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View Full Version : It's all a conspiracy - or it should be!



Sorrosyss
09-05-2015, 04:12 PM
http://i.imgur.com/rQex6K3.png

One of my most beloved parts of the earlier games in the series was the conspiracy theories. We saw references to several of them from the real world, be they related to the Illuminati, Freemasons, or the Templars themselves. The plausability of them ranged from the ridiculous, to the almost possible - but they were always a fascinating read.

In AC1 they were pretty much contained to e-mails, but in AC2 they were incorporated into Glyphs that the player could track down using Eagle Vision. From a narrative standpoint, these were data fragments provided to us by Clay, which ultimately unlocked further revelations - thus adding to the feeling of going deeper into the rabbit hole.

These glyphs would often be themed around a certain conspiracy theory, usually asking us to find hidden messages in old photos, or complete some logic puzzles. For me I always found these fascinating, and it genuinely helped to pull me into the theme far better than say, the hacking puzzles from AC4 onwards.

http://i.imgur.com/8eMDvYE.png

Throughout the series, the infamous hacker collective, Erudito, kept us apprised of the real secrets going on behind the scenes at Abstergo. In AC3 and Liberation we had a more direct involvement with the group. I made a seperate thread (http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/1237622-Lies-and-Propaganda-Brought-to-you-by-Abstergo-Entertainment-%28Spoilers%29) about the nature of the truth within the series, but here we have another example of conspiracies tucked behind simple things - such as Abstergo's products themselves. The Erudito versions of the product videos were alarmist, creepy and a lot of fun to unlock.

http://i.imgur.com/sGr4DY7.png

The conspiracy has even stretched to the Animus itself, where in the case of the narrative of Liberation, the actual ending of the product - the game itself - turned out to be completely false.

Whilst Abstergo Entertainment's games are very much a conspiracy unto themselves, I can't help but miss the wild theories that were portrayed by the earlier games in the series. The Assassins mantra that "Nothing is true" very much ties in with the conspiracy paranoia that mega corporations like Abstergo can evoke. We know that Syndicate features the return of puzzles, but no news on whether it will feature conspiracies like old. If they are not back, I'd very much like to see them back for the inevitable sequels afterward. There are far more theories out there to explore, which could be given narrative relevance and add more backstory to the Templars.

How does everyone else feel on this topic?

VoXngola
09-05-2015, 04:28 PM
It's what made the games feel magical to me. That mysteriousness fueled the narrative. Now it's not here anymore and I really miss it.

dxsxhxcx
09-05-2015, 04:53 PM
Remembering how it was makes me hate even more what it has become...

VestigialLlama4
09-05-2015, 04:55 PM
How does everyone else feel on this topic?

Well my feeling was that at least in the earlier games up to say Brotherhood or Revelations, that the conspiracy fiction element wasn't really meant to be taken seriously. I always saw that the writers were having fun with that. For them the conspiracy element, the trope of the Templars running society behind the scenes, was merely useful for them to jump into any era and period and provide a simple narrative schema with which you can "gamify" any historical period.

Like the glyph puzzles have some common conspiracy ideas but its kind of tongue in cheek, since Subject 16 is clearly out of his mind. The explanation they offer about World War II is preposterous, the idea that Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler were in cahoots and the war really didn't matter, if dealt with seriously would make the Allied powers collaborators of Nazis and the Holocaust, and it would essentially be pissing over the monuments and memorials of the heroes who died in battle. The other thing is that we can't take the Modern Day Templars at their word since it isn't their interest to tell the truth. So for me at least, I always thought we shouldn't take what the Templars say and do at face value. In the first game, Warren Vidic says that Abstergo has been responsible for all of humanity's scientific advancements and Desmond replies, "That's a pretty tall claim, Doc."

I always feel that the games work best when it uses conspiracy to chart out semi-accurate historical fiction than when it uses conspiracy elements to substitute actual story content. Used rightly its an amazing and entertaining concept, used wrongly and the games start to suffer and become stupid for words.

