Tag Archives: Ubisoft

On The Border: An interview with Jill Murray

Ubisoft scriptwriter Jill Murray.

Ubisoft scriptwriter Jill Murray.

The Border House recently sat down with Jill Murray, a Scriptwriter for Ubisoft Montreal whose most recent shipped title is Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and is currently working on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Murray got into games at the tender age of 5 years old with games like Lemonade Stand and Jump Man on the Commodore 64. She has always been a writer, and had two published works of young adult fiction under her belt before coming into the games industry to work as a game writer. She will soon be moving on to Ubisoft Quebec to commence her new position as Director, Narrative Design.

The Border House: Did anything in your early life spur your love for writing and your choosing it as a career?

Jill Murray: My mom taught me read shortly before I emerged from the womb. I came into the world at 11:43 on a Monday, correcting my own grammar and looking for writers to lunch with. Growing up I was more into art and music. But I’m pretty sure it was all the reading that turned me in the end.

TBH: What was the toughest thing switching from traditional forms of writing like plays and novels to game writing?

JM: Managing expectations. I hear a lot of “BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR NOVELS?” And I have about 400% more events I feel like I have to attend, and then forget to, and I’m always behind on both reading and playing games now.

Screenshot of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Picture credit: assassinscreed.ubi.com.

Screenshot of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Picture credit: assassinscreed.ubi.com.

TBH: Your official title at Ubisoft is Scriptwriter. Can you tell me a bit about what that position entails?

JM: It’s meant a lot of different things so far. Narrative design and writing, for sure. Also a lot of coordinating things and talking to people, and increasingly, jet lag. On Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I work with four different studios, and three of them are not in Montreal, so I’m really getting farther and farther away from that presumed ideal of “solitary writer” all the time. Continue reading

Oh Far Cry 3, We Weren’t Meant To Be

*Pretty much spoiler free, but trigger warning for racism and rape*

A black man with glasses (notably the only black man in the game from what I’ve read) who is shown healing the main character Jason.

In a blatant disregard for my backlog of unfinished and untouched games, I bought Far Cry 3 this week.  I don’t even know why — I am not a big FPS fan, I’m quite poorly skilled with a gun in my hands, and I haven’t played any of the other games in the series.  Something about it just lured me in.  I’d say it was the animals, but that would make me a sick individual considering how many of them I have skinned for precious crafting materials.

I’m a few hours in, maybe 4-5 hours if I’m lucky.  I picked the easy difficulty level, knowing my complete inability to line up crosshairs on a target and manage to click my mouse button at the right time.  The intro scene is a bit intense, with some harsh language and some brutal moments that made me a little bit uncomfortable.  After that, my character Jason (who was supposedly vacationing on this island with his friends before being kidnapped and suddenly gaining superior manslaughter and hunting skills) is thrown out into this world in which he must save all of the native people with his “white man know-how” and manage to survive.  So far, this has meant doing challenges to convince the native ‘savages’ that I’m somehow magical and superior to everyone else and therefore the savior they’ve been waiting for.  There have been several writeups out there already about the problematic racism in Far Cry 3, such as this one on Rock Paper Shotgun.

I said, rather flippantly, that the people of this island are the race they are, because it’s the island they’re native to. It is what it is, essentially. And that’s the case – that’s really not the issue here. It had to be set somewhere. The issue is the horribly worn tropes it so lazily kicks around when it gets there. As it is, you have the simple-folk-natives, and the immigrant white men with their mixture of South African and Australian accents. And one black guy. White people ask you to get involved in enormously elaborate machinations, ancient mysteries, and local politics. Locals ask you to help them kill endangered species, find their missing daughters, and point out when their husbands are gay. Essentially, the locals behave as if they’re helpless without you, but when you wield their tattoo-based magical powers then true greatness appears. And it’s here that the problems really kick in.

There’s a term for it. It’s “Noble Savage“. And it also falls under the remit of the “Magical Negro“. The trope is that the non-white character possesses mystical insight, magical abilities, or simply a wisdom derived from such a ‘simple life’, that can enlighten the white man. And it’s pretty icky. The premise relies on the belief that the individual’s race is in some way debilitating, something their noble/mystical abilities are able to ‘overcome’.

There’s also mention of some implied rape, which I haven’t gotten to in the game yet but I believe is the rape of a man by another man.  I’m really not far enough into the game to give this a ton of critical thought, but this game screams out red flags to me.

