DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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