Developer-publisher Eidos has revealed that its new studio in Montreal, Québec, first announced earlier this year, has opened its doors to the public, and the company is inaugurating the facility with the announcement of its first project: a third installment of the futuristic first person-shooter/RPG Deus Ex.
Gamasutra spoke to Eidos Montreal's general manager, former Ubisoft exec Stéphane D’Astous, about the studio's business plan and the new title.
The Studio Setup
"We’re pretty much on track on our business plan if not ahead," D'Astous said. "Right now we're almost 80 people. Our business plan is over three years – we have three phases of expansion. The ultimate goal is, by 2009 we should be 350 people."
According to D'Astous, Eidos Montreal currently has two groups -- a Q&A group that is responsible for testing all of the developer's games from anywhere in the world, and an in-house development team that D'Astous says has just passed proof of concept for Deus Ex 3.
"This game was very highly rated at its release in 2000, and we have this great huge mandate to do the third one, and everybody is very excited," added D'Astous.
So how many developers will be working on the game? According to D'Astous, teams will stay small and dev cycles will be lengthier. He stressed, "We’re only working on AAA, major titles. We’re going to be developing only major AAA games, using only next-gen technology."
Therefore, he continued, "We will want to limit our dev teams to a human-sized team of 80 people at the very highest of the peak in the production cycle. We don’t want to become a huge studio where there’s over 100 people on a title. We want a smaller, multi-discipline group that are tightly knit together. But by doing so, we will give them at least 18 to 24 months for the production cycle."
D'Astous believes that attitude will be appreciated on the local development scene and in the industry as a whole: "That's music to a lot of ears over here," he said. "Some developers are really trying to push titles out the door within 12-15 months; we're working on plans for our first few titles that will only be released after 24 months."
The Appeal Of Montreal
The development scene in Montreal has seen a lot of activity recently, most recently with French developer Cynanide opening a studio there alongside existing developers Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, A2M. We asked D'Astous why Eidos chose the area.
"I think Montreal has really a unique offering to the foreign developers," he opined. "To my mind, there aree at least five elements that are very attractive about Montreal. First, there's huge pool of talent -- people have estimated between five and six thousand people. And this pool is growing year by year. Second, we’re having successful ways to grow this pool – good schools, good universities helping us to identify what type of talent that we need for the future. So I think the schools are pretty much aligned for the future."
He continued, "The third point is we have a crowd of companies in the middleware zone -- Autodesk, and SoftImage, for example. We also have a huge film and animation industry. So that really helps to grow this industry here in Montreal."
D'Astous highlighted, "Montreal has low operational costs compared to other cities. Montreal has always been a city where the cost of living has been very reasonable, and this is also true for companies. So we can control our costs. The real estate is quite reasonable, the talent is there and that’s certainly an important point -- even though our dollar is going up, I think we are still very competitive on that side."
Finally, "The last element is that in Montreal, we're pretty lucky because it's very multicultural. I think that Europeans that come here don’t feel [like] strangers. We have this connection with the European people, but we're working at the fast-paced business style of North America. And that, I think ,is quite interesting, and I noticed that it’s appreciated from foreign developers."
Returning to the subject of his preference for a smaller team and a longer development cycle, D'Astous concluded, "We’re trying to be as transparent to our employees, as transparent to our external people of the studio – we don’t like bullshit. We want to have a clear plan and stick with it. Too often I think products being delayed several times is a disaster for morale, quality and efficiency."