Ubisoft, Your Deception With Female Leads In Assassin’s Creed Unity Is Transparent

This morning Ubisoft responded to questions regarding female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity with an answer that boggles the mind. The game features four characters, and none are female. That would have been alright. But then they had to open their mouths and give an explanation that said it came down to “focus” and “production”, or costs or “double the animations and voices” or whatever they were spewing. Before going any further, I would like to make one thing clear. I am not a feminist. While I understand the problems of female representation in gaming, I don’t jump at every opportunity to be a white knight when I am not one. I haven’t made any campaigns or rallying cries, and the best I’ve done is offer some support or words for thought when issues arise. My problem rests solely with Ubisoft’s pathetic explanation, which they aren’t strangers to giving based on past experiences.

With that said, can we get past the anti-feminist rubbish please? Great. I’d like to start my counter argument by tackling Ubisoft’s logic, or lack thereof, itself. I get that they like their generic white men protagonists. I really do. But if they’re saying that designing animations for female characters is hard, or will take effort, or the setting is a hindrance to pulling off female characters, I’d like to say in three words: Assassin’s Creed Liberation. Firstly, you were lazy to make custom animations there so you simply copy and pasted most of Connor’s from Assassin’s Creed III. That’s forgivable. The character was still unique, even if the animations were old. But tell me, if you could do that back then, why can’t you simply copy the Assassin’s Creed Unity animations and just change the “skin” to be a female character? And do the voice work? How is the French Revolution not a suitable setting for a female character? You managed to pull one off in Liberations, despite claims that it would be a “pain” to do so.

I would like to clarify something here. I believe in an artist’s freedom to express whatever they feel like in whatever form they back. You don’t have to put female characters in your game, and you don’t have to be pro-feminist in your game. But as an artist you know that your work will be put out there to be interpreted by the masses, and as such you have a responsibility to conduct yourself well. You know that two worded thing we often look down on? Something called “public relations” that is so important to your business? You need a good serving of that. Your explanation is poor. I would get behind you (in a non-sexual manner) if you had simply said you don’t feel you can represent female characters well, or you didn’t have good ideas for a female character or there’s a story-related reason as to why there are no female characters. I would be fine with that. It’s your art and your story and your game. No one can tell you what you have to do with it. But, it comes down to responsibility.

Ubisoft, I implore you to cut the bullshit. Your explanation that it has to do with “focus” and “production” and “costs” is transparent of what you actually mean. The reality was summed up very nicely by an indie developer I follow on Twitter, Gareth Fouche:

It’s not about production costs. The game has ten studios behind it, and it’s creating a Paris that is bigger than all the land in Assassin’s Creed IV, which is crazy (in the good way) in itself already. I believe the issue resides solely in the fact that the publishing powers at Ubisoft just don’t believe having female characters will bring in more revenue. This thinking itself baffles my mind, because sure Assassin’s Creed sells buckets and buckets and is one of the most renowned franchises in the world, but surely by now you’re aware that there is a massive population of female gamers out there? Isn’t it around half of gamers? If you’re still surprised that many women play games, then you’re living in the stone age and I’d advise you please return to reality. We’re actually in 2014 now. 

Ubisoft, where is your proof that including female characters won’t help your sales? Where is your proof that it will hinder your sales? I’ll tell you where it is. It doesn’t even get the courtesy of being thrown in the garbage bin with the “female character idea document”, because it never existed in the first place. I’ll tell you what, Ubisoft. I’m an adult. I can handle the truth if you give me a good reason why you don’t wish to include female characters, despite Liberation and your multiplayer modes having them in. And keep in mind, I’m making it easy for you. The words “we don’t want to” is a good enough reason. It really is. It’s your game. You can do what you like. I’m not going to pick on you for standing by your art.

