Today marks the release of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running video game franchise. This popular action series has become an annual staple in the industry since the original title appeared in 2007, and now totals six main chapters and a number of spinoffs.
Black Flag continues the series’ hallmark of putting players into iconic time periods throughout history, with the game set in the Caribbean during the early 1700s – which would explain the hordes of British and Spanish pirates you face off against.
Helping to bring this era to life were two Full Sail graduates working at Ubisoft’s global studios. Johnstone Baumgartner (Game Development, 2006) was software engineer at Ubisoft Singapore, while Ed Hardison IV (Computer Animation, 2004) contributed as character lead at Ubisoft Montreal. Ed previously worked on Assassin’s Creed III, and spoke about his experiences developing the canon.
As a character artist on an open world title like Assassin’s Creed, there are a number of challenges beyond what would normally come with a third person adventure game – namely the size. “This particular game was the largest production I have ever worked on,” Ed says. “We tried to do a lot of new things on this too – we created new animations and new gameplay like ‘tree running’ and all the new naval missions. The chance to contribute to a project of this scale was really too much to pass up on.”
On top of the technical challenges, there was also the weight of expectations the series now faces. With annual updates coming since its debut, the pressure is on for Ubisoft to continue crafting more imaginative experiences that will inspire players. Assassin’s Creed has already taken us through beautiful recreations of the Crusades, Renaissance Italy, and the American Revolution, so the execution of its pirate theme had a lot to live up to.
“Black Flag is going to be another great update to the series,” Ed says. “What we tried to do was just be true to the brand and create a unique experience and offer up new gameplay never seen before in the AC world for the long time fans. The series has really come a long way from its beginning, and I can’t wait for people to get to experience what we did with the next installment.”
Ed certainly isn’t new to the animation industry, having worked with a number of top studios in his nearly decade-long career, including Electronic Arts, Lumiere VFX, and countless others as a freelancer. This makes his commitment to the Assassin’s Creed series a testament to the integrity of the design team, and the continued creative challenges these worlds present him.
As he explained, “I really try and chose projects that allow me to accomplish different things with my career. Working on something like Assassin’s Creed is kind of like working on a summer blockbuster. I’ve been really fortunate to have been a part of such great titles.”