D.I.D.
09-05-2015, 05:16 PM
The explanation they offer about World War II is preposterous, the idea that Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler were in cahoots and the war really didn't matter, if dealt with seriously would make the Allied powers collaborators of Nazis and the Holocaust, and it would essentially be pissing over the monuments and memorials of the heroes who died in battle.

That's not quite what they said. Some were Templars, some were merely puppeteered by Templars. The idea is that the Templars intentionally set off a massive conflict in order to cause chaos and allow them to reset things to their liking, much like the way they did in the French Revolution. It's silly, but it's not insultingly silly.

VestigialLlama4
09-05-2015, 05:56 PM
That's not quite what they said. Some were Templars, some were merely puppeteered by Templars. The idea is that the Templars intentionally set off a massive conflict in order to cause chaos and allow them to reset things to their liking, much like the way they did in the French Revolution. It's silly, but it's not insultingly silly.

If that grand plan involves the genocide of 11 million people and the deaths of nearly forty million in battle then yes, it is insultingly silly. Or actually, it is disgustingly silly. Put out a game with that kind of plot in the market and Ubisoft will be pilloried in such a way that they will be nostalgic for the reception of Unity.

My feeling was that they put that there as a joke since Jeffrey Yohalem designed those puzzles independently, and it was merely to show the ways events in history could be linked rather than actual canon. Like the puzzles in AC2 implied that Washington was a Templar but then they made AC3 and they realized that there was no way you can actually sell a game with Washington connected to an evil organization. So they added this piece of dialogue in the modern day:

Rebecca: Sorry. Didn't Clay say Washington was a Templar?
Shaun: No. He indicated that Washington came into contact with an Apple of Eden. But beyond that, it's all speculation. Furthermore, judging from the portrait referenced by Clay, the event occurred much later in Washington's life. Perhaps Connor wasn't even involved. It's very hard to know for sure. We'll just have to wait and see what - if anything - happens.

A.K.A. Shaun Hastings-as-Ubisoft saying, "look, we didn't actually forsee a game set during the American Revolution when we put that in, okay". They definitely implied that Washington was connected to the Templars and then they changed it. That's why my feeling is that these glyph puzzles or the MD files you get in Abstergo are more "guidelines" than hard and fast rules. If they make a WW2 game the retcon writes itself, Subject 16 was crazy, Black Flag already pointed out that he couldn't tell apart possible futures from actual ones, AC1 stated that Abstergo occassionally creates misinformation campaign to torture conspiracy theorists, so you can say Subject 16 confused Templar misinformation with what happened. Generally, my feeling is that what we see in the Animus is really what counts.

The lore is on the whole deeply inconsistent and incoherent. So that's why I feel the conspiracy element is a marginal and minor aspect and the games are mainly valuable as historical fiction;.

SixKeys
09-05-2015, 06:03 PM
I miss it like hell. The tongue-in-cheek self parody of Ubi-as-Abstergo and game development in general as seen in AC4 and Rogue was cute, but not nearly as engaging as the conspiracy stuff in the Ezio games. Some of those glyphs used to give me shivers, like "They burned Joan alive" and you hear a woman scream. Or the increasing sense of urgency and descent into madness in ACB's glyphs. The web of conspiracy in modern times was preposterous of course, but also bold and engaging. AC2 wouldn't have been nearly as memorable an experience to me without the glyphs. One minute you're running down historical streets in Florence, the next you're looking for hidden messages in photos of the moonlanding. Your mind was trying to figure out how the hell those things were in any way related, and piece by piece you began to understand more. I miss it all so much.

D.I.D.
09-05-2015, 06:29 PM
If that grand plan involves the genocide of 11 million people and the deaths of nearly forty million in battle then yes, it is insultingly silly. Or actually, it is disgustingly silly. Put out a game with that kind of plot in the market and Ubisoft will be pilloried in such a way that they will be nostalgic for the reception of Unity.

Yes, it was meant to cause disgust. This was at a time when the creators were clear about the Templars as a pure expression of a type of societal approach, where no number of deaths is relevant if you think the ends justify the means. It's alien to almost every one of us playing, but it's not an unprecedented thing in the real world. We have seen leaders who have thought and worked in that way (not on the scale AC was talking about, but then again nothing is on that scale). I know a lot of people love thier grey Templars now, but I still think that was a huge mistake. There's more than one way to be grey, and it doesn't have to be the way it's ended up being.

