MediaFile

Exclusive: After leaving Ubisoft, Patrice Désilets is back in the game at THQ

MONTREAL–Game designer Patrice Désilets stunned the video game world with his high-profile departure from Ubisoft in 2010. Désilets’s contract prohibited him from working for the past year but now the creative director behind “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” and “Assassin’s Creed”  franchise is back in the game, having joined THQ’s new development studio in Montreal. In his first interview in the new digs in Montreal, Désilets opens up about the new job, the time off and what it’s like to be an underdog again in the gaming world.

Reuters: You’ve been at THQ for about a month, how do you find it?

Désilets: I’m not used to it (laughs). You can see in the industry that a lot of people change jobs often and then there’s me. I spent 13 years in the same company. I started July 2, 1997 and I quit May 28, 2010. In between, I did six games with roughly the same people, so I’m really excited. I like where we physically are in the city. I spent my professional years back in the Mile End and it’s nice to change the scenery. I walk to work and I like this district with these nice restaurants around.

The real thing for me is just to meet a bunch of new people. There’s 100 plus people to meet and I’m bad with names, but the energy is the same as when I started at Ubisoft. It’s a smaller place with less people but also, there’s the feeling that we’re the underdogs. So it’s all about the need to prove ourselves and do something great, instead of at a bigger company where you’re making sure you are still good and making sure that you’re growing.

Back then (at Ubisoft), nobody knew what they were doing. We didn’t have a lot of expertise back then. Now Ubisoft does. Here (at THQ), right away, I’m in meetings with people who know how to make a game, so that’s a lot easier than it was back then. But the energy of, “rah!  Let’s do something together and its going to be great,” is there and it’s less so at other companies.

Reuters: Do you feel pressure or extra responsibility because you are helping build a new studio in Montreal?

E3: Ubisoft teases (again!) with Michael Jackson

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Somebody at Ubisoft must be a big fan of the films “Jaws” or “Predator,” where the title characters do not materialize until late in the movie. Or maybe it’s the play “Waiting for Godot” they admire — Godot never shows at all.

Why else would they — for the second year in a row — devote a chunk of time at their E3 event to a highly anticipated video game, and not show any footage from the game?

Ubisoft ended its show on Monday with a wonderfully loud, energetic, amped-up dance routine featuring six of the talented performers from Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” concert rehearsal documentary. They were giving us a taste of what we can expect from the game Ubisoft is developing in conjunction with Jackson’s Estate (due later this year on all major platforms.)

AMD’s ATI breaks 1Ghz barrier — for real?

In the highly demanding (and some say shrinking) world of PC gaming, only two graphics powers really count: reigning popular champ Nvidia and AMD’s ATI division. Now it looks like ATI’s Radeon may have got a bit of a lead on its arch-foe.

ATI, once considered a perennial also-ran to Nvidia’s cutting-edge graphics chips, has become the first to crack what it called the 1 Gigahertz barrier on standard air-cooling. Pounding its chest, the company trumpeted on Wednesday the milestone and talked about “amazing gaming experiences” for the likes of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. and Electronic Arts’ Battleforge.

It would be interesting to see how Nvidia — whose logo still appears more often alongside cutting-edge games such as medieval third-person actioner Assassin’s Creed to blockbuster first-person shooter Crysis — will respond in their never-ending arms race.

Video games industry appeals to core gamers at Leipzig convention

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    The rise of casual video gaming may have grabbed the headlines over the past couple of years, but the more hardcore end of the market dominated at Europe’s biggest gaming convention in Leipzig last week.
    Apart from new iterations of popular karaoke-style games such as Activision‘s Guitar Hero, Electronic ArtsRockBand and Sony‘s SingStar, which arguably kick-started the trend of easy-to-play casual fare, the world’s biggest games publishers focused on products for their core audience.
    Upcoming release Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 was a case in point. Not only does the game involve sending dozens of types of futuristic military unit across apocalyptic landscapes, but EA was marketing it in part on the basis that one of the
actresses in it, Jenny McCarthy, is a former Playboy playmate of the year.
    Most publishers were playing it safe, focusing on sequels such as a new version of The Sims – the virtual doll’s house franchise which has sold over 100 million copies since launch in 200? — or movie tie-ins such as a game based on new James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
    True innovation was thin on the ground, at least on a whistle-stop tour view of the main publishers’ offerings. Ubisoft demoed a game in the same genre as Command and Conquer which could be fully voice-controlled — apparently a first for consoles — while Sony previewed LittleBigPlanet. This marries the hot theme of user-designed content (think YouTube or MySpace) to an age-old platforming mechanic, the basics of which that would be familiar to anyone who had played Nintendo‘s Mario games.
    Cute sack-doll characters jump over flames and on to rising platforms, but the novelty is that most of the game, from the characters’ outfits and personalities to the landscapes over which they clamber can be modified by players and shared online.
    But for two of the other most hotly awaited games of the season, there was no news, albeit for opposite reasons. EA’s Spore, in which players guide a lifeform in the Darwinian struggle from primaeval soup to interplanetary conflict, is due out on Sept. 4 and had already been presented in near-final form at other events, so did not get a spot in EA’s main presentation.
    World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the next installment of the online role-playing game that has over 10 million subscribers — was available to play in an early form, but it remained unclear when the final version would be on sale. A spokesman for Activision unit Blizzard could not even confirm it would definitely be out before Christmas.

    * Where do you think gaming is going in the run-up to this year’s holiday season? Were you at the Leipzig Games Convention? Tell us what you think below.

Let’s Hear It for the Girls!

imagine-screenshots.jpgOur video games reporter Kemp Powers went to today’s Ubisoft press conference, which featured the usual array of gun play and sword fighting fans expected from the French video game publisher.

The company, however, saved some of its most enthusiastic chest-bumping for an update on its “Games for Girls” brand strategy.

Tony Key, Ubisoft’s senior vice president of sales and marketing laid out the impressive data; in the first three months of 2008, sales in the division aimed at “tween,” or pre-teen, girls grew 63 percent. Six of the top ten third party titles on the Nintendo DS are games targeted to the tween set.