Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is introducing dual protagonists for the first time to the Assassin’s Creed series. With players able to switch freely between twins Evie and Jacob Frye throughout the game, Syndicate offers different ways for players to approach situations.
I sat down with game director Scott Phillips to discuss the advantages of telling a story through two characters, expectations for how fans will receive the game, and more.
GameSpot: At what point was it decided that there would be two main characters that you can switch between in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and that they would be twins? Why twins?
Phillips: Jacob and Evie were around from the beginning. We always knew we wanted this ability to tell a story from two different sides, to be able to have one side, and then show the consequences of what happens when you do it a certain way with another character. And so it just organically grew out of that. Their story together changed over time and developed more, and they became more interesting characters. They sort of bicker with each other in a sibling fashion, and I think they’re really interesting characters.
Was it always going to be siblings? Did Ubisoft build the game around the two characters?
I came on to the project a year ago. So I wasn’t there in the very early times. When I started at Ubisoft Quebec, there were two characters for sure.
I’d say the most important thing that the framework through which everything else came was the London 1868 setting, that time period. From there we developed characters, we developed what these characters would go through, what the story is we want to tell, what’s the setting, what’s the world like, what’s the atmosphere, what other people would exist in that time period, can we interact with them. It develops organically from that origin of that time period.
Are there specific things in the game to which you’re feeling like, “I can’t wait to see how the Internet will react to X and Y”?
For me, it’s probably a mix of all the things, once you’ve got all the tools. What players actually do, and who they spend their time playing as, Evie or Jacob. I was really happy coming off a playtest, we looked at data of how many people were playing as Evie and how many people were playing as Jacob. I was blown away, because it seemed like there had to have been at least a 60-40 breakdown, but it was across the line 50-50. I think that spoke really highly of characters like both Jacob and Evie that they appeal to different players. I think that gives us a lot of confidence for the choice to have both playable characters.
You previously revealed in past interview that over a thousand people were working on the game, with teams all over the world. You also said in the same interview that this is positive because it creates diversity within the company’s culture.
Could you provide any specific examples on how working with a team that spans the world has been advantageous to Syndicate?
I think one really good example is the help we’ve received from Ubisoft Montreal. Being the origin of the franchise, obviously they have a lot of knowledge about why things have been done, how they have been done. Ubisoft Montreal took charge of the parkour system, because they have a lot of that technical expertise. We spent a lot of time with them, and they would visit us as well to make sure we were making the parkour the best we possibly could. But nearby them sits the team that are in charge of the brand as a whole, and so they’re able to tap that sort of experience that’s within the Ubisoft Montreal studio. For us in Quebec, that would have been harder for us to communicate with them. That sort of interaction was easier for them to have.
Why is this Assassin’s Creed game not numbered? Does that make it less relevant to the main storyline?
I honestly don’t know.
I don’t know why the titles come from everywhere, what things are named goes through marketing, public relations, the team, everybody gets involved with it in some way, so I can’t really speak to why it does or doesn’t have a certain thing in the name.
There are five different editions of the game that have been announced. The Standard Edition, The Rooks Edition, Gold Edition, Charing Cross Edition and the Big Ben Edition. Why so many?
[Ubisoft PR interrupts] That would be more a question for each Ubisoft local PR person, wherever you’re located.
Phillips: I can’t really answer.
What is something new that you‘re introducing to the series that you’re feeling unsure of how people will react?
I don’t think there’s anything we’re unsure of at this point. We do hundreds of play tests for months and months leading up to the launch of the game. We have a pretty good sense of how everything is being used by players, what their reactions are, how they feel about everything in the game. We try to get a varied audience in there as well, and we do these worldwide.
We have a very good understanding of what players like, and something I think players have been really positive about was the rope launcher. Some people were a bit, “ugh, is that really a part of Assassin’s Creed?” but so far from people who have played it, the response has been universally positive. Once they actually get to play with it and feel how it fits in with the parkour, feel that it has its place because of the world we built, it fits into the spectrum of all the pillars of Assassin’s Creed.