Former Assassin's Creed game designer Patrice Desilets believes his former employer, Ubisoft, should invest the time and effort to give players the choice to play as a woman in Assassin's Creed Unity, something the developer pulled back on due to "the reality of production."
At E3 this week, Unity creative director Alex Amancio explained why the cooperative multiplayer game features four versions of protagonist Arno and why the developer excluded the option to play as a female assassin.
"It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets," Amancio said. "Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work."
In an interview with Polygon, Desilets said that Amancio's reasoning — that it would create extra work — was valid, but that Ubisoft should put in the effort to let players have gender options.
"It's true. If you do a big giant character and a small character, or a woman and a guy, it's different," Desilets said. "But that shouldn't stop you. With all the time, money and people on that project, you could've done it."
The game designer, who was terminated by Ubisoft last year and is currently involved in litigation with his former employer but still has friends on the Assassin's Creed team, hoped that the publisher would be bolder with its game design choices as they relate to diversity.
"You know what would have been really awesome? Four women," he continued. "Then people would be like, 'Wow, they've got big balls.' Imagine four girls. It would have been really a strong message of what Assassin's Creed Unity is about."
Desilets, who has two young daughters, said he thinks that some game publishers and developers get caught in a cycle of making and selling games to a particular audience, and that informs decisions like the choice to prioritize male avatars over offering gender options.
"They always try to sell the same thing," he said, referencing the commercial underperformance of female-led games like Remember Me as cited evidence for why certain games don't sell well. "So it's easy to win the argument: 'See, that's the only thing that sells' — because that's the only thing to buy.
"That's why the game that I'm designing, I'm giving control back to the player," he said. "Which gender do you want to play? Let's start there."