Feature

How Ubisoft Is Turning AC: Origins Into An Interactive Museum

by Jeff Cork on Dec 31, 2017 at 04:00 PM

Assassin’s Creed Origins features one of the most impressive historical settings we’ve ever seen in a game. Its rendition of Ptolemaic Egypt is expansive and filled with incredible places to explore. Of course, it’s also filled with dangers. Linger too long near the banks of the Nile and you’re likely to end up in a hippo’s belly. Temple guards may not eat you, but they can take a similarly aggressive approach to loiterers. Fortunately for all of you would-be explorers out there, an upcoming new mode will let you fully explore the world that Ubisoft Montreal built – and learn a lot about ancient Egypt – at your own leisure without having to worry about getting chomped on.

The Discovery Tour is a free addition to Origins that adds a new game option from the start menu. Players who select it can take part in a variety of historical tours, based on a variety of different aspects of life during the game’s historical setting. You can learn about the construction of the Great Pyramids, get the low-down on the Library of Alexandria, and get a better sense of what day-to-day life was like for an average citizen in the region via fully narrated presentations. We talked to Jean Guesdon, Assassin’s Creed Origins’ creative director, and historian Evelyne Ferron to learn more about this exciting new mode.

This article was originally published in issue 297 of Game Informer Magazine.

“The idea is to allow more people to benefit from this incredible work of recreation,” Guesdon says. In the past, players have been able to learn more about the history behind the games via in-game databases, which featured textual descriptions of the locations, events, and personalities that were featured. Discovery Mode is an attempt to make it easier and more engaging to learn about ancient Egypt, and it was an idea that the team had early on in Origins’ development. “We knew since the beginning almost that this was our new version of the Animus database.”

The Discovery Tour is completely gated off from the campaign. Players start by selecting a character. “You won’t only be limited to Bayek or Aya,” Guesdon says. “We will have more than 20 models so that you can pick a man, woman – a child, even – to roam the world.” There isn’t any combat or fighting, and the animals will ignore you. They’ll still interact with each other, however, so players can watch a crocodile and hippo get into a tussle without having to worry about getting drawn into the action themselves. The entire game world is available to explore, and your character can access Bayek’s eagle, Senu, to get a bird’s-eye view of the world, and call a mount to travel across the world faster.

You can explore at your own leisure, and landmarks or locations that have tours associated with them will be highlighted by special icons. You can either travel manually to those locations, or fast-travel to them if you’d rather dive right in. If you choose to start a tour, an illuminated path provides guidance from station to station. These tours are narrated, and most feature photos and images from museums and other institutions to provide additional context on the subject at hand.

“It’s totally dedicated to history, so we are not mentioning any AC lore in that mode,” Guesdon says. “We know that with previous games some teachers were recording at home very carefully to make some videos in their classrooms to show to their students. We hope that some of them will be encouraged to bring their PC or their console and let [students] experience the tour. We really believe that interactivity makes this learning more attractive and more powerful.”

“It feels like a 3D museum, like you walk inside the Library of Alexandria or you walk inside a tomb and you walk inside the city and you have all that information that you can have access to and understand,” Ferron says. “When you walk in a museum, you look at the artifacts and if you’re interested you come closer to the window and you read the information. This time it’s a bit of the same thing. You walk inside that magnificent recreation of what the Library of Alexandria could have looked like, and you learn about the scientists and what people were doing there.”

One of the most interesting aspects about the Discovery Tour from a player’s perspective is that it makes a point of highlighting some of the times that gameplay or technical constraints forced the team to deviate from actual history in the game. “That’s good for the people who play, because students sometimes think that because it’s in a movie or in a game it’s reality, and it helps them to have a critical mind, to realize that sometimes we have to play with historical reality,” Ferron says. 

The update is coming sometime in early 2018, though a specific date has yet to be announced. Guesdon says that because it is a completely separate executable from the main game, it’s possible Ubisoft could provide the Discovery Tour to classrooms at a discounted price, but those decisions haven’t yet been finalized. Regardless, if you already own Assassin’s Creed Origins, you’ll be able to download the Discovery Tour at no additional cost once it’s made available. Perhaps you’ll gain an even greater appreciation for not only the work that the Origins team put in, but for the incredible achievements that people made thousands of years ago.