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Ubisoft's Michael de Plater

The creative director talks about launching new IPs, the progress of technology and releasing games at Christmas

One of the new IPs launched late last year was Ubisoft's EndWar - a Tom Clancy-badged game that brought voice recognition software into mainstream gaming to good effect. But while it sold well, it was arguably drowned out by other big franchise and sequel releases.

Here, the game's creative director, Michael de Plater, talks about the challenges of launching a new IP, a new trend emerging for release dates, the inexorable march of technology, and the opportunities that brings. You were heavily involved in the Total War franchise a few years ago - have you seen or played the latest game, Empire?
Michael de Plater

Actually I haven't played it yet - it's one of those ones on the list, just because I've been moving back from China to Europe. I know it's going to eat a huge chunk of my life when I do, so I'm just setting aside some time to play it.

Obviously I looked at the reviews pretty closely. It must be pretty exciting to have been involved in something that was groundbreaking in its genre - was it a tough decision to leave and join Ubisoft?
Michael de Plater

Actually the tough part of going to Ubisoft - because I left at the end of Rome, which I was really happy with, and that was a good time to leave - was that it wasn't the end of Spartan, which was the console action game. I really liked it, and I think there are a lot of things about it that make a great game.

So leaving before that was finished was the tough decision, but then if I'd waited until the end of that, there'd have been something else. Back then it was the beginning of the next generation of consoles and I really, strongly wanted to get onto the console. Ubi gave me the chance to do that, and also the chance to work in China was really exciting too.

So it was tough, but it was a new adventure as well. A lot has happened in the past 4-5 years - what's the biggest change you've seen, from sitting inside a big, publisher-owned studio?
Michael de Plater

To me, it's been a period of enormous change, and the last four years I would say has been the time when games have actually surpassed movies as the premium blockbuster entertainment.

Things like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - you can totally stack them up next to whatever the blockbuster movies are, whether it's Transformers or Terminator.

It's two things - on the one hand, as blockbuster entertainment games have finally reached a point where they're the leading medium, but at the same time there's been this meteoric rise of casual, online and mobile games.

I think sometimes those two things are perceived as being somehow in conflict with each other - there are blockbuster games and there are casual games - but I think the future moving forwards will be the convergence of those trends.

So, real blockbuster games that then connect to you everywhere - on Facebook, on your iPhone, and so on. Nobody sees a blockbuster movie and says it's only for the core audience...
Michael de Plater

The thing that really excited me about that direction the other day... and something I really like with Ubisoft, when you hear about Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] or whoever talking about the convergence about the film and games... but I opened up Empire magazine when I got to the UK the other day and there was a feature about Avatar the movie being revealed - but they were using screenshots from the game.

It's actually becoming a reality, and I think that's really exciting.

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