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E3 2012: “Assassin’s Creed 3” naval warfare is “a revelation” for Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed 3

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By Michael Rougeau

LOS ANGELES, California — Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” series has already gone places no other games have before, and now, in it’s third numbered entry, it’s doing it again. “Assassin’s Creed 3” was one of the belles of this year’s E3 ball, and for good reason. Announced in February, the game is set in New York, Philadelphia and Boston before, during and after the American Revolution, or as creative director Alex Hutchinson calls it, the British Civil War.

“Until the end of the game, or the end of the revolution, they’re all British, you know what I mean?” he told IFC, laughing. “Everybody there is British. It’s a colony, you know what I mean? Like, that’s the whole point of it.”

The war, he meant — that’s the point of the war. But the war is not the point of “Assassin’s Creed 3.” This isn’t the only game to ever star a Native American. But Hutchinson and his teams at Ubisoft’s Montreal, Quebec City, Annecy, and Singapore studios are going to extra lengths to ensure that protagonist Ratohnhake:ton (or, by his English name, Connor Kenway) is an authentic representation of his people. They consulted with Native American advisors and hired a Native American voice actor to make sure everything from Connor’s speech to his gear is authentic.

The titular Assassin is always the heart of an “Assassin’s Creed” game. In the first game’s recreations of 12th century Damascus and Jerusalem, Altair introduced gamers to the ancient war between the Assassins and Templars. In “Assassin’s Creed 2” and its spin-offs, the noble Ezio explored 15th-century Italy and Constantinople. All of this was seen through the “genetic memories” of Desmond Miles, a modern-day Assassin whose importance escalates with every entry in the series.

The 18th-century British colony of America seems at first like the odd era out, but Hutchinson assured IFC that it would fit right in. “We’re not ‘The Patriot.’ The story is not the fight for the American Revolution. The American Revolution happens in the background while you’re going about your business with killing Templars,” Hutchinson said. “Trust us. We have a plan.”

It may use the Revolution as a backdrop for the Templar-Assassin war, but even that is just a lens through which to come to know Connor, who’ll kill Templars on both sides of the larger conflict. “Who is this guy? Why does he join the Assassins? Why does he even care about the American Revolution, you know? He’s a Native American. How does all this happen?” Hutchinson asked. “It’s a 30-year story from before, during, in, and after the revolution. And it’s kind of the story of his life.”

As part of Ubisoft’s efforts to make the game feel fresh, they’ve reworked everything from combat and movement to non-playable characters’ behavior. But the real surprise at E3 was something no one predicted: full-on naval warfare. Players will be able to take to the high seas and control Connor as he commandeers his very own schooner, barking orders at the crew and maneuvering around enemy ships before unleashing volleys of cannon fire.

In the demo Ubisoft showed off at E3, Connor’s ship fired chained-together and flaming cannonballs to disable another vessel and drew up alongside it as the crew prepared to board. The demo ended there, but Hutchinson promised that ship-to-ship combat and other swashbuckling adventures will constitute “a significant chunk” of the game. “There’s several hours of gameplay possible at sea if you want to get into it,” he said. “There’s a chunk that’s in the main path and then there’s also a big side story that takes place on the high seas.”

Ubisoft Singapore is in charge of the naval portions of “Assassin’s Creed 3,” and the game’s mission director, Phil Bergeron, told IFC that they almost did too good a job. It was too realistic, and they had to send it back to Singapore and have them “arcade it up a little bit,” said Bergeron. “For us it’s like a revelation. It’s like wow, we could make a whole game out of this,” he said, as his ship bobbed up and down on a stormy sea.

“It’s a delicate balance to get it to be fun and easy, you know, and not too simulator-heavy, but also believable,” Hutchinson said after the demo. “You’re trying to find that line between believability and fun so that it’s good to play but you don’t have to think — I mean the boat took half an hour to turn around with that period. So that’s not exactly couch gameplay.”

The new time period brings plenty of other changes to the series. Connor will spend as much time climbing trees as past Assassins spent climbing buildings, and navigating battlefields populated by literally thousands of redcoats and patriots will provide unique new challenges. The game’s controls have even been revamped, with the series’ signature free-running mechanics now accomplished by holding down a single button instead of two. “We wanted to streamline it,” Hutchinson said. “We wanted to make it more accessible.”

Multiplayer, the only portion of the game that was actually playable at E3, remains largely unchanged from past games, though with new modes, maps, and abilities. “Thanks to ‘AC 3′ we’ll have a brand new setting, so we really play with that,” multiplayer director Damien Kieken told IFC, referring to the series’ first map set outside city walls, on a field of ice and grounded ships. “We’re evolving the core gameplay every year to make it more streamlined, more easy to access, but also keeping the deepness that we wanted since the first game.”

Hutchinson seems excited by the challenges of developing a game that can touch on everything from slavery to the founding fathers. “We wanted a pivotal moment in history. We wanted a place that other games hadn’t been,” he said. “It’s funny, everyone’s like ‘Oh, it makes perfect sense!’ now, but when we announced it was like ‘This makes no sense! How is it possible? People lived in tents, and Christopher Columbus, and Billy the Kid!'” Whatever that means.

They’re taking liberties with American history, but they’re also portraying household names in ways that players aren’t necessarily used to: as real people. “The fun in meeting them is the idea of meeting someone who, you know, in George Washington’s case, wasn’t certain that it was even a good idea to fight, wasn’t certain they were going to win,” Hutchinson said.

And although the naval battles were last week’s big reveal, he promised that “Assassin’s Creed 3” is still full of surprises — and that they won’t be revealed until the game actually comes out in October for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC. “I’m tired of having shown everything before we ship the game, you know what I mean? I hate movie trailers. I don’t watch movie trailers anymore.”

As for “Assassin’s Creed 4,” “5” and “6”? “I’m legally unable to answer your question,” he said, ruefully.

What settings would you like to explore in future “Assassin’s Creed” games? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.