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Building On Conviction: Inside Ubisoft Toronto
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Building On Conviction: Inside Ubisoft Toronto

May 25, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Bringing the next title in the Splinter Cell franchise to Toronto was key to that decision to bring in the "right people," Raymond continued.

"In video games, most people are motivated, and passionate, about the project. I think that can be even more important than salary or other perks... but a lot of people did think we'd be working on Assassin's Creed when I moved here!"

In the attempt to attract those right people, Raymond was steadfast in her belief that beginning with triple-A projects was "one-hundred percent" the correct decision for the continued growth and aims of the studio, arguing that portable or so-called "smaller" projects such as on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network are not best used as "stepping-stones" for forming larger developers.

"There is a lot of great stuff on portable, on Xbox Live, on PSN. A lot of great indie games. It's a discussion I think that's very worthy to have, which is, who is the best at making those kind of games? I think maybe more of the coolest stuff there is coming out of indie development," Raymond said.

"We, by which I mean Ubisoft, put a lot of thought into what to move to Toronto. We had several criteria, but one of them was what would be a good match for the city. Where you develop a game does have an impact on who it appeals to.

"A lot of the games that come out of the Montreal studio, or the European studios, have much more of that 'continental' flair; Beyond Good and Evil, for example, couldn't have been produced other than in France. It's a very European-feeling game. When you think of it like that, I think the Splinter Cell franchise fits Toronto."

Due to the flexible team sizes needed in triple-A game production (most triple-A teams start small, swell during production, and return to a steady level afterward) Raymond announced that the studio would also be working on another "major franchise" with a second, smaller team in a shared development program with Ubisoft Montreal. This second team will be headed by Lesley Phord-Toy, a recent hire from Montreal Studio A2M (the studio responsible for 2009's third-person action shooter Wet.)

Phord-Toy said, "We want to work towards a smoother growth so we're not putting all the pressure on the studio to immediately build two triple-A teams at the same time. It gives us the chance to focus not only on bringing the right people in at the beginning, but putting them in the right place either to train or for training. When we look to grow this second team into a full team, we'll have the core team."

Splinter Group

Alex Parizeau is a five-year veteran of Ubisoft Montreal, beginning with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas and most recently serving as producer on Splinter Cell: Conviction. Joining the Ubisoft Toronto team shortly before our visit ("I'm still sleeping on an inflatable mattress," he laughed) Parizeau is to head up the production of the next Splinter Cell in Toronto.

"I'm excited," Parizeau said. "We have very high ambitions for the project, and it's a great opportunity, because Splinter Cell has a lot of visibility, and we're really hoping to attract a lot of senior talent and people who have a lot of experience in the industry. We we want to build the studio around that, a really strong core team, and that [Splinter Cell] is going to provide us with a really good platform to do that. I think we have a really special chance to build something strong from the start."

"What makes sense for me for Splinter Cell in Toronto is the three axes of the project," Parizeau continued. "You need the team, the tech, the design. When we started Splinter Cell: Conviction, it was difficult, because we were working on new hardware, changing tech, and wanted to rejuvenate and innovate with the design.

"With so many risks, some are going to pay off and some aren't, and I think that's why we stumbled for a while during the development cycle. But here in Toronto we have a strong tech platform, a strong platform for the design, and we have a core team in place that we can focus on growing, and on creating a project based on the pillars we put in place creating Splinter Cell: Conviction."

Raymond added that the Toronto studio would also be in the best position to focus on polish:

"Developers always try to re-do things, take a 'clean slate' approach; however, there's a lot to be said about recognizing when you have a solid base and then making sure you have the time for polish. I think when you look at the big console games that are successful these days, the things that distinguish them is the polish; the teams that have taken the time for real playtesting. It's a really good position to be in, to have a solid base and not have to be reinventing."

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