Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Plays With History's Fluidity

Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Plays With History's Fluidity

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The key, as Ubisoft sees it, is exploiting history's cracks, the better to create its fictional counterpart.

"Any time we use historical characters or historical events, we try as much as possible to be objective and not bend history," says Ubisoft creative director for Assassin's Creed 3 Alex Hutchinson. "But any time we find cracks - areas that aren't reported very much, or days that aren't documented - we try to take those spaces." That's how Ubisoft sees history; as a bed for its fiction, not a straight jacket. There's no such thing as a static history, Ubisoft believes, and committing to one, set-in-stone interpretation would have been a mistake, both for the fiction and its historical context.

"I think anyone who argues that history is objective or static is very confused," Hutchinson goes on to tell The Globe and Mail. "I don't think that there's a single event that hasn't gone through multiple interpretations or iterations in terms of what people believe even happened, let alone what was important about it, or what led up to it or what followed it." That's what Ubisoft exploits: the fluidity of historical interpretation, which allows it to play with the data and come up with a narrative that fits both the period, and the fictional imperative.

Hutchinson goes on to remark that, particularly with the American Revolution, it helped Ubisoft that many people know very little about the period. Ubisoft's focus groups seemed to think that it was all about Billy the Kid's adventures with Christopher Columbus; not many of them even managed to get the century right. "It's depressing," Hutchinson says, "But it's also an opportunity: They don't know anything! We can completely come in and show you it's cool."

There's no doubt that historical narrative is one of Assassin's Creed 3's major strengths, even when it drifts into speculative waters. Ubisoft is forging ahead with its series; Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the next on its list of historically themed stab-em-ups. We'll have to wait till later this year to see what it might have in store.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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What WERE Ubisoft's focus groups? The Tea Party?

Karloff:
Hutchinson goes on to remark that, particularly with the American Revolution, it helped Ubisoft that many people know very little about the period. Ubisoft's focus groups seemed to think that it was all about Billy the Kid's adventures with Christopher Columbus; not many of them even managed to get the century right. "It's depressing," Hutchinson says, "But it's also an opportunity: They don't know anything! We can completely come in and show you it's cool."

Unfortunately I can confirm that this is true. It's remarkable how uneducated most people are when it comes to history. And you have to take into account that their games are being sold worldwide. So not everyone will be familiar with the history of another country. Most Americans don't know shit about Italian Renaissance, Ottoman Empire or the Crusades. And a lot of people from outside the US don't know much about American Revolutionary war. The sad thing is, most Americans don't know much about their own history either. I know. I used to there.

Yah huh Ubi. So tell me again how pretty much everything on the Patriot's side of the Revolutionary War was done by one guy. Paul Revere's midnight ride? Nope! Connor! Boston Tea Party carries out by a bunch of disgruntled Americans? Nope! Connor! Battle of Bunker Hill won by the might of the troops and officers? NOPE!! CONNOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

soren7550:
Yah huh Ubi. So tell me again how pretty much everything on the Patriot's side of the Revolutionary War was done by one guy. Paul Revere's midnight ride? Nope! Connor! Boston Tea Party carries out by a bunch of disgruntled Americans? Nope! Connor! Battle of Bunker Hill won by the might of the troops and officers? NOPE!! CONNOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

yh but do any historical sources specifically say he wasnt there? also on that note he was also helped by jamsy the Psychic space faring platypus

Y'know, there are a LOT of cracks in history. I can't wait until they start jumping into time periods where stuff that is still controversial now is taking place. Like the Depression, the Holocaust, the Cold War (seems perfect for Assassin's Creed), Vietnam, Gulf War, 9/11, etc.

I don't want to be the one to say bad things about Assassin's Creed, but as a story concept, it's very broken. Everything is so trivial.

Oh please. The way Ubisoft fills in the 'cracks' in history is like filling the cracks in your house with fairy floss.

*double post thanks to Captcha...*

"I think anyone who argues that history is objective or static is very confused," Hutchinson goes on to tell The Globe and Mail. "I don't think that there's a single event that hasn't gone through multiple interpretations or iterations in terms of what people believe even happened, let alone what was important about it, or what led up to it or what followed it."

