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Assassin's Creed 3: Creating Boston, New York, Philly and beyond

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An assassin in The New World

Assassin's Creed 3
Assassin's Creed 3

Assassin's Creed 3 will be set during the American Revolution. We've known this for several weeks now. But there are plenty of implications that go along with that information. For example: what sorts of major changes does the franchise need to undergo to adapt to this new time period, this new setting?

Assassin's Creed 3 will be set during the American Revolution. We've known this for several weeks now. But there are plenty of implications that go along with that information. For example: what sorts of major changes does the franchise need to undergo to adapt to this new time period, this new setting?

We spoke with a few of the minds behind Assassin's Creed 3 to talk about the challenges involved in bringing the battle between the templars and the assassins across the pond.

Alex Hutchinson, the creative director on the project, wanted to make sure that people understand just how much of a shift this is for gamers. He was quick to point out why the Boston of AC3 is unlike the Boston of today:

"People think, oh it's an American city, a lot of games are set in America, this is familiar, but no one has seen a city like this," Hutchinson said. "America has a habit of razing a city to build a new one, so although there are key landmarks still around today, the city itself is radically different. It's primarily wood, sloped roofs, compared to previous AC games which had wider streets."

The same can be said of New York, which wasn't shown off to members of the press. But, in the 18th century, New York was far from organized, with nary a skyscraper in sight. Present-day natives of the city should expect the chaos of lower Manhattan when it comes to the urban planning during the American Revolution. Gridded, numbered streets? Not likely.

But what about Philadelphia, an obvious key focus of the American Revolution? Unfortunately, the city's planning will keep it out of the game as a fully explorable space.

Francois Pelland, the senior producer on Assassin's Creed 3, explained why Philly won't have the same treatment as New York and Boston.

"We couldn't make Philadelphia the way we wanted to have it...just because of the way it's designed."

"Philly's there," he said. "It's there from a historical point of view. A lot of big things happen there. Declaration of Independence, obviously. That being said, we couldn't make Philadelphia the way we wanted to have it or the way we're making New York and Boston just because of the way it's designed. It's a gridded city. It would have been really hard, technology-wise, to make it look awesome. So we'll get there, but not as an open world."

Speaking more specifically after our interview, he said the issue is both with the gameplay and technology. Free-running across a gridded city is an issue because of the sheer space between the buildings. And, on the technological side, being able to see three miles in each direction when looking down an avenue can cause some problems with the graphical engine, ruining much of the illusion of a bustling city.

But there's one more city that the developers wanted to highlight: the wilderness.

Said Hutchinson, "We knew pretty early on that it was unavoidable. If you're doing the American northeast, wilderness is a big part of it. We couldn't dodge it. We also wanted a new setting for the assassin. There's only so many ways a guy can climb a building or a human being can interact with objects in a city, so we needed a new space."

According to the devs, 30 percent of the missions in Assassin's Creed 3 will take place in the wilderness. We saw one such mission, set during The Battle of Bunker Hill, which had the new assassin skirting the battlefield in favor of a less direct approach, using tree trunks and limbs to get behind the Red Coat lines to go straight after the commanding officer on the field.

In addition to using the wilderness as a tool of stealth, it's also a tool of survival. The new assassin can live off the land, using a bow and arrow and tomahawk to kill and skin bears and other critters. How this will impact gameplay is still under wraps, but we anticipate some Red Dead-style functionality.

Toss in varient weather and seasons (which impacts gameplay was well as visuals) and you begin to realize just how important the wilderness will be.

Bringing each of these settings together into one game is clearly ambitious. The slice of Assassin's Creed 3 that we were shown only hinted at what the team is going for. But, at the very least, it's an encouraging start.