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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 4 of 4

Second Team, First Up

The second team also allows Ubisoft Toronto more flexibility in hiring, Phord-Toy said.

"As we've been doing the recruiting, the kinds of people that we're looking for on Alex's team don't necessarily match up to the kind of people I'm looking for. We're not competing for the same resources, and from a strategy point of view it forms an interesting opportunity to bring another group of people into the studio."

Raymond agreed. "Leslie's team is going to go into production before the Splinter Cell team, and it allows us to hire production people faster.

"Splinter Cell is focusing on conception, with a small team of highly focused veterans on the creative side, and Leslie's team has those people too, but there will also be a production team. So what's really cool is that Leslie is going to be the first person hiring juniors.

"The studio portfolio strategy is something else we're trying to do right," she continued. "What are we going to do after these two projects ship, how are we preparing for the production ramp-up for Splinter Cell is going to have? Within a year and a bit her team is going to have gone through a couple of major milestones, and she's going to have some staff that can branch off and be another whole team.

"It's kind of how we are not only going to plan the studio's growth and training intelligently, but how we keep things fresh. So people working on one thing are going to be able to work on something different and cool later; it's the situation where you don't have people working on the same things or brand for the next five iterations just because we're starting up."

Béland added, "Also technology. People will be learning different tools and tech on each team, which is very important for the Toronto studio to be flexible; jump in and work on any engine."

Technologically Sound

Rima Brek's experience at Ubisoft outpaces even Béland's, having served twelve years -- beginning as a programmer before transitioning into working outside of the production stream in Ubisoft's Montreal-based Technology Group. The group acts as a hub for Ubisoft's international teams -- working on internal tech, middleware, and tools.

Brek said, "If a project has a certain need, they can consult with the Technology Group and we can direct them to another project, propose an internal option (middleware or tool), or give them feedback on external tools. It's super important that the Technology Group is aware of everything that's going on."

As a result, Brek's new role as Head of the Toronto Technology Group is somewhat of a "dual role."

"I'm partly building an extension of the technology group here in Toronto, but I'm also getting involved in helping build the studio and dealing with any technology issues the production team -- or just the studio in general -- might face."

Raymond said, "I'm really excited about having Rima form a group here in Toronto, as one of the things Ubisoft said when we formed the studio here is that we're interested in leveraging the film talent that already exists in Toronto, and taking advantage of that base.

"It's really tough to get someone straight from the film industry and put them on a game project and have them be effective. You can have someone who is the best animator, or a tools programmer, but you ask them to work in a real-time environment where the story is being controlled by the player, there's a lot of learning there.

"The technology group will be a way to make those people immediately useful in a games environment. Rima can have people on her team who can be working on real tools, useful to everyone, but also work closely with the production teams and start to see how that works. It allows us to most effectively tap into the talent pool."

However, Raymond stated that they were not sure what size the Technology Group will reach at this stage.

"It depends on a lot on the opportunity. One of our strategies is attracting the best talent, and if a lot of the people who we attract that are superstars want to work with Rima, we may end up growing the tech group much bigger than we anticipated, but likewise the inverse is true.

"We have a bit of a flexible plan right how; the most important thing is finding the talent, rather than saying we have a set number of places here or there. Our hiring is very opportunistic; if you're great, we want to hire you."

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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