Assassin's Creed: Revelations mission design director Falco Poiker--who also worked on Brotherhood and the Splinter Cell games--says that the annual release schedule the series adopted after the release of Assassin's Creed 2 is beneficial, despite significant time constraints. "The time actually kind of works in our favor, he explained in a recent interview. "We go one direction and we go with it. If there's problems, oh well, we'll fix it along the way."
In an interview with Edge magazine, Poiker--who's also in charge of policing Revelations' historical accuracy--acknowledges that with an annual release plan, "time is definitely not on our side." But he also says that working under the pressure of time necessitates a focus that projects with more lax schedules can lack. "It gives an impetus to the team and we find a direction that we say we're going to run in," he said, "and there's very little of the indecision that comes with teams that spend two, three, four years developing games."
The proposition of assembling a 180-person teams in just a few months and building such expansive games in under a year may sound foolhardy on paper, but given the praise the recent games in the series have garnered, Poiker's confidence in the process is understandable. It would seem that as long as you're able to assemble a big enough team--and aren't building a new game engine from scratch--even annual installments of high-quality open-world sandbox action games are possible.