Ubisoft is renowned for their AAA games, typically sticking with tried and true formulas to maintain a consistent player base. However, one developer in the company, Sarah S. Fisher, wanted to break the mold and create a new zeitgeist for the upcoming generation of games.
Her vision: a vast world that is completely free for the player to explore. Just as long as they explore it in the right order.
“It is a mind-blowing concept,” says creative director Clint Hocking. “Letting the player roam freely around the world to work on quests at their leisure. Locking certain regions off until they beat specific missions to keep the story beats in check. This is amazing. I don’t know how this method of gameplay has never been envisioned before.”
As remarkable as this discovery was to Ubisoft, CEO Yves Guillemot states that this is still a high-risk venture. “We do not wish to overwhelm players with this influx of highbrow ideas all at once. With such an elaborate environment, this leaves much more room for error. And with our Ubisoft Plus service being $14.99 a month, we need to ensure we only submit quality content for our consumers.”
Despite the risks, it is easy to see the benefits of such a groundbreaking game type. The format lends itself to create a deceptively strong opening segment, so journalists and reviewers give the game a good score. Then rinse and repeat missions for the remaining locations until the desired number of play hours are reached. This winning formula could be replicated for different IPs and multiple games to come.
Despite the potential, Ubisoft ultimately shelved Fisher’s idea. “This was simply too cumbersome to dedicate an entire dev team,” says Guillemot. “Although we would love to see this come to fruition, we had to decide to either embark on this lofty experiment or go for the more commercially stable release and develop Rayman: Raving Rabbids 3. The choice was obvious.”
Sarah S. Fisher has since left Ubisoft to try her innovative ideas in the indie game scene. The developer is already turning heads with his upcoming breakthrough project: a pastel-colored walking simulator that will focus more on story than gameplay.