After initially working with keyframed jumps, a need for visual and timing consistency led us to try out a piece of equipment proposed to us by our stunt team. The “Air-Ramp” was essentially a pneumatic explosion triggered under the feet of a running stuntman to give him more air time – something we used to great effect to get the variety we wanted. In particular, the realistic arm-swinging of someone working hard to maintain balance reflected what we had in the Target Game Footage perfectly. While I was initially concerned about using mocap for the super-human feats performed by the Assassin, this breakthrough led to its adoption elsewhere, giving rise to the vaulting moves he can perform to quickly move over obstacles. In the video below, notice the difference between the parkour and free-running styles, with the latter flourishes reserved only for the present-day character Desmond Miles.
In researching the climb, a team visit to an indoor climbing wall showed us 1. that we were very out of shape, and 2. that the arms and legs were not set up correctly in the original climb system so as to maximise reach. As such, the first port of call for our new climb was to invert the arms and legs. New handholds were required to fit with our new rock-climbing setting, and we added a set of 45 degree animations to enable faster movement in all directions. As with the ground movement, we were afraid a simple increase in speed would undermine the weight of the Assassin, so here we added our second major implementation of physics – that of adding follow-through via physics. This enabled the follow-through to play out without requiring the Assassin to stop in place – retaining momentum, and adding a fluidity to all directional movement, not to mention saving us time having to create the follow-through animations used by the previous system.
It was important that both the animators AND programmers attend the research visit to teach us all about weight and the type of movement we would be recreating. However, as the Assassin moves with a speed unlike even our instructor, we looked to reference videos of the late Dan Osman, shown in the video above, to illustrate just what kind of speed is humanly possible while still remaining realistic.
Different weather conditions was more than a visual motif of ACIII, and we were not going to make a game set in the American North-East without tackling the harsh winters that we still endure to this day. The snow used an entirely different ground movement set, with multi-step cycles, depth and speed blends and random variation thrown in. We did originally try mocap with weights strapped to the actors’ legs as they traversed deep mats, but ended up modifying this for the deep water running. Eventually no mocap was used for the snow movement, as there’s no-one better than a Montreal animator to know how one moves in snow.