An extensive Q&A from Ubisoft, available past the break, sums the improvements made to Liberation HD, touching on the new tutorial system, new combat (protagonist Aveline can dual-wield weapons now), polished free-running and improved facial animations and cutscenes. In addition to this, each mission has been "reworked" to provide better "pacing and challenge" for players. "And one more thing; we have worked heavily to improve the frame rate. The game will be smooth," says producer Momchil Valentinov Gindyanov.
AI and crowd behavior will also behave like Assassin's Creed Liberation HD's console brethren. "Using the AnvilNext engine and existing Assassin's Creed technology has really allowed us to push the crowd and AI behaviour," Gindyanov writes. "Liberation features all the crowd behaviour you've come to expect from an Assassin's Creed game, tailored to our own specific locations, so you can expect to see all sorts of activities unique to New Orleans, including Mardi Gras!"
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD is due on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from developer Ubisoft Sofia. Neither timetable nor price has been announced.
Global Q&A – Announcement
Answered by: Momchil Valentinov Gindyanov, Producer
• GAME TITLE: Assassin's Creed Liberation HD
• PLATFORMS: PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360
• AGE RATING: Pending
• RELEASE DATE: TBD
• What does Assassin's Creed Liberation HD brings to table versus its predecessor? How does it improve upon its predecessor in terms of gameplay?
When we set out to do Liberation HD, our objective was simple – improve upon what worked and adapt the gameplay and missions to be the most fun and enjoyable they could be. As a result, each mission has been reworked in order to improve their pacing and the challenge they pose for the player. Based on the feedback from our fans and our internal review of Liberation, mission paths, objectives and enemy encounters have all been edited to improve flow and the gameplay experience. Additionally, each scripted scene has been updated. Finally, a new set of tutorials has been implemented throughout the main path in order to introduce and educate players on combat and navigation mechanics.
We also polished the world layouts and every free-running path. Thus ensuring navigation is more enjoyable throughout our multiple game areas; namely New Orleans, the Louisiana Bayou and Chichen Itza. Controls also have been adapted to consoles and PC as to be closer to what you would expect of Assassin's Creed and as to be more natural for consoles and PC gamers.
We also have new missions specific to Aveline's Personas. Three news side missions' chains have been created and each is a set of five (5) missions for a particular Persona, focusing on their specific strength and features set. That's a total of 15 missions delving deeper into Aveline's story.
• Beyond graphics and gameplay, what is Liberation improving upon from its predecessor in terms of narrative and storytelling?
Purely in terms of story, we are introducing in Liberation HD new story panels inserted between certain missions in order to focus players on the important bits of the story. This ensures smoother storytelling and story progression but also provides additional insights/details of the interesting world of 18th century New Orleans.
In term of storytelling, we heavily focused on improving the character's performance to provide a richer cinematic experience. Every cinematic and their animation has been reworked and upgraded. In other words, the team implemented high resolution characters, high definition skeletons (the animation rigs used when creating cutscenes) and improved facial animations (and their rigs). The result is enhanced cutscenes with smoother camera work that improve the storytelling and believability of characters.
• One of the most interesting characters, so to speak, of Liberation was its world – 18th Century New Orleans. How are you bringing this City, alongside the Bayou and Chichen Itza, to the current generation of home console and the PC?
We knew of lot of the appeal of Liberation was its setting, 18th century New Orleans is a location rarely visited in videogames which we were really glad to explore. Knowing the game would be enjoyed on HDTVs and PC monitors, we spent a lot of time reworking the city ingredients and our environment in high resolution. That means textures, geometry and material are HD-ready, thus ensuring a level of detail impossible before.
Another major graphical we improved in Liberation HD is lighting. The mood and atmosphere lighting brings is very important to ensure our world comes to life. We have implemented dynamic change in the time of day, something we couldn't do before. Additionally, the game's lighting model is completely new with a mix of Linear Lighting technique and HDR, enabling us to create more detail and dynamic scenes.
Still, even if the world is in HD and has amazing lighting, it wouldn't feel like realistic if it wasn't populated. The crowd life in Liberation HD has been fully reworked by our team here in Sofia. The crowd density, its variety and reactions have been improved in all areas of the game. Ensuring the world feels immersive and true to the Assassin's Creed tradition. Additionally, animal life has been introduced in New Orleans and intensified in less human populated areas, such as the Bayou or Chichen Itza. Expect to see a broader range of animals, friendly and predatory.
