During a conference call with investors, analysts, and press, Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, highlighted the issues with Assassin's Creed: Unity with an emphasis on the positive outcomes going forward. Their quarter itself was good, beating expectations and allowing them to raise full-year projections. As expected, they announced that a new Assassin's Creed game would be released at the end of the year based on the technology they created for Unity, with “lessons learned”.
Before optimization, every material on every object is at least one draw call.
Of course, there are many ways to optimize… but that effort works against future titles.
After their speech, the question period revisited the topic of Assassin's Creed: Unity and how it affected current sales, how it would affect the franchise going forward, and how should they respond to that foresight (Audio Recording – The question starts at 25:20). Yves responded that they redid “100% of the engine”, which was a tremendous undertaking. “When you do that, it's painful for all the group, and everything has to be recalibrated.” He continues: “[…] but the engine has been created, and it is going to help that brand to shine in the future. It's steps that we need to take regularly so that we can constantly innovated. Those steps are sometimes painful, but they allow us to improve the overall quality of the brand, so we think this will help the brand in the long term.”
This makes a lot of sense to me. When the issues first arose, it was speculated that the engine was pushing way too many draw calls, especially for DirectX 11 PCs. At the time, I figured that Ubisoft chose Assassin's Creed: Unity to be the first title to use their new development pipeline, focused on many simple assets rather than batching things together to minimize host-to-GPU and GPU-to-host interactions. Tens of thousands of individual tasks being sent to the GPU will choke a PC, and getting it to run at all on DirectX 11 might have diverted resources from, or even caused, many of the glitches. Currently, a few thousand is ideal although “amazing developers” can raise the ceiling to about ten thousand.
This also means that I expect the next Assassin's Creed title to support DirectX 12, possibly even in the graphics API's launch window. If I am correct, Ubisoft has been preparing for it for a long time. Of course, it is possible that I am simply wrong, but it would align with Microsoft's Holiday 2015 expectation for the first, big-budget titles to use the new interface and it would be silly to have done their big overhaul without planning on switching to DX12 ASAP.
Then there is the last concern: If I am correct, what should Ubisoft have done? Is it right for them to charge full price for a title that they know will have necessary birth pains? Do they delay it and risk (or even accept) that it will be non-profitable, and upset fans that way? There does not seem to be a clear answer, with all outcomes being some flavor of damage control.