You not only have a responsibility to conduct yourself well as a company, but you have the added responsibility in the fact that Assassin’s Creed is one of the biggest franchises in gaming and as such will be looked up to by the masses of gamers and game developers in mainstream. With Assassin’s Creed Unity that responsibility will only grow, and the least you can do if you don’t wish to include female characters in your core game experience is just to be honest and forthright about it. This isn’t some whine-fest about you not including female characters. This isn’t some white knight stance on feminism from a male gamer. This isn’t a complaint about your decision to not include female leads in your franchise. Again, that’s your freedom to do what you like in your game.

I only ask that you don’t bullshit me.

Although perhaps this is all clear insight into why we’re not getting Beyond Good & Evil 2.

  • Charl Den Dulk

    Game developers cannot win, sure their excuse is bullshit. But if they add a female character people will bitch that she is either too pretty, her tits are too small/big she is not feminine or manly enough. She does not get enough airtime or she gets treated differently than the male characters and that she only serves as window dressing.

    The way ubisoft has gone about this is totally wrong that I agree with but adding female characters to a game because a few feminist nazi’s demand it is not creating a level playing field or creating a proper environment for equality in video games. The only thing being created is resentment.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      I fully agree that forcing a studio to add female characters defeats the entire purpose. I stated a few times that I don’t mind one bit if Ubisoft doesn’t want to have female characters. It’s their game and no one can say what they have to do with it. People will always bitch and moan, but when they have grounds I’m not going to get in the middle of it.

      Their PR is appalling here, and more than that it’s blatant BS. I’m not stupid enough to be BS’d like that, and I don’t appreciate it. Tell me up front that you don’t want to include female characters,or your story hasn’t written one in, or you don’t feel you can represent them well. Then, even if people bitch, you’ve been honest and up front about it and it’s your game so no one can tell you otherwise.

      But this is total crap. I agree with you that adding female characters just because people demand it is not the way forward. But what Ubisoft has done is a step backwards.

    • Shango Thomas

      equality doesn’t mean women becoming men or men becoming women if thats equality then someone has got it all wrong females are females and males are males its stupid political correct sounding people who are trying to make salt sound like sugar

  • MichaelMatusowsky

    What they *could* have done: Make the thing look female but still have manly moves (ala AC: Liberation).

    What they did: They didn’t have time to do all the MoCap (well, when you’re releasing once a year NO SHIT. MoCap takes a lot of time) for a female counter-part and rather than half-ass their way on a female character as in the “could” situation and have people slate them for making the female too manly, they decided against including a female character.

    What they said: Well they tried avoiding a PR disaster by inducing a PR disaster.

    Thanks to all the feminists out there, next years AC featuring Lara Craft.

    • extermin8or2

      The games have 3 years development time minimum…. You seriously think they’d be able to create THAT in 1 year hahahahahahahaaha.

    • MichaelMatusowsky

      There’s a reason they have 9 teams from around the world working on a single title every year. Considering the first and second AC’s didn’t have near that…

      SAUCE FOR RUMOURS PLOX BECAUSE I REMEMBER IT JUST BEING SPECULATION ON THE PART OF JOURNALISTS WHO HOPED UBISHIT WOULD HOP ON IT AND DO IT #YOLO.

      EDIT: French Revolution seemed like a no brainer to do at some point. Assassin’s Creed has become less about Assassin’s and more about a fictional retelling of history. Inb4 Anglo Boer War 1 and 2.

    • extermin8or2

      Russia wpuld fit well I think its pure genius the way they have done it tbh theu literally have any area of history open to them to explore… Alsk yeah they have 9 teams working on them however they still have about 3 years dev time. The 9 teams are needed because the scale is so much larger than the original two games and 9 teams are only workingnon the game for the final year and a half or so. I mean forst year alone will have been creation of new engine and getting it up and running…

    • extermin8or2

      Oh and by leaks im talking abput the leaked assassin design sketches and enviroments etc… the assassin design seems similar to the leaked sketches allbeit not as frilly more basic hpwever the emviroments (inteeior of the building in e3 coop demo) lools pretty similar to what I remember seeing… also year or two before that american war for independance was cited as being the location and ofc two years ago thats exactly what we got. The pirate setting of last yeaes game was unexpecte.

