ACIV development "nightmarish" on current-gen, says Ubisoft

Game director Ashraf Ismail says Xbox One and PS4 development, however, was "very smooth."

Developing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was "very difficult and even nightmarish," game director Ashraf Ismail has said. Ismail's comments came during a Reddit AMA session today, where Ismail was asked about the development process for the Xbox One and PlayStation versions.

"Development on both consoles was very smooth since they are both very similar to PCs," Ismail said of Xbox One and PS4. "Last generation was very difficult and even nightmarish."

Ismail explained that both the Xbox One and PS4 were "easy to deal with" for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Microsoft and Sony were "there to help us out" throughout the process.

Development on the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag wasn't all smooth sailing, however.

"The one gray area was understanding both Sony and MS requirements for the consoles," Ismail said. "They were trying to figure them out themselves."

"They do understand them NOW," Ismail explained later. "One year ago as they were still trying to push features and tech it wasn't so clear. And this is normal."

Outside of these issues, "Overall it was super smooth to develop on [next generation consoles]," he said.

"Best game development experience of my career. Team was great, production was the smoothest I've ever seen, no one got burned doing overtime and super proud of the result! Its been absolutely wonderful," Ismail added. "2.5 years to make a game is perfect! Longer than 3 years can start wearing a person down."

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag launched last week for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U. The PC version arrives November 19, between the PS4 version (November 15) and the Xbox One iteration (November 22).

For more on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, check out GameSpot's review.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

233 comments
Algearond
Algearond

I may be weird but I just cannot get into the AC series

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

Quite interesting indeed how AC4 turned out to be actually good.From what I've heard so far certainly.But I do have a suspicion that Watchdogs may end up being excessively milked by Ubi in the coming years.

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

I think ubisoft should be ashamed for the fact that after 7 years they still didnt learned how to program for current gen. 

001011000101101
001011000101101

Yeah yeah, the new stuff is amazing and the old is absolute shit. Not exactly news, coming from the game industry. 

jo8n3645
jo8n3645

damn gamespot you never proofread before you post do you?

master_zidane
master_zidane

Here's the updated post:

"Development on both consoles was very smooth since they are both very similar to PCs. Last generation was very difficult and even nightmarish. Both XboxOne and PS4 were easy to deal with and the 1st partys were both there to help us out.

The one gray area was understanding both Sony and MS requirements for the consoles. They were trying to figure them out themselves.

The touchpad is used for scrolling through the map, adding waypoints, zooming etc.

Overall it was super smooth to develop on NG

EDIT - There seems to be a misunderstanding about me saying "Last generation was very difficult and even nightmarish". I was referring to general game development on the generation switch between Last Gen (PS2 and Xbox) and Current Gen (PS3 and Xbox360). That was a very tough transition, where the PS3 to PS4 was a much smoother and easier one.

PS3/Xbox360 development of Black Flag was very smooth as this is the end of the generation and we know the tech inside and out."


master_zidane
master_zidane

You might want to go read the source material for this again...
There used to be a time when Gamespot was the best games journalism website.

Dantes0007
Dantes0007

Developing in the Xbox 360 is Hellish.

tightwad34
tightwad34

No wonder they just re-skinned AC for yearly releases. So will you actually "develop" all the AC's for next-gen?

Kickable
Kickable

what's "burned by overtime", unfairly compensated or just having to work OT period?

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

It looks incredible in 60 fps. I would never go back to 30 fps after watching this. Nope. Getting this on PC.

Minishdriveby
Minishdriveby

This article is redundant and contradictory. It doesn't flow well.

"Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was "very difficult and even nightmarish," game director Ashraf Ismail has said."
"
"Last generation was very difficult and even nightmarish.""

""Development on both consoles was very smooth since they are both very similar to PCs," Ismail said of Xbox One and PS4."
"Ismail explained that both the Xbox One and PS4 were "easy to deal with" for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag"

You don't need this repetition, especially when followed by this contradiction:

"
Development on the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag wasn't all smooth sailing" which contradicts the second set of repetitive sentences."


dysonlu
dysonlu

Translation:  We transitioned our best people to next gen and got some noobs to develop for the current gen.

(There is no other reason why of all of sudden, development on a 6-7 years old platform has become "nightmarish".)

archlvt
archlvt

Yeah I figured the ps3 version was nightmarish to develop.  It shows, because the ps3 version runs like a fucking slideshow.  Almost unplayable in town.  It's actually to the point where it affects my gameplay during combat.

pboontap
pboontap

i just got this the other day, and i'm enjoying it, i'd give it a good solid7.5-8 on my "completely honest with myself and bearing in mind there will never be a ten" scale. but i don't see any reason why it should take 2.5 years to give us what amounts to the same game with naval combat imported from Pirates! or Pirates of the Caribbean on original xbox. its just been prettified. and so far i'm not seeing a story that would take 2.5 years to write either. just my take

cscarnell
cscarnell

Xbox one and PS4 resolutions please?

