Interview with the Siege of Paris DLC dev team
ATA Team, October 6th, 2021

Thanks to the Mentors Guild, we had the opportunity to interview some of the devs of the Siege of Paris DLC of Assassin's Creed Valhalla! In particular we had the chance to talk to:

- Paul Fu: Content Director at Ubisoft Singapore;
- Joel Janisse: Narrative Director at Ubisoft Singapore;
- Christopher Nonis: Lead Quest Designer at Ubisoft Singapore;
- Julien Koch: Lead Level Designer at Ubisoft Singapore.

The interview is organised as follows: the questions are divided in four main topics, namely the Historical Setting, the Hidden Ones, the Bellatores Dei and the Easter Eggs.

In addition, some of the questions come from other fellow members of the Mentors Guild.


Note: The questions were asked at the end of August, some of the topics like the Saint-Denis and the Abbo Cernuus mysteries may have received some updates since.

Q: The DLC is a huge historical focus on an important event of the Viking history and the lead up to it. Its main story doesn’t have any Sci-Fi or fantasy elements, no Modern Day, no First Civilization content and in general it’s pretty rare to have a purely historical content in Assassin’s Creed. What were the motivations behind such choice?

Paul Fu: We simply wanted full focus on the Siege, the setting of Paris, and Charles the Fat. It was such an iconic city with a dramatic backdrop. We strongly believes in quality over quantity, so we went for a focused approach.


Speaking of this, the DLC has indeed a huge focus on history, but at the same time it created some friction with the main game and the established narrative, and we have a question by the Mentor Sixkeys about it:

Q: Historically the Siege of Paris took place 8 years after the events of the main game and Rollo played a big part. However, he is notably absent in the DLC which also feels like it's set during, not after, the main story. What was behind this choice? (Would it be possible to have separated answers, one about the expansion being set 8 years after the events of the main game but being treated by its characters as it’s happening during the main story, and one about Rollo’s notable absence?)

Paul Fu: We wanted as many players to have access to the Siege of Paris expansion as possible - even players who have not met Rollo in the main game. In order to make sure the story remains accessible to everyone, we decided to keep Rollo out of the focus of our expansion's story. The actual siege in history was massive in scale and had started all the way up north in Louvain. Many cities and villages were razed leading up to Paris. Rollo still has a place in the Siege’s history, and could very well be part of one of the invading Viking factions.


Q: And speaking of the historical side of the DLC, how much research went into the characters of Charles the Fat, Richardis and Odo? How much of them comes from real history and how much was added to try and make these characters interesting for the players?

Joel Janisse: A lot came from real history. We found the characters so rich that we did not need to invent much. Richardis was Charles’ wife and the queen in history. She was known to be very pious and was later made a saint by the Catholic Church.
Charles was the great grandson of Charlemagne and emperor to the Carolingian Empire from 881 to 888. Under Charles all the various kingdoms that were united under Charlemagne were reunited again for the first time in 100 years. And importantly for us, he was reportedly “possessed” by a demon in childhood. Count Odo was indeed the count of Paris and there is much known about him that we took inspiration from.
Sigfred we know less about and so he was a character we largely invented other than knowing he led the Vikings in the siege.
Bishop Gozlin was the Bishop of Paris and helped defend the city during the second siege of Paris in 885. He is perhaps the first historical example of the fighting bishop archetype.

Q: We were happy to see that some Hidden Ones content was actually in this DLC compared to the Wrath of the Druids one, but it felt at times like it could have a way more relevant place in the story. In the DLC we initially see that there seem to be no Hidden Ones in Francia and the narrative seems to imply that’s because they left the region because of the defeats that they sustained… in another country, in England. Was this decision motivated by narrative, as you intentionally didn’t plan to have Hidden Ones in the DLC? Or was it more of a justification to bring back in the DLC a location and mechanic from the main game, that is the Ancient Roman Bureaus?

Christopher Nonis: The focus of the DLC was on the historical siege of Paris, but we still wanted to give fans something to discover related to the Hidden Ones. The Hidden One’s bureau and their caches at the Roman Excavation sites allowed us to touch on how the brotherhood was faring in this part of the world during this time.

