Alex Amancio explains how Unity will portray the French Revolution in an authentic manner.
There is no doubt that Ubisoft Montreal are developing their most ambitious Assassin’s Creed project yet. Unity not only promises to have a bigger world but will also feature an in-depth level design unseen in previous games. They are also revamping several of the gameplay’s core mechanics and introducing a four player co-op and a tactical cover system.
GamingBolt recently got in touch with Alex Amancio who is the Creative Director of Assassin’s Creed Unity. He previously headed the superb Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and is now back to lead the team for Unity. Check out his response below.
Rashid Sayed: Chronologically speaking, is this a direct sequel to Black Flag? Are we still playing the modern and silent protagonist from Black Flag?
Alex Amancio: Unity takes place during the French Revolution, which happens between 1789 and 1794. Black Flag takes place roughly 70+ years before. In terms of Assassin’s Creed chronology, it would be ACBF, AC3 and then ACU. As for who you play in the present day: no, you no longer play the silent protagonist from ACBF.Assassin’s Creed Unity starts a brand new narrative cycle in which you, the player, are the present day protagonist. We’ll communicate further on this shortly.
"Arno is on a redemption quest. He 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."
Rashid Sayed: Unity features a brand new protagonist in Arno. Edward Kenway in Black Flag was an intriguing and perhaps the most interesting character in the series so far. What are your plans for character development of Arno and how do you think he can emotionally pull the player in the game?
Alex Amancio: With Unity, we used the setting (French revolution) and all the events that took place during that period as an inspiration for the character creation process. Because Assassin’s Creed Unity is a kind of spiritual rebirth of the Franchise, we wanted to take our time in introducing this new Assassin.
Arno is a real name of Austrian origin. His mother was Austrian, which is why he has an Austrian first name. Arno comes from “Arn” which means eagle in germanic languages. Altair meant eagle, Ezio meant eagle or bird of prey and Arno means eagle. Like for previous Assassins it was natural for the team to continue into that same direction.
In terms of his story, Arno is on a redemption quest. He 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. In fact, the Assassins are a means to an end for him, at least at the beginning. Personality-wise, Arno is a charismatic character with a good sense of humour.
Rashid Sayed: Level design has changed a lot in Unity. I saw that players can now enter homes and do much more. Is every area in the game now accessible?
Alex Amancio: In ACU, the player will be able to explore a lot of interiors in Assassin’s Creed Unity. About 1 out of 4 buildings can be explored. So it opens new gameplay routes and opportunities. 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 looks empty at first sight, 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 adds an extra layer of exploration.
There are also monuments 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.
"Assassin’s Creed Unity is not only big in terms of scale put also in terms of depth. To this end, the player will be able to explore a lot of interiors in this multi-layered city of Paris."
Rashid Sayed: With much emphasis on co-operative elements, there is less information about the game’s single player campaign. Can you share details on the same?
Alex Amancio: Just like the heroes of the past AC games, Arno has his own story. The main missions of the game are directly linked to that 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 the player will have to complete what we have called Brotherhood missions, in shared experience, to fulfill his duties towards the Assassins.
Rashid Sayed: With Unity being developed on more powerful hardware, what kind world size can we expect? Is it bigger than the whole of Black Flag [land and sea] combined?
Alex Amancio: First of all, in terms of scale if you combine the entire playable landmass of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, you’d have a smaller surface than the city of Paris in ACU.
Secondly, Assassin’s Creed Unity is not only big in terms of scale put also in terms of depth. To this end, the player will be able to explore a lot of interiors in this multi-layered city of Paris. 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.
There are also monuments that can be visited and that have been faithfully realized. 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.
Finally, we created by far the biggest and the deepest city we have ever made and this is something that we are really proud of!
Rashid Sayed: The skill tree in Aiden in Watch Dogs was extremely expansive and impressive at the same time. What kind of skill tree/set are you aiming for Arno?
Alex Amancio: First of all, the skill tree will reinforce the way the player plays the game. The skills the player will choose will define the path and the style of the avatar. And if the player plays with friends, he will be able to choose complementary skills. If, for example, I am the stealth player, I will choose skills and equipment that will fit this mission. On the opposite, if your friend is specialized in combat, he will choose stronger weapons and armors. All in all, the player will be able to choose between three specialties: stealth, combat and navigation.
"We discovered in Black Flag that people wanted to run between cover spots, so you’d have two bushes with a path between and they’d sprint across… we’re trying to encourage less of that type of behavior because the whole stealth gameplay loop is about looking at the situation, analyzing it and then making your move using whatever methods you have at your disposal."
