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SDCC 10: A Russian Dawn For Assassin's Creed

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SDCC 10: A Russian Dawn For Assassin's Creed

Post by Yaznee! L4DS on Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:10 am

Let's face it. Most videogame-based comic books suck. You know it. We
know it. We even
wrote a feature about it.
Like so many licensed products,
videogame comics seem to exist simply to exist, to cash in on the
dedicated fans that want to purchase everything related to their
favorite franchise. Marketers and executives count on this mindless
devotion, and as a result many, many soulless, thoughtless projects are
pumped out into the market – projects that could and should be good.


Nikolai Orelov
But
Ubisoft is
taking a different, more humble approach. They refuse to simply produce
"licensed products" and want to expand their storytelling horizons from
games to any other medium that might serve their properties best. Even
mediums (and industries) they admittedly don't know well. And they're
willing to lay one of their biggest franchises on the table to raise the
stakes in what they view as a long-term initiative, one that seems
poised to succeed where many others have failed.


To that end, Ubisoft has recruited two masterful storytellers to bring
the Assassin's Creed
franchise into a new era. Cameron Stewart,
known for his work on Batman and Robin and The Other Side,
will be teaming with Karl Kerschl,
who has worked on Teen Titans: Year One as well as the Flash
serial from Wednesday Comics. Neither serves as writer or artist,
rather both are collaborating on all aspects of this new, untitled Assassin's
Creed mini-series, resulting in something that is truly a hybrid of
both men's styles and talents. In fact our entire meeting with the two
men was symbolic of this collaborative concept, as one would pick up the
other's thoughts and discussion points without missing a beat.
Likewise, looking at the array of art on a table before us (some of
which you see in this article, some of which you'll see in the future),
it was impossible to distinguish who had done what piece, or how their
styles had meshed together.


Initial tests and concepts included attempting to work Assassin's
Creed II
star Ezio Auditore
da Firenze into a new storyline that would have expanded on the
games. Stewart, Kerschl and Ubisoft determined that working with
existing characters and plotlines would have been too restrictive to
create a truly great product. Both sides agreed they wanted to create a
situation that was not only suited for the comic book medium but
unrestricted in terms of subject material and potential. "Using the same
characters feels like fan fiction… the story becomes contrived and the
reader feels that fan service element," Stewart noted, saying that the
only reasonable conclusion was to create a new assassin for a new
chapter in Assassin's
Creed lore. And with Ubisoft's blessing, Stewart and Kerschl
suddenly found themselves with a blank slate. Now what?


Prelim Sketches
Though
in hindsight the selection of a Russian assassin during the turn of the
19th century seems like an obvious and smart one, Stewart and Kerschl
did take their time contemplating their options, even considering a
Mayan era at one point. The duo noted that ultimately it was the mood,
history and visual setting that convinced them Russia would be the ideal
choice. And so Nikolai Orelov was born, an ancestor of Daniel Cross,
who is this story's version of Desmond Miles
(the modern day character players have followed thus far in the
Assassin's Creed franchise). "We start with [Orelov] when he is a very
young man, a novice, and as the story goes on he gets older, and we see
the changes and effect that being in the [Assassin's] Order has on his
life," Stewart noted. Stewart and Kerschl said one of the inspirations
for the use of a new assassin came from the fact that Ubisoft had
already implied there had been many Animus test subjects, giving them
plenty of possible avenues to explore for this story – and perhaps more
if this endeavor proves successful.


Story details weren't revealed to us as the creators – as well as
Ubisoft – were hesitant to give too much away. Rest assured that this
story will embrace key franchise elements such as the Animus and the
larger conflict between the Templars and Assassins. Stewart and Kerschl
noted that while the allure of creating a new Russian assassin first
held all of their attention and excitement, eventually Cross, a young,
recovering drug addict, very much came into his own both in the story
and for them as well. The larger storyline will not only follow the
lives of Cross and Orelov, but will weave in real life Russian events,
most notably the tumultuous political events of the time. Stewart did
note that they were being careful how much history to weave in, as too
much would likely pull the reader out of the story. Rasputin, for
example, did exist during this era, but Stewart and Kerschl resisted
putting the iconic mystic too directly into the story for fear of
becoming too cliché.


Karl Kerschl
One
thing that became evident during our visit with Kerschl and Stewart was
that this project is early, still taking shape for its debut late this
year. There is no title. There isn't even a single page written or
drawn, though the team already knows the structure of the story and that
it will consist of three issues, tracking Orelov through three distinct
stages of his life. "It was important to us to have an ending," Kerschl
noted. "We didn't just want to create a licensable thing. We were
interested in the humanity of this character – what it means to be in
this Order and what effect it has on a person… and what we've come up
with has been pretty satisfying so far."


And while Stewart and Kerschl have the entire life of this Russian
assassin mapped out, Ubisoft does intend for Orelov to become a
permanent part of Assassin's Creed lore. His life is not being
considered a side project and will not be forgotten, even having the
potential to be developed into games in the future (though to what
capacity is uncertain). Ubisoft made it clear to us that it sees Orelov
and Cross as important as Ezio, Altair or Desmond, and their language
and approach certainly seem to bear that out.

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Yaznee! L4DS
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