UPDATE: A petition has sprung up in response to there not being a female playable character option in Assassin's Creed Unity. It also questions the game's lack of varied ethnicity. It has over 2500 signatures so far.
"We believe that the Assassin's Creed series, a franchise with infinite scope, does not reflect the needs of its demographic well enough," the petition said. "Representation is important, and in a game which boasts 5000 NPCs, this is not good enough. "
ORIGINAL STORY: Assassin's Creed Unity director Alex Amancio has responded to the outcry about the omission of playable female characters in the recently announced game.
"I understand the issue, I understand the cause, and it is a noble one, but I don't think it's relevant in the case of Unity," Amancio told Eurogamer in an interview at E3.
"In Unity you play this character called Arno, and when you're playing co-op you're also playing Arno - everybody is. It's like Aiden Pierce in Watch Dogs."
In an earlier interview with Polygon, Amancio said potential playable female characters had been cut from the game due to the amount of work it would involve to include them.
Speaking with Eurogamer now, Amancio switched stance, insisting the decision had nothing to do with production.
"I think this started from confusion in relation to the co-op, where they thought it was an avatar which it isn't," he insisted.
"Arno has different skills - you select skill points in the game, there are gear elements that have an impact and all these weapons that make the character you make your own. But you're always playing Arno."
Assassin's Creed has a history of diverse characters, most notably Aveline de Grandpré, star of Assassin's Creed: Liberation. "We're following in that tradition, and we've found a way to add co-op," Amancio continued.
"On the brand we've had multiple diverse characters. Altair is Arabic, Connor is Native, we've had a female lead. This game is set in the French Revolution, so you're playing a Frenchman."
Amancio said the wording of his previous comments was a "slip up".
"The team members are here, they work really hard and we take them as spokespeople as we want the answers to be real," he said. "These people aren't professionals, and sometimes they slip up. It's fine. We focus on what we're presenting that's cool - again, I just don't think Unity applies to this subject matter."
In his interview with Polygon, Amancio pointed to the issue of resources. "It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets," he said. "Especially because we have customisable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.
"Because of that, the common denominator was Arno. It's not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar."
Several developers have said it wouldn't take a huge amount of work to add the option to create a female avatar for the game, including Naughty Dog animator and former animation for Assassin's Creed 3 Jonathan Cooper. "In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work," he Tweeted. "Not a replacement of 8000 animations."
In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. http://t.co/z4OZl3Sngl— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
Eurogamer asked Amancio whether, in light of the reaction, he was tempted to change Assassin's Creed Unity.
"There was this thing that started with animations - but they have nothing to do with it," he replied.
"They're one drop in the ocean, they're one part of it. If we're creating all these different suits that can interchange, that's a lot. It's not only that, but it's nothing to do with production. Again, we're telling the story of Arno - it's that character's story. The reason we're just changing the face and keeping the bodies is we want people to show off the gear that they pick up in the game through exploration. That's why we kept that."
From the first story details to Unity's release date, we've pulled everything you need to know about the game into one place.