Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Problems Are Down to Incompetent Task Scheduling
It has been a week since Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity was released, and readers will be aware that in that time Lusipurr.com [along with many other publications] has pointed to the fact that it was released as a half-baked mess. Faces would randomly disappear, NPCs would randomly pop into existence or transform from male to female, the protagonist would fall through the floor at random, and the framerate would frequently tank to 20fps, which is borderline unplayable. Ubisoft has been bad-mouthing other games for months on the basis that their Assassin’s Creed Unity would have much better graphics, only to hand in a janky and jagged mess which looks just like every other Assassin’s Creed game if every other Assassin’s Creed game ran as a slideshow. To be fair, the game features cloth textures and skin shaders which are nothing short of resplendent, yet tops off this fidelity with hair technology which looks like it was transplanted directly from Lost Odyssey. Suffice it to say the game has problems.
This week it would seem that the game’s problems finally became Ubisoft’s own, as the Assassin’s Creed Unity live updates team has at last seen fit to divulge their version of what went wrong. Most people had assumed that the biggest drain on performance was the game’s depiction of many thousands of people, as evidence by the fact that the framerate tended to tank whenever the player would enter into a densely packed area. According to Ubisoft however this is not the case:
“Though crowd size was something we looked at extensively pre-launch, it is something we continue to keep a close eye on. We have just finished a new round of tests on crowd size but have found it is not linked to this problem and does not improve frame rate, so we will be leaving crowds as they are.”
Instead it is Ubisoft’s determination that framerate drops are due to errors in the game’s task scheduling, and they hope to release a patch which addresses: “Improving task scheduling, Streamlining some technical aspects of navigation, and Tweaking performance for Reach High Points“. According to Ubisoft addressing these issues will help mitigate the problems with the game’s framerate, yet one cannot help but feel that a whole bunch of task scheduling errors would be solved simply by halving the number of people in those crowds. What cannot be argued though, is Ubisoft’s explanation for how the game was allowed to ship in its current state:
“We can tell you that we have detected a distinct discrepancy between what we observed in the pre-launch versus post-launch environment. In spite of our testing, it looks like the instruction queue is becoming overloaded and impacting performance. We have several fixes we are exploring right now and will continue to update you with our progress of what is working and how quickly we can implement these fixes in the game in the weeks ahead.”
Discrepancy between pre-launch and post-launch environment? What bloody discrepancy between pre-launch and post-launch environment? What bloody machines were the Assassin’s Creed QA team testing the games on? Did they play the game on PS4s and Xbox Ones? If so then there is absolutely no bullshitting the fact that they knew precisely what condition they shipped their game in. If there were task scheduling issues then they should have been remedied before the game was allowed to hit store shelves.
Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Problems Are Down to Incompetent Task Scheduling
So then, why are Ubisoft products allowed to release in the state of Assassin’s Creed Unity? As sometimes happens, a former anonymous Ubisoft developer [unverified] took to Reddit this week in order to enlighten the denizens of the internet as to precisely what it is like working for Ubisoft. What he paints is a picture of a development house where software is shipped to its forecast date, rather than at the end of its development cycle. What follows is a fascinating account of someone who appears to have worked on Watch Dogs, and should provide some good food for thought to anyone amenable to seasoning their dishes with liberal amounts of salt.
Apparently Ubisoft’s move to annualise their franchises has negatively effected their employee’s quality of life, perhaps they need more Nintendo?
“We were struggling under normal load, AAA games are HARD to develop. And then instead of 4-odd years between releases, where we worked 50-70 hour weeks, (anything above 37 is unpaid), you decided we should release every year
and not actually possible, unless you hire guys for 40k(GBP) for example, but make them work 55 hour weeks, I’ve seen guys work for below minimum wage if you take overtime into account (and they’re producers) , I’ve seen guys shamed for leaving at 5pm (when i say ‘guys’ i mean 1 guy, now how i wish i was him as he boldly walked out in his laserproof armour everyday defending him from the death stares from people who would be staying til 11), I’ve seen guys shamefacedly take 2 days paternity leave (in the uk!) and spend months between the times where they’d see their babies with their eyes actually open”
Annualised schedules are all well and fine, but surely if a game was tremendously behind schedule then the publisher would have no choice but to delay it, right?
“We had to beg to have our deadline extended or we WOULD release a horrible broken mess. but this is normal, either it all works or nothing, any programmer can tell you that.
