SINGAPORE: If you’re a hardcore fan of Assassin’s Creed video games, you might want to take a closer look at its fourth instalment. Somewhere in the pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the Merlion.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it image was cheekily inserted by Ubisoft Singapore’s development team. “It’s really well-hidden, so it’s up to the player to find out!” said Sylviane Bahr, head of communications for the French gaming company’s Singapore office.
Assassin's Creed III's Connor drops by The Art Behind The Game exhibition. (Photo: Mayo Martin)
But Singapore’s contribution to one of the world’s biggest video game franchises goes beyond an Easter egg. A new exhibition is showcasing artwork from the game that was done right here.
The Art Behind The Game – The Ubisoft Experience offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process behind Assassin’s Creed, which follows the battle between the Assassins and the Templars across history. Shifting more than 100 million units worldwide, it is Ubisoft’s biggest title. A movie spin-off starring Michael Fassbender was released last year.
A selection of works from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag by Ubisoft Singapore's Kobe Sek Yong Kai and Yong Jin Teo. (Photo: Mayo Martin)
Comprising about 250 sketches, drawings and digital paintings, as well as sound design demo videos, the show is part of the ongoing Voilah! French Festival Singapore and runs until May 25 at the National Design Centre.
While the exhibition features art from the company’s other studios, as well as a brief look at its history of producing blockbuster titles such as Prince Of Persia, there is a special focus on Ubisoft Singapore.
And fittingly enough for the island-state, much of it has to do with conjuring naval and maritime scenes, particularly for the 2013 Black Flag game, which is set in the Carribbean.
“Creating ocean scenes and naval battles was what put Singapore on the map of Assassin’s Creed,” said Bahr.
An artwork from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag by Yong Jin Teo from Ubisoft Singapore. (Photo: Mayo Martin)
Ubisoft Singapore has been involved in the Assassin’s Creed franchise since the second instalment.
“But the breakthrough was in 2012 when we created the naval battles for Assassin’s Creed III. It was the first time to have naval battle gameplay in the game. Then for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the naval battle became the whole game,” said Bahr, who added it was the Singapore team that created the gameplay demo of Black Flag that was presented at the E3 video game trade fair in Los Angeles.
Among the works on display are digitally rendered paintings of pirate ship scenes from Ubisoft Singapore artists Yong Jin Teo and Kobe Sek Yong Kai, who is also an art director.
A sketchbook featuring Sek’s preliminary sketches, done during his commute to work, is also on display. As part of the exhibition, he will be holding a workshop and speed-drawing session on Apr 20, 6.30pm, at the exhibition space.
Assassin's Creed's colourful characters get their own "portrait gallery". (Photo: Mayo Martin)
Aside from images, the Singapore office also played an important role in the sound design for Black Flag, from whale noises to underwater thrashing shark sounds. Some were done in a pool right here in Singapore. “It took us months to find that right pool,” quipped Bahr.
Designed to mimic the gaming experience of discovery and Assassin’s Creed’s real-life environment, the exhibition also shows how many of the images were based on real places, such as Havana, said Yann Follain of Wy-To, which designed the space.
There is also a special section featuring weapons and characters from the game that was set up to look like a classic portrait gallery at a museum.
“Assassin’s Creed is embedded in geographical and historical research, and in reality. That’s what people like about the game.”
The ubiquitous hidden blade from the video game franchise. (Photo: Mayo Martin)