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Assassin's Creed dev: We need to challenge our attitudes on diversity

Senior Ubisoft staffers open up to Develop about some of the things they learned from Assassin's Creed: Unity's troubled launch as they prepare to debut Assassin's Creed: Syndicate this week.
"It’s about changing our reflexes that we have when we build a story. I’ve had the chance to work with many female writers on this project, who’ve challenged me a lot about the way I would cast some roles."

- Ubisoft Quebec's Marc-Alexis Côté on what it takes to make games with more diverse characters.

Ubisoft had a bit of a rough time launching Assassin's Creed: Unity last year, and as it debuts follow-up Assassin's Creed Syndicate this week some of its senior development staff opened up to Develop about lessons they've learned from the experience.

While neither Ubisoft Quebec managing director Nicolas Rioux nor Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Côté speak very specifically about what the studio has done to avoid the technical issues that plagued Unity (it simply "will not happen", according to Rioux), there's an interesting bit of commentary about how the studio has tried to improve the diversity of characters in its games.

"Diversity, for me, it's a lot about changing the mindset," said Côté. "By default -- and it’s something that’s very a dominant attitude in the industry, but not just in the video game industry, in the movie industry as well -- you get a role and you’ll think of a male first to cast this role."

Ubisoft garnered heavy criticism last year after Assassin's Creed: Unity creative director Alex Amancio publicly stated that making the game playable as a woman protagonist would be too much "extra production work."

This week Syndicate debuts with the option to play as either a male or female protagonist, and Côté says that the women who work at Ubisoft have been instrumental to improving Syndicate's diversity.

"There are roles in which you can swap the genders very easily. And not just in the main roles, but in everything that populates the world. This is something that we’ve been very careful about doing," stated Côté. "Again, thanks to all the female writers who have been working with me on this project who have been challenging this particular aspect of the way we think about building our stories and building our world."

For more about how the world of Syndicate was designed, and why the design team decided to remove multiplayer from the game, check out the Develop interview.

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