Interview with James Nadiger

Almost four months have already passed since the release of Assassin's Creed Unity and Assassin's Creed Rogue and in this period of time we were able to receive the feedbacks (both positive and negative) from our community. While the flagship title have been appreciated especially for what concerns graphics rather than the narrative, Assassin's Creed Rogue managed to please that part of the hardcore fans that is usually never satisfied with a solid storyline and a solid present day setting, full of connections with the other various releases of the AC universe.

Precisely for this reason, we decided to invite on Access The Animus James Nadiger, scriptwriter for the present day setting plot ad files and for the War Letters in the historical storyline.

Interview with James Nadiger

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

Q: How did you approach Ubisoft and the AC franchise in the beginning? And how were you chosen to work on Initiates?
A: I was a freelance writer living in Toronto, trying to find work in film, tv, and games. Ubisoft Toronto was hiring for Splinter Cell: Blacklist, so I applied to every writing-related job they posted. I didnít get in at UbiTO, but I guess I was in the system thanks to those applications. One day, in the spring of 2012, out of the blue, I got a call from Ubisoft Montreal, asking if Iíd like to work on a new edition of the AC Encyclopedia.

I guess they liked my work because in the fall, I got a 5-week contract to work in-house at the Montreal studio to help work on AC Initiates. The site was already up for a month or so, I think, it was around the time the Desmond Files were live. At the end of those 5 weeks, I got an offer to work at the studio, and on Initiates, permanently. So in early 2013, I moved to Montreal, and Iíve been here ever since.

PS: Splinter Cell: Blacklist is great and you should all play it.

Q: What is your typical day at work and who are the people that you work the most with and why?
A: Itís both a blessing and a curse that there are no typical days at work. Some days itís very research heavy, which involves a lot of reading or a lot of playing games. Some days itís all emails, meetings, and phone calls, which doesnít feel productive, but itís important. Some days itís hammering away on a keyboard like a madman, desperately trying to make words happen. Some days itís just crying in the corner, clutching a bottle of whisky.

On both Initiates and Rogue I worked with Richard Farrese the most. He was my boss and approved all my stuff.

The Initiates team was small but ambitious, and so I worked with the other writers on the project (Philippe-Antoine Menard & Susan Patrick) as well as a stunning array of talented graphic designers, concept artists, programmers, and game designers.

On Rogue, I mostly worked with Richard & Susan, making sure my work fit in with their narrative. I also worked with a bunch of cool people from Ubisofts Sofia, Bucharest, and Quebec City.

On both projects, I also took it upon myself to talk to the other AC projects in development at the time, (Black Flag & Unity), to make sure whatever I was working on could tie into those projects in a meaningful way.

Encyclopedia 2.0
Q: Before getting in the spotlight for being one of the writers on Initiates you worked on the 2nd version of the AC Encyclopedia. That kind of work must have already required a deep knowledge of the franchise. So how did you grow all that knowledge and experience about the plot before working on the Encyclopedia?
A: Hereís my shameful secret, I didnít start playing Assassinís Creed until the beginning of 2012. I was a freelance writer, which meant I was usually very poor, so I had to be careful about spending money on things like games when I needed money for things like food.

I managed to find AC1, Ac2, Brotherhood, and Revelations on sale. I played all four games one after the other, and I was pretty hooked. Being too poor to afford games meant that I wanted as much playtime as possible which meant I was 100%ing games and/or trophy hunting, so I sank a lot of time into them.

It was just a bit of luck that Ubisoft came calling, and it still freaks me out a little bit to think that at the beginning of 2012, I was just starting with the Assassinís Creed franchise, and by the end of the year I was writing stories for it!

Q: Which were the parts of the Encyclopedia 2.0 that you updated?
A: For 2.0 I added the bits that had to do with Assassinís Creed III and Liberation, which were the new releases for that year. For 3.0, I think my only contribution was the bio of Otso Berg.

Q: Your work on Initiates mainly concerned the present day lore. Which were the elements of the Initiates that you worked on and which are the ones that you loved writing the most?
A: I joined Initiates full time after the Desmond Files had finished up. I wrote most of the Surveillance stories, following Gavin and his crew, with some appearances by Shaun, Rebecca, and William. I wrote ďLetters to the DeadĒ about Adewaleís grandson Eseosa.

The database was split between me, Phil, and Susan. Phil wrote the Ezio entries, as well as the triple helix letters from Dr. Rosenberg (which I loved!) and most, if not all of the text for our Initiates missions. Susie wrote the Haytham & Connor channels. Susieís knowledge of Haytham would later come in handy on Rogue!

I donít know if I have a favourite thing I worked on. Itís hard for me to look back at my own stuff sometimes. I was very nervous about the Eseosa story and was happy that people seemed to like it. If I had to pick, I think the most fun I had was writing the emails between Abstergo Entertainment staffers Philippe Chartrand & Jennifer Tam as the weirdness of AC4ís present day happened around them. Any time I got to write for Shaun Hastings was also a treat.

Q: With Assassin's Creed Rogue you went on to be part of the writing team of a full game of the franchise. How does it feel like? And how did your job change from when you were writing for Initiates?
A: The job changed tremendously! On Initiates, we would create a story and then it would go live online really quickly, sometimes in a matter of weeks, and we would get fan feedback right away. On Rogue, like all games, you have to wait until itís released.

Both projects were a lot of fun. I feel pretty lucky to be part of these teams and part of the AC community.

