Valiant Hearts: The Great War was an amazing game. Not only was it great, but it was also one of Ubisoft’s only solid releases in a year that was mired by controversy for the studio. It’s for that reason why it was so surprising to learn that the director of the game, Yoan Fanise, left not only Ubisoft, but also AAA development altogether. In a career that spanned almost 14 years in the game industry, Yoan helped work on games like Beyond Good & Evil and Assassin’s Creed.
Yoan recently had a very interesting discussion with Gamasutra, where he discussed his reasoning for leaving the AAA development scene and what he plans to do after leaving.
When asked why exactly he chose to leave Ubisoft, Yoan spoke about how the feeling of a close knit group had started to diminish after more people joined his studio:
“Beyond Good & Evil was a 30+ team production with a unique, creative mood that Michel Ancel is able to bring….The more we grew, the more this mood diminished. 100, 250, 500 people…it was necessary due to the technical evolution and AAA requirements, but on the creative and human side something was missing.”
Yoan was a member of the team that helped bring us Assassin’s Creed III, and after the game, he wanted to “restart” things and focus on a smaller title and let the team interact more with their audience:
“I mean the industrial scale and organization of a giant project like Assassin’s Creed removes some direct connection between people from different job categories, for example. Your interactions are limited, and it is really difficult to have a global vision of the finished game. But at that scale, it would be very hard to make it different.”
“On Valiant Hearts we wanted to bring back the Beyond Good & Evil spirit, the collegial creative process…I receive tons of messages from gamers, touched by the story, realizing that video games can also deal with serious subjects, ask deeper questions and still be fun to play.”
While the release of Valiant Hearts: The Great War was met with universal acclaim, Yoan gave us a brief glimpse into the life of a developer with the sad fact that compared to its AAA brethren, smaller titles don’t give much in terms of revenue:
“Business-wise, even if the game is a success, with over a million players and many awards, this is still small revenue compared to blockbusters. That’s the harsh reality.”
“There are a lot of really interesting opportunities, and I’m still taking time to find the one that is most exciting. Why not go real indie after have been called “fake indie” during my two years on Valiant Hearts?”
The interview itself is a good read, and shines the light on what some AAA developers think and go through during their time at a large company. We’ve already seen many Indie companies begin to catch up to AAA games in terms of popularity, and with the startup of programs like ID@XBOX, it’s never been a better time to be a member of an indie studio.