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Ubisoft/Raymanzone Interviews with the developers of Rayman 3

Pauline Jacquey - Senior Producer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly? Pauline Jacquey :

My name is Pauline Jacquey, I'm 28, and I collect octopuses. After being project manager or "producer" on Rayman 2 ("producer" has more of a Hollywood ring about it, even though the salary remains the same!) - and working on design in the United States and Shanghai - I became "senior producer" on the last nine months of production for Rayman 3, alongside Ahmed Boukhelifa.

How does one come to be project manager on a game like Rayman 3?

I graduated from a school of management, which allowed me to pick up a general training. But, like most people who work in this industry, I was really interested in everything but management - in my case, the cinema, music, TV, high-tech gadgets and games in general. I reckon it was this interest in the entertainment sector that pushed me towards video games in the first place. This is an industry where 50% of the people you work with are artists (graphic designers, animators, musicians, scriptwriters, game designers), and the other 50% are highly specialized technically (engineers and game programmers). So nearly all the entertainment professions get thrown in together, with an added technological dimension on top.

In a few words, what does your job involve?

My job is mainly organizational - that is, my mission involves creating the best possible work structure for each member of the development team. I'm surrounded by specialists from different fields (programming, game design, graphic design, animation, etc.) and it's up to me to ensure that their work is correctly coordinated. I work with a director, just like in the movie industry, and he's responsible for the creative vision of the game. My work also includes sticking to a budget, monitoring technological developments, market analysis and a lot of communication within my company to make sure the team can work calmly, in a climate that's conducive to self-expression.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

I always wanted to work in a sector with a mix of artistic and technical skills. After two not very satisfactory internships in publishing and television, I joined Ubi Soft in 1997 and cut my teeth on Rayman 2, after working as an assistant to one of the brothers who founded the company. At the time, I thought the video game industry was a fun, big-budget field to work in - and I wasn't mistaken!

What's it like being a woman in such a masculine sector?

It doesn't make much difference, really. I work with teams that judge me by my work - full stop. In France, or in the United States, I never felt that being a woman influenced the reactions of the people I worked with in any way. The only time I found it difficult to impose my point of view was in China, and this was undoubtedly because I'm a woman and over there it's not very common for women to manage teams of men. But that experience didn't work out too badly in the end.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a video game project manager?

Clearly, you're always better equipped with a prestigious general education from a high-ranking engineering or business school. But, that said, it's not essential. Higher education plus international experience, and a keen interest in video games, cinema, and so on, could suffice. What's more, any personal project you've seen through from start to finish - a short film you made with friends, a rock group, a model for a platform game - is always an advantage if you want to work in this industry.
Thank you Pauline !

Benjamin Haddad - Game and Level Designer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

enjamin Haddad: My name's Benjamin Haddad and I worked as game and level designer on Rayman 3.

How does one come to be a game designer on a game like Rayman 3?

There's no particular training as such. Game designers often come from very different backgrounds. Speaking for myself, I studied communication and went to film school. Then I was employed by a small computer service company before joining Ubi Soft in late 1998. I worked on a few other projects, but Rayman 3 was the first game I saw through from start to finish.

In a few words, what does your job involve?

The job of a game designer on a project like Rayman 3 first involves dreaming up the different game ingredients - a character's abilities, the enemies, goals, and so on. Then you have to create the levels. Obviously, all this work is done in collaboration with people with a variety of skills: graphic designers, programmers, animators, sound specialists, etc.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

Passion! I've been passionately enthusiastic about games since I was a little kid. I've spent thousands of hours playing on virtually all the machines that have existed over the last 20 years (ouch!).

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in game design?

First and foremost, I'd advise them to have a minimum of technical qualifications. With every day that goes by, creating a video game becomes more complex and it's not enough just to have ideas. A sound knowledge of the different techniques used is required, and technical skill - whether in programming or graphic design, for example - is a not insignificant advantage. I'd also advise them to begin their career by producing maps or landscapes using the editors supplied with games like Quake, Unreal, Morrowind, and so on - either on their own, or with friends.

After Rayman 3, what are your future plans?

I'm already working on a new game, but I'm afraid I can't divulge anything more. ;))
Thank you Benjamin!

