Video Games

How Ubisoft’s Editorial Teams Are Quietly Shifting Games Like Assassin’s Creed, Roller Champions

You’re probably familiar with the work of video game development as a programmer, artist, and designer. But one of the most influential roles at Ubisoft is that of the editorial team.

This advisory group’s job is to determine the creative direction of Ubisoft and its games at scale, and it’s been a tumultuous time lately. previously overhauled Early 2020, you’ll just need another one later in the year After a wave of abuse allegations Taxing several senior Ubisoft employeesincluding editor-in-chief.

In its pre-2020 structure, many of Ubisoft’s games reportedly ended up very much the same way, with one or two people dictating the creative direction of the entire company. It may have been intentional enough, but at least two individuals left allegations against them directing the company’s creative pillars.

It’s Fawzi Mesmar’s turn. Mesmar joined Ubisoft as VP of Editorial just over a year ago and has nearly 20 years of industry design experience at companies like Atlus, Gameloft, King and EA DICE. He took the position at a particularly tenuous time, and while his team’s overall mandate to shape the company’s creative direction remains intact, the nuances appear to be shifting. In an interview with IGN, he described the high-level flow of his role as working with senior leaders to put together a “creative framework” to help guide individual game teams toward their creative vision. increase. They put the pillars in place so the team can reach them throughout the development process.

“We treat these as guidelines,” says Mesmar. “So these are not what every project should have, nor what every project should follow. They are creative guidelines. They are frameworks and Think about it, but it’s not a checkbox that needs to be addressed, and one game is never going to be everything. [that from] Even games that want to adhere to guidelines or consider some of those criteria. Games should focus on what they are and who they are for. “

So what is this framework?in Mesmar alluded to it before, and it is effectively centered around three pillars. The first, “total focus on quality”, is self-explanatory. The second is to create games that are culturally significant. Mesmar describes this as the driving force behind creating games that form the overall fabric of pop culture as a whole. So, frankly, a well-made game that many people like is pretty straightforward.

The third pillar is slightly different. Mesmar wants to “create a third space”.

“If work is the first space and home is the second space, the third space is this: jump in and out, connect with like-minded individuals and groups, express yourself, and connect freely.” You can.. I like to think of it like a skate park.You can show up. [whenever] At the skate park, even if you don’t want to skate, you just sit there and hang out. “

Raashi Sikka is another recent hire who joined Ubisoft in February 2021, shortly after the same storm of allegations that rocked the editorial team. Sikka is Ubisoft’s Global Vice President of Diversity, Accessibility and Inclusion. It’s a role he never had at Ubisoft before. She tells me that although D&I efforts have been around the company for some time, they weren’t all wrapped up under one banner of hers.

“There were different things going on in different places with different teams using different words and languages,” she says. “And what we’ve really been trying to do is have a common direction, a common vocabulary and language, and a North Star that the whole organization (20,000 people) can support and help move in that common direction. to be with.”

Sikka’s role covers Ubisoft’s HR team, but it also intersects with Mesmar’s in that she works with the creative team to ensure the game content is more diverse and inclusive. increase. In practice, this involves talking with the development team at multiple stages of the project to determine what role the topics of diversity and inclusion play in what they create. Mesmar explains that these conversations can take many different forms depending on where you are in the project. From high-level internal design discussions, to consulting outside consultants, to analyzing player feedback and data.

What if there is a conflict between what the editorial team suggests and what the development team wants?

It’s hard to match 5-6 people where they want to go for lunch. Imagine hundreds of people working on creative endeavors over the years.

“We provide player feedback to the team. The team becomes the owner of the creative vision and takes the feedback into account when deciding how they want the game to go,” Mesmar says. “It’s hard to get five or six people to agree on where they want to go for lunch. Of course there will be disagreements, and I think that’s an inevitable part of the creative process, but that’s why the assignment of creative ownership, ownership, is always with the team.”

Sikka adds that such conversations are rarely binary and are usually very subtle. But the value is in being able to talk about it with experts and consultants, experts and consultants on hand, and groups of people who aren’t deeply involved with a lot of the data.

“If we do a review late in the game, what we tend to give back to the team in terms of feedback is high, low, medium risk of what we see and what we think needs to be changed. I need to,” she says. “When something is flagged as overpriced [risk] We believe this is not really an endorsement of our values, and we strive to move beyond conversation to action. “

For now, neither can we know many details about how this affected Ubisoft’s games.

However, Sikka wanted to highlight certain victories the team had already won. It’s a content review group.

“This was born out of a need we heard from the development team. [they wanted] Get feedback from diverse team members who have diverse soundboards and are not directly working on the project, [they’re] Inclusive, Respectful, and Celebrating Diversity [their] game. So we set up this group of volunteers. About 100 people contributed their input and perspectives to these various projects and started as pilots. It proved really successful. He has a team of about two full-time staff his members dedicated to running the process, managing hundreds of volunteers, and interacting with development teams around the world. “

She adds that content review groups have played a particularly important role for Roller Champions in creating a diverse cast of characters and providing feedback on different outfits and hairstyles. And for more of their efforts, she urges people to look forward to the next Assassin’s Creed: Mirage.

“Outside of content reviews, the Inclusive Games and Content team has been dedicated to assisting outside experts with calligraphy. [Arab] name, arab culture. It will be very exciting to see where and how it reaches players in the future. “

She then throws it at Mesmer, saying she knows he’s particularly excited about Mirage.

“For me, in the first Assassin’s Creed, when a man rode to Damascus on horseback, it was one of the first times I saw my culture expressed in a game,” he says. “And now that Mirage is coming to Baghdad in that historic era, we can’t wait for players to experience it.”

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.

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