When we reflect on the success of Ubisoft, which has been going on for many years and without setbacks, it is impossible not to think of those who have designed its most iconic brands. Among these is also Patrice Désilets which we could call the " dad " of Assassin's Creed. The Canadian was able to give us memorable moments, turning the world of action / adventure in the open world upside down. After leaving the company in 2010, he faced a difficult period of resettlement, witnessing the cancellation of 1666: Amsterdam and finding himself at loggerheads with his first employers. Without losing heart he returned to be talked about in 2014, announcing the birth of Panache Digital Games, the ambitious software house that Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is doing. Set in Neogene's Africa, the title promises to make us live and manage the most critical moments of human evolution, reconfirming the creative force of Désilets. With a past and a present of this entity, it would have been criminal not to retrace the career of the game designer, who in no small way contributed to the growth of the industry in twenty years.
The landing in Ubisoft and the first projects  Father of two daughters and Canadian doc, Désilets was born in '74 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec, demonstrating immediately a great passion for computers: already at the age of five he used the Apple 2 of his father Jacques, mathematician and former director of CEGEP. He then enrolled at the Édouard-Montpetit where he studied acting and theater, two disciplines that have enriched him from an artistic point of view. After graduating in cinema and literature in '96, he joined Ubisoft Montreal in July 1997, landing in a world he never left. Released on PC in 99 ', Hype: The Time Quest was a real "baptism" for Désilets, who took an active part in its development.
This is an adventure game with ruolistic elements, based on the famous medieval line of Playmobil toys, which at the time were very popular in the shops. Although it was linear and not particularly difficult, Hype's journey – committed to returning to his era to defeat the evil Barnak – offered well-crafted puzzles and a complex plot, presenting itself as an experience suitable for a wide audience.
Calatosi as concept manager, Désilets worked on a title very dear to Disney fans, known here in Italy under the name of Donald Duck: Operation Duck . Born to honor the figure of Carl Barks – the famous cartoonist and illustrator to whom we owe Paperon de 'Scrooge – the game was released on PlayStation and Nintendo 64 at the end of 2000, distinguished by an excellent soundtrack and an amusing but rather simple gameplay . There is talk of a production that did not deny itself inspired by Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, from which it borrowed much of the play structure. Donald Duck was thrown into a multitude of levels through the warp rooms, accompanied by the suggestions of the brilliant Archimedes.
Once completed, the paintings could be repeated to break Gastone's records, in a way not unlike the relics of the Bandicoot house. Unlike the marsupial, however, the duck was furious when struck, delivering a lethal blow of fists instead of the iconic turn. Between 2D scrolling sections and three-dimensional areas, Donald Duck had to save his beloved from the clutches of Merlock, the magician who had kidnapped her, moving in a world that repeatedly honored the Disney universe.
With Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the iconic action / platform adventure of 2003, Désilets had a precious opportunity to shine, coming to the creative direction of the project. Without dwelling extremely on the plot – which saw the prince bring the sands back into the hourglass of time – we would like to focus on the development of the game, which saw the emergence of the Canadian personality in a "definitive" way. Ubisoft Montreal started working on the reboot of Prince of Persia in 2001, after acquiring the license.
Against some initial hesitations, Jordan Mechner (the father of the brand) joined the team as a designer and writer, in an attempt to restore luster to his work. Inspired by the stories of " The Thousand and One Nights " he prepared a first version of the plot, which however appeared too complex and in contrast with some production objectives. At this point, to avoid falling into a creative limbo, Désilets and his team decided to start over, basing the project on four key elements: " unity of time and space ", because the whole plot it had to take place in the palace of Azad; "acrobatics", because our hero could run on the walls, swing with ropes and perform a large number of feats; "combat" and – more than anything else – "rewind time", a concept that would have conditioned the entire play offer.
