Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The game is set in 1191 AD, when the Third Crusade was tearing the Holy Land apart. Shrouded in secrecy and feared for their ruthlessness, the Assassins intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict. Players, assuming the role of the main character Altair, will have the power to throw their immediate environment into chaos and to shape events during this pivotal moment in history.
Now that the game has been released, everyone has has the chance to play the game and experience what Assassin's Creed has to offer. A lot of the game's environment and presentation has to do with the audio that adds emotion and dynamics to the gameplay. We had the opportunity to speak with renowned composer Jesper Kyd, who worked on the game's soundtrack, to see what he had to say about the game and its music.
It seems you’ve been keeping yourself busy these days. One of your latest projects has had you working on the Assassin’s Creed score. Tell us a bit about what that was like for you.
Jesper Kyd: It was a lot of fun coming up with themes and ideas for all the different areas of such a huge world. There is more than 3 hours of music in the game, about 100 tracks in total. It was a challenging and very rewarding experience.
We’ve talked with you a few times now regarding several titles you’ve worked with. How was Assassin’s Creed in relation to other gaming projects you’ve been a part of?
Jesper Kyd: Assassin’s Creed gave me the opportunity to write a historical score and the instrumental palette was quite different to what I’ve previously composed for games. I often work with large symphony orchestras for other projects such as the Hitman series. However Assassin’s Creed required a more intimate approach. I recorded with some of Hollywood’s top ethnic instrument players and solo vocalists as well as a full choir at the Bastyr Chapel in Seattle and blended with other exotic sounds. This was a very fulfilling project musically as it allowed me to write and mix music styles that are rarely heard in games.
What was your initial concept of the game’s score and how much freedom were you given by Ubisoft to come up with your own ideas?
Jesper Kyd: The team wanted to make sure that the tragic story of the Crusades was embedded in the feel of the score. So I added a lot of spirituality in the music to match the religious awareness that was so present during these times. I was given a lot of creative freedom although we set ourselves rules for music instrumentation in the different cities in order to immerse players in each setting.
From what we’ve experienced of Assassin’s Creed to this point, there’s a heavy focus on medieval style along with some more modern elements. How did that play into your musical ideas?
Jesper Kyd: The use of specific instruments, vocal styles, color and tone varies and depends on which city you are in. The score is mostly acoustic, meaning I used mostly real instruments. For example in Jerusalem I mixed western instrumentation (piano, harp, Latin choir, Gregorian chants) with ethnic instrumentation (Ud guitar, Ney flute, mizmar, Mijwiz, Buzuq, percussion, Egyptian percussion, Moslem male vocals) to reflect the clash of religions in this multicultural city. During the escape scenes I switch into a more modern style.
A lot of what Assassin’s Creed is about has to do with its visual beauty and the elegance of the character movements. What was your approach to creating music that was able to not only seamlessly integrate within these elements but also enhance them?
Jesper Kyd: My approach was to create uplifting music, hypnotic and meditative music that reflects the aesthetic movement and interior mindset of the Assassins, while at the same time be sensitive to the overall tragic feel of cities like Acre.
What was the biggest challenge in working on Assassin’s Creed and how were you able to overcome it?
Jesper Kyd: The vast amount of music was the biggest challenge. I scored all the music in the game: cut-scenes, locations, investigation music, approach music, combat music, escape sequences, horse riding, street musicians, training session music, trailers and many other especially composed music pieces for other events.
Clearly the game design tends to influence the direction of the audio, but are there ever times where your concepts for a game’s sound in turn influence aspects of the game design? Such as during cinematic sequences that might be developed once the soundtrack starts to take shape…
Jesper Kyd: Sometimes this happens but for Assassins Creed I didn’t score any gameplay element until it was developed. We didn’t really know how the music should work until after the gameplay elements were established.
How much information do you need to know about a game before formulating ideas for its music?
Jesper Kyd: I can write a score from just a 50 word background story, but then of course the music is not going to fit exactly with everything you see on screen. However it will fit the story and the mood of the game. I prefer to get as much material from the project as possible. The more material I get to see and work with, the more accurately the music will take everything from the game world into consideration.
How do you find the right balance of outside input along with your own creativity?
Jesper Kyd: When I am hired to score a project, I want the music to improve the player’s experience. However I can’t just do something totally unique or experimental unless it makes complete sense for that project. Fortunately I am usually hired to add my own ideas into the melting pot, even if there are already some really strong well thought out ideas in place for the music. Once we agree on the music style and what we want the music to add to the game, I always aim to push the creative elements of the music to the limit.
