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Patrice Desilets calls for women assassins in  Assassin's Creed
Patrice Desilets calls for women assassins in Assassin's Creed
June 13, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

June 13, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Production

Earlier this week Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio said that players of the upcoming Assassin's Creed Unity were initially intended to have the freedom to play as assassins of either gender, but that the option to play as a woman assassin was cut because it was "really a lot of extra production work."

His comments sparked a wave of criticism from developers and industry veterans, including former Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Desilets.

Speaking to Polygon, Desilets expressed sympathy for the extra work required to create customizable women assassin protagonists but called on Ubisoft -- and the industry at large -- to make the effort.

"It's true. If you do a big giant character and a small character, or a woman and a guy, it's different," said Desilets. "But that shouldn't stop you. With all the time, money and people on that project, you could've done it."

In fact, Ubisoft actually has done it in the past; the lead character of Assassin's Creed III Liberation was a woman, and Ubisoft Quebec's Jill Murray even gave a talk about diversifying feminine archetypes in games during last year's GDC Next conference that prominently referenced the game.

It's also worth noting that Desilets was fired from Ubisoft last year and filed a lawsuit against the company seeking damages and the rights to the 1066 intellectual property he had been working on if Ubisoft chose to abandon production on it.

While speaking to Polygon about the issue of diversity in games, Desilets also took the opportunity to promote his next project. "The game that I'm designing, I'm giving control back to the player," he told Polygon. "Which gender do you want to play? Let's start there."

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Andy Thomas
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The first thing that came to mind after reading this was a documentary G4 did some years ago and in it the designers of Tomb Raider described why the character that would become Lara Croft ended up being a wasn't to push a gender issue e.g. lack of female hero but rather something they thought male gamers would want.

With that in mind instead trying to force the idea that games need female characters, why not leave up to the market e.g. the game buying public to decide the gender of the characters and say this due to the fact that female characters are mainly put into games for sexual reasons in the manner of Lara Croft.

Dane MacMahon
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People are all over the place with this "controversy." First they were mad Ubisoft didn't offer a female option for co-op character select. This was based on misinformation, since there is no character select, everyone plays main character Arnum and others see a palette swap. Then they were mad they didn't make co-op characters, women being part of them, but the answer of "time and resources" suddenly makes more sense. So now, since that was all kind of a misunderstanding, we're just mad they don't use more female heroes in general?

I agree women should be the main character in action games more often. That would be nice to see, for sure. However this whole thing should be taking a much different tone if that's all we're saying. Not necessarily on Gamasutra, but around the internet the rage and anger is kind of ridiculous if that's all that's being said. Also it shouldn't be centered on Ubisoft specifically.

Jeff Leigh
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It is entirely possible to use the same skeleton to animate both male and female characters. Quaternion rotational offsets can just as easily be applied to a female skeleton as a male skeleton.

Arnaud Clermonté
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That's not how we do AAA games.

Eddie Vertigo
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The thing is, both Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations allowed the player to choose male and/or female characters in the multiplayer part of the game. Tomb Raider did the same thing; in the multiplayer part of the game, the player can choose any of the male or female characters from the game as they became unlocked.

For this new Assassin's Creed game to suddenly drop the gender choice has caught regular players off guard. Add to that the fact that series like Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Grand Theft Auto allow the player to create or choose male/female avatars, for a series like Assassin's Creed to abandon that choice it is a little surprising. It just feels like a big step backwards for a series that's supposed to be innovative.

Dane MacMahon
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But this is a completely different kind of multiplayer. You don't choose avatars. It's story-based, and you always play the main character of the game, Arnum. Everyone does. It's not a completely different mode where you choose characters to play as. All your disappointment is based on a misunderstanding.

The only thing to be upset about here is the main character being a male once again. And while you could make an argument about that being bad, you'd have to apply it across the board for pretty much every game series/publisher.

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So today I woke up at the usual time, and I realized, "Hey. Why **** am I not as well known as Ken Levine? Man **** that guy. I need some press, yo!"