The team wanted to bring the hundreds of animations of the protagonist to the next level, inspired by films such as "Matrix" and "La Tigre e il Dragone". Strange but true, another important source of inspiration in this sense is to be found in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, while the ability to rewind time is entirely due to Désilets. During the testing of Donald Duck: Operation Duck, in fact, Patrice thought he would go back to remedy the mistakes made in the platform phases, instead of starting the whole section again. Furthermore, by demonstrating his ability to learn from others, he dedicated an entire day to Ico's "study", Ueda's masterpiece, fascinated by the castle of the game and some elements of the gameplay.
Although it was made with the Jade Engine, the versatile graphic engine created for Beyong Good & Evil, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time required careful debugging, giving a endless number of cats to fry its creators. After having packed more than 150 preliminary versions, the team let its work reach the shelves, becoming legendary. The reboot gave birth to a new narrative trend, obtaining – albeit progressively – a great commercial success. In other words, even Désilets had made it but the challenges, for him, had just begun.
The birth of Assassin's Creed
" Nothing is real. Everything is permissible ". It is unlikely that a video game enthusiast will not know the motto of the Assassins, a group that has always been fighting for the protection of free will. This is the reality of Assassin's Creed, a work born of the creativity of Désilets, who – like an eagle – needed to fly free in the skies. Without the support of producer Jade Raymond (now VIP of the Google Stadia project ) and a rare talent team, a title like Assassin's Creed would never have come to light, yet it was the Canadian who threw the basics of IP that today represents the very face of Ubisoft. Completed the work on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Désilets was given the chance to develop a sequel for the next gen.
At the time, however, nothing was known about PS3 or Xbox 360 but, with the arrival of the first information, the team thought of abandoning linear maps in favor of an open world of explore far and wide. At the same time, Patrice wanted to talk about a power-hungry character and no longer a righteous and obedient prince. Hence the idea of dusting off his university books, to learn about medieval secret societies and build his protagonist.
Known as Prince of Persia: Assassin the game revolved around the figure of the right hand of the leader of the Assassins, increasingly arrogant and eager to succeed him. Baptized with the name of Altair, which in Arabic means "bird of prey", the anti-hero began to take shape, recalling the majesty of an eagle both for clothing and for the feats of which he was capable. The intention was to provide it with great parkour skills, making city exploration credible but not necessarily realistic. For example, Altair could make "leaps of faith", throwing himself from very high towers in special piles of hay without having a scratch.
To reinforce the central theme of the plot, the struggle between Assassins and Templars, served a goal shared by both factions: obtaining the Apple of Eden. Although the paternity of the famous artifact is by Philippe Morin, it was then Dèsilets who designed another key element of the production. After seeing a program on DNA and human history, the Canadian thought of the Animus, a machine capable of accessing memories contained in an individual's DNA, making it travel backwards in its genetic memory. After some resistance from the Ubisoft board – which did not believe in the Animus stunt in any way – the idea was realized, opening the experience to the double timeline and to the stories of Desmond.
Forts of the Scimitar Engine – from which then came the AnvilNext – the boys of Ubisoft Montreal have built a gigantic and full of life world, full of structures to admire and places to discover. Thanks to a futuristic animation sector, exploring Acre, Damascus and Jerusalem restored unique sensations, also thanks to the care with which the fighting was orchestrated.
Furthermore, while the PS2 could handle a handful of characters on screen, the new consoles could accommodate up to 120 people, giving Désilets the opportunity to implement the concept of "a blade in the crowd". Masking in full view to escape the guards, passing from a "high" to a "low" profile, helped to maximize the involvement of the player, who felt the sensation of being in a living world. After the E3 2006 presentation, the name of the game was definitively changed to Assassin's Creed losing any reference to Prince of Persia and his characters. The first iconic chapter of the series was born in November 2007, confirming the origin of a legendary brand and the fame of Désilets.
