Since July 2021, Derek Patterson is the new Studio Manager of Berlin’s Ubisoft office. With Far Cry 6, the studio worked in collaboration with Ubisoft studios around the globe and brought the newest iteration of the world-known franchise to life. With us, Derek talks about his responsibilities, the pressure and honor of working on famous IPs and Berlin as a unique location for making games.
Congratulations, Derek, to your new position as Studio Manager in the Berlin Ubisoft office. Even though new tasks lie ahead of you, you’re not a stranger to the studio. What was your previous position and what did you work on? What will your new responsibilities entail?
Thank you very much! I joined the Ubisoft Berlin studio in 2019 to work as Production Director on the Far Cry 6 cross-collaboration mandate. As Production Director I was responsible for overseeing the core creative team on our part of the game, ensuring we delivered premium quality on time and within budget, and for the production methodology we used to make sure we got there.
Now, as Studio Manager my responsibilities are to provide a strategic vision for the studio and our multiple games teams. I look less at the daily workings of a project, and instead think about where we’ll be in five years and how we can set ourselves up for success.
Speaking of Far Cry 6, the newest chapter of the franchise was developed by 11 Ubisoft offices on three continents. Is this business as usual for Ubisoft? What are the challenges and rewards of such an international production? And what was the Berlin branch responsible for?
Ubisoft’s cross-studio collaboration model has constantly been evolving. This multisite collaboration allows for a broad portfolio, with each studio lending their expertise to a variety of games. Each studio concentrates on specific aspects of the game which encourages teams to take creative and technological risks that set our games apart. For Far Cry 6, Ubisoft Toronto was the lead studio, while Ubisoft Berlin as an associate studio.
Ubisoft Berlin was responsible for designing the Special Operations in Far Cry 6. These are a total of 6 missions of which the first one is introduced during the campaign and the other ones being optional. However, the Special Operations offer players not only high-level loot, but also a refreshing change from the main gameplay. Each Special Operation takes places in a very special, sometimes crazy environment on Yara, the game world of Far Cry 6. In one mission players need to navigate through a dinosaur park for example. The Special Operations are part of the post-launch, so only 2 missions were available at launch and the others followed shortly afterwards. The great thing working on the Special Operations was that we could use the main Far Cry gameplay, but give them their own spin and challenges.
How do you cope with the pressure regarding the high expectations fans and critics have for new games in famous franchises such as Far Cry? What role does a Studio Manager play in motivating the team to handle this kind of stress?
I’ve had the pleasure to work on some enormous franchises in my career, and while it’s of course a lot of pressure to oversee a new entry, it’s also an honor. People care deeply about their favorite game IPs, and as a company we try and set the bar higher with every iteration. It’s really the excitement of being able to provide players with something meaningful to their lives that make it all worthwhile.
As a Studio Manager you have to be a sword and shield for your team – you need to set expectations for the product, ensure fair and equitable working practices that put the team first, and help the team see challenges coming from as far away as possible, so you can steer around them. Sometimes it can be as simple as being available on the floor, checking if they’re doing OK, and sometimes it’s handling stakeholders behind the scenes. What’s for sure is that games teams are the heart of any project, and making sure they’re enabled to do what they do best - in an environment that respects their personal lives – is paramount.
Having worked in Poland, UK and the Czech Republic, what induced you to come to Berlin? What are the differences to working in Berlin compared to other cities?
I had visited Germany several times, particularly Cologne for gamescom, and had always enjoyed my time in the country. I first visited Berlin in 2015 on a personal visit, and loved it. I was fascinated by its history, architecture and incredible restaurants and bars. Moving to Berlin in 2019 was then motivated primarily by the opportunity at Ubisoft to work on Far Cry, but was an easy choice to make knowing I liked the city so much already.
One of the biggest differences about working in Berlin, especially as a person engaged in building world class game teams, is how attractive the city is to candidates. Berlin’s reputation as a creative capital of the word is well known. Many game developers are excited by the possibility Ubisoft Berlin offers: to make AAA games while being able to live in Berlin, taking advantage of everything it brings to the table. From museums to bars to plentiful parks, and for those with families – the security of Germany’s social systems, and excellent schools and universities.
Berlin has a unique history that lives within the fabric of the city. While it’s of course evolved and changed over the years, it has an energy and spirit that only a few cities on the planet can lay claim to. The challenge is to try and channel that into the games we make, but I feel Berlin is uniquely positioned to be the kind of place that can give birth to the next generation of innovation and creativity within games.
According to a survey by Universum, Ubisoft was ranked within the 50 world’s most attractive employers for IT students. What does Ubisoft have to offer that other companies don’t?
At Ubisoft, IT & tech teams are the backbone of our business, and we offer them the opportunity to work on a broad range of subjects. Our teams have the possibility to work on technologies where Ubisoft and the gaming industry in general are usually at the forefront, like our two main proprietary engines, Anvil and Snowdrop, or on the latest technologies like VR and AR.
Our worldwide scale and global reach are also big differentiators. Ubisoft teams include more than 65 spoken languages and 90 nationalities, making our cross-collaboration model unique in terms of diversity and size. We offer the opportunity to work on some of the biggest IPs in gaming with experts from all over the world and encourage mobility within our vast array of studios and specializations.
For the second time in a row, Ubisoft is the main sponsor for the Friendly Fire event, a 12-hour-live-stream on Twitch featuring German influencers and Let’s Players raising money for charity. In your opinion, what is the responsibility of a worldwide acting company like Ubisoft to give something back to the community and to those in need?
Events like Friendly Fire are awesome ways for gamers to connect and show, that our industry is not just about gaming, but can bring together thousands, sometimes millions of people from all demographics who do something for a good cause. Unfortunately, there are still many different crises which can lead to people needing help, like the current pandemic which effects everyone. Earlier this year at gamescom the German Ubisoft studios also did their own fundraiser livestream helping victims of this year’s flooding catastrophe in Germany. Two of our studios are based in these areas and we also had people who were personally affected in some ways.
Far Cry 6 launched successfully on October 7th. Can you already give us some details about upcoming projects and what the Berlin office is working on at the moment?
We have now around 150 people working at Ubisoft Berlin and are still growing. Some projects are unannounced, so I can’t tell you anything about these at the moment. But we also have a team working as an associate studio on Skull & Bones which is led by Ubisoft Singapore.