  • Amith Thomas

    Absolutely genius
    Yeah ! lets just take the character and change the skin ! Keep the animations !
    LOL
    A female assassins with exactly the same animations ? No. The animations would be similar but would change with body mass and physique. I’m not saying that females can’t be as strong, but there is always a difference in the animation. The difference might not be that big, but it would be very noticeable in a game with this quality. Animation in Assassins Creed is something that takes waaaay more work than in prettymuch every other game ! How much work does it take to get a complex system like that working ??? It would literally take new capture sessions and reworking to get an additional female animation system.
    More Voicework. Yes ! ffs there will need to be an entirely seperate voice work done.

    How are their reasons wrong ? You assume that they’re just putting it out there, while knowing that its ‘BS’. To assume that is just stupid on your part.
    It’s funny, the reasons may not be what people want to hear on this issue, because they don’t sound very good, but they are sure as hell logical, and make a lot of sense for a game like AC. The work that needs to be put in to make a female character in addition would be phenomenal. Unless it’s necessary or it’s specifically the story they want to tell, ofcourse it’s not worth the focus and production cost.

    It’s funny because in the context of AC Unity, with 4 male characters, their explanation makes even more sense. Yes, the work needed to make some of those characters female would be INSANE. Essentially double the work for characters !
    Really don’t understand how you can look at the given response, which makes complete sense (if people actually take the trouble to think about it), and then say ‘That’s not the real problem and you know it, cut the crap Ubisoft’
    That’s just incredibly stupid.
    Again, in this context, the explanation they gave is good. In a game where there are 4 co op characters, why not add in a female one ? Are you going to again assume that the reason is they just don’t want to add a female character ? Why not ? especially where it’s co-op play with additional characters ?

    Sure, part of the reason is obviously that they just don’t want to include a female character (for multiple reasons) , but to assume the reason they gave is intentionally BS, when it makes so much sense, especially in this context ? (and then for people to write articles about that)
    That’s just…. making assumptions, nothing more.

    • MichaelMatusowsky

      can someone give a tl;dr here?

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      It’s interesting that you believe using lots of caps and being insulting makes your point seem stronger.

      In any cause, a chunk of what you’ve said has literally been invalidated by former Ubisoft animators right here: http://egmr.net/2014/06/former-assassins-creed-animator-says-ubisoft-lying-female-characters/

      Secondly, it is bullshit. My comment about using the same animations was based on fact, my friend. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation’s protagonist Aveline uses the majority of Connor’s animations from Assassin’s Creed III. They didn’t reinvent boob physics or redo eight thousand animations, they literally copied the animation set. The work that came in was due to the voice work and the motion capture. Since every single cinematic game now makes use of both of those, it is not an extremely high cost in development that only the elite can partake in.

      “An entirely seperate voice done.”

      This is true. But do you realise that millions of games do this? Assassin’s Creed itself has dozens upon dozens of voice actors. Mass Effect had a female and male version for its entire trilogy. So don’t come with a poor old Ubisoft argument when Assassin’s Creed is one of the biggest franchises in the world.

      My comment regarding the scale of Unity is that Ubisoft is not a studio that lacks budget or effort. Being unable to animate a female character, even if they decided to tweak animations rather than cut and paste like they’ve done before, is not a strenuous task.

      And for the final time, I do not mind the absence of female characters. I only mind being bullshitted to my face about it.

    • Amith Thomas

      Im sorry if I came off as insulting. I was just in an argumentative mood… Looking at my comment, I totally agree with you on the tone…
      It doesn’t matter how many games do it. Not the point. Ubisoft thought of doing it as an addition, but it wasn’t that high on the priority list. That simple. You can’t really call them out for that.

