Pursuit of AAA is a 'cancerous growth' - AC3 dev

Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson believes aiming for graphical fidelity and scale will make AAA games "nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."


The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the biggest in the business both inside and out. Its latest entry--Revelations--shipped over 7 million units and represented a step forward in terms of graphics power and scale within the series. But according to Assassin's Creed 3 creative director Alex Hutchinson, this represents "cancerous growth."

The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.
The Assassin's Creed franchise is one of the industry's biggest.

Speaking at a 2012 Game Developers Conference session titled "Designing Games to Sell," Hutchinson said he envisions two "dystopian" futures for the game industry. One, he said, is where the only games that sell are focused on analytics and are obsessed with making money.

The other, according to Hutchison, is what he described as a "massive arms race," where studios are "pushing for graphical fidelity and working on the sheer scale of games."

"We think about [this push] as kind of cancerous growth," he said. "I think that will leave the AAA blockbusters as nothing more than the last of the dinosaurs."

Hutchinson concluded his talk by offering an ideal aim for video games.

"In my mind, video games need to have the goal of educating people, entertaining people, or at least being artistic," he said. "If you're not pushing any of these things...then I think we're in for a rough patch."

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Avatar image for X-RS

The problem is PUBLISHERS!! They need to stop relying on these jackpot payoff trilogies. Poeple like indie (some too much so imo) because a game is inexpensive and a work of art unique art with it's own shape. It's Minecraft. The problem then however is inexpensive art=cheap knockoffs. If a dev is aiming for sometihng in between indie and AAA... "No online funtionality, no trilogy, too taboo and abstract..." Slowly devs grind and sand off all those unique, sharply defined edges and what's left is some bland sphereical object; either a bowling ball or an oversized paperweight. Then the next goal is aiming for X sale in the first week. Developers, now that you have bent over backwards and lost your very essence/soul, you may now attempt to throw your bland sphyrical object through a small window of opportunity (basketball net).

Avatar image for cshourihan

This trend has been going on for a long time now. Games used to have to be deep to be good (Deus Ex, System Shock, etc.) Now they're just designed to be good looking and addictive. Just look at the Battlefield series, all the "innovation" in Battlefield 3 was really just going back to the depth of Battlefield 2, and they didn't even make it all the way. Game devs aren't pushing boundaries other than A) How shiny can we make this game? and B) How many times can we release the same game and still get people to pay for it?

Avatar image for Ayzed

Dunno about you guys, but what I want is AC 3

Avatar image for spikepigeo

Graphical fidelity increases for games that are meant to look realistic are always necessary in my opinion. Look what DICE did with Frostbite 2. The problem is when a studio takes said technological advancements and rides on them alone.

Avatar image for odgnj5

I don't think anyone looks at video games for the education. Even though it may come to you inadvertently and be entertaining.

Avatar image for icetone

Assassin's Creed 3 must come

Avatar image for tiggerlu

Good storytelling in my book is what makes a game memorable. Many games can benefit from a good story-arch where you actually care about more than just getting the next gun or armour. Sometimes it's ok, if not better to not have to visualize everything on screen with max fidelity, you need to imagine things from time to time.

Avatar image for couly

Then why call them VIDEO games? graphics are essential.

Avatar image for vaibhavp

every one on this forum hates call of duty, assassins creed and overall milking of franchises. I wonder who buys them? casual crowd? are'nt they happy with their kinect?

Avatar image for JDCAce55

@emperiox Have you actually played Ghost Recon Online? It's magnificent.

Avatar image for OHGFawx

AC: Revelations was only made because they decided there was more information we needed to know before we got to AC3. The result was a short, mostly uninteresting game, but with another great ending. Although exploration of Altair's character was one of the high selling points, we only spent about 30-45 minutes total on Altair sections. We plodded through the boring story of Suleiman the Magnificent, met a completely forgettable assassin named Yusuf, did everything we could to avoid the Tower Defense minigames, dealt with 5 uninspired platforming sections as Desmond, learned and mastered the useless art of bombcrafting, but we were still charged $60. If Ubisoft only meant for this game to fill in some gaps of story and give us more information about "Those Who Came Before" and their plans to save the world, then why charge us the same price as the masterfully crafted AC2?

Avatar image for beefalo

i'm actually all for the arms race until we get better graphics and performance, where i can have 4 player co-op splitscreen with hundreds of enemies running around at 60fps in 1080p....once we get there then its about focusing on the gameplay

Avatar image for nate1222

@AtheistPreacher @001011000101101 Too true. Hell, I was happy with 6th gen (PS2/Gamecube/XBox) graphics. As long as they applied a good aesthetic, it delivered a great experience. But, even as good as 7th gen games look, these bozos are still more hung up on tech than the art that the tech creates it with. Tech is merely a TOOL. Art is what you do with that tool. And these guys worry more about the tool than the art. Honestly, I think it's because they just wanna funnel us into buying the next wave of pricey crap; hardware and the software that'll run on it. Planned obsolescence is every bit an industry practice you know.

