Game Informer gets lots of questions about the images that grace our cover each month. Where do they come from? Who are the artists? Who writes the headlines? We were extremely happy this month to unveil two beautiful covers announcing Ubisoft's Assassin’s Creed III. On top of a fantastic wide-release cover, we also obtained a special edition cover image created by Alex Ross.

Here’s how it all comes together.

Game Informer editors begin conversations about a cover image well in advance of its release to the public. We coordinate with the publisher of the game in question, like Ubisoft, and ideas are pitched back and forth about the potential art, which has usually not been created or finalized at this early stage. Sometimes, early sketches are even shot back and forth as we aim to find an image that we think will be a good fit for the magazine, and the publisher thinks will speak to the nature of its game.

In the case of Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft Montreal worked with a creative freelance artist named Xavier Thomas (aka SeedSeven). “I’ve been working on major Ubisoft titles for the past eight years,” Thomas says. “I’ve been involved in the very first Assassin’s Creed episode for which I’ve designed the communication images and the boxart. My work is more a collaborative experience with the development team.” 

Small details offer hints to faithful series fans

Our cover image is the first glimpse of a new title for millions of gamers, so extensive thought goes into the tone and style of the image presented. In the case of Assassin’s Creed III, the image was built to showcase several elements of the game. “My main goal is to get gamers excited," Thomas says. "The cover image for Assassin’s Creed III will be the first image of the hero they will play, the very first hint at the new setting and fantasy the game will offer and I want to give them a feeling of immersion at first glance.”

Thomas’ image introduces Connor, and manages to simultaneously keep him grounded in the look of the Asssassin’s Creed franchise, but also set him apart from previous heroes like Ezio and Altaïr. “The key signature elements of the assassin are of course, the hood and the hidden blade which is always present but increasingly discreet to make place for new elements added to this character like his tomahawk or his bow,” Thomas says. “It’s exciting how the assassin outfit has evolved and offers new possibilities for the game.”

New weapons go a long way toward establishing the character, and the background snow hints at new elements of the gameplay, such as shifting weather and wilderness environments. Thomas continues: “Weapons should give the gamer a great idea of all the fantasies and the gameplay possibilities for this next Assassin’s Creed game," Thomas says. "But if you take a closer look at the image, Connor’s posing hints on his predator side. Environments are more organic and give you a cool idea of where a part of the game will take place.”

The use of a wraparound cover image offers a chance to communicate different things depending on how the reader views the image. “I wanted them to ask themselves: Who is the hero? Is he with or against the soldiers? The perspective changes whether the magazine is open or closed, ” Thomas says.

Individual elements of the cover image change as the art develops. For instance, one early version of the cover didn’t include the American flag behind Connor on the front cover, but the later addition drives home the setting of colonial America. Other stylistic features help to further deepen the immersion in the game. If you take a close look at the cover, you’ll notice sharp white lines amid the snowy backdrop – a subtle hint of the Animus visualization style that has always characterized the AC series, and hinting at the involvement of modern day events. Taken together, the single image remains mysterious, but offers insight into the new game for readers who are paying close attention.

Next: The limited-run second cover