      Yes, Mass Effect, Dragon Age. Well, good for them. They happen to be games that need it. AC doesn’t need it anywhere near as much. It’s not an RPG. It’s an action adventure game. I wouldn’t care if all the AC games had female leads. Doesn’t change the game for me significantly in the slightest. Ubisoft seemed to think the same thing. They had a male protagonist. They could add in a female protagonist as well. That would be a good amount of work. Ofcourse they could do it, and it would be really nice to have that ! Should they ? No. I think it would be a huge waste. I just don’t see that work being justified in this case. Like I said, it just isn’t that important in AC. I completely agree with Ubisoft on this. Having a female protagonist means so little in an AC game imo. Completely different from Mass Effect, Dragon Age etc. It’s not what AC is about.

      If someone goes to the extent of saying that not having a female/male protagonist ruins AC Unity for them, then I’d tell them to rethink if AC is really the game for them. I’d tell them to go play RPGs.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      It’s no problem, friend. Thanks for being able to admit to that, and I apologise for any heat I may have given off in my response.

      See, I want you to understand that I 100% agree with the fact that Assassin’s Creed doesn’t ‘need’ or have to have it. I am 100% with you when you say that Ubisoft doesn’t have to do it. They don’t have to include female characters in their game. A significant portion of my article was devoted to this exact fact. They are free to do whatever they wish to with their own work, and no one can tell them otherwise.

      However.

      The reason they used, the excuse, was a blatant lie. More so, it was factually incorrect as proven by other people in the industry. Even more so, it was insulting with Assassin’s Creed being one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry, and simultaneously Ubisoft was bragging about the size and scale of the world, etc. That’s what caused people to raise eyebrows in the first place. I brought up those other games not to say that because they do it Assassin’s Creed must do it too. I brought them up because if one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry says it’s too “costly” and too much of an effort to include female characters, then what does that say of all those developers who don’t have the wealth and fame that AC does?

      That is the core issue addressed in this article. If you don’t want to do female characters, say so, or say it doesn’t fit the story you created, or say there is a story-related reason why it’s the way it is, if applicable. Or just say nothing. Don’t come out and lie to people who can easily call you out on it. Especially when the lie is so shallow and easy to disprove that it pretty much comes off as insulting.

      I don’t have a problem with the absence of female characters. Trying to force one in destroys the entire purpose of it too. I simply have a problem with being bullshitted by a corporation, because there is some kind of paranoia about any form of honesty or being up front.

      I hope I’ve made my issue clearer in this response. It is dangerous to let corporations take you for a ride, and that is what I am dead set against.

    • Amith Thomas

      Yes,good point, now I get what you’re saying.
      It’s just that I tend to side with them because I personally think that it’s bad PR and not blatant lying.

      What I’m saying is, since the issue here is female protagonist, for which the required work is massive. If you remember the response they gave, it included something like “It was on the feature list, but didn’t make it”

      So the way I see it is that it actually was too costly or time consuming at that point in development where they considered adding it in. In the sense that otherwise they might have had to compromise on other areas of the game that were more important. That’s why I don’t agree with people calling them sexist, ignorant and so on, because that’s unlikely lol. I just think it was handled very unwisely by PR. I just find it highly unlikely that they are going to try and intentionally lie about that stuff, when it should be pretty obvious to them that such a response will backfire heavily.

      Ofcourse, it is possible that they were just lying
      At the end of the day, whether I’m right or wrong about them intentionally lying, I suppose it doesn’t matter at all. It’s their response that matters, and I agree that it was rather pathetic.
      I think the reason I was arguing about it this way is because of multiple people calling them out as evil mysoginists and the like, (and because I had too much free time on my hands). I seem to have forgotten about the actual issue.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      Your last paragraph is very well said :) I also disagree with reacting badly and calling them sexist or misogynistic, because of course terrible PR doesn’t mean the entire company is guilty. At the same time though, I can partly understand why people would react that way because PR is the connection people have to the corporation, and if your line of communication is saying things that are that suspect and pathetic, it can cause quite an upset, as was demonstrated.

