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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 4 of 4

One thing that I found interesting, speaking about Dogz specifically, is the integration of the Toyota Corolla into the game, which is more like product placement than an in-game ad, in a certain sense, because it's sitting there in your garage. I think that's interesting as well. And it's a family car. It's not Mountain Dew.

YM: True. The game answers some of our target's topics or interests, and if you can leverage the economics with some interesting product placement, for example, why not? It's good.

Have you done stuff like that, or is this new territory for you guys? Have you done much of that so far?

YM: We've done much of that, for instance in Rainbow Six Vegas. That's the first example that comes in my mind, with Axe and some other products and Jeep and GM, I think. It's getting there.

What's the reaction of the different audiences that you see? Is it broadly positive? Obviously, Rainbow Six Vegas and Dogz are quite different target markets and products being placed.

YM: That's a good question. I think people might not expect that, but it's an entertainment product. It happens in movies, it exists in TV, and it's part of the product, I would say. So people react positively.

It fits the world of the game.

YM: Exactly.

Because ultimately, if your game only has a few environments, potentially, it still has a world view.

YM: Totally. And don't forget it's aimed at being an immersive experience. You don't want something to distract you totally, like, "Hey, what is this thing there?"

I think in a certain sense, obviously it's important to build a believable world. Especially with a game like Assassin's Creed -- a physically huge, compelling world. But at the same time, you have to make a credible world for Dogz for it to connect with the audience.

YM: I would use the word "believable," as long as the right references are put together and as long as the player can hang on to something that makes sense in that world. It makes that world credible, you're right. It's really important. It takes some time and research, and it's important.

And something that's also recently been proven by Nintendo is that the general audience doesn't care about fidelity of graphics, as much as we thought it was part and parcel with the gaming experience. What drives their interest?

YM: I think if you have a good gameplay experience first -- that's important. That's necessary. You cannot go without that. Once you have that, you can add on that. You can add to enrich the experience or give some eye candy.

That's always a reason for people. But the goal, really, is first to nail down fun, addictive gameplay that makes sense in a way that the player has an evolution within the game.

We've been doing a series of articles on the site called "What Gamers Want" where we talk to different groups of people. We recently gathered several older gamers in their 50s and beyond to let them try games, and they found the interfaces confusing. For example, "D-pad" for the directional button didn't make sense to them. Have you done any interface testing for a general audience like that?

YM: Yes. Absolutely. We came to the conclusion that thanks to those guys at Nintendo, they did an awesome job lowering the entry barriers, so that the games are accessible in the way they are played, with what I call the interface -- the pad and the controls.

It's somewhat hard for non-gamers to translate a 3D world, if it's a 3D game, with an analog stick. It's really important, because it's the only link between you and the experience, so it has to be perfectly nailed down. With casual games on the Wii and the DS, hopefully the controls are seamlessly intuitive.

It does also mean that even in traditional games, even for [core] gamers, it has to be perfect controls. That's the keystone.

Nintendo recently announced the MotionPlus for the Wii. Do you have any thoughts about utilizing that?

YM: I'd have to say that I wouldn't realize at first that it would add so much to the experience. It's one thing to have your brain interpolating what you're doing. It's another thing to not need that interpolation work.

It's so comfortable. It'll certainly add a lot of pleasure to the experience.

And the Balance Board, also. Do you feel comfortable making games that would require these peripherals?

YM: Oh yeah, totally. It's extensions -- to get a wide audience with new peripherals in order to interact with a game. I cannot help but think of Shaun White Wii, which is definitely a must-try. It's so intuitive.

You don't need your brain to do that interpolation work, because it's so seamless, and then you immerse yourself into that experience. Oh yeah, definitely. It's really good.

And you feel confident of the penetration on these peripherals into homes through Nintendo packaging them with software?

YM: Yeah. I think the figures speak for themselves. It's getting there. It's becoming mass-market.

And obviously Nintendo recently overtook Microsoft in install base. So you're confident. Do you see that as the leading platform for your studio, from a console perspective?

YM: I cannot speak for Nintendo and the others, but I think the figures speak for themselves. What is sure is that we are a content provider and an experience provider.

We will, for sure, make games for everyone -- hardcore gamers on that console, and casual gamers on this console. We'll make games for everyone, because that's our job.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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