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'Democracy is a killer, sometimes, in making games'

Richard Tsao, Ubisoft Chengdu's managing director, talks about the unique challenges (and advantages) of game development in the Chinese mainland.
"Democracy is a killer, sometimes, in making games."
- Richard Tsao, Ubisoft Chengdu's managing director, talks about the unique challenges (and advantages) of game development in the Chinese mainland, in a Siliconera interview. Richard Tsao began his game development career at Microsoft and Crytek, before moving over to Ubisoft Shanghai. In 2007 he founded Ubisoft Chengdu, where he currently serves as Managing Director. The 180 employee studio in China's Sichuan province was largely responsible for development of 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, a project it took over from Ubisoft Montreal and shipped within a six month turnaround. "No other studio around Ubisoft would pick this up," Tsao told Siliconera. "They wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Why? It's like five months to make 80 percent of the game. You know? Who in the right mind would sign up for that? But it was a great opportunity for us." "There are strengths and weaknesses in every culture," said Tsao, who is Chinese-American. "When they [Chinese developers] have a very strong direction and good leadership they trust in that leadership so wholeheartedly that they will execute and create better quality, faster than any Western game studio that I've ever seen. That includes Blizzard and Valve." When Ubisoft Chengdu inherited the Scott Pilgrim project from Montreal, only one of its seven levels and one set of characters were complete. "But all the preproduction was done. The whole plan was done," said Tsao. The studio just had to organize itself around following that plan. Tsao continued:

[In Asia] if you have very good creative leadership and you say this is the direction I want to go – we want this color blue. I’m just using blue as an example. Nobody is going to question if that blue is going to be the right blue. What I find the biggest challenge in Western companies is every single person, down to the individual artist, will feel that blue is not the right blue. So, more than half the energy, when creating game in the West is corralling cats, trying to convince them why this blue is the right blue. Don’t question the blue, please.

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