Jean Guesdon Talks History Lessons, Visceral Combat in Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed has grown into one of the most popular video game franchises over the last decade. While impressive, a challenge with any long-running series is figuring out how to maintain the balance of pushing the evolution forward while remaining true to the formula that led to its popularity. Hardcore Gamer recently got to chat with creative director Jean Guesdon about how Assassin’s Creed Origins walks the tightrope between familiarity and innovation.

[Hardcore Gamer] Assassin’s Creed is a long-running series with several entries. How does Assassin’s Creed Origins differ from the past titles?

[Jean Guesdon] The idea with Assassin’s Creed Origins was to refresh and modernize the Assassin’s Creed experience while remaining true to the franchise. We really did exhaustive work in analyzing the games and some directions that we really wanted to push further like the exploration and discovery because they are very well suited for open world games. The combat was something we wanted to revamp from scratch because we thought after all the iterations it was time to bring a change to it. So basically we picked our traditional layers, the world, the combat, the narrative and said how do we change and modernize that in a way that makes sense in the Assassin’s Creed universe while modernizing the franchise. We added a lot of features like the eagle is a really nice addition to understanding the world and your relation to it. The combat and quest system has changed, moving from a mission system to a quest system helps move into a more RPG action/adventure game which is something we wanted to do.

From the demo I see elements of that. There upgrading equipment and skill aspects of RPG but also has a vast open world like Watch Dogs 2 and the latest Ghost Recon.

Every game is different but a lot of open world games share some of the same problematics. We may come up with different solutions in time but for us the main questions was does what we are doing make sense in this world and if the answer was yes but if it didn’t fit within the world of Assassin’s Creed or the level of accessibility we wanted then it was discarded.

The connecting feature of all Assassin’s Creed games is the Animus and the whole modern/past connection. Can you elaborate on how that specifically fits into the world of Assassin’s Creed Origins?

Sadly I cannot go into detail yet but I can tell you this layer, like the others, will be respected. We really want to make sure the aspects people like about this franchise will be true to it across all layers. We are reserved about details now but I think the angle we found will make people who care about that aspect of the story really happy.

So in other words we will know in about three weeks.

(laughs) Yes, October 27.

The Discovery Tour is an interesting and unique feature of the game; can you elaborate more on what that will entail?

The idea of the Discovery Tour is we put a lot of effort into recreating these worlds and there is a lot of academic knowledge put into the world without a lot of people noticing, things like what the crowd is doing, inscriptions in the wall, how buildings were built. All this kind of stuff is documented and for years we have received word from teachers that these games are so full of information but I have to put it into some safe for school videos if I want to use it in the classroom and show to my students so we thought this was the perfect moment to come up with a dedicated mode that is more educational and focuses on this educational content that is in the game. This is a free update that is available to everyone with the game in 2018 and you would be able to explore the world without any fear of time limits or combat and there would be dozens of different tours set in the world with tour stops and it’s really up to you to investigate and learn more about Egypt through this mode and explore different aspects like mummification and the pyramids, the daily lives of Egyptians, the life of Cleopatra, the cities of Alexandria and Memphis, all in a way that would be accessible to a grandma or a little nephew.

So this really would be a classroom friendly version of Assassin’s Creed.

Exactly, we remove all the narrative and combat and it’s really an open world interactive museum. Go into the world of Ancient Egypt and explore and learn at your own pace.

With the emphasis on open world gameplay and exploration it seems like the physical world of Assassin’s Creed Origins is quite a bit more substantial than previous entries. How would you compare to the size of this game world to previous entries?

Compared to say Assassin’s Creed 2 it’s a lot bigger. In Assassin’s Creed Origins we have three really big cities, Alexandria the Greek capital to the north, Memphis the old kingdom capital and Careem where there is a growing Roman presence. Each city is probably about the size of Tuscany in Assassin’s Creed 2 but there is also the whole country with deserts and pyramids. The playground of Origins is probably comparable to the size of the whole Caribbean in Black Flag so it is much bigger not only in terms of size but also in things you can do. Navigation for example now includes the new ability to go to the top of the mountains and climb cliffs. Bayek can swim everywhere he wants so it’s not just a big horizontal plane but also a lot of area to travel vertically. It’s one unified map so once the world map is opened early on you can travel to any part of it at any time, from every river to the top of every mountain.

Since we’re getting short on time what are some things about the game you are particularly proud of?

I’m really excited about players discovering this feeling of being immersed into Ancient Egypt. Traditionally we only see pictures and school books but this is an actual living world they can explore freely. One thing I am really excited about is the recreation of the Great Pyramid. We really pay attention to details for this including the interior and try to respect it as much as possible and create a feeling as if you were there. We studied the theory on the way the pyramids were built and believe there are two empty chambers in the Great Pyramid that have not been discovered yet but we put them into the game so when we finally enter them you can say you knew those rooms were there already.

The incorporation of history has always been in Assassin’s Creed games and I believe a contributing factor to their popularity but with the Discovery Tour along with the incorporation of that information in the main story it seems this element has been increased for Origins.

We’re mastering our craft, we know how to built historical games but we are trying to fine tune the balance of providing an entertaining story for the 21st century but also bring that fun and entertainment from historical facts and show that history can be entertaining and appealing. Recreating these worlds, especially this one, was really thrilling in the sense that we learned a lot ourselves and also putting the Discovery Tour into a 3D interactive world. It’s really really exciting. We really wanted to create a living world for Origins so we reworked the AI to make every NPC have functioning AI so all civilians, soldiers and bandits have their own routines and behaviors which they follow regardless of whether Bayek is around.