E3 2012: Assassin’s Creed III Liberation Announced for PS Vita

E3 2012: Assassin’s Creed III Liberation Announced for PS Vita

For the first time, a full Assassin’s Creed experience is making its way to a handheld device: the PS Vita. Announced at E3 2012, Assassin’s Creed III Liberation takes place in 18th century New Orleans, chronologically, if not quite geographically, similar to Connor’s journey in Assassin’s Creed III. Another first for the series is the female protagonist, an assassin of French and African descent named Aveline. Rather than fighting the British, as Connor will be doing in Assassin’s Creed III, Liberation has Aveline fighting the Spanish Empire as it attempts to impose itself on the people of New Orleans.

Assassin’s Creed III Liberation will make use of the Vita’s unique controls, employing the front and rear touch cameras, the cameras, and the gyroscope. These will provide input for combat, character interaction, deciphering, and traversal controls. On top of using the Vita’s hardware to its fullest potential, Ubisoft is bringing a unique multiplayer experience tailored specifically for the PS Vita.

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From Geoffroy Sardin, Chief EMEA Sales and Marketing Officer for Ubisoft:

The release of Assassin’s Creed III Liberation will be the series’ most ambitious handheld offering to date.”

From Tony Key, US Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Ubisoft:

Combining the console-like experience with features exclusive to PS Vita system, Assassin’s Creed III Liberation will be a leading example of what gamers should expect from a handheld experience.

On top of providing a full Assassin’s Creed experience for the handheld, players who purchase Assassin’s Creed III Liberation for the PS Vita and Assassin’s Creed III for the PlayStation 3 will unlock exclusive content, which includes “an in-game version of Connor’s tomahawk, an exclusive character skin, a multiplayer character, and a complete upgrade of all ammunition pouches.”

Assassin’s Creed III Liberation will launch alongside Assassin’s Creed III on October 30th, 2012. It will also be available as part of a new Crystal PS Vita bundle pack. With Ubisoft’s incredible success in providing a console-worth experience in their PS Vita release of Rayman Origins, my hopes for Assassin’s Creed III Liberation are quite high.

Delving even deeper into Assassin’s Creed III Liberation, check out this Q&A session with game producer Martin Capel:

Assassin’s Creed III Liberation is a very ambitious Ubisoft project for the VITA. How do you organize such a massive undertaking?

Ubisoft Sofia has developed many challenging 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 by some 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.

Assassin’s Creed games are well known to involve world-wide studios. Who leads the development of Liberation?

Ubisoft Sofia is the lead studio and developer of the game. The Montreal studio strongly coordinates and supports Sofia on brand oversight and scripting, and shares technologies as well as technical and artistic knowledge.

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?

Liberation is a full AC experience – an open world game with strong narrative and characters, cities bursting with life and fully explorable, 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.

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?

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.

What is the story of Assassin’s Creed III Liberation? Where does it take place?

Assassin’s Creed III Liberation features a completely new story and assassin for the franchise.

Liberation is set in New Orleans between 1765 and 1780, in the period between the end of the French and Indian War, up to the middle of the American Revolution. The game tells the story of Aveline; a female Assassin of mixed French and African heritage. Brought up in a world of privilege and contrasts, Aveline becomes a strong willed woman and an avid opponent of slavery.

Recruited to the Assassins by an escaped slave called Agate, Aveline joins the struggle against the Templars as they try to take control of New Orleans following France’s handover of the city to Spain. Striking hard and fast, she is instrumental in the Louisiana Rebellion that forces the Spanish and Templars out of the city for nearly two years before they return in force.

With the British colonies to the north moving closer towards Revolution, Aveline is forced to reconsider her values as she strives against the Templars and slavery and the world she knows is gradually dragged into yet another war.

What are the forces at play? What is the Templar’s role in the story?

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 to growing resentment from 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.

18th century Louisiana is a very different context than the American Colonies on the East Coast. What makes this period pivotal in history?

