Assassin's Creed 3 interview: Ending sequence
Assassin's Creed 3 has been a long time coming. After a short detour into an entire trilogy devoted to Ezio, the hero from the prior numbered title, the series is bringing its dangling plot threads to a close. Lead writer Corey May talked to Shacknews about expectations, twists, and providing closure to Desmond's story.
Minor spoilers follow.
"We could in theory tie almost everything up here," May said. "But the universe is big enough and there are enough moving pieces that should they decide in the future to do other stuff -- because I have no idea what the future holds, all I know is AC3 -- but should they decide in the future to do other stuff, there's plenty of room to explore, plenty of seeds that have been planted that won't conflict."
May says he felt the pressure in wrapping up the story arc, since fans of the world have been waiting for satisfaction. But quite a bit of the ground-work was laid from the start. "We had a plan from day one, as far as Desmond is concerned," he said. "We really wanted to make sure that we realize as much of the original vision as possible in this game. It was my intent to provide pay-off and to answer questions for those who are invested in them. It should provide a fairly lengthy ending that will also give room for answers and pay-off."
Much of the series' mystery has come from its mythological connections, starting with a notable twist at the end of the second game. The subsequent titles, Brotherhood and Revelations, packed diminishing returns on twists, possibly because we were expecting them. But May promises that Assassin's Creed 3 won't pull the rug from under us.
"There are twists in the story, but not in that regard. The ending should not come out of no where," he explained. "For example, what will not happen, I promise you this: you will not wake up and find that you were in an Animus reliving the life of someone who was in an Animus. We are not doing that. It was not all just a dream. I think people that have invested in the Desmond storyline will understand where the end of the game comes from. We're tying up loose ends and providing answers and resolution to things. You're not going to get another tremendous insane-o cliffhanger."
This resolution is set against Connor's story, and the backdrop of the American Revolution. The team at Ubisoft was met quickly with fears of jingoism, but May doesn't think those will prove problematic. "For us, the primary focus was between the Templars and Assassins. I felt that by focusing on the Assassin/Templar conflict, it would help us avoid pushing an agenda or taking a side. The idea is that Connor is exposed to all the different arguments. It syncs in very nicely with the Assassin/Templar conflict because the Assassins have always been defenders of free will and self-determination. The Templars want to impose their version of order on society.
"Now it seems cut and dry at least initially, and that's the intent, but as you progress through the story there will be more revelations and explanations and complications and nuances to it. By the time you've reached the end of the game, the initial concerns of jingoism will have faded. We were very cognizant of that during development and production. We've always strived to emphasize the grayness rather than depict events as black and white. So hopefully we've treated this with the respect and nuance it deserves."
One such piece of nuance was noticeable in my own demo session, when a downed Templar confessed his rationale for committing atrocities. What seemed inexcusable seemed slightly more understandable while hearing his accurate predictions through the lens of history. May calls these segments the "white room" from the first Assassin's Creed title, which he says he hopes gives the Templars a stage to "detail their philosophy."
May says his priority in writing Connor was to make sure he was his own character, distinct from the other protagonists. He suffers a personal tragedy like Ezio, but his struggle is broader. "It's more this idea that there are all these great injustices being committed, and no one is doing anything about it," he said. The slave trade, for example, was arguably "a very specific form of liberty and equality for very specific people, not for everyone."
This stood out when Connor spoke to Sam Adams, who acknowledged the immorality of slavery but urged patience in dealing with it. "I found that really interesting because I feel like that's an argument that's echoed throughout time when it comes to dealing with minority issues in society. You'll often hear people say, 'we know it's wrong, but we're doing all we can and we have other things we have to deal with now.' Connor's of the mind that no, this is something you have to deal with right now, you don't wait to make things right when they're politically expedient. Even the concept of politicking is very new and frustrating to Connor."
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These concepts of social justice tie back to the endemic racial issues at play, which then informs the central Assassin/Templar conflict. "There are certain things that we take pretty clear stances on in the games," May said. "There are certain forms of behavior that both sides find abhorrent and don't see a middle-ground with. They disagree on how to deal with it, but I think they're pretty unified in opposition to discrimination, to the practice of slavery, to any form of oppression. The Templars look at the way people behave and they feel the reason they need to be in control is because people engage in these horrible bigoted acts, while the Assassins believe that education and understanding will help people evolve beyond this."
And that central disagreement is the heart of the Assassin's Creed series. While most action games threaten lives as the impetus for action, Assassin's Creed comes down to a philosophical conflict. Ubisoft has been silent on Desmond's story, but his arc, and that philosophical rift, is certainly approaching finality.
Assassin's Creed 3
This Assassin's Creed 3 interview was conducted during a preview event provided by Ubisoft.