Gameplay wise, is it fun?  I think there are hints of a really enjoyable experience in there.  It’s surprisingly fun to track down the different animals, though pretty disgusting and graphic when you skin them.  I enjoy sneaking up on the tapirs and the pigs and just watching them enjoy their time in their natural element.  There are some other moments that made me yell out with triumph, such as some interesting ‘challenges’ and missions and sliding down a zipline while shooting a gun at everything below.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy speeding around in Jeeps and other vehicles, slamming into and running over just about everything in sight.  I know they used “Skyrim in the jungle” as a marketing ploy, but it doesn’t feel that far off.  There are some serious hints of that open world exploration that are very reminiscent of my Christmas 2011 in which leaving the house for food required too much time away from Skyrim.  Generally speaking, any game that lets me mindlessly run around the world, uncovering the fog-of-war on the map while looting ALL THE THINGS is going to be elicit some positive feelings.  The game is also quite pretty on my PC, so I can’t fault it there.

But there are some serious annoyances with the game, mostly surrounding the save system and its innate ability to make me die and lose all my progress.  I don’t know about you, but when a game rolls back to 20 minutes prior and makes me redo everything I just did, I get mad and close out the game.  That’s happened to me 4 times now and each time I’ve sworn off the game entirely.  Granted, I do die more than the average player.  I have an uncanny knack for running away from a bad guy, into a tiger, then into an alligator, then into a komodo dragon, then into a dog that eats my arm off.  I’m just not sure the game is worth that frustration when I’m already pretty pissed off at the racist narrative and have some rape content awaiting me if I play much further.  Considering a Skyrim DLC just came out — if I want to play an open-worldy game I think I’d rather it be in an Elder Scrolls world with my bow & arrow than rumbling in the jungle as a white savior in Far Cry 3.

Is anyone else playing this game?  If so, what are your thoughts?

Writer Jill Murray Talks Race and Class in AC3: Liberation

Above: AC3: Liberation Story Trailer.

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, the first Assassin’s Creed game to star a female assassin, comes out in a week. Over the weekend, Daniel Kaszor at the Financial Post’s Post Arcade blog published an interview with the game’s writer, Jill Murray. In the interview, Murray talks a bit about the race, gender, and class issues that are part of heroine Aveline’s life and story, and how those issues intersect with gameplay via the different personas that Aveline can take on:

Each persona gives her different abilities and also changes the way she interacts with her environment and how characters respond to her. It really is like she is trying on different identities. She’s trying to see where within the society of New Orleans she fits. Is it as a business woman and a lady? Is it among her mother’s people who are slaves? Or does she really truly become herself when she puts on the Assassin gear and takes to the rooftops?

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the game and how these issues are addressed in Aveline’s story.

Murray goes on to talk about her experiences working in the game industry, and some of the interesting historical facts that came up while researching for the game. You can read the full interview here.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Multiplayer Trailer Makes Me Cringe

Last week, Ubisoft posted a trailer for the multiplayer mode of upcoming game Assassin’s Creed 3. Predictably, it features whites and Native Americans, both men and women, killing each other with rifles, hammers, daggers and the like. Standard procedure for a multiplayer.

But my coworker and I both agreed that there was something ‘off’ about the trailer. Something that made it hard to watch. At first I thought it was the violence, and then I told myself to get a grip, because violent combat is pretty par for the course in videogames, and I’ve certainly cheered my share of vicious takedowns in the first two Assassin’s Creed games. But I forced myself to watch the video again, and then I realized: it wasn’t the violence that makes the AC3 multiplayer trailer hard to watch. It’s the gender ratio of the violence. Continue reading

Ubisoft Hired a Mohawk Cultural Consultant for Assassin’s Creed III

Time’s Techland blog has an interesting article about how the Ubisoft Montreal team went about creating and developing Connor, Assassin’s Creed III‘s Mohawk protagonist. It is nice to read about how the developers recognized that their own lack of knowledge about Mohawk culture could cause them to default to stereotypes, even though they mean well. Ubisoft hired consultant Thomas Deer to help them create an authentic character and avoid causing offense. Deer hasn’t seen the game, though, and jokes in the article that, “I’ll only really know, once the game comes out, if they listened to me.” Let’s hope so!

