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Ubisoft is GREAT
Jean-François Gagné, ex-Ubisoft Senior/Lead Level designer talks about the good side of the company to show the other side of the medal. It's rare that we can read stuff about the good side of the industry.
January 29, 2016
9 Min Read
- Premise -
With my last blog post concerning my opinions on what is AAA game production I talked with a lot of my friends, coworkers, ex-coworkers and people around the Internet about the impact on these kind of posts and other things.
I have also read a lot of replies on my friend's first post and it always come to the same thing, Ubisoft Bashing. It's a trend right now, and I hate it. It's probably better now than what it was when Unity came out for example. Ubisoft bashing was all over the place like it was the only bad thing that ever happened in the industry. That was pissing me off at the time and even now, I'm not even at Ubisoft anymore and that pisses me off.
I was not the first to talk about my passed experience and my friend Max was not either. In the last 10 years I saw a lot of posts here and there about people who left Ubisoft (or other companies). Sometimes anonymously, sometimes saying who they were. Some were just plain trash talking, other, like Max's posted was really professional. The thing I haven't seen at all (correct me if I'm wrong) is saying how great, as an employee, Ubisoft is/was. So here, I'll write about my last 10 years at Ubisoft. I've stayed here for 10 years because it was GREAT.
- So what is Ubisoft (for me)? -
- The differences between studios -
First of all, I've worked at Ubisoft Québec (if you don't already know). I started my career a little bit more than 10 years ago, on the 7th of November 2005 as a video game tester. Ten months later I became a Level Designer and I moved forward with that and that's still what I'm doing professionally.
Ubisoft is a really big company. I don't remember the number of different studios Ubisoft own but they have a lot all around the world. You can also add studios that got bough like Red Storm, Massive Entertainment, Bluebyte and so on.
Because of this, because of the mentality of every countries, habits and all other things, all Ubisoft studios are different. It's a multicultural company and that's really nice. I went to Ubisoft Montreal a few times, I worked at Massive for a few months but I mainly worked at Ubisoft Québec. I met a lot of Ubisoft of employees from all around the world in my career and I've learn stuff from every one of them.
You can have totally different experiences depending on the studio you work on but still, the same "base" is there for all the studios and I must say, Ubisoft base is great.
- Flexible Hours -
This is a common thing I think in most of the video game companies now but still, it's part of what define Ubisoft. You can go to work almost between a certain period of time and leave after a certain amount of time (depending on the country you are working). So if you get a pretty big hangover because you were partying the day before, well, instead of going to work at 7 in the morning, just go at 10! There's no problem with that.
Also, you are not "punching" your time. You know, nobody gave a single damn if I was working 7 hours on one day because I had to go to the dentist for example or that I needed to do whatever else. Your job is done? Sure, take that free hour. Go spend time with your family. Go do whatever you have to do that is important. If your job is done, what is the problem anyway?
- The Environment -
You know, age of people working in the video game industry is low. People are still pretty young. The industry is also pretty young so that's probably linked I guess. People are getting older that what it was 10 years ago obviously but it's still the case. The majority of people are under 40.
Young people means FUN.
You know, drinking beer on the job, throwing football between the desks to other people, Nerf gun fights, babyfoot/ping pong/pool table, lounge with all the consoles, arcade, gym, etc. This is what defines the environment.
One other cool thing is the open area. Well, for me it is. I know it's not for everyone, but it's really nice to be all in the same space without any little walls blocking us. It's easier for communication. It's cool to see people around, hearing a joke here and there, screaming nonsence stuff at other... Having fun!
- No "Clients" -
This is not true for everyone but most of the dev teams don't have "clients". What I mean by that is that you never deal with the outside world outside of the job. Why is that a cool thing?
Well, you put the cloths you want at the office. Nobody will give a damn about what you are wearing.
You have a mohawk? Nobody gives a damn about it.
That mohawk is pink, blue and purple? Nobody gives a damn about it.
You have 12 piercings? Nobody gives a damn about it.
