20 Questions Interviews

20 Questions with Ubisoft Montreal’s Gabriel Graziani

Written by LevelSave

This weeks 20 Questions will be with Gabriel Graziani [GG] (Community Developer working at Ubisoft Montreal) @UbiGabe     (dont forget to vote on the next 20Q Here)

Community Managers are a key part to any company, but in the gaming industry the Community Manager is like a golden gun on GoldenEye. Worth their weight in gold… just joking.  They are one of the most valuable parts of a great video game development team. Helping to relay information to game makers before during and after a game is being made, this can take that game from Bust to Platinum. There are many Community Managers out there hard at work, I can speak for lots of gamers and myself when I say thank you and please tell me a little bit more!

Tell us a little about youself Mr.Graziani

[GG] I’ve been working as a Community Developer at Ubisoft Montreal for the last six years. Generally, I work as a sort of bridge between the developers that make the games and the players who play them. I’ve been told by my coworkers that I play a lot of games, even for someone in the games industry, which I am pretty proud of… I try to game every day, because, for me, it’s my main leisure activity and the way I recharge. I also enjoy spending time with my wife and six year-old son… and sometimes we even game together (my son and I both love Minecraft!).

1) We all had that first video game experience that hooked us in one way or another, what was your first video game moment?

[GG] Wow, that’s a great question… Honestly, it’s difficult to remember that far back, because I think that my first video game moments occurred when I was very young, like around five or six years old. My uncle had an Atari 2600 and a case full of games, and I remember playing Adventure, Combat and one of my favorites was Yar’s Revenge. Back in those days, graphics were more a suggestion of what was going on than an accurate representation, but Yar’s Revenge came with a mini comic book that outlined an epic story and it gave me this extraordinary fantasy to attach to the little squares flickering on the screen.

2) Rainbow 6 Three changed gaming forever for me, What was your first online game? and on what? (pc, ps, xbox)

[GG] My first online game… was actually Counter Strike on the original Xbox. Previous to that, the idea of playing multiplayer hadn’t been interesting to me in any way… just because I don’t consider myself to be especially competitive. But I was working at GamePro Magazine as a Graphic Designer when the team needed some players to try out Counter Strike… so I did and was instantly hooked! The teamwork and coordination were so much fun! I’d never experienced anything like that before.

3) What game do you think changed the way we play games forever?

[GG] Technically, I’d have to say the original Castle Wolfenstein by ID Software, just because it introduced smooth first-person perspective. It spawned an entire genre that has arguably gone on to be the most popular every year since.


4) What was the turning point in VGs in your eyes, from the old game to the LETS play this Game? (for me it was online games)

[GG] Yeah, I’d agree with that… between Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, I think that time period was very pivotal for games. Those two games in particular elevated gaming itself to a level of popularity and accessibility it had never known before. Videogames weren’t just a thing that a handful of nerds did in their parents’ basement anymore (to use a tired and outdated stereotype)… when CoD and WoW dropped, they had appeal to everyone and introduced a social element that has basically redefined how games are played.

5) UbiSoft has recently invested over 370 million dollars into Quebec and Montreal operations, including motion capture technologies, what new features and additions does this bring to the table for UbiSoft?

[GG] I couldn’t really comment on any specifics… but not because we’re not allowed to talk about it or anything like that. Just because I’m not super familiar with the technology itself.

6) Does UbiSoft currently use the DRM on any of its products and will it use it on any future projects that you know of?

[GG] Not any of the major releases, as far as I know… but I know it’s been a sore subject in the past. There was a time when we had some always-on functionality that would block the game from working properly unless an internet connection and valid registration key was present, but that was quickly removed from the games it was used on and hasn’t been back since. Now, we focus more on offering extra goodies to players for registering and logging into Uplay… the idea is that players should enjoy extra benefits for participating in that validation, which also gives us some non-personal data on how players interact with game content, and that actually helps us make better games.

7) Over the years what is the one vehicle thats your go to when its time to mob with a group online?

[GG] Probably the Warthog, just because I have so much history with Halo, haha! Although, I do enjoy flying a helicopter in Battlefield, just because it’s so challenging and that feels realistic to me.

8) If you can pick one map from any game what would your favorite map be?

[GG] Uuuuugggghhhh… that’s a tough one. I’d say Arathi Basin from WoW, just because I had so many fun times in those Battlegrounds – especially with a Gnome Rogue with a Parachute Cloak, I could jump from the Mine on the mountain and drop onto unsuspecting enemies at the Blacksmith!! But also DE_Dust from Counter Strike, which is a total classic, hehe.

9) Would you remake it for which modern game? which one?

[GG] Haha, both of those already exist in modern versions of their games! Of course, it’s been a long time since I’ve played in WoW Battlegrounds… I should try it again.


10) What do you think the future holds with social media and Video Games?

