The team behind the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Origins is going to teach you a thing or two about the history of Ancient Egypt — and not just by asking you to assassinate its more evil citizens.
At a press event earlier this month in San Francisco, Ubisoft showed off “Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt,” a dedicated educational mode that will present the game’s historical information as a guided tour through Ptolemaic Egypt.
The Assassin’s Creed series uses real historical settings as the backdrops for its gameplay, in which the Assassins Brotherhood (the good guys) have been waging a centuries-long secret war with the Knights Templar. One of the most interesting parts of the series is the research and dedication its developers put into realizing those settings and keeping them historically accurate, as the fictional narratives play out in eras like the Renaissance, the Crusades, and the American Revolution.
At the event, Origins Creative Director Jean Guesdon said publisher Ubisoft has received a lot of positive feedback about the historical accuracy of the games.
“We received testimonies from teachers that they’re using the games, creating school videos to craft educational material on their own, so they can share part of this world,” Guesdon said. “So we really thought, how can we take that to the next level?”
Discovery Tour is the answer. The mode adds a series of guided tours to Assassin’s Creed’s Egypt (which we thought was a highlight in our hands-on preview), where players can get information about a variety of different subjects.
The educational mode could be a stand-alone project unto itself. Guesdon said that Assassin’s Creed developers have worked with historians and specialists for years on getting their games historically accurate, and that same approach was applied to Discovery Tour. The “dozens” of tours included in the mode were curated by historians, and Ubisoft worked with museums to gather content and materials like images to flesh them out.
“If you wanted to know more, for example, about mummification, about the Great Pyramids of Giza, about the Lighthouse of Alexandria, about the life of Cleopatra, or what have you,” Guesdon said. “It’s really up to you — if you want to know more, this is for you. It’s really an educative, dedicated mode.”
The tour mode works by letting players pick a character from in the game, including husband-and-wife protagonists Bayek and Aya, as well as historical figures such as Cleopatra, Caeser, Ptolemy, and more. When you start a tour, you’ll learn what it’s about and how long it’ll take you to complete, with players guiding their characters through a variety of “stations” that include narrated text information about different subjects. A small portion of a tour was shown during the event, in which Aya stopped at a station where an Egyptian was working on mummification.
The player can watch the in-game animations, while an overlay box shows images of real mummification tools, and a narrator reads the text that explainsit all. It was important to the developers to maintain the interactive part of the experience that’s unique to video games, Guesdon said.
Another big mandate for the mode is making it accessible to people who might not otherwise be interested in playing Assassin’s Creed. The tour mode is separate from the main game, and includes no story or conflict, Guesdon explained.
“All of this work that we’ve put in this world that’s here for the game, we wanted it to be accessible to others,” he said. “So you can invite your grandma, or your nephews or your son, totally free of fear of combat, conflict or whatever. It’s really just about learning more about Egypt.”
Discovery Tour is still a work in progress at this point, Guesdon said, and it won’t be included with Assassin’s Creed: Origins when it ships. Instead, Ubisoft plans to release the mode in early 2018, when it’s finished, as a free update to all Origins owners.
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