• Purely from a technical standpoint, what are you doing in Liberation HD? Are there new technologies implemented?
Purely in technical terms, we tried to take advantage of the AnvilNext engine and introduce a host of new technologies and techniques to Liberation. They include high resolution characters and environments for highly detailed world/characters. On the cinematic side, improved animation and facial rigs ensure enhanced performances by the characters. Visually, the team has implemented Linear Lighting and HDR rendering and introduced changing time of day for Liberation. The sum of which ensures a true Liberation HD experience on current consoles and PC.
And one more thing; we have worked heavily to improve the frame rate. The game will be smooth.
• The VITA, from a hardware standpoint, relies heavily on touch-pad input and Liberation leveraged this in its gameplay. The PS3, Xbox 360 and PC are still analog on that regards. What are you doing to translate this experience?
Quite simply, we redesigned the user interface to certify a seamless UI implementation both in term of game feedback and user input. In other words, it means we have completely redone the visual interface to make sure it will be used and understood efficiently by the player. Additionally, we have improved the control to ensure it feels natural on consoles and PC.
• For the audiophile amongst us, has the audio seen the same amount of attention?
Sound and music has been re-mastered, so if audio is your thing you will definitively appreciate the improvements made for Liberation HD. Additionally, even if its small detail we know it is an important one, but all SFX have been remade by our audio team.
• Who is developing Assassin's Creed Liberation HD?
Ubisoft Sofia has developed many challenging projects since the studio opened, most of these requiring new platforms and technology to be mastered, and in every case it's the team that has been key to delivering the final product. Our teams are built by some of the best developers in the industry, who rise to every challenge and push themselves to deliver the best results.
AC Liberation HD was created by the same team that worked on the original title. Having gathered a lot of experience creating the game for the Vita the team was able to quickly identify all improvements needed to bring Liberation to the big screen. Additionally all fan and critic comments were thoroughly reviewed and incorporated in the plans for updating the game experience.
• Assassin's Creed games are well known to involve world-wide studios. Who leads the development of Liberation?
Ubisoft Sofia is the lead studio and developer of the game. The Montreal studio strongly coordinates and supports Sofia on brand oversight and scripting, and shares technologies (such as the AnvilNext engine) as well as technical and artistic knowledge.
• Can you give us a glimpse at the scale of Assassin's Creed Liberation HD?
The scope of Liberation is similar in length to previous Assassin's Creed console games, with between 15 hours of play for experienced gamers to 20 hours for typical players. Liberation has also been scaled for "short burst" game session. This is reflected in the mission design and checkpoints to ensure maximal enjoyment.
• What is the story of Liberation? Where does it take place?
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD features a completely new story and assassin for the franchise.
Liberation is set in New Orleans between 1765 and 1780, in the period between the end of the French and Indian War, up to the middle of the American Revolution. The game tells the story of Aveline; a female Assassin of mixed French and African heritage. Brought up in a world of privilege and contrasts, Aveline becomes a strong willed woman and an avid opponent of slavery.
Recruited to the Assassins by an escaped slave called Agate, Aveline joins the struggle against the Templars as they try to take control of New Orleans following France's handover of the city to Spain. Striking hard and fast, she is instrumental in the Louisiana Rebellion that forces the Spanish and Templars out of the city for nearly two years before they return in force.
With British colonies to the north moving closer towards the event of the American Revolution, Aveline is forced to reconsider her values as she strives against the Templars and slavery as the world she knows is gradually dragged yet into another war.
• What are the forces at play? What is the Templar's involvement in the story?
Liberation continues the ongoing war between the Assassins and Templars. Following the French handover of New Orleans to the Spanish in 1763, the city finds itself under increasing pressure due to growing resentment from the French population of their new Spanish rulers, and from an insidious attempt by the Templars to seize control of the city.
Within New Orleans however a small group of Assassins stands as the only thing between the Templars and their domination of the region, as the fires of revolution undermine the stability of the New World.
• 18th century Louisiana is a very different context than the American Colonies on the East Coast. What makes this period pivotal in history?
