What has been your biggest challenge so far with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate?
I would say the biggest challenge was creating a musical aesthetic which was very economical and nimble, and by that I mean it relied on a very simple set of basic ingredients that would then be sustainable over the course of a game that is easily 20-30 or more hours long. So, in looking at the game I was struck by the idea of a intimate chamber score that achieves power through how close and visceral it gets and not by how towering and epic it gets. So I was relying on a small number of musicians playing a
very specific kind of very difficult music, including crazy waltzes and things like that. And it can be difficult for things like that to not wear out their welcome, so I was constantly having to find ways to introduce new subtle colors and vary the palette as much as possible. All, of course, while staying authentic to what the game seemed to need. And on top of that, by hopefully doing something a bit different from the prior AC titles, which was what Ubisoft was specifically interested in.
What do you predict the players will enjoy most in the game?
I honestly couldn’t predict what players will enjoy most, but speaking only for myself, as someone who played it quite a bit, I really like the dynamic between the two siblings, and particularly I love playing as Evie. I think that they made a nice and fresh feeling character out of her, and I love the way that she moves and the motion capture, the animation, the controls, and her combat style, all of that. I find that it
is just very satisfying, and the way that the rough and tumble pirate feel of black flag was quite fresh to the series, so too does this feel that way, even though the setting is a bit more in line with previous AC games. Plus Victoria Atkin did a wonderful job in both her voice acting and motion capture. So that was what I have really enjoyed about it. But who knows what others will find. Hopefully there is a lot that they will enjoy.
How do you differentiate Assassin’s Creed Syndicate from other titles in the series?
Well, there is a lot that is different about it, sometimes it is subtle things, sometimes it’s big things. But certainly speaking about the music, the score is quite different from the other titles in the series, and I know that that is one way in which Ubisoft was hoping to make the overall game distinct. The music is much more intimate, much more in your face. Its also much more grounded in the musical traditions of the period the game takes place in (Victorian London), and less reliant on the kind of futuristic sci-fi elements that have been a big part of the previous scores. So it’s a bit more like classical music through a video game filter than it is blockbuster Hollywood music, if that makes any sense. Which was great fun to write; I had never done anything quite like it before!
Do you relate yourself to the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate protagonist?
Without getting into too much detail, the game’s characters, the twins Evie and Jacob, are partly motivated because of the recent loss of their father. And that actually happened to me, virtually the moment I was hired for the game. My father lost a battle to cancer which had emerged completely out of nowhere. And even though it is obviously just a bit of coincidental overlap with the game’s story, there are recurring motifs in the script of the relationship between child and parent, and needless to say
that was a subject that was in the forefront of my mind throughout the project. It ended up being a very personal project (and quite difficult) because of this, but hopefully the score benefited. It wasn’t an ideal way to relate to the twins.
If you could be any video game character ever created, who would you be?
I don’t know that I would ever want to be any video game character, but I certainly have many that I have loved. At the top of that list would probably always be Manny Calivera from Grim Fandango who I love for being a little bit morally grey, but nonetheless likeable, and a guy who at the end of the day does try to do the right thing. That game is just absolutely one of my favorites ever made, and his character was so beautifully conceived. I’m not sure I would wanna be Manny, but I do love Manny.
Take a look at the official video:
Gaming Cypher would like to thank Austin Wintory for taking the time to interview with us.