Tommy Fran­cois took a long and wend­ing ca­reer path be­fore ac­cept­ing his role as Ubisoft’s IP di­rec­tor, tak­ing in jour­nal­ism at Canal+, game pro­duc­tion with Shiny, and man­ager at MTV’s Game­One chan­nel. He joined Ubisoft in 2006 and to­day is the first port of call when work be­gins on a new game.

“Our motto is to try to make the best videogames in the world. There’s no se­cret sauce to do­ing that, and we have a process that’s a frame­work, but it’s there to be bent,” he ex­plains. “Each cre­ation is or­ganic and dif­fer­ent, com­prised of dif­fer­ent hu­mans, prob­lems, themes, and [in­ter­ac­tiv­ity]…”

The process be­gins with cre­ative work­shops de­signed to flesh out the game’s de­sign and world, which take place out­side of the of­fice at venues ar­ranged by French sem­i­nar specialist Cha­teu Form. “We go there for three days,” Fran­cois says. “And the pro­ducer, cre­ative di­rec­tor, art di­rec­tor, scriptwriter, game di­rec­tor, game de­sign, lead game de­sign – people like that – all at­tend. Ex­ecs don’t have more power in a work­shop. It’s about ev­ery­one’s opin­ion. Good ideas don’t come from the [top]; they can come from any­where. IP de­vel­op­ment is about find­ing the iden­tity of a project. If it’s not find­ing it, then it’s cre­at­ing it, or sup­port­ing it, or en­hanc­ing it and show­ing it in games. It might be sur­pris­ing to you to think that in­side Ubisoft at some point we were like, What the fuck is Far Cry?’”

Af­ter thrash­ing out the ini­tial char­ac­ter of a game, Fran­cois’ team aims to keep that iden­tity fo­cused. His staff will step in to pro­duce trail­ers and art if asked to by the pro­duc­tion team, and help with brand ex­ten­sions such as comic books and nov­els. “As much as we are head of­fice, I pre­fer to be a ser­vice,” he says. “Some­one’s go­ing to think about what The Di­vi­sion means in book form. What does it mean in movie form? Some­one has to think about that, but you’re busy mak­ing the game, so let us think about that.

“It’s funny, the ed­i­to­rial thing. A lot of people think our job is [to say], ‘Do this; im­ple­ment that.’ That would never hap­pen. If you don’t agree on some­thing, your heart is not go­ing to be in it. That’s just the process of cre­ation in any me­dia form. Even in a band, you start off with a riff, and by the end you work to­gether to make a song. It’s be­ing cre­ative. It’s work­ing to­gether and see­ing what the op­por­tu­ni­ties are.”

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