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At PAX panel, 'Assassin's Creed 3' is all about the fans

"We try and be as accurate as possible, but … it also needs to be fun."

Gallery Photo: Assassin's Creed 3 sea battles gallery
Gallery Photo: Assassin's Creed 3 sea battles gallery

Assassin's Creed 3 developers show the game at PAX Prime 2012.

At PAX Prime 2012, an Assassin's Creed 3 panel included two members of the development team, who were there for the fans, many of whom were dressed like Assassins.

Ubisoft's Steven Masters and Phillippe Bergeron gave attendees an inside look at the creation of the game, including the challenges and motivations that the team faced when designing Assassin's Creed 3.

For Bergeron, this the the Assassin's Creed game that he always wanted to make. But as much excitement as there was to make the game, it posed tons of new challenges. For example, the Anvil engine that powers the Assassin's Creed games has been designed since its inception as a way to build and traverse cities. But setting a game during the American Revolution meant that cities were less grand and sprawling, and that the engine would have to render vast open spaces filled with thousands of troops.

There was some intimidation after realizing the challenges, but the studio's attitude became, "Screw it. We're actually doing it," Bergeron said. The challenge ultimately became a motivation.

Masters said that he was particularly proud that Assassin's Creed 3's protagonist, Connor, has such radically different and complicated locomotion."We can free run in trees, which is pretty awesome," Masters said.

"That one sentence there, that's a hell of a lot of people working a huge amount just defining all the different moves you're going to be able to do and how the trees are going to be laid out and positioned near each other … The technology that we had to support that is just completely new and dramatically different."

They also spoke of striking the right balance between compelling gameplay and historical accuracy. Ubisoft has a historian on staff who helps them understand and portray moments in American history.

The historian's involvement began as early as the "blueprint phase," in which the team sat down and roughed out a basic outline for how the game would be played, what would be involved, and other general ideas they wanted in the game. That phase contains "the infrastructure of what you guys will be playing," Bergeron said.

From the very beginning, there was a tension between history and gameplay, but the team always sought to blend the two.

"Using the power of interaction to actually experience [history] and be there, rather than just passively absorb what it was about, I think it gives us a lot of power and a lot of possibilities," Masters said.

As an example of the tension, Bergeron said that the signing of the Declaration of Independence is obviously an important event, but wouldn't be fun to play in a game. But when the Assassin's Creed 3 team discovered that the battle of Chesapeake Bay was a pivotal battle of the American Revolution, they felt compelled to include that in the game because they saw an opportunity to create a perfect balance between historical accuracy and compelling gameplay.

The duo also revealed that Assassin's Creed 3 will feature the Mohawk language just as the Ezio games included Italian. Ubisoft worked with members of the Mohawk community to ensure that they would portray them fairly and accurately. The same goes for portraying Americans like George Washington, who they said shouldn't be a shirtless action hero.

"We try and be as accurate as possible, but as I was saying earlier on, it also needs to be fun," Bergeron said.

"My job is to make sure that, while [he historian] is happy, you guys are also happy. It has to be fun to learn about history."

And that's the balance they've tried to assemble in Assassin's Creed 3. Though they're clearly proud of what they've produced, they're also grateful for the reception they've received from fans, which is a part of why they sponsored this PAX panel.

"Getting the kind of reception we've gotten from people like you guys, it's just incredible," Masters said. "It's immensely invigorating, and it makes all the long hours and the arguments, it makes that all worthwhile."

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