Thursday, 25 April 2019

Notre-Dame of the imagination

If the Notre-Dame of the 19th and 20th centuries belonged to Victor Hugo, the Notre-Dame of the contemporary imagination belongs to the game Assassin's Creed Unity.  In 2014 the cathedral was reconstructed in loving detail by Ubisoft. Over 10 million gamers are estimated to have visited the virtual Notre-Dame, climbed over its roof and even scaled the now destroyed spire.

The fire of 15th April met with dismayed responses from many fans of Assassin's Creed -  many immediately posted videos of their gameplay, on Twitter, YouTube or the gaming platform Twitch.  On 17th April Ubisoft announced that it was going to donate 500,000 euros to the restoration fund and allow free access to the pc version of Assassin's Creed Unity for a week.   Slightly disingenuously, they also proposed to furnish the architects with the virtual images used in the game.

Of course, as Le Monde soon pointed out, these designs, beautiful as they are, are no real use to the reconstruction, since they lacks precise measurements and are based mainly on plans and photos. Cédric Gachaud, Director of Life3D, who modelled the Cathedral for the renovations taking place at the time of the fire, observed that it was necessary understand not just the interior and exterior appearance but the internal structure of the wooden frame  (the charpente), for which specialist precision techniques - photogrammetry and use of  laser scanners - were necessary.  Fortunately, a fair amount of this work had been carried at Notre-Dame in the course of various academic and restoration projects.

Ah well!  It is still brilliant to have such high-quality 3D images in an appealing and readily accessible format.  Strange paradox too, that, in the world of gaming at least, Notre-Dame has become an emblem of the Revolution?


Brett Makedonski "One dev spent two years making the Notre Dame in Assassin's Creed Unity", Destructoid,16.04.2019 - reposting of interview of 2014 with designer Caroline Miousse.

Matthieu Balu,"Notre-Dame de Paris honorée par les joueurs d'"Assassin's Creed" Huffington Post, 16.04.2019.  A selection of videos and tweets.

William Audureau, "Notre-Dame de Paris : les reconstitutions en 3D peuvent aider à la reconstruction", Le Monde, 16.04.2019
_____, "Non, le jeu vidéo « Assassin’s Creed Unity » ne servira pas à reconstruire Notre-Dame de Paris",  Le Monde, 17.04.2019

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