Assassin’s Creed Valhalla producer Julien Laferrier spoke to VGC about the future of the famous series. He explained how the current title has changed with the advent of the Vikings and what awaits the franchise on the new generation of consoles.
First and foremost, the developers needed to make sure that the players did not get bored throughout the adventure. Over the course of three years, Laferrière and the rest of the team have been tracking new mechanics and how they affect gameplay.
“We started with ourselves, then listened to the community, and to make the game world seem fresh and inspire us, we tried to immerse ourselves in it.
Assassin’s Creed 2, which I also worked on, introduced the settlement mechanic for the first time in the series, which we further developed in Brotherhood and the third part. In them, this mechanic was always in the background, and although there was a lot of cool content associated with it, people often missed it.
This time we decided: if we return the settlement, it must be made the “heart” of the gaming experience”.
This is how the development of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla began. As a result, the Viking settlement greatly changed the pace of the game, so the developers had to change the system of side activities. Big quests have been replaced by short events.
“The settlement was handled by our best employees, and we love it, but creating it was almost like doing heart surgery: it is the most valuable part of the body, so when you change anything, the whole experience changes because of it. Therefore, it was necessary to act carefully, but at the same time boldly.
For each territory from the game, we had several ideas, be it an interesting character or a gameplay situation. We connected them and called it “world events”.
According to Laferrière, the developers got the most out of the three years because they had a strict plan of goals from the beginning. Everyone knew what they wanted from a Viking game, so it didn’t take long to come up with ideas.
It also helped during the pandemic. None of the team had to overwork, since everyone was responsible for their own duties. Ubisoft even allowed itself to push the release date forward a week so that the game would be released alongside the Xbox Series X and S.
“This year has undoubtedly been special, but I would say that in terms of work, everything was as usual. Less than a year was left before the release, the scope of work was clear – we just had to finish the game and that’s it”.
When it comes to developing a game for new generations of consoles, it turned out to be easy. Sony and Microsoft provided devkits, and Ubisoft engineers just had to add support for the game on a couple more platforms.
“Yes, judging by what I’ve seen, the graphics will be the distinguishing feature of the new generation, but it’s also about comfort – and we’re just trying to make Assassin’s Creed as comfortable as possible. Downloads will become shorter, fps – higher, and it will already become much more pleasant to play, and in fact there will also be an improved drawing range, dynamic 4K and so on”.
Laferrière stressed that the long history of the franchise played into her hands, because the team always had where to get ideas from. From the previous parts, they took not only the idea of developing a settlement, but also a system of social stealth and a hidden blade.
“Mixing with the crowd, trying to avoid collisions, quietly running away from danger – the player must be able to do all this. Valhalla’s big cities are a tribute to the type of gameplay we introduced back in the first Assassin’s Creed.
We wanted the player not to have to see the game as a huge checklist, when filling out which you do not even have the opportunity to feel that your actions influence something”.
Finally, Laferrière noted that now the developers are waiting for a little rest, but Assassin’s Creed still has great potential to just let the series go. This applies not only to games, but also to TV shows, films, books and comics.