The story begins two years after the end of the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763. This war affected the whole Eastern seaboard of North America: France ceded Canada to the British, and also ceded Louisiana to Spain, including New Orleans. Britain was heavily in debt as a result of the war, and attempted to further tax its own colonies to the north, which already resented the existing taxes they had to pay, including a tax for soldiers to defend the colonies against a threat from France that no longer existed. This set the scene for the events that lead to the American Revolution, one of the most pivotal periods in history.
For New Orleans itself, the handover of the colony to Spain caused discontentment in the population, many of whom had fled Canada after it was handed to the British. The city rebelled against its new masters in 1768, although the rebellion was short lived.
Even with its new rulers, New Orleans continued as a port for smuggling goods to the colonies to avoid the punitive British taxes. During the American Revolution, New Orleans was one of the major ports for running supplies to the colonies from France and Spain, especially when Great Britain blockaded Boston and other ports. For many people, Spain's ability to hold New Orleans and their defeat of Britain in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1779-83 was a major contributor to the eventual colonial victory in the Revolutionary War.
New Orleans and its surrounding areas were also famous for its slave trade and its system of plaçage, whereby wealthy French and Spanish men entered into an arrangement with a woman of African, Indian or Creole descent. This was a form of temporary marriage that lasted until a "more acceptable" wife could be found. This system allowed for some women, or placées, and their children, to gain their freedom, wealth and positions of power within society.
It's also worth remembering that although New Orleans during this period is the setting and backdrop for our game, the game itself is still about the ongoing conflict between the Assassins and Templars. New Orleans however had a culture and tradition that makes it unique for this period and the perfect setting for Liberation and the story of Aveline.
• Why did you focus in on this particular time period and timeframe?
For Liberation we have created a story that runs parallel to the story and events in Assassin's Creed III, using a setting and theme that we believe to be unique - that of a New World colony that was not one of the thirteen colonies in the battle for Independence, but one that was "outside looking in". New Orleans was critical as a means of smuggling aid to the colonies from Spain and France, but itself underwent substantial upheaval during the years prior to and during the American Revolution, and it is these tumultuous years that the player will experience.
• Slavery was an important part of the society at that time. How are you treating this topic in Liberation?
The slave trade was one of the main economic activities in New Orleans during the 18th century, and we will be addressing the subject in Liberation with the respect it deserves. Slavery is at the core of the game and Aveline's motivation.
• Can you introduce us to the new protagonist, Aveline? What is her back story?
Aveline is an assassin of mixed heritage. She is the daughter of a wealthy French merchant and his African placée bride (Plaçage was a form of temporary marriage that was widely accepted in Louisiana at this time). Aveline is raised with privilege and love, even after her mother disappears and her father marries her step-mother. As Aveline grows she develops into a strong willed young woman and starts to take notice of the contrasts around her - wealth and poverty, freedom and slavery, and while torn between the different values she inherited from her parents, she forms her own set of values, including a vehement anti-slavery stance. It is at this time that she is recruited to the Assassins by Agate, an escaped slave who teaches Aveline to focus the strengths and skills required as an Assassin.
In creating Aveline we wanted a new character with clear values and the will to fight for them, even if they do not always align with those of her parents or Agate. She is driven by her perception of what is right and what is wrong. She is very much an insider - a model citizen and the privileged daughter of a successful businessman, who uses her skills to fight against the injustices she sees around her every day in New Orleans, but as events begin to overtake the New World, Aveline finds herself caught more and more in the struggle between the Assassins and Templars for supremacy.
• A female protagonist is rare in video games. Can you share hindsight on your creative process? Why a female assassin instead of a male one?
From our very first discussions on the game we identified the possibility for a female assassin. New Orleans during the 18th Century was culturally a very diverse city and while it shared many of the aspects of other colonies that we view negatively today, it did also present unique opportunities, and several women with similar backgrounds to Aveline acquired considerable wealth, power and respect.
Using these women as role models, we found in Aveline a strong, empowered young woman who has the opportunity, confidence and will power to be ruthless in achieving her goals - perfect for an Assassin! With all this behind her, Aveline is the equal of any male assassin.