Anyway, our game was released slightly delayed by half a year or so (2 quarters!) and won lots of awards, but we had a lot of convincing to do for ubisoft to allow us to to miss that fiscal deadline, because all games are are products subject to an excel spreadsheet. To miss our deadline we had to lose a few random workers (19 i think? because 20 or something specific comes under mass redundancy which comes under different laws in the uk),. yes we can release a shit buggy game, or a good one a few months later, but we have to figure out which is better for our fiscal forecasts becaus each game from conception already has a release date and expected revenue for that fiscal period”
OK, so the game is made to a schedule and the development team has to make a really compelling case if they are to receive permission for a delay [or stay of execution as it were], but good thing then that the team has loads of QA testers, because the QA team have plenty of time to go though the game and identify the bugs, which are all then promptly fixed, right?
“my beloved unity QA guys! i know, shush, you know every bug appearing online like the back of your hand and you have to read comments like “didn’t anyone in QA pick this up?” even though you’ve been looking for a new job for months because it’s so BAD
Well to all commenters out there: it’s out, cos QA get sacked at the end of a project anyway, but that’s normal.”
While this comes from an unverified source, this state of affairs nonetheless sounds eminently plausible. In fact, if this is actually the case then it is a small wonder that more Ubisoft games do not turn out like Assassin’s Creed Unity or worse. It is probably a testament to the effectiveness of the sheer brute force approach of throwing ten development teams onto a single project, that Ubisoft’s most consistent deficience is a lack of creativity and innovation rather than technical incompetence. But at any rate, it would appear that in the case of Assassin’s Creed Unity the game’s problems are down to incompetent task scheduling in more ways than one.
Wrong Again, Mel!
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity has not been able to stop generating negative press, even when concerning issues entirely separate from its prodigious assortment of bugs. Whether it be through trolling PS4 owners through their Assassin’s Creed Unity companion app, or whether it be through casting their aspersions upon France’s most noble of revolutions, Ubisoft seems to have been upsetting all sorts this week. Concerning the latter, former Socialist minister and one time Presidential aspirant, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, this week took it upon himself to roundly condemn Assassin’s Creed Unity for besmirching the French Revolution. In all the news to be printed about the game, this is likely the most odd.
Mélenchon appears to have been somewhat disheartened at the representation of the revolutionary rabble as they float through the street committing random acts of violence against the largely lawless revolutionary backdrop:
“It is propaganda against the people, the people who are (portrayed as) barbarians, bloodthirsty savages,”
To be fair, the average French peasant was probably a mite more civilised than your typical 99-percenter, yet they also appear as such within the world of the game, making Mélenchon’s complaint more than a little odd. He seems quite out of sorts over the fact that the aristocracy is generally presented as cleaner, more well-spoken, and wearing clothing without holes in, as opposed to the peasantry who, at the time, were a somewhat disheveled mob who had become quite mad for blood:
“In 1789 there were the poor aristocrats, and they are presented as fine upstanding people.”
‘Fine’, as in not manning ramshackle barricades while posing hygiene and sanitation problems ‘fine’, sure, history is kind of biased in such ways. Mélenchon appears to hold a special degree of ire for the representation of Marie Antoinette “that cretin, who is celebrated as a poor little rich girl“, and mentioned by way of indictment that she attempted to bribe politicians in order to avoid meeting her end at the guillotine, as if that were a particularly surprising and egregious course of action for her to pursue. The lion’s share of Mélenchon’s wrath appears to be reserved for Ubisoft’s depiction of Robespierre however, as he seems to think that the man who kept the guillotines fed did not receive a fair shake in this historical fantasy:
“And the man who was our liberator at a certain moment of the Revolution – because the Revolution lasted a long time – Robespierre, is presented as a monster.
Presents an image of hatred of the Revolution, hatred of the people, hatred of the republic which is rampant in the far-right milieux (of today).
Smearing the great revolution is dirty work that aims to instill the French with even more self-loathing and talk of decline. If we continue like this, no common identity will remain possible for the French besides religion and skin color.”
Fancy that, one of the architects of the French Terror is depicted as a monster! Mélenchon is quite right, this right-wing political bias is intolerable! For shame,Ubisoft! Yves Guillemot just lacks in revolutionary spirit. We here at Lusipurr.com fart in his general direction!