      See, about the costs. Why I say that it’s not as costly or time consuming as was proclaimed is because firstly there is already a full animation set that they built for Arno. Plus there are plenty of female models in the civilian crowd with base animations. In order to create a female protagonist, with minimal work, they could replace Arno’s model with a female model. This is what was done in Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, where Connor’s (AC3) animation set was shipped over to Aveline, the lead protagonist. More so, if you go back to Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2, many civilians (females included) and soldiers actually have some of Altair’s base animations, with regards to moving, stumbling and such.

      BUT that’s in gameplay and of course this excludes the effort which would go into motion capture work that would need to be done for the female character during cutscenes. Well, since Assassin’s Creed 2 Ubisoft has had important female characters in cutscenes with full motion capture work, so it’s nothing new for the series or that extensive. Most big budget games today use motion capture technology as well during cutscenes.

      Other developers have also come out and said that the statements made about cost and time were incorrect. One link is here: http://egmr.net/2014/06/former-assassins-creed-animator-says-ubisoft-lying-female-characters/

      Perhaps I may have reacted a bit heatedly in saying they blatantly lied, but nevertheless it was, as we both agree, a pathetic PR statement/excuse that is easily disproved, and was disproved by other people in the industry.

      If anything, it’s a lesson in being very careful with your PR, which we both agree on. It’s just some of the details we’re debating :) And of course you could be as right or wrong as me in regards to Ubi’s intentions and whatnot.

      I’m glad I could have this chat with you though, as it’s not often you get someone reasonable, especially someone who can admit an error on the internet, so kudos for that! :)

    • Amith Thomas

      True, I guess that was the biggest problem then.
      Ty and thanks for the good discussion :)

  • Shango Thomas

    you can’t bend nature north is north south is south mars and venus women don’t belong to violent games stop acting political correct and get on with it, this really grinds my gears its like people are trying to grow balls on women such games have never deserved a woman to start with.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      “Women don’t belong to violent games”

      I apologise for being crude, but your logic is poor. Women are as capable as men as performing violent acts, there are dozens upon dozens of women in violent video games already (uhm, Tomb Raider, the most iconic of them all? Or Mass Effect?) and the most famous Assassin/figure from the French Revolution is a woman, who will likely be an NPC now.

      So, I think you need to come to 2014 :)

    • Shango Thomas

      Your so stupid an animal is clever than you if you wrote that with a sane mind then your the problem in this society, women are not capable of violence as men if society hasn’t taught you anything then read your history even your religion says God to be a man and hey having women in violent video games or undergo violence is not a part of equality, what your trying to do is change women into men it seems that you value what a man is and dis value what a woman is in your journey to make women and men equal you’ll end up changing women into men that’s so stupid even the heavens must be laughing!

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      Your intelligence has blown me away. And your English.

      Also, you are on totally different issues that are irrelevant to this discussion.

    • Shango Thomas

      And if it’s 2014 why don’t you ask your leaders to have women in the front lines in war!

  • extermin8or2

    You realise in your game you always appear as Arno right? Just like in Watch_Dogs you always appeared as Aiden Pierce. So tbh it makes little difference as the female character wouldn’t be playable… It would just appear in someone elses game as generic hooded figure a,b or c.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      The issue isn’t the lack of female characters, it’s Ubisoft’s stance on it :)

    • extermin8or2

      What that when and if they implement females into the games on their new engine that has greater detail of well everything then they’d want to ensure ots done at the same quality as everything else and give her a seperate set of her own animations etc. You realise they do actually cover their arses over the whole aveline thing. Mainly because they mention thwse charactera will be customisable more than befpre and theres no poimt as everypne will percoeve themselves playing as arno at all times. Imagine the shit storm if they’d used that reason…. imagine the shit storm then… they wanted to avoid that so they twisted the truth/told a white lie I can understand why they did completely…

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      Why would there not be a point? I do understand how people will perceive themselves as Arno (like in Watch Dogs), but it doesn’t mean you won’t interact with and see the other three characters. They wouldn’t need to give a female character a separate set of animations in Unity for exactly the reasons you’re describing – it would just be the other characters you interact with.

