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Can Ubisoft's Games help Notre Dame?

Joseph Higgins looks into Ubisoft's involvement in restoring the Notre Dame cathedral.

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Image Credit: Ubisoft Montreal @ pngimg.com

A/N: This article was written for the April 30th 2019 print edition of Nouse and is part of a small backlog of articles that have not yet been published on the website. As I have turned over the gaming section to bright new minds it is with their permission that this article and the others be posted here for posterity.

Ubisoft Montreal, developers of the acclaimed Assassin’s Creed franchise, have spoken out about the tragic fire that destroyed the beloved Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. After the fire had been dealt with by Parisian emergency services the game developer pledged both €500,000and the use of their custom-designed and painstakingly rendered art assets from their game Assasin's Creed: Unity to the reconstruction efforts of the beloved cultural landmark.

Ubisoft Montreal, the key development studio of the franchise and their parent company Ubisoft have prided themselves on their faithful renditions of historical events and locales with the minimal artistic licence for the actual setting of their games. Throughout the 12 year lifespan of the assassin's Creed franchise up to this point, the developers have painstakingly rendered some of the world's most beloved landmarks in HD with almost one to one exact likeness for even details as intricate as the brickwork. assassin'sCreed: Brotherhood, they recreated almost all of the historical landmarks in renaissance Rome, including the Colosseum and the Vatican. In Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Victorian London and landmarks like the Houses of Parliament got the same treatment. Now Assassin’s Creed: Unity and it's painstakingly crafted digital reconstruction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral could be the key for restoration teams in their efforts to repair the damage.

Ubisoft Montreal reportedly spent around two years creating their digital modeling of the cathedral which has been called a “brick-by-brick” recreation of the landmark by one of the game's designers Caroline Miousse, who worked almost solely on the Cathedral in the game. Unity’s depiction of the Cathedral could offer the restoration teams far more than any scans of the original building simply because of its details. This includes a full digital recreation of many of the more intricate decorative designs on the roof as well as much of the art on display in the form of the stained-glass windows on the walls which did not survive the fire. Ubisoft’s design of the cathedral might be the single most detailed resource for those that need to see what the Cathedral used to look like in order to restore it to its former glory.

Ubisoft’s pledge to help the rebuilding efforts and their generous monetary donation to the rebuilding fund were accompanied with the following statement the week after the fire: “As the smoke clears on the events that unfolded on Monday at the Notre-Dame de Paris, we stand in solidarité with our fellow Parisians and everyone around the world moved by the devastation the fire caused.” Itis clear that Ubisoft’s dedication to historical accuracy extends beyond their virtual worlds. Questions are still being asked about what and who exactly caused the fire, and whether the Cathedral should even be rebuilt or completely restored. However, it is a fantastic thought that the time, dedication and hard work of video game designers like Caroline Miousse might be used to rebuild and restore one of the world’s most famous landmarks. Whatever opinions people might have about the tragedy’s importance, the usefulness of video games in this instance will give the entire industry an important boost.

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