Even if you don’t know the name Patrice Désilets, you’ll know his games. He was director on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin's Creed (opens in new tab) and Assassin's Creed 2 (opens in new tab), so he knows his stuff. (There’s also the mystery title 1666 he lost custody of to Ubi that he says “nobody will know before I get it back”.)
Now, he’s working on something that’s no real biggie, just the entire development of us as a species. “I’m the history guy,” he tells me, “that’s my brand and I like it. So I said, 'why don’t we do a game about our own evolution?” The plan, then, is that this new project, Ancestors: the Humankind Odyssey, will follow the history of our species over a huge episodic game. “Let’s tell the story of the ‘the day when’” he explains. “[When] we did something unique. The first chapter is about being able to stand up. Let’s tell the story of this new feature. Why did we survive because of it?”
Each episode focuses on a new evolutionary stage. Intelligence is mentioned for example - the first ‘character’ is an Orrorin, a suspected early human ancestor. Other episodes include later proto-humans like Ramidus or Australopithecus, say Patrice. So far he has around 20 chapters roughed out, with mention of everything from the wheel to toolmaking, and “who was the first person who had this idea of milking a cow?” GOTY, right there.
Patrice is also hoping to combat what he sees as a big problems with episodic games: “once you finish, you’re with left with nothing,” he points out. That’s why Ancestors is focusing on both narrative and open world survival: “the way we structure it, let’s do a 15 minute action sequence. I put you in an emotional state I want you to be in. And after that I leave you in a playground [to] survive. An open world where you grind your character. It’s linear, like Uncharted, then I’m leaving you in Rust, the game”.
These episodes will eventually stack up according to Patrice who explains, “there is a continuity”. While he’s not giving out specifics, the example he uses is ‘the Queen of England’. “The bloodline’s important, right?” he says. “Well the bloodline goes back until this ape. There is a caveman that is connected to the Queen. You want to become the Queen somehow. That’ll be the goal. That’ll be your family, there will be a link between the big jumps”.
I’m guessing the end goal isn’t to becomes the actual Queen, but, rather, choices will carry over the bloodlines and history. There’s an RPG system for example, and mention of a Civilization-style tech tree. What you decide will “create the type of family and tribe you have” as you pick between hunting upgrades for a warrior-like approach, or gathering and herbalist skills for a more spiritual take.
There is one last twist to what already sounds like ‘All of Human History: The Game’: “We want to have a documentary twist in the presentation,” laughs Patrice. “To have a feeling that you're being followed around by a crew, you have a narrator there; BBC Earth style thing”. At this point it’s David Attenborough or go home.
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