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

GR: Rome is rammed with amazing structures to practice your parkour about – the Coliseum, Pantheon etc. Can you set us know about any special set pieces? What’s the most exciting building to leap about?

VP: Sure, well you missed one of our nicest set pieces – the Castel Sant'Angelo. This place still exists, it’s one of the larger landmarks of Rome. One of the biggest after the Vatican. That’s where the Pope used to live back in the day. So we’re very proud of it – it’s pretty accurate in terms of size and scale – and we build it so we could reuse it at least two or three times throughout the game. There are several climbing puzzles centred around it, and also the very top is the highest point in the entire Assassin’s Creed series so far. The mast with the flag- that’s our high point!

GR: So who do you see as your rivals, because this is a fairly unique genre. And if you don’t have rivals, what do you measure yourselves against?

VP: Well, I think we have rivals. We’re obviously compared to GTA, Red Dead Redemption...

GR: Because of the sandbox?

VP: The level with the horse. We committed to using horses before Red Dead came out, but they did it very well. So that put us under pressure to improve it... use it within the city during Brotherhood. But we did see Red Dead and go ‘awww’. What they do well in Red Dead is ambient gameplay – all the random encounters, the people in the middle of the desert. It’s all very systemic. We are trying to go in that direction, the living, breathing world, We need more random events.

GR: Well I love your stuff like the parties, the masques. They add so much. But surely the odd Easter egg thingies – like your kraken for AC2 – they don’t take so long to do? But it’s interesting you mentioned those examples- I thought you’d have mentioned Tomb Raider, Uncharted...

VP: Uncharted definitely. They really nailed the linear experience, like a ride. It’s the sort of game you can play and you don’t even realise six hours have passed. So much fun...

GR: But it’s incredibly linear...

VP: True. We can do that kind of experience, but we can’t have both an open sandbox and a very controlled mission structure where all the timing are perfect, where a patrol passes by at just the right moment. We just can’t; the world is always moving around you.

GR: But surely that randomness is a good thing? That’s where the magic happens!

VP: But sometimes missions can be boring, nothing happens. Or other times it might be super hard because two patrols cross at the same moment...

GR: For AC3 are you going to have to mix something up with your core gameplay? Patrick (Plourde) said he thought the Anvil engine would remain the same until the end of this hardware generation, but that’s ostensibly five years away...

VP: How could I disagree? We have to make decision, whether we re-factor everything we have, end up with pretty much the same thing – maybe a little bit better – or accept what we have and build on top of it. They’re the kind of decisions we have to make each time we begin a new game. We’ve been successful – touch wood – so far because we try to build on our strengths, adding layer by layer. It’s a sculpture, we’re polishing...

GR: ...but it must be getting harder...

VP: It is! Now we’re this close in terms of memory, CPU... it won’t fit anymore. We want more weapons, but each time there are an entire new layer of animations...

GR: Do people actually use all the weapons? I didn’t.

VP: Most players stick with a favourite, not many continually switch strategy. I think it’s worth it just because it gives the impression you’re customising your experience, but we have to draw the line somewhere. There’s not enough payoff. In terms of improving the core mechanics, we will have to... but it’ll mean scrapping a lot of things that work now.