This year Ubisoft takes their hugely popular franchise Assassin’s Creed III into the American Revolution.
The previous four games have explored time periods that some were familiar with, the intricate details weren’t as thoroughly well known as the American Revolution.
That element, holding true to the history, plays a significant part in the development process for Ubisoft who, for those that don’t know, like to keep their deaths as historically accurate as possible.
Assassin’s Creed III’s creative director Alex Hutchinson claimed that each of the named victims killed in the series has been a real person. When your character kills these historical figures, he does so in the right year, in the right location.
The cause of death is not necessarily accurate, as there’s just not much documented evidence of real people murdered by hooded assassins. But if you research the named characters that fall to Altair and Ezio, you’ll find that their in-game deaths line up with history.
“It’s super difficult, this period, because no one famous dies,” Hutchinson said. “We have a rule: Everyone dies in the right year, at the right place. They have to be real people.” All the Assassin’s Creed games have held true to this. “We don’t get enough mileage out of it, I think it’s kind of magical, and yet no one knows. I don’t know how we make it more obvious.”
Identifying people for the protagonist to kill is one of the first tasks undertaken when an Assassin’s Creed game goes into production. The development team creates a huge list of people who lived and died in those specific years in that specific setting, and then they have to find people who died in certain locations. They also have to make sure those people die in a specific order, so that the linear story of the game makes sense.
“In the American Revolution, no one of note dies,” Hutchinson explained. “None of the founding fathers die, all the generals of the British Army pretty much die of old age back in England. Only poor people died.” And those poor folk are eclipsed in the shadow of the (surviving) major historical figures of the era.
Luckily, the setting allowed for a wide variety of people who were into less than legal pursuits. This opened up many doors for the game’s narrative. “We had to find people who died, and then find out what they were doing,” Hutchinson said. “Many people were in semi-shady stuff, whether it was slavery or they were running counterfeiting rings. It’s a new country, so it’s the Wild West.”
The adherence to historical death raises an interesting question: What happens when someone plays the game and recognizes a character? Or if a family name is used, someone does some digging, and the player discovers they just killed one of their own ancestors? “We’re really close now. This is someone’s great-grandfather,” Hutchinson said.
Which made things difficult when naming the Templars in this game: with real people involved, they had to sensitive about who they are calling out as the game’s bad guys. Some perspective helps: “For us they’re not villains, they’re misguided. Everyone is trying to save the world, they’re just doing it a different way. For this script we worked on it, and we really got [the Templer] perspective,” Hutchinson explained.
Assassin’s Creed III will release on October 30 for PC, PS3, Xbox360 and Wii U.
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