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Desert Island Games: Ubisoft's Nicholas Eypert (Red Steel)

For today's Desert Island Games, Ubisoft creative director Nicolas Eypert (Red Steel) gives us his top five gaming picks of all time, explaining the appeal of pirate's rum and Rez, and how Pro Evolution Soccer has replaced Street F
For this week’s Desert Island Games, a column that looks at the top five games of some of our favorite industry personalities, we speak to Ubisoft Montreal creative director Nicolas Eypert. Eypert’s career in games began back in the late 1980’s, with work on titles like Strategic Simulations, Inc.’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance for Amiga. It was following his work as scripted events lead on 2005’s Xbox title Far Cry: Instincts with Ubisoft Montreal that his career really began to hit its peak, with a move to the developer’s Paris studios to work as creative director on Wii launch title Red Steel. The game sold well, and a job posting on the company’s web site just days after the console’s release all but confirmed the intended continuation of the franchise, though Eypert’s connection with any further installments is unknown. We spoke to Eypert recently, and asked him about his desert island, all-time, top five most memorable games – in no order, of course. Sim City (Maxis Software, 1989): This game appeals to me because it is based on a mechanic I really love: ‘Do the job of someone you cannot be in real life, yet still spend hours criticizing’. What really makes Sim City interesting compared to others in this category is the fact that it is connected to the most obvious every day problems like traffic jams, home space, energy, and public finances. Playing is about making choices, games that let you try choices that are close to real life are a good way to try the what-if situations - the alternate paths - and foresee some possible results. That’s where games can teach us a lot about our own lives. Obviously, being the first of that particular type is always an advantage if you keep updating it. It is better [than other games in the genre] because it is simpler; the core game mechanic stays the same even with all the extras. I first played it on an Amiga computer, and it’s still a game I play because you are never out of scenarios to try. All the new graphics [in the sequels] are really cool, but details such as being able to drive the tanks and police missions are not something I enjoy. The real thrill is to bulldoze all those super poor living blocks to create a new highway so I get more high class people in my city to pay more taxes and build more swimming pools... The ‘what if’ configurations for cities are limitless. Another good example of that is a Japanese game called Tokyo Bus Guide, where you have to drive a bus in the Tokyo traffic and keep with the time schedule. Pro Evolution Soccer (Konami, 2001): This game is an example of something crafted with extreme precision and savoir faire. One of the only types of game which I have absolutely no idea how it is done, thus keeping me in the gamer position -- the position where you really enjoy the game. To be frank, I joined the Pro Evolution Soccer bandwagon on the PlayStation 2 and became immediately addicted. In Europe, this is the game you must be able to beat your neighbor at, or else nobody will respect you. In that sense it replaced ‘ye good olde’ Street Fighter and King of Fighters games. By the way, I find it funny that the best soccer game is made by the Japanese. I buy it every year. Too bad on a deserted island there is no network, as online competitive matches are a real thrill, and this is what moved that game to the next level recently. The thrill of not knowing the level and way of playing of your opponent is the real deal. And when you score, hearing the guys at the other side yell in their mics that it was luck is so joyful. Also, being able to see your ranking versus your friends pushes you to play more seriously - there is no way you can be the last guy in your friends’ rankings! Let’s start with the bias - I used to like FIFA when it was in 3D isometric view. It was the kind of the PES of that time. I feel old saying that. At some point FIFA became too much about spectacular moves, and very high scores, so PES caught the interest of players and since at some point your time is limited you keep playing the game that you know. There is no real best game; to me you only have time to invest in one. Usually you only play one sport game and depth and complexity is of importance for that matter. For me that one is PES. I’m not a hardcore soccer fan, and I really enjoy the game. There are so many levels at which you can play the game. It reproduces very well one of the things which makes sports like soccer unique: before the match everybody can win. The result is never known beforehand. To me PES reproduces that very well and that’s why so many people enjoy playing it together. Rez (United Games Artists/Sega, 2001): I could not live without some kind of music/rhythm-based game. To me the appeal was immediate, since the first movie I ever saw in a theater was Tron. Playing that game is like being there. What it does differently is that it is a musical shooter. To me it is a pure version of the thrill you got by playing 2D side scrolling shooters that got more and more intense through levels, only this time it raises also with the music, music having the power to impact on your body, pulling you into the game in a different but also efficient way. My advice: this is a game best enjoyed after a good glass of wine. Being on a deserted island, I would therefore first search for any pirate rum chest to enjoy with the game. I also like to play very close to the biggest possible TV because you start losing visual references. It’s even better in the dark if you ask me. Don’t do that at home! I started playing this game on the Dreamcast, then bought it again on PS2 -- I'm still looking for the trance-vibrator though. Additive blended texture sprite visuals and trance music are a perfect match; to me this kind of audio visual mix is never outdated. Graphics design matters a lot. Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo, 1988): I’m still amazed at what you can do with jumping, scrolling, enemies and moving platforms. It is a GBA cart that I nearly always carry with me when taking planes - now using it in my Nintendo DS. Even playing once a month or every six months does not break game’s accessibility. Awesome. In the 2D platform genre, everything is easy to read and understand, you see the obstacles really well - platforms sizes or where monsters are moving. That makes that type of game very accessible, which is a great way to hook players. Each level is a very challenging puzzle which works by itself. They create new challenges with the same basic set of abilities. The sign of great designs. I discovered the whole Mario universe on computers, and it was only on the SNES that I started playing Super Mario platformers on consoles. Mario keeps it simple, you never forget the rules, so that they can throw more and more complex challenges at you without having you resign before starting because you feel overwhelmed. You always feel in control, even from game to game. Sid Meier’s Civilization (MicroProse, 1991): It is an ideal candidate for a desert island, since I rarely have the time to play it! Also playing all the ‘what if’ scenarios of Civilization is definitely something you'll want to think about on a deserted island after a while! Resource management and strategy are two of the most interesting things to mix in video games and this game is one of the best examples of that. Also the slow pace of the game is something I really enjoy since I’m quite slow to think. I used to play Empire on Amiga and PC a lot because it has so few units. I like really slow strategic games. I enjoy trying the new ones [in the series] to see what has been added; a professional deformation maybe.

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