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Assassin’s Creed is a action-adventure stealth video games series featuring open world environments.
In many of the games, the player assumes the role of the bartender Desmond Miles, who comes from a long line of assassins. By reliving his genetic memories using a machine called the “Animus,” Miles is able to view the history of his ancestors. The player uses stealth, acrobatics and deadly weapons to subdue enemies and complete various missions.
The main games in the franchise were developed by Ubisoft Montreal, with the handheld titles developed by Gameloft and Gryptonite Studios. On November 13th, 2007, the first Assassin’s Creed game was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Over the next seven years, an additional 14 Assassin’s Creed games were released for various video game systems.
Assassin’s Creed won several awards at E3 in 2006. Game Critics awarded it “Best Action/Adventure Game,”; from IGN, “Best Action Game”, “PS3 Game of the Show”, “Best PS3 Action Game”, “Best PS3 Graphics.” From GameSpot and GameSpy, it was awarded “Best PS3 Game of the Show.” By April 2014, the entire series sold over 73 million copies.
On July 28th, 2007, the Assasin’s Creed Wiki was launched, which accumulated over 4,900 entries over the following seven years. On September 2nd, 2010, YouTuber Tobuscus uploaded a literal trailer for the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood trailer, gathering more than 38.9 views and 114,000 comments in the next four years (shown below, left). On November 17th, the /r/assassinscreed subreddit was launched for discussions related to the video game series. On September 3rd, 2012, YouTuber devinsupertramp uploaded a Assassin’s Creed-themed parkour video, garnering upwards of 36.5 million views and 73,000 comments within two years (shown below, right). On October 30th, 2013, a Facebook page titled “Assassin’s Creed” was created, which gathered more than 9.2 million likes in eight months.
Female Character Exclusion in Unity
On June 10th, 2014, video game news site Polygon reported that the multiplayer co-op mode in the upcoming title Assassin’s Creed Unity won’t feature any playable female characters, citing a quote from an interview with Ubisoft’s creative director Alex Amancio explaining that the team had to abandon its earlier plan to include female characters due to the mounting pressure of production schedule.
“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amancio said. “Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”
In another Polygon interview with the creators of the game, level designer Bruno St. Andre estimated that “more than 8,000 animations” would have had to be recreated on a different skeleton.
“We started, but we had to drop it,” St. Andre said. “I cannot speak for the future of the brand, but it was dear to the production team, so you can expect that it will happen eventually in the brand.”
Ubisoft’s explanation was quickly met with skepticism from the fans and the development community alike, especially considering that previous titles in the series have featured a number of playable and non-playable female assassins. On June 10th, 2014, Twitter user @redfivetwo posted a tweet mocking Ubisoft’s explanation for scaling back on female characters, which gained over 1,300 retweets and 1,100 favorites in the first 48 hours.
"Female bone structure is just different," says Joe Ubisoft. "Are there spiders in there? We just don't know."— creeping horror (@redfivetwo) June 11, 2014
On the following day, the video games news site Video Gamer published a statement by Ubisoft technical director James Therien, who claimed that adding a female character would have been too labor intensive for game developers.
“It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production, so we wanted to make sure we had the best experience for the character. A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes. It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision… It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of game development.”
On Twitter, former Assassin’s Creed designer Jonathan Cooper tweeted that it would have taken an estimated “day or two’s work” to add a playable female character.
In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. http://t.co/z4OZl3Sngl— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
Also on June 11th, the video game news blog Kotaku published a statement from Ubisoft regarding the controversy, arguing that Assassin’s Creed Unity focuses on the story of the male protagonist Arno and that the series has included many strong female characters in the past.
“We recognise the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin’s Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters. Assassin’s Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique. With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin’s Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity.”
On Tumblr, several “asks blogs” have been created for various characters from the series, including AskDesmond, AskEzio and AskConnor. As of June 2014, over 57,000 deviations Assassin’s Creed-related submissions have been uploaded to DeviantArt.
On November 1st, 2012, YouTuber Andy Gilleand uploaded the first in a series of edited videos turning scenes from the Assassin’s Creed games into movies (shown below). On April 23rd, 2013, he submitted five of the films to the /r/gaming subreddit, where they received over 10,400 upvotes and 630 comments prior to being archived.