Ubisoft met with a fair amount of skepticism from the press when it announced in 2010 that it was brining multiplayer to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Why would a story-heavy game about stalking opponents need a multiplayer mode unless it was just a cynical attempt to satisfy market trends? The doubters were shocked to find that Ubisoft Montreal made what is still considered one of gaming’s best multiplayer modes. According to Assassin’s Creed III mission director Philippe Bergeron multiplayer was always the plan for the series, but not as it ultimately appeared in Brotherhood and later entries. The original Assassin’s Creed was supposed to have a massive co-operative mode.
“[It] just became too hard to do: The engine couldn’t support it, and then the metaphor we had above it didn’t support it. Co-op was one of those big thing at the beginning that just didn’t make sense in the end,” Bergenon told OXM in a retrospective, “For us it was really part of the single player experience, to have in-and-out co-op, and in the end we never thought it made sense in the storyline that we had for the Animus. There was no way to reconcile having multiplayer or co-op in an ancestor’s memories.”
The original Assassin’s Creed follows the story of Desmond as he explores the memories of his ancestor Altair, an assassin fighting against the Templar Order during the Crusades. Bergenon is right that a co-operative mode would have stretched the limits of narrative logic in the game even if Ubisoft’s 2007 engine could have accommodated it.
This past fall though, Ubisoft introduced a spinoff to the series that allows narrative justification for co-op. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for PS Vita is a wholly separate story from Desmond, positing that people can relive the lives of past assassins free of a genetic link. With those narrative shackles taken off, Ubisoft is free to explore co-op in future games and it appears that they will do so. A questionnaire sent to Assassin’s Creed fans in November suggested that Ubisoft is considering putting drop-in co-operative play in the next game. The question asked if the “possibility for a friend to join the game in order to help me at any time during the solo mode” was a “must have.”