Rashid Sayed: I have always believed that if there aretwo areaswhere Assassin’s Creed needs to improve on, it’s the weapon customization and the money system.I never felt the urge to collect premium weapons or earn more money in previous games. How will this change in Unity?
Alex Amancio: This year, we’re really proud to introduce our deep and relevant customization system. This customization is about Arno and his journey. All the gear and the weapons that you can buy within the game have a real impact on your gameplay and the player will also feel the necessity to customize his own version of Arno in order to continue his progression and become a master assassin. Obviously, the money value of a gear will vary with its rarity and its effectiveness. Consequently, the economic system will be an integral part of the ACU experience.
Rashid Sayed: Tailing returns in the game but how are you evolving the stealth mechanics? Is it still going to be all about hiding behind walls and inside haystacks?
Alex Amancio: Stealth has always been the main AC pillar. Honestly, I think we have never been able to push it as far as we have done it on ACU this year. We have added several elements to get to that level. 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 a stealth mode, with a crouch position. It’s important to say that Stealth Mode is more than just a CROUCH BUTTON. You’re less conspicuous when you’re in Stealth Mode. So, in Guard Posts, for example, if you want to move silently behind the guards, in Stealth Mode that’s possible because they won’t be aware of your presence, but if you walk or run past them, then they’ll turn around and detect you.
There’s a light cover system as well, so if you’re by a low wall or pillar, you’ll automatically snap to that and you can move along it. It’s a light snapping, though, so you can move away from it as well when you’re ready. We discovered in Black Flag that people wanted to run between cover spots, so you’d have two bushes with a path between and they’d sprint across… we’re trying to encourage less of that type of behavior because the whole stealth gameplay loop is about looking at the situation, analyzing it and then making your move using whatever methods you have at your disposal.
Of course, those methods include a host of tools both familiar and pleasantly surprising to seasoned Assassins. In ACU, we’ve got the Phantom Blade, which enables you to snipe people from a distance and do headshots, but ammo is really limited. Smoke Bombs work differently, in that the bomb doesn’t make people cough and sputter, it doesn’t stop them in their tracks as it did previously. It’s a line-of-sight breaker.
That gameplay loop is of pivotal importance, because it’s at the core of removing player frustration we’ve observed over the run of the Assassin’s Creed series.
In other words, we want to put emphasize on the fun factor! So we took the feedback from missions and missions where you fail for doing something wrong have the lowest score. And it’s easy to see why: they’re frustrating, they’re super hardcore and they’re unforgiving… and since we are paying attention to our fansthat’s something we’re really trying to remove in ACU.For example, what happens if you kill a person you’re supposed to tail? We need to provide other ways of reaching that location, so maybe the guy’s got a map in his back pocket, you can kill that guy and loot that map or you could pickpocket him, and you can look at that map and it will tell you where to go. We’re trying to remove that hard fail that puts people off.
"Not only will players have the freedom to experience their unique gameplay experience by crafting their own custom assassin and choosing their own approach, but they will also be able to share this rich French Revolution setting with up to three friends."
Rashid Sayed: Are there any plans to bring back dungeon exploration? I thought they were fun in Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood.
Alex Amancio: In Unity, we are trying our best to put as much fun content as we can. This is why we have introduced extra layers to the city such as the sewers. With this level of depth, the more the player will play the more he will discover new interesting things! As we are still developing the game, much details will be revealing later.
Rashid Sayed: Watch Dogs had over 13,000 unique animations. Considering that Unity is coming from the same studio, will it be possible for you to give us a count for Unity?
Alex Amancio: The game is still in full development. Thus it’s impossible to give a definitive number on anything at this point, as development is ongoing every day. Ask us in October, once everything is locked 🙂
Rashid Sayed: Black Flag used a custom AA solution for PS4 and Xbox One. Can you tell us what Anti-aliasing solution are you using for Unity?
Alex Amancio: Since the game is still in development, we will reveal more details later.
Rashid Sayed: Are you guys aiming for a simultaneous PC launch along with consoles?
Alex Amancio: Yes, we are indeed aiming for a simultaneous launch.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we take off?
Alex Amancio: Of course! I would like to talk about one objective that we had in mind when we first started out this project. With Unity, we really wanted to give to the player a real freedom of choice. This is the freshest element in this next-generation reinvention of Assassin’s Creed, because it encompasses and focuses all of our other innovations.
Not only will players have the freedom to experience their unique gameplay experience by crafting their own custom assassin and choosing their own approach, but they will also be able to share this rich French Revolution setting with up to three friends. In ACU, both Solo and shared missions are available seamlessly within the same massive, multi-layered city of Paris! We’re very excited and are looking foward to share this new open-ended approach with our fans.