Ubisoft, back on a very Montpellier odyssey

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Montpellier (AFP) – “Behind the Rabbids, there are people, a territory”: for a quarter of a century, the world history of video games has been partly written in the Ubisoft studios in Montpellier, an “odyssey” that traces a public exhibition open until May.

Ubisoft, a French company founded in 1986 and still managed by the Guillemot siblings, has become an international company, present in around fifty countries around the world and valued around six billion euros, thanks to the success of games like ” Assassin’s Creed”, “Far Cry” or “Just Dance”.

In 1995, she opened modest premises in the pedestrian center of Montpellier. Today, after several moves, more than 450 people work in a hyper modern building of 4,500 m2 located in Castelnau-le-Lez, on the outskirts of the city in the south of France.

Under the leadership of Michel Ancel, a Franco-Monegasque who joined Ubisoft at the age of 17, the Montpellier studio released some of the most famous video game characters in the world from the start, such as Rayman (1995) and Rabbids (2006). ).

Visitors in front of a statue of King Kong from the film by Peter Jackson, in the exhibition on Ubisoft, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier
Visitors in front of a statue of King Kong from the film by Peter Jackson, in the exhibition on Ubisoft, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier Pascal GUYOT AFP

Michel Ancel, who also worked on the adaptation of the film “King Kong” by Peter Jackson and the adventure title “Beyond Good and Evil”, retired in 2020, at 48, from the game industry video.

If the adventure continues without him, we nevertheless find him in video capsules retracing the history of the studio, at the opening of the exhibition “Ubisoft, a Montpellier Odyssey”, inaugurated on Thursday.

Accessible free of charge three days a week (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday), from February 5 to May 7, it is held in the hall of the Creative Campus, a modern building which for six months has housed four schools training in the professions of video games, 3D animation or cinema and design. It is extended by a “video game corner” at the nearby Halle Tropisme.

Visitors discover drawings that were used to create Ubisoft games, in the studio exhibition, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier
Visitors discover drawings that were used to create Ubisoft games, in the studio exhibition, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier Pascal GUYOT AFP

Jean Zeid, journalist specializing in video games and curator of the exhibition, wanted to emphasize, by extracting some 200 works from the company’s archives, that behind these emblematic characters and games, “there are computers, but also creators, with their own sensibility”. “In the games created in Montpellier, nature plays a major role, for example,” he explained during the opening.

veil of mystery

The visitor will discover in particular the very first sketches of Rayman and Rabbids, as well as studies carried out for “Beyond Good and Evil”, an action-adventure game which features a young journalist, Jade, in a futuristic world.

Released in 2004, it did not meet with the expected commercial success, but retains an almost mythical aura and its sequel has been awaited for fifteen years.

Visitors walk past boards that were used for Ubisoft creations, during the studio exhibition, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier
Visitors walk past boards that were used for Ubisoft creations, during the studio exhibition, on February 4, 2022 in Montpellier Pascal GUYOT AFP

On a surprise visit to the Montpellier studios in 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook was able to attend a demonstration of “the technology of +Beyond Good and Evil 2+, which allows you to pass, without latency (reaction time , Editor’s note), from the infinitely small to an entire solar system”, had indicated at the time Ubisoft, always very stingy with details on this project which looks like an Arlesian.

Some very beautiful images of deserts populated by giant monsters, which one would think come from the universes of Star Wars or Dune, give “perhaps” an idea of ​​what the setting of the game could be, explained, without much come forward, the curator of the exhibition, Jean Zeid.

“All I can say is that we are working hard on it. Five studios, all in Europe, are involved: Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Mainz (Germany) and Barcelona (Spain)”, assured AFP , on the sidelines of the opening of the exhibition, the director of Ubisoft Montpellier, Guillaume Carmona.

A statue at the exhibition on the Ubisoft studio in Montpellier, February 4, 2022
A statue at the exhibition on the Ubisoft studio in Montpellier, February 4, 2022 Pascal GUYOT AFP

“Developing technologies at the same time as content is never easy. It’s like creating a universe, rethinking a language”, he remarked, before adding, without lifting the veil any longer: ” The future of gaming continues to happen here.”



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