For a series that started out as a gameplay engine test for a next-gen Prince of Persia, the Assassin’s Creed series grew into one of the most unique franchises of the last generation. Looking at the first game, one would not assume the direction the series has taken as gaming’s most fun history lesson. Part of that fun stems from the early decision to take the series into different time periods and places throughout the world. The most recent release (soon to be followed by Unity), Black Flag shipped us out to the Caribean for some swashbuckling pirate action.
The Art of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag takes us behind the scenes to see the massive effort that goes into to creating a game that’s both entertaining and as historically accurate as possible. It includes interviews from team members and insight into the art development process.
With the new locale comes a new color palette which reflects the vibrant nature of the Caribbean setting. Many of the renderings are purposefully abstract and avoid photo-realism.
As usual Abstergo, the modern day face of the Templars, reflects their personal obsession with order reflected in the geometry of their buildings. The building represent a paradisaical vision of the future with it’s clean white facade and glass enclosures.
Costumes are even more colorful than the landscapes and pop with vibrant shades of crimson. Outside of Edward Kenway, the main character, who is bound in some respects to the assassin stereotype set forth in the previous games, most of the dress styles close to period accurate with minor embellishments to fit within the games universe.
The settings have changed drastically from the earlier entries in the Assasin’s Creed series, which were relied on the vertical structures of cities for exploration. In the third installment traversing the landscape became equally important and fun. More importantly it opened up the art direction to include more natural backgrounds and set pieces.
One of the great thing about art books or even a museum trip for that matter, is measuring the economy of brushstrokes used. In the piece above notice the level of abstraction used to connote movement. It also lets the viewer focus on the environment which was the intended purpose of this piece during production. In the piece below take a look at the bottom right corner. The algae has almost no detail at all. Even great artists have to hand in work on deadline and deciding what’s important in a piece ahead of time tells you where the most detail should be added.
Building a world means more than characters and environments. Often in Sci-Fi alien ships have clean surfaces and nothing to look at except ship controls. Don’t they have tools or chochkies? Maybe that’s why their always angry and hell bent on earth’s destruction. They have nothing to keep themselves busy in their free time. I’ve digressed. For Black Flag an immense amount of time was spent creating the tools, weapons, and wildlife one would encounter and ultimately engage with throughout the course of the game.
The back cover of the book includes the header History is our playground, a perfect title for the experience Assassin’s Creed delivers. I can’t recommend this book enough. It illustrates why Ubisoft is one of the top players in gaming today. Their production quality is top notch and it shows on every page of this book.