WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Jill Murray, and I'm a scriptwriter on Assassin's Creed III: Liberation.
WP: How did the story for Liberation come about? Was it developed separately from Assassin's Creed III? Was it developed in sync? Where in the planning phase did they come in and say, "We need a story to drive this portable game"?
JM: Assassin's Creed III: Liberation was developed in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was developed independently. We have a small support team in Montreal [Quebec, Canada], including two script writers and some other story roles, so we're in touch with the writers of Assassin's Creed III so we could make sure that everything stays coherent within the brand. The games are related and yet they're independent. This game is entirely its own story, and it was planned that way from the beginning.
WP: When you say that the games are related, what are some of the things that players of one will recognize in the other, in terms of story line?
JM: Well, first of all, both games take place in the same time period, although Liberation happens in and around Louisiana, so a completely different geographical area but at the same time, which is about 1765 to 1780. There will be a moment when players will meet Connor, and additionally, for players who have both the PlayStation 3 version and the Vita version, if they connect them together, they'll be able to unlock some rewards.
WP: With the Assassin's Creed franchise, the lead character has been male, and Aveline is the first lead female assassin. How did you approach that character in developing the backstory? Was it a challenge to make the character fit into the assassin mold without making it feel like a clone of the previous male characters?
JM: I think this is a very character-driven game, so there's never a question of trying to force Aveline to fit into any particular mold. I think there was a strong vision of who she was from the beginning and how she manages her world and how she slips in between different strata of society and sort of uses the world around her to her advantage. I think the whole team was always interested in Aveline as her own person. Of course, as soon as I joined, there was no way I was going to do that. (laughs) It's completely foreign to me to base a woman on a man. She's not created from the rib of Ezio or anything crazy like that. (laughs)
WP: What are some of the things that define Aveline as her own character and her own style of assassin?
JM: First of all, she's shaped very much by her environment. In the game, we have the city of New Orleans. We also have the bayou, which is comparable to the frontier in Assassin's Creed III, so all of her tools and weapons work within those environments. Additionally, there's the persona system, which allows her to change between a lady persona, the assassin persona we all know and love, and the slave persona. In each persona, she has different ways of getting the job done, whether it be charming and bribing guards as a lady or blending with workers as a slave. As far as her personality is concerned, she's very driven, she's very much guided by her own moral core. She can sometimes make decisions quite spontaneously, sometimes in opposition to direct orders. All these things combine to make her very interesting to watch and to play.
WP: Talk about the different outfits that you had briefly mentioned. Getting a little more in depth, how do they impact play style? When you switch between outfits, can you give us an example of how the other characters will react?
JM: Sure. Well, these are more than just outfits. The persona she adopts really affects how society reacts to her and how she relates to them. For instance, as a lady, you have less armor. You're not as agile, but you have the ability to bribe and charm guards. From the outset, they're more interested in protecting her and keeping her safe as a proper lady. As an assassin in the same city environment, she's automatically notorious. Any move she makes is going to be pounced on by the guards. As a slave, she's actually able to blend in and go unnoticed in ways that she certainly can't in her other personas.
WP: Developing for the Vita, what are some of the Vita-specific functions that Assassin's Creed III: Liberation could do that couldn't be done on the consoles? What makes it stand out rather than being a small-screen version of Assassin's Creed?
JM: The first thing you can do is bring it on your morning commute with you, which I suppose you could accomplish with the console, but you'd need a really big backpack. (laughs) All of the controls for Assassin's Creed are exactly where you expect them, and you can play the way you normally play, but we've also incorporated the Vita's special features, like the front touch-screen and the rear touch-pad for things like the weapon wheel and the map, your touch-pad for paddling and some of the minigames. The gyroscope and the camera are all employed for particular circumstances where it made sense to the gameplay. For instance, one nice feature is to be able to swipe the rear touch-pad to pick pockets. It's a motion that kind of mimics in life what I imagine pickpocketing and swiping would be like. (laughs)
WP: No personal experience?
JM: I have not actually pickpocketed someone by swiping or otherwise. (laughs) These are only games, kids!
WP: You've talked about the overall character design. What about the visual design? Even Connor pulls a lot from Ezio with the classic Assassin's Creed hood whereas Aveline seems to have her own look. What were some of the inspirations, and how did the team arrive at the character's final look?
JM: I know that the team went through a lot of research and a lot of iterations on her look and her persona and everything. I joined the team in February, so what we see now was pretty close to finished once I got there. Perhaps it would be possible to talk to someone in Sofia to get additional information on the background of the visuals because they did a lot of really good work.
WP: In terms of writing the story, what were some of the challenges with historical accuracy? As the Assassin's Creed games get closer to the current day and you're seeing real people and real events, how did you balance out historical accuracy with gameplay fun?
JM: I don't think there's really a conflict between historical accuracy and gameplay fun. Historical accuracy imposes some constraints the same way that good game design will. In some ways, they're natural partners. As Abstergo says, history is our playground, so if you look at history itself as a jungle gym that you can run and climb and hunt Templars through, then it's actually an aid. Sometimes it feels like a cheat, like, "What am I going to do? Oh, well, history says …." (laughs) Then you just explore it from there. You don't try to force any story into history. You let history guide you first.
WP: If you had to sum it up in 2-3 sentences, what is it about Assassin's Creed III: Liberation that makes it worth playing?
JM: I think people are going to be really surprised at exactly how much game there is in this Vita game. This is not what you think of when you think of a portable game. It's an expansive, immersive universe, and you can bring it with you without that bulky backpack. The whole package is going to blow people away.
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