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Bridging The Film-Game Divide: Ubisoft's Yannis Mallat on the Future of Digital Entertainment
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Bridging The Film-Game Divide: Ubisoft's Yannis Mallat on the Future of Digital Entertainment

June 11, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Often, the game industry looks up to the Hollywood industry unnecessarily, I think, since games are in a way the future of content, because it's interactive. It seems like we should be defining our own content instead of borrowing from Hollywood.

YM: Exactly. I'm glad you say that, because this is exactly what we feel, and we're putting into motion what it takes to achieve that for sure.

It's very interesting. I hope it ends up working out that way, but in the short term, it's still going to be separated projects until you can build all of these skill sets together.

YM: It's a necessary step, so from the consumer perspective, the short term will still see those two different products. What you don't see is that beneath that, behind closed doors, what's happening on the production floor is matching pipelines and picking the steps in the process where both can benefit. Then we can build from that, clearly merging the two until we've got this one product.

LucasArts recently merged their tools with Lucasfilm, so that they have the same particle effects that Lucasfilm does. And then [Lucasfilm] gets the previsualization, blocking, and animation tools of the games side. It sounds like a similar scenario.

YM: Yeah. When I talk about it people think it's all the technical stuff, but it's also process-wise. How do we deal with the emotional interaction? How do we deal with the narrative? Who has the last word on the narrative? It's all this, to process the workflow.

Why Montreal?

YM: Montreal has been picked by Ubisoft headquarters mostly because there was already a talent pool and pipelines achieved, and there was already a cinematic studio. I think it was a natural choice. Also, it's because we've got this pioneer kind of feeling and experience, and we have a lot of passionate people. We are driven by that, too.


Ubisoft's Montreal studio

I assume there's also more physical space to grow in Montreal than in some other places like Paris, for instance.

YM: Probably.

Also Montreal has a pretty big traditional animation scene to begin with, right?

YM: Yes.

Are you hiring from that talent pool or at least looking at them?

YM: Both. We're comparing, and we're hiring. Schools and training programs are being set up. Even before we set up in Montreal ten years ago, Montreal was definitely the place for this industry to grow from the vast amount of talented people. We're talking to those guys, and we need to, because even on the gaming side, they're helping us to build pipelines.

Is Ubisoft going to be doing more with university programs and internships to not only train people but also to potentially hire them?

YM: We have set up the campus in Montreal, with colleges and universities partially financed by the government and Ubisoft. This year 140 people will get out of this school with a diploma and will be able to join the industry. It was needed, because there is a vast amount of talented people, but the more we go, the less there is. But there's still a lot of people wanting and willing to join this industry, so it was needed to set up training programs. We were happy to start this initiative years ago.

I know Canada is keen on becoming more of a technological and creative force, so I imagine that they have been somewhat helpful to you guys in that regard.

YM: Absolutely, and to the whole industry. We were the first around which this work has been made possible, but today we still have these things that profit the whole industry, and that's good.

Do you have the ability for people within the existing structures at Ubisoft Montreal to move into a new digital initiative?

YM: Absolutely. To my surprise, [it's happened with] a lot of people -- not just the ones I was overseeing like the animation guys -- but the art directors, illustrators, and people who wanted to explore a different form of putting their work into perspective. That was cool.

I've heard recently that a lot of art directors at the larger studios get very frustrated. They wind up being less creative, because they have to be the conduit from which the bosses communicate their idea to the regular artists. They just wind up being a middleman.

YM: Some art directors like the constraint we have on the video game side, and some others don't and prefer prerendered. But yeah, true art directors still want to create.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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