The lights are on
Establishing the themes and mood for games in concept art is essential. These ideas often give birth to even more creative implementations. Assassin's Creed Unity is no different. The French Revolution drove much of its initial art and introduced some of the important conflicts the writers wanted to explore. We sat down with art director Mohammed Gambouz for some insight into the process and what he wanted to convey with the concept art to further understand the goals and ideas behind Unity.
Note: Click on images to see full-sized versions.
The was one of the earlier concepts the team produced. They focused on only using colors on the important things, like the dead bodies and flag. This was to highlight the revolutionary conflicts and the brutality of the era. "We wanted to have an aggressive image with an aggressive atmosphere," says art director Mohammed Gambouz.
The picture above illustrates the beauty of Paris before it was full of massacre. The team chose to focus on letting the vegetation showcase its liveliness. "We wanted something happier, more village-like. Something that hadn't yet been impacted by the revolution fully," Gambouz says. "The architecture is well structured, so you feel less chaos."
This was one of the first iconic images Ubisoft created for Unity. "We didn't know the scope or the size, but we were sure [the game] was about the Assassins and [French] Revolution," Gambouz says. They purposely wanted aggressiveness in the shapes, so you'll notice a lot of spike-y images, like roofs and towers in the distance. "I really wanted a thick and heavy atmosphere," Gambouz says. "That's why you see the smoke blending in with the sky and that's something that's very characteristic to many paintings that depicted that era." Again, colors were used widely to make sure that only the important things were front-and-center, like the flag and the fire. "These are the only two aspects that has saturated colors," Gambouz says. Gambouz jokes that they had some resistance to the gargoyles because of Batman, but it was true to the era.
This shot was done exclusively for the area that Ubisoft presented during E3 2014. "We really wanted to convey the richness of the materials and the colors to make a big contrast with the exterior," Gambouz says. "It shows the different worlds. The poor and rich people." Gambouz says outside you feel the oppressive atmosphere, but when you step inside buildings you will often go through lavish structures. "We wanted to invest many resources on the light and to make it show on new-gen," Gambouz notes. This image shows the light coming in from the window and various reflections from crystals to the walls to support that.
Elise has a similar color palette to Arno, which is focused on blues. This was intentional, so you'd associate them together. "We wanted to push a visual familiarity between the two," Gambouz says. "But that flashy red hair from Elise is a touch to distinguish her from him. She's more of a flamboyant rebel, compared to him who's more of a calmer guy." Gambouz says one of the biggest challenges was coming up with designs that matched up with the history, so Ubisoft had to do a lot of research through pictures and films.
Gambouz wanted to show off the rich interiors with a touch of chaos here. "That's actually what the Revolution is about," Gambouz says. "The revolution is against the novelty. The revolution is against the Monarchy. We wanted to represent that visually, so we put really a fancy interior and some chaos into it." You also see the lighting effects come through that the team was focused on making more realistic.
"We have seven districts in Paris and each district has its own flavor," Gambouz says. "For this one we wanted to push the rich and party [atmosphere]." These people are totally disconnected from what's happening in Paris, which is true to history. People thought this would eventually just go away; that people would get tired of fighting, and so some districts were naive to what was going on around them.
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