Under the Hood: Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed Exhibit

For F*** Magazine

UNDER THE HOOD
F*** tours the Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed exhibit to learn what goes into making the games
By Jedd Jong

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As part of the Voilah! Singapore French Festival, game developer Ubisoft is holding an exhibition at the National Design Centre. F*** was at the media preview of the exhibit on the morning of Tuesday 18th April. Entitled The Art Behind the Game: The Ubisoft Experience, the exhibit showcases conceptual artwork, storyboards, sculptures and video segments to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the company’s blockbuster video game franchise, Assassin’s Creed.

Kobe Sek concept art

The exhibit takes up the atrium of the National Design Centre, and is focused predominantly on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, released in 2013 as the sixth major entry in the series. Ubisoft is headquartered in Rennes, France, with studios all over the world. Ubisoft Singapore was opened in 2008, and Black Flag is the Assassin’s Creed game which the local studio had the largest involvement in.  Set during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag centres on Welsh pirate Edward Kenway’s adventures in the Caribbean. Edward gets drawn into the ongoing conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. Historical figures Laureano de Torres y Ayala, Bartholomew Roberts and Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard feature in the plot.

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Walking in, the first thing that catches one’s eye is the life-sized statue of Connor a.k.a Ratonhnhaké:ton, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and the grandson of Edward Kenway. As we looked around the exhibit, the finishing touches were being added in time for the official opening that evening. We were guided by Ubisoft Singapore Communications Manager Sylviane Bähr, and WY-TO Architects co-founder Yann Follain, who curated and designed the exhibit.

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Bähr explained that a collaboration with Voilah! had been in the works for some time. “This year, the theme of Voilah! is ‘imagination and innovation’, so we thought it [was] the right opportunity for us to show that we are a company and an industry that deals every day with imagination and innovation,” Bähr said. “It was a no-brainer for us that it was the right moment for us to do it, and we have a lot of content, as you can see,” she said, motioning to the artwork on display around her.

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Follain’s guiding principle in designing the exhibit was to create an interactive experience for visitors, as well as emphasising the amount of work that goes into designing a game. “The whole idea of the exhibition is to put the visitor in the shoes of somebody playing the game,” Follain said, pointing to the curved walls printed inside and out. “Discovering, going around, looking behind the wall – this is what inspired us when we designed the exhibition.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The particularity of Assassin’s Creed is that it is heavily embedded into historical research and theoretical research,” Follain said, leading us to a wall with research photographs taken in Cuba pinned to it. A strip of storyboards ran from a pillar onto the floor, with a screen showcasing a comparison between the storyboards and the final cutscene as it appeared in the game’s demo. The Singapore studio oversaw the demo for E3, the annual massive game industry convention held in Los Angeles.

The section of the exhibit featuring character and costume design was based on the layout of a traditional portrait gallery. “We did some research on how a portrait gallery is done in the National Gallery, for instance,” Follain said. Gesturing to a schematic of the signature hidden blade, Follain remarked “the level of detail is fantastic, you can really feel how it works.” Follain added wistfully that he wished they could have had an actual functioning model of the blade on display as well.

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Several of the concept paintings on display are by Kobe Sek, the Associate Art Director at Ubisoft Singapore. Sek’s sketchbook was also on show – Bähr explained that Sek would draw in it during his commute on the MRT. Sek’s work has been included in Assassin’s Creed exhibitions around the world. Bähr highlighted a piece of concept art that Sek created for Assassin’s Creed Rogue, which she described as “iconic”.

Assassin's Creed Rogue Kobe Sek art

An often-overlooked part of video games, as it is in movies, is sound design. Ubisoft Singapore has its own Foley studio, where the sound effects for the game were created and recorded. Black Flag presented the team with the challenge of recording sounds underwater. At first, they tried waterproofing microphones with balloons and condoms, but that didn’t work, so proper hydrophones had to be acquired. Behind-the-scenes clips on the sound design for Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate will be screened as part of the exhibit.

