The creative director of Assassin's Creed 3 has some choice words for your opinions, People on the Internet. In a recent interview with OXM, Alex Hutchinson said, "People on the internet suggest the most boring settings. The three most wanted are WWII, feudal Japan and Egypt. They're kind of the three worst settings for an AC game."
Hutchinson went on to walk the statement back a bit and add clarity by saying that those three settings are particularly boring because they've been done so many times in games. He told Joystiq, "When you get right down to it – when we're doing the actual nitty gritty of spending the time on it, spending a couple years making something – we wanna go to a setting that other games haven't gone to."
A game dev taking a gentle dig at the public isn't something we'd normally report on, but since the controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3, the question of how much influence fans should have over the content in games has been "trending" in the gaming consciousness.
I've made my own opinions on the matter clear on this week's Assassin's Creed's ending episode of Feedback. I like games, movies, novels and TV shows that aim for lofty goals. I like art that is challenging and unique, and if talented people swinging for the artistic fences sometimes whiff and strike out, I'm fine with that. Creative failure comes with creative risk. I'd rather watch/play an interesting failure than sit through a so-so experience that's been exhaustively researched and created to appeal to the greatest number of consumers.
But, on the other hand, I'm kind of a freak and kind of an elitist. I'm also taking it for granted that crowd-pleasing, easily digested games and movies will always exist, so this isn't an either-or situation.
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I also believe that truly lasting, resonant, worthwhile creative works can be both crowd pleasing and aesthetically and intellectually satisfying. I mean, it's not like The Godfather or BioShock are particularly esoteric or obscure. Both are easily understood stories, and both were hugely successful, monetarily. But those two works reward players/viewers who want to sit back and be entertained, but also reward those who choose to think about them a little more deeply as well. That's the sweet-spot. But it's a sweet-spot that is very rare, and I don't think it can be arrived at through a publicly-coordinated and approved Art.
In other words, Hutchinson's right: World War 2 would be a horrible setting for an Assassin's Creed game, and the fact that it's among the most popular suggestions indicates why artists should follow their own visions as opposed to listening to the crowd.