You know, it's always hard to nail down gameplay in the preproduction process, but to nail down open-ended gameplay is almost a contradiction in terms.
SD: [laughs] Yes, yes. This is the rule of our game director, Jean-François Dugas. I hope that you have time to interview him because this is definitely one of the biggest challenges of any game director, a game of this size, of this magnitude with multi-endings.
Jean is somebody very structured, so he has great idea, but he is able to lay them out on a table. We call it a blueprint. This is internal. So, he's doing the blueprint of the house basically, but it needs to be logical obviously, it has to fit, and it has to be compatible.
And he can show this to his coworkers to make sure that they're driving through the same thing. And the multi-ending, if you don't have this plan-out phase, you're asking to improvise, and when you improvise at this stage, you will waste time and energy. So, you need somebody that is somewhat structured or else you're going to go in different directions.
It's just that it's a daunting, complicated project, even more so, I think, than probably many can take on.
I mean, that sounds like a "your game is so awesome" kind of question, but what I'm really talking about is this: there's a lot of pressure. You're founding a new studio, you're working with an IP that people love, you're trying to take it in new creative directions, and it's a complicated game.
SD: Yeah, but I think the key thing is that I'm as good as the people, and the group is as good as the people we hire. We really went through an important hiring phase. We needed to be aggressive, but we needed to make sure that we're hiring the right people at the right time for the right scope for the right mandate.
This is the GM talking. I'm very proud of the team I've built, and I think the more we went forward, my shoulders were starting to finally [sigh of relief] ... I was able to breathe because these guys and girls were able to pursue what we wanted to do.
And I think if it was a one-man show -- again, I'm going back to my staff story that it cannot be a one-man show, it has to be a team effort -- it would have been impossible to do this game if we wouldn't have a strong team.
And since all my lieutenants and the guys and the girls on the floor, they're quite professional, talented, motivated, and passionate. And if you add this up, you can move mountains. Again, I'm saying some clichés, but it's true that the team is everything. It's maybe not an interesting answer, but it's basically what is reality in our studio.
We're talking about the balancing a creative vision with a team effort, right? There are a lot of discussions these days about group-effort theories versus auteur theory. How do you balance cohesive vision with team collaboration?
SD: Well, I think again our art director, Jonathan [Jacques Belletete], he had also a very huge mandate, because the black and gold and the Renaissance, the new Renaissance, is something that didn't come up overnight, I can tell you.
It was trial and error at certain points, and it's during the process of the stage-gating process that, well, this seems when we were showing our stuff internally, because we need to be honest during these meetings. And people were saying, "This doesn't work. This works."
We went back to Montreal and we re-grind our ideas, re-filtered them and dropped that... What came at the end was the black and gold, the Renaissance, the cyberpunk. With very few elements, you diffuse this afterwards back to the team, and they have a clear understanding.
You need to let them a certain margin of flexibility because they're not robots. I mean, we have dozens and dozens of artists, but if it's too clear, they feel like a robot and they won't be productive. So, you need to have a little margin, but you need to have a clear vision. "We're going this way."
It might be a coincidence, but it just occurred to me that Montreal is the home of Renaissance aesthetic right now in gaming, right, with Assassin's Creed and your game. It's just a strange coincidence. Do you think that's just a coincidence or is there something about Montreal?
SD: [laughs] Well, as I say often, Montreal is geographically situated between Europe and the Americas. We really feel we have the best of both worlds. I guess we have this connection with Europe, the culture sharing, the multicultural, the joie de vivre, but every day we wake up, and we're in the North American standard of living, the rhythm of business, the very dynamic business environment. So, that said, I think we have a special hybrid connection with these two continents.
Montreal has always been quite creative. If you think about it, Softimage started in Montreal. Autodesk are pretty much based in Montreal. The Cirque de Soleil kind of thing. So, I guess now, some products are getting more attention, but we have pretty much always been a creative hot spot, and I'm very proud about that because it's something that you cannot outsource. It's the savoir faire, it's the gray matter of Montreal, to come up with innovative, interesting approaches.