Ubisoft has a Grand Plan all pegged out for Assassin's Creed, but according to Unity's senior producer Vincent Pontbriand, the publisher is willing and able to change should the right creative and commercial opportunities arise.
"We are very flexible," he told me at Gamescom last week. "We do plan ahead, we do have a long-term plan, but when we see an opportunity we'll be the first to jump on it. We're ready to take risks - that's what I love about it."
Last year's Assassin's Creed 4 is a case in point, Pontbriand explained - it came about because fans reacted so well to the third game's naval sections. This also bought the Unity team an extra year to work on their own game, which is more in line with the structure and mechanics of Assassin's Creed 2.
"Starting with Brotherhood, we realised that this brand had tremendous potential, so we branched off the core team - some of the core members started working on AC3, and then other guys went onto work on Revelations," he recalled. "The only surprise was Black Flag - that was partly planning and partly opportunistic, when we realised with internal testing that the naval battles were very fun, with AC3 we said they should just do an entire game about that.
"And because we followed up and used that opportunity, and it gave us an extra year to work on Unity. And our mandate was clear, our technology was starting to work, our ambitions were big, so we said 'OK, one more year will be just right to make it happen'."
Different teams within Ubisoft Montreal are free to bring their own ideas to the table, he went on - there's no hard-and-fast rulebook as to how each game should play out. "Again, this is about being very flexible. Although we do have brand guidelines, each team is free to introduce stuff, to challenge some of the fundamentals, and have the brand altogether evolve in different directions. So we had to also steer some of the stuff we wanted to do, because the previous games were not going in the same directions."
For more on Pontbriand's work, read my Assassin's Creed: Unity hands-on from Gamescom. Or, if you're of the naval persuasion, read my thoughts on Assassin's Creed: Rogue, a sequel to Black Flag that's set in the North Atlantic.