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Building Believable Worlds: Yannis Mallat On Production At Ubisoft
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Building Believable Worlds: Yannis Mallat On Production At Ubisoft

August 18, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Getting back to the talk about prototyping, I often hear that people really wish they had more time up-front, but the big challenge there is funding up-front. Obviously, it's not as much of a challenge for you guys, because you're a publisher and developer, and you have such a large staff, but finding the time and the correct staffing up-front still has to be pretty challenging.

YM: I can understand why. I would like to mention that prototyping is sometimes not that expensive. The only downside is always for the good -- meaning sometimes, you have to be ready to throw stuff in the garbage.

That's okay, in a way. You keep the best. If you know why you throw things away, it's good for helping the project be where it needs to be. Obviously, as you mentioned, we are in a very luxury situation, working for a publisher who's also the developer, so it helps a lot.

But at the same time, there's got to be pressure to get things rolling, even for you guys.

YM: Oh yeah. It's a business.


YM: But again, the best way to deal with that pressure is to make sure that what you're about to produce is great, unique, and tested in its fundamental mechanics, rather than trying to make something work that is not fundamentally good. It's better, even economically speaking.

Prior versions of some of the casual games, like the Petz series, were either developed externally, or games that were licensed and then came into the series, but now you're developing the Wii version of Dogz internally at your studio, and it's a high priority. I wouldn't go so far as to say that's unique in the industry, but it represents a shift in thinking, I think.

YM: I don't know if it's a shift in a way. What it shows is that it's an interesting project for us. Put it this way: every new project for us will help us learn something new, and this huge depository of knowledge is good for growing the studio.

The Petz brand is important for Ubisoft business-wise, and I think it's also important for us in technology and AI and how that can interact with gameplay. It's interesting for us.

Getting back to the idea of creating games that have a casual target but have depth to them, I think that one thing that doesn't happen maybe in the way it could is the cross-pollination between different kinds of games, taking what works and maybe recontextualizing it.

YM: You're so right. This is also why we think the formula is good at Montreal -- having people at the same studio being able to work on the Petz series or some casual games, but also after that -- why not? -- going back to more traditional and more hardcore games. Again, there is always something to learn from any new experience.

Just to expand a little on that, the casual games for us have, depending on the project, have to bring something and be meaningful for the target [audience].

Not to mention the Coach series, which has been created at Ubisoft Montreal. It's definitely an attempt to make a new brand, a new IP within casual games, and the main driving force has been to get us to learn something, and give something to the player. The experience is really rich.

You can take Assassin's Creed and contrast that with Dogz, just as an example. They're quite different. But do you see more middle ground and cross-pollination, and not such extremes for games that could work really well for players?

Right now, the audiences are perceived in terms of casual, accessible, and young kids, versus a hardcore gamer. Is there a middle ground? Is there an audience that would respond to something that's...

YM: Not one and not the other?

Yeah, kind of somewhere in between.

YM: Yeah, probably. I cannot think of a project right now, but the main goal here really is to say, "You know what? We are a content provider, and we are happy to provide any content that suits any segment." I think we're pretty good at that.

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