He is, of course, 100% correct. Perfect knowledge of history is an illusion. It's such a powerful illusion that people put a lot of stock into people being able to predict things that will happen based on it. That is what financial analysts do, predict the market based on what has occurred. That is also what investors do. And none of them get any results outside the mathematics of pure chance.

Where the hell did they get their focus groups from? I can't speak for everyone, but when I was in school they taught us about the American Revolution for 6 years strait. I'm no expert, but to say a lot of them couldn't even get the century right says quite a bit about whoever is in charge of that.

It's one thing to exploit cracks in history. It's another to flip it upside down for the sake of it.

I'm sorry, but Assassin's Creed has been moving from "exploit cracks" to "yep, we're just gonna go batshit crazy on this!".
It used to be subtle. The Templars are responsible for what we today jokingly consider the Illuminati's involvement - that is a good way to go about it. But having multiple huge historic events influenced nearly entirely by a single person who murders left and right and is a walking arsenal ... I'm sorry, but that is just ridiculous. Altair was a small guy leaving a mark. Ezio ended the Borgia rule and got a little involved here and there - other than that, he mostly acted in the background. That was doable - the Borgia rule and especially the assassination was always a rather complicated topic.

Connor suddenly decides the entire American Revolution. I'm sorry, but there are no cracks wide enough for this. Knowledge may be lost, sure, but this isn't just some people that mysteriously vanished. These were major events that were influenced to a pretty damn big extent by a single person out of the blue.

FEichinger:
It's one thing to exploit cracks in history. It's another to flip it upside down for the sake of it.

I'm sorry, but Assassin's Creed has been moving from "exploit cracks" to "yep, we're just gonna go batshit crazy on this!".
It used to be subtle. The Templars are responsible for what we today jokingly consider the Illuminati's involvement - that is a good way to go about it. But having multiple huge historic events influenced nearly entirely by a single person who murders left and right and is a walking arsenal ... I'm sorry, but that is just ridiculous. Altair was a small guy leaving a mark. Ezio ended the Borgia rule and got a little involved here and there - other than that, he mostly acted in the background. That was doable - the Borgia rule and especially the assassination was always a rather complicated topic.

Connor suddenly decides the entire American Revolution. I'm sorry, but there are no cracks wide enough for this. Knowledge may be lost, sure, but this isn't just some people that mysteriously vanished. These were major events that were influenced to a pretty damn big extent by a single person out of the blue.

And does that not make sense as a narrative, canon-wise?

AC's universe leads us to believe (and truly understand) that the driving force for nearly every conflict in history has been one forged by the Assassins or the Templars.
That said, much of the driving force behind the British attempting to quell a rebellion was truly an attempt at continuing order, particularly through the rule of a Templar monarchy. Ultimately, the assassin ideal of peace through freedom worked. The same happened in Assassin's Creed 2, except the assassin failed to stop the uprising of a corrupt (templar) rule (Pope Alexander VI).

Thus, it makes sense that many key points in history (including many American Revolution battles) were decided by the acts of a lone assassin. It's the assassin's job to uproot the bulk of templar corruption by assassinating the major forces that drive the influence of control, and with upper command severed, the remaining army has no direction or political influence, and so fails. Connor did so by killing many British generals, Ezio did so by forcing the Borgia name to be slandered throughout history (and if you remember your Renaissance history correctly, then boy, did he succeed), Altair did so by putting an end to men who fought and killed without a truly just cause, etc.

And I suspect Edward in AC4 will defect to the pirates and put an end to the British privateering that occurred during the time.

As silly as it may sound in the real world, in the AC universe it all makes perfect sense.

Klagermeister:
[snip]

Oh, I fully agree that it makes sense within the AC universe. But that's also my point: This isn't exploiting cracks in history, it's an alternate history.
Obviously we're talking fiction here, but the obscure nature of the events that were depicted by now made it ... "believable", if you will. This changed dramatically with AC3, to me at least. AC3 doesn't seem like this could actually be what happened there - for all we know. The Crusades and the Borgia inner works - those were always not exactly clear-cut incidents.

It's just a matter of taste, obviously, but I just feel AC went a few steps too far away from history.

