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Games

Ubisoft’s “Interproject”

Jason Schreier reports for Kotaku on an oddity with how Ubisoft’s Montreal office is run:

Guillaume—who asked that I not use his real name for this story—soon found himself on the third floor of one of Ubisoft’s buildings in downtown Montreal. Today he describes athe building—called “160,” after its address—as a dark, grey office, with dim lighting and a low ceiling. As Guillaume started settling in, he found other Ubisoft employees playing Facebook games and watching movies, essentially doing nothing as they waited for the company to give them new assignments. For the days, weeks, or maybe even months to come, they were in “limbo,” as Guillaume put it.

This is “interproject,” a little-known department at Ubisoft Montreal that houses developers who are between games.

On the surface, it sounds like an interesting idea: instead of laying off developers between games—which is disturbingly common—keep paying your devs between projects and give them a break.

Give it a read. It’s really rather fascinating. But there’s this:

One particularly strange wrinkle is the way in which interproject employees get new jobs. In order to get on another project, according to the people who worked there, interproject staff have to apply for new openings within the company. They already work for Ubisoft Montreal, but in order to find actual work, they often need to go through applications and interviews as if they’re coming in from elsewhere.

Every so often, according to the people I talked to, Ubisoft will clear out interproject and let go of employees who have not found a new position in the studio.

And:

However, one thing has remained unclear for many staff: how or why people are sent to interproject in the first place. “I know a girl who’s never been at 160 in her eight years here,” said one employee. “And I know other people who have been there multiple times.”

Sounds to me like they put employees who aren’t good fits with their teams or don’t produce the way they want there and give them a chance to find another team. If they can’t within a certain amount of time, they’re done.

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Markel!

Indie Game: The Movie is 50% Off and You Should Buy It

The reaction to the film has been well-beyond anything we thought possible when we started the project two years ago.  The film is currently experiencing really great word of mouth (some higher profile examples: here, here & here).  One of the things we hearing is how the film is great way to show & explain to non-gamers or non-devs what goes into making a game and/or why they love games the way they do.

People seem to like discovering and sharing the film.  And today, we plan to make that discovering & sharing a l’il bit easier.

Go get it.

$5 gets you access to the film in both on online stream and as an up-to-1080p DRM-free download. I haven’t watched it yet but have heard it’s amazing and am looking forward to it. 96% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.

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Uncategorized

The Making of Madden NFL

Tom Bissell for Grantland with a fascinating behind-the-scenes on how Madden is made every year:

Every year for the past three years, key members of Madden NFL’s development team have traveled to the Bay Area suburb of Pleasanton, Calif., to meet with John Madden himself at his production company’s office building. There, Coach Madden and the dev team discuss identifiable trends that have emerged in professional football over the past year and spitball ideas about how these trends might be implemented in gameplay. Coach Madden is also briefed on the creative direction and “feature set” of next year’s game. Once that’s done, Coach (as he’s called) and the dev team watch a fully catered afternoon’s worth of professional football games in a large studio space that Coach built after retiring from broadcasting a few years ago.

I—like, I am sure, many others—did not have any idea that Madden was as intricately involved in the development of each game as portrayed in this article.

It’s a great read on how EA Tiburon works to create a fresh take year after year, and some thoughts on the future of the king of sports video games.

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Uncategorized

Money and the App Store

Emeric Thoa of The Game Bakers:

Eighteen months ago, when I left Ubisoft to start an independent game studio and focus on making my own games, I looked online a bit to get an idea of how much income I could expect to make as an indie. At Ubisoft I used to work on big AAA console games, and I had some figures in mind, but I knew they wouldn’t be relevant for my new life: $20M budgets, teams of 200 hundred people, 3 million sales at $70 per unit… I knew being an indie developer would be completely different, but I had very little information about how different it would be.

Angry Birds had taken off, Plants vs. Zombies was already a model, Doodle Jump was a good example of success, and soon after I started my “indie” life, Cut the Rope was selling a million copies a week. But except for what I call the “jackpots,” there were very few public stories or numbers on the web, and this meant we were a bit in the dark when we started SQUIDS. I have been tracking figures since then, and I’m writing this article to share what I’ve learned with my fellow indie dev buddies who might be in the same position I was, a year and a half ago.

In this article, I will present all of the post-mortems and figures I’ve found interesting, and I will also explain how SQUIDS fits into the overall picture. But first, I would like to quickly give my opinion on few of the App Store myths you may believe if you’re not an experienced iOS developer. There are plenty of ways to view the App Store, but my point is that you might be a bit surprised by what the App Store really means in terms of money.

This is a great piece with some sharp analysis of how the App Store economy runs and what’s needed to create and make a living off a hit iOS game. If you’ve ever wondered how the business side of that $5 app you just downloaded runs you should give this a read.

(via Clint Hocking.)