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Jade Raymond on applying lessons from Assassin's Creed to her new project at EA

The original game was designed as a "sandbox for creatives" with the intention to "hand off the keys to other professionals"

Ten years on since the original, and Assassin's Creed continues to be one of the biggest franchises in gaming.

Its influence on the design principals at Ubisoft are apparent, and AAA games from other developers increasingly reflect certain traits that originated in Assassin's Creed.

Jade Raymond, who was producer on the first game, shared her thoughts on why the franchise is so successful, and how that model can be expanded upon to find success with her role at Electronic Arts.

"I'm still surprised about how successful Assassin's Creed is and how it's taken on a life of its own," Raymond told The Guardian's Jordan Erica Webber during a session at Develop:Brighton this week.

"When we started working on it, we did have a plan to make three games... and we also felt like since we were getting this great opportunity to create a new franchise from scratch, we really wanted to create a meta-structure story engine so the franchise could move on.

"We spent a lot of time thinking about this: if we end up getting the three games we had in mind, what are we going to do so we don't get bored?"

The answer, and the key to the continued success of the franchise, was to design it as a "sandbox for creatives".

"I was really hoping we could hand off the keys to other professionals and they could really create their own thing within it," added Raymond. "So with Assassin's Creed, as long as we pick a pivotal moment in history, and you explain what was happening historically through the assassins, then it's an Assassin's Creed game... Basically, people can play within any historical period they want."

Jade Raymonds on stage at Develop:Brighton with Jordan Erica Webber

Jade Raymonds on stage at Develop:Brighton with Jordan Erica Webber

Raymond said the lack of creative freedom afforded to collaborators contributing to an existing franchise -- whether that's a film, book, or sequel -- is what hurts projects, and Assassin's Creed was designed from the outset to avoid that problem.

She is exploring this principal further in her role as senior vice president and general group manager of Electronic Arts' Motive Studios, which she founded in 2015.

"Now I'm working with a new team, we're trying to think about what is the franchise of the future, and we're trying to do something big," she said. "One of the things we're really thinking about is -- instead of a framework to hand off the keys to professional teams -- can we design a framework where it can be handed off to the fans?"

In what Raymond calls the "network engagement model", developers can attempt to emulate the success of Star Wars by encouraging different levels of engagement with the brand.

"It's probably the biggest franchise, not only from a visibility and monetary perspective; there's no way to escape Star Wars," said Raymond. "It could be Christmas and you see a Darth Vader Christmas tree. It doesn't matter what the occasion is, you're always going to be exposed to it.

"There's no other franchise on earth with so many light ways to connect. Even if you're not a fan you can have a very light connection to Star Wars just because you've been exposed to it so many different times."

The way we engage with games is changing, Raymond continued, and it's no longer just the hardcore fans buying the latest titles on release and playing them obsessively; like Star Wars, people are engaging with games on a lighter level.

"If you look at what games have been traditionally in the big AAA space, you can compare it to a big entertainment event when we release these big AAA games," Raymond concluded. "There's a build-up and announcement trailers and the game comes out and everyone buys it... the analogy could be that's like going to a big rock concert. It's a big event.

"Maybe as a gamer you all feel like you have to buy that game within those first two weeks, because that's kind of your cred as a gamer around the water cooler.... But the shift that's going on is games are going on from being that big entertainment event to being a widely shared past time."

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