Do you ever get to a certain point in your creative process where you stop and think things just aren’t working out the way you planned? If so how do you go forward from such a position?
Jesper Kyd: I re-think the approach and ideas I have for the track. If the track can be ‘saved’ I go back and re-work it or I will start over and write a new track.
Do you like to come up with multiple options for a musical style or do you tend to get a certain idea in your head and go with it?
Jesper Kyd: When writing the score, once the music becomes part of the game or film you see how the project gets more emotional or deeper because of the music you are writing. So you follow that path while adding the kind of color that creates the maximum amount of drama and depth. Still, in addition to the main style there are often areas that need a different type of scoring style so sometimes it can become more like working on several different scores at once.
What aspects of Assassin’s Creed were you most influenced by and what most impressed you by the game itself?
Jesper Kyd: The massive free-roaming design is my favorite aspect of the game. It’s really breathtaking how you can go anywhere and climb anything. This game is so deep you really have to take your time with it to truly appreciate the full experience.
More and more we are seeing games that play out more like interactive cinematic experiences than what we think of as traditional video games. How do you see the industry changing as regards to the production value of gaming?
Jesper Kyd: The animations, the landscape and the crowd tech in Assassin’s Creed are amazing. The facial expression technology in Mass Effect is cutting-edge. The depth of the organic weapons and upgrades in BioShock is awesome. The way story and cinematics are treated in Kane & Lynch is also pushing the medium forward. I can’t wait to see where all this innovation will take us next!
In case you haven't had the opportunity to check out Assassin's Creed in action to experience Jesper's work, you can download and listen to two tracks from the game below:
Jerusalem Horse Ride
City of Jerusalem
For more on Jesper Kyd, check out his official website at www.jesperkyd.com.
Monday, January 21, 2008
|Unlockable||How to Unlock|
|Absolute Symbiosis (45)||Have a complete Synchronization bar.|
|Blade in the Crowd (30)||Kill one of your main targets like a true assassin.|
|Conversationalist (20)||Go through every dialog with Lucy.|
|Defender of the People: Acre (20)||Complete every free mission in Acre.|
|Defender of the People: Damascus (20)||Complete every free mission in Damascus.|
|Defender of the People: Jerusalem (20)||Complete every free mission in Jerusalem.|
|Disciple of the Creed (30)||Assassinate all your targets with a full DNA bar.|
|Eagle's Challenge (20)||Defeat 25 guards in a single fight.|
|Eagle's Dance (10)||Perform 50 leap of faith.|
|Eagle's Dive (20)||Perform 50 Combo Kills in Fights.|
|Eagle's Eye (15)||Kill 75 guards by throwing knives.|
|Eagle's Flight (20)||Last 10 minutes in open conflict.|
|Eagle's Prey (20)||Assassinate 100 guards.|
|Eagle's Swiftness (20)||Perform 100 Counter Kill in Fights.|
|Eagle's Talon (15)||Perform 50 stealth assassinations.|
|Eagle's Will (20)||Defeat 100 opponents without dying.|
|Enemy of the Poor (5)||Grab and Throw 25 Harassers.|
|Fearless (25)||Complete all Reach High Points.|
|Gifted Escapist (5)||Jump through 20 merchant stands.|
|Hero of Masyaf (20)||You've protected Masyaf from the Templar invasion.|
|Hungerer of Knowledge (20)||See 85% of all the memory glitches.|
|Keeper of the 8 Virtues (10)||Find All Hospitalier Flags in Acre.|
|Keeper of the Black Cross (10)||Find All Teutonic Flags in Acre.|
|Keeper of the Creed (10)||Find All Flags in Masyaf.|
|Keeper of the Crescent (20)||Find All Flags in Damascus.|
|Keeper of the Four Gospels (20)||Find All Flags in Jerusalem.|
|Keeper of the Lions Passant (25)||Find All of Richard's Flags in the Kingdom.|
|Keeper of the Order (10)||Find all Templar Flags in Acre.|
|March of the Pious (5)||Use Scholar blending 20 times.|
|Personal Vendetta (40)||Kill every Templar.|
|The Blood of a Corrupt Merchant (25)||You've slain Tamir, Black Market Merchant in Damascus.|
|The Blood of a Doctor (25)||You've slain Garnier de Naplouse, Hospitalier Leader in Arce.|
|The Eagle and The Apple - 1191 (100)||Complete Assassin's Creed.|
|The hands of a Thief (15)||Pickpocket 200 throwing knives.|
|The Punishment for Treason (20)||You have found the traitor and have brought him before Al Mualim.|
|Welcome to the Animus (20)||You've successfully completed the Animus tutorial.|
|The Blood of a Slave Trader (25)||You've slain Tatal, Slave Trader of Jerusalem.|
|Visions of the Future (50)||After the credits roll, walk back into Desmond's bedroom and activate Eagle Vision by pressing the Y button and look at the wall above the bed.|
|The Blood of the Merchant King (25)||You've slain Abul Nuqoud, Merchant King of Damascus.|
|The Blood of a Liege-Lord(25)||You've slain William of Montferrat, Liege-Lord of Acre.|