I think the Templars were, at that point, meant to be a fictionalised concentration of the mindset that thought, with a clear mind, that it was acceptable to set off nuclear weapons on a civilian populace in order to make a point, or to intentionally massacre civilians in the Vietnam War, or to murder 1000 unarmed protesters at Jallianwala Bagh, or to conduct "Shock & Awe" instead of a sober strategic movement to capture and unseat the power structure of Iraq, or to tell black people that they were getting health care when they were really being injected with syphilis so that the resulting outbreak could be studied. Any of these things would seem disgusting and hard to swallow as fiction had they not happened in life. You can see, from watching interviews with people of this kind (Robert McNamara in "The Fog of War", for example) that there are human beings behind these monstrous acts. They're rounded characters, and they're not insane, but the things they say and do are despicable. They're fascinating. The Templars could have been fascinating in the same way, but they backed off it.

I don't think they're just an indulgence of Yohalem's that everyone else allowed him. I think the broader team saw the value in it too, but maybe once the buzz of Brotherhood wore off they didn't have the will to keep it going. Maybe they realised it was going to cause problems for the sales of the forthcoming AC3, which was going to need to sell itself on patriotism in the US market.

I see what you mean about the in-built haziness of all of this, and I guess that's been there from the start really in everything Vidic said about the nature of history as "we" know it versus whatever the Templars allowed the world to think. Anything can be false, and anything can be said and then retracted. "Sixteen was crazy" is as good an explanation as any :)

VestigialLlama4
09-05-2015, 06:49 PM
I don't think they're just an indulgence of Yohalem's that everyone else allowed him. I think the broader team saw the value in it too, but maybe once the buzz of Brotherhood wore off they didn't have the will to keep it going. Maybe they realised it was going to cause problems for the sales of the forthcoming AC3, which was going to need to sell itself on patriotism in the US market.

The real change is when Darby McDevitt wrote Revelations. There the multiplayer had Abstergo writing the databases (highly unreliable) and they said that "The Borgia are not true Templars". So that begs the question "is Warren Vidic a true Templar?" That guy's chief interest is torture, mind-rape, bizarre plots and murder. Are Modern Day Templars "true Templars"? Because they are a pack of psychopaths with no exceptions. So this whole concept of "True Templar" was never satisfyingly explained in the lore. Then you know the Templars in Black Flag all of a sudden oppose slavery but in ROGUE one of the Templars is a slaveowner and another is an ethnic cleanser and they are mourned as "good guys" even after Shay becomes a Templar. They try to make the concept more "gray" but it doesn't fully work.


I see what you mean about the in-built haziness of all of this, and I guess that's been there from the start really in everything Vidic said about the nature of history as "we" know it versus whatever the Templars allowed the world to think. Anything can be false, and anything can be said and then retracted. "Sixteen was crazy" is as good an explanation as any :)

The lore is deeply inconsistent about who and what the Templars are. In AC INITIATES, "Letters from the Dead", the Assassins support the Haitian Revolution which was inspired by the French, and it mentions that Robespierre abolished slavery and Napoleon restored slavery. Then UNITY comes in, and Robespierre and the whole Revolution is shown to be a pack of baby eating psychos and Napoleon is Mr. Smooth. There's not one mention of the Initiates information and Haiti, not even in the fraud database they put in, because if they did mention it, Arno would not be a hero at all.

This information is only there for the small fans who followed Initiates before the true launch of the revamped website and since these people obviously do not count to Ubisoft, they don't have to explain anything.

I-Like-Pie45
09-05-2015, 07:03 PM
its not too far-fetched that the allies were really the allies of the axis as well when we live in a world in which the us government regularly stages incidents on its own soil to push new legislation forward or get their candidates reelected.

VestigialLlama4
09-05-2015, 07:25 PM
its not too far-fetched that the allies were really the allies of the axis as well when we live in a world in which the us government regularly stages incidents on its own soil to push new legislation forward or get their candidates reelected.

Pie, I missed you.