Lawyers are assassins' greatest weakness.
If you'd have looked at Ubisoft and the Assassin's Creed series merely a week or so ago I doubt you'd think that anything was really wrong. Quite the contrary, given that the franchise has spawned numerous successful sequels and gathered quite a fanbase. In fact with Assassin's Creed III in the works and coming out later this year it certainly seemed as if nothing could really bring down the series.
Of course having said that you know that something is bound to have happened, or else I wouldn't be writing about it would I?
It turns out that late last week one John Beiswenger claimed that Assassin's Creed stole one of the core ideas behind its story from something that he wrote in 2003. As the article I linked to explains:
"Beiswenger contends that the Animus, a genetic memory access machine which stands as the center-piece of the Assassin's Creed games, borrows far too liberally from a similar device he dreamt up in his 2003 novel Link. As his novel was the first to feature specifically "the conception and creation of a link device and process whereby ancestral memories can be accessed, recalled, relived, and re-experienced by the user," he's called dibs. Beiswenger is reportedly attempting to block the release of Assassin's Creed 3 until the case is resolved."
Now, there's really no doubt that the Animus is one of the key components to the Assassin's Creed franchise. Without the machine the main character Desmond wouldn't be able to relive the genetic memories of his ancestors, the famous assassins which you play throughout the course of the games. Beiswenger also goes on to say that his book, Link and the Assassin's Creed games also talk a fair deal about religion, mind control, and other things. This is the ground on which he claims that the game series has stolen from him, and as such he's attempting to block the release of Assassin's Creed III and also sue for compensation.
Now, I haven't read Link, and while looking at some of what the article says about the way the memories are accessed in the book: apparently by the discovery of some sort of biological singularity that can be found in every cell and thus allow people to experience everything their ancestors did. That method as opposed to the Animus (memories are biological). Taking this into account I can see that although different, they are similar enough to raise some eyebrows.
Here's the rub though, Link came out in 2003, and the first Assassin's Creed game in 2007. Did it really take Beiswenger that long to come to realize that "hey, that sounds awfully familiar"? I can understand if he himself might not have realized, but surely one of the people who read the book or even a friend or family of one of those people would have experienced Assassin's Creed and perhaps saw fit to point out that it seems a little too close. Rather, I think that this is far too conveniently timed with the release of Assassin's Creed III. I'm not accusing either party (Ubisoft of Beiswenger himself) of using this as an opportunity to cash in, but it certainly doesn't sit right with me.
As of now the entire community is mostly waiting to see what comes of this, and whether there will be a case at all. In the meantime Link is being heavily review bombed (although I'd argue that since it's a nine year old book at this point already that it probably isn't making much of a difference) by people saying that it itself ripped off earlier renditions of reliving past memories or, rather more simply, that's it's just not a very good book. I know that the saying goes "Any publicity is good publicity", but I can't help but think that Beiswenger -- whether he's right or not -- might disagree with that notion at the moment.
In any case, expect more on this entire situation as it develops.