How serious is French-headquartered Ubisoft regarding its recently revealed efforts to marry both games and film? Very much so, according to Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat, who is helping to mastermind Ubisoft's new production center, specialized in the creation of digital cinema content, will be focused on producing short films based on Ubisoft brands.
Gamasutra caught up with Mallat at a recent Ubisoft press event in San Francisco, and in this intriguing interview he reveals some of the design challenges inherent with this convergence, as the company works to create short films based on video game properties, beginning with a CGI short based on the upcoming Assassin's Creed franchise.
So Ubisoft Digital Arts is starting off in Montreal, right? Is that under your control?
Yannis Mallat: Yes, absolutely.
So what are the overarching goals for the project?
YM: We are at an edge in the industry right now. We truly are entering some very interesting times. First, we're going to need to stop talking about 'next-gen machines'. They're actually now current-gen machines [that are available right now]. The real next-gen machines will bring incredible possibilities and capabilities, and we think that we ourselves are in a position to define what will be the next electronic entertainment product.
For this product, we have a vision of convergence. We think that crossing the processes, sharing the tools, and having [different groups of] people working on the same kind of product will make this happen. As we know quite well how to make video games, now is the time for us to take it to the next level in terms of CG products. This is what we are doing with the creation of Ubisoft Digital Arts Studio. It's going to be a product where real-time will meld with prerendered, and it will merge into one thing that we are about to shape thanks to the capabilities of the next-gen machines coming soon.
When you say that you will be in the position to shape the direction of the next-gen machines, you mean more by your example, I assume? Which direction are you talking about?
YM: I'm always talking about the consumer perspective, in terms of a content provider. We are an entertainment content provider. Obviously, it will depend on what the first parties will bring in terms of hardware, but as content providers, we have all the video game expertise we need to meld the tools with CG.
It's a bottom-up process. This is exactly what we are doing. I'm not saying that we have exactly a defined product in mind. I'm saying that this bottom-up process will foster our guys' creativity to come up with something that has never been seen so far.
In the short term, do you think we're going to see results like animated shorts or TV spots that promote games, or games that launch animated series? Is that a direction you're looking at for this?
YM: We'll probably see this kind of stuff, but we'll also see products where you can jump in and use the interactivity to control and shape what you're being told as a story, for example. Let's say you are watching a famous battle from within a famous sci-fi franchise, and you don't like the way the battle is turning out for whatever faction it is. If you want to jump in, you jump in and play, and you shape the contents yourself with the interactivity. This is where we envision products going.
That really sounds like a design nightmare!
YM: I don't think so, because in terms of design, I think we are good at pinpointing what is really important for the player. As soon as you have touched the very few points that the player cares for, you can play with those.
I got the impression that you meant that you could reshape the entire story.
YM: Yeah, why not? As long as the story is the one the player makes for himself.
That's what seems like would take a lot of work, if you have infinite branching paths.
YM: This is where it would become a nightmare. Branching is a nightmare. Making it where the scenarios are shaped by the player is what we're doing.