Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the third installment of the popular video game series by Ubisoft. The game was released in November 2010 and has garnered universal praise from all aspects of the video game industry. The game recently took home honors from the Writers Guild Awards and is nominated for seven awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in their Video Game Category.
The story bounces back and forth between modern day and historic Rome. You play a master assassin named Ezio and things pick up right from where events left off from the previous game. The following is a one-on-one interview with Jeffrey Yohalem who was the lead writer on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
SCRIPT: What makes Ezio a strong and dynamic protagonist?
JEFFREY YOHALEM: Strong character emerges from the slings and arrows of life. Ezio Auditore’s been through a lot. He’s lost his father and brothers; his mother was molested by city guards and plunged into a deep, expressionless depression. Exiled from his old life in Florence, Ezio’s left pretty much on his own to remake himself. He succeeds, against all odds, conquering those who tried to destroy him, but then loses his uncle, his only father-figure.
In Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio was a loner, he was driven by vengeance. In Brotherhood, his motivation grows more complex. He’s getting older, he can’t fight forever. In order to protect the people he loves, he has to rebuild a city and an order. He must become a leader. To do that, every move is calculated. He needs to prove again and again that he has what it takes. And, as many great public servants have learned, elements of his personal life must be sacrificed to do it. It’s a pleasure to write such a deep character.
Ezio fights for a noble cause, but isn’t exactly the most of noble of guys. How do you decide where his line is between good and bad?
I wouldn’t say that Ezio isn’t noble. The Ezio that existed in the Renaissance only kills those who steal freedom from humanity. Some players may kill everything that moves in the game, but that is definitely not how Ezio did it. Remember, the Animus is a simulation of a past that already happened, it isn’t a time machine, players have the freedom to change Ezio’s basic actions, but those alterations have no impact on the historical timeline.
The sheer amount of information you can read into the game is astonishing! How big was your research team and how long did it take to compile all those historical facts about all the different locations?
I did most of the research myself, actually, using a trove of books and my background in literature, art and history. Once I completed the writing, I ran through it with a Renaissance expert, Marcello Simonetta, who pointed out any mistakes. It was very important to me that I become adept at the time period in which the game occurred, otherwise I wouldn’t know the best storylines to pursue.
I found it odd (and a little exciting) that so many of the Assassin’s Recruits were women! Historically would this have been a possibility or does your team just have a thing for female assassins?
The Assassins support freedom, regardless of belief or sex. Female Assassins are very much welcome in that context. The Renaissance time period severely restricted work for women. The majority of unmarried non-nobles ended up as servants or prostitutes, whereas joining the Assassins offered a way out. If I were a girl, I know which one I’d choose.
What advice would you give someone who is trying to break into the video game industry writing for video games?
Each person’s path is different, so the one consistent thing I would say is, approach the industry with passion and talent. Many of the greats that work in games are still accessible and can be asked out for coffee, emailed or called on the phone. Visit game-makers at their studios and at trade shows like E3. Make your presence known. If you really want to be in the industry, you’ll find your door. Just don’t give up.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood won a Writers Guild Award – what impact does this type of award do for the game?
I believe a Writers Guild Award can show the game industry that great writing is valuable, and the film industry that exceptional scripts and dialogue are being crafted for games. It reveals to the world that Assassin’s Creed cares about excellent writing. Hopefully, it also encourages excellent writers to apply to Ubisoft.
If we are not living in the ‘golden age’ of writing for video games – what aspects of storytelling do you think are lacking in general or could be improved upon?
Oh man, don’t get me started. Right now, most games focus on a one-dimensional B-movie hero, impervious to emotional vulnerability, fighting his way through legions of enemies. More often than not, the story and dialogue are little more than wrappers on top of generic gameplay, and do nothing to explore life or meaning. To move beyond this, game-makers need to create experiences, together, as a team. The interactions of the player with the world need to convey meaning. The ultimate goal, which would be my golden age of gaming, sees players taken on a journey, ideally one full of insight, which changes their view of the world through experience. They will literally live a life-changing adventure. I can’t wait for the industry to evolve to that point.
For more info on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood visit: http://www.assassinscreed.com.