Assassin's Creed Brotherhood: 'Biggest entry in our biggest series'
27th Oct 2010 | 16:19
We recently travelled to Rome to play Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood in its most natural surroundings.
Like all business trips, though, we didn't just sit around playing video games and sipping gin and tonics (ahem) - we also managed to get some of Ubisoft Montreal's key personnel in front of our dictaphone for a chat.
In the first of our series of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood interviews, we talk numbers and strategy with senior international brand manager, Eric Gallant.
Can you assure our readers that this is a proper Assassin's Creed release - a full experience?
In terms of the scope of the game it is the biggest we've ever made for Assassin's Creed. The single player campaign has the same depth as AC2 in terms of gameplay. With the multiplayer layer that we've added it makes the game the biggest Assassin's Creed game so far in terms of scope. So yes, it's a full game.
What's great about the way the production team is working is that they listen a lot to the consumer's feedback, it is very important. People would be amazed to see how much they read, look and listen to feedback - we also conduct consumer studies on our side after each game. They have a lot of experience with the franchise too so they're adding new gameplay features, so from my perspective it is going to be the greatest of the three in terms of experience evolution.
The fact that we're introducing multiplayer is very cool, so I'm personally looking forward to playing the entire game because I did play most of it section by section, but I'm looking forward to playing the entire thing.
We hear your marketing budget for Brotherhood is going to be even bigger than AC2?
I don't know. In terms of budget there are so many different divisions for marketing...
But if that is true, is the larger budget reflected in your sales expectations for Brotherhood?
Of course. We have high expectation for the franchise, it is the biggest Ubisoft franchise. There are five studios working on the game so we're taking it very seriously, of course that means marketing support too. We're making sure that we have the proper support for the game, but I can't talk numbers because I don't have that view. We are spending a lot to support a game we think has the potential to generate a lot of sales for us.
The last two games have done phenomenally well, generating millions of sales. Are expectations higher for this?
We definitely have high expectations and standards for this game. Based on the scope we have we hope we will grow our fanbase. If you look at the fact that multiplayer is something totally new that we're adding, we are hoping to capture a new set of fans.
What's missing from this that is required for an numbered Assassin's Creed sequel?
The mindset for the team and the vision for the franchise is that a number is attached to a new Assassin and a new time period. Currently because we are keeping ourselves in the Italian renaissance and to the story of Ezio we didn't want to put a number on this game even though it's the most complete game so far.
It's really about the vision of the franchise that for us that a number equals a new Assassin's and a new time period, that's the only reason why we didn't number it. Internally though this is the considered as the third game in the series, we see like a new season of 24. It's still the same main character but a new adventure but with all the depth of the previous season.
We've already touched on the gigantic sales of previous Assassin's games - can the series possibly grow any bigger?
We always think that it can, we think a lot of people still don't know about Assassin's Creed and we try to make the franchise bigger. Multiplayer is one of those ways but we also try to keep having a very good story and innovative gameplay. I think that's what will make the franchise grow more.
Was multiplayer always on your mind? Why have you chosen now to introduce it?
It has been in development for almost three years now - we always had it in mind and thought about it but we didn't want to rush it out if it wasn't fitting properly. We wanted to do it right and as part of the development cycle and the time it took we felt that this was the right time.
We feel that we have something strong now that fits with what Assassin's Creed is, we spent a lot of time to make sure the core values of the game are reflected in the multiplayer experience. We didn't want to do it just for the sake of doing multiplayer, we wanted to give the consumer a different experience that fits with the AC philosophy.
Was it hard to nail down the concept for multiplayer?
Yes, like everything there is a lot of trial and error, we do a lot of tests with consumers too.
There's been a lot of talk about axed Assassin's concepts - an Aztec setting in particular...
Yes. There are always people working on new concepts, technology and ideas. They work on it and present it to core people and get a no or no go. There's always internal development and test with consumers. Multiplayer for example has been tested every day.
Is Ubisoft giving you free reign in terms of man hours and budget?
It is our biggest franchise so we're taking it seriously. There are people working and thinking about the future vision of the franchise, which I can't talk about but it is something that we are willing to keep pushing. Like with any big franchise you want to make sure you're doing what is right with the franchise and you have people that are thinking about the future.