David Neiss - Scriptwriter and Dialogue Writer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

David Neiss: My name is David Neiss and I'm 34 years old. I wrote the script and dialogues for Rayman 3.

How does one come to be a scriptwriter/dialogue writer for a game like Rayman 3?

I studied history of art, cinema and sociology, mostly to be able to examine my main passion - science fiction, fantasy and horror stories - from all points of view. Before finding my first scriptwriting job, I had a string of casual jobs in publishing, film conservation and even archeology. Then, in late 1998, I was taken on by Ubi Soft and, among other things, I finalized the script for Rayman 2. Since that worked out well, in September 1999 I joined the Rayman 3 design team.

In a few words, what does your job involve?

Working on a video game script requires, first and foremost, knowing how to function in a team. Without losing sight of the story you want to tell, you constantly have to review the text and suggest new directions. In short, you have to know how to write in real time and in relation to the people you work with (game designers, graphic designers, animators, programmers, sound designers) and with certain constraints - technological, for the most part, but also commercial and marketing constraints.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

I was really crazy about video games from the age of 14 or 15. Later on, I saw them as a very special field in which I could quench my thirst for writing stories set in imaginary worlds. Rayman 3 helped me rediscover the child in me - a time when I was less polite and well-behaved than I am now!
Thank you David !

Ida Yebra - Sound Designer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Ida Yebra: My name is Ida Yebra, I'm 31 and I'm in charge of sound design for Rayman 3. I worked on the game from the very outset of the project.

How does one come to be sound designer on a game like Rayman 3?

Basically, I had a fairly technical training in audio, with a view to becoming a sound engineer in the music world. But after 3 years in that field, I ended up feeling disillusioned. The job was really exciting, but the compensation was disappointing. You had to be on call 7 days a week, round the clock, but the pay was mediocre and the contracts were always temporary. So I threw it all in to look for something better, hoping to remain in the audio field.

I joined Ubi Soft in April 1998 as a sound designer in the educational games department where I worked on 2D games like Rayman Eveil, Rayman Dictées and La Famille cosmique. Then, after about a year, I moved over to the 3D games department where I developed my skills on portages and odd ends of projects - Tonic Trouble and Rayman 2, among others - before being entrusted with a 3D game from start to finish: Rayman 3.

In a few words, what does your job involve?

I manage the whole sound packaging of the game: design, data production and the actual integration of sounds into the game. That ranges from dialogues to music, and includes sound effects, atmospheric effects and vocal sounds. You have to try and think of everything from the outset so that you don't forget anything along the way, then you follow the progress of operations carefully to make sure everything goes well. We're in constant contact with composers, sound effect producers and actors. This direct contact is very important for communicating your ideas and the design you've worked out, while respecting the game's technical constraints and requirements.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

Chance and luck, I'd say. Chance, because I wasn't particularly looking for a job in this sector. I just wanted to get out of the musical world and try something else, while still working in sound. Luck, because it's quite difficult to find a job linked to sound that's stable and acceptable with regard to working hours, salary, durability, etc. All things considered, I was lucky to be able to take advantage of a recruitment opening and land a permanent contract.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a sound designer?

My advice would be not to jump into this profession thinking that you're going to spend all day playing games, because that's not what happens! It's a demanding and highly engrossing job in its own right. You should also know how to stay curious and have a thirst for knowledge, because it's a constantly evolving field where you always have to be in touch with what's going on. Acquiring as much technical experience as possible is also very important if you want to lead a team correctly.

After Rayman 3, what are your future plans?

At the moment, I'm working on a completely different game: Ghost Recon. Ideally, my plans for later on would include having the opportunity to work on new types of game to diversify my skills as much as possible and contribute to the development of the use of sound in video games - because, unfortunately, we still tend to consider it like a fifth wheel. Whereas, as in movies, images with sound are meaningless and, most of all, uninteresting. What's more, there are lots of innovations to be made.
Thank you Ida !

Céline Tellier - Artistic and Technical Director

Raymanzone : Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Céline Tellier : My name's Céline Tellier, I'm 27 and I'm artistic and technical director on Rayman 3.

How does one come to be artistic director on a game like Rayman 3?

