally, much to the delight of the crowd in attendance, it was time to kick off the demo. Desilets explained that while this was the same demo that was shown during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, he’d be doing things a little differently this time out. We once again were introduced to Jerusalem circa 1191, and Altair began his trip perched on top of one of the cities towering minarets. However, just to prove that he was indeed controlling the action, he asked the audience which tower he should head to next. Also, rather than leaping from the top of the tower into the hay cart, he climbed down using whatever jutted out from the side of the building.

We got to watch him climb and leap his way over to the other tower, moving incredibly fluidly and flawlessly. Once he made it up to the top of the next tower, he took the leap of faith and plunged into a pile of hay while the crowd gasped. As soon as he leapt out, he started to talk to us about the game’s crowd system. You’ll be able to make your way through crowds in either a high or low profile mode, and the crowd will react differently depending on how you interact with them. They’ll also act as obstacles, slowing you down while you’re in pursuit of a target or are being pursued yourself.

After he finished making his way through the diverse crowd (and dealing with some troublemakers), Desilets finally made his way into a building to confront his target, the slave trader Talal. While the game won’t feature any cutscenes in the traditional sense of the term, you will be able to view conversations and important scenes from a variety of different angles. Our target delivered the traditional “I’ll wash my hands of you while my men finish you off” speech, at which point his minions came out for some good ol’ fashioned fighting.

Desilets paused the demo briefly to explain the dev team’s combat philosophy. Rather than having a traditional health system, they wanted to convey that “a sword through your head is going to kill you.” The game’s combat is all about blades hitting each other, rather than multiple slashes across someone’s chest. The combat featured a number of different (and brutal!) combos, as we watched Altair grab enemies and break their neck, break their legs with vicious kicks to the knee, or grab them to slash their throats. We can definitely say that Desilets did a better job playing the game than I did at E3. The combat looks like it’ll be about as intense as players want it to be, always a good thing in 20 hour games.

Once he finished off the lesser foes, Altair took off in hot pursuit of Talal, running through the crowd and occasionally leaping up to the rafter to get away from foot traffic. He finally felled his foe, then cradled his head as they entered “The White Room.” This is where Altair’s foes tell him about what is going on, fleshing out the conspiracy that the game is wrapped in. We’re interested to see if this is the only way that the game’s storyline will progress, although we’re assuming that it’ll be told in a variety of different manners. After that was finished and done with, Altair took to the rooftops, attempting to evade his pursuers. The escape system is based on line-of-sight, so all you need to do is get out of sight.

Who wants to put their money on Talal?

The demo ended as Altair returned to the Assassin’s Bureau, where a man named Malik gave him a hard time for being noticed. Altair countered that “an assassin’s work is noticed by the many,” but we could sense that there was more than a little history between the two men. Desilets confirmed this at a Q&A session after the demo ended, explaining that Malik is actually Altair’s brother. Apparently Altair left him to die after some, um, unpleasantness that Malik apparently escaped from (albeit without one of his arms). We also noticed a little tip-off about some of the other stuff you’ll be able to do around the city, as a brief message about pickpocketing popped up at one point during Altair’s travels.

Although there wasn’t a lot of stuff that we hadn’t seen before, the Assassin’s Creed demo at the 2007 Penny Arcade Expo was a great chance to find out a little bit more about what went in to creating the game. We’re even more pumped about the game after seeing it in action again, and the fact that there will be a lot more stuff outside the cities’ borders gives us hope that the game won’t just be focused on the assassinations. Of course, I guess that’s not really a bad thing, is it?
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Old 08-30-2007, 04:43 PM
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i cant wait for this game.
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Old 08-30-2007, 06:36 PM
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i want the demo for this...
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Old 08-31-2007, 05:22 PM
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This game is just too cool. I already have the Collector's Edition reserved and can't wait to pick it up!
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