“These people are criminals, but they’re not psychopaths. Not all of them,” he paused. “Some of them. Blackbeard was not known to have killed anyone until his last battle. He never had a recorded kill. He didn’t actually like violence. There are some surprising facts about Blackbeard that we’ll bring to life in our game.”
I asked for an example.
“One story about Blackbeard that I really like was that he blockaded the town of Charlestown for 10 days, and he robbed every ship that came into port. But he only did it because he wanted medicine for his crew, because they all had syphilis. He didn’t steal any gold, he just took people hostage because he wanted to cure his men,” McDevitt said. He pointed to that story as a good mixture of both sides of these pirates: Blackbeard disrupted the town’s trade, took hostages, scared the shit out of people, but it was all done for a “couple chests of medicine.”
This story seemed to be a little fantastical, so I did some research after our conversation. The blockade did happen, and a chest of medicine was an important part of haul, but there is still some discussion over what the medicine was used for, and whether or not more loot was taken. It was hard to find consensus on these stories, but all accounts did state that syphilis was likely to be one of the reasons for the needed medicine.
The pirates were basically terrorists. They relied on fear and overwhelming force to get what they wanted. “Blackbeard was into branding - he created this character. He put lit fuses in his hats and lit them on fire so he had a haze of smoke around him. He would sit in the hold and light sulfur and gunpowder to fill it with smoke to see who could last the longest. It was always him,”McDevitt said. He wanted to show off and create a legend around himself. The effect worked; he rarely had to kill anyone directly.
This was one of my favorite parts of Assassin’s Creed 3, the idea that the Templars were sympathetic characters. It was easy to agree with many of Haytham’s long speeches about power, and who should wield it. McDevitt said to expect more of that.
“For me, evil isn’t contained in any one philosophy. In our game, Templar or Assassins aren’t essentially evil philosophies,” he said. “The badness would come from an individual personality. We’re not going to paint the Templars as evil or good, or pirates as evil or good. There are nasty characters, but that is a part of their personalities, not their philosophies.”