Notre Dame replica in 'Assassin's Creed Unity' may be used for restoration of iconic cathedral
The level of detail poured into the Notre Dame model in Ubisoft's flagship video game could very well mean that it's an accurate source which can be used by architects involved in its reconstruction
The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday, April 15, resulted in the collapse of its iconic spire, as well as two-thirds of its roof. Furthermore, severe damage was sustained to the interior, upper walls, and windows, as well as to numerous works of art which could not be moved out of the building fast enough.
In the aftermath, France president Emmanuel Macron immediately promised to restore the cathedral to its former glory and launched a fundraising campaign for the same. The incredible outpouring of support from across the world has seen the campaign already bring in pledges of $905 million — including $226 million from France's richest man Bernard Arnault and $113 million from Francois-Henri Pinault.
But because of the history behind the 850-year-old building, restorations are expected to be anything but straightforward. Estimates suggest they'll take anywhere up to 20 years to complete renovations, though that number might just be the most hopeful estimate.
Those tasked with the gargantuan project will take help anywhere they get it, including, quite possibly, an 'Assassin's Creed' game. Ubisoft's flagship video game series has earned numerous plaudits for the incredible amount of research and time they put into recreating real-world locations for its storylines, and one release just happens to feature the Notre Dame as one of its most important landmarks.
For those unaware of how the series works, each release features a new story and a new time period. For example, the first 'Assassin's Creed' was set in the late 12th century, i.e. during the Third Crusade; 'Assassin's Creed II,' 'Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood,' and 'Assassin's Creed: Revelations,' were all set during the Italian Rennaissance; and crucially, 'Assassin's Creed: Unity' was set during the French Revolution, which is when the cathedral arguably suffered the most and was the target of attacks and desecrations.
Because of its status as a centerpiece of the game — one early-game mission requires protagonist Arno Dorian to case the cathedral in preparation for a stabbing mission — quite a lot of effort was put into ensuring that it came as close to the real thing as possible.
One of the game's artists, Caroline Miousse, revealed to The Verge that she had spent two years modeling the Cathedral in Unity and that it constituted 80 percent of her work in the game. She said she had spent years poring over photos "to get the architecture just right, and worked with texture artists to make sure that each brick was as it should be," adding that she even had historians help her figure out the exact paintings that were hanging on the walls at the time.
However, there was a problem in the final rendition: the spire was missing. It had not yet been constructed at the time but Miousse decided to add it into the game anyway because she felt the cathedral just did not feel right without them. The end result is that the model is arguably one of the most accurate and detailed models of the Notre Dame out there.
Whether architects will use it is anyone's guess, but they could certainly do worse as far as reference models are concerned.