Let’s be clear up front: Ubisoft does not constrain its games. We would not limit a game’s resolution. And we would never do anything to intentionally diminish anything we’ve produced or developed.
Which, of course, brings us to Assassin’s Creed Unity. The game has been in the media lately, and not just for a recent round of hands-on previews and features. One outlet ran a story using some quotes from Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand to suggest we lowered the resolution on the PlayStation 4.
“Absolutely not,” Pontbriand says. “We’ve spent four years building the best game we could imagine. Why would we ever do anything to hold it back?” Pontbriand goes on to say that he understands why someone might think that’s the case based on a recent interview, adding “I simply chose the wrong words when talking about the game’s resolution, and for that I’m sorry.”
Pontbriand is proud of the Herculean efforts of the global development team behind Unity. It’s the first new-gen-only Assassin’s Creed, and it was built from the ground up to offer a wholly new experience. That meant rethinking the core pillars of the gameplay – navigation, stealth, combat – and building a systemic world unlike anything that’s come before. That meant giving unprecedented freedom to players. That meant seamless co-op with a fully customizable Arno. That meant lavish building interiors that players can enter and exit with no loading. And that also meant massive crowds, numbering in the thousands, who react realistically with the player and each other.
“This is something that the new hardware allows us to do,” Pontbriand says about the number of characters on screen. Of course, massive crowds are also part of the story of the French Revolution, so it was essential to the game’s setting. “We want you to feel that density, the chaos that was happening back then. Paris was a huge city, with almost a million people. So we cranked up our number of NPCs.” Keep in mind that previous Assassin’s Creed games could support around 100 to 150 NPCs; Assassin’s Creed Unity has crowds of thousands of NPCs on screen, and you can interact with each and every one them.
And then there’s Paris itself. It’s almost a cliché to talk about the beauty of Paris – but it’s also undeniable. And the Paris of Assassin’s Creed Unity? It’s no different.
And yet, the Paris of AC Unity is also unique: It’s the first in the franchise to feature an almost 1:1 scale. (In previous games the buildings were roughly three-quarter size.) That’s significant because “everything is bigger, larger, closer to real life,” says Pontbriand.
The beauty of the setting, along with the volume of NPCs, the size of the city and the number of overlapping systems combine to make this a truly next-gen game – and one that takes full advantage of what the newest consoles offer. Which, of course, had some gamers wondering: If this is a truly new-gen game, why not deliver it in full 1080p on both consoles?
The answer is both simple and complex. Assassin’s Creed Unity is pushing the new-gen systems more than any other Ubisoft game has ever done. A quick look at the visuals – the city itself, the crowds, Arno in motion – will show how beautiful and how “next-gen” the game truly is.
The more complex answer? A game’s final resolution isn’t set until late in the development cycle. This is notable because the team has dedicated much of the past few months to optimizing Unity to reach 900p with a consistent 30 frames per second. Considering the sheer number of pixels that are being moved around at all times – which affects both the CPU and GPU – that’s a significant achievement, especially as Assassin’s Creed Unity will release when the new-gen consoles are barely more than a year old. (As with all hardware, it becomes easier to optimize with more experience and software/middleware solutions that only come with time.)
As of now, Assassin’s Creed Unity is locked at 900p. But why “stop” there? “We know a lot of gamers consider 1080p with 60 frames per second to be the gold standard, especially on the new generation of consoles,” Pontbriand says. “We realize we had also pushed for 1080p in some of our previous games, including AC4. But we made the right decision to focus our resources on delivering the best gameplay experience, and resolution is just one factor. There is a real cost to all those NPCs, to all the details in the city, to all the systems working together, and to the seamless co-op gameplay. We wanted to be absolutely uncompromising when it comes to the overall gameplay experience. Those additional pixels could only come at a cost to the gameplay.”
So when you visit the Paris of Assassin’s Creed Unity, take a minute to look around. Visit the landmarks. Interact with the crowds. But most of all, play the game and get lost in the stunning next-gen world of Assassin’s Creed Unity – a game built from the ground up to deliver a new experience in a city of unparalleled virtual beauty and realism.
“Our mandate from the start was to redefine what Assassin’s Creed is for next gen,” Pontbriand says. A big ambition… and a promise that the global development team looks forward to delivering when Assassin’s Creed Unity releases on November 11.
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