Ubisoft has released an official Q&A for Assassin’s Creed Liberation.
The interview comes days after the game was shown off at Gamescom. Hitting the Vita October 30th, fans are eager to know what the game will offer on a portable device. Thankfully, Liberation’s producer Martin Capel answered a whole host of questions put forward by the publisher.
Grab a cuppa’, it’s a long read:
Ubisoft: At E3 you introduced to the world Aveline. Yet we don’t know much about her, could you please provide more background information on Liberations’ protagonist? The story of Aveline is the story of Liberation, so we can’t reveal everything just yet as I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!
Martin Capel: What I can tell you about Aveline is that she is of mixed heritage – her father is French and her mother African. She is born of a form of temporary marriage called plaçage, where wealthy young men would typically take an African, Chinese or Native American women for a bride before they later found a more “acceptable” French bride. Plaçage was created because not enough French women could be persuaded to immigrate to the New World, and resulted in many children. Some of the children were pressed into slavery, while others were truly loved by their fathers, and were raised and educated with all the benefits that their father’s wealth could bring.
Aveline is one of these lucky ones. As she grows, Aveline sees New Orleans from both sides – the luxury and social position that her father’s money brings, contrasted by the treatment she sees of those who share her mother’s heritage. Becoming a young woman, Aveline’s inner strength and confidence develop – she becomes an opponent of slavery, while her father’s love, wealth and status shields her from repercussions from the more conservative elements. Eventually, Aveline becomes an Assassin under the mentorship of Agate – an escaped slave and outcast who lives in the Bayou beyond the walls of New Orleans. Agate is every bit as driven and headstrong as Aveline, so they don’t always see eye to eye!
Ubisoft: Where did you draw inspiration from for the character? Also, many inquired why a female assassin? How does that society impact Aveline as a character in the story?
Capel: Aveline came to our attention very early in the project – we actually feel that we didn’t invent her, she was there just waiting to be discovered. New Orleans during the 18th Century was culturally a very diverse city, and we discovered several women who, like Aveline, were born of mixed heritage and received both love and financial backing from their parents. These women then built on this opportunity to acquire even more wealth, power and respect. At a time when successful women of mixed heritage were very rare, they were the focus both admiration and prejudice.
All this was an inspiration for us, and the women became our role models for Aveline, who likewise developed into a strong, empowered young woman who has the opportunity and drive to achieve her goals – perfect for an Assassin! Aveline is a fictional character, but based on very real role models. As a young woman with wealth and a high social status, Aveline finds that society perceives her and treats her in a welcoming and positive manner, and presents her with options that would definitely not be available if she had been rejected by her father. Aveline is able to use these to her advantage.
Ubisoft: Another interesting aspect is the context of 18th century New Orleans. Can you share more information on the setting?
Capel: New Orleans in the late 18th Century was a very different colony to the colonies further to the north – as different then in flavour and culture as it is today. New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 and soon became the capital of French Louisiana – a huge area of land stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Funded by the French Crown, the city developed a higher level of luxury and ornamentation, from the cathedral and convent, to the colourful houses with their decorated balconies, to the ornate street lamps, parts of the city became a showcase for the New World.
On top of this were the people. In its formative days, New Orleans was a den for the roughest of settlers, but as time passed and money flowed into the city, so wealthy merchants arrived from France, bringing with them a taste for the finer things, such as the latest fashions from Paris, and a penchant for flair!
In 1763 New Orleans was ceded to Spain, although no one thought to tell the colony! The city found out in 1768 and rebelled, evicting the Spanish and self ruling for a little over a year before the Spanish returned in force. The colony was also critical to the success of the American Revolution. In the years up to 1776, the city had been a major source of smuggling to the colonies, and as the war began, so the city continued to be a gateway for weapons, clothing, money and other goods from France and Spain to reach the Revolutionaries. All this means that players will live, navigate, explore and experience a very different city from the colonies to the north, with all the great gameplay, side quests and puzzles you expect from a full Assassin’s Creed game!
Ubisoft: Liberation is the full Assassin’s Creed experience. How did you manage to be faithful to that experience on a handheld?
Capel: From the very beginning, our goal has been to create a full Assassin’s Creed experience on the PlayStation Vita.
