Was the American Revolution setting your first choice?
It was actually. To be perfectly honest, I came on to the team a little over two years ago and it was already being made - I wasn't in that conversation, which says a lot about how long ago this choice was made.
I was privy to the reasoning behind it and it was the first choice in that the team thought it was the best place to take it for our narrative, game mechanics... basically all the improvements we wanted to push Assassin's Creed towards. We definitely considered a lot of places, but that one was the one that fit with what we wanted to do.
How challenging has it been researching the period?
It's funny... it's not challenging in terms of finding stuff, it's challenging in terms of sorting. The gap is much smaller now - we're talking 300 years - and the historical record is really accurate. So there's this tonne of stuff on tonnes of people, and going through that and figuring out what is pertinent to us, what fits into our narrative and how to back it up with other things... there's just so much information on the conflict and that time.
We've actually had two historians in fulltime, two Mohawk consultants working on that as well, linguists and all sorts of people contributing to the validity and breadth of our knowledge of that period so we can make something as authentic as possible. I think what we've got now is really, really good. I'm not a history buff but when I jumped into this it just blew my mind... the amount of interesting things that were happening.
There's a really big gap between the public perception of the American Revolution and the reality of what was really going on. It's really crazy, the stuff that people think they know compared to what was really going on.
For example Paul Revere's Ride is a big famous thing, but one, he was one of twenty people that went on that ride, two, he didn't even make it all of the way there and three, they weren't yelling - they were going from house to house because it was a mix of loyalists and patriots. Because in those days everyone was British - there was no America yet. So what they were saying was "the regulars are coming" and they were whispering it because they didn't want the loyalists next door to hear.
That's how that actually unfolded and it's actually a more interesting story than what people have come do know. The reason people don't know now is because in the mid-19th century this guy was writing a song about the American Revolution to try and galvanise America with the threat of the Civil War, and Revere rhymed in the song. Now he's this legend, but it's not actually what happened.
There's a lot of that and it was really fun learning about the reality. These were regular guys, right? They weren't heroes; they were just dudes living life, caught in this crazy situation. They dealt with it as well as they could and some were successful and others weren't.
How do you make sure your obsession with historical accuracy doesn't restrain you creatively?
That's the juggling act of writing an Assassin's Creed game, and it's harder on this game. The historical record back during the Crusades is obviously a little bit more of a structure and you can cut your own dots in the middle, which gives you a little bit more freedom. In comparison this time period is very well documented so you have to pay attention to it.
It can be annoying at times because you're like, 'I just want this to happen!' But then at the same time it gives you an opportunity to recreate these situations in peoples' lives. Everyone knows what George Washington looks like - he's on the American one dollar bill - but they don't know who he is. We have the ability to follow him day to day and offer the player this opportunity to explore what it would've been like to be standing next to George Washington during his most intimate moments.