Top Score: The Sea Shanties of 'Assassin's Creed'

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
April 3, 2014
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St. Paul, Minn. — Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, at its simplest, is a pirate game. While there's more to it than just that, it's helpful to think of the golden age of piracy when you hear any of the 35 sea shanties in the game.

"It's a historical adventure, so you want to recreate what it felt like at that time," says Bénédicte Ouimet, music supervisor for Ubisoft, the developer that made the game. Ouimet enlisted the help of Professor David Gossage from McGill University in Montreal to find just the right shanties for the game.

As you sail around the Caribbean on your ship called the Jackdaw, your crew sings to pass the time.

That "crew" consists of four classically trained singers: Nils Brown, Sean Dagher, Michiel Schrey and Clayton Kennedy. The quartet sang multiple takes to capture the atmosphere of working men singing on a ship.

Ouimet asked them to sing progressively worse with each take to reflect different levels of talent and drunkenness.

"I swear to you, it didn't sound real until we had the bad singers and the drunks in the tracks," Ouimet says.

Here's an example of how players collect shanties throughout the game:

"They're something that fits the fantasy so well," Ouimet says. "They create a sense of belonging, I find, because you just hear them on your ship. They sound like real men, too, who are having fun on their ship."

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a fun game; I'm still making my way through it. The sea shanties make it even better.

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