To begin with, I studied graphic design for advertising on my applied arts course in Paris but, after some experience in this field, I realized it wasn't for me. So I left school in 1997, when I was 21, to join Ubi Soft as a junior 2D/3D graphic designer. I started by spending a year creating characters for a cartoon action game. Then I began Rayman 2, at which time I specialized more in producing decors and graphic finishes: special effects, lighting effects, textures, and so forth. This project was a truly enriching personal and professional experience, and a real springboard for Rayman 3.

So I started designing Rayman 3 as artistic director - with the support of an illustrator, Eric Pelatan - and as technical director, preparing all the tools required to produce graphics. Then, when production had begun, my job was mainly focused on monitoring the graphics team and the end product. I even had a chance to go back and work in production, creating graphic finishes for decors and special effects. It was really great to be able to "muck in" once again!

In a few words, what does your job involve?

As far as the "design" side of things goes, it involves listing and sketching all the different ideas for decors, characters, gameplay objects, atmospheres and specific places. As far as "production" is concerned, the artistic director monitors all the 2D and 3D graphic work to ensure that it's consistent and reaches the desired quality level. He or she also has to act as a link between the team and other professions, particularly the game designers and engineers.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

Unlike a lot of my colleagues, it didn't start with a childhood passion. It was more of an experience that was tried and tested by chance, which later became passionately interesting. J

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an artistic director?

This profession is particularly appropriate for graphic designers with experience, talent and a sound knowledge of all the latest creative and technical graphic developments in the video game field. (The best way to gain that is to follow E3, the Electronic Entertainment Exhibition, which is the annual High Mass of video games in Los Angeles.) More generally speaking, it's important to keep up-to-date with the most recent references and trends in movies, advertising, special effects, and so on. What's more, experience is what makes all the difference - and here Rayman 2 helped me out a lot. Otherwise, you need skills that are both artistic and technical, as well as an elementary knowledge of management, which is bound to come in useful. But, above all, you must have a passionate interest in your profession and appreciate your project, and the team that's working on it!

After Rayman 3, what are your future plans?

To continue working on console games and different graphic universes - provided they're not war simulations! - and to push to the limit everything that can currently be done in real time. At present, I'm working on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Thank you Céline !

Stanislas Mettra - Lead Animator

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Stanislas Mettra: My name is Stanislas Mettra, I'm 27, and I'm lead animator on Rayman 3: in other words, I supervise the game animations. I joined Ubi Soft in June 1997 and began by working on Tonic Trouble. I took part in the Rayman 3 adventure from the first day of the project, in October 1999.

How does one come to be lead animator on a game like Rayman 3?

I'm not particularly young compared to most people who work in the video-game sector! Let's say that my initial training was my knowledge of games. I became obsessed by video games at the age of six! It was something I always wanted to do, without really believing that it would one day be possible in France - but I'd got it wrong there!

When I was desperately trying to program game models on the Atari all by myself, there were people who were not much older than me who'd already gone pro and were marketing their first games, also in France. I gave up on games a little when 3D consoles like PlayStation, Jaguar and 3DO appeared. For quite some time I resisted them, because I found those first 3D games unplayable. They were too slow, and ugly! But when I heard that Ubi Soft was looking for animators to create Tonic Trouble - a small N64 game, a kind of rough draft of Rayman 2, in a way - I realized this was my now-or-never chance to join the business. 3D was still in its infancy at the time, and everything had to be re-learned. Lots of people joined the profession without any particular qualifications - apart from the programmers, of course, for whom good schools already existed. On the other hand, they'd acquired a lot of experience through self-teaching, as players, demo-makers, or graphic designers and animators - as was the case for me ...

In a few words, what does your job involve?

It's about controlling everything concerning animation in a video game. For the most part, you have to create, model and animate characters in accordance with everything they have to achieve in the game.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

My passion for games, of course, but also the desire to venture into a new and constantly evolving profession. You can never afford to slacken off. You always have to be at the leading-edge of technological developments if you want to create the famous Wow Effect, that special extra something that makes the players feel we're pushing their machines to the limit ... Even though the most important thing is that still to create an enjoyable and exciting game!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in animation?

