Ubisoft sparked some scandal this week surrounding the development of Assassin’s Creed: Unity when it announced that no female characters would be playable in the upcoming game. James Therein, the game’s technical director, claims it’s “not a question of philosophy or choice, in this case…it was a question of focus and a question of production.”
According to Therein, at this stage in the game, including a playable female character in AC: Unity would require too many additional animations – approximately eight thousand – from Arno, the game’s main protagonist. Despite Ubisoft’s extensive resources and the size of their development teams, Therein and his fellow director, Alex Amanico, both claim they ultimately had no choice.
“It’s not like we could cut Arno,” explains Amanico. “The only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar.”
This decision, however, was met with widespread outcry from the gaming public. Many fans of the series took to Twitter and social media to protest what they labeled as exclusive, even sexist behavior. One former Ubisoft animator, Jonathan Cooper, went on record saying that the company’s statement was inaccurate.
“In my educated opinion,” claimed Cooper on Twitter, “I would estimate this to be a day or two of work. Not a replacement of 8,000 animations.” He went on to explain that Aveline de Grandpre, a playable female character from a previous Assassin’s Creed game, actually shared more animations with one of her male counterparts than the male characters often do with each other.
Former Assassin’s Creed designer Patrice Desilets, on the other hand, sees Amanico’s reasoning as valid, but still believes making female avatars should be a major priority. “But that shouldn’t stop you,” Desilets said, “With all the time, money and people on that project, you could’ve done it.”