Ezio's arrival: a splendid journey in Renaissance Italy
Having done he buys prizes and surpassed the most optimistic sales expectations, Assassin's Creed was to have a sequel which was loudly requested by a large group of fans and internally also by Ubisoft. Our creative director had passed the litmus test, combining brilliant ideas with reasonable development cycles. In addition, after laying the foundations of the play structure of the series, Désilets could devote itself to improving the less refined aspects of the Altair adventure, one of which was the repetition of the missions. The first to speak officially of the existence of Assassin's Creed II was Yves Guillemot, the company's CEO, preceding the official announcement in the spring of 2009.
To realize the new, ambitious vision of Désilets, Ubisoft established a production team with more than 450 people, including those who had worked on the original. As confirmed by a developer at the 2010 GDC, the French giant would not have admitted delays and demanded a new commercial success, capable of capturing both the public and the critics. Without losing ourselves in too many curiosities, we want to concentrate on Désilets' intervention at the E3 2009 Sony conference, a moment that every fan of the series should remember.
Visibly tense and excited but sure of the work done, Patrice took the stage, presenting Ezio Auditore da Firenze to the world . Victim of the events, the Florentine nobleman would have become a murderer against his will, to take revenge on those who had taken away his family. In the splendid but difficult context of Renaissance Italy, the player would have explored Florence, Venice and other magical places, perfectly reproduced – including churches and monuments – thanks to intense documentation and historical research. Not only would fans from around the world have had access to the beauty of the boot by visiting a gigantic virtual museum, but they would have made the acquaintance of historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci or the lustful Borgia family.
Returning to us, the demonstration mission – which involved infiltrating the Ducal Palace to kill the target – was more than anything else a declaration of intent, summarized in a word that Désilets himself used: "diversity". After exploiting the updrafts to reach the place designated with the flying machine, Ezio sported the double assassination, thanks to the new hidden blades, and instruments such as the smoke bomb, which had been designed to increase the variety of the experience, on a par of the main missions. Enriched by a soundtrack full of pathos and mystery, the narrative fabric of Assassin's Creed II is still one of the most convincing in the series and represents the culmination of an extraordinary work.
The darkest hours and the light at the bottom of the tunnel: the foundation of Panache Digital Games
Impressed by the commercial success of the title and by Ezio's charisma, Ubisoft had no intention of abandoning the shores of Italy and had postponed the development of Assassin's Creed III. The precedent was given to AC: Brotherhood, a chapter that narrated the tribulations of the Auditor in a Rome torn by the Borgias. Before the presentation of the game at E3 2010, Dèsilets left the company in search of a creative break, eager to spend more time with the family.
Driven by questions from fans, he briefly returned to the scene in October 2010, announcing plans for his future work: he would join THQ Montreal and form his own team (Patrice & Co). His words became reality in June 2011, which saw the entry of the Canadian into THQ and the start of work on 1666: Amsterdam .
Conducted by fifty enthusiasts, production halfway between Dishonored and Assassin's Creed would have contained distinctive elements such as the ability to control animals. As shown in a video released by Brandon Sheffield in 2013, the action / adventure aimed to stand out on the artistic front, borrowing part of the playful formula of Assassin's Creed II.
Unfortunately, as we all know, the project fell into limbo when THQ declared bankruptcy, relinquishing the Montreal office to Ubisoft in January 2013. After a few months, the French company dismissed Désilets for some contractual issues but the creative version is different. According to his words, he was notified of an immediate dismissal letter, which left him no time to say goodbye to his team. While not knowing the exact course of events, one thing is certain: this was the beginning of a dark period for Patrice, who – together with his old colleague Jean-Francois Boivin – found himself "on the street" and without more a perspective. However, Assassin's Creed's dad didn't give up and he climbed up the slope, setting up Panache Digital Games with Boivin himself.
Nowadays, accompanied by just over thirty people, he is working on Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, thanks to which we can relive the origins of the human race. Aware of some structural limitations but eager to get back into the game at all costs, he will aim to instill ancestral fears in us, pushing us to explore Neogene's Africa. The idea of not letting us interpret a single "man" but the whole species in a continuous struggle for survival (and evolution) is certainly outside the box, as proof of an ambition that has never abandoned Désilets, not even in the darkest hour.