Last week Rayman creator Michel Ancel shocked the gaming world when he announced he was retiring from Ubisoft and the video game industry as a whole, despite his most recent game, Beyond Good and Evil 2, still being in the midst of development. It felt like we weren’t quite getting the whole story, and now it seems that other shoe has dropped.
French newspaper Libération, which brought to light many of the recent details about Ubisoft workplace misconduct, reports that Beyond Good and Evil 2 development is in disarray, with no real concrete progress being made over the course of seven years of development. According to the anonymous Ubisoft employees interviewed by Libération, the blame for this largely lies with Michel Ancel, who is described as a control freak with a penchant for sudden changes of heart that would result in large quantities of work being scrapped. According to one BG&E2 developer, Ancel did little to soften the blow when he decided changes needed to be made (thanks to ICO Partners’ Thomas Bidaux for the translation).
Michel needs the ideas to be his. He often prefers to improvise something of his own rather than listen to the team and look at the structured work we’ve done at his request. […] He’s able to explain to you that you’re a genius, that your idea is great, and then disassemble you in meetings by saying you’re a piece of shit, that your work is worthless, and not talk to you for a month.
As many expected, the impressive Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailers shown in 2017 and 2018 were simply concepts, “made by hand, in a rush” with little relation to what the game might eventually be. According to one former BG&E2 dev, the “stupid level of detail” featured in them would never be able to be replicated in the actual game given its ambitious multi-planet, open-world concept.
Ancel’s constant demand for changes and abrasive management style reportedly lead to widespread “depression, burnout, and requests for transfers” amongst the team. In 2017 former Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon veteran Jean-Marc Geffroy was brought on board to get BG&E2 on track, leading to clashes with Ancel. In recent years, Ancel had largely withdrawn from the project, only checking in periodically while he focused on his independent game, Wild. Unfortunately, the new leaders brought in to head up BG&E2 were apparently no less toxic.
To try to alleviate the Ancel problem, they sent us some big names, others of these “talents” with oversized egos and execrable behaviors caught up in a barely concealed superhero syndrome, all convinced that it would be them and them alone who would save BG&E2.
What ultimately drove Michel Ancel to retire from the gaming industry is unknown, but according to Libération, he is under internal Ubisoft investigation following complaints. Nevertheless, his announcement did take most on the team by surprise. Beyond Good and Evil 2 will apparently move ahead and is currently staffing up. Ancel’s only remaining influence over the project is said to be a single piece of paper featuring eight bullet points outlining the game’s basic vision. As of now, Ubisoft has yet to officially comment on Libération’s story.
Like many others, I was very excited when Beyond Good and Evil 2 was announced, so it’s particularly disheartening to hear about what was has reportedly been going on behind the scenes. It sounds like Michel Ancel’s “auteur” style of making games just wasn’t compatible with modern large-scale AAA development, but that’s no excuse for mistreating your employees. The project will continue on, but given Ancel’s departure and the human toll already taken, maybe it’s time to give up our dreams of BG&E2.
What do you think? Still interested in Beyond Good and Evil 2? Or is the writing on the wall?