To achieve this, the first step was to take the same AnvilNext engine as used in Assassin’s Creed 3 and bring it to the Vita. This allowed us to take advantage of all the great new features, innovations and improvements that appear in Assassin’s Creed 3, as well as adding our own to deliver a new, fresh experience. Using the same engine also means that we were able to deliver the same great combat, navigation, stealth, graphics, and open world exploration that players expect from a full Assassin’s Creed title. Throughout the development of Liberation, we have also worked very closely with the Assassin’s Creed team in Montreal, and they provided invaluable guidance in ensuring that Liberation is the first, full Assassin’s Creed experience on a handheld.
Ubisoft: This week at GamesCom you are introducing many new weapons. Could you please give us a bit more insight on the combat system? Also background information on the weapon exclusive to Aveline? Finally, could you delve a bit deeper in the exclusive Chain-Kill feature?
Capel: Liberation uses the same combat system as Assassin’s Creed 3 so you can expect the same great new features, from assassinations on the move and dual wielding weapons, to holding enemies in front of you as a shield! We have also implemented other new features such as the combo kills and new counters, allowing players to fight aggressively or defensively according to their preferred style, and the dynamic AI that adapts to your combat style and keeps the game challenging.
For Liberation, we drew our inspiration for Aveline’s weapons from our research on the different people and cultures that lived around New Orleans during the era. The machete is a great example of this – it is the tool of the slaves on the plantation, a heavy bladed implement used to harvest sugar cane. In Aveline’s hands however, the machete becomes a deadly efficient weapon that she uses to strike back at the oppressors and harvest victims!
Another weapon is the blowpipe, used by many of the different tribes from Mesoamerica. The blowpipe allows Aveline to eliminate enemies silently and from a distance – a great advantage at a time when muskets where noisy and slow to reload – and can fire two different types of darts. The first of these is a poison that courses toxins through the target’s blood, rapidly immobilizing and killing them, while the second dart causes the target to go berserk, attacking anyone around them!
One of the new weapons we will be revealing for GamesCom is the whip. This is probably the weapon that most typically comes to mind when you consider the methods used to keep slaves under control, and for Aveline symbolizes everything she hates about the treatment of her mother’s people. In Aveline’s hands, the whip becomes an instrument of revenge, which she uses to snare enemies and draw them to her, and a tool to help her navigate the city more effectively. Whether it wraps around a beam to swing from or an opponent’s neck, the whip is vital part of Aveline’s arsenal.
In addition to her unique arsenal, Aveline is also unique in that her combat style is based on graceful but brutal moves, including the Chain Kill. This special move allows Aveline to unleash a devastating sequence of attacks on opponents using a mixture of close and ranged attacks. To use the Chain Kill, the player must first prepare it by performing assassinations. Once charged and ready, the player can use the Chain Kill at any time – the player simply selects the Chain Kill, then taps on enemies on the Vita’s Front Touch Screen to target them. Executing the move then causes Aveline to launch into her opponents, cutting them down in a series of rapid and unstoppable attacks!
Ubisoft: In the demo, Aveline crosses a swamp across a Canoe. What can you tell us of this never seen before environment? Are there direct impacts on gameplay based on the setting?
Capel: The Bayou is another environment that makes New Orleans unique and an exciting part of the New World in which to base Liberation – it is a wild and inhospitable swamp that presented us with many opportunities to explore new gameplay and really add a distinctive touch to the narrative, atmosphere and experience of the game.
The first thing that players will discover in the bayou is that it needs a new approach to navigation. The bayou is a huge expanse of water with patches of land, and moving quickly through the swamp requires either the use of a canoe or finding the best path through the trees – taking the direct route through the water is an option, but one to be considered carefully, especially when there are alligators in the area! The bayou is teeming with life as much as any city, and like any populated area not all of it is friendly to people.
On top of all this, the bayou is a place of secrets. The bayou is on the fringe of the colony, and then as now, there are people who live on the fringe away from the prying eyes of law and established society. In Liberation, this brings Aveline into a whole new world of experiences, as different from her youth as the swamp is from the city.
Ubisoft: We also witness Aveline donning different outfits. Why is Aveline not wearing only her Assassin clothes? Does it have an impact on the game, from a broad perspective, and gameplay/missions?
Capel: Aveline is an Assassin raised by a wealthy father in a colony where slavery and servitude were common place. She is a witness to the whole spectrum of the life of the people and the city, and from her position of privilege she understands the role of both society and its perceptions, which she then manipulates to her advantage by wearing different outfits.
