Assassin's Creed Brotherhood PC: Not just a simple port, say developer
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is expected for Q1 2011 for Windows PC. Why does the port take so long and what advantages will PC gamers have? PC Games Hardware made an exclusive tech interview with Ubisoft Montreal.
Since Fall 2010, the console world is able to play Ezio's latest adventure. PC players have to wait until Q1 2011. As a kind of compensation Ubisoft promised to add some PC exclusive features. So we had a chat with David Coulombe from Ubisoft Montreal to find out what kind of advantages PC gaming will have in the PC version of Brotherhood.
PCGH: When developing Assassin's Creed 2 you added several features to the engine and you developed new tools and plug-ins. Was it once again necessary to modify your base technology for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood? If yes, can you describe what technical features have to be reprogrammed/modified/added or enhanced?
David Coulombe:There has been many changes to our tools and pipeline to make it easier for our team to create content at an accelerated pace. We've also optimized many parts of the engine in order to get a more stable frame rate.
Gamers don'tusually notice any of this "under-the-hood" stuff but they can enjoy playing a fresh new episode of Ezio's adventures in a brand new environment just in time for the Holidays.
PCGH:The PC versions of Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed 2 were both developed separately from their previously released console version to offer PC gamers more than a simple port. Is that the case with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood too? Will Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood for PC fully take advantage of the technical possibility the PC as a platform has to offer? Where did you face difficulties porting the game to the PC?
David Coulombe: It is indeed again the case for ACB. We have the luxury of fully focusing our efforts on the PC version after shipping the console version, giving us additional time to develop features and fix bugs. Most of the effort for taking advantage of powerful CPUs was done for AC2 so we focused more on the graphics side of things. See the next point for details.
We face the same problems as everyone else faces when developing for PC. The large variety of hardware available makes for some interesting bugs that happen only on certain configs. On the other hand it allows for specific features or optimizations that can't be done on consoles.
PCGH: What are the main differences between the console and the PC version as far as general technical aspects as well as the visuals is concerned? What technical features can only be realized with the PC as platform?
David Coulombe: Scalable settings (multi-core, higher frame rate, higher resolution, MSAA, higher shadow, reflexion, environment quality etc.), as well as Eyefinity and 3DVision support. The other advantage is the guarantee of hard-drive installation which ensures decent loading times.
PCGH: In comparison to the two previous parts, does the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood offer improved visuals? Do you even integrate other new visuals into the game? If yes, what rendering techniques do you apply (don't be afraid to use technical terms).
David Coulombe: Graphically we've added some image processing effects such as SSAO and better level of detail transitions. A brand new shadow algorithm was also developed to increase the overall visual quality.
PCGH: The first two Assassin's Creed parts scale well with multicore processor, Assassin's Creed 2 even utilizes up to eight cores. Have you nevertheless overhauled the thread structure of the technology utilized in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to optimize it for higher number of cores that will be available with future processor or Intel CPUs with six core including Hyper Threading? How does the thread structure in the PC version look like and how have you manages to parallelize the code?
David Coulombe: On AC2 we did a great job of refactoring the rendering engine to use multiple processors. We automatically detect the number of processors and hardware threads and split the workload appropriately. The rest of the engine (AI, sound, etc.) has been multithreaded since AC1.
PCGH: Will the renderer of the PC version of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood support DX11? If the PC version will be developed without DX11 support, what are the reasons to do so? Are there existing plans to patch in DX11 support later?
David Coulombe: All iterations of AC were developed with DX9. On AC1 we experimented with DX10 but the benefits were not quite there. Vista had just been released and drivers were not mature yet so it wasn't as great as we would've liked.
On AC2 and ACB we decided to concentrate our efforts on DX9. Nevertheless we are quite happy with the visual results. We manage to visually impress the players and give them a great gaming experience. In the end, that's what matters most!
You will find more information on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood on our German speaking website.