Category Archives: assassin’s creed

Astrocetology: Why I Wrote A Space Whaling Adventure Story

It was as if I had no choice, really.

You see, I had to write about space whaling.


The Moby Dick game is brilliant. It is beautifully done, for starters, with a depth of artistic detail which makes the game a must-own for anyone who decorates their home with old papers, faded prints, scraps torn from books. You know who you are. Every single one of the cards is worthy of matting, framing, and displaying in a prominent locations around your home, library, book-store, boathouse, or secret society lair, as is the box itself.

Gorgeous, right?

All that aside, though, it’s the deft creation of a particular feeling which makes the game notable in this case. This is not a game about beating the odds, forming a briliiant strategy, or fooling your opponents, though these skills certainly come in to play. In this game, you combat the constant feelings of dread as you lower down to hunt a whale, and shore up your defenses as best you can against the inevitable face-off with the great beast himself. In the rounds I’ve played, the term “bleak” has come up several times. You’re a whaler — you’re as likely to die as not from thousand varieties of bad luck. And the captain is driving you towards a near-certain doom.

At what low value was held the whaler’s life. The player feels a detachment from the lives of the crew. They’ll all end up dead anyway, often even before facing Moby Dick himself; best not to grow too fond. And what an unusually various crew it is. Men from all over, regardless of race or creed, hauling alongside each other where on land they would not be allowed to eat at the same table.

It’s about risk and reward and risk and risk. And these elements translate very well into a space-faring adventure.

Black Flag

Where the card game is about staving off despair in a merciless  world, whaling in Black Flag is about high adventure and bare-chested virility.

I mean, come on.

Here, the feeling is excitement. You won’t die if the whale attacks you. A snapped line doesn’t whip anyone’s arm off. You want to land that harpoon throw and reap the rewards, Caribbean sun beating down on your back. It’s… a lot of fun.

Side note: I felt substantially more guilty for killing a whale than for plundering dozens of ships. Odd. 

Again, even as you glory in the thrill of the hunt, you feel as if whale oil must had value far beyond gold or jewels to be worth its pursuit.  And again, why would this not translate to the emptiness and danger of space?


Tell me you’ve played this. A fantastic, home-grown spaceship simulation game which hooks everyone who touches it. My first experience with it was at a gaming convention, where the developer helped players through the basics and let us cruise around. And that’s when I first came across the rare space whale.

To the larboard!


A fun addition to the game, almost an easter egg. You don’t get anything for finding them, or indeed for shooting them down. They’re just there, making their way through the emptiness.

And they’re beautiful.


From the Void

With all of this percolating in my headspace, it was only natural my protagonist would find himself on the hunt, facing one of the great dangers of the nullity for a chance at a share of the valuable nano-oil which can only be found in the skull of the voidwhale.

Check it out if you want, and I’d love to hear what you think. You can subscribe here, too.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Preorder Bonuses – WHYYYY?!?!

I think we’ve established that I like Assassin’s Creed. So, what to do about the preorder situation? I want to play ALL the content. Every blessed bit of it. But different stores have different missions!

Gamestop: The Lost Mayan Ruins

Best Buy: Ghost of War

Walmart: A Dangerous Secret.

Amazon: Capt of the Aquila, which is just cosmetic, maybe?

The Ubisoft Deluxe has it all, but is only for PC. Drat.

In Revelations, the preorder bonus brought you to a little run-jump dungeon and gave you a sword. I’m assuming these will be the same. Probably not much in the way of story.

But still.


The Sartor Classics – A Response from Ubisoft’s Darby McDevitt

The lead writer for Assassin’s Creed sent me an email about The Sartor Classics!


Just had a look at your incredible anthology – amazing work! We’re all quite humbled by the dedication and intelligence of fans like you, but not in the least bit surprised. AC games, for their mature and serious treatment of history, have always attracted fans with scholarly temperaments. And I think your project represents the apotheosis of this trend. Well done!

The selection of books that ultimately made it into ACR came about through a joint effort by me and a number of other people on the team. I began with a smaller list of books that I felt was necessary, then crowd-sourced from our team to find the rest. And since we had people from six of the seven continents working on ACR, it wasn’t difficult to find rare classics that a Western educated wonk like me was sure to miss.

FYI, one of the books we included, “The Flute Girl,” is quite rare indeed. The only mention of it I could find was in a book called “Istanbul: The Imperial City” by John Freely. I included it because it contains one of the earliest descriptions of Byzantium in world literature. The excerpt is small, however, so it may not be worth tracking down…

All the best!

The Sartor Classics a été reçu – a word from MTL

Part of a series of posts about the my Sartor Classics project. See all the posts here.

Hey, it looks like M. Durand of Ubisoft did indeed receive the book!

Good day Alex,

Wow, I just came back from vacations and received a very nice and strange gift! Had I ordered that? I could not remember of it, nor could I find any trace of it in my accounts. Livingston; who is this guy? Of course, searching for untold answers is my daily work and I was glad I could find an answer that easily.