Assassin’s Creed III’s Connor: How Ubisoft Avoided Stereotypes and Made a Real Character – Time Techland

Beyond Good & Evil HD!

The fantastic news that Beyond Good and Evil will be released in HD (in 2011) hit the internets today.  Kirk Hamilton of Gamer Melodico got a bit of a hands-on at the Ubisoft’s Digital Day press event.  Being the excitable woman I am, I tweeted about my excitement, and my intention to buy.

Jade, the main character of Beyond Good & Evil, confronts a monster that towers above her.

My guess is that Ubi is trying to get the IP out there, and in the public’s mind, before they proceed to throw more resources at Beyond Good & Evil 2 (if you have followed the news on this title, there have been many rumors that it has been cancelled, but Ubi states that it is currently in development by a small team).

The original game had an ill-timed release and was a commercial failure, however it was adored by critics, and this is it’s second chance people!


Up until last year, Beyond Good & Evil was one of those games that I had always meant to play.  It has an awesome leading lady who always makes the “Top Ten Awesome Videogame Women” lists, who is a POC, who has a story that isn’t all about a dude, I had just never taken the time.  Eventually, through IRIS it was decided a bunch of us would play — and I could not believe I had spent so much of my life not having played that game.  It is really wonderful, and,  to be mushy, it is special.

Ubi must be tired of having people ask them about Beyond Good & Evil, and having people tell them that a sequel will make money.  Let’s show them that they have a hit on their hands!


E3 2010: Keynote Highlights and Strict Gamer Binaries

The E3 logo depics a 3-D E on top of a 3-D 3 with the words Electronic Entertainment Expo circling them.

The E3 logo depics a 3-D E on top of a 3-D 3 with the words Electronic Entertainment Expo circling them.

After day one of E3 2010 there had already been lots of interesting announcements. The major keynotes and press conferences are now over, and it’s been interesting, but also often frustrating, to see directly from the publishers and developers what games–and therefore what audiences–are important.

(Note: Since I am writing about five two-hour-long press conferences, I will not be able to provide transcripts for them, however I will also link to liveblog summaries of them and transcribe relevant portions if possible. I apologize for the inconvenience.)

Continue reading

Open Thread: The Prince of Persia Movie

The movie poster for Prince of Persia. It shows Jake Gyllenhaal in leather armor with a red sash holding two scimitars. The tag line is 'Defy the future.'

The movie poster for Prince of Persia. It shows Jake Gyllenhaal in leather armor with a red sash holding two scimitars. The tag line is 'Defy the future.'

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opened this past weekend in the US. The movie is based very loosely on the critically acclaimed 2003 Ubisoft game of the same name and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince (named Dastan in the film). There is a lot to criticize about the film, particularly from an anti-racism standpoint, so I thought it would be a good idea to host an open thread to discuss the film.

My spoileriffic thoughts behind the cut.

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Considerations on Females as Game Consumers

I decided to share this video here at the Borderhouse I found accidently while looking for other things. I thought the drawings were quite nice and it brings some interesting discussions. A friend of mine also saw the video and we had a nice talk about it. We didn’t agree on everything and I thought it would be interesting to see other opinions. Here’s the link for the video:

Video Games and the Female Audience

Here are my views about some topics the video discusses:

- I have lots of girlfriend who like games and never felt discriminated for being a girl and liking games.
- Think more girls working in the game industry would mean more diverse games for everyone.
- People who don’t like games don’t care when I talk about games. But they could be either a boy or a girl. Just because it’s a guy doesn’t mean he’s going to like games.
- Didn’t like the drawing about the Twilight book to attract the girl to play. Hate the stereotype all girls like Twilight. I couldn’t care less about that book.
- Lots of female game characters make me puke because of their stupid unrealistic watermelon breasts that give the idea women are only worthy when they look good.
- Never played any of the Ubisoft games “made for girls”. Was never interested. Don’t think they’re the best way to bring little girls to play games. I began playing with platformers, so I still think platformers are the best to make any child of any gender like videogames
- Definitely don’t like those “sexy girls” who go to game conventions and pretend to play games. Makes me want to puke. The marketing guys need to have better ideas on how to advertise a game. These girls just reinforce the stereotype females can’t play videogames.
- I personally think nice female protagonists or lots of customisation options would bring more girls into gaming.

What are your views?