SPOnG: One of the things I noticed was just how well the game world is put together and how the Anvil engine works. You guys have obviously worked really hard to push the game technically on five-year old hardware - do you feel there?s a need for a new console generation, when you can produce games like this on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3?
We?re very good at cheating and hiding [laughs]. There?s a mission we have in Revelations
where you have to incite a riot to gain access to an Armoury. That?s a perfect example of our ambitions outstripping the capabilities of the engine, and us using magic to make sure that it works. I mean, this is a tradition in game development. In the 1980s, people were fitting things into 64k memory that many would have thought impossible.
Game developers will always try to figure out ways to make things look bigger and more populous than they are. So you may think that it looks great, but if you knew all the things that we were doing in the background to make sure that it looks great to the viewer, you?d probably agree that a more powerful engine and architecture would definitely make these cheats less necessary.
Mind you, we?d probably still use those cheats anyway and just use the extra power to make the graphics even more detailed or something! People are always pushing. You could have said the same thing about the original Xbox really. I worked on [Splinter Cell
] Chaos Theory
and people said, ?Wow, how did you get those great graphics on the Xbox? We don?t need the 360!? Then the 360 comes along and you realise that you can do so much more.
It?s not only about graphics though. It?s how many people we can display on the screen. Right now with Anvil we?re kind of limited to around 120 - 150 characters depending on how dense the graphics are at the time. The AI needs to be considered... it all just hits limits. If you really want to have a riot that?s absolutely insane, you really wouldn?t mind having thousands of people in there, right?
What about an actual invasion of a city, being overrun by an army of 40,000 people? Could we do that? There?s absolutely no way we could do that now. We can fake it, and we faked it in Brotherhood
where the Villa got attacked. It looked like there were thousands of people there, but you never got the jump down and touch those people. They were very primitive little guys chucking arrows at you. But because there were so many of them, you just get this overwhelming feeling.
So being able to not fake that - that would be very exciting for me because it would be cool to have the player jump down and run through a battlefield with everything going on around you. That?s what new technology would allow us to do. We have ideas, and we could definitely go further with Assassin?s Creed
SPOnG: The Lute mission in particular I found incredibly entertaining - is it refreshing for you guys to be taking a more light-hearted route with the series in Revelations?
It?s true that our game is pretty serious. In Assassin?s Creed II
, Ezio?s family gets killed and his journey is all driven by revenge, and in Brotherhood
his hometown gets destroyed and is driven by his need to avenge that. It?s very dark and dour, and while we have had a lot of fun making it that way, there?s little opportunity to throw in a mission that?s a bit more lighthearted.
I actually proposed the Lute mission for Brotherhood
, and for a couple of months we were working on it. But it got cut because it ended up being too complex. Because I wasn?t director at the time, I couldn?t push it. On Revelations
I?m missions director and I just loved the idea so I really wanted to push it. It could have been a serious mission, but the actor who plays Ezio (Roger Craig Smith) is actually a super-funny guy. In-between takes he?d just be riffing and telling jokes.
It just made me think... Initially I wanted Ezio to actually be a really good singer, and the joke would be that women will be coming up and swooning over him. They?d be getting in the way, just like the minstrels do in the rest of the game! It?d be quite ironic, to reverse the situation. In the end, we just thought it would funnier if Ezio was just singing silly stuff. It just kind of worked out that way, and the more we did it the more it became obvious that it had to be a bit of a lighthearted mission. You?re beating up minstrels. How many people have been dying to do that since Assassins? Creed II
? It just evolved to be naturally funny. There?s a couple more opportunities for lightheartedness too - Yusuf is not as serious a character as many others we?ve had in the past.
SPOnG: I guess the fact that Ezio?s now older and wiser has something to do with it too.
But he?s still dark! There?s another aspect to the story this around though - a side-story that will show another side of Ezio that nobody would really expect because up until now he?s been a bit of a ladies man. You?ll see him be a little more uncomfortable in that situation. So it?s fun to flesh out the characters and see where they can go. And actually have Ezio be funny for once.
SPOnG: How does it feel to be wrapping Ezio?s life up after working on his story for three years?
For me it?s not too bad. I worked on the Splinter Cell
series, so I worked four years with Sam Fisher. It?s strange - I don?t know if I really get attached to the character. I always find it quite fun, because we?re working on this game for a whole year, so you?re carefully constructing these stories... I feel that I?m a bit removed from being attached to the person. It?s fun to create the character, it?s super-exciting to add subtlety and stuff like that but because I?m building it, I?m thinking in terms of that. I?m actually quite excited because it?s quite epic to have done what we did.
You?ve seen Ezio at birth, and you?re going to go all the way to the end of Revelations
to the end of his journey... then with Assassin?s Creed Embers
, the movie that goes with Revelations
, you see the end of his life. I did feel a lot of emotion when I watched Embers
, actually. It was really amazing, and that?s where the feeling came to me when I realised it was all over. I got a little teary-eyed. But that said, I am removed from the character for the most part, which is unfortunate but at the same time there?s so much more to what I do that?s really fun on a day-to-day basis. I hope other people will be sad to see him go, but what comes next will probably be just as fun, exciting and fresh.
... And I don?t know much about what comes next, before you ask!
SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time!
Assassin?s Creed Revelations will be released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 15th November