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Another part of the exhibit features cross-section schematics of pirate ships and diagrams comparing the scale of the various vessels featured in the game. “The Singapore studio owned the majority of the ocean technology, the naval battles, and this is really what puts the Singapore studio on the map for Assassin’s Creed,” Bähr said. In addition to environments and ships, ocean life featured in the game. “We may change a little bit with the animals, because we want [them] to have a personality, or have a goal in the game,” Bähr said. The great white shark was designed by Teo Yong Jin, who made the shark somewhat bulkier than it would be in real life, because the design closer to reality made the shark appear too friendly.

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Finally, we were shown a wall celebrating the collaborative spirit and team synergy of the Ubisoft Singapore artists and technicians. The Singapore-based developers had decorated the wall with drawings and polaroid photos documenting their shared adventures working at the studio. “This tells a lot about our culture as a company. We always say ‘we’re serious about fun’,” Bähr said.

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When asked about Singapore’s evolution as a hub for both tech and the arts, Bähr said “I have been here for only four years, but I can tell you it has changed dramatically.” Bähr first visited Singapore ten years ago, and remarked that she thinks the government is “pushing in the right direction” by bringing in artists and promoting creativity in schools. “We are working with the schools, we are trying to push that ecosystem for art, for tech. Our developers really have that sense of sharing and mentoring the people here in Singapore,” Bähr said. “Honestly, from what I’ve seen, I’m amazed at where the country has come from, it’s really cool to see that all coming together…it’s like a mini Silicon Valley here in Asia.”

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Reassuring parents who have the misconception that video games are a frivolous enterprise, Bähr stated “you can have a serious career if you’re joining this industry. We’re using techniques that are being used in other industries, we’re using all the best practices and people from other industries actually end up with us. We learn all the time, because we are at the edge of technology. The industry is super-competitive, so we’re always on our toes.”

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Ubisoft: The Art Behind the Game runs from 18 April to 25 May at the National Design Centre. Admission is free, and admission for workshops and panels is free upon registration. Workshops include a speed drawing session by Kobe Sek and Mohamed Gambouz and a talk about the technology behind water simulation and waves by Paul Fu. Please visit https://goo.gl/3Nydjk to register for the workshops.

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Claim the I(r)on Throne: Game of Thrones World of Westeros Exhibit

For F*** Magazine

CLAIM THE IO(R)N THRONE

F*** checks out The Game of Thrones Experience: World of Westeros 
By Jedd Jong

Singapore may be in the midst of a heat wave, but winter is coming all the same. Ahead of the release of Game of Thrones’ sixth season, HBO Asia is bringing the World of Westeros exhibit to the Ion Orchard mall, running from 2 to 7thApril.
The Basement 4 Atrium will temporarily be home to a display of actual screen-used weapons from the series, including Arya Stark’s Needle, Ned Stark’s sizeable Ice and Brienne of Tarth’s Oathkeeper, bestowed upon her by Jaime Lannister. Daario Naharis’ sword and arakh, both with matching sculptures of a naked woman on the hilt, are sure to turn heads. Fans will also be able to take a seat and pose for photos upon a replica of the iconic Iron Throne. Original storyboards and illustrations by artist William Simpson are also on display.
The main attraction is a 4D interactive virtual reality experience entitled Game of Thrones: Ascend the Wall. This writer entered a booth and put on the Oculus Rift goggles hanging from the ceiling. The virtual reality video, combined with sound effects from a headset and rumbling effects built into the floor and wind machines blasting air at you, simulate the experience of riding a rickety Castle Black winch elevator up the 700-foot ice wall from the show – complete with a surprise ending. Game of Thrones: Ascend the Wall was developed by HBO in cooperation the creative agency Relevent. The simulation comprises computer graphics generated by Framestore, the Academy Award-winning visual effects company which worked on Gravity.
We also got a photo opportunity with Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon, Drogon, by way of a green screen set-up.
StarHub customers will be given priority to experience the Game of Thrones: Ascend the Wall – Oculus Rift virtual reality experience as well as photo opportunities with the Iron Throne and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon.

Actor Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark on the show, will be participating in a meet-and-greet session with select fans and subscribers on Saturday, 2 April.

