Assassin's Creed 3 is massive — on all possible levels. It's massive in scope, with multiple different environments, and it's dense in terms of mechanics. It even features galleon navigation for God's sake. But Assassin's Creed 3 is particularly massive in terms of production costs, and the amount of people helping make the game. According to its Australian creative director Alex Hutchinson, this makes it the "last of the dinosaurs".
And by that Hutchinson means the last of the really expensive-to-produce AAA titles. According to him, this may be one of the last chances his team has to really push the boundaries in that fashion.
"We really felt like this was a rare opportunity," he said. "We had an experienced team, who had worked on the franchise for a while; we had the full backing of Ubisoft to make something huge; we had almost three years to do it, which is a rarity these days; the tech and the hardware platforms were both mature, which allowed us to start running instead of building base features; and the installed user base for all platforms is massive.
"Many of these factors are about to change, by choice of circumstance, so a lot of us truly believed this was a once in a career opportunity."
I wonder if that really is true. Certainly the middle class game — retail console titles created by mid-tier studios at a cheaper cost — are in decline, but the AAA model still seems alive and well. Even within Ubisoft itself. Games like Grand Theft Auto V, BioShock Infinite, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes are still in production and engines are being developed to expand on what these games can do. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs is sure to be amongst those games, and I'd be very surprised if Ubisoft didn't continue creating massive Assassin's Creed titles in the future.
Hutchinson does have a point, however, it is a model in decline. But surely AAA development is still viable?