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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 3 of 4 Next

Parizeau is joined on the Splinter Cell project by Maxime Béland, Ubisoft Toronto's new creative director, who began as a game tester at Ubisoft Montreal over a decade ago, "working his way up slowly" to game designer on Rainbow Six: Raven Shield.

"You cannot underestimate how much easier it is to build a game when you have your tools and design in place from day one," said Béland. "I'm not saying all the tools would be perfect or you're not going to change some things, but to have a really strong base. Conviction is doing very well, and I think that with the proper time and people, we've got a great base to build on. I don't think we're going to be shipping the sequel in six months, because we are building the studio, but Ubisoft is known to prioritize quality."

Béland spoke from a position of a Ubisoft developer who had gained a reputation as a "fixer," joining Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell: Conviction teams during the project.

As Béland explained, "I worked on Conviction for more than two years and [with Alex] changed the direction -- whether that's 'fixing' it depends on who you ask. "

"What really excites me about Toronto is that, well, I was reading Clint Hocking's blog and one of the reasons he chose to leave Ubisoft Montreal was he was too comfortable and wanted to shake things up. It's interesting for me, because it's exactly the same thing. Doing something less comfortable; having that feeling of being at a smaller company but still with the back-up of Ubisoft.

"It's something I've never done, building a company from scratch, and it's really exciting. The headaches are new and different, and as game developers we thrive on the headaches, the challenges. Every little problem is something new that we can enjoy solving, so adding the challenge of building a studio is really exciting."

However, the aim of gaining new staff for Ubisoft Toronto is not, the team argued, simply to gain 'warm bodies' for indoctrination into Ubisoft's 'way' of making games.

"Something I'm looking forward to on working on a big game like the next Splinter Cell is that we'll be able to get really experienced people from outside Ubisoft," Béland said.

"It's going to allow us to learn from different mentalities. Having been at Ubisoft for eleven years, I know exactly how Ubisoft makes games, but I want to surround myself with new people that bring in new ways of making games. I think that's going to be very interesting: as much to teach and mentor new people, but also for us to mature and grow as developers."

Parizeau added, "The cool thing is that as a start-up company we'll be able to grow the company, at least, along a structure we've already experience before. For me we're growing the team, but we're growing it around a structure that we know and can thus tweak and adapt. It's very different form a company that has to learn how to structure itself as it grows. I think that's something that's going to help us a lot and make us very strong and solid from the start. We're really starting with a level of risk that isn't the same as other start-ups.

"We have a great opportunity to build a culture of our own; something that reflects me, Max, Rima, Leslie, and Jade, and that's an opportunity that you don't often get in your career and that's what I'm excited about."

Employee Number...

No matter the backing, the task of staffing up a start-up to 800 employees while also working on two projects (one a confirmed AAA sequel) seems like it would be a major challenge. Yet Raymond revealed that even without extensive media coverage outside of the original announcement of the studio in July (though the company does have "Ubisoft Employee Number 1" keeping interested parties up-to-date via Facebook and Twitter) the company has received over 2000 resumes.

"It's not a question of getting the numbers," she said. "The numbers are there. Ubisoft has been lucky and hasn't faced the kind of layoffs that have affected other companies, and there are quite a few really senior industry people looking for jobs now. It's more a question of making sure we choose the right people, not just in terms of their experience level and talent, but also their personality and how they would fit with that team to make sure we can build that culture that we want."

But what is the aim for the Toronto studio's culture? Raymond said, "From Ubisoft culture I really appreciate the multicultural aspect. People are recruited from all over the world, and Toronto is a very diverse city and it's a great place to make sure we have a culture where we can tap into people's different backgrounds. I think the challenge is more just in not going too quickly, instead making sure that even though we have these grand ambitions we make sure to choose the right people."

And if the right people come along, Ubisoft Toronto will be available. "I've spent quite a bit of time talking to people in the industry, and the studios that have been successful, and I think the difference between the successful studios and not are those that hire when there is a good person available, not just to fill specific roles. I think if the best animator in the world walked in the door, though we're not looking for an animator, we're going to hire them. The worst thing we could ever do is wait for the day we need someone and hire the first person that comes along."

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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