Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History - Interview with Anouk Bachman

The Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History book is one of the most desired releases by the AC fans this year.
Available from the beginning of October 2015, it already rose a big interest from the communty and, if you are interested in it, you can easily buy it at the following link.

Considering this release a high quality piece for every fan of the franchise, we reached out for Anouk Bachman, Brand Content Manager for Assassin's Creed, to explore a little more in-depth the book and its origins.

Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History - Interview with Anouk Bachman

Without any further ado, then, we leave you to the interview, and we thank once again Anouk for her availablity and kindness!

Q: First thing first. Can you tell us about your position in Ubisoft and in the AC team? What does being a "Brand Project / Content Manager" imply?
A: On a day to day basis my main role is to be a gatekeeper when it comes to Assassinís Creedís licensed publication content. Ubisoft works closely with external partners to create new work based on our brandís characters and universe. I review and edit material, make sure projects are completed, and collaborate with my colleagues, the writers, artists, and other developers to make sure everything is consistent and connected in terms of lore and visuals.

Q: Do you usually work on books and content-related products or do you also take care about other AC-related pieces?
A: These days I mostly focus on everything related to publishing, like the novels, comics, and unique projects like the Abstergo Entertainment Employee Handbook, and now Assassinís Creed: The Complete Visual History. But I also help out with the content of art exhibitions, such as the upcoming The Art in Video Games exhibition of the Art Ludique museum in Paris, and many other initiatives.

Q: Let's talk about the book, "Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History". Can you describe it with a few words for the fans that might still don't know about it?
A: This is a book that lies close to my heart, as it was something I wanted to do for a long time. Assassinís Creed has an incredible visual history, and the way the concept arts behind the games depict the universe and its characters is very powerful and goes straight to the essence. When you look at a piece, whether it is a character concept or an elaborate landscape, it draws you into its world. It evokes curiosity and wonder. This book brings the best, most interesting artworks together and takes you on a journey of the rich, visual history of Assassinís Creed.

Q: What has your role been in the development process of the book? What did you enjoy the most about working on this book?
A: My role in the development of this book really started in January 2012, when I was asked by Jean Guesdon (who is now Assassin Creedís Brand Creative Director) to help gather and organize the concept art of the games. I wasnít quite aware how big of a job that would become, as we had many thousands of artworks that were unnamed, hidden away in closing kits and on the computers of individual artists, in various Ďconditionsí (low resolutions, lacking artist names, etc.). Long story short: I really had to go down the rabbit hole!
A year or so later I knew what a treasure we had in our hands, and how intriguing the stories behind these artworks were. We just had to find a way to share the best of this with the fans. Once we found a great publishing partner, Insight Editions, my job was to guide the production of this book in terms of content and visuals, to make sure we would tell this story in the best way possible.

Q: Who took care of the development of the book with you and how many artists are involved in this project?
A: There were so many people involved. On the publisher side, an author was hired and various editors worked on reviewing the materials before submitting to us for review. On Ubisoftís side, well, you can look at the credits in the book to have an idea. The list of art directors and artists is especially extensive. I personally worked very closely with RaphaŽl Lacoste. He is our Brand Art Director and he has been with Assassinís Creed since the beginning, so a lot of the story that we tell in this book is also his story. But I could go on forever on how many amazing people contributed to this book in different ways; I am very lucky to have had so much help!

Q: Who will be the writer of the book and why did you choose him / her?
A: Matthew Miller wrote the book. He is a wonderful writer who was selected by Insight Editions for the project. His background in game journalism and the quality of his in-depth feature articles convinced us he would be a good fit, and it was a joy to work with him. He came to visit our studio in Montrťal and we spent several days talking to various art directors and artists who work, or have worked, on Assassinís Creed. It takes patience and dedication for a writer to work on a project like this, but Matthew understood the complexity and the result is just great.

Q: Will there be a foreword in the book and will it be written by someone special who worked on the franchise?
A: The logical choice was to ask RaphaŽl Lacoste to write a foreword. As I mentioned before, he has been one of the people who helped Assassinís Creed evolve since the very beginning. Itís his vision and creative leadership that has guided the artistic progress of Assassinís Creed over the years.

Q: Will the book include material about Assassin's Creed Syndicate too?
A: Absolutely. Syndicate has its own chapter, The Industrial Revolution. What is really unique is that you arrive at this chapter after you have Ďtraveledí through the visual history of the previous games, so you get this perspective on how it all fits together, and how the brandís art direction has evolved to this point.