If you're dead keen on animation, there are now lots of professions you can pick from, which wasn't always the case in France. Traditional animated cartoons are quickly losing momentum and giving way to 3D, but, despite everything, being able to draw well is still a vital ingredient in our profession! To create a beautiful 3D image, the minimum requirement is to have a good artist's eye, for want of dexterity. So, to do this, training in graphic art is a good way in. Today, there are also some very good schools for computer artists, and even schools that specialize in video games. There's just one problem: the competition's very stiff. There are more and more young people out there trying to break into these trades, and their level of skill is often really impressive!

After Rayman 3, what are your future plans?

At the moment, I'm creating a few animations for the XIII game. Then I may launch out into a new, top secret project! Otherwise, I'd love to have more free time to carry on playing games...
Thank you Stanislas !

Stéphane Zinetti - Lead Character Designer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Stéphane Zinetti: My name is Stéphane Zinetti, I'm 33 years old, and I'm in charge of graphic creation and production for the characters in Rayman 3. At the outset, my work involves 2D design (sketches and colored drawings) to find original graphic ideas. When the whole team's happy with the 2D sketch, I produce the 3D character. But it doesn't stop there. There's then a long adjustment phase, with lots of work on the settings required for the character animation to work as well as possible.

How does one come to be a creator and producer of characters for a game like Rayman 3?

There are surely many ways of getting there. In my case, as far as education is concerned, I have a vocational training certificate in applied arts and I'm a graduate of the ECV (Ecole de Communication Visuelle). First of all, I worked for five years in an advertising agency before joining Ubi Soft more than four years ago. I worked mainly on producing graphics for different levels of Rayman 2. Then I was delighted to follow through with Rayman 3, though this time round my job was to create and produce characters.

What made you want to work in the video-game sector?

I'm very keen on the graphic universes of video games, so my main motivation for joining this sector was pleasure. And it's a job which appeals to the imagination and leaves you loads of freedom. What I like most of all are the phases when you're looking for original concepts using sketches and doodles - with Rayman 3, for example, there was all the preliminary work involved in creating the Hoodlums. It's really exciting to work in a cartoon universe as whacky as Rayman!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a graphic designer?

I don't think there's really one single royal road for getting there, but it's pretty much compulsory to have some kind of artistic education. Self-taught people are rare.
Thank you Stéphane !

Yann Masson - Gameplay Programmer

Raymanzone: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Yann Masson: My name's Yann Masson, I'm 43, and I'm the one who programmed Rayman and some of the enemies - in particular, the "Corporal", and a few bosses. I was also involved in other aspects of the game, like the score, for example.

How does one come to be a gameplay programmer on a game like Rayman 3?

I began playing games right from the beginning, cutting my teeth on Pong, Mattel Intellivision, Commodore 64 and Amiga. On Commodore 64, I did a bit of programming. One of my games was published by Micro Application, and another won a competition run by Loriciel. Then, when the Amiga came out, I was happy just to play, and there were plenty of games to keep me busy! Then my center of interest shifted away from video games a bit.

I studied computing (algorithms and artificial intelligence), and ended up working for three years at the Atomic Energy Commission on virtual reality interfaces. But, while there, I realized this wasn't a field I wanted to devote my life to. Which is why I went back to the video games industry, which I found much more entertaining. That's how I joined Ubi Soft five years ago, to work on Rayman 3 from the start of the project.

In a few words, what does your job involve?

In theory, I program the game designer's ideas. But in practice, I've done a lot more because the game design is a continuous dialog between each member of the team. So much so that, if you take any given idea in the game, we can't really remember who it came from! So I've done game design for Rayman and the enemies, and land design for the "Lande aux Esprits Frappés" level.

What made you want to work in the video game sector?

A lot of things. First of all, it's much more amusing and moral than guiding ground-to-air missiles by remote control. Furthermore, you get a real return on your work. When the game is released, it's really gratifying to see lots of people having fun with it. It's also very motivating, because there's strong competition between the different development teams in the world. It's a bit like a game within a game.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a gameplay programmer?

Obviously, you need a solid grounding in video game culture, and you shouldn't just content yourself with playing the games you like. You have to ask the right questions about a game. Why is it fun? Why is it a hit? What can I do to improve it? I'd also suggest acquiring a good knowledge of computing and graphic art, because if you want something doing, it's best to do it yourself! When you've got an idea and you can bring it to life straight away, you save a lot of time.
Thank you Yann !

Source: Ubisoft/Raymanzone

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