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

the game wasn't built from the ground up for next gen consoles and is more of a nicer, higher resolution upgrade over the current gen version. same goes for the new cod and many other games currently in development. the first exclusive games, such as killzone, infamous and forza, will give us a better idea of the capabilities of the new hardware. if they can manage to make next gen titles in just 2.5 years that is quite a feat and great news. but keep in mind, they were talking about making an ac game here, which for the most part is following a template and cookie cutter design. a new ip will certainly take longer than 2.5 years to develop. 

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

Nice to hear that the PC architecture of the new consoles is making things easier for developers. This will cut down costs of development.

mkeezay22
mkeezay22

I'll be waiting to see how it looks on PC before I consider buying, I've watched some gameplay videos of COD Ghosts for PC on maxed out settings at 1080p and it doesn't look nearly as good as some of the E3 gameplay, did we get a 360 port or something, I have Battlefield 4 and it looks amazing on ultra settings at 1080p you can tell it's on a whole other level compared to 360 or PS3 but from what I've seen ghosts doesn't look to amazing..

Has anyone out there actually played Ghosts on PC, does it look like a current gen port/ I don't plan on buying I just wanna know if EA pulled one over on PC gamers yet again.

ANUBISZER0
ANUBISZER0

Yeah it's got some bugs on PS3 but nothing major.

Virgin101
Virgin101

I'm surprised Ubisoft haven't announced the next AC yet. Sort it out guys!

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

This sounds a bit more like an attempt to suggest the game is more 'next gen' than it really is. It was clearly designed with the current architecture in mind, then beefed up where possible for the new machines rather than the other way around. Decent game, but aside from nicer visual touches, better draw distance and load times on the new machines, still very much current gen otherwise.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

Good to know the change in architecture is having a positive result. Can't help but feel a little annoyed that Xbox One has already pretty much hit its performance maximum before it is even launched but on the bright side I predict that developers can now try innovating the development process a bit more instead and making some games with stories I give a damn about this generation unlike last gen. 

Even the biggest blockbusters on the 360 (I never owned a PS3) we had games like Gears and Halo, but when I think about them I never have an urge to replay them. They were the best games out because they were the best games in a sea of shite games. When really they didn't really make a scratch on some of the classics. 

I still to this day have random urges to replay Final Fantasy 7 and 8, Resident Evils 1 - Code Veronica, Abe's Oddword, Spyro, Metal Gear Solid 1, Silent Hill, Splinter Cell 1 - Chaos Theory, Fable 1, I still own all of these games. All of these games are permanently fixed into my brain because I really enjoyed them. Most games I enjoyed last generation aren't really fixed and if they are it is because there wasn't much else out there to fix. 

The only innovation last gen produced was better graphics on consoles. Which is sad really.

kik4444
kik4444

I played the PS3 version. It wasn't all that bad, unless you count frequest sub 30 FPS in cities

Manatassix
Manatassix

@master_zidane 

Nice to know the transition seems smoother this time. That kind of thing usually improves the quality of games coming out earlier in the console lifespan which is just good news for everyone involved :)

TheJamin
TheJamin

@Trickymaster can't find any PC benchies just yet. hope my GTX 670 SLI will cope with it maxed...

AuronAXE
AuronAXE

@Minishdriveby He's just quoting what the guy said so the article has enough length. Yeah probably bad writing, Gamespot's writers need to meet their quota.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@dysonlu wrong. Actually you get noobs to develop for a new and unrestrictive platform and switch experts into trying to optimize it for the current gen.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@Xristophoros not necessarily - 2.5 years went into developing all the new assets and a few more mechanics. If you compare two IPs of the same genre you'll notice they are different by assets and a couple of mechanics.

vegard1985
vegard1985

@Virgin101 I'm assuming that you're implying that the AC series has been milked like crazy lately, which I agree with. However, I've seen a friend play AC IV, and it actually looks pretty good. I might buy it for PC later during a Steam sale. If it did not have Uplay, I might have bought it already. And I have never been a fan of AC.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@Carpetfluff no, the current architecture is very different along all three current platforms, however the next-gen is basically one architecture. So they've just recompiled the PC version two times and here you go - two new versions for next-gen. But PS3 and XBOX360 versions had to be tweaked manually to fit everything in and run stable.