Game of Thrones begins its ten-episode sixth season in Singapore the same time as the US, premiering exclusively on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on April 25 2016 at 9 am, with a same day primetime encore at 9 pm. The series will also be available on HBO GO on StarHub Go and HBO On Demand.

San Diego Comic-Con International 2015: The Booths/Exhibits

A huge part of the dazzling sensory bombardment that is the Con floor (and, increasingly, spilling out beyond the Convention Center itself) are the booths and exhibits, the fact that they stand in the way of the flow of human traffic notwithstanding. It’s always a treat to take a peek at props from movies and TV shows that are being put on auction – I’m proud to admit I got a genuine thrill out of seeing Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft gun belt from the first Tomb Raider flick. More significantly, there were Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman’s costumes from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and there was also the original Rebel Blockade Runner model used in the famous opening of the first Star Wars

THE BOOTHS/EXHIBITS

Hasbro’s epic, epic Marvel Legends diorama has EVERYYYOONNNNE fighting Ultron drones!

Including, for some reason, the Lizard, in the, uh, sewer on this jungle island.

“HULK RIP PUNY ROBOT IN HALF!”

Natasha looking cool as all get-out, as usual.

Do want this Amazon four-pack!

Terminator Genisys wasn’t great, but this statue looks badass, particularly lit like that!

Guyver bust by Cinemaquette

Medusa bust

Wonder Woman Barbie – pure class!

Digging the wooden grappling gun handle.

Mattel’s Wonder Woman

Mattel’s Superman

Mattel’s Batman

Mattel’s armoured Batman

The Reverse Flash’s screen-used costume!

Captain Cold

The Flash himself
Jay Garrick’s helmet

The Arrow’s outfit

The Dark Archer

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman outfit

Ben Affleck’s armoured Batman outfit

Henry Cavill’s Superman suit, with the colours brightened up a tad 

Black Canary
 
Felicity Smoak’s glasses, as worn by Emily Bett-Rickards.

Said the X-Wing to the TIE Fighter, “come at me bro!”

The Rebel Blockade Runner model used in that iconic, awesome opening shot.

The Winnebago Space Ship from Spaceballs!

Sideshow’s Premium Format Power Girl statue

Ledger Joker

Arkham Knight Batman

Yoda

Space Jockey 
Still waiting on Hot Toys figures of the rest of the HIMYM crew.

Bewitched

“It’s awfully well-balanced.”

Loki loves Comic-Con, especially after invading Hall H in 2013.

The Gotham figure I’m most excited about. You go lil Catwoman!
Captain Solo is home.
Man that’s a handsome, handsome John Barrowman headsculpt!
Brace yourself for a super punch!
Come on in, it’s roomy!
Captain Archer’s beagle!
The Rocketeer’s helmet
One of many, many Enterprises.
Original flavour Stormtrooper helmet
“You call thish archaeology?”
Oscar-winning glasses!

Arrrrr.
Kick-Ass’s scuba suit headpiece!
Hey, USA Today doesn’t look like that in 2015!
The First Order Stormtrooper, an exclusive I did not want to wait in line for.
The Book of Vishanti Doctor Strange figure set, ditto.
A wacky Lego dimensions sculpture. Samurai mech-suit Homer assisted by Wonder Woman? Hell yeah!
Hold up a second, that’s just Hawkeye’s head with red glasses instead of purple ones!

Hot Wheels’ Batman v Superman Batmobile – this beast is a beauty!

NECA’s always-impressive line-up, kicking off with Quarter-Scale Christopher Reeve Superman.

Pengy!

Arkham Knight Batsy

Terminator 2 Pescadero Mental Hospital diorama

Badass Sarah Connor is badass.

“Old, but not obsolete”

The egg crate packaging is a hilarious touch. Bishop isn’t as thrilled about it as I am though.

“Get away from her you…UNPLEASEANT WOMAN!”

Kaiju in cardboard city

Interstellar dolls! Amelia Brand can go hang out with Catwoman

Speaking of which, here’s the Michelle Pfeiffer version from Sideshow. Mrrow.

