How can you make planets? Is it hard
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María Elisa Navarro, a Professor of Architectural History and Theory, talked about her work with Ubisoft Montreal on Assassin’s Creed 2.
Building huge open world games, based on historical data, is a difficult process. Usually big companies like that, can’t keep everything as authentic as possible, but there are some ways to solve this with the help of historical consultants. Sometimes they help with the creation of vehicles (like with World of Tanks), sometimes they help to find the perfect approach to modeling historically accurate buildings. This was the task of María Elisa Navarro, when she helped Ubisoft Montreal during the production of Assassin’s Creed 2.
When Maria just began her work, she barely knew what games were and she had no interest in AC series at all. Overall the game was too difficult for her, so she didn’t play it. Instead she spent time next to designers, while they played. She got in contact with Ubisoft completely by chance, while she was living in France. There she met Vincent Gaigneux, who was working on the design of the main character. In February of 2008 she met with the game’s product manager and was offered to collaborate on the game. It was a super secret project, so for a while she couldn’t share anything.
Her job was simple: help Ubisoft artistic team become familiar with the time period between 1476 and 1503. These knowledge should help the team to build more realistic characters, 3D models and gameplay. So she told them about the history of the House of Medici and of Girolamo Savonarola, got a lot of documents from archives and databases, and so on.
The architecture was super important for the team. For the developers Maria created a list of old buildings in modern day Venice. This helped them to imagine how the edifices were created and the artists created their designs accordingly. She even helped to add the San Gimignano into the game.
The consultant also helped to adapt the look of the buildings. She met with the modeling team and verified the accuracy of the historical reconstruction. For example, she helped to get rid of the things that couldn’t have existed at that time, like balconies with a wrought iron railing. Obviously there were some irregularities that helped to enhance the gameplay. 15th century buildings most likely had only one level, two maximum. However to make the game more vertical, the team decided to ignore this fact completely.
Maria actually shared more details of this project in her interview back in 2015. You can find the full text here. It’s a fascinating read, which shows how the whole production of such a massive game works.