Karan PradhanNov 30, 2020 22:33:23 IST
“It’s a very specific talent and it’s almost an art to create good challenges and good puzzles,” says Ubisoft Quebec’s associate game director Julien Galloudec in a conversation with Tech2, expressing a great deal of appreciation and admiration for the process. His game Immortals Fenyx Rising – that was known until September or so this year as Gods and Monsters – is a major departure from the Assassin’s Creed series on which he has previously worked and it just so happens that it releases on Thursday.
Much like vulcanised rubber and penicillin before it, Immortals Fenyx Rising also owes its genesis to a happy accident — in this case, it was an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey bug that inspired and led to IFR’s existence. But the rest of it, as Julien tells Tech2, was no accident.
“The biggest challenge was the puzzle aspect of the game, because making puzzles was very new for us,” he elaborates, adding, “we had a lot to learn and develop to reach that goal.”
Puzzles aren’t something one normally associates with most open-world games, but then, Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t most open-world games. As Julien explains, “we wanted an open world. We wanted something very action-based and very intense. We wanted something inspired by Greek mythology. We also wanted something light-hearted and with a lot of humour in the tone, in the story, in the characters. And also we had the intention of making the journey as challenging and rewarding as the destination.”
Setting off on an ambitious mission like that also meant there was a lot of research to be done and the team looked at a whole host of games — some that you’d expect, others that might seem a bit out of left field.
Apart from the puzzles, the aerial combat was another aspect that gave Julien and company a tough time. “It doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually very hard to find the right flow and the right calibration,” he notes.
In recent times, whenever there’s been talk of game development, passionate discussions about the pros and cons of ‘crunch culture’ isn’t far behind. And while other industries have their own versions of crunch culture, this is the first time the topic is being dissected widely and broadly in the context of the video game industry. “Yes, it’s pretty classic,” offers Julien, adding, “It’s something that you have to avoid as much as possible.”
Whether it’s to meet a ludicrously tight deadline, shareholder demands or the expectations of a studio that has moved the goalposts for the umpteenth time, crunch culture exists almost all over the place. But does it really help? Not according to Julien.
“The return on investment with crunch is not as high as you might think, because while it does mean more hours, in the long run, you are so stretched. You have people who are also very tired,” he explains, “So it’s not that great in terms of production and obviously in terms of working with people, it’s something you have to avoid.”
What about the production cycle for the game formerly known as Gods and Monsters? “Work-life balance is something very important at Ubisoft Quebec and regarding that, I think we had a pretty smooth ride on Immortals Fenyx Rising.”
You can catch the rest of the interview below:
Keep watching this space for our thoughts about and impressions of Immortals Fenyx Rising.