Avatar image for soulless4now

@downloadthefile I'm glad the joy is spreading then.

Avatar image for 001011000101101

@AtheistPreacher This. So much this. The games we have now are more than good enough looking. We need new game ideas!

Avatar image for downloadthefile

@soulless4now With attitudes like yours, it's no wonder the world is doing so well right now.

Avatar image for AtheistPreacher

I wholeheartedly agree that sheer "graphical fidelity" is not what we should be pushing. Games look great already. I've never been a person who cared too much what the graphics were like as long as the gameplay is good.

Avatar image for Zephol

well i really love AC 3. i cant wait

Avatar image for Philly04

@soulless4now AC got me into history, and has helped in a World history Humanity I had taken so it's well deserving of my time. Plus, it's your choice to read through the works... :L

Avatar image for soulless4now

I don't want my games to educate me. I get that enough from college, thank you very much. >.>

Avatar image for emperiox

Meanwhile Ubisoft has cancelled tom clancy's ghost recon future soldier on the PC because they were worried about piracy. Instead they gave us a crappy F2P game. I know that I'm probably going to be downrated for calling him out on this: Alex Huchinson is saying this solely as a PR move, he doesn't actually believe this.

Avatar image for im2cool123

he is absolutely right. if this keeps up then in the future if the game does not look amazing then people will just pass over it no matter how much thought went into it. this is very bad gaming future indeed.

Avatar image for garcia_jx

Can't wait for this game.

Avatar image for nate1222

@vihazur Thank you. Many of us have been saying that since the 7th gen (PS3/360/Wii) began. The industry NEEDS to crash. It's the only way to weed out these guys and HOPEFULLY get what remains of the industry to start focusing on what fans want: BC, creativity as opposed to machismo, reasonably priced software, features included instead of DLC, reasonable developments costs to encourage artistic risks... You know, all the stuff they've been short changing us on for the past 5 years.

Avatar image for Richardthe3rd

I'm not sure this Hutchinson guy actually said anything at all. I read the article twice, and there's really nothing insightful here, at all.

Avatar image for Icehearted

These thoughts brought to you by the people that thought always on DRM was a step in the right direction.

Avatar image for Thirdrail1

Which video games don't have "entertaining people" as a goal, exactly?

All of this would sound a lot more reasonable if it wasn't the "creative" director of a cloned game talking. I can't tell any AC game from any other AC game. They're all just re-textures of each other, churned out like clockwork to keep a bank account happy by cashing in on the low expectations they helped establish in the first place.

Avatar image for Joedgabe

lol... right.... AC saying that ? lol how many games did it took them for the third one lets see... oh i know.. 5(fifth being #3)! it took them 4 sequels to get to part 3.. how in the hell.. Seems like their aim is milking ♫ ~ Besides aiming for AAA is their purpose.... who doesn't want to be the very best? like no one ever was ? :P

Avatar image for SDBusDriver1979

"games that sell are focused on analytics, and are obsessed with making money." well we are already there Mr. Ubisoft sir with your annual cash cow. "massive arms race" "pushing for graphical fidelity and working on the sheer scale of games." um we are already there and its also called competition. Without it I doubt we would see games like Planetside 2 or Guild Wars 2 having thousands of players combating each other. Pushing tech allows innovation, not every company makes innovation Mr. Ubisoft sir with your annual cash cow. If we weren't interested in graphical fidelity then we all still be playing our Wii. There is high budget quality games that make alot of money and there is low budget quality games that make alot of money. Neither is of these is what I would call "cancerous growth." Both are completely dependent on their developer for innovation. It is perfectly ok to have one's cake and eat it. "The human race is about to slide back into the endless arms race of that last century, and we cannot afford to play that Russian Roulette again." I can't help but think Metal Gear whenever I see the words arms race.

Avatar image for The1stFishBone

Yeah, says a guy who chose to work on an Assassin's Creed game. Also games can look a whole lot better without coasting more its all about the hardware. Crysis and Witcher 2 blow Call of Duty and Assassins Creed out of the water, on a much smaller budget, because of their use of higher resolution textures, and better effects.

Avatar image for Ghost345

we are doooomed i tell ya dooomed

Avatar image for xXShortroundXx

We are in a rough patch. You are a little late buddy.

Avatar image for Scorpion1813

@DeFiLeDTitan: Continued... Now think about the games companies that puke out annual sequels and those that take their time to make truly amazing and ground breaking games. Some games franchises may start out as the latter, but quickly turn into the former due the the company trying to cash-in on the previous success. They may have a good run and earn lots of money, but people will eventually get sick of having almost the same game released annually, and they will burn out like the designer bands.

Avatar image for Scorpion1813

@DeFiLeDTitan: Not ALL companies are created for the sole purpose of making money. If a game dev is only in it for the money then they are in the wrong industry. The games industry runs a high risk of failure and not earning back your expenditures. So there is a high cost with a high chance of not earning that back. Compare it to the music industry. There are 2 types of bands: The corporate band that was created by the record company and designed to suit modern trends - made with the sole purpose of making money. And then there are the real bands who have a real passion for the music and tend to share that with the rest of their bandmates. Most, if not all designer bands have a short run making lots of money, but they never last and their music lacks passion and soul. Then there are the real bands who last a long time, not making much money but doing what they love and the music reflects that.

