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Jade Raymond's been thinking about the future of AAA games

Jade Raymond's been thinking about the future of AAA games

March 29, 2013 | By Kris Graft

Jade Raymond has worked on some of the biggest "triple-A" video game franchises, most famously as a producer on the Assassin's Creed series. Now the managing director of 300-person Ubisoft Toronto, she's working on a brand with similar weight in Splinter Cell Blacklist.

But as the costs for such huge games continues to grow, what's the future for triple-A? Is it all just about making games that are infinitely bigger and more expensive?

"No, no. It's got to stop," Raymond told us at GDC 2013. "To give you an overly-simplified answer, I do think games and franchises need to include more user content. And by user content, I don't mean that all of a sudden, every game is going to have a level builder, because not everyone wants to sit down and build a level. That's too complicated.

"But by user content, you can think of Dark Souls, and how your game is affected by other people who are playing," she added. "In what ways can the user impact the experience? I think that's what's going to drive hits, but also at the extreme end, it's going to enable us to continue to create interesting content without always having such huge costs associated with it. To me, that's the key. What I think people want is their own custom experience, in anything."

Enabling users to create content is a trend across all kinds of industries, from news sites that run user-contributed articles to services like Yelp that rely on user ratings and commentary.

In the game industry, Valve has been one of the most outspoken proponents of user-generated content, letting players make their own virtual items, sell them on a digital storefront and giving the creators a cut of the sales. Valve boss Gabe Newell also recently said that Steam storefronts should be user-generated content, and that there are plans to allow players to create and curate their own storefronts.

"I love a lot of the stuff they're doing over at Valve in terms of user-generated content. It seems to be a smart way to go about it," said Raymond. "With virtual hats -- who would've thought. It's a smart way to have your community engaged. And those people are spending more money, but they don't feel that they're being milked.

"That's really the key -- that when you're considering business models for your game, that you're adding value."

Raymond suggested that Ubisoft's own upcoming games will increasingly focus on the players and allow them to interact and create in new ways. "Some of those ideas, we're fitting into Splinter Cell Black List, which we're working on now," she said. "I think that ability to have your ideas spread and for you to see other peoples' experiences and have an effect other peoples' play styles [is important].

"If we do it intelligently, we could have a lot more content with what other people are creating. They're making [the game] more interesting for each other, and also gratifying themselves."

The bottom line is that game developers shouldn't be the only ones who are expressing themselves with video games.

"It's nice to hear a game developer's idea of a grand vision, but I honestly don't think it's about our creative vision so much," Raymond said. "It's about the gamer's vision. It has to be more about how I'm allowing this to become the player's brand."

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