Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Adam DeMarco5
Ubisoft and Developer Patrice Désilets part ways again
Less than two months after his reunion with Ubisoft, Patrice Désilets has once again parted ways with the publisher.
Désilets, best-known for his work on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time as well as Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed 2, left Ubisoft for the first time in June of 2010. Deciding to take a brief sabbatical from game development, Désilets eventually found a home at THQ Montreal in 2011 where he was appointed Creative Director on an unannounced title codenamed 1666. THQ filed for bankruptcy in late 2012, however, and in January 2013 THQ Montreal was purchased by Ubisoft in an auction of the company’s assets. At that time Désilets’ fate with the company seemed uncertain, however Joystiq reported that the developer had been “officially” rehired by Ubisoft as recently as March 14th.
Cut to 12:00PM Tuesday when, according to Désilets, he was “handed a termination notice and was unceremoniously escorted out of the building by two guards without being able to say goodbye to [his] team or collect [his] personal belongings.”
Ubisoft’s press release painted a slightly different picture of the scene, stating “unfortunately, since the acquisition, the good faith discussions between Patrice and Ubisoft aimed at aligning Patrice’s and the studio’s visions have been inconclusive. As a result, Patrice has left the studio.”
While Ubisoft’s statement almost makes Désilets’ dismissal sound like it was a conclusion arrived at mutually, Désilets added “This was not my decision.”
Though Désilets never commented on his initial departure from Ubisoft in 2010, everything about it appeared to be a peaceful parting of the ways. Interestingly, Ubisoft filed an injunction against Désilets and THQ in December of 2011 to try and prevent THQ from hiring the developer, citing a non-compete clause in his contract. Montreal courts overruled the injunction, however, and Désilets was allowed to accept the job. It is entirely possible that some bad blood still existed between the parties as a result of these legal proceedings, but lawsuits like this are pretty standard practice in the business world.
Meanwhile, the future of Désilets’ project, 1666, hangs precariously in the balance. While Game Informer is reporting that the game has been canceled, Kotaku has sources stating that it has been “suspended,” a very subtle, yet weighty difference, as suspended may imply that the game could be put in the hands of a new Creative Director. Documents outlining the sale of THQ’s assets imply that 1666 was only one year in to a planned five-to-six year development cycle.
Very little is known about 1666, apart from the fact that THQ registered a few domain names for it before they shuttered their doors, one of which was 1666amserdam.com. A quick Google search for 1666 and Amsterdam gives references to the Four Days’ Battle, a naval skirmish between British and Dutch forces. Given Desilets’ previous work, the idea that 1666 might be an historical action game is not too much of a stretch.
While we may never find out more about 1666, it seems we are bound to hear more about Désilets and Ubisoft, as Désilets ended his statement to the press writing “Ubisoft’s actions are baseless and without merit. I intend to fight Ubisoft vigorously for my rights, for my team and for my game.”
In a very recent turn of events, Ubisoft has released Jean-Francois Bolvin, a “friend and colleague” of Désilets who was reportedly working on 1666 as well.
So what do you think? Was Ubisoft (or, as I like to refer to them, EA Jr.) in the wrong? Could Ubisoft have cancelled 1666 simply because it was a little too reminiscent of one of their own projects, and Désilets refused to change the game’s direction? Does Désilets stand a chance against Ubisoft if he seeks out a wrongful termination lawsuit? For now we’ll have to wait and see how this messy business will play out for all the parties involved.