Eh! Seriously, thank you so much; this is a crazy fan-made gift! I’ll definitely have a deaper look into it and let everyone on the team know about it! And congratulations on making it up to the credits. Hope you enjoyed the game.



The Sartor Classics V — The End

This is last part of a series of posts about the my Sartor Classics project. See all the posts here.

After some Luluing, I had in my hands the final tome. All that remained was to send it to Ubisoft — but to whom? Of the hundreds of people employed by the company, who would be most likely to get a kick out of the project? Who picked these texts anyway?

 Apparently there is someone whose job is “Historian and Research”. This certainly sounds like the person I’m looking for.

After a few phone calls and an ill-timed UPS shipment around the holidays, the package arrived at Ubisoft Montreal in early January. Did it make it to Maxime Durand? Did anyone there even open it? If so, did they dig it?

My intent was to have this book arrive on someone’s desk unbidden, and with little to no explanation as to what it was, a puzzle based in the AC universe presented to those responsible for its creation in a way that would make them curious. So, it comes as no surprise that there is no word as of yet. If I do hear anything, though, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Either way, it was a fun project. It certainly stands as my most involved fan project to date, and if collecting old texts, writing codes, and formatting books is your idea of a good time, I recommend it!

The Sartor Classics IV — The Package

This is part of a series of posts about the my Sartor Classics project. See all the posts here.

I do love me a story within a story, and that’s what I tried to create here. Alberti’s bit is only part of the larger whole.

The first level is the book itself. Any AC fan will recognize the Durer portrait of Sartor on the cover, the initial indication that there’s something afoot within. A glance at the table of contents reveals the familiar list of books.

So, it’s a collection of books from the game. Sure sure. But the foreword talks about Sofia and Ezio, and gives a brief history of the library itself. Ok, so there’s something new here.

The foreword contains the words ‘Caesar’, ‘shift’ , ‘cipher’, and ‘three’, as well as having many letters underlined. In the version I sent to Ubisoft, I highlighted the words and made a margin note to key them on to the fact that there’s a puzzle here.

The hidden message in the foreword reveals that the book is distributed by the Order to new assassins, and that the main text holds encoded text in the Alberti Cipher. Level 2 of the story.

As the reader decrypts the message, a preface reveals itself. An assassin librarian in plague-year London decides to hide a story within Ezio’s and Sofia’s books before he dies. Level 3. The original books have survived, carefully preserved by the Order.

And at last Alberti’s tale, a brief biography highlighting his experience with the Assassins.

The Sartor Classics III – Hidden Messages

This is part of a series of posts about the my Sartor Classics project.  See all the posts here.

Now, the goal was to send the final product to the Ubisoft studio in Montreal and raise an eyebrow. I wanted to make them curious, to draw them in. Thus, I needed to keep things relatively transparent; while my original intent was to make finding the existence of the hidden message a challenge in and of itself, the likelihood of someone receiving the book and taking enough interest in the thing to notice any subtle clues — well, it seemed a little self-important on my part. 

Hiding a text within a text consists mainly of signifying something unusual within the base content. A slight different font, formatting — there are several methods. In the interest of clarity, I simply underlined the letters I needed.

And the trouble began.  Seems easy enough, right? Take the ciphertext, find the matching letters in the base text, and underline. Easy. Except when the ciphertext has a “q”, and the base text doesn’t have one for five pages. I found myself running out of space, and that right quick.

The best solution I could find was to just add the letters in, typos in the manuscript. The odd “z” instead of “s”. That sort of thing.  Not ideal, but functional.

The Sartor Classics II – Encryption

This is part of a series of posts about the my Sartor Classics project.  See all the posts here.


So, what to write about? Well, first I wanted to see what the state of encryption was in Ezio’s time. This led me to Leon Battista Alberti, who invented what we would call the secret decoder ring. And he was an architect. In Florence. In the late 1400’s. Who designed the facade of one of the buildings in the game, and is mentioned in the game’s database. And is a known humanist.

In short, this was the guy.

I penned a short story about this fellow and his connection with the Assassins. It had to be pretty short, since hiding it in the text would require some serious finagling. To encrypt the dang thing, I ended up writing an Alberti Cipher script to eat the text and spit it back out in code. Couldn’t find anything online that would do it.

So, I had a collection of texts and a secret message to hid therein. Now for the fun part.

The Sartor Classics — A Fan Media Project

With the yuletide upon us I find myself in the company of old friends, many of whom I do not see with any regularity. We exchange embraces and handshakes, express affection, and swap tales of our years. The Question comes more often this time of year: What are you working on these days?

Well, it’s a little difficult to explain. Here’s a tiered attempt, in increasing complexity.


Fan fiction.

…of Assassin’s Creed, a videogame

…hidden in a book

…by encrypting it and marking certain letters in the text

…the book being a collection of selections from the various works gathered by Ezio (the game’s protagonist)  in AC: Revelations as a part of the plot

…and put together as if it were actually in publication with the story hidden within by the Assassin Order

…and then sent to somebody at Ubisoft, the game’s developer.



Get all that? Good. Over the next few posts, I’ll be chronicling the making of my magnum fan opus.