by Joseph Leray
According to Ashraf Ismail, the game director for "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," the suits at Ubisoft have a course set for the series' eventual conclusion.
"We have multiple development teams, then we have the brand team that sits on top and is filled with writers and designers concerned with the series' overall arc," Ismail explained to Eurogamer. "So there is an overall arc, and each iteration has its place inside this.
When Yves Guillemot, CEO and taskmaster of Ubisoft, made it clear that his company would release a new "Assassin's Creed" game every year, it seemed to cement a certain infinitely repeatable formula for the game: pick a time period, a backstory, a white hoody. I always assumed that Ubi would keep plugging in new variables until consumers ran out of money, patience, or both, but it had never occurred to me to think that Abstergo Industries had an endgame.
"Depending on the setting, depending on what fans want, we've given ourselves room to fit more in this arc," Ismail continued. "But there is an end."
While a new "Assassin's Creed" game comes out every year, the Paris-based conglomerate has an an entire stable of studios staggering the new entries: each studio has about two years of development time on their assigned "Assassin's Creed" game. As a result, Ismail explained, "We're now able to seed stuff earlier and earlier in our games. So for example in ['Black Flag'] we have Edward who was seeded in 'ACIII.' But there's a lot more stuff in our game that is hinting at other possibilities."
The series' Byzantine backstory -- full of shady conspiracy theories and virtual reality simulators -- gives Ubisoft plenty of room to explore new locales and time periods with abandon, so don't expect Guillemot & Co. to wrap things up any time soon: "Assassin's Creed III" shipped 12 million units last year, and its PS Vita-exclusive spin-off, "Liberation," posted a healthy 600,000 as well.
"Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" will be available this fall on Xbox 360, Wii U, and PlayStation 3, and next year on next-generation consoles. On Sony consoles, "Black Flag" will come with extra missions featuring "Liberation" heroine Aveline de Granpré.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter