As a reward for winning the Splinter Cell Challenge, my brother and I were taken on a private tour of Ubisoft’s Montreal studio where we were shown around the various departments, given instruction on sound design, and got to play Splinter Cell: Conviction’s Co-Op levels with some of the development team. And that’s just the beginning. Here’s the rundown:
We arrive at Ubisoft Montreal around 9:25, just in time for our meeting with Christophe, our guide through the studios at half-past-nine. We wait in a pretty swanky reception area, complete with swag, clothing, posters, and art books to buy. This is the only publicly-accessible area of the entire building, however, and we were about to be taken beyond the restricted area where over 2000 people work. Yep, two thousand.
We’re first taken up to the game-test labs. These are long booths with a two-way mirror where everyday people sit and test games. Players are watched from behind the mirror by the development team where they can monitor every move and see what works gameplay-wise, and what is an utter failure. We took a gander into another lab where FarCry 3 was loaded up on a machine, indicating that it is playable, perhaps? Or that they are building on older tech and making this game more akin to an add-on, hence the quick turnaround? Who knows, all I know is that apparently, people get paid to do this stuff. Get me on that list, somebody, please! We’ll return to the game-test labs later on in the day to play Conviction.
From here, we’re escorted along the outside of a long corridor where Avatar: The Game was developed. Christophe told us that there were two very unique things about this game. First off, the entire area was blocked off and some corporate big-wigs at Ubisoft didn’t even have access because the story and characters were so secret. Second, there were two servers in the room: one that connected to James Cameron’s production company, and the other one that was a local server within Ubisoft. These assets could never be connected to both servers at the same time, thus never being able to leak any sensitive information to the public. Now that’s security.
We head all the way upstairs after this, to the employee lounge and cafe area. We’re shown the wall of all the Ubisoft Montreal titles, and there are a heck of a lot of them! Following a side hallway, we see a massive King Kong statue (one of many, apparently), some more swag, lots of it being Splinter Cell, and awards galore. E3, IGN, and many others. Tons and tons of awards.
We now head down to the floor where Assassin’s Creed was developed. Over two hundred people worked on Assassin’s Creed II, which was the largest for any single game in Ubisoft history; it only makes sense considering how massive the game world was. We spied on some shots of Assassin’s Creed Rome, which is apparently a standalone game, not an expansion or downloadable content for the ACII, as well as what looked like concept work for Assassin’s Creed III. Yep, there’s your inside info! Then we were ushered away quickly from here.
Alright, on to the gameplay. We head back to the game-test labs for some hands on with a co-op mode of Splinter Cell: Conviction. Truth be told, if you’ve played the demo, it’s more of the same, but that is such an incredible thing. Often, co-op modes seem like either a very different game or the exact same one that you’re running through with two people. This is different. Co-op in Conviction has its own unique maps, in addition to some borrowed from the solo campaign, but each with specific objectives. You start out with needing to kill ten people in a given area. Be spotted and reinforcements show up. Yes, that means another ten baddies show up. Do it stealthily, and you’ll be rewarded with a quick progression to the next level. Gameplay is swift, clean, and efficient, just like Sam Fisher.
This was all for our visit to Montreal, unfortunately. However, you can check out the video in which we won the challenge HERE and the video highlighting our trip to Montreal HERE. Oh, and there’s Ubisoft’s Employee #1’s video HERE. Alright, now get to watching!