Ex-Ubisoft Developer On Surprising Nintendo With Assassin’s Creed III On Wii U

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After spending a decade at Ubisoft, Maxime Beaudoin quit his dream job at the third-party publisher – having most recently fulfilled a long held ambition to work as a software architect on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Penning a candid blog post to reflect on the reasoning behind his departure, Beaudoin outlines milestones in his career at the company – starting with Open Season and Surf’s Up on PSP, shifting to two cancelled internal pitches, and ending up on bringing the Assassin’s Creed series to London.

Along the way, he took on the “technically very challenging project” in porting Assassin’s Creed III to Wii U. As part of a “super small” team, it’s interesting to hear about how the Wii U was perceived to be less powerful than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. There were evident concerns in the team having to do a cheaper “straight port,” but Beaudoin shares how even Nintendo’s engineers were surprised that they managed to pull it off.

“After Prince of Persia, I contributed on several games here and there, and eventually landed on a technically very challenging project: porting Assassin’s Creed 3 on the Wii U. This was very different from my previous work. The team was super small: we were 2 programmers at the beginning, and at the peak I think we were like 15 or something.

“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 and 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 Wii U 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.

“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.

“The downside was that the second half of the project was a bit boring. The challenge was gone. Port code, fix bugs and optimise. Rinse and repeat until the game is shipped. Overall I keep a good memory of this project, but by the end I was ready to do something completely different…”

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