Q: Is there a particular part of the fandom you are trying to reach with it?
A: Of course fans of the games, fans of the universe of Assassinís Creed, will love this book. But Iím also sure that this book will be interesting to aspiring artists, or people who do not play the games, but are fascinated by the art of this universe.

Q: What was your main motivation to create such a book other than the passion for the franchise?
A: As I mentioned before, when I finished digging, gathering, cataloguing all this artwork from the brand, it was like unearthing a treasure that was waiting to be presented to the fans. Itís a story that had to be told.

Q: What will differentiate this art book from the other ones on the market?
A: This book gives you the big picture, the 360 perspective. Whereas the art books for the individual games are fantastic and allow for a deep-dive behind the art of each game, Assassinís Creed: The Complete Visual History places that information into the context of the entire visual history of the brandís universe. That way, the art books of the individual games and this book really complement each other.

Q: How will the book be presented? Will it be a kind of encyclopedia starting from AC1 up until now?
A:Itís more of a story than an encyclopedia, but it is a narrative that goes all the way back to the beginning (AC1), and ends where we are now (although the story never ends, really). The idea was to take the reader on a journey, which is also why we structured the book by historical time periods.

Q: Can we expect to see new or, however, unknown concept art about the present day or the First Civilization?
A: A lot of the present day and First Civilization artworks have been published on the web at some point, sometimes many years ago, but now you get to see it in its proper context, in print, with the explanations on why it looks the way it does.

Q: Will there be artworks and discussion about elements and characters that were scrapped and didn't make it to the final versions of the games?
A: Every concept shows something unique: A vision, a thought process, a detail. You will see concepts of AltaÔr before he even got his name. By viewing early concepts you can understand how a character or setting evolved to what you see in the game, and final concepts show the vision and inspiration that the artists were providing the development teams. Sometimes you might spot something that didnít quite make the cut, like Charles Leeís dogs (there are two behaving badly in the concept, if you look closely Ė a little joke Remko, the artist, managed to slip in).

Q: Considering the book aims to show the creative process behind the AC franchise, will it show storyboards, sketches and other pre-production assets, along with the more famous concept art?
A: Choosing what to include and what not was probably the most difficult part of developing this book. We aimed to select visuals that accompany the history that is being told, but that are also interesting enough on their own. Thereís the big narrative of the art of the brand, and the individual background of each artwork; it had to be complementary.

Q: The cover of the book effectively illustrates the conceptual steps regarding aesthetics from AC1 to ACS. Will the book feature similar processes showing the conceptual evolution that leads to the final concept?
A: The cover, which we created specifically for this book, is the result of the close collaboration between a presentation director (and graphic designer), Alexandre de Lamberterie, and a senior character concept artist, Jeff Simpson.

According to Jeff, the idea of the cover character was to break down the Assassin to its essentials, to become timeless and universal for the brand. It could be a man or a woman belonging to any historical time period. Jeff used some of the most iconic elements of different Assassins: The strong lines of AltaÔrís silhouette and tight fit of his hood, reflecting the dedicated focus of his character. But we also see a small cape and lines on the outfit that are reminiscent of Ezioís elegant flair. Finally, the forward-facing stance brings back memories of Edwardís challenging attitude. The final result is mysterious, but charismatic. Iconic and sophisticated in its simplicity.

The graphic design elements add to this essence. They are minimal, but fine-tuned to the smallest details, representing the sleek visual style of Assassinís Creed presentation. Everything fits together to create this classic representation of what this book is about.

Q: And... we have to ask you this. Will there ever be a digital version of the book, considering its content?
A: Personally, I feel this book is meant to be held, to be read while you hold the weight of it in your hands and smell the paper (okay maybe thatís just me). But really, we are overwhelmed with visuals and information online. For me, this book is meant to take you on a journey that allows you to see the real quality of these artworks, to contemplate them, and not be distracted from that experience. That is really the way to get the most out of this book.

Q: It's time to wrap up, but we have our last but extremely important question: your desk is catching fire and you can save only one object from it. What would that be and why?
A: Only one?? I have so much crap on my deskÖI guess I would take my pink war bot, Bertie. Sheís my favorite mascot. Sheís resilient, sensitive, and has serious grit. Sometimes she looks at me and tells me to grow a spine, but I love her anyway. Hereís a picture of her:


With this answer our interview ends. Once again, we would like to thank Anouk Bachman and for those who were doubtful about this release, we hope that this interview solved all of your concerns!

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