There have been female assassins around since the very beginning, with some appearing as part of the Brotherhood in both Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed Revelations.
• What are her skills? How is this reflected in navigation, combat and stealth?
We wanted Aveline's skills and abilities to reflect her heritage and location, and for these to expand as she experiences the diverse culture around her in New Orleans, travels to new locations, and as she develops further as an assassin.
Throughout the game Aveline is able to collect different tools and weapons and these then become part of her identity. Each tool or weapon also bring new opportunities in the areas of navigation, combat and stealth, which can be used anywhere in the game for very different play experiences. As Aveline grows, so do her abilities.
• Specifically about Combat, what is Aveline's style – what is unique about her combat abilities?
Aveline's combat style is a mix of flair and precision, mixed with moments of outright brutality! As an assassin, Aveline is of course no stranger to melee combat, and she is able to execute killing moves with a range of weapons including her hidden blades and when necessary her bare hands. Aveline uses a pistol for ranged combat, and as the game progresses she also gains access to the silent and deadly blowpipe.
For Liberation, we have implemented the new combat system. This allows Aveline to wield two weapons at the same time, and is based around player skill and timing. We have also created our own enemy archetypes and missions to ensure that combat presents both a challenge and an opportunity for players, where striking at the right moment will clear your path of opponents much faster.
• What are the different weapons Aveline will be using on her missions?
New Orleans was very much a melting pot of the Old and New World at this time, with people from different cultures arriving from every direction. Combined with Aveline's mixed heritage and privileged upbringing, this gave us a wealth of modern and traditional weapons to draw upon for our new Assassin.
Primary amongst the traditional weapons is the blowpipe. The blowpipe allows Aveline to eliminate targets silently from a distance, a great advantage at a time when muskets were noisy and slow to reload. Another weapon is the sugarcane machete. With this in her hand, Aveline converts an agricultural tool into a brutal weapon with which she harvests victims!
On top of these, Aveline has of course her hidden blades, plus the full range of weapons available to soldiers and the other combatants of the period, including pistols, muskets, grenades, swords and knives.
There are also more weapons yet to be revealed, but that's for another day!
• Are you playing an Assassin reliving the memories of his ancestor?
Liberation is different from main Assassin Creed games in that it is an Abstergo product where the player is playing in the Animus, rather than playing an Assassin through the Animus.
The game has been released as a propaganda tool by Abstergo, who want players to experience a gray area of the Assassin/Templar conflict as an Assassin rather than a Templar.
• Assassin's Creed wouldn't be the same open-world experience without Crowd interactions and AI. What are you doing to push the experience to the next level?
Using the AnvilNext engine and existing Assassin's Creed technology has really allowed us to push the crowd and AI behaviour. Liberation features all the crowd behaviour you've come to expect from an Assassin's Creed game, tailored to our own specific locations, so you can expect to see all sorts of activities unique to New Orleans, including Mardi Gras!
• America at that time was still vastly unexplored; will this immense land be explored in Assassin's Creed Liberation HD?
We will be taking the player to several unexplored regions in Liberation. Of these, the Louisiana Bayou is the most prominent region, which not only brings a new terrain but also a new navigation experience to the franchise.
The Bayou is a swamp area, where dry ground is rare and the trees might not be only the fastest way of travelling from one place to another, but also the safest! Within this region, the player will encounter smugglers and other outcasts from New Orleans, living in their own settlements and following their own rules.
Liberation will also take players across the Gulf into Mexico, but I can't go into more detail on these at the moment.
• An unexplored land promises animals, are they included in the game? Will there be additional gameplay tied to this?
The Louisiana Bayou is home to a myriad of animals, many of these posing a real threat to human life. The largest and most dangerous animals are the alligators. These wait on the banks of the swamp or cruise the waters looking for prey, and will attack people whenever they can. Avoid them if you want to survive!
• What key new features and content does Assassin's Creed Liberation HD brings to the Assassin's Creed universe?
Aveline is the first Assassin with such clearly different character types – Assassin, Lady and Servant. Each character has their own advantages and disadvantages when playing missions, and each generates a different reaction from the city life around Aveline. All three personas bring depth to her character and game play choice to the player. The persona system also introduced changing rooms – booths placed around the city to facilitate Aveline's change in disguise.