"I know just how to do it too! Let's see here...latest news, latest trends....AH there we are! The feminist/LGBT movement! I know how I'll really grind on Ubisoft, my former employer! I'll simply criticize an industry and a company saying we need to diversify, but not say **** them and make my own game!"


I'm being incredibly facetious, I know. And it's not an accurate statement, this I understand. But sometimes, I just can't help myself.

Amir Barak
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Ignoring the ad-hominem train you're riding here for a second. Your arguments are actually contradictory (and thus nonsensical).

How do you figure the guy wants simply to promote his game by attaching to the latest LGBT controversy and yet also claim he has no game in the works to fix it?

"I need some press, yo!" vs. "but not say **** them and make my own game!"

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"While speaking to Polygon about the issue of diversity in games, Desilets also took the opportunity to promote his next project. "The game that I'm designing, I'm giving control back to the player," he told Polygon. "Which gender do you want to play? Let's start there."

He was literally promoting his game Amir. And please, put the thesaurus/dictionary down. It doesn't do any good to follow my posts Mr. Barak, because I'm slightly notorious for keeping a debate going.

But anywho, as I said, he's directly promoting a game and JUST SO HAPPENS to be commenting on an issue that has turned into a feminist battle, against a former employer.

I just call it like I see 'em. Hey, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably do the same. What better way to get back at your former employer AND promote a new game, while keeping your name fresh? Smart guy!

Dane MacMahon
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Some people are legitimately fighting for more inclusive games. Some people are riding a wave of debate to greater numbers of hits for their website, or more talk about their game. Not surprising, happens for every issue.

This one is pretty obvious though, not only as advertising but also a dig at his former employer after an unhappy separation.

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Agreed. It's disgusting to me, personally, but then again I've never put myself in a position with a company like that, or needed to promote a product like Patrice is.

I think my issue I suppose, and why I get heated, is that a lot of people ride this bandwagon simply because it's in vogue and don't understand how things work. Also, ignoring the fact that female inclusion in games has been increasing for a while now, and we've made many great strides, ESPECIALLY in games that include a customization option. That's one area Bethesda and BioWare have really been nailing. Hey, we've even been telling Father/Daughter stories recently! I think that's even more of a plus; we've taken the old "protect the AI" script and made it emotional!

Christiaan Moleman
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Or maybe the opinion of the guy who created the series in the first place is legitimately relevant. It could be that.

Amir Barak
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haha, only my 11th grade English teacher ever called me Mr. Barak and that was usually before she yelled at me for being a smartass. You can call me Amir, it's alright :D

In this case I was merely pointing out the fallacy of your assumptions. Where you pointed out that the man's entire perspective was riding the bandwagon of "controversy" in order to promote the game he is making while following this assertion by accusing him of not making any game in response. Surely I don't need to point out the discrepancy, right?

"And please, put the thesaurus/dictionary down"
Which word confused you enough to pick up a dictionary?

Look. In the end I understand that Ubisoft as a company has done nothing malicious by intent. Sure crazy budgets and fear of financial ruin is a strong motivator for producing comfortable products well established into everyone's comfort zone. It's just a shame that a budget that size is squandered on animations/graphics rather than making a better game. That's all.

And quickly before the next response:
"But who are you to decide what's a better game?!"

And just as a final (friendly) dig.
"because I'm slightly notorious for keeping a debate going."
Slightly seems to be the appropriate adjective there. I've never heard of you before.

Also, I keep wanting to call you Kyle.


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I agree. I think it's a shame that with that size of a budget, it's all largely in the name of engine work and marketing. I just think that with the need for more female inclusion and characters, there is equal room for a studio to NOT choose that route.

My name is Kyle :/

I really do enjoy our discussion. I do get passionate, but that's how I am about any field I work in; programming and vidya happen to be one of them.

I feel as though Patrice's comments aren't coming from an honest place due to his position with Ubisoft and the fact that he immediately followed up with "here's my game, oh wait I'm going to start it out with gender options". I mean it's a little convenient.

And I did make a huge discrepancy in my first post.

