We accumulated ideas and research data, documents and pictures which we kept for today so that we could build an entire game around it. Since we had tonnes of new ideas gameplay-wise and also wanted to continue the story of Ezio, we said, 'ok we'll do it in the city of Rome'. To bring in a twist instead of having a couple of medium-sized cities, relatively speaking, we said we're going to build this one big playground. It's as large as a kingdom and the different districts feel like different cities.
At that time, there was the original city walls from the classical period which were still standing but inside the city walls were fields, crops, and abandoned areas. Then a smaller medieval down-town part and there was of course the Vatican, but it wasn't even built, there wasn't even the huge St. Peters square. It's going to feel very big, that's why we're bringing the horse and allowing it to be in the city so we can explore by horse. On foot it would take in-game hours. So to answer your question, no, I don't think it's going to be small.
You mentioned the horse and now you can get on and ride around a bit more, that seems to be more like GTA structurally. Do you think that is fair? Do you think in Rome you've created something to rival Liberty City?
In a way I can see the similarity. For us it's a new tool in our - we call it our 'navigation core pillar', gameplay pillar.
We're always trying to bring in new ingredients, either free-run ingredients or fight features such as new weapons or archetypes or stealth features. The horse for us first of all is a way to get from point A to B as quickly as possible, but that wasn't enough so we also wanted to integrate the horse fully in our free running system.
So now we're able to jump on an off the horse as it walks or runs so it's like a moving platform. We're going to use it in certain missions to do exciting stuff. Of course having horses means NPCs on horses, civilians and guards so that brings in new types of gameplay.
Much like you could customise your villa in Assassin's Creed 2 you can now do that in the whole of Rome. is the control you have over Rome very similar to that?
Well it's not SimCity in Rome or SimCity in Assassin's Creed. What it is, is the best of the feeling of owning your own place and upgrading it, the feeling of ownership from the villa in AC2, but bringing it in Rome throughout most of the districts and combining it with the narrative and the intentions of Ezio.
You have a reason to upgrade and build shops and other types of ingredients because it rewards you with additional tools, it's very systemic. It's about owning stuff but also gives you gameplay opportunities.
In the sandbox one thing we want to explore with the ingredients - mostly AIs, weapons and money - is how can we play with and modify that sandbox and that's what the feeling we want to convey, as you're playing, producing and investing. For killing people, we had the notoriety system in AC2 where it was mostly negative, we said what if you fight for the people and the city, civilians will start to help you as you're changing the vibe of the city from oppressed to liberated.
What if those people, who now have hope, want to fight with you? With that kind of stuff we are going to experiment and express in our game, just owning is not the end as it was in AC2 it's the beginning of the experience.
Last question, you're coming out in Christmas with a lot of competition like Call of Duty and Halo, why do you think people should buy you're game over others?
I think people want more of Assassin's Creed so, so far so good. We don't want to take anyone for granted so we've already put in a lot of effort into making sure we bring novelty, improvements, an entirely new storyline and a multiplayer element that is a unique and fresh experience for players.
People that were curious about Assassin's Creed but were hoping for multiplayer before but it wasn't there are probably going to be curious and want to try it. The same goes with the storyline because as we add more episodes in our brand more and more people are learning about the franchise and will say okay this is getting into a lineage, I should go back and play the first one, second one and then this.