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Ubisoft promises more diverse characters in future games

Ubisoft address criticism of their main characters appearing bland.
Ubisoft address criticism of their main characters appearing bland.
Photo courtesy of Ubisoft, used with permission

On Wednesday, French video game publisher Ubisoft admitted it needs to diversify more characters starring in the company's blockbuster games.

In an interview with CVG during this year's E3, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said he's aware of the criticism of the publisher producing bland characters for its AAA releases. The most recent target of this critique being Aiden Pearce of "Watch_Dogs," with certain gaming sites labeling the trench-coat hero as either unlikable or utterly forgettable. "We knew it would be polarizing," Guillemot said of Aiden Pearce's characterization in "Watch_Dogs." "Some people loved the characters and some didn't. It was difficult to please everybody with that character. Now, having seen the reaction, we know what we will do next to improve that." Guillemot then went on to promise fewer uses of cliches and more characters of different backgrounds.

We want to spend more time on the worlds and characters in our games... you will see more and more of this at Ubisoft. We'll try to be less like we have been in the past with some characters. We'll try to extend more diversity.

In discussing a sequel to "Watch_Dogs," Guillemot couldn't promise if Aiden Pearce would be the protagonist again or not, as there's currently nothing set in stone.

It was only recently that Ubisoft was put on the extreme defensive over the lack of playable female characters in the "Assassin's Creed" series. Ubisoft technical director James Therien told Video Gamer female assassins were initially planned for the four-player co-op game, "Assassin's Creed Unity," but were abandoned on the premise it would double the workload. Therien's remarks didn't sit well with most; being seen as an excuse than a legitimate difficulty in game design. Game developers like former "Assassin's Creed III" animation director and current Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Copper also challenged Therien's claim on women characters being too difficult to animate, saying it would only amount to "a day or two's work." Ubisoft later sent out a clarification of their previous statement, saying the team of "Assassin's Creed Unity" is made up people of different faiths, pointed out the previous diverse leads in past "Assassin's Creed" games, and promises there will be strong female representation in the latest game.

In an interview with Re/code, three-time Ubisoft E3 host Aisha Tyler shared her thoughts on the call for more diversity in video games.

I think it’s more that the gaming community’s more diverse, and they’re going to ask for more diverse experiences. They’re going to demand them. If you’re a game company, you want to create a singular gaming experience, and part of that is doing stuff that nobody else is doing. If you’re trying to create a game that feels different, you’re going to create a lead that feels different. It’s not going to be just another white guy.

As we go forward, people are going to want to play as those characters because they feel different. They don’t want to play the same kind of character over and over again. Some gamers always pick an avatar that looks just like them, but others want to live a different identity inside of a game.