Acclaimed video game art made in Singapore

Published on 24 August 2018

By Tan Ying-Yan

A Singapore team of video game developers was behind the breathtaking scenes of Victorian-era London in the popular video game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Video source: Ubisoft

Gaming fans in Singapore have reason to sit a little taller: The critically acclaimed visuals in the popular action-adventure video game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015) were birthed in Singapore.

The game is set in 19th-century London and its detailed cityscape was created by Ubisoft Singapore, the local team of the global video game creator and publisher. Video game reviewers have praised the visually striking game for creating a look and feel authentic to Victorian-era London, from the types of boats and docks, to the murkiness and movement of water in the River Thames.

It could be argued in fact, that the artfulness of scenes in the video game, from landscapes to quotidian vignettes and battle fields, rivals that of Victorian paintings.

The traditional art world might be divided about the place of video art in the canon; a furious debate stirred online when the Museum of Modern Art in New York City announced in 2012 that it had added 14 video games, including Pac-Man and The Sims to its collection. But there is no denying that technology has offered artists a new canvas to paint and experiment with, and changed how the man in the street experiences art.

To build the artful digital world of Victorian London in the game, the Singapore team pored over encyclopaedias’ worth of old photographs, paintings and maps, before rendering the historical references artistically, then painstakingly recreating the individual elements in 3D.

Some of these scenes are so compelling, they could pass off as highlights on TripAdvisor – if Victorian London had a TripAdvisor page, that is.

Here is our take on other highlights from Assassin’s Creed’s 19th-century London:

The bustling waterways: Five stars for people watching, minus one star for the extreme pollution. If Charles Dickens left a review, he would have described the Thames as a “dank, stinking sludge”.
The fresh meat market: Meat doesn’t get fresher than this – butchered right by the Thames to feed a million hungry mouths. Watch out for the splatter, though.
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