Notes on GameDev: Raphael Lacoste
July 28, 2008
How would you like to travel the world for inspiration and research to create the art direction of a cross-console Next Gen game? That's just the kind of experience former UbiSoft Art Director Raphael Lacoste had exposure to while working on the beautiful Assassin's Creed. Although he's since decided to move into films, he reflects here on his final game work.
To start, could you explain your role in Assassin's Creed? How has the journey been in UbiSoft for the past seven years?
I was Art Director for Assassin's Creed. I arrived in the team after pre-production, so I mostly concentrated on the art of the levels and the overall Art Direction to ship the game!
Before that, I have been on and off in both Cinematics (pre-rendered) and Videogames like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Warrior Within. I won a VES Award in Hollywood for my work as Cinematic Art Director on Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. My journey was great but now I have different goals, like working for the film industry.
How did your team decide on a direction for the art style? What forms of inspiration did you have? Were you influenced by your work on Prince of Persia?
We had to work on very historical references, so the part for improvisation and style was a bit limited. Even the topic is historical and we visited actual real cities like Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem. We were really excited to create the world of Assassin’s Creed. Stylization in the picture treatment, lighting, and Image composition was a great challenge.
What challenges did you face working with Next Gen technology? How did your team resolve these challenges?
The cities are their real size--our environments are quite huge! We had to deal with a lot of LODs (level of detail modeling) and full interactivity. That means that you will never have a loading screen since you are in a city--you will be able to see the whole city from a tour, run in the streets, jump from rooftops to roofs... This is quite fun, but was a big challenge for us to make as a good-looking but also fun game.
What software did you use, and how did you decide what was best for Assassin's Creed?
I was not a technical person on Assassin’s Creed, but I do know we worked with 3DsMax--it is a tradition in Ubisoft.
How many team members did you have, and how was the teamwork managed?
The full team included up to 160 people. We had 50-80 people in the Art/Design team--quite a big team. Fortunately we had team leads and project managers for each team (characters, city levels, kingdom levels).
What are you most proud of in Assassin's Creed?
This game is fun, but I think it is also beautiful. I did my part and I can be proud of it!
Where are you headed from here?
I now work for Rodeo FX, a small VFX company in Montreal working on big projects. I’m doing production design for Film and Matte Paintings--I enjoy learning new stuff!