Few places in Toronto are as appropriate for an Assassin’s Creed event as the Berkeley Church on Queen and Parliament. Originally built in 1871, it’s a mix of the modern and the historical – a perfect fit for the time-jumping, history-shaping saga that continues this week with the release of Ubisoft’s latest chapter in the series, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
Banners with series stalwarts Ezio Auditore and Altair Ibn-La’Ahad draped over the building’s entrance. To the side, flickering braziers could make a visitor wonder if they had been invited to a clandestine Templar gathering. Inside, multiple television screens were hooked up to Xbox 360 consoles, allowing guests and the media to try out Revelations‘ multiplayer mode, improved and expanded from last year’s version in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
Darby McDevitt, lead writer for Revelations and the tie-in short film AC: Embers, ran though a demonstration of the game’s single player story. An older, burlier Ezio Auditore is joined by a team of assassins on their way to meet the young Prince Suleiman in Constantinople, while also protecting him from potential Templar attempts on his life.
The sequence began with the need for more subterfuge than usual – procuring disguises to enter a party thrown by Suleiman’s family, not unlike the festive scenes in Venice we’ve seen before. To do that, McDevitt-as-Ezio punches the living daylights out of those irritating minstrels, throws them into a straw wagon, and then dresses as one himself – including the ability to play the lute as a distraction.
Once at the party, Ezio uses his Eagle Vision to find the Templar infiltrators. Once found, he plays the lute – often singing a ditty belittling the Borgias from Brotherhood – distracting the crowd. Meanwhile his Assassin brothers grab the Templar, dispatch them with a trademark Snikt, and throw them in down a well or behind a bush. The crowd at the Berkeley Church roared with laughter at every Templar’s demise, punctuated by the juxtaposition of onlookers applauding Ezio’s performance.
The event’s host, Shaun Hatton, then sat down with McDevitt to talk about Revelations and where it fit into the Assassin’s Creed lore. They were joined by Live Team Producer Andreane Meunier, who oversees the multiplayer mode’s development, and Art Director Raphael Lacoste.
Hatton asked about the creative process for making a Creed game – which comes first, the game mechanics, or the story? McDevitt answered that, at least for AC2, the Renaissance was the first thing they decided upon. After that, “you immediately start to imagine a character in that world, and because he’s part of the Assassin’s order, how does that fit into the first game?”
For Revelations, “we looked around in history, wondering what else was going on in history while the Renaissance was going on [in Italy]. We looked to the east and realized there’s this amazing city called Constantinople. We saw this chunk of Ezio’s life where we said that yeah, he could plausibly go there – because there were certain questions that we wanted to have answered.”
When asked about fan interaction, McDevitt said he reads many online forum discussions to see what the fans of the games are talking about, and also what plot points they are feverishly debating.
“Around the time when I’m making the script, I will read the forums a lot, because I want to know the topics that the fans are arguing about, and getting into flame wars about. Because maybe there’s something that makes me think, ‘oh, you know, I didn’t even intend for that to be confusing. I should probably answer that question.’”
Meuning’s mission statement deals with the multiplayer component, “we’re really giving you a new inside look at what’s happening on the Templar side,” she explains. “You’ll have people from [Abstergo] talking to you, and it’ll probably let you in on a lot of secrets that are blurring the line of good and bad, Assassins versus Templars, and you’ll probably realize that there’s a lot more to the story than just the Assassins’ side of things.”
As for Constantinople itself, Lacoste said he and his team worked hard to introduce a wider array of vistas, colours, and personality to the different areas in the game compared to Rome in Brotherhood. He noted they especially paid attention to the large buildings such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, making no secret about the amount of planning it took to make sure Ezio would be able to climb and traverse the locations with aplomb. “It was a great challenge to re-create the city of Constantinople,” said Lacoste. “We hope it’s an exotic, fresh new experience for the players.”
As for the team’s Dork Shelves? McDevitt’s includes the collected works of Orson Welles, PC classic Another World, “all the Lucasarts Sierra games,” and two copies of Dark Souls. Lacoste owns several reference books about architecture, and his favourite designer is American Frank Lloyd Wright.
Meunier says she currently has a homemade, in-progress crochet Sackboy. “It’s mising a limb right now…I’ve been working on it for six months on-and-off.”
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations launches this Tuesday, November 15, on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. PC gamers will have to wait until November 29th.