Even with all this advanced communication tech, and the smart systems put in place to make sure all the teams are creating a game that feels properly unified, you’d expect some inconsistencies to slip through the net. And that’s exactly what happened during Assassin's Creed 2.
“I was a game designer on Assassin’s Creed 2, and I wasn’t aware of it,” says Guesdon. “It was an Easter Egg created by Singapore. It was the first collaboration, and Singapore made all the Assassin’s Tombs. Some of the Montreal studio went to Singapore to start the studio--they were made up of people who created PoP Sands of Time and the first Assassin’s Creed--and they created that Easter Egg in secrecy.”
He’s talking about the giant squid that you can find in the Santa Maria della Visitazione Assassin’s Tomb in Venice, if you peer into the water for a few seconds. This Easter Egg is something that very few members of the Assassin’s Creed 2 team were even aware of until it started popping up in videos on YouTube.
“A few of the experts we brought over for AC2 had previously worked in Montreal on AC and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time,” says Luhe when we ask him about it. “It was a long-running joke with AC2 script writer, Corey May, that he wanted to have a giant squid in one of his games, but had never made it happen before. So we decided to slip that into one of our Assassin’s Tomb levels. Montreal knew about it before it was released, but they didn’t know we were working on it. It was quite fun. We created it as a bug, sent it over to them and asked them to check it out, and they immediately got the joke and everyone enjoyed it.”
Will the giant squid be making it back for the extremely watery Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? No-one at Ubisoft is denying it.
There’s little doubt that the multi-studio development of the Assassin’s Creed has made the series better. Yes, Assassin’s Creed 3 felt bloated, but never incoherent. Having so many creative people to manage throws up a massive bunch of logistical problems, but it also means you can make bigger, better games more frequently.
Guesdon reflects on the process: “Creating a game is hard. Creating a game when you’ve got multiple teams around the world is even harder. But I think we’re doing a pretty decent job with Assassin’s Creed. We use as many channels of communication as possible, we use networks, video calls, physical visits. It’s not easy, but as long as you have good people, then anything is possible. It makes me feel that Assassin’s Creed--as a game--is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
Following Black Flag’s exciting E3 2013 showing (technical issues aside) we’re inclined to agree. Biggest game in the world? Maybe, maybe not… but it’s certainly the most global, and that’s an impressive boast.