      There wouldn’t be a shitstorm if they said that, because Watch Dogs already uses that system and more importantly it would be a valid story reason, that Arno is the central character and it’s his story. That would be a fine reason. Heck, even a “we don’t want to” is a valid reason, even if it is a contentious one.

      The bottom line is that the reason they aren’t including female characters is not related to costs or the animation work or anything of that sort. That is really the issue here. That wasn’t a white lie. That was BS. There’s a big difference between the two.

    • extermin8or2

      Well as far as ive understood it the only interactions will be them occassionally making comments on events and little else. What I mean by there is no poont is that from a cost to fain point of view there is no point spending the time designing the model for a hooded character no one will see tje fave of or if they do only fleetingly. Clearly they dont see it being worth any money for suchblittle gain ajd as I said maybe they dont want todo a female assassin unless they do it properly hell maybe they tried giving her arno’s animations and felt it didnt look right but dont want to/camt soend the time and money getting new ones… and whatever answer they’d given these articles wouldve been popping up and people wouldve been whinging they clearly felt this reason was least likely to piss people off.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      The thing is though, it isn’t a big extra cost. Aside from Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, Ubisoft has used a number of female characters in its multiplayer mode. If you’re crafting a massive world with hundreds of NPCs, a female model is seriously neither a time consuming thing nor a costly thing, especially if you’re describing it as them just being there to make some comments.

      Ultimately though, the issue is not with the choice to exclude female characters. They’re free to do that. But their reasons for doing so are blatantly deceptive and untrue.

      It is true that people will find fault regardless of the statement they made, but the difference is they wouldn’t have looked like fools if they gave a reasonable statement, and then the ones complaining would be on the basis of a difference of opinion rather than being insulted.

  • FonkyMarmotte

    If they felt the need to explain this, I’m pretty sure that’s because they’ve already heard/read several remarks about it. Pity they found such an awkward excuse, but I guess once some feminists started to complain about this, Ubisoft knew they couldn’t win. After all, the main studio is based in Canada…

    What could they have said?
    A “creative choice”? –> Sexist choice.
    They’ll add it later? –> Men first, Women next? Sexist. And it will be a DLC you crooks!
    Production/development constraints? –> Hypocrisy. You’re sexists and you know it!

    We all know that nowadays in the USA and Canada, the pressure of the feminist lobby is very hard to handle. They just shouldn’t say anything more and let people chitchat.

    • http://egmr.net/ Azhar Lorgat

      They often give answers like this when asked questions in interviews :) Saying nothing is not the best choice, but it is a choice that is acceptable.

      The thing is, no matter what you do and say in life there will be a group who give you flak for it. It is unrealistic and imaginary to expect that there is one choice that will satisfy everyone. However, when it comes to an issue like this, it’s about having ground to stand on and not having ground to stand on. It’s about honesty versus, well, bullshit.

      If Ubisoft had said, as I stated in the article, that they didn’t feel confident in their representation of a female character, or a female lead character didn’t fit into their story, or even something as upright as they didn’t want to or it was their creative choice (as you said), then even if they get flak for it it wouldn’t matter because they were honest and they’re free to do what they want with their game.

      But in this case, their PR statement is exactly that: an excuse, and a poor one at that. It’s really insulting that they could expect people to buy that in this day and age and with a game of Assassin’s Creed’s scale.

      Otherwise, I do agree that the pressure can be difficult to handle, but I believe that if you conduct yourself well then even if people complain, you can’t really be called out for wrongdoing – just a difference of opinion.