Remembering the real origin story of one of gaming’s biggest franchises a decade on from its debut.
The biggest franchises often have the humblest of beginnings. For Ubisoft, the road to establishing a billiondollar brand began in 2003. Production had wrapped on Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time and a team of aspiring developers, engineers and programmers were immediately tasked with taking the beloved action-platformer to the next level, envisioning a sequel that was bold, expressive and innovative. It didn’t go as planned and they may have accidentally killed the series entirely. But what arose from the ashes was far greater and more potent in the marketplace, with the power to entice audiences outside of videogames, its allure seeping out into everything from cinema and comics, to toys and anime.
Assassin’s Creed was born out of Prince Of Persia: Assassin, a game framed around a young boy, a prince, with special powers being captured by a dangerous new threat to Jerusalem. You were to embody the role of a deadly assassin, hellbent on securing the prince’s safe passage home to the throne. The core concept came from the mind of Sands Of Time creative director Patrice Désilets, inspired by tales of Hassan-i-Sabbah, an Eleventh century missionary who was said to have founded the Asasiyun – or as we know them today, the assassins.
Ubisoft liked it, but was ultimately confused: why had Désilets and a small team of 20 spent a year in pre-production on a title that didn’t feature the Prince in a leading role? Instead of scrapping it entirely, Ubisoft allowed the Sands Of Time veterans to continue on the road it had started down and, in November of 2007, we had our first taste of it: Assassin’s Creed landed and gave us an insight into the generation’s most exciting development, the advancement of the open-world sandbox.
Across the game’s three-year development cycle, the team had swollen from 20 to 120; the Scimitar engine had been created from scratch (known now as Anvil, a variation of it
DEVELOPER: UBISOFT MONTREAL PUBLISHER: UBISOFT RELEASED: 13 NOVEMBER 2007 SYSTEM: XBOX 360, PS3