Last night I really thought about the things you were talking about. About responsibility of developers and such. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the "go make the game" sentiment I was spouting really goes hand in hand with responsibility. Why should AAA games not reflect what indie developers are doing? We allow publishers to dictate where the games are headed, when it should honestly be the other way around. In the sense, it's essentially what the dev team allowed to happen to them. I don't blame them necessarily, as to propose delays or to disobey will result in the loss of a job most likely (or eventually), and no one wants to lose. I'm guilty of this myself.

I still understand where Ubi is coming from though. Their decision is theirs on what will be best for the game, and it is also your decision on what constitutes a better game, because you're the one is playing it.

Ash Monif
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If your looking for a strong female protagonist - check out

Julien Dassa-Terrier
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I would love to play AC Unity as a female assassin and I was disappointed with the choice made by Ubisoft here. Now, let's try to think about this in a pragmatic perspective.

How many people who wanted to buy this game won't do it because you can't play a female assassin ?
How many people who didn't want to buy this game in the first place would have done it if you could play one ?

I am not sure a survey would give us a very striking result. The management of Ubisoft, the ones who decided that it didn't worth the time and money, only sees that. Is it "right" ? Probably not. But this is a "reasonable" choice.

Now, I see a lot of people who raised a good point : "then why not a default female protagonist if you can't do both ?" Well, I think this is a very legitimate question.

David Konkol
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I sure wish there was an assassins creed with a femaile character in it!!

Oh. Whats this?'s_Creed_III:_Liberation

CE Sullivan
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I've never actually played Assassin's Creed. However, if I did play it, I probably would want the option to play as a female, being female myself and all.

I have been thinking a lot about whether or not a gender option is a "must have" for customizable player characters. It's a design decision I have to make with the game I'm working on, but for me, it's the other way around: do I include an option for a male character or no? I'm female, the audience I'm targeting is mainly other females, but males might want to play too. Or I might have females who for whatever reason, would prefer playing a male.

Honestly, part of me just wants to try to "balance out" history by leaving out the male option. After all, I've been playing mostly male characters in games my entire life. On the other hand, I know what it's like to "have" to play a character of the opposite sex. It's not really that I felt "excluded" every time I had to play as a male (back when I started playing games, it was just the way it was), but frankly, it has felt a little weird at times.

When asked for a name input I have been known to be boring and use my real name. So of course, then the game starts calling a male character by my name. I mean, I could just *not be boring* and make up a name, but sometimes I just want to be lazy, use my real name and not think about it, you know?

So, for me, I think this is a good rule of thumb: any time you let the player name the player character, and it isn't important to the story if the character is male or female, take the time to give the player a gender option.

Personally, I think it's time well spent, because for at least a portion of your audience, it's going to be important to that sense of agency you were going for.

For example, I think it would have been really cool if I could have played Persona 4 Golden as a female. In that game, you have a relatively "blank" character you can project yourself into, and the other characters in the game can even call you by your real name, if you want them to. Since the player character is male, if you were a guy, it wouldn't sound weird at all! But alas I am female, and have a female name, so every time my name is used, I'm just reminded that I'm playing a game, and the flow of the game is disrupted. (Honestly, I still love that game, though. It just would have been better with a gender option.)

If you really can't have a gender option for some reason, at least give the player a default name. That's easy enough, right? Making the character *not* have a default name really draws attention to the fact that you're having to play a character of the opposite sex, because now you have to come up with an opposite gender name that you want to be called, unless you go down the slightly weird "hear a character of the opposite gender called by your own name for the whole game" route.

Btw, as a female I'm not really impressed by "father/daughter stories." Maybe it really is just me, but I doubt most female gamers are. It's still pretty much the same old "male protects female" story. Nothing to write home about. Just sayin'.

Although it's nice to see male developers/gamers coming out in support of so-called "feminist" issues (most of which should just be considered *game design* issues, in my opinion), what we really need is more females making games and joining the discussion. I really don't think most guys completely understand why these kinds of things are important to female gamers. It's not just about being represented, and it's really not about having "strong" female role models or something like that. I think in most cases, it's about enjoyment of the game, and not feeling like you're missing out on something if you aren't male.