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I just turned 41.
In the previous year, I had a divorce, quit my job, solf my flat. with nothing left behind me, I went on to fulfill an old dream of crossing the US.
And I thought, why not do it on a bike ? I could take 4, 5, 6 months to do it.
This blog is about my journey.
I’m a french guy living (for now) just east of Paris and (for a few more days) working as a project manager in Ubisoft.
I’ve been managing or producing video games for 17 years, mostly in Ubisoft, but in smaller publishers or small or larger development studios as well. I also founded a small dev studio about ten years ago, Black Sheep. It stills exists to this day !
I love working in this industry. First of course as I’m an avid gamer, on PC or handheld / mobile and playing strategy, shooter or RPGs – I finished Skyrim a few days ago (well the main quests at least). But from time to time I play on console or other types of games. I also love the creativity, seeing an idea being turned into a project, working with great people, travelling the world, and seeing the fun and pleasure people get from enjoying what your team did. I also love the fact that you have to reinvent yourself every few years. The way games are done now has not much to do with how they were done 5 years ago, let alone 15 years ago. Well apart from the ol’ retail “box, brick & mortar” industry, but even this one is challenged pretty hard to take into account online, free to play and user-generated content.
What have I done in all these years that I can boast about on this page ?
In my first three years-stretch at Ubisoft, I produced a lot of small-ish games on handheld or PC. I especially liked working on Capitalism 2 with Enlight, and got to visit Hong Kong a couple times.
I left to join Kalisto and manage a development team directly – two teams actually, on two projects, for one year. Then Planet Interactive, a handheld studio where I headed the teams and about ten projects. It was 2002 and many (half, by my count) of video game studios in France went down, as Planet and Kalisto did, both for very different reasons.
At this point I founded Black Sheep with my former Kalisto team. The studio published mostly PC, handheld and a few console games, and more recently, tablet or mobile, free to play games. I also established JIRAF with other french developers, an association to help fellow workers in a blighted industry at the time, but it’s not active anymore.
I worked for a month at Microids, and returned to Ubisoft mid 2003. I am proud to have produced Heroes of Might & Magic 5, a great licence with a demanding community 🙂 With a colleague of mine, we offered to develop what became the first webbased & free to play game of Ubisoft. It took about 3 years to develop and release Heroes Kingdoms late 2009, which was operated for more than 4 years. A really big challenge to develop a free to play game in such a cruiseship like Ubisoft, specialized and even mono-tasked to produce retail games ! The dev team we recruited from scratch was motivated, the top management was motivated, but the whole structure didnt want to hear about changing the way they worked. And noone had any idea about this whole new segment of the industry. But we released the game and reached a monthly balance in revenue after many tries.
In 2011 we started a new, more ambitious free to play game, a tactical shooter based on a Ubisoft licence. But the game proved not good enough to retain the players who tested it early 2013. While I was in vacation in may, my team was disbanded on other projects. Great management there folks ! 😉 I wrote a couple concepts after that, and decided to quit.
It was a good time to do that, as the divorce procedure finally reaches the conclusion, after almost one year. It’s very easy, and almost free (apart from the festivities !) to get married, but divorce is long and costly ! And at the same time, I chose to sell the apartment bought 3 years ago. I need to turn that page too and start something new.
Now, in 2014, as I write this text while watching Forrest Gump, and reaching the part where he decides to “simply run”, I realize the privilege I have to be able to realize a dream, taking months on end and simply enjoying the US landscapes 🙂 And also enjoying a fresh start, a chance you get so very few times in a life.