It’s in the name of the game, so it would be remiss not to mention the changes made to Assassinations. Importantly, no new tech was used to create these, just the tried-and-tested method of creating lots of animation transitions to blend between and play through. A matrix of speed, direction and weapon-type was used for each style of kill. We added walking and running assassinations to promote fluidity of motion, as well as provided support for air assassinations for all weapons. This all combined in allowing the player to maintain control throughout the assassination which previously played out something more like a cinematic.
Towards the end of production, we moved into the animation polish phase, creating multi-step cycles to break repetition, adding the facial animation & slo-mo to combat and elsewhere, creating as many transitions as possible to improve the feel of navigation, and generally increasing fluidity across the board. Handy tools allowing us to play the game then replay and take apart transitions helped us remove unwanted hitches between states, and we again turned our attention towards animation compression.
As a sequel, we had always been on the memory budget limit since the beginning of the project. Where previous games did blanket compressions across the board, this time we improved the system to allow us to hand-pick values for different types of animation. We grouped animation into descriptive types such as right-arm (for weapons), or hi-res, (for important ones the player would always see such as the Assassin’s walkcycle). Eventually we saved around 8Mb of the 30Mb console animation budget, and then raised it all up once more for the PC release.
Below is a video made to help the team celebrate reaching the alpha stage of production, so still contains some compressed animation. All in all, the final look was a testament to the commitment of the team to work solidly for almost 3 years towards the goal of refreshing the animation style and re-establishing Assassin’s Creed as a leader in animation quality. Since the game’s release over a year ago they’ve managed to put out another game in the main series (Black Flag), and re-released the Vita AC: Liberation, both of which use an estimated 90%+ of the same ingame animations from ACIII, so I believe we refreshed it enough to last a good year or two – achieving our initial mandate.