Interview: Assassin’s Creed III

We get the scoop on the new protagonist, setting and engine powering this massive title.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris


This October, Ubisoft will release Assassin's Creed III. According to the company, the third numerical title in the Assassin's Creed franchise will be the largest to date. The game is leaving behind the Mediterranean to instead focus on America during its war for independence, bringing with it a new lead protagonist, new gameplay mechanics and a completely new engine powering the experience. 

Watch the Assassin's Creed III Debut Trailer

Understandably, Ubisoft is rather excited about this project they've been slaving away at for over two and half years. So we caught up with Alexander Hutchinson, creative director on Assassin's Creed III, to discuss everything the game is bringing to the table, as well as what it's changing for the better. (Note: You can click the images in this article to get a better look at each.)

CraveOnline: The most striking aspect of the new game is its setting. Why America during the Revolutionary era?

Alexander Hutchinson: The American Revolution is a key historical event for the world, not just for America. For Britain, the old joke was that the revolution was a civil war fought on foreign soil; for France, the debt incurred by helping the patriots leads directly to the French Revolution; for Americans, obviously it’s the founding of their nation; and for the rest of the world, it is the beginning of events that lead to the American Century, and created the dominant super power of the last hundred years. 

ac3_port_vistaIt’s also worth mentioning that while the American Revolution is the backdrop to our story, but it is not the story itself; we’re still telling another chapter in the ongoing war between Assassins and Templars, and our story begins before the revolution kicks off and ends after it is concluded. The core of our story is about how Connor leaves his village, why he joins the Assassins, how he becomes entangled in the revolution and how his quest to save his people concludes. 

As a follow-up to that first question, how early in the development process did you guys peg the Revolutionary War as your backdrop?

We’re always looking for fresh places and periods to set the game. We don’t want to go places that other games have explored, and even though America is a common video game setting, America in this period is radically different. People will recognize some landmarks, but both Boston and New York in the 18th century are practically unexplored in games which made it an exciting setting. 

Our story is an epic tale that crosses 30 years, from 1753 to 1783, beginning before the revolution kicks off, proceeding through its key events and finishing after the surrender of the British. We have an opportunity to include more historical events than ever before, with the player visiting Valley Forge, getting involved in key battles such as Bunker Hill and even becoming entangled in Paul Revere’s midnight ride. 

ac3_canoeYou mentioned him before, but let’s take some time to talk about the game’s lead protagonist. Tell us a little bit about who he is and where he comes from.

Our new protagonist is Ratohnhaké:ton (Ra-doon-ha-gay-doo'), half Native American and half British, who eventually adopts the name Connor when he joins the Assassins in order to move more easily in Colonial circles. 

We wanted a new personality, someone who would be fresh for players. While Altair is driven by duty and Ezio by revenge, Connor is a man of the people: his goal is to resist injustice wherever he sees it. He begins by trying to fight for his people’s place in America, but is eventually swept up into the revolution, and the struggle between Assassins and Templars.

His background also gives us the chance to introduce a bunch of new tools and weapons, from his dual-handed fighting style starting with a tomahawk and knife, through to his use of a bow, and other period weapons such as muskets and one-shot pistols.

With Connor we wanted to create a new and unique hero who was clearly different from previous Assassins and hopefully from most other video game protagonists. Connor is a man driven by a strong desire to do what’s right. He fights injustice wherever he sees it, whether it’s in the oppression of his people, or the British rule of the colonists, or the threat of the Templars. The story of how he moves from a child born in a Mohawk village to someone who is pushed to join the Assassins and eventually become involved in the Revolution is the core of the game. 

What historical figures will we see play into the events of Assassin’s Creed III? 

We think we have the richest group of secondary characters yet for the franchise. Everyone loved meeting Leonardo in AC2 and ACB, but we will show players a new side to key historical players like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Lafayette, Charles Lee, and many more. Around 80% of the characters in this game are real people and if you have a working knowledge of American history, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces. We encourage people to hit up Wikipedia throughout the game: we’ve done a mountain of research on this game and we want people to enjoy it. 

Will Delaware (home state to a few of the Crave gaming staff) be featured at all?

ac3_tomahawkAssassin’s Creed III takes place in the British Colonies during the American Revolution, mainly Boston, New York and what we’re calling the Frontier.

Our frontier map is a slightly shrunk version of the American North East, and as a map is about 1.5X the size of Rome in Brotherhood. Within it we have historical locations like Valley Forge, small towns like Lexington and Concord, Connor’s village and more. It’s as dense a location as cities were in previous AC games, with many of our core story missions taking place in it. 

In the game’s announcement press release it was said ACIII runs on a completely new engine that’s been years in the making. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what you’re able to do with it in the context of this game?

Ubisoft-AnvilNext game engine is the stunning technology evolution that pushes boundaries on Assassin’s Creed III with powerful graphics, lifelike animations and immersive combat. Developed specifically for ACIII here in Montreal, it dynamically manages multiple layers of content to bring a cohesive, believable world to life. The result is a breakthrough in the player experience with detailed models, atmospheric weather and vivid graphics. Also, ACIII will include worldwide cinematographic quality thanks to simultaneous motion capture and facial/voice performance.

Artificial intelligence has also been revamped which enables the team to produce a believable world. This comes off mainly through revamped NPC-Character interactions that bolster credibility of the crowds, but also, and for the first time for AC, NPC-to-NPC dynamic reactions that will directly impact gameplay opportunities 

Ubisoft-AnvilNext also manages the passage of seasons and the weather system builds more fidelity in the world simulation. It affects the crowd life; different activities and crowd compositions based on season. It also affects the AI and gameplay. It supports the managements of snow, ice, rain, wind, fog and more. Weather directly influences combat as it modifies multiple variables (visibility, surfaces impact navigation, etc) which require situation-specific strategies.