Why For Honor ignores historical accuracy in favor of diversity

"You can change the skin color of your Vikings, too. You want to have a black Viking? Knock yourself out," VandenBerghe tells GameSpot. "It's who are you. I want you to be able to be in that game."
"It's so easy for people to say, 'Oh, it couldn't be true, they couldn't have full gender representation and different ethnicities in a game like this.' So we put a lot of time and effort into that, and it's a core value on the team, and a list of things I'm proud of."

- For Honor creative director Jason VandenBerghe.

Ubisoft's upcoming hack-and-slash game For Honor draws heavy inspiration from actual historical warriors, weapons and fighting styles -- creative director Jason VandenBerghe seems fond of recounting a story of how he began to formulate the game's swordfighting mechanics while walking home from a longsword martial arts class.

He tells that story again in a recent Gamescom chat with GameSpot, and it's a good one; but what's potentially more intriguing, from a developer's perspective, are his comments about how the For Honor team took pains to ignore historical accuracy in favor of allowing for a diverse array of playstyles and player representation.

"This game is about you. And so what kind of warrior are you, right? You can change the skin color of your Vikings, too. You want to have a black Viking? Knock yourself out," VandenBerghe told GameSpot. "It's who are you. I want you to be able to be in that game. I play the female warden. That's my favorite character, because she's great. And it's always been, from day one, it's been the core value of the team, and we've been doing this for a while."

It's notable that the lead on a big-budget Ubisoft game is making a public show of trying to build something that allows for a broader array of player representation, especially in light of the hot water Ubisoft found itself in after an Assassin's Creed: Unity creative lead noted in 2014 that the game would not allow players to embody a woman protagonist because it was too much extra production work.

The notion was described as "dear to the production team" at the time (indeed, the following year Ubisoft put out an Assassin's Creed game that featured a pair of full-fledged protagonists who were brother and sister) and it seems the For Honor team holds similar values in higher regard than historical accuracy.

"What's weird is that with all of our cultures, we're not trying to be true to history exactly. We're trying to evoke your fantasy of history, right?" VandenBerghe said. "We're trying to go, 'See, this is what you wished it had been like.' That's how we're trying to do it. It's wonderland. It's warrior wonderland."

For more of VandenBerghe's comments on the design of For Honor, as well as that aforementioned anecdote about him walking around waving a practice sword and making gestures with an imaginary gamepad ("It had to be spooky. It had to be quite a sight"), check out the full interview over on GameSpot.

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