Behind all of the games, comics, books, and action figures of the Assassin's Creed franchise stands a person making sure that it all consistently fits with the lore, look, and feel of a proper Assassin's Creed project, and that it all appeals to passionate fans and newcomers alike. That person is Aymar Azaizia, the head of content for Assassinís Creed, and his already-busy day-to-day work overseeing the Assassinís Creed universe has taken on a new dimension with the Assassinís Creed movie, which arrives in theaters December 21. We spoke with Aymar about his work on the franchise, what itís like working with a passionate community, and how that same community has influenced the incredible growth of Assassinís Creed over the past several years.
You're the head of content for Assassin's Creed. What does your day-to-day look like? How have you interacted with the movie process?
Aymar Azaizia: It covers quite a lot of ground. I'm involved anytime we're touching the narrative or the lore of the universe Ė whether it's movies and games, or publishing projects like comic books and novels. At large, I'm also working on developing the franchise; whenever weíre doing licensing initiatives, such as apparel, itís something that I, or people from my team, are involved in. [My day] can go from working with universities and historians to something like picking what kind of title weíre going to develop next year.
There's no single day that looks like another, and that's one of the reasons I love my job. I could spend hours working on a game script and then move to something totally different.
How has your role changed or been modified now that Assassin's Creed is venturing into feature-length film?
AA: It's kind of an ongoing thing. The franchise has grown organically through the years, heading more and more into something that's bigger than games. The movie is the high peak for us, and it's something we've been thinking about for years and something we've been working on for years. Of course, right now, one of the biggest changes is the fact that weíre going to interact with a lot of people who are new to our franchise Ė moviegoers that may not play video games or have an interest in them. Theyíll be discovering Assassinís Creed through the film.
Have you had to look at the franchise differently in order to address that audience?
AA: A couple of years ago, when we started expanding into transmedia, one of the things we realized with a really successful novel was the fact that there were a lot of readers that didn't play Assassin's Creed, or in the case of some countries, didnít even have access to the game. But they were already getting into the lore we were creating. So we decided that every single project we were working on had to be completely independent and self-sufficient. The idea was if someone knows the franchise, we want them to see all the references and all the characters they love, but a newcomer should be able to get into the experience without feeling overwhelmed by all the information. What weíve been trying to do for years is avoid too many self-references. We kind of did the exact same thing with the movie. It has a nice balance of getting a really strong story with a new perspective.
On the flip side of that, you have the Assassin's Creed community, which has millions of passionate people. How have they influenced your approach in the way you think about the film and the way certain things should be presented in the film?
AA: The community is a crucial part of the Assassin's Creed universe. In fact, most of the time when we're referencing the community, we see them as an extended part of the family. They are feeding us as much as we're feeding them. Weíve had an ongoing conversation with them and they come from many different backgrounds. I would dare to say we donít deal with an Assassinís Creed community, but multiple communities Ė the cosplayers, the artists on DeviantArt, and the people that are creating fan fiction and stories donít necessarily have the same background. They donít necessarily prefer the same things in the Assassinís Creed universe, but what weíre trying to do is remain consistent and [be in a position] where we can deliver on all the different criteria we have for a good Assassinís Creed project Ė the elements we know we need to have whatever the form is, whether weíre talking about 2D platformers like Assassinís Creed Chronicles or 3D games, a novel, or a movie. These elements are a part of the DNA, so what we're trying to do is make sure the DNA is respected. On top of all of that, we're making sure we're able to move forward on new inspirations and ideas. We want everything to feel legit. As you saw with the trailer, we think that part of the job has been done in a really nice way at the moment.
It seems like it's been a key thing to have community involved at various points during the movie's production. There was the London event where a community member was able to see some content early and you were able to see his reaction.
AA: That was one of the best moments of the year. It's the reason we're doing this. With something like this, there are a lot of expectations. For my part, Iíve been working on the movie for a few years now. And this was a moment where you could see someone reacting to the thing youíve been crafting for all of those years. I spent most of the time not looking at the screen since I knew what the footage was. Instead, I was looking at the audience and the way they were reacting. During the middle of the trailer, the community memberís mouth dropped. He was smiling. He was super happy. It was just the best feeling, because most of the time we hope we get some love from the fans, and they always manage to find ways to surprise us.
That has to be a huge relief.
AA: Definitely. We deeply believe in the movie and we had some tough choices and decisions to make. What kind of visuals? What kind of characters? What kind of story to tell? We spent lots of time working on the script. I spent a lot of time on-set. We want everything to be perfect. At some point, there are a lot of things out of your control with the movie-makers that are working on it. But weíre still there, lurking in the shadows and seeing that everything is going well.
During E3, some community members got a chance to participate in even more movie-related activities.
AA: Yes, we have a lot of things planned for the community. We've got to interact with our fans, so a lot of new programs have been set in place to make sure that we not only continue our conversation with the community, but also increase the number of options for them to interact with us.
You've been attached to Assassin's Creed for a while now. What's it been like to see the franchise and community grow?
AA: It's honestly hard to believe sometimes. We meet with fans that are so excited, and sometimes we don't feel like we've done anything extraordinary. But weíre all passionate about Assassinís Creed and everything weíre crafting, so really, our main focus is to deliver the best project we can. Weíre also looking forward. Iím looking at the movie. Iím looking at next year. Iím looking at 10 years from now. But itís been an amazing ride. Iíve had the feeling of being on an amazing rollercoaster, and right now itís a crucial moment because weíre heading into new territory with the movie. Who knows whatís going to happen next, but we have a ton of ideas. And as we used to say, "Everything is permitted."