FOCUS : DESIGN
Before joining editorial, Elisabeth Pellen spent 12 years at Ubisoft as a scriptwriter, level designer and creative director. Today she shapes the design direction of Ubisoft’s games alongside CCO Serge Hascoet, managing editorial’s line designers as online content director.
“Now that I work on the dark side of the Moon, I just try to help the dev team to reach the highest level of quality possible,” she says. “When I joined editorial, before I became online content director, I started to work as a line designer, and I think line designers need to perceive the videogame industry with some distance.”
The types of designers in Pellen’s team range from old hands to graduates, and the latter’s fresh eyes are considered valuable. Senior line designers bring more experience to the table, but moving to Paris’s editorial team isn’t considered a promotion for a designer or producer. “It’s not a graduation,” Pellen says. “When you work as a line designer, you don’t receive the spotlight, and if the game achieves great success, it’s never officially thanks to you. It’s not so easy and it requires a very mature person. You need to fix your own objectives but you also need to find your own rewards. It requires a lot of autonomy and humility, and you need to respect the ownership. You can’t [tell somebody to] design the level this way. You can’t do the job instead of the guys making the game. When you come from production like me, it requires some adaptation.
“It requires some psychology and some communication skills to inspire those guys, but when I was in production, it was something that was really helpful. When you’re lead level designer and you design 35 levels and you need to integrate more than 200 scripted events, [plus] you’re a perfectionist and you care about the smallest details, sometimes you can forget why you’re doing it. It’s cool to have a line designer who tells you [where to focus your energy]. When it works that way, it’s really cool.”
Ubisoft’s design directives include a push towards reality and multiplayer that’s already evident in its biggest games, but in the future Pellen foresees a new dedication to pure creativity. “User-generated content will be more and more at the centre of the experience,” she says. “I don’t mean that we’ll give players a level editor, but we’ll let them express parts of their personality.
Might & Magic: Duel Of
Champions [was a success] thanks to Twitch more than to classic marketing… PC gaming is an inspiration for us, because PC is where the avant-garde is. But the new consoles have incorporated a lot of PC features, and it will be easier for players to communicate their personality through the games.”