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Porting Assassin’s Creed 3 to Wii U Wasn’t Easy, Ex Ubi Dev Talks AAA Game Development
Difficulty of Porting games to Wii U is among the primary reasons why devs don’t support Nintendo’s current-gen console anymore. Well, that and its mediocre install-base which makes it next to impossible for AAA devs to break even.
Maxime Beaudoin, ex Ubisoft developer who worked on plenty of well-known franchises, including Assassin’s Creed has shared the experience of porting Assassin’s Creed 3 to Wii U. Beaudoin said that it wasn’t easy as Wii U was inferior to PS3 and Xbox 360 in some ways, so they are very proud of the outcome.
I was pretty excited by the challenge. Most people at Ubisoft didn’t think we’d be able to pull that off. All Assassin’s Creed games are very, very intense games in terms of CPU & GPU performance. Believe me, your console is pretty much at its maximum capacity when running around in a big city like Boston (or London). The WiiU was less powerful than the PS3 and XBox 360, at least on paper, so the odds weren’t on our side. Even worse: we had to make a straight port, that is no data changes, just code optimisations. It’s much cheaper to do a straight port than to downgrade all game assets.
Beaudoin further said that even Nintendo engineers were surprised by what this team has achieved on Wii U.
After about a year, we reached a point where it became obvious that we’d successfully port the game with similar performances than the 360/PS3. It was a huge success: even Nintendo engineers were surprised we made it. Life was great.
Beaudoin shared all this while talking about why he left his dream job at Ubisoft. He explained in detail why it is best for developers to go indie, he expressed his disappointment with the way Ubisoft and others like it handle AAA game development.
After reading his entire post and seeing the concerns he raised, I agree with him on some level but I have to say such issues are mostly occur with annual franchises. The rush to release an installment annually is the primary reason such development models are used, where people all around the world are working 24/7 on the game. In such cases, good communication between devs from collaborating studios is next to impossible.
I believe this is why Assassin’s Creed went downhill and Ubisoft had to take a break from it this year.