A new report has claimed that the Assassin’s Creed series had female characters’ roles reduced, in part by Ubisoft’s now-ousted creative boss, who resigned this month following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations at the company.
According to an investigation published by Bloomberg, Ubisoft’s veteran chief creative officer Serge Hascoët and his influential editorial team – who oversaw all game production at the publisher – repeatedly pushed back against plans to integrate prominent female leads into the Assassin’s Creed games.
Playable female characters planned for the past three Assassin’s Creed games had their roles reduced or were removed entirely, it’s claimed.
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Specifically, the publication’s development sources claim that the role of co-protagonist Evie in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was significantly reduced following feedback.
It’s also claimed that Assassin’s Creed Origins was originally going to kill off its male protagonist Bayek early in the game and have players take control of his wife Aya, but these plans were ultimately scrapped.
Finally, according to people who worked on the most recent entry in the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, co-star Kassandra was originally intended to be the only playable character in the game, until the team was told it “wasn’t an option” and a second male playable character was introduced.
Bloomberg claims that all of these directives came from Ubisoft’s marketing department or Hascoët, both of whom “suggested female protagonists wouldn’t sell”.
Most of the Assassin’s Creed games star male protagonists, which became a contentious issue with 2014’s Unity when a developer claimed the game would not feature female playable characters because of “extra production work” required.
Until his resignation this month, Hascoët was the most powerful creative figure at Ubisoft, with the ability to change or cancel any of the company’s game projects.
Within Ubisoft’s structure, Hascoët and his team – with leaders comprised entirely of men – were required to approve all in-development game projects during specific ‘gates’. If a project performed poorly during these regular reviews, significant changes could be ordered or even outright cancellation.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, developers felt pressured to include strong male characters in their games in order to appeal to Hascoët and avoid repercussions.
It’s claimed that the former CCO had a long-standing reputation for sexism, and enabled bad behaviour by fashioning Ubisoft’s editorial team into “a sort of frat house” with “pornographic videos on computers, boozy lunches, and a chorus of inappropriate jokes.”
Because of his influence at the company – he had worked with CEO Yves Guillemot since the late 80s – it’s alleged that Hascoët was essentially “immune” to HR complaints.
Guillemot has promised extensive changes and has ousted prominent figures including the company’s heads of HR and Canadian studios.
“Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees,” the executive said in a statement earlier this month. “This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised — and never will.”