Jurassic Park art prints! They were also selling reproductions of the map pamphlets from both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.

XM Collectibles’ shiny Iron Men.

Was there anyone who watched the end credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron and said of that marble marvel, “I don’t want that”?

Surprise! Remote control opening hatch!

The DC artists have doodled on the table in-between autograph sessions – just like in school, then!

“Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination”

That gun belt.

No photos of the Doctor Who figures you say? I too like to live dangerously.

Worry not, Sherlock’s got POSEABLE ARMS!

American Horror Story: Hotel‘s hotel. Not actual size.

When being in the doghouse isn’t such a bad thing after all

 
♫I fought the law and the law won♫

Heroes that fit in the palm of your hand!

“Eyes on me!”

It’s the LEGO Jurassic World Raptor Squad! Adorable.
Clever girl.

And as I’m caught in between the wrath of the Science Bros, it’s a wrap!

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: The Booths/Exhibits

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of Batman, so the main draw on the convention floor for me was WB/DC’s display of artifacts from the Batman film anthology, including all those Bat-cowls, Batarangs, the Joker thugs’ masks, the memorial statue from The Dark Knight Rises and even Martha Wayne’s necklace. Of course, there was an abundance of cool displays in addition to Caped Crusader-related paraphernalia – take a look!

Legendary is pretty happy about Godzilla’s box office success.

The Hilton is not safe from the Kaiju’s wrath!

A super-armoured storm chasing vehicle from Into The Storm.

Original muppets at the Profiles in History prop auction booth.

Keep punching, America!

Original Chaplin hats.

SNIKT!

The famous Patton helmet.

Om nom nom.

Oh yes, Mystique.

And from the back, because why not?
Hobbit feet for sale, get your Hobbit feet right here!

“Hello. I want to play a game.”

Apparently, these costumes are Expendable as well.

Affleck’s cape and cowl from the upcoming Batman v Sueprman: Dawn of Justice.

“no no no no, I shoot the bus driver.”

Jungian archetypes, yay!

St-st-st-st-sticky bomb (gun)! 

“WHY DOES HE WEAR THE MASK?!” 

The Sonar Suit cowl that was scanned into the computer for the visual effects in Batman Forever.

Hey Selina!

Design by Brian Azzarrello, artists of Batman: Noel and Joker.

Sideshow’s booth can always be counted upon to display some really gorgeous statues.

“I’m gonna need that guy’s bandanna!”

More props for auction! Not the biggest fan of this Batmobile design but in person, this thing is gorgeous! 

The Joker and helicopters don’t mix.

Sandworm! 

A Kaiju skin mite! 

That’s a piece of Threepio.

The door-knocker on Jabba’s Palace, next to a cap with the fake production working title for Return of the Jedi, Blue Harvest.

Racist stereotype notwithstanding, Nute Gunray’s mask is well-made.

The extras that come with Bond’s cars.

Holy crossbow, Constantine!

Jaeger pilot suit from the back. 

Lord Business towering over the Con floor.

Her name was Lola…
…She was a showgirl…

The pod from GotG.
Hot Toys makes my wallet weep. 

Judge Death.

Batman takes a moment to pose in front of cardboard Gotham.

Clues! 

Clues! 

Clues!

Clues!

Ziplining! 
Whee!

Costumes from the upcoming Max Steel film.
NECA has, as usual, some great dioramas.
A Ripley figure?! Finally, finally, finally! 
Apes now.
Apes then. 
You know the only thing anyone who buys this is going to do is painting it to be movie-accurate.
Because there’s always a thick crowd around the Marvel booth, I snapped this picture of Loki’s scepter from a distance.
Someone’s gonna get a facehugging.

The Goliath, from Evolve. 

Catwoman ridin’ her hog, design by Dustin Nguyen. 

Nope, nothing untoward is gonna happen to Cap in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Nothing untoward at all.

Look out for those stairs!

Signature of stop motion puppet artist and later visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett. Also famously the “Dinosaur Supervisor” on Jurassic Park (you had one job, Phil!) 

Keeping the peace.