FRONT’s resident Goddess of gaming, Julia Hardy, gives the low-down on one of the year’s most-anticipated games.
Tackling a Triple A game these days takes a huge amount of resources, hundreds of people, years of lead time and a wallet so big in your back pocket you’d be mistaken for a wonky Kim Kardashian. Assassin’s Creed has all of these things, but also has the tricky task of seamlessly blending historical facts into the game and still somehow making it fun to play. I travelled over to Boston to learn not only some background on the game’s story surrounding the American War for Independence, but also the history behind how the game was made.
At the heart of all Assassin’s Creed games is a desire to create a living, breathing and historically accurate world to play in. As we all know real life is messy, things never happen in the way or order that makes the most sense sometimes. People aren’t just sinners or saints, some people are ‘kinda alright’ or just ‘a bit of a dickhead’. Real life always exists outside of those black and white extremes. “The grey zones in history, those are our playground,” says Lead Game Designer, Steven Masters. “If someone dies on the battlefield, but we don’t know how exactly or there are conflicting accounts, this is where we can slip in our version of history.”
But what if the events are well recorded and you know exactly what happens? “Gameplay always comes first,” says Corey May, Lead Writer, “story in video games used to be a bit like an MC at a strip club, he’s useful to link things together, but it isn’t why you were there.” Thankfully things have changed since then and the story has become integral to the gameplay experience. “We take the major moments from that time period and then decide how to marry these into the gameplay.” The Boston Tea party part of the game is a good example of artistic licence in full swing. May wrote a completely historically accurate script about the event. “What happened was that the player would have been wandering around for 45 minutes listening to speeches.” Thank god, 45 minutes of speeches? It would be like being at a wedding, except with people you don’t know and instead of harmonious platitudes and fawning over each other, they’re bitching about taxes. It seems in a battle of history versus gameplay, the Assassin’s Creed player experience thankfully reigns victorious.
Obviously finding all this historical information to work from in the first place can be a touch difficult. Anyone trying to cheat on a pub quiz using Wikipedia should know that. Team historian Maxime Durand, a man who lucked out job-wise (as he was picked up right out of university to help out on the game), said that aside from the boring usual library trips and public archives visits, his top go-to fact location is the obituaries. (FYI apparently a hell of a lot of people died from drowning in Boston in the 1800s, which makes you retrospectively thankful for all those Saturday morning swims your dad made you do.) Durand also explained how history is watered down with a PR makeover, just as life is today. “I hate to be the one to tell you this but George Washington was not a god. He was chosen to lead, mainly because he agreed to do it for free. He had no real knowledge of war before the American Revolution and had lost almost every battle he’d fought in. We want to show you that these figures were human and you can see things the way they actually happened.” And people today are moaning about non-paid internships? You could save a nation!! Well only if it somehow needs tea and dry-cleaning picked up to survive that is.
With such huge teams all involved in making this game, is it hard to keep everyone happy, working and getting along? Associate Producer, Julien Laferrière takes it all in his Zen-like stride; “I’m part psychologist, part motivator… most of us have been together since Assassin’s Creed 2 or even Prince of Persia. We are like a family.” It seems that they get on so well, that aside from Friday nights down the bar across the road, getting a bit tipsy and discussing the game, they have also created their own Amateur Leg Wresting League. Juvenile it might seem on the surface, but there is a clever method in their management madness. I guess after you’ve wrestled a man to the floor with your legs, coming to them with a work related problem the following day is most likely the lesser of two evils.
What was the American War Of Independence all about?
It was an 18th Century battle of USA vs. UK. The USA was bitching about being a taxed colony without parliamentary representation. They got in a tizz, destroyed some tea, which of course was a deal-breaker for the Brits – I mean – ITS TEA FOR GOD’S SAKE! War starts. British lose. America gets all smug and won’t shut up about it.
Rules that applied in the 1700s that still apply today…
Work for free: You never know where it might lead. Admittedly George Washington was part of the rich, landed gentry so could afford the train fare and lunches etc. He was initially a bit shit, but with on-the-job training he could probably now organise a military piss up in a brewery.
Have a memorable name: Preferably one that rhymes with stuff. Look at Lady GaGa, who gave a shit about her when she was a Stefani-whats-her-face? NO-ONE that’s who. Paul Revere lucked out in that his name rhymed well in a famous poem, no-one even recalls that he had two friends who also made the famous Midnight Ride to alert that ‘The British were coming!’ Shame he’s not around to warn them about One Direction.
PR the shit out of it!: The PR Machine has been around since time began – you think the likes of Max Clifford are a recent invention? They just used to focus on history instead of exclusives in The Sun that’s all. Paul Revere’s story dropped the fact that he didn’t even make the whole of his infamous Midnight Ride and good old G. Wash had the fact he couldn’t initially fight his way out of a paper bag, removed from the placards of museums as they didn’t fit in with their ‘images’. Just like how Cheryl Cole’s biographer isn’t going to include that bit about her racially assaulting a toilet attendant.
Assassin’s Creed by numbers…
2,331 – Number of pages on AC Wiki
2012 – The end of the world according to overarching AC story
4000 – The number of non-playable characters on screen in AC3
24 – The number of animal species in AC3
17 – Different nationalities that worked on the game
200% – How much bigger the Frontier is than Rome
30 – The number of years the game will span
80% – The number of named characters in AC3 that were real people
2-4 – The number of people who can play the new multiplayer reverse horde mode, Wolf Pack
25 – The number of waves in Wolf Pack
10x – The amount that AC3 pre-order sales outdid AC Revelations