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Assassin's Creed III Liberation Q&A with Producer Martin Capel

Gamescom 2012 is bringing us tons of new information from Ubisoft concerning Assassin's Creed, one of their most popular franchises - including some in-depth talk about Liberation.

In Assassin's Creed III: Liberation you play as Aveline, an assassin of French and African heritage, as she fights for freedom in 18th century New Orleans - a city on the brink of rebellion as the Spanish Empire imposes its new rule.   You must use your skill, instinct and weaponry -- including a machete, poison-dart blowpipe, and duelling pistols -- to hunt down and eliminate your enemies.

The title is due out on October 31st exclusively on the PlayStation Vita - for more information, head to the official site.  Let's get to the Q&A with Martin Capel, Producer:


 

Story

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!

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!

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?

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.

Another interesting aspect is the context of 18th century New Orleans. Can you share more information on the setting? 

New Orleans in the late 18
th 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!

Gameplay

Liberation is the full Assassin’s Creed experience. How did you manage to be faithful to that experience on a handheld?

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.

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?

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!

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?

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.

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?

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.

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? 

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!

Demo

Now, specifically about the demo – what are the objectives in the Bayou missions? At what point of the game does this take place?

The Bayou mission is from an early stage of the game, between the handover of New Orleans to the Spanish and the Louisiana Rebellion. Aveline’s mentor – Agate – has discovered that an aggressive and charismatic leader is gathering followers to him deep in the Bayou, and sends Aveline to investigate why.

Aveline’s objective in this particular mission is to locate one of the groups of followers gathering around the wreck of an old ship and kill them.

Who is the character Aveline meets at the beginning of the Bayou demo?

At the start of the mission Aveline meets with Élise. Élise is a smuggler – one of the people that live in the Bayou beyond the law and society of New Orleans – who has found that the escalating numbers of followers and the threat they pose to her operations is not good for business.

We see Aveline using the Canoe, is it a prominent navigation vehicle in the Bayou? Can you steer it using the controls or with the VITA’s touchscreen?

The canoe is one of the main methods of navigation is the swamp, and is controlled using both the controls and the Vita’s Touch Screen. It is also the only way to move through the water without being at continual risk of alligator attack!

Of course, using the trees is always another option and gives you much more freedom of movement without risk, provided you don’t fall!

We see Aveline combat an alligator, are those moments frequent in the game? Can you meet other animals? We also see Aveline pick up the Alligator’s eggs, is this tied to the economic system?

Alligators are natural inhabitants of the Bayou. They can be found on the banks, coursing the waters, and of course close to their nests – they are more or less everywhere. The swamp is teeming with life, and of these the Alligators are the largest and most dangerous.

Aveline has many opportunities to collect alligator eggs, but I can’t go into more detail of how they are used or the economic model at the moment!

Aveline encounters enemies in the demo, are they a specific historical tribesmen? Do they play into the story?

The enemies encountered in the demo are the followers of the leader that Aveline is sent to investigate. They do form part of the story but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

For the second demo, what are the objectives in the Fort missions? At what point of the game does this take place? Who is Aveline’s target?

The second demo is set after the Louisiana Rebellion, when the Spanish troops have returned and successfully put down the insurrection, and are now in New Orleans in force.

During this period, Aveline hears people are trying to corrupt Spanish soldiers and recruit them as mercenaries for another purpose. Having identified a recruiter, she follows him to the Spanish fort, and it is here that she must kill him.

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?

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!


 

Make sure to hit up our Gamescom 2012 News Center sponsored by Guardians of Middle-Earth and keep checking back here and over at FPS General, as we'll be updating throughout the entire event with huge announcements, great new features from the development teams themselves, and more!

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