Panache Digital Games' president Patrice Désilets is a developer with a decorated past in the industry, having worked as creative director on the likes of Assassin's Creed, but at E3 2019 we caught up with him to talk about his new venture Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, and what exactly he's creating here.
"At first it's like 'why would I do a game set in Africa set in Africa 10 million years ago?' This is how it all started," he explained. "And then it started by the need of creating a toolbox to make multiple games with my studio - the main idea was that at first - and then I was told I'm the historical dude [laughs], I make historical games, so I needed a setting that fit with this idea of a toolbox, of a character in a 3D environment, and then I thought of a prehistorical time period, because it will only be about a character in an environment."
"And then, studying the subject matter, I realised evolution is about survival, so then I studied a bit the survival theme, and the games I make are about third-person cameras, so it's not about going in inventories [...] how do I deconstruct the aspects of a survival game and put it in third-person, really. It is a game about eating, drinking, sleeping, making babies, and whatnot, and then you survive through time. It starts 10 million years ago in Africa, up until 2 million years ago, so you start as the last common ancestor among all the big apes, and [...] we've built a huge game world, and then we drop you in it, and then... good luck."
"I'm asking that question. Homosapiens, can you survive as your ancestors did? And I cannot help you out because nobody helped them out. We do at the beginning teach you how to control the camera, the biggest mechanics or systems, but it's really up to you - it's your stories that you're gonna write; it's not the one I wrote for you this time. You're gonna have your own experience of evolution, and not the one Panache did for you."
"I didn't write any stories," Désilets continues later in the interview. "You're gonna write the stories, it's not me this time. Me, I gave you this huge game world in which there's systems, and you're gonna write stories, adventures. That's the most different part of any game I've done before. It's not me, but you're gonna write some stories that are totally unique and different."
"The other day I told the story of the last elder and the two babies, that's all I had left from my clan. And for me it was like, those three need to survive, otherwise humanity will never exist. And so it was raining at night, my foot was injured, I think I was bleeding because I got attacked by a leopard, and I needed to find a place to settle, so I was struggling and a snake tried to kill me and I managed to dodge and went up a tree, got back down, made a bed, settled. And then I said 'okay the only way to survive is to die, basically', so pass a generation, which means 15 years will pass, so the elder died, but the two babies I had on me, they became adult, because 15 years had passed, and humanity could exist. And that's the story I wrote myself, but all the systems wrote that story for me [...] each game session is different."
"You write your own story man, it works!" Désilets exclaimed later on, and in the same interview he also talked about the importance of the clan in helping you survive and tell these stories.
"It is about the clan, much more than it is about you," he told us. "It's not about a hero that's here to save the day, because this is not how it happened. Homosapiens, or humans, are strong together, not alone, so I needed to tell that story, that's why behind us there is a clan. And so you can switch between characters, control any characters that you want."
Do you like this approach to storytelling?