I really liked the historical presentation, and even though its patently ridiculous that a ninja sits in on the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere's ride etc, I think it is reasonably well justified in a couple of ways:

In real life, many influential people have disappeared from history, without any fame or acknowledgement whatsoever. Wives, man servants, junior officers and minorities all tend to get over shadowed by the people who do become famous. That's why so many inventions get attributed to the most influential, senior individual in an organisation, instead of the underlings who actually created it (penicillin, anyone?). Connor may well only be known to a few people, his involvement kept secret on account of him being a fellow insurgent, and a native American underling that Washington and the others overtly dislike and mistreat. That said, the game exploits certain historical facts on the occasions where Connor would be remembered. What is the one big thing he does in the public eye? Take part in the Boston tea party - the historical account of the event states that the Sons of Liberty dressed as native Americans.

The second justification is in game. As a clandestine organisations, it is in the Assassin's and Templar's interests to blot Connor from history. Seeing as how people possess magic artefacts that can specifically change what people believe, and Washington gains one of these apples after the events of AC3. Perhaps he then deleted all memory of Connor from history with said item.

soren7550:
Yah huh Ubi. So tell me again how pretty much everything on the Patriot's side of the Revolutionary War was done by one guy. Paul Revere's midnight ride? Nope! Connor! Boston Tea Party carries out by a bunch of disgruntled Americans? Nope! Connor! Battle of Bunker Hill won by the might of the troops and officers? NOPE!! CONNOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I suppose the entire Templar order in the middle East 1000 years ago was dismantled by Altair. Or that Davinci and Ezio were best friends who stopped Templars from making some of Davinci's designs of tanks. Or how Ezio is responsible for the Borgias occupying Italy. Or that Ezio threw Ceaser Borgia off a roof. Or that Ezio slept with a well known weathy Italian woman whom is likely the ancestor of subject 16 and thus is the link between Desmond and Subject 16.

This is my problem with THIS type of view put on AC3. The Americans seem to get pissed off that their ancestors are being painted as requiring help from someone, and they can't handle it. Assassin's Creed has always given us a character who has made history happen, and people seemed to be fine with this...until they dared to touch the American Revolution. Get over it, it's an alternate history, and if the Italians can look past Ezio and his actions, why can't you guy?

FEichinger:
It's one thing to exploit cracks in history. It's another to flip it upside down for the sake of it.

I'm sorry, but Assassin's Creed has been moving from "exploit cracks" to "yep, we're just gonna go batshit crazy on this!".
It used to be subtle. The Templars are responsible for what we today jokingly consider the Illuminati's involvement - that is a good way to go about it. But having multiple huge historic events influenced nearly entirely by a single person who murders left and right and is a walking arsenal ... I'm sorry, but that is just ridiculous. Altair was a small guy leaving a mark. Ezio ended the Borgia rule and got a little involved here and there - other than that, he mostly acted in the background. That was doable - the Borgia rule and especially the assassination was always a rather complicated topic.

Connor suddenly decides the entire American Revolution. I'm sorry, but there are no cracks wide enough for this. Knowledge may be lost, sure, but this isn't just some people that mysteriously vanished. These were major events that were influenced to a pretty damn big extent by a single person out of the blue.

Connor never wanted to enter the revolution, and he didn't side with them for their reasons, he sided with the patriots because he believed in freedom. He never decided to join the revolution, he even says that he feels that he has to do it, and that it is against his choice. I feel that this is your opinion because the American Revolution is much more well documented than 12th century Middle East and 15th/16th century Italy/Constantinople.

I feel as though people need to get over this and realise that it is a fictional story bending history to it's favour. the film 300 gave many imbelishments to what really happened in the battle of Thermopalae, so did Troy, The Patriot, Valkyrie, etc. I feel as though AC3 is getting all this hate for reasons that really shouldn't matter in a fictional setting.

bug_of_war:

soren7550:
Yah huh Ubi. So tell me again how pretty much everything on the Patriot's side of the Revolutionary War was done by one guy. Paul Revere's midnight ride? Nope! Connor! Boston Tea Party carries out by a bunch of disgruntled Americans? Nope! Connor! Battle of Bunker Hill won by the might of the troops and officers? NOPE!! CONNOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I suppose the entire Templar order in the middle East 1000 years ago was dismantled by Altair. Or that Davinci and Ezio were best friends who stopped Templars from making some of Davinci's designs of tanks. Or how Ezio is responsible for the Borgias occupying Italy. Or that Ezio threw Ceaser Borgia off a roof. Or that Ezio slept with a well known weathy Italian woman whom is likely the ancestor of subject 16 and thus is the link between Desmond and Subject 16.