As an Assassin, Aveline is supreme in combat and navigating the rooftops of the city. Her Assassin clothes make her stand out amongst the population, causing soldiers to attack on sight, and citizens to recoil in fear whenever she comes near. Equipped with her most deadly arsenal, Aveline must be constantly on the move, constantly on the offensive.
As a Servant, Aveline disappears amongst the poorer masses of New Orleans – the people of her mother’s heritage, the people society never notices. Dressed in rags, Aveline is able to blend with cleaners, dock workers and the other people that do a vital job for no reward. Ignored by the crowd and under constant threat of intimidation and attack from people that see her as no threat and having no value, Aveline is able to use this guise to get close to targets before she strikes.
Aveline’s Aristocrat guise is the one by which society best know her, as this is how she was raised with her father’s wealth, and it is possibly the one where she is both most vulnerable and dangerous. Charming and beautiful, she is instantly noticed and admired and can utilize this to achieve her goals, often by simply walking past those that would otherwise stand in her way, although at other times the use of her charms or purse may be required! On top of these talents, Aveline also has a parasol gun – a one-shot stealth weapon that she can use to neutralize opponents without raising suspicion before she gracefully escapes the scene!
In Liberation, Aveline is more than just an Assassin living in New Orleans – she is an integral part of the living city that she grew up in.
Ubisoft: Liberation also uses the VITA’s hardware features in the gameplay aspect of the game. Could you please provide us with a sneak peak of what to expect once the game releases?
Capel: Liberation supports all the features of the Vita, which we are using in an intuitive manner to add to the overall Assassin’s Creed experience. I can’t go into the full details just yet but here are some of the features players can expect!
The Touch Screens are used for a wide range of features, from paddling the canoe in the Bayou, selecting targets to attack by tapping on them, searching for items, and pick-pocketing. Precision also plays an important role in many of the features. For example, pick-pocketing a target requires you to use the Rear Touch Screen accurately and smoothly – the more accurate you are, the more accurate your action, and the greater the reward you will receive! On top of these actions, Liberation’s menus can all be driven by the Touch Screens, allowing for fast and intuitive navigation of the game’s features. The game also uses the Motion Detection during gameplay as part of the combat system. It’s used to help increase the player’s responses, keep combat flowing, and enhance the overall fight experience, but I can’t go into more details at the moment!
The game also uses the Motion Detection and Camera in a series of puzzles that Aveline will face during her story, but again this is something that will be revealed at a later date!
Ubisoft: Aveline uses stealth in this demo, such as using cover and trying to avoid being detected, is how you tackle objectives in the game (combat versus stealth) key in mission design?
Capel: The missions have been designed to allow the player choice – to use the different paths and options available to Aveline and for the game to react accordingly. This means that players can choose the way to approach a mission that best suits their play style, and the game still offers the challenge and gameplay that defines a full Assassin’s Creed experience!
Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed III Liberation is a very ambitious Ubisoft project for the VITA. How do you organize such a massive undertaking?
Capel: Ubisoft Sofia has developed manychallenging projects since the studio opened, most of these requiring new platforms and technology to be mastered, and in every case it’s the team that has been key to delivering the final product. Our teams are built bysome of the best developers in the industry, who rise to every challenge and push themselves to deliver the best results. As soon the team for Liberation was put together, we then started working closely with the Assassin’s Creed Team in Montreal, with frequent visits between the studios to share information, experience and ideas. This has continued throughout the project, so while we are a separate project and team from Montreal, we are very much working with them to ensure that Liberation is a full AC experience.
Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed games are well known to involve world-wide studios. Who leads the development of Liberation?
Capel: Ubisoft Sofia is the lead studio and developer of the game. TheMontreal studio strongly coordinates and supports Sofia on brand oversight and scripting, and shares technologies as well as technical and artistic knowledge.
Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed III Liberation is a major milestone for the franchise; the first complete AC experience on handheld. Can you give us a glimpse at the scale of the game?
Capel: Liberation is a full AC experience – an open world game with strong narrative and characters, cities bursting with life and fullyexplorable, complete free-running abilities, combat with a full arsenal of different weapons, , stealth, pretty much everything. This is THE first full AC experience on handheld. The scope of Liberation is similar in length to previous Assassin’s Creed console games, with between 15 hours of play for experienced gamers to 20 hours for typical players. Liberation has also been scaled for the VITA experience, having been designed to be enjoyed in shorter bursts.This is reflected in the mission design and checkpoints to ensure enjoyment with on-the-go gaming.
