Over on Reddit yesterday, a user by the name of PreludesandNocturnes, claiming to be a member of the Assassin’s Creed III dev team, gave a very unfavorable overview of how the development went for the 2012 title. Since there was no confirmation given as to who they are, The Escapist reached out to verify their legitimacy and reports that “he did his best to verify employment at Ubisoft without accidentally disclosing his identity.”
While it does seem like he’s telling the truth about working at Ubisoft, PreludesandNocturnes did admit in a later edit, “Okay, so I blatantly exaggerated some of my points (Tyranny was in development for longer than I said, a decent amount of people knew how Homestead worked), but keep in mind I typed this up in a fit of frustration in like 2 minutes. It’s not a highly formulated, scathing critique on anybody. Take it with a grain of salt I suppose.”
It was also added that “I apparently got the unlock conditions wrong for the origami node hunt. Forgive me, it’s been a while, and again – it was an often ignored feature. Anyways I have no bad blood with Ubi and I hope they’ve learned from their mistakes and continue to make products that both devs and gamers can be proud of.”
With all that out of the way, here’s the entire, unedited comment from PreludesandNocturnes about the development of Assassin’s Creed III, keeping in mind there’s some exaggerating done on the writer’s part and there’s always still a chance he doesn’t work for Ubisoft:
Oh god, I could write about this for hours.
I worked on it unfortunately. It was a mindf*ck of an experience.
PREFACE: I only worked on the Single Player module and never touched Multiplayer. Also, I cherished my time at Ubisoft, and despite my following complaints, working there was a great experience despite the bullsh*t.
So why was AC3 a wreck? Without going into too much details, basically because of ridiculously unrealistic expectations and constantly tacked on features by producers / the creative team, it became literally impossible to get everything done with just Ubi Montreal. In order to get everything in the design doc completed in time for the annual release (ugh!), team size was constantly fluctuating. The game was worked on by large majority of the Montreal team, as well as Ubi Quebec, Ubi Annecy, Ubi Bucharest, and Ubi Singapore. Between 500-600 people touched the game before it’s release. Contrast that with teams like Naughty Dog or Sony Santa Monica, who operate with 80-100 (maybe 200 during crunch).
The coordination of resources between all of these teams separated by thousands of miles and differing time zones was a damn joke, and at the same time studio resources were constantly stolen for work on Watchdogs and Far Cry 3 (AC4, Splinter Cell and Rayman tended to be a little more isolated for the most part though).
Almost everybody on the bottom knew that the Desmond missions were a disgrace. Why? Because a B-team filled with new hires and the least talent handled all production of the Desmond content, and they were rarely in communication with the main gameplay teams. But we couldn’t really say anything, and the higher ups basically stuck their fingers in their ears and convinced themselves that they were amazing.
Dissemination of information between individual employees was also pretty bad. A disturbingly large portion of team members had no idea about the majority of the Homestead, Caravan, and assassin crew side missions. There was basically so much content that even approaching release, plenty of grunt workers like myself on the ground were finding new features they didn’t know existed that needed more attention. Upon completing the story, there’s an origami-crane node collecting mini game that unlocks that I’ve NEVER seen covered or mentioned in any gaming blogs, reviews, or fan vids. Most of us didn’t even know it existed. That’s how random and disjointed the design was. Everything was documented on the company wiki of course. The impenetrably deep, confused, several-thousand page wiki.
Stuff like the homestead economy, weapon crafting, hunting, board games, and the late-game set pieces were all heavily ignored til the very end of development, and no time was given to polish them or make them cohesive. Getting 100% went from something fun for the diehard fans, to a herculean task of tedium and dumb-luck. A large action set piece near the Haytham boss fight was entirely cut ~2 weeks before we went gold. On top of that, some vital cutscenes anims and audio weren’t implemented until right befoe gold. So the (massive and disjointed) test teams were often sitting on their laurels waiting for more content while the thousands of issues they had already flagged were marked as “Won’t Fix” due to time constraints.
Also, the Tyranny of Washington DLC was completely in Quebec’s court, and no one outside of Quebec city knew what was going on with it or how it would be integrated/implemented until the last possible second. There was also some ocnfusion on the implementation of the PS3 exclusive missions for quite a while. It’s a shame, because I thought Tyranny of Washington was the best work we did. I almost wish it was released as a standalone like Infamous Festival of Blood, or Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare.
As for the shitty performance, it was the first project ever used on the new AnvilNext engine, which was pretty much designed with next-gen consoles and future pc tech in mind, so it was super inefficient on PS3/360. It was a widespread opinion that AC3 was just a massive tech demo for AnvilNext, in anticipation for AC4 and future projects. Took a while for the some programmers to get used to the engine given the processing constraints.
In conclusion, while the Ubisoft work atmosphere is actually quite calm and respectful in comparison to other larger devs in the industry, the time constraints of an annual release, too many teams to coordinate, and new engine all created a perfect storm of bullsh*t.
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