Assassin's Creed: Revelations is shaping up to be one of the hottest properties at the end of this year and we were fortunate enough to both see the game first-hand and talk to one of the guys from Ubisoft Montreal.
Brent Ashe is the presentation director on the game, and he was more than happy to answer our questions about the new Ezio, as well as talking about the future of handheld Assassin's Creed titles.
GamingUnion.net: Why did you decide to continue on with Ezio? A lot of people were expecting the next game to be Assassin's Creed 3
Brent Ashe: Well, the development team and the fan community felt that there was still more to do and more to say with Ezio. We, as a development team, are still huge fans of his storyline and what we've been able to do with him. It's not often in video games that you see a character become born, as we did in Assassin's Creed II, and see through most of their life. It was an opportunity to take what we've been doing with Desmond, take what we've been doing with Ezio, and take what we did with Altair. To really converge the plot lines into one game, set it up for future installments of Assassin's Creed and build a foundation to move on from there. That was the main driving decision behind it.
GamingUnion.net: Will Assassin's Creed III be the next game?
Brent Ashe: It's not something I can talk about at this time. We're here to talk about Assassin's Creed: Revelations. It's always in discussion down the road, what we may or may not do, but there's no details to confirm at this time.
GamingUnion.net: That always seems to be the case.
Brent Ashe: It's always 'nothing is true, everything is forbidden.' Yea, that goes for the press too laughs.
GamingUnion.net: What was it like working on an older version of Ezio? In that time period, 50 was quite old. Why did you decide to keep his prowess the same?
Brent Ashe: Well, you see guys who're 50 years old running marathons. So, with Ezio being who he is, we still feel he's somebody who would be able to do all the things you're seeing him do. I know with the narrative we do want to, throughout the storyline of Revelations, address that he is in fact older. You don't see that happening very often. There are some examples in comic books, like Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller; that really introduces the element of time to Batman. Typically in games, characters are 30 years old forever - Snake is the only example I can think of where this isn't really the case. And they [Konami] did an excellent job there of recognising that yea, he's older. That certainly sets a precedent for what we're going to try and aim for with the narrative in Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
Ezio is older, so we don't just want to go, no he's the same guy that he was when you first saw him in Assassin's Creed II. I hope people really get that aspect of what we're trying to do. We're seeing it visually in terms of his appearance, but it's sort of debatable whether or not someone of his age could do what he's doing. I think you're going to see it in subtle ways, maybe through his animations and certainly the narrative, but you'll see that we certainly address the fact that he's of a certain age.
GamingUnion.net: It must have been fun for art team to finally make someone who doesn't look like Desmond.
Brent Ashe: Well, certainly when you address the aspect of someone getting older, certainly they look reminiscent of somebody who you've known them to be. But, we have to add those sort of details that reflect the fact that he's in his early to mid 50s.
GamingUnion.net: Shortly after you announced Revelations, you asked fans for their feedback. Is this something you will continue to do until its release?
Brent Ashe: Absolutely. We're very very grateful for all the fan support, their enthusiasm for the gameplay, for the narrative and we will always take into account what they have to say. Even though we on the development side have a strong idea about where we want to take it, we always want to make sure the gameplay features we have, features we introduce and layer into the series, are not only consistent with our vision, but also go in line with what the fans' expectations are. We're doing it a lot now with the multiplayer. We introduced multiplayer for the first time last year with Brotherhood and certainly the fan feedback is shaping some of the directions and choices we're making. It's always a careful balance and the series is nothing without the fans. So, if we don't take into account what they like and don't like, we're not really putting our best foot forward in terms of where we go.
GamingUnion.net: In the build-up to Brotherhood, Ubisoft said there was going to be a much greater focus on Desmond, but it didn't really happen. What's his role going to be like in Revelations, is he going to have a bigger part to play?
Brent Ashe: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we've released the teaser about what we're going to be doing with Desmond. I think if you take each of the three games before Revelations and look at a ratio of what you can and can't do as Desmond, it's certainly grown. I know it's easy to say that with Brotherhood, his involvement may not have been as much as they wanted. But I think with Revelations you're going to see that we're really taking that into account. It's been very enlightening how much people really care about Desmond and what happens to him. So, that's another reason behind the narrative focus in Revelations. It's to make sure that we address that and we'll hopefully bring a high level of fulfilment to what people expect to happen and to go on with Desmond - both gameplay and with the narrative.
GamingUnion.net: It must be hard in that respect, as you're probably the only game that has two different stories going on at the same time, in the same game.
Brent Ashe: It's always an interesting challenge because, not only are we dealing with the historical aspects when you play as the ancestor and the driving gameplay features behind that. But when you parallel that with something happening in the near to present future, it's always a tricky recipe to get exactly right. You have to weigh up what we want on the creative side, but also what the fans expect and want out of it too. I'm really excited for people to see what we have in store for Desmond in Revelations because I think it will please a lot of people who're expecting to see a little bit more.
GamingUnion.net: What do you think about the quality of the handheld games? The main series are up there with the best, but the handheld games have never managed to attain anywhere near that level of quality.
Brent Ashe: Well, a lot of the times you're dealing with hardware limitations. Like, when you compare the PS3 to the original PSP or even the Nintendo DS, in terms of hardware capability it's just not comparable. More often that not now, when we consider where we're going with the franchise, we'll look at the scale and scope of what a console such as the PS3, 360 or PC can deliver. Not that we'd entirely exclude another handheld version, but it really depends on the game we want to develop and the story we want to tell. If it fits in the scope, then we'd certainly want to take advantage of the hardware that gives us the most bang for our buck and for the fans as well. Quality-wise, it's not something I really want to comment on because, they are what they are. There are people who really enjoy them and we'll take steps in the future to really make sure that when we consider other platforms, that everything is within the quality and expectation level that we can deliver for that specific platform.
GamingUnion.net: Will we ever see a main series game on a handheld system?
Brent Ashe: It's not known at this time. I know certainly we've just seen the official announcement of the Vita and we've seen the official announcement of the Nintendo Wii U. We've mentioned that there's some form of an Assassin's Creed game in development for the Wii U, but there are no additional details to share on that. But certainly, that hardware is interesting because, now it's going to be in HD and wrapping that in with their control scheme - I'm curious to see where that goes. We will always consider the marriage between the hardware itself, the story we want to tell, the gameplay we want and see if it's a good fit. And if it's a good fit, it's something we'll pursue. If it's not, we'll push it more towards where we feel it's appropriate.