Ubisoft: The game is running on the AnvilNext engine, the new engine of AC3, can you give us a glimpse of its prowess on the VITA hardware?
Capel: For Liberation, we have ported and scaled the AnvilNext engine to the VITA hardware, so you can expect to find everything from an Assassin’s Creed game and all the major innovations of AC3 on the VITA. This includes stunning animation and graphics, combat, cinematics, crowd and city life, and all the other first class features that you expect from an AC game.
Ubisoft: What are the forces at play? What is the Templar’s role in the story?
Capel: Liberation continues the ongoing war between the Assassins and Templars. Following the French handover of New Orleans to the Spanish in 1763, the city finds itself under increasing pressure due togrowing resentmentfrom the French population of their new Spanish rulers, and from an insidious attempt by the Templars to seize control of the city. Within New Orleans however a small group of Assassins stands as the only thing between the Templars and their domination of the region, as the fires of revolution undermine the stability of the New World.
Ubisoft: 18th century Louisiana is a very different contextthan the American Colonies on the East Coast. What makes this period pivotal in history?
Capel: The story begins two years after the end of the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763. This war affected the whole Eastern seaboard of North America: France ceded Canada to the British, and also ceded Louisiana to Spain, including New Orleans. Britain was heavily in debt as a result of the war, and attempted to further tax its own colonies to the north, which already resented the existing taxes they had to pay, including a tax for soldiers to defend the colonies against a threat from France that no longer existed.This set the scene and players for the events that lead to the American Revolution, one of the most pivotal moments in history.
For New Orleans itself, the handover of the colony to Spain caused discontentment in the population, many of whom had fled Canada after it was handed to the British. The city rebelled against its new masters in 1768, although the rebellion was short lived. Even with its new rulers, New Orleans continued as a port for smuggling goods to the colonies to avoid the punitive British taxes.
During the American Revolution, New Orleans was one of the major ports for running supplies to the colonies from France and Spain, especially when Great Britain blockaded Boston and other ports. For many people, Spain’s ability to hold New Orleans and their defeat of Britain in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1779-83 was a major contributor to the eventual colonial victory in the Revolutionary War.
New Orleans and its surrounding areas was also famous for its slave trade and its system of plaçage, whereby wealthy French and Spanish men entered into an arrangement with a woman of African, Indian or Creole descent. This was a form of temporary marriage that lasted until a “more acceptable” wife could be found. This system allowed for some women, or placées, and their children, to gain their freedom, wealth and positions of power within society. It’s also worth remembering that although New Orleans during this period is the setting and backdrop for our game, the game itself is still about the ongoing conflict between the Assassins and Templars. New Orleans however had a culture and tradition that makes it unique for this period and the perfect setting for Liberation and the story of Aveline.
Ubisoft: What themes does this setting share with AC3 since both games cover the same era but in completely unique ways? Why did you focus in on this particular time period and timeframe?
Capel: Liberation and Assassin’s Creed 3 share a number of themes common to this period: Death or liberty, rising against injustice and oppression and fighting for freedom. These cries rang out across many areas of the New and Old Worlds at this time and are a very powerful emotive force for people suffering oppression.
For Liberation we have created a story that runs parallel to the story and events in Assassin’s Creed 3, usinga settingand theme that we believe to be unique – that of a New World colony that was not one of the thirteen colonies in the battle for Independence, but one that was “outside looking in”. New Orleans was critical as a means of smuggling aid to the colonies from Spain and France, but itself underwent substantial upheaval during the years prior to and during the American Revolution, and it is these tumultuous years that the player will experience.
Ubisoft: Slavery was an important part of the society at that time. How are you treating this topic in Liberation?
Capel: The slave trade was one of the main economic activities in New Orleans during the 18th century, and we will be addressing the subject in Liberation with the respect it deserves. Slavery is a the core of the game and Aveline’s motivation but as such, I can’t reveal further details as I would spoil the game, you’ll have to play it on October 30th to discover the full story.
Ubisoft: Both AC3 and Liberation take place during the same time period. Are there any links between Connor and Aveline’s story?
Capel: Aveline will encounter Connor during Liberation, but I can’t go into any further details at the moment. Stay tuned for further information
Ubisoft: A female protagonist is rare in video games. Can you share hindsight on your creative process? Why a female assassin instead of a male one?
