'Assassin's Creed 3' Team Historian talks inspirations

What is a Team Historian? "I could dig into books, and I could dig into historic magazines, things that are really geeky for a historian, but I had to translate it into easy access material for [the Assassin's Creed 3 team]," says Maxime Durand, the Team Historian on Assassin's Creed 3.

What is a Team Historian?

"I could dig into books, and I could dig into historic magazines, things that are really geeky for a historian, but I had to translate it into easy access material for [the Assassin's Creed 3 team]," says Maxime Durand, the Team Historian on Assassin's Creed 3.

He lists a few examples, a mix of dry documentaries and blockbuster action flicks: Liberty, The Patriot, the forgotten Al Pacino film Revolution. "Barry Lindon was a cool movie that I could use the visual from, and link it together with real information," says Durand. He would share all of these with colleagues at work, whenever they needed inspiration for say costume design or concept art.

Durand hadn't previously worked on a game. Ubisoft snapped up Durand directly from university where he'd studied history, contracting him for two months. That was two and a half years ago.

"After nine months, they brought me on full time."

He says the job is bigger than anyone expected. He was part of the original group of ten or so people working on Assassin's Creed 3. At the beginning, his role was figuring out where historical figures were and when, helping to build a historically accurate time line. Or at as least close accurate as a game about secret assassin societies and ancient precursor races can get.

That job wrapped up after a few months. So what does a Team Historian do over the course of a nearly three year long development cycle?

For awhile, Durand curated what he calls the History folder, a massive collection of assets and information broken into many sub-folders. It contained everything from the important (maps) to the minute (engravings) to the irrelevant (hundreds of drawings of period furniture).

When the team began work on the game's apocalyptic Desmond story, which takes place in present day, Durand took a more legal role. Unlike historical Boston, a modern city needs lots of clearances. People, buildings, and products all need to be approved.

Now, as the game approaches, Durand helps with marketing, taking pride in such things as the historical veracity of the announcement trailer, noting that many websites had run it through with a fine tooth comb, and found the tiny details were correct. This makes him grin.

What now? What happens to a historian in the video game after his opus ships? Durand laughs and says he finds ways to make himself useful. After watching and reading everything American Revolution, Durand's happy to have his contribution ready to launch.

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