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Ubisoft responds to The Globe’s editorial on Assassin’s Creed III

From Assassin's Creed 3

In reaction to your editorial published in the Globe & Mail according to which Assassin's Creed III apparently distorts history, we, at Ubisoft Montreal, would like to clarify a few things. First and foremost, ACIII is a work of fiction. However, the motto of the Assassin's Creed brand is History is our playground, thus meaning that while we develop fictional characters, they evolve in a historical context that is as close as possible to reality, and that is supported by serious research, as shown below.

Assassin's Creed is the fictional story of a struggle between two secret societies; The Assassins and the Templars. The different Assassin's Creed titles showed this fight over different period of History; mainly the third Crusade and the Italian Renaissance. In our third title, the backdrop is the American colonial; starting a bit before the Seven Years' War until the end of the American Revolution. More precisely, from the year 1753 to 1783.

Creating a fictional videogame for entertainment but based on History is nothing but a very serious work. For over two years and a half, a professional Historian was hired full-time to explain how History and Entertainment could be matched to be both entertaining and maybe, if possible, educating. A consulting team was also formed with Professors and Native American Consultants from the community of Kahnawake. The goal was simple, to bring History as accurately as possible into the game and to fact check. Many tools were used to do this; the use of hundreds of books/magazines/database, as well as conferences and guided tours. With this, we've built timelines and a visual bank that permitted us to recreate a realistic portrayal of 18th Century colonial New-York, Boston and the North-Eastern wildlife.

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Very early in the process, we agreed on the idea of a half-Native, half-European main character; Connor. Raised in his mother's tribe, it permitted us to have a narrative point of view which was neither pro-American nor Pro-British in this civil war conflict. His point of view is realistic of the wide variety of decisions that were made by various tribes at the stake of the Revolution. Think of Pontiac's War when after the fall of New France, different tribes continued to fight both the British Crown and the colonial settlers, because they seemed to be the same to their eyes. At the beginning of the American Revolution, many tribes tried to stay out of the open conflict, but were forced into it by historical characters like Sir William Johnson, one of multiple historical characters in the game. Some tribes fled, some were exterminated. And this is what we've shown with Connor, of the Kanienke:ha (Mohawks). He, just like some Oneidas and Tuscaroras thought at some point George Washington and the rebels would favor their fate. All were deceived just like Connor when they realised the ordering of the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 which ended up in the destruction of dozens of Native American villages. This is only but a small example out of the large scope of this game where details are really precise and accurate. Also, this shows how we create fiction around real History. The main character is fictional, but his surrounding his real.

Interpretation of History is obviously something really important. Since the beginning, the development team knew it had to beware of the use of History and the different point of views to interpret United States' founding History but also a conflict which started the decline of England in America and the fall of the French monarchy. Assassin's Creed is a game developed in more than 6 studios around the world by a team of multiple cultural and religious beliefs and shows a wide variety of interpretation. This is the first disclaimer shown when starting the game. We've decided to read a lot about the events, of course, but also about the way History is told. We did want to please by recreating key historical events, such as the Boston tea Party and the Boston Massacre. But, we were also interested in bringing to light some unknown events/characters (such as Maj.Gen. Charles Lee or the New York Burning of 1776) and the context which led to the American Revolution itself. This is how we introduced the Braddock Expedition and the Battle of the Monongahela, which are also two fundamental pieces of Canadian History. Had the capture of the city of Quebec by the Rebels prevailed in 1775, maybe this would have been a key city of our game. We made the choice of New York and Boston because the gameplay in these two centerpieces of the Revolution was the most interesting. And it was a technical challenge since both cities have had urban modifications well beyond toponymy. It forced us to work with old plans, anthropology and a lot of archives. As for the siding between Rebels/Loyalists, we have been very cautious in favoring no sides of the war and by showing the strengths and weaknesses of multiple key historical characters; Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams, only to name these two. We wanted to show their human dimension in more depth, but also to let players experience these great moments of changes in their contexts and the main events of this Civil War. The main character experiences the views of both protagonists, but also shows the dissention inside these protagonists' camps (such as the Conway Cabal). When the player does experience these, we did our best to make sure we would portray them the more accurately but with enough liberty as to be entertaining.

And since entertaining is our main focus, we've decided at some points fiction could help us a bit. With a main character which is both an assassin and a fictional character in a real set, we had to find twists to make him participate in historical events. This is how we can explain who shot first during the Boston Massacre or how guards were kept away from the harbor during the Tea Party. It was by no mean a medium to favor the T.E.A. P.A.R.T.Y. conservators at the approach of the American elections. With a game published worldwide, different marketing strategies were used in various countries. North America has, with no surprise, the promoting strategy focused on the American point of view. In Europe, the marketing was more about the way this war had consequences on that continent. The Creative Director, Alex Hutchinson, mentioned since the beginning of the campaign that this game was, as it is, favoring neither sides of the conflict. We are pleased to see our players noticed it the moment they started the game and throughout it. We finally had technical limitations which could not permit us to recreate every bits of history perfectly; such as disk limits.

While the team working in this game has been very serious in its historical approach, the main goal has been, and will keep being the entertainment of millions of gamers.

  • Although we used a very large bibliography, we acknowledge the important contribution of these:
  • Allen, Thomas B., TORIES: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War, Harper, New York, 2010. 496 pp.
  • Burrows, E.G., Wallace, M., Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Oxford University Press, 1998,
  • Cappon, L.J., Ptechenik B.B., Long., J.H. et al., Atlas of Early American History: the Revolutionary era, 1760-1790, Princeton University Press, 1976. 157 pp.
  • Ferling, John, Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence, Oxford University Press, USA, 2007. 704 pp.
  • Goldfeld, Alex R., The North End: A Brief History of Boston’s Oldest Neighborhood, the History Press, Charleston, 2009. 191 pp.
  • Grose, Francis, Lobcocks and Fartleberries: 18th-Century Insults to confound Your Foes, Summerdale, 2010, 128 pp.
  • Patteson, Samuel W., Knight Errant of Liberty: The Triumph and Tragedy of General Charles Lee, Lantern Press, New York, 1958. 297 pp.
  • Simons, D. Brenton, Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views, University Press of New England, Boston, 2008. 148 pp.
  • Smith, D., & Kiley, K.F., An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms from 1775-1783: The American Revolutionary War, Lorenz Books, London, 2008. 256 pp.
  • Watt, G.K., Morrison, J.F., The Burning of the Valleys: Daring Raids from Canada against the New York Frontier in the Fall of 1780, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1997. 392 pp.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

M.

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