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Eidos Montreal's Stephane D'Astous

The GM discusses collaborating with Square Enix on Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Set up in 2007 and now part of the wider Square Enix publishing business, Eidos Montreal is currently at work reviving two of the companies highly regarded franchises, Deus Ex and Thief. Shown for the first time at E3 in June, Deus Ex: Human Revolution also marked the first collaboration between Eidos development talent and Square's CGI team in Japan, the results of which can be seen here.

Here, in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, general manager Stepane D'Astous discusses working with Japan on the trailer, the passion of the Deus Ex community, and the responsibility of the development team and their duty to help expand the franchise to a wider audience.

GamesIndustry.biz How's the studio, am I right in thinking you're in your third year?
Stephane D-Astous

It's been three years now, we opened up in 2007. At the time Eidos wanted to open up a new studio and it wanted to have internal growth rather than an acquisition. So it was a fresh experience for most of us, to be part of something that was starting from scratch. It was my honour to be involved with building the studio from scratch. We opened in the summer of 2007 and now we consist of two development teams and a healthy QA department.

GamesIndustry.biz And what size is the team?
Stephane D-Astous

It varies depending on the production cycle but the important thing for us is to attract the talent we wanted to have the development teams to be a manageable size. Some other dev teams in Montreal, for other studios, are very big. It's a unique-sized team for a triple-A effort and we can give them a longer production cycle. It's like putting a cake in the oven – if you put it at 700 degrees it won't bake faster. We like a realistic balance of staff.

GamesIndustry.biz One of things that struck me about Montreal was the was sense of community, not just within one studio, but amongst all the talent in the region. That seems to be a real strength of the area.
Stephane D-Astous

It's one of the largest IGDA chapters in the world. It's a very close community and it's very open. People really talk in the sense that we're proud of where we're going and we want to share as much as possible within the boundaries of reason. The culture in Montreal is that the staff there are really here to produce triple-A games. Everything started with Ubisoft, then came ourselves, Electronic Arts and THQ has just announced a new business in Montreal. If publishers want to open a new studio, Montreal has a good critical mass of talent and people are really attracted to that. We get a lot of interest outside of Canada which leads to a lot of multi-nationality dev teams. The value of the Montreal is the varied nationality of the talent. I always say Montreal is in between the European mentality and culture, and the business approach of North America. This balance between two distinct cultures in one city is quite unique.

GamesIndustry.biz What's you relationship like with the other Square Enix and Eidos studios and how closely do you work together?
Stephane D-Astous

When we started at Eidos Montreal we really felt like part of a family. Crystal Dynamics and IO Interactive, they have a great pedigree and it's been an honour to work with them. We do share a lot more than in my previous life with a previous publisher where it was very competitive between internal studios. At Eidos we said we aren't big enough to be pounding our chest but we can be a bigger business by combining out talents. We share data, we share technology, we share best practice. Every year we have an academy of experts and we bring the experts of each domain – AI, animation – and bring the best guys together for a week to share their experiences over the last 12 months. There's a lot of sharing between studios.

GamesIndustry.biz Did you notice a distinct change to the studio culture when Square Enix took over the business?
Stephane D-Astous

Not in the day to day operations. Our Japanese colleague are very respectful of the cultures that are within Eidos. They're not the type to interfere. They're here to listen to what we've got to say. We're learning and sharing together and from each other. We feel more supported than ever.

GamesIndustry.biz Eidos Montreal was the first studio to work directly with Square Enix on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Can you talk us through that process?
Stephane D-Astous

It was about a year ago that we need to create our CGI trailers. Around June of last year we really got started on our concepts of the CGI trailer and we found the pitch of the concept and we needed to have someone produce it. At that time we were sure the guys in Japan were booked up for years and there was absolutely no way they could have done this for us. But we took a chance and made a call asking, "should we at least try to ask, it doesn't hurt to ask." We phoned Wada-san and he came over with some directors from Japan to hear our pitch. They flew for sixteen hours for the one meeting so I knew they were serious and we had to make it count. And obviously it worked and we have the beautiful trailer to show for it.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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