Demos are often the bane of development schedules, but can also force a team to coalesce on ideas and execution. Our reveal to the press in early 2012 allowed us to prove systems and set the polish bar for player character animations – not to mention forcing us to lock the final look of the Assassin. Similarly, we made a big push on crowdlife that might otherwise have came too late. The video below highlights characters approaching and following the player, object carriers, detailed prop manipulation, and massive crowds of several thousand soldiers.
Unlike previous games in the series that relied mostly on level designers, “crowd stations” were placed by artists and animators to form a better and more natural ambiance. Less of a focus was placed on streets filled with walking crowd, and technology was added to simulate a basic perceived awareness. “Social Interaction” meant that NPCs would look and act with one another, while random facial expressions tell more of a story in the players head – why is that man angry or upset? Without the time to animate eyes throughout, procedural “look-ahead” eye movement got us 90% of the visual quality with minimal effort.
Of course, for the first time in the series the wildlife became the crowdife in the North-American Frontier. While videos were a huge source of reference gathering, it wasn’t until a chance experience with a family of deer at a field trip to Lexington & Concord where we hit upon the idea of what we would call “Magic Moments”. That excitement you get in real life when you stumble upon a wild animal, and I’ve seen a few in my time in Canada, that takes you out of yourself.
Around 70 animal setups, shown in the video above, were created to give the wildlife stories of their own. Not to mention many creatures with a full set of parkour to escape or chase the Assassin. 23 animals were created in total, not counting gender and colour variations, covering predators, prey, domestic, tiny critters, and grouped animals such as rats and seagulls etc.