It required a lot of balancing, making sure it was authentic enough without being too realistic and therefore slow. The most important thing was getting to feel that we're playing as Connor, not the boat.
That meant preserving the third-person view centred on Connor was critical, and it's why the camera never strays far from the wheel, where we can view our crew at work.
"These ships, if you look at the reality, they were very, very slow," senior producer Hugues Ricour told . "They would take minutes to turn. And obviously cannons would take minutes to reload as well. So this naval combat in reality was lasting several hours, sometimes up to several days." They focused on speeding it all up without looking silly.
"We made a lot of tests with the boat speed, with how fast you can turn, with the impact of the wind direction, how much you're penalized when you're facing the wind or not, reload speed of the cannons, and so on. I've read so far very few comments that mention, "Aw, it's arcade-y and not realistic,"" he continued.
Most feedback from fans and press has been positive on the balance struck. "There is a level of unrealism in Assassin's Creed when you climb and so on. We tried to recreate, I think, an immersion that’s as realistic as possible."
Being that naval combat is entirely new to the franchise, it was important that the connection to Connor wasn't broken - that the player didn't suddenly become 'the ship' as opposed to the assassin captaining her.
"About the third-person view, it's a very conscious decision. We did a lot of tests which showed the number one rule is we want you to feel that you're playing Connor, and experiencing what Connor would experience on his ship. So, staying close to him, and using the third-person camera view was very critical and very important to us," explained Ricour.
"In several moments, you get an amazing feeling that you can only get by being on the boat, like a man-of-war charging at you and hitting your boat, or when a rogue wave hits and splashes on the deck, or when hear your cannons firing, and the experience of seeing your crew right in front of your eyes, maneuvering to make that happen."
"You're positioned quite low compared to the ocean, so you actually see these waves and the 3D movement of these waves and all the water effects and so on. So, all these for us required this specific camera."
"We thought about a first-person shooting type of mechanic, but again we wanted to stay as Connor as the captain of the ship, so we wanted to do a sort of auto-target cannon system. And it adds pacing to the experience, especially when you're trying to be accurate when you shoot," he added, referring to the swivel guns.
Check out thebetween Hugues Ricour and Gamasutra on Assassin's Creed III naval combat.