You have tattoos all over the body? (I worked with a guy like this and he's awesome) Yet nobody gives a damn about it.
No clients means casual as f**k!
- Free Foods and Drinks! -
Every morning we had fresh fruits for everyone. On Friday, we had super tasty fresh bagels. The fridges were always open so you could have any kind of juice, water and/or soft drink if you wanted.
At Massive, it was even better! Every morning, we had breakfasts. Sandwiches, cheeses, delis, etc.
We also had a lot of cool events related to foods were we were able to tastes awesome stuff like teas, chocolates, wines and so on.
- Parties/Happy Hours! -
Obviously, since we are "young" in the industry, we like to party a lot. At the beginning of Ubisoft Québec we had happy hours every 2 weeks or so. Free beers and foods for everyone. On AC Syndicate, it became a habit. We had happy hours every week with free beers and stuff.
Parties is also a big thing at Ubisoft. Parties are BIG and awesome. Obviously, with open bar... We had all kind of crazy things at our parties. I was there for 10 years! So that's a lot of parties to go. Every Christmas, every shipped projects and other reason where all good to throw a party somewhere. About the crazy stuff, I can remember parties with inflatable fighting ring, flame spitters (?), jugglers, dancers, fit man in kilts, Tyrolean traverse, pirates, music bands, sugar shacks, bus trips, and so on.
That was something.
I'm missing that for sure!
- Traveling -
This is one big thing at Ubisoft. You can travel a lot if you want to. I haven't travel that much for personal reason but I still when to Paris for two weeks and in Sweden three times and one of them I lived in Sweden for four months. All that being paid!
I've a lot of ex-coworkers who traveled a lot more than me. Going all around the world.
Like I said above, Ubisoft is big and has studios all around the globe. More than often you will be sent on a mission for a few weeks/months in another country for various reasons like mentoring, learning new tools, teaching stuff, helping starting up a projects and so on. And remember, ALL PAID.
- Resources Sharing -
Again, because Ubisoft is SO big, there are a lot of resources sharing between studios. You know, when you want a crate in your game for example, you don't ask a modeler to create another crate that was created on another projects in the last year. You take a crate in the shared asset bank and you pimp it a bit for your project.
There is also a pretty big intranet site that looks like any other social media but more focused on sharing information. There are a lot of people sharing how they work, their tips and tricks and other things like this. Lot to learn there.
There is also countless training videos around there where you can learn a lot of stuff. I know a guy, who was a level artist and became a level designer just because he learned a lot by himself using these training videos.
- Talents -
There are a lot of people at Ubisoft, a few thousands. One thing that is pretty amazing is the number of persons there who are SO talented. You can learn a lot in your department and even in other departments just by speaking with other employees around the globe. It's good for the company, it's good for the juniors, it's also good for the seniors and it's good for the point above (resources sharing).
- And so on... -
I could probably continue talking a lot about cool things. Some of them are probably also available in other video game companies. There are probably also a lot of other companies who gives even more stuff than this! I could talk about insurance plan at Ubisoft (that is really super duper awesome) for example or the classic bonuses after you ship a project (and when you are on a project). That big money you get and say "Well, cool, thanks! I was not expecting that", etc...
- Ending notes -
So, all in all, I wouldn't have spent a third of my life in a company if it was not that great. I seriously think that more people should also write/talk out loud what were the awesome things they experienced in they career after leaving a company or even when they are still working for a company.
I've no idea if this post will get a lot of attention because it's always better for the big lines to say that something is BAD or why someone LEFT. Because of the blog I posted to follow what my friend Max has said I never got that much people ending here. That would be great that double this amount would see this one instead.
I still hope that a lot of people will read it and realize that there are grey zones everywhere. For me, there were way more "white" zones than "dark" zones at Ubisoft for sure.
Seriously. If you read this, I'm not asking that normally but SHARE this post everywhere that you can. I want to know that people will also be aware that most of the time (by far) it's AWESOME to work for Ubisoft.
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