It was gearing up to be one of the biggest video game launches of the year, but development of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla suffered a blow last week after one of its key creative people had to step down.
Allegations of sexual misconduct had surfaced earlier this June, forcing creative director Ashraf Ismail to leave his work on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. “Ashraf Ismail is stepping down from the project to take a leave of absence”, a Ubisoft representative told Polygon.
Ismail had been game director for two other Assassin’s Creed games, these being 2013’s phenomenal Black Flag and the equally well-received Assassin’s Creed Origins, which hit shelves in 2017.
It remains to be seen, then, how his departure will affect Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, a big budget AAA game which is being developed by a team of hundreds at Ubisoft’s Montreal studio. Will this lead to a loss of direction and quality, and will the game still meet its holiday 2020 release date?
Ubisoft has also stated that “the development team is committed to delivering a great game in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla”, so hopefully this highly promising game will still live up to its promise when it’s released.
Before his Twitter account was deleted, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s former creative director tweeted about the matter:
“I am stepping down from my beloved project to properly deal with the personal issues in my life. The lives of my family and my own are shattered. I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt in this”.
However, Ashraf Ismail’s deposition is still a bit controversial. He was only accused of having an extra-marital affair on Twitter and lying about his marriage status, but not of harassment or physical abuse of any kind.
His accuser (a woman with the Twitter name Dani Porter Bridges) told Kotaku that she’d “heard from about 10 other women who’d had similar experiences to her own”, some of which were employed at Ubisoft according to her.
She also added that she felt there was “an abuse of power”, as the women were mostly “much younger than him and have been huge fans of AC [Assassin’s Creed]”.
Also, the #MeToo movement going on Twitter has been calling out other industry figures like Obsidian Entertainment’s writer Chris Avellone, who’s had fingers pointed at him for sexual assault and harassment according to Gamasutra, while two important members of Ubisoft’s staff (brand marketing manager Andrien Gbinigie and associate public relations director Stone Chin) are also facing similar allegations.
This is what may have compelled Ubisoft to push Ashraf Ismail into a leave of absence, despite the fact that the allegations levelled at him really aren’t that serious, and despite the fact that he’s been one of Ubisoft’s most important creative people for years now.
But given how this could open the floodgates for lawsuits given some female members of Ubisoft’s staff could have been involved in this, and the rising number of people being called out across the games industry, perhaps Ubisoft made the right move by cutting ties with Ismail, if only for the time being.
Also Ubisoft issued a statement saying it’s going to take measures and will punish inappropriate behavior at the company and that it is “dedicated to creating an inclusive and safe environment for our teams, players, and communities”, so here’s hoping things improve for the better at the iconic video game company, and that the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla turns out to be another great entry in the Assassin’s Creed series when it releases later this year.