It's been said by another Ubisoft Monteal staffer that we might have to wait a little longer for the next one - until 2012. Care to put that rumour to bed?
That was personal opinion which we respect. The details of everything related to the future of the brand aren't known by everyone. Unfortunately not everyone is in the loop. There are a group of people making plans at a higher level of the organisation - they are the ones that make the decision about where we are going. There are things we are working on but I can't talk about it. That was misleading information; it was more of an expression of personal opinion, or observation.
So there's still a chance we could see a new AC next year?
I can't talk about next year or the following years. The only thing I can say is that it is our biggest franchise and we're always thinking about new ways of keeping our fans excited and into the brand, so there could be surprises and announcement in the following months - I don't know.
How important is multiplayer for the longevity of the boxed game?
The consumers will tell us - we're looking forward to seeing their feedback. We feel strongly that it is going to be exciting. We saw the reaction at E3 where we won the award for best online game. We were happy and surprised at that but at the same time we're going to watch feedback, if it will be something we look at to evolve and maintain the franchise. We're just waiting for the consumer feedback.
With the acclaim you've already received for multiplayer, does Ubisoft no longer consider Assassin's a single-player-only franchise?
I think Assassin's Creed is well known foremost for its single player. It's about the story, the master assassin, the open world and all the cool environments. It's something that will always be strong in our core pillars; I can never see this franchise move away from that core element.
For consumers the story is very important along with the character. I'd be surprised if we move towards online more but that doesn't mean the online won't evolve and get more exciting. We're going to listen to feedback from consumers but the answer is no, we're not going to move away from our single-player core.
How ambitious are your cross media plans? AC2 had the Lineage short film...
We're looking at different opportunities...
So there is still stuff to talk about on that front?
Yes. We do have elements that are in the works and are evaluated all the time. This is the case for all our franchises. Cross media is become more and more important in the industry and as you get bigger as an IP there's more interest in finding new ways to build a brand. So it's very important to Ubisoft and we even have different departments working on that but I don't have a view on everything.
As a brand becomes bigger and bigger I think it's a good way to attract new consumer to the franchise. Our game will always be the major platform where we'll pull consumers towards. To find different ways to talk to people and get AC into the mind of the people will definitely help us to sell the main game. It's a strategy that every company tries and we want to find new ways to attract new consumers. Cross media is a method we're investigating.
A lot of fans might be concerned about Patrice Desilet's departure [Note: He's since joined THQ]. Can you assure fans that all's well on the Assassin's team?
The core members for Brotherhood are the same as those in Assassin's Creed 2. Every decision is a team decision. Patrice was a key member of a team and a good friend and his decision to leave is unfortunate for us but we're happy for him.
For Brotherhood it doesn't really have a big impact since the creative decisions were made way before this. These decisions are always coming out from different conversations with different people, for example our game director Patrick Plourde has been very involved from the beginning on all the decisions. Our script writers have been very involved as well. All the leads on the project are working together.
It's not only one person that drives the entire ship, it's a team and the core team remains the same on Brotherhood. Some core members will always stay on Assassin's Creed and we're adding new people as we get bigger. We have a strong vision for the future of the brand and are confident.
As far as Patrice departing goes, is his work done? Has he left a future and an ending for you to work towards?
That's something I can't talk about yet. Assassin's Creed has so much opportunity to evolve in different directions, that's the beauty of our franchise. The way that the story is structured, the interaction between present and past opens so many opportunities for where the evolution of the story could go. In terms of the present time story, a lot will happen in Brotherhood so who knows what could happen...
We hear the ending's a bitch...
Our scriptwriters love to end on a cliffhanger ending to surprise people; I think they'll do the same in this game. We like to surprise and shock the consumers and I think it's going to be the same with this game. People will be excited to play up to the end.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
Brotherhood is a game that fans will love but if you've never played the franchise before you can really get into it and play without feeling you missed a lot. The way that the story has been designed presents the most important information, so that new player can learn to manage and control the game. It's a game we're hoping to welcome new fans with and please old ones.