Avatar image for Lotus-Edge

I disagreed with just about everything he was saying... until he got to that last paragraph. Being entertaining. Being artistic. One game that makes a perfect example of this is Asura's Wrath, I think. Sure, the gameplay was a bit shallow and there really wasn't much to it, but it was fun as all hell....

Avatar image for guitarist1980

To me make fun innovative games that suck people in is probably the toughest thing to accomplish. I loved Assassins Creed and I bought the 2nd installment but I did not finish it. The first one was fun and different but to me it lost its magic.. I find the gameplay not so fun, and not very challenging.

Avatar image for vihazur

Nothing wrong with trying to make money - unless you're doing it to the exclusion of just about everything else.. and that's where games seem to be going these days. Seems like we're just getting buried in highly marketable games that are highly polished and full of eye-candy, but barely average at best, when it comes to gameplay.

Avatar image for HiImUPSMan

hey ubisoft how about you stop milking the assassins creed series then you can talk.

Avatar image for Takeno456

Whether or not you agree with the author, his argument does make a degree of sense. Just look at CoD if you want and example of a game series that desires nothing more then making money while simultaneously making the claim that every game is a step forward. The constant pull of increasing profits with each new title in a series has led to things like disk locked content, half finished games, horrible glitches/bugs and online passes. A good game should strive to be remembered for the experience it brings, not for the money it makes or the number of copies it sells. I believe a lot of gaming series could benefit from a sharp increase in quality content, not just better graphics and a few new perks and re-skins.

Avatar image for blueboxdoctor

There's nothing wrong with having companies having franchises that are nothing more than flashy graphics and quick action. This allows more people to be introduced to gaming who may not have been interested in it before, and in turn they'll be able to get tired of the flashy games and seek out something different. That's where the more creative games come into the picture. Besides, isn't AC a AAA title that does nothing but work on sheer scale (yes brotherhood and revelations, that's you I'm talking about)? Granted, AC 3 looks to offer some really cool new stuff, but it's like this guy is saying all this just to be liked by "true gamers" or something.

Avatar image for Hujazoda

I always played all Assassin's Creed 1,2,3,4 in max graphics, I hope that my computer specs are still oging to be good enough to handle this game with new graphical options, I REALLY hope that the PC requirements aren't going to be crazy.....

Avatar image for DeFiLeDTitan

this is why people suck. Complaining about companies trying to make money is like complaining about people for breathing near you. Companies are supposed to try and make money. That's the goal of starting one. Creativity and all that is great, when it makes a profit.

Avatar image for Evenios

Crazyguy minecraft is a great game! anyways i agree with this article its not about big splashy games! should be about quality and depth if you ask me.

Avatar image for csftar

Translation: "We can't go much further with the graphics in AC3, But instead of letting the franchise breathe and put more time and effort into our game, we decided we want your money now, so we won't be doing much with the engine and we won't be evolving much in anything. Hey hey! Don't complain to me! You'll buy the game anyway so shut up and your grass you sheep."

Avatar image for Hubadubalubahu

Well if it isnt the pot calling the kettle black. Its ironic because AC is the very kind of game that is obsessed with making money. Who aims to release a game a year and still think their being new and innovative. If they would focus on making one game over even a two year time span it would be much much better than two games doing the same thing. This game a year mentality is the exact thing that is killing innovative series. To me quality over quantity every time. Brotherhood was just terrible in the aspect that it did very little to nothing to build on the series. Ezio's story should of never taken three games to finish.

Avatar image for dxBIGBOSSxb

@Deltaforce2665 That's great... I care why?

Avatar image for kwanzudood

If you release a good game, it will sell. But if you keep on releasing the same good game but with no other changes or added features, then it will slowly stop selling. Just keep making good games.

Avatar image for Lausanna

This is all a little melodramatic. There are already horrendous money-making machines and AAAs that are flashy, derivative and adding little to gaming as a cultural medium, but gaming as whole is doing just fine (the same can be said of books, film, and music, no?). There are plenty of titles out there that are being played and payed for by millions of people that offer all kinds of experiences and interpretations of the world that you once only expected from other art forms. There are plenty of games that are thoughtful, artistic, imaginative and entertaining that are not AAAs (and plenty that are) and they aren't that hard to come by. AAAs may eventually cease to be as enthralling as they are now (kind of like those summer blockbusters Hollywood keeps churning out) but I think Hutchinson's dire predictions for the future are a little overwrought. If anything I think gaming is finally coming of age.

Avatar image for mike4487

But I like the Michael Bay S*%T ever year sebeachy... o_O joking of course

Avatar image for Tsuchikage

Isn't Assassin's Creed III sporting a new graphics engine that will allow for massive-scale battles? If Mr. Hutchison is the creative director on the game, surely he has a say in pushing these features.