The lights are on
A month ago, EA announced that it was giving former Assassin's Creed producer Jade Raymond a new home in Montréal. Co-located with the BioWare team working on Mass Effect Andromeda, a new studio named Motive was founded to work on its own new IP and play a major role with Visceral's Star Wars project.
Now that Raymond has had some time to settle in, we had the chance to catch up with her. The Game Informer team put together its burning questions about Star Wars, EA's Frostbite engine, Raymond's perspective on the industry, and what we can expect from Motive.
You had been at Ubisoft for a decade, what prompted your decision to take a break last year?I am really someone who enjoys challenges. I don’t want to ever feel that I’m too comfortable, because I don’t think you can be comfortable in the game industry. It evolves so quickly. There’s constant disruption.
There’s new tech all the time, new expectations from players. You really have to be on point in order to deliver the best games. I had so many great opportunities at Ubisoft, but after being there for 10 years, I felt like I had a chance to explore all of the things that were super exciting and interesting and challenging. I was in a good place, and that it was almost too easy for me to pick up the phone and talk to Yannis [Mallat, Ubisoft Montréal CEO] or Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] and get something done.
I was lucky enough to build an amazing team in Toronto. I always try to hire the best people, who are experts in their area and better than me. Alex Parizeau, who took over in the role, I had purposely set it up as a succession plan. There are great people running communications, marketing, and finance. Everyone was just fantastic. I was like, “Gee. Alex was ready to step up. The studio was running great. We moved on from one project to five."
I felt like I had great opportunities at Ubisoft to create big IP, and I felt within the context of Ubisoft, there weren’t so many new challenges. Even if we might be creating a new IP again, and that’s always a challenge, I think there’s some sense of security in knowing how Ubisoft does it and working with the same people. I felt like I wanted a new challenge for myself and put myself out of my comfort zone.
You spoke with us earlier in the year and mentioned you were investigating a number of opportunities. What led you to choose EA?It took me a while to figure out what I was really excited about. I’m really interested in games, and I think there are a lot of place and ways you can have an impact on what games are. There is a ton of exciting stuff going on in the indie scene. I think there are a lot of interesting ideas you can explore as an indie game developer that you can’t when you’re doing big budget.
There are a lot of exciting opportunities in terms of VR and creating new entertainment for that platform, since we don’t know what it’s going to be yet. There are a lot of opportunities in terms of exploring and getting to know audiences. As an example, I’ve never made a game for Chinese audiences or the Indian audience. I think there are so many things that could be cool, so I met with different [venture capitalists] and helped friends who have indie studios. That gave me a chance to see what their day-to-day issues are and what they are hitting up against.
Ultimately, it was a bit of soul searching. I had to ask myself, “As a human, if I look down the road 10 years from now, what am I going to be happiest having accomplished?” For me, my personal gratification doesn’t come from doing something all myself. It doesn’t come from selling my startup for X amount of money. I’m not really motivated by those things. I like being part of a team. I will ultimately be happiest if I get to be a part of a team that creates another big IP that has an impact culturally. A game that’s a big enough mass-market hit that it has impact and enriches people’s lives or makes a statement.
I think when I looked at different options, it was clear to me that EA’s focus, its desire to fill out an action portfolio with the leadership there and my conversations with Patrick [Söderlund, EA executive vice president], what I really love doing fit into what EA is trying to do strategically. Obviously, wherever you go, you want to feel like you’re filling a real need. It ended up by far the most exciting thing for me.
You mention creating a significant IP. It’s obviously too early to talk specifics, but is your new IP going to be a large project on the scale of Assassin’s Creed or Star Wars: Battlefront, or will it be on the smaller side like Child of Light or Unravel? When we spoke with Patrick at E3, he mentioned that smaller projects like Unravel would play a bigger role in EA’s future.It is a little bit too early to say right now. That’s another thing that’s exciting to me. I’ve known Amy [Hennig] for a while, and a big focus now is on Star Wars. That’s going to be a big game, and we’re doing a big portion at Visceral and a big portion at Motive. That’s a huge opportunity. I have a ton of great, talented people who are huge Star Wars fans who really want to work on that. We’re going to be focusing on that first. In terms of the new IP, I think it’s a bit early to see. We’re getting some of the key people in place. I think it’s more about getting the right team that together will figure out the right thing to make than the idea itself. I think games are more driven by the talent.
Would you say that the work split between Visceral and Motive on Star Wars is 50-50, or is it less than that for Motive?It’s going to be a significant portion, so the team at Motive has creative ownership over a significant portion of the game. Amy’s going to spend quite a bit of time in Montréal. But it’s probably not quite 50 percent.
In addition to Star Wars, that team is working on Hardline. Talking about interesting opportunities to learn and evolve for me, I think that’s a franchise that has interesting potential. They’ve been doing some cool things to keep up with the community. We’re seeing a different kind of player than with the other Battlefield games. They’re doing a new 5v5 mode, and those guys are really passionate about it. There’s a strong community of people still playing that game. That’s another thing that I’m excited about. EA is investing in that community and putting out significant changes to that game quite a way out from when Hardline shipped.
You mention that there’s a vibrant community and investment. Are you seeing potential that Hardline will continue with future titles?I’m not allowed to say anything. [laughs] I’m not allowed to say anything, but I have my own perspective. There is a team of people down there still making content for that game. They are really passionate. They play every day. They have a lot of ideas and passion and there’s still a really big community of people playing that game. There are really interesting opportunities.