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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood - Director and Producer talk dumbing down, milking it, co-op and AC3's setting

GR: So your engine is amazing. Are you going to use it for the rest of the generation, or do you think for AC3 you’re going think it might need an overhaul?

PP: I’m not a tech guy, but I think there’s life in the engine. When we switch generations, that’s when it’s valid to restart. AC1 – we built the tech as we built the game, and that becomes a big constraint. With AC2 and Brotherhood it’s not a worry, so when we integrate stuff like the Assassin’s Guild mechanic we know the AI vs. AI is already essentially there. Having to restart the engine from scratch, it means you’ve got a few years where you can’t really iterate on the actual game...

GR: Do you think Ubi are interested in licensing any of their engines going forward?

PP: I think it’s the opposite. I already worked on R6: Vegas 1 & 2 which used the Unreal Engine. But Ubi is big enough that we don’t have to be dependent on other people’s technology, especially when you have engines like AC and Far Cry...

GR: What about the future, are you going to rely on third-party engines solutions or go in-house more and more?

PP: The latter. With the number of projects in our studio, it doesn’t make sense giving a huge percentage of your development budget to somebody else...

GR: So it costs megabucks to license, say, Unreal for a Ubi game?

PP: Oh yeah. I guess they have scalable stuff for indie devs though...

GR: Does the success of AC demonstrate that there will always be a place in the game industry for high cost, high risk new IPs that are also aiming for AAA status straight off the bat? I mean, Assassin’s could have gone horribly wrong, lost Ubi a lot of money... do you think Ubi will continue to launch huge new IPs?

PP: Absolutely. I think it’ll be the opposite that are going to disappear, the smaller projects. You’re already seeing it with movie properties – investing tens of millions on things you don’t own in the end.

GR: Like PoP?

PP: Well that’s different. I don’t know what the deal is there. It’s like we own Clancy. But with new IPs, it’s like if people sense there’s potentially huge momentum, sexiness to a project they’ll invest in it.

GR: The Assassin's Creed: Lineage shorts were a huge success, demonstrating the talents of Ubisoft’s Hybride Technologies. After the box office success of PoP (albeit under Disney) are you aware whether Ubi has genuine plans to turn its key IPs – like AC – into film or other cross-media properties, toys etc.

PP: Well we gave away Ezio figures with the AC2 Special Edition...

GR: But like ‘toy’ toys, action figures...

PP: Well there are books coming, a series of comic books where artists have carte blanche to do anything with any time period. So I think the first one centres around Russia, the Soviet Union during the 1940s or something. So the potential is there...

GR: What about more live action stuff like Lineage?

PP: For Brotherhood there’s going to be an animated comic, but not real-life action. After that, I don’t know. There’s sure to be stuff in the pipeline...

GR: I understand you can’t reveal where AC3 will take place – but, theoretically speaking, which time periods/locations would you personally love to see a future Assassins title take place in? I’ll start the ball rolling – a Spring-heeled Jack legging it about Victorian London...

PP: (Smiles) That would be my favourite one too.

GR: Really? Er, cool. But you can’t say that – that’s a rubbish answer!

PP: It is! Late C19 would be amazing. I have Sherlock Holmes, the Arthur Conan Doyle stuff on my bedside table. It’s a big brick – all the novels in one book! I think there’s huge potential there for another game – and instead of the game being close to Batman it’d be more like James Bond...

GR: You should pitch that to your bosses! You mentioned you didn’t want to instigate co-op into Brotherhood owing to narrative issues, but that’s not necessarily an issue – for instance Halo Reach just ignores any co-op players and just treats them as one person. Couldn’t you have done that in Brotherhood?

PP: But one of our franchise’s strengths is that everything needs to make sense in the universe – that helps fans absorb all the narrative more easily. We have a lot of high level concepts in our universe – the animus isn’t a time machine – it relives history, not changes it. But if you don’t respect the rules it just becomes mumbo jumbo.

GR: Okay, what about this. We already played a mission in Brotherhood where there’s a brief co-op (with AI) bit of platforming with Lucy. In a later Assassin’s Creed, might a separate player control her?

PP: I think eventually there will definitely be co-op in the brand. For this one, we focused first and foremost on the validation for multiplayer – and the templar angle was interesting. In campaign, co-op comes with a lot of challenge. At GDC the Saint’s Row guys were like: ‘if you want your game to have co-op – especially in a sandbox – you need to build it from the ground up.’ They’re right – it’s a couple of years of turnaround to make sure co-op would work. With Brotherhood we were expanding the brand, but we also have the quiet confidence that we’re successful enough to take our time. That’s super liberating – we have great ideas, but we can put some of them on the backburner for the time being then – next time round – revisit some of those old ideas.

GR: Cheers Patrick.