This is my problem with THIS type of view put on AC3. The Americans seem to get pissed off that their ancestors are being painted as requiring help from someone, and they can't handle it. Assassin's Creed has always given us a character who has made history happen, and people seemed to be fine with this...until they dared to touch the American Revolution. Get over it, it's an alternate history, and if the Italians can look past Ezio and his actions, why can't you guy?

I haven't played any of the Ezio AC games, so I don't really know what went on there, and as for AC1, I don't think that Altair destroyed the whole order as much as he just took out some of their key members (were most of them even really key members? I can't remember, been a long while since I played).
For something like the Revolution, that's probably a lot better documented than stuff that happened during the Third Crusade (which if I remember right, the Third Crusade didn't play that much of an important role in what Altair was doing) or the Renaissance (again haven't played the Ezio titles so I don't know what his involvement was). Not to mention that people are probably more likely to know stuff about the American Revolution than the Third Crusade or the Renaissance.

soren7550:

I haven't played any of the Ezio AC games, so I don't really know what went on there, and as for AC1, I don't think that Altair destroyed the whole order as much as he just took out some of their key members (were most of them even really key members? I can't remember, been a long while since I played).
For something like the Revolution, that's probably a lot better documented than stuff that happened during the Third Crusade (which if I remember right, the Third Crusade didn't play that much of an important role in what Altair was doing) or the Renaissance (again haven't played the Ezio titles so I don't know what his involvement was). Not to mention that people are probably more likely to know stuff about the American Revolution than the Third Crusade or the Renaissance.

The thing is though, Altair is the reason for the fall of the Templar order. In the games released for handheld consoles where you play as Altair you basically make a huge dent in the order and are one of the reasons for it's fall in the Middle East. The Knights Templar played a role in the Third Crusade, so having one fictional character be responsible for their downfall does actually effect the events that occured in the Third Crusade.

No, Ezio did not start the Renaissance in Italy, he was just a part of the culture when that happened. However, he is best friends with Da Vinci, is the reason that Da Vinci made it to Venice, Ezio sleeps with a Noble woman and she is portrayed as being loose with men, he is the reason the Borgias occupied Italy, he is the reason for Cesare Borgia's death. They weave Ezio into all these events and people's lives just as Connor is woven into the lives of the revolution leaders. There is only one horse, and Paul Revere basically says, "You ride, all tell you where to go". Connor helps Revere in warning the populace, he didn't come up with the idea/know where to go or what to say, he just helped out. He does this with nearly every event. He walks up, gets told what to do or what needs to be done and he goes and does it, he is not the person who says, "You have to put your troops here so that I can cross the battle field to get to Pitcairn". The battle had already started and he was told what was happening and decided he'd risk going over and killing Pitcairn. He killed 1 man, as opposed to the hundreds of patriots killing hundreds of Redcoats, the Patriots didn't do nothing, Connor just killed key members.

This is why I don't get the hate for Connor, he kills 1 or 2 people who are leaders/responsible of a battle/event, but everyone gets pissed off and says the game shows him doing everything and makes the Patriots look weak when in reality the game shows none of that.

spartandude:

soren7550:
Yah huh Ubi. So tell me again how pretty much everything on the Patriot's side of the Revolutionary War was done by one guy. Paul Revere's midnight ride? Nope! Connor! Boston Tea Party carries out by a bunch of disgruntled Americans? Nope! Connor! Battle of Bunker Hill won by the might of the troops and officers? NOPE!! CONNOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

yh but do any historical sources specifically say he wasnt there? also on that note he was also helped by jamsy the Psychic space faring platypus

Good point. I mean, it's quite possible that many of the aspects of the series could have really happened, like how Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill were in cahoots all this time! That could have happened!

We're arguing about the historical accuracy of a series of video games where everything is literally explained with ancient aliens. I mean c'mon, we might as well be arguing about the historical accuracy of that Deadliest Warrior game.

I mean, history never said that Spartans and Apache never fought each other, so it totally could have happened!

 

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