[GG] I think we’re looking at more and more connection between people’s online social lives and how they intersect with games. I think it’s generally going to become a lot more casual in terms of how people connect social media and gaming. Kind of like, they’ll just naturally continue on this path of becoming more integrated as services become more reliable and we might not even notice how closely tied they’ll eventually become. I think they are two sides of the same coin, so they fit together really well. I mean, PvP kickstarted the popularity of online multiplayer, but since then it’s branched into all kinds of online interaction methods from co-op to asynchronous competitive stuff like Words with Friends. People like playing games with each other, so the desire for interaction is clearly there – just like with social media.

11) Off the record as a UbiSoft employee, just as a gamer, what are your thoughts on this Lizard group or the methods they are using to make a point?

[GG] Haha… nothing is every off-the-record, but I would say that for myself, I don’t appreciate what they are doing. Who are they to judge how people spend their time? Also, I don’t buy the idea that they are somehow revealing security flaws when all they are really doing is triggering the failsafe designed to ensure that everyone can use the internet… it’s not clever at all and doesn’t really involve skill. Plus, the idea that they would sell such a service to the highest bidder indicates seriously mercenary intent, which isn’t especially endearing in any way.

12) TC Rainbow Six: Patriots was scrapped last year for TC Rainbow Six: Siege, will it still focus heavily on Multi-player and have realistic destructible environments?

[GG] I would definitely point you in the direction of our awesome Rainbow Six ComDevs Gen and Chase who are busily answering community questions with their Behind the Wall video series! You can watch the first episode here

13) Regarding Blacklist and the removal of the torture scene, this is not a first in video game to include a questionable scene. Should game makers change their game to meet every public outcry? What about being true to the game? How do you manage these two issue?

[GG] I don’t know that I am the best person to respond to that, since I wasn’t involved in that particular scenario on that game. At the same time, I think the idea of “staying true to the game” is a bit challenging in the real world where you have hundreds of developers all working together who all have their own ideas and creative impulses. Ideally, you have Creative Direction to provide a core vision that defines what the “true game” is going to be, but in practice you have a lot of wiggle-room for how you arrive at that vision. I think for a lot of devs, they just want people to play and enjoy their games, so if removing a scene or feature will result in a wider audience, they’re all for it. That said, there are many devs who want to stick to their own artistic vision and have things laid out exactly as they want them, but that frame of mind seems better suited to the indie sector where individual amateurs have more control over the final product.

14) Far Cry 4 has gotten some of the best reviews every for a UbiSoft game, but reports still say it lacks plot while having “tiresome” characters, What is your favorite part of Far Cry 4 and do you prefer story or just messing about?

[GG] Well, it’s funny because I am typically really into the narratives of games. Like, I read World of Warcraft and Halo novels – I’m *that guy* who loves the underlying lore. So, coming from that, I find games like Far Cry intriguing because the narrative is driven by me… I decide what the story is as I go along based on what I do or don’t do. At the same time, this kind of systemic game gives me the freedom to explore and uncover the story of the place that I’m playing in… in the case of FC4, that’s the mountainous nation of Kyrat and I am really enjoying learning about what it’s all about.

15) The snowdrop engine for TC The Division looks insane! What unique features will The Division have that is unique to itself?

[GG] I’m really not the best person to answer that question since I’m following The Division as a fan rather than as a Community Developer, hehe. Although, it brings up a good point, because for games that I am not specifically working on, I tend not to seek out information about them… like, I know that I am going to buy The Division when it comes out because I love the Tom Clancy games and am super curious about what it’s going to be like, so I’m happy to wait and be surprised!


16) What type of Social interaction and integration will the Division have?

[GG] I haven’t been following it closely, as I’d mentioned, but I’m curious if they’ll still have the drone interaction that they showed at E3… that looked cool. I really enjoyed the Watch_Dogs mobile app for its competitive aspect, so a remote co-op experience should be cool too.

17) Is The Division still plained for XboxOne PS4 and PC?

[GG] As far as I know, haha!

18) TC Splinter Cell is due back this year, any news about this epic video game series?

[GG] This one I straight up cannot answer, hehe.

19) The community is obviously very vocal about their likes and dislikes on your works, specifically on what they dub ”the Ubisoft formula“, how does your team reply to this feedback?

[GG] Oh my, I can’t speak for the whole team, but I think the goal overall is to provide a systemic sandbox for players to pursue their own goals and objectives. Developers talk a lot about “player agency” and that really just boils down to having ownership and control over your experience in a game… like, you have the freedom to do what you want and observe the consequences. In order to deliver that kind of experience, there are naturally going to be some mechanical similarities, but I’m proud of the variety in the Ubisoft library… I mean, look at Assassin’s Creed! We’ve gone from the Middle East during the Third Crusades, to Renaissance Italy, to the Ottoman Empire and on to the American Revolution and Paris… that seems like a lot of variety, at least in game environments, to me.

20) Any news on the TC Splinter Cell movie which at this point has Tom Hardy playing Sam Fisher & Warner Bros and Paramount producing it?

[GG] Unfortunately, I’m not privy to much of the movie discussions since Ubisoft has its own business unit devoted specifically to film production. But don’t worry… I’m sure that more information will be available when the time is right. I doubt they’ll be as stealthy about the release as Sam, hehe.


Thanks for reading folks, till next time plug in your mic and play with someone!

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