Assassin’s Creed: Unity developer Ubisoft Montreal couldn’t exactly replicate Notre Dame – not just because that would have hampered gameplay, but because the cathedral is protected by copyright.
Assassin’s Creed Unity senior level artist Caroline Miousse said one of the first things her team did when setting out to recreate the Parisian landmark was investigate the legel issues of doing so.
“There are certain things we were actually unable to directly re-create due to copyright issues,” she told the Ubiblog.
“For example, when I look at the organ in Notre Dame, I think it’s a masterpiece. It’s just so huge and beautiful – and copyrighted. We couldn’t reproduce it exactly, but we could still try to nail the feeling you get when you see it. We kept it very similar in general appearance, and it’s only when you get close to it and really analyze it that you realize it’s not the same exact organ you would see in Notre Dame today.”
Miousse said she chose to look at this as a positive, as it gave her the chance to be creative while challenging her to capture the familiar feel of well-known features.
There are other differences which have less to do with copyright and more to do with fun, too. The in-game cathedral has a spire similar to the one seen today, but there’s not much information about the much more modest wooden one that existed at the time of the game’s setting. Ubisoft chose to recreate the modern spire, although it’s an anachronism.
“It was made with wood and, honestly, it wasn’t very sexy. I don’t think the fans would have had as much fun with it,” Miousse said.
“Notre Dame is kind of a key point of the Paris skyline. You see it and can recognize it immediately, and part of that is due to the massive spire. The two towers are recognizable too, but the spire is the tallest point of Notre Dame, and we didn’t want players to miss out on the opportunity to climb it and see Paris from the very top.”
The interior has been changed as well, “to add several layers of navigation”. That means cables and incense on the second level, to allow for freedom of movement above ground level. As a personal touch, Miousse decked the interior out with small touches of colour and precious metals to reflect her own tastes.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity boasts the biggest single city of the series to date, with 1:1 scale architecture. It hits PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 11 in North America and November 14 in Europe and beyond.