Assassin’s Creed Universe interview: Encyclopaedias, Embers and Ezio

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The Assassin’s Creed series has exploded since the release of the first game in 2007, and as it continued to sell millions of copies over subsequent game releases through to the end of 2010 across all platforms, the franchise has outgrown its digital interactive form and spawned comic books, novels, a series of live action short story videos, an upcoming animated short film and an extensive encyclopaedia.

Julien Cuny - UbiWorkshop

Ahead of the release of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and the Assassin’s Creed: Embers animated film on November 15th, we got to speak to ‘transmedia development director’ at Ubisoft, Julien Cuny, where we found out about the creation of the Assassin’s Creed Encyclopaedia as well as the quality control in place to govern Ubisoft’s ‘transmedia’ approach to the franchise, all while discovering the secrets of Ezio’s final adventure.

Julien Cuny’s role at Ubisoft Montreal and UbiWorkshop involves managing teams working on various Assassin’s Creed projects, including the comic book (Assassin’s Creed: The Fall), the encyclopaedia and Embers. Cuny and his team aim to ensure that all projects and products related to the Assassin’s Creed franchise are of the highest quality and constructively add to the universe.

Assassin's Creed: The Fall Sample

Cuny flatly declared that derivative products of any franchise or property are bad, and Ubisoft’s transmedia approach to Assassin’s Creed is different in that the creation of each product is integrated right into the universe, as opposed to being thought of as separate from other entries to the property.

According to Cuny, UbiWorkshop exists to integrate all Assassin’s Creed projects as Ubisoft sees this as a necessity to control and ensure quality. It’s also of high importance that each of these transmedia products can be experienced on their own and act as standalone snippets of the universe ‒ to enjoy the Assassin’s Creed comic books, for example, you won’t need to have played the games, while ‘narrative seeds’ are also actively planted in other media (like the live-action videos) to further enrich the universe.

Those who seek out and experience these extra bits of story will, in the end, gain a greater understanding of the universe and if UbiWorkshop is doing its job correctly, you’ll ultimately enjoy the fiction even more if you devour all of the available media.

Assassin's Creed: Embers Banner Logo

The integration of disparate Assassin’s Creed products was clearly demonstrated during the creation of Assassin’s Creed: Embers, and with what Cuny called ‘tech convergence.’ As an example, because Embers is an animated CG film, elements of the artificial intelligence of the Assassin’s Creed games were able to be used to power the movement and actions of background characters in the film.

In addition, the lead writer working on the upcoming game Assassin’s Creed: Revelations worked on Embers to ensure narrative parity ‒ fitting seeing as how both Revelations and Embers deal with the final adventures of protagonist Ezio and both, in their own way, close his chapter of, and involvement in, the Assassin’s Creed universe.

Cuny gave me the opportunity to watch the full Embers film (which runs for roughly twenty minutes), and before the viewing, he claimed that the story of Embers couldn’t be told in a game because of the complex inner workings and repercussions of the Animus device: and he was right. While I’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding its content, I can say that Embers will be an absolute treat (a treat!) for fans of Ezio and his world ‒ his deep human nature is further revealed, and even as an old man he’s still got a lot of fight in him!

Here’s a quick teaser trailer for Embers to whet your appetite:

Assassin’s Creed: Embers – Teaser Trailer

We also discussed the Herculean effort that went into the creation of the mammoth Assassin’s Creed encyclopaedia, which comprises information on characters, events, organisations, locations and much (much) more from the Assassin’s Creed universe, a lot of which has been revealed in previous transmedia products but has been further fleshed out in the encyclopaedia, while new characters and events are also unveiled in the book.

The encyclopaedia started out as a coffee table art book which would ‘simply’ act as a showcase for concept art from Assassin’s Creed, but the project soon evolved into something much bigger. In only three months, and working in secrecy, UbiWorkshop was able to find five highly talented writers in the Assassin’s Creed fan community to contribute to the creation of the encyclopaedia, and after sifting through hundreds of writing samples, these five writers worked in collaboration with Assassin’s Creed lore masters to form an official document of record.

Assassin's Creed Encyclopaedia Image

Cuny described the creation of the Assassin’s Creed encyclopaedia as a nightmare scenario (citing the garbage chute crusher scene in Star Wars to demonstrate the kind of pressure that was on the team) as it involved sifting through thousands of assets, searching through the hidden and forgotten archives of Assassin’s Creed, creating new art assets, and writing over 80 000 words ‒ the length of a full Assassin’s Creed game ‒ with translation into five languages: in only three months!

Not only all of that, but as new narrative strings were added to the Assassin’s Creed universe during the development of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the game’s writers actively collaborated with the encyclopaedia writers to update the lore, which meant rewrites of certain sections of the book, adding even more pressure to its creation.

In my opinion, all of the effort was well worth it. Cuny showed me a final version of the Assassin’s Creed encyclopaedia and it is truly beautifully produced, exuding an amazing level of quality in every page with striking concept art and rich text entries that delve deep into the Assassin’s Creed lore.

I was very surprised, too, as Cuny handed me a copy of the book to call my own ‒ thanks Julien!

You can see a short ‘making of’ video for the book below:

Assassin’s Creed Encylopaedia – Making of Trailer

Look out for the release of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations on November 15th, as well as the official release of Assassin’s Creed: Embers on Xbox LIVE Marketplace and the PlayStation Network on the same date, and as a bonus in the special Animus Edition of the game.

Also be sure to check out the Assassin’s Creed Encyclopaedia at UbiWorkshop, and have a look at Assassin’s Creed: The Fall over here – you can watch a behind-the-scenes trailer for this amazing comic book series below:

Assassin’s Creed: The Fall – Behind-the-Scenes Trailer

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