From our very first discussions on the game we identified the possibility for a female assassin. New Orleans during the 18th Century was culturally a very diverse city and while it shared many of the aspects of other colonies that we view negatively today, it did also present unique opportunities, and several women with similar backgrounds to Aveline acquired considerable wealth, power and respect. Using these women as role models, we found in Aveline a strong, empowered young woman who has the opportunity, confidence andwillpower to be ruthless in achieving her goals – perfect for an Assassin! With all this behind her, Aveline is the equal of any male assassin.
There have been female assassins around since the very beginning, with some appearing as part of the Brotherhood in both Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations.
Ubisoft: What are her skills? How is this reflected in navigation, combat and stealth?
Capel: We wanted Aveline’s skills and abilities to reflect her heritage and location, and for these to expand as she experiences the diverse culture around her in New Orleans, travels to new locations,and as she develops further as an assassin.
Throughout the game Aveline is able to collect different tools and weapons and these then become part of her identity. Each tool or weaponalso bring new opportunities in the areas of navigation, combat and stealth, which can be used anywhere in the gamefor very different play experiences.As Aveline grows, so do her abilities. Specifically about Combat, what is Aveline’s style – what is unique about her combat abilities? Are you using the VITA hardware-specific features?
Aveline’s combat style is a mix of flair and precision, mixed with moments of outright brutality! As an assassin, Aveline is of course no stranger to melee combat, and she is able to execute killing moves with a range of weapons including her hidden blades and when necessary her bare hands. Aveline uses a pistol for ranged combat, and as the game progresses she also gains access to the silent and deadly blowpipe. Skilled players can also use the VITA touch controls to execute Aveline’s chain kill move, with which Aveline can dispatch multiple victims in a series of rapid and deadly strikes!
For Liberation, we have implemented the new combat system from Assassin’s Creed 3. This allows Aveline to wield two weapons at the same time, and is based around player skilland timing. We have also created our own enemy archetypes and missions to ensure that combat presents both a challenge and an opportunity for players, where striking at the right moment will clear your path of opponents much faster.
Ubisoft: What are the different weapons Aveline will be using on her missions?
Capel: New Orleans was very much a melting pot of the Old and New World at this time, with peoplefrom different cultures arriving from every direction. Combined with Aveline’s mixed heritage and privileged upbringing, this gave us a wealth of modernand traditional weapons to draw upon for our new Assassin.
Primary amongst the traditional weapons is the blowpipe. The blowpipe allows Aveline to eliminate targets silently from a distance, a great advantage at a time when muskets were noisy and slow to reload. Another weapon is the sugarcane machete. With this in her hand, Aveline converts an agricultural tool into a brutal weapon with which she harvests victims! On top of these, Aveline has of course her hidden blades, plus the full range of weapons available to soldiers and the other combatants of the period, including pistols, muskets, grenades, swords and knives. There are also more weapons yet to be revealed, but that’s for another day!
Ubisoft: Are you playing an Assassin reliving the memories of his ancestor?
Capel: Liberation is different from main Assassin Creed games in that it is an Abstergo product where the player is playing in the Animus, rather than playing an Assassin through the Animus. The game has been released as a propaganda tool by Abstergo, who want players to experience a gray area of the Assassin/Templar conflict as an Assassin rather than a Templar.
Ubisoft: The VITA handheld gaming experience is very different from a console. How are you designing the game to take on this opportunity? How are you keeping things fresh throughout the experience?
Capel: Aside from bringing a new assassin, story, characters, locations and features that are all new to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, we have also focused on bringing a fresh, new and complete Assassin’s Creed experience tailored to the handheld user and the VITA in particular.
We have developed a mission design structure and gameplay specifically for both portable and static play using the VITA, so with Liberation you can choose whether to enjoy playing short sessionson the move, or to sit down and spend more time with side quests and exploring the open world. On top of this we have continuously polished the missions to deliver the best handheld Assassin’s Creed experience yet.
We have also added many other features to Liberation to keep things fresh, but these will be revealed in the future!
Ubisoft: How are you using the VITA’s hardware features when creating an AC experience on the handheld?
Capel: We’ll be taking advantage of all the VITA’s hardware features in Liberation, including Geolocation, motion detection, the camera and touch controls. We are using them to bring new features to the franchise, as well as adding an extra level of skill, interaction and experience to existing Assassin’s Creed features.
I can’t go into too much detail at the moment, but one example of how we are using the VITA’s touch controls is in our new pick pocket routine. This uses both the front and rear touch controls, and allows you to precisely select a victim and pick their pocket. The more skilful and subtle you are, the more rewards you can steal without being detected!