Kickable
Kickable

@Carpetfluff hope that means PC too.  almost forgot how unnecesarily shitty draw distance has always been

ne0182
ne0182

@Dannystaples14 sometimes, if you have a shitty day, damn. you know what you do... you pick yourself up and get to work nex... aaah play videogames next morning :)

kidnatural
kidnatural

@Dannystaples14 To clarify, many games released near the birth of the Xbox 360 were hitting performance maximums as well. TES4 Oblivion is a good example of this. What they continually pushed for are ways to utilize the power in a more efficient way. Optimization is key. 

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@kik4444 sub 30fps has been standard fare for all the ac games to this point. especially in the busy town areas. you sort of get used to it i guess. once you have played games at 60fps through, it will be hard to go back.

Minishdriveby
Minishdriveby

@AuronAXE @Minishdriveby I know he's quoting, but  he used the same quote twice in the same context. This is the basic overview of the article:

The PS3 and 360 version was a nightmare to develop for, but the PS4 and XboxOne version development was smooth sailing. The PS3 and 360 version was a nightmare to develop for, but the PS4 and XboxOne version development was smooth sailing; however, the PS4 and XboxOne development wasn't all smooth sailing.

You're probably right though; the author had a word quota to meet, so he just stringed along words.


dysonlu
dysonlu

@Morphine_OD @dysonlu  

I'm not sure which industry you are working in (if work you do) but I know for a fact that virtually all videogame studios (and many companies in other industries for that matter) assign their best people to explore new territory and new technology (and yes despite the mainstream belief that the XBox One and PS4 are like PCs, they are still new technologies -- new APIs and tools).   Your best people more or less lay the groundwork (find/document/share restrictions, workarounds, optimizations, tricks, traps, etc.) of next gen for your company to stand on for the next 10 years or so.   You don't assign to a team of rookies such crucial task -- that'd be totally absurd. If you were a manager in the videogame industry that made such decision, you wouldn't last long.


Virgin101
Virgin101

Yeah I did jokingly imply that. But I bought the game and would recommend it to any gamer. It's much better than 3!

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

@Morphine_OD @Carpetfluff I'm not talking about architecturally, I'm talking about the fundamental game design which was clearly started on current gen - they didn't even know what they'd be working with when they started as far as the next gen machines go. Sure, as they worked on the next gen version maybe it starting pushing the boundaries a little more and they had to squeeze the older hardware to make it viable on both, but this is not a next gen project.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@kidnatural Yeah I agree but with the crappy architecture on the Xbox 360 that process was pretty easy because there wasn't really any optimisation up to that point.

On the new architecture they are using techniques and things that have been in use for years on PC, chances are if it needed to be optimised it would have been done already surely.

Unless PCs has just been an unoptimised mess of a system all this time and just been brute forcing its way through everything hahaha..............OHHHH! 

master_zidane
master_zidane

@Minishdriveby @AuronAXE The author didn't even bother reading the actual post. Ashraf Ismail was talking about the transition to PS3 and X360 years ago being "nightmarish" and was comparing it to next-gen, not ACIV's development on current-gen consoles.

dysonlu
dysonlu

@Morphine_OD @dysonlu  

Well, I thought it was obvious that the use of the words "rookies" and "noobs" were rhetorical.

Porting done by juniors. I'm sure that happens.  But we are talking about the early days of next gen here.  In that context, you assign your best to work on next gen.  And while I disagree with you that there is little to no new APIs  (there are loads of new features with the new concoles, remember?), even if true, you'd still want your best to work on next gen.  Why?  Because you do not know for sure BEFOREHAND that there is "nothing new".  Besides, doesn't the article say they faced some unknowns and benefitted from MS/Sony's help?

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

@dysonlu I'm not sure what are you talking about because I've never ever encountered a whole team of rookies. It's always a few seniors and a couple of juniors. And PS4 and XBone versions are basically recompiled PC versions, there is little to no new APIs, since it's all good old x86 and DirectX/OpenGL. I assure you that porting is always done by juniors, since seniors do more complex tasks like optimising and refactoring the existing code-base. No junior could do that, since juniors do not have intricate knowledge of the existing codebase involved in such tasks.

vegard1985
vegard1985

@Virgin101 Yeah that seems to be the general consensus (that it's better than the previous installment).

revlux88
revlux88

@Dannystaples14 @kidnatural Both the X1 and Ps4 have architecture similar to that of a p.c. but they aren't exact and even a new generation of video card requires fresh optimization. Let alone completely new game consoles.  They are unquestionably easier to code for than their predecessors but will still requite at least 2 or 3 game generations for devs to be begin to fully harness their potential. I guarantee the games you see on the ps4 and X1 3 or 4 years from now will look and play much better than those found at launch.