We now have a question by the Mentor Assassiiinuss about the Hidden Ones:

Q: Why and how is Charlemagne's sword in an abandoned Assassin bureau sealed since the 4th or 5th century?

Christopher Nonis: Though the Hidden Ones left in force before the time of Charlemagne, there could well have been a Hidden One presence still in Francia that had access to the bureau. If the sword made its way to the bureau after Charlemagne’s death (which it must have), perhaps a Hidden One had something to do with that. :)


Q: Another question about the Hidden Ones’ quest from the expansion is…about its ending. We’ll be honest here, we found it pretty disappointing to, you know, feel the presence of an Assassin, hear their footsteps, read their letter, which was even signed as AC… and not meet them. Was it always planned to have such an ending to the Hidden Ones portion of the DLC? Based on the reactions you might have seen online, do you think it was an effective choice?

Christopher Nonis: We wanted to focus on quality for the DLC, so most of our efforts were put towards realizing the main quest arc involving the siege of Paris itself. Telling a story where you interact with a member of the brotherhood would require a lot of resources to be satisfactory to us and fans both, so we made the difficult choice to hint at their presence instead.

Q: Moving onto our enemies, the DLC introduces a new faction in the Bellatores Dei, who have members of the organization in different levels of the society. Can you discuss what their purpose is and why we are finding them in this DLC?

Joel Janisse: The Bellatores Dei are a shadowy group of religious zealots who are looking to restore the Church to its authentic faith. To them the Norsemen are a plague sent against the Empire as a result of the sins of its rulers. In order to stop them, the Bellatores believe the Kingdom must first be exorcised of corruption from within. We will let the player uncover exactly what they are up to!
In addition, we also imagined that in the future this group would become subsumed by the Templars when they rise up and spread across the globe.

We now have a question by the Mentor Sima about the Bellatores Dei:

Q: Why did this expansion introduce yet another secret organization in the Bellatores Dei instead of incorporating an established group like the Order of the Ancients? Especially given the allusions to the Order of Ancients being present in Francia in the main game?

Joel Janisse: One reason is we wanted a group who could align closely to the themes of our story and characters. Their unique obsession with “deliverance” has special resonance with the events of our story.


Q: Speaking of the Bellatores Dei, in this DLC players don’t get to have a table of the various members to hunt, they meet and assassinate some of them naturally along the way, and get to know about their leader but don’t meet them and / or assassinate them. What was the reasoning behind this choice?

Paul Fu: We wanted focus and quality. The numbers of Bellatores are few, but they are influential and powerful. We wanted to make sure that each one of them had sufficient screen time, and for each one to feel grounded in reality.

Q: The game takes place in an area and especially a city that was explored by another game of the franchise, Assassin’s Creed Unity. Have you placed some Easter Eggs or references about it in the DLC?

Joel Janisse: There are a couple touch points if not Easter Eggs. There is the puzzle related to the ciphers that the community is working on. We also have a tie from our time period to a cult you find in AC Unity. And last, but not least, Dan Jeannotte, the voice of Arno in AC Unity voiced Pierre in the Siege of Paris.

Q: Recently the news about a new mystery involving ciphers, languages and the abbey at St Denis have broken out within the community. Can you comment on that? What were / are you trying to bring to the community with that kind of activity? Is it a way to double down on the mystery of the Collector’s Edition of the main game?

Julien Koch: First and foremost, we absolutely wanted Saint-Denis to be featured in the expansion. Not only it's an extremely significant place for French History (And for the dynasty of our main villain, Charles the Fat), but also for the Assassin's Creed history through Assassin's Creed Unity (As some part of our veterans worked on the game as well!) and obviously a very strong link with Those Who Came Before.
Secondly, we've been extremely pleased and humbled by the involvement of our community in the different puzzles we hid into Assassin's Creed Valhalla, including the recent deciphering of the mysterious Isu Language designed by our associate game director Antoine Henry. So, we wanted not only to bring more to our players but also bring this experience to a new level.

comments powered by Disqus




Interview with Sarah Schachner

Interview with the ACI Comdevs