Ubisoft Canned Ambitious RPG Project By Former Dragon Age Creative Director

Illustration for article titled Ubisoft Canned Ambitious RPG Project By Former Dragon Age Creative Director
Illustration: BioWare

In December of 2018, former Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw joined Ubisoft Quebec to work on an unannounced project. A little over a year later, in January 2020, Laidlaw left the position with no explanation. According to a report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, the cause of Laidlaw’s departure was the cancelation of a project code-named Avalon, an ambitious adventure based on Arthurian legend, by former Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoët.


According to the Bloomberg report, which cites anonymous former and current Ubisoft employees familiar with the project, Avalon was a “big-budget adventure” revolving around the many heroic tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Unlike Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed, rooted in actual history, Avalon would have been set in a world of swords and sorcery, myths and legends. The game would have a cooperative online element to it, similar to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series.

While it sounds like the perfect setting for an Ubisoft-style open-world adventure, the report indicates then Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoët did not agree. Not a fan of the fantasy genre, Hascoët reportedly set a very high bar for the project, telling the team working on Avalon that it needed to be “better than Tolkien.”

Serge Hascoët resigned from Ubisoft in July of this year following weeks of sexual misconduct allegations. The role of chief creative officer is currently being filled by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Hascoët’s departure came immediately after widespread reports of misconduct at the Toronto-based studio which also resulted in the resignation of Ubisoft head of Canadian studios Yannis Mallat, and the company’s global head of human resources Cécile Cornet.

Unable to meet Hascoët’s high standards, Laidlaw and his team pitched new settings for the game, including a science fiction theme and one based on Greek mythology, only to be repeatedly shot down. By the fall of 2019, the project was canceled. Mike Laidlaw left Ubisoft in January of 2020.

According to Bloomberg’s report, developers working on the project were surprised to see the Avalon project so hindered simply because one man did not like its setting. That’s a lot of power for one person to wield, even at as massive a game publisher as Ubisoft. Hopefully Ubisoft’s ongoing restructuring will give original projects like Avalon more of a fighting chance in the future.

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Randy Randerson

It’s wild to hear that one of the largest developers in the world gives so much creative control to a single individual - I’m not sure even Miyamoto has enough influence at Nintendo to unilaterally can a project just because he doesn’t like one aspect of it. From Jason’s article, it also sounds like this CCO was one of the primary reasons why Ubi’s games have become so homogenous and creatively safe the past few years:

“Hascoët resigned earlier this month after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct at the company, including accusations that he enabled and facilitated a frat house-like culture. His grip on power also stifled creativity at Ubisoft, according to people familiar with the company’s internal procedures. Current and former Ubisoft developers said Hascoët rejected some ideas with great potential and alienated high-profile employees, limiting the company’s potential.” 

Hopefully all this organizational turmoil will result in a richer and more vibrant creative culture.

(Also - I really wish Jason had gone anywhere but Bloomberg. I love his writing but hate the thought of supporting the paper’s namesake, and I’m certainly not paying once I hit the paywall limit)