GR: Talking about big decisions, would you feel more confident if this game was called Assassin’s Creed 3?
VP: Good question. (mulls it over) I guess.
GR: Is that a decision that’s come from the higher ups?
VP: Well, we also have people doing market research... but so far the decision hasn’t really affected us. We’ve aggressively illustrated that we are introducing a lot of new elements, refreshing other parts of the game – so I think we’ve shown people this is more than just a cheap reheating of the same dish. What I was afraid, for example, is of people mixing up Brotherhood with Bloodlines. We had suggested more than a subtitle – actually having the balls to propose a new brand name for those kinds of games that are follow-ups to the main ones.
GR: Ooh, that’s a potentially dangerous strategy though.
VP: It is.
GR: Hmm. So AC is a Western created game, it primarily sells in the west. A few years ago the (in)famous games analyst Michael Pachter predicted Assassin’s 2 would be set in Feudal Japan... but doesn’t what you’ve just said sort of rule that out given that not many westerners know much about Japanese history?
VP: That’s a problem, yes. We don’t want people to say: ‘Hmm, I’m not really into Asian history,’ or whatever. Even though it’s super interesting – like China’s reunification, the various Emperors. And visually it would be super interesting. When we have a large enough fanbase we might be able to venture into that area...
GR: Interesting. So Canada is just so strong when it comes to gaming. Tax breaks, huge studios, new studios, like Ubi Toronto, being set up. What’s Canada’s position in the pantheon of countries involved in game development nowadays?
VP: Hard to say. It’s been working out so far... attracting big studios to settle here, create jobs. But you never know – in the end it’s all about making good games that sell. If his studio wasn’t making any money, then tax breaks or not we’d be in trouble.
GR: Like Real Time Worlds with APB...
VP: That’s what I’m saying.
GR: What about Japan?
VP: I think they have a very different culture. They don’t look at games the same way we do. For us it’s about better graphics, more, more, more. ‘Give me more for my money.’ They’ve been satisfied with cell phone games. They’re pure gamers, they like their puzzles...
GR: We’ve gone all epic. Maybe it’s too complicated for Japanese gamers...
VP: I don’t think they need that. But I think they’re starting to get nervous, because they’re capitalists and also have to make money. They’re selling less than before, their industry is shrinking a bit in comparison – and if they don’t keep up... You can see Eidos for example, you can Square are trying to learn more about Occidental philosophies, workflows.
GR: Do Ubi factor Japan into their thinking, or are they very much aiming at Europe and America?
VP: There has been a lot of – relatively speaking – Japanese interest in Assassin’s Creed. It’s been our most successful game in Japan. We had (Hideo) Kojima come here a couple of times... they were very curious about how we were making this game. Because, in a way, Assassin’s shares many facets with Metal Gear Solid. The story, the gameplay – it’s one of the most respected Western games of recent years.
GR: It’d be super interesting to see MGS mixed with AC. I bet you guys could make an amazing Metal Gear game. Would you like to do something like that?
VP: I would love to do something like that.
GR: I found something bizarre when I was researching your background... you’re on Mobygames credited as having worked on MGS4?
VP: Yeah. There was a collaboration between Ubi and Konami – but only really on an executive level.
GR: So what was that like?
VP: Everything was done through emails, but I got to talk to Kojima and his translator homies!
GR: Did he come to see Splinter Cell too? How long ago?
VP: Yes, AC and Conviction. A couple of years ago. Then when Peace Walker came out they incorporated a leap of faith into the game! We like each other. I love collaborating – we’re not enemies. Okay – we’re competitors, but why not share? There should be more.
GR: Would you like to work with Kojima on a personal level?
VP: I don’t know. Apparently he’s a tyrant(!) Here we’re very democratic – too much sometimes – we like to make decisions as a group.