Creating an Origin Story with Jean Guesdon
To celebrate the release of Assassin’s Creed® Origins, we sat down with the game’s creative director, Jean Guesdon, to get some insight as to the importance of creating an origin story for the Brotherhood as we know it in later games.
What is your role on the Assassin’s Creed team and how did that role impact the development of Assassin’s Creed Origins?
I am the creative director of Assassin's Creed Origins, I was previously the creative director of Assassin's Creed® IV: Black Flag®.
All along production and development, I am here to be the one that says “more to the left,” “more to the right,” “no we shouldn't do that,” “yes, this is the direction we should go.”
Basically, I am the one who decided it would be Ancient Egypt [Laughs]. It wasn't originally supposed to be this one. I was asked to do another setting but I told them I didn't want to do that, I want to do Egypt!
Why was Egypt chosen to establish the origins of the Brotherhood?
Based on all the studies we've done and our strong link to our fans, we know that Ancient Egypt was always ranked as one of the top most-requested settings.
A lot of people talked about feudal Japan, Classic Roman era, Egypt; we've know our community has been asking for these settings already. From that point of view, it was a good choice.
Also, because personally, I like it, and I wanted to spend some years working in that environment! [Laughs]
It's a super attractive period of history because it's the birthplace of modern civilization. A lot of things we have today came from this era of Egypt, which was one of the very first big civilizations. A lot of our myths, societal structures, rules, and knowledge come directly from this time period.
We owe a lot to this era but we've also lost a lot since, which makes the setting very mysterious and intriguing. It was the perfect setting to put a game, since it allows for epic adventures!
One exercise I did to convince people about the setting, aside from studying it extensively with my colleagues, is that I broke down the time period into game components to show that this era of Egypt was a perfect match.
For example, this is Cleopatra's era, which means that Egypt is already about 3000 years old. This makes the country super interesting because it is filled with locations that are alive and populated, as well as areas that are forgotten and covered in sand. These factors made this era able to fill all of our expectations when it came to exploration and discovery.
It is a very varied playground. Despite what many people think automatically, Egypt is not only desert. We have mountains, the Nile River, oases, the Libyan Plateaus, etc., which makes the gameplay experience diverse.
Not to mention we also have so many awesome historical figures, like Cleopatra and Julius Cesar!
With the more educative aspect of the Assassin's Creed series, we are able to explore things like the Library of Alexandria and hieroglyphics, which are all about the transmission of knowledge. This idea of lost knowledge plays excellently with the secret war between Assassins and Templars.
This mythos about Egypt and the mystery that surrounds it, like how the Pyramids were built, is perfect for Assassin's Creed to explore.
The technology was also advanced enough that we could have a cool range of weapons, gear, and armor that allowed for a great depth in terms of progression and challenge for the player.
The economy was also developed at this time, it wasn't just a barter system. There was money and complex trade that spanned nations.
All of these factors coming together made for the perfect setting for Assassin's Creed Origins.
Is there somewhere in the lore that hints that the origin of the Brotherhood would be in this setting?
In the lore, not really.
As Ancient Egypt is the birthplace of civilization as we know it, we also thought it would be the perfect birthplace for the Brotherhood as we know it since the first Assassin’s Creed.
We created this franchise 10 years ago with the first Assassin’s Creed, with an established Brotherhood having rules and rituals, you know? The tenants of the Creed, the cutting of the finger, the ritual of the feather, the hood, etc.
Here we were going far back enough in time that we felt it was the proper setting to tell you how these elements were forged and given the meaning they have in the other games.
The games have been for the most part moving forward in history since Assassin’s Creed, why did the team decide to go further back this time?
For me, it was kind of a statement! Personally, I believe this franchise is awesome because it allows us to explore history. We have the potential to explore the entire human history, why not use it?
Going so far back in time was a way to send a message that we have so much left to explore!
The true origins of the Brotherhood have been enigmatic in Assassin’s Creed lore. What prompted the exploration of this particular mystery?
Since Assassin’s Creed, we've explored a lot about the Brotherhood in the last millennia, following characters that were all bent more or less to the same rules since the first game.
Our desire was to come in with a wave of fresh air, exploring new grounds, new types of characters and stories. We really felt that allowing people to understand the formation and structure of the Brotherhood would be very interesting.
As soon as we picked the setting, it was clear that it would be an origin story. Why go so far back in time to tell another story of another Assassin that would have to follow the exact same rules? The cool thing here is that our hero, Bayek, is not yet an Assassin as we know them. We will follow him and understand his path that led him to be part of the foundation of the Brotherhood.
This allowed us the narrative freedom and space to tell a different story.
Why is it important to the team to explore the origins of the Brotherhood?
We were super excited to tell this story. This time we wanted to bring a new type of story while letting players understand the “before” of the Brotherhood.
With this story, we tell how the loose philosophies that would eventually be the Creed came together in order to shape a group of people who would share the same motivation, the same goal.
Was it challenging taking on the origins of the Brotherhood?
Of course, it's always a challenge. We needed to fully respect the lore that has already happened, so we need to acknowledge all that has been said and the framework that has been established.
At the same time, we need to think outside of that framework. Origins is before the big bang. We are before the universe, what was there?
It's both challenging and super exciting because we are in literally uncharted territories. The challenging part is finding the right balance. We want fans to discover the lore and what's behind the universe they love, but we also don't want that to be a barrier to new fans. We want people to join us in our Brotherhood!
We also didn't want to necessarily have a one-to-one correlation in our explanations. Like this thing is about the eagle, this is about the blade, etc. We didn't want it to feel like a checklist. This is a narrative story, we want players to feel, to experience emotions, and go on a journey.
Some concepts will be explained more in-depth, some will be hinted at, but there are still 1000 years between Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed. We also want to preserve this millennium for stories yet to be told. It's about giving the fans a lot of content, which I believe we have, but at the same time leaving some of the mystery.
There's a lot more to explore!
Anything else to add for the Assassin’s Creed community?
One of our signature lines for this game is “may your victories multiply,” which is based on a real Egyptian saying “may your happiness multiply.”
We used this sentence, which basically means “wishing you the best,” and we transformed it to hint at the battles that you will need to lead and to win to push your cause.
So, may your victories multiply!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little but more about the creation of Assassin’s Creed Origins and how the team laid foundations for the Brotherhood to form.
Make sure you join in the discussion on the official Assassin’s Creed forums!