Assassin's Creed creator sues Ubisoft

Patrice Desilets fights for the rights to 1666: Amsterdam

Former Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Desilets has sued publisher Ubisoft for the rights to his planned game, 1666: Amsterdam. According to a report by Canadian, French-language newspaper La Presse (translated via Polygon), Desilets is seeking $400,000 in damages. That total is comprised of $250,000 for Desilets' promised base salary, $100,000 in legal damages, $35,000 for expenses, and $25,000 for his severance pay.

Desilets left Ubisoft Montreal in 2010 and founded THQ Montreal a year later, a move that had Ubisoft filing its own lawsuit alleging that Desilets poached employees from Ubisoft Montreal. That case was dropped by Ubisoft in October of 2012. While at THQ, Desilets and his team began work on 1666. When THQ went under, Ubisoft purchased THQ Montreal, bringing it back into the fold.

According to court documents obtained by GameInformer, Desilets and Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallet had a meeting where the continued development of 1666 was discussed. Discussions continued for a few months until March, when Desilets inquired about his previous contract while at THQ, hoping to make some changes and acknowledging existing clauses. He wanted the publisher to acknowledge that an "acceptable prototype" had been delivered prior to the end of July of 2012, or provide a waiver allowing Desilets team to continue development. Ubisoft disagreed, and instead wanted to renegotiate his existing contract.

"If Mr. Desilets has any interest in further pursing the 1666 project, he should calm down and sit back down at the table," said Ubisoft attorney Steve Smith in an email. "Ubisoft can develop and publish 1666 with Patrice Desilets or without him. It prefers to do so with him. If the parties cannot agree on a new contract, Ubisoft will fully honor its obligations under the existing contract. But it will also exercise its rights under the existing contract."

Desilets met with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot at the end of March. At the meeting, Guillemot told Desilets that THQ had been "desperate" and given him "too much creative freedom" in his previous agreement. Neither party could agree on changes to the existing agreement, so Ubisoft called Desilets into a meeting on May 7, fired him, and forced him to leave the premises immediately. The publisher also "indefinitely suspended" production on 1666, without outright canceling the title.

Desilets original contract with THQ Montreal allowed for turnaround rights on 1666 if the game was canceled or the contract was terminated without cause. Within a six month window of the game's cancellation, Desilets had the option to pay 145 percent of the amount spent in production, marketing, and other expenses related to the game in order to retain the rights and assets. In the court filing, he asks the court to find that Ubisoft terminated him without cause, allowing him to exercise his turnaround rights.

"As stated before, the acquisition of THQ Montréal in January allowed Ubisoft to welcome 170 experienced developers to our existing and renowned workforce," an Ubisoft representative told Polygon in a statement. "Unfortunately, the discussions between Patrice Désilets and Ubisoft aimed at aligning Patrice's and the studio's visions were inconclusive. We received Patrice's legal request and will address it in court. We will make no further comment at this point."

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Latest comments (6)

Stephan Schwabe Multichannelmanagement, Telefonica6 years ago
Best of luck Patrice!
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gi biz ;, 6 years ago
"Desilets left Ubisoft Montreal in 2010 and founded THQ Montreal a year later"
What does it mean? Can one found, say, Codemaster Paris just like that? I mean, it would be bound to Codemaster I suppose, but would they let an external dude found a branch of their own company? As in I phone Codemaster and say "Hey I want to start a CM studio in Paris, toss some money and commercial help this way" and they /might/ say yes??
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 6 years ago
I think if you have a background like this guy and send also a business plan with a game to be funded and so on and so on you might stand a chance actually :)
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T. Elliot Cannon Game Designer 6 years ago
When you work for someone and they pay you to design and create games you don't own anything, including your ideas and designs. You are labor/talent.. I don't see the legal grounds for his claims.

1666 is the final year of the Bubonic Plague outbreak in Amsterdam
(cheap wikipedia quotes below)
"the city's trading status meant it suffered from an outbreak of bubonic plague from 1663 to 1666, supposed to have come from Algiers to Amsterdam. 24,148 people were buried in Amsterdam "

Just add zombies and heroic dude with Solomon Kane/Warhammer Witch Hunter gear :)
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 6 years ago
Why why why are game designers so stupid?

You let yourself get hired on creative as an employee in a work-for-hire capacity. Sorry: you (in all probability) signed away your rights to the product.

If you were a film director, you'd be known by your audience, you'd have an agent, you'd demand - and get - things like up-front billing, creative control (that is NOT the same as ownership control), a rights reversion clause, sequel rights (first right of refusal to head the sequel), sequel and franchise compensation (reducing over time), possibly a few points of *gross* compensation (depending on your name). All of these things.

You only get a salary as a game designer.

Why do you agree to these kinds of deals?

And then the chief excuse they make is that "games are a collaborative process so no core creator should get top billing". Um... so are films. Anyway, by pulling yourselves down like crabs in a bucket, all that happens is what is happening now: the suits swoop in to fill the creative power vaccuum, taking not only ownership control, but also creative control!

You are fools, game designers.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 11th June 2013 8:06pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
But then, the same thing happened in comics. Writers and artists wanted to produce something of value, but the budget required to create material without a big publisher behind them was too much; in addition, a big publisher (in both games and comics) has marketing muscle. It's only in the last 30 or so years (in an industry that's 70 years old) that this has really changed.

It's a sign that an industry is maturing when creators can use their names to make money and create what they want, whilst owning the rights to what they produce. Sadly, some of the large personalties in the games industry hinder this cause, rather than help it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 11th June 2013 8:16pm

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