|The Blood of a Scribe(25)||You've slain Jubair, the Scribe of Damascus.|
|The Blood of a Teutonic Leader(25)||You've slain Sibrand, the Teutonic Leader of Acre.|
|The Blood of a Nemesis(25)||You've slain Robert de Sable, but there is one more.|
|The Blood of a Regent (25)||You've slain Majd Addin, Regent of Jerusalem.|
Assassin’s Creed is the type of game that comes along only rarely – a title that innovates in so many areas it helps to set a new bar in various aspects of gameplay, storytelling, visuals, and controls. Simultaneously, it’s an imperfect game in which the small flaws that mar its sheen are all the more noticeable because so much of the rest of the game shines so brightly. Deep, engaging, and surprising from beginning to end, Assassin’s Creed’s merits will be debated for a long time. However, as a brave attempt at delivering something unique and audacious, it excels. The surprises start right off the bat, when you power on the game and spend several minutes second-guessing if they put the right disc in your case. Many of you will have already heard about this opening twist, but if not, I won’t be the one to ruin it for you. Suffice to say, the context in which you find yourself a medieval assassin is more complex than it appears. Once the real action gets going, you’ll wander a huge open world – three massive cities and the connecting countryside. It’s a strange mix of meticulous historical recreation and totally open level design. Climbing and leaping can get you to almost any place in the world – usually by any number of different paths. Hero Altaïr is as much ninja as medieval warrior as he goes about the grim business of hunting down evil men who are oppressing the people of the Holy Land. Rarely has a character without superpowers or magic been quite so powerful and exciting to vicariously inhabit, whether he’s perching on a high tower of the Acre Cathedral or countering the blows of a Templar knight.
The surprises start right off the bat, when you power on the game and spend several minutes second-guessing if they put the right disc in your case. Many of you will have already heard about this opening twist, but if not, I won’t be the one to ruin it for you. Suffice to say, the context in which you find yourself a medieval assassin is more complex than it appears.
Once the real action gets going, you’ll wander a huge open world – three massive cities and the connecting countryside. It’s a strange mix of meticulous historical recreation and totally open level design. Climbing and leaping can get you to almost any place in the world – usually by any number of different paths. Hero Altaïr is as much ninja as medieval warrior as he goes about the grim business of hunting down evil men who are oppressing the people of the Holy Land. Rarely has a character without superpowers or magic been quite so powerful and exciting to vicariously inhabit, whether he’s perching on a high tower of the Acre Cathedral or countering the blows of a Templar knight.
With its intuitive puppeteering button scheme, there’s a fundamental shift in play control at work. Where most games are primarily concerned with the question “Where do you want to go?”, Assassin’s Creed puts equal weight on “How do you want to get there?”. By designating all actions as high or low profile, movement becomes less about individual button presses and more about situational observation. Further, each face button is like a part of the body that changes contextually to match the situation. In a fight, your open hand button might grab a foe, but when running along rooftops the same button will reach for a distant ledge. While seemingly a minor variation on a familiar theme, this approach to control is one of the game’s greatest triumphs.
Through a long and complex narrative, you’ll repeatedly play through what might be loosely called levels. This gameplay arc is split into several components. The first involves the journey to and exploration of a location, followed by an investigation of the target. With the knowledge gleaned, you’ll finally make the hazardous approach to your well-protected victim to complete the murderous deed, before sprinting away to safety. While this design is a lot of fun, it eventually feels mildly repetitive – particularly the investigations. More variety in these activities would have been welcome.
When you’re ready for a break from the story, a huge number of collectibles are scattered through the game – over 400 hard-to-find pick-ups and 60 secondary assassinations. It’s a great addition only marred by the fact that none of these collectibles ever yield any genuine reward beyond Gamer Points and Achievements.
If only to experience the unique world and amazing movement and combat, gamers owe it to themselves to try Ubisoft’s big holiday release. Its stunning visual style, high concept story, and wildly open level design are like nothing else, even if too much repetition begins to frustrate in the later hours. It’s a game people will still be talking about five years from now. Come to think of it, they may have a lot more to talk about by then.