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.