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.

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?

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, using a setting and 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.

Slavery was an important part of the society at that time. How are you treating this topic in Liberation?

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 both the respect it deserves but also from an impartial standpoint.. Liberation is an entertainment product – this is a video game and we need to follow video game narrative constraints. While slavery does exist as a part of the story, it is not the main subject. 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.

Both AC3 and Liberation take place during the same time period. Are there any links between Connor and Aveline’s story?

Aveline will encounter Connor during Liberation, but I can’t go into any further details at the moment. Stay tuned for further information!

Can you introduce us to the new protagonist, Aveline? What is her back story?

Aveline is an assassin of mixed heritage. She is the daughter of a wealthy French merchant and his African placée bride (Plaçage was a form of temporary marriage that was widely accepted in Louisiana at this time). Aveline is raised with privilege and love, even after her mother disappears and her father marries her step-mother. As Aveline grows she develops into a strong willed young woman and starts to take notice of the contrasts around her – wealth and poverty, freedom and slavery, and while torn between the different values she inherited from her parents, she forms her own set of values, including a vehement anti-slavery stance. It is at this time that she is recruited to the Assassins by Agate, an escaped slave who teaches Aveline to focus the strengths and skills required as an Assassin.

In creating Aveline we wanted a new character with clear values and the will to fight for them, even if they do not always align with those of her parents or Agate. She is driven by her perception of what is right and what is wrong. She is very much an insider – a model citizen and the privileged daughter of a successful businessman, who uses her skills to fight against the injustices she sees around her every day in New Orleans, but as events begin to overtake the New World, Aveline finds herself caught more and more in the struggle between the Assassins and Templars for supremacy.

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 and willpower 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.

What are her skills? How is this reflected in navigation, combat and stealth?

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 weapon also bring new opportunities in the areas of navigation, combat and stealth, which can be used anywhere in the game for  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 skill and 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.

What are the different weapons Aveline will be using on her missions?

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 modern and 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!

Stealth is a key part of being an Assassin. How are Aveline abilities impacting this facet of the gameplay?

Aveline’s social status has an impact on gameplay, but we have much more to reveal on this later!

Are you playing an Assassin reliving the memories of his ancestor?

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.

Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t be the same open-world experience without Crowd interactions and AI. What are you doing to push the experience to the next level?

Using the AnvilNext engine and existing Assassin’s Creed technology has really allowed us to push the crowd and AI behaviour on the VITA. Liberation features all the crowd behaviour you’ve come to expect from an Assassin’s Creed game, tailored to our own specific locations, so you can expect to see all sorts of activities unique to New Orleans, including Mardi Gras!

America at that time was still vastly unexplored; will this immense land be explored in Assassin’s Creed III Liberation?

We will be taking the player to several unexplored regions in Liberation. Of these, the Louisiana Bayou is the most prominent region, which not only brings a new terrain but also a new navigation experience to the franchise.

The Bayou is a swamp area, where dry ground is rare and the trees might not be only the fastest way of travelling from one place to another, but also the safest! Within this region, the player will encounter smugglers and other outcasts from New Orleans, living in their own settlements and following their own rules.

Liberation will also take players across the Gulf into Mexico, but I can’t go into more detail on these at the moment.

An unexplored land promises animals, are they included in the game? Will there be additional gameplay tied to this?

The Louisiana Bayou is home to a myriad of animals, many of these posing a real threat to human life. The largest and most dangerous animals are the alligators. These wait on the banks of the swamp or cruise the waters looking for prey, and will attack people whenever they can. Avoid them if you want to survive!

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?

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 sessions on 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!

How are you using the VITA’s hardware features when creating an AC experience on the handheld?

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!

Multiplayer is now expected out of major AC releases. Will Assassin’s Creed III Liberation include multiplayer?

We will have a multiplayer specifically tailored to the VITA experience, but we are not revealing anything at E3.

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