Q:A big part of the community considers Assassin's Creed Rogue to be the best Assassin's Creed game of the year. Why do you think it satisfied the fans this much?
A:Thatís a question for the community, not for me! Why did you folks like it? The story? The characters? The open world? My favourite parts of Rogue were the ones that inverted traditional Assassin gameplay. Like reverse boarding. Also catching the pigeons for the Assassin Interceptions. Catching the pigeons will never not be fun for me.

Q: In Rogue you took care of the War Letters and of almost all the present day content. Once again you have written elements of the plot that connect a lot of little details that made many hardcore fans happy. How much time and what kind of research did you have to undertake to write that content? Was it easy to write considering all the risks of breaking the continuity?
Otso Berg by our Xander
A: For the war letters, and in general, any time I add new information to old characters, I want to make sure the original creators of those characters are okay with the changes. A good example is making Achilles a student of Ah Tabai. From the moment I got there, all of the AC writers, past and present, have been nothing but generous with me.

For the present day, I wanted a story that was self-contained, which was the player character discovering Shayís story along with Otso Berg & Violet da Costa. And then I wanted some fun collectibles with Easter eggs and shout outs and tie-ins to other AC projects.

Itís my job to research and maintain that continuity, then move it forward. Itís no chore since Iím genuinely a fan of the brand and I eagerly consume everything associated with it! Then a bit of fact checking and approvals to make sure that what Iím doing works.

Q: Looking back, in the last two years you are one of the AC writers that focused the most their work on the present day layer. How important do you think it is in an AC chapter and for the story in general?
A: I feel that the main story campaigns in the past should always be unique and self-contained experiences, despite the fact that that they all exist in the same shared universe. For me, it would be a stretch to find a direct connection between Adewale and Altair, for example.

But the present day is important because it helps explain why this Assassin is important or why weíre exploring that historical era. I think the present is also the connective tissue between the games and the other media as well.

I think itís got its own fantastic cast of characters. Who doesnít love Shaun & Rebecca?

I think it will always have a place in the brand, although how itís presented has changed and will continue to change as we move forward.

Q: Considering the depth of the AC lore and all its little details that matter so much for the fans, how difficult is it for writers to remember what other writers wrote before them? Do the writing / creative team have tools or ways to prevent plot inconsistencies?
A: It can get tricky. Iím getting a reputation as ďthe lore guyĒ and so Iíve been lucky enough to consult on a few things outside of the games, like the super fun Abstergo Employee Manual. I would never insult any fans and say I know EVERYTHING about Assassinís Creed, but I know a lot, so I thinkÖ I think I might be that tool? Weíll have to find a nicer way of saying that.

Q: We have heard many times of parts of the AC plot that were cut and/or did not make it to the final version of the product. Did that happen with some of your work too?
A: Oh yeah, all the time. Itís part of the job. More stuff gets cut than makes it into the final product. Iím not going to share anything specific, because sometimes I can reuse ideas for other projects.

An example is that in Rogue, there was an audio file that introduced two Assassins, Harlan Cunningham & Arend Schut, who caused Berg some headaches in Rotterdam. Originally, that story was meant to be on AC Initiates, but got cancelled when Initiates transformed into the Unity tie-in version. At that point, I was off ACI, but I still really wanted to introduce those two, so I found a way.

Hereís a treat for you! Because Harlan and Arend were originally meant to be SEEN on ACI, there was concept art made for them. Harlan Cunningham was illustrated by Olivier Donato and the Dutch madman Arend Schut was illustrated by the Dutch madman Remko Troost. An ATA exclusive! :-)
Arend Schut
by Remko Troost
Harlan Cunningham
by Oliver Donato

Q: What's your relationship with the community? Do you like to read the theories about the plot you guys write and have you ever taken inspiration by something you read?
A:I hope my relationship to the community is good? I have started to receive questions on my social media, but I canít answer like 99% of them. Usually they want to know things that arenít my department. Release dates, patch updates, that kind of thing.

Other times they want spoilers or confirmation on stuff that breaks my NDA. Itís also not my place to reveal that information. We have super talented community teams, public relations teams, and marketing teams, and itís their job to communicate with everyone. If I spoiled something, not only am I preventing those teams from doing their jobs properly, but Iím also potentially ruining something that A LOT of people have worked really hard for. So I try to stay mindful of that.

So, by all means, feel free to ask me anything on Twitter or Tumblr, but please understand my position if I canít answer or donít answer. Iím also, you know, REALLY BUSY making games for you. :-)

I do peek at reviews (both good and bad!) and I do pop into the AC reddit and AC/gaming forums from time to time, but as a general rule I donít actively seek out anything from the fans. My job is to entertain and surprise them, and I feel like if Iím just regurgitating their own ideas back at them, then Iím not doing my job. I donít want to give you what you want, I want to give you what you didnít realize you needed. Or give you what you want, but not in the way you were expecting, if that makes sense.

My favourite things are fan art and cosplay. Thereís a lot of talent in our community! I am inspired by the loyalty and passion from the fans and I hope that my small contributions to Assassinís Creed are worthy of them.

Q: Thanks to your tumblr page (, we know that you're a comic books fan. If I could take a personality from the comics world, and bring it to the AC universe, which one would you choose?
A: This is a picture of my Desktop Brotherhood and I think it should answer your question.

James Nadiger's Destop

Q: 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: My wife made me a mug that has a footprint from my newborn daughter on it. Everything else can burn!

With this question our interview ends. Once again, we would like to thank James Nadiger and, for those who haven't played Assassin's Creed Rogue yet, we strongly advice you to give it a chance especially if, like us, you love the present day and the connections between the various releases of the franchise.
We remind you that Assassin's Creed Rogue will be released for PC on March 10th. Those who do not have an old-gen console will, therefore, be able to to play it very soon!

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