It’s been almost half a year since Ubisoft opened its Berlin studio. How has this time been for you?
Istvan: Time flies when you’re having fun. The months since the opening have been very busy but also incredibly rewarding. Back in January, we started with only a handful of people but have since grown to over 60, with new team members joining our ranks on a weekly basis. I’m very proud of the great team we’ve established here in Berlin. Speaking of Berlin, we really couldn’t ask for a better base of operation. The city has welcomed us with open arms and we will continue to reach out to the local gaming scene and strengthen our connections further.
Your other two German studios are in Düsseldorf and Mainz. Why Berlin as the third location?
Benedikt: Berlin offers ideal conditions to grow a big international game development studio. Berlin is an incredibly appealing location for creative specialists from all around the world, so there’s an almost unlimited potential for us to attract new talents. Their various skills will play a vital role for our operations, which will see us working on the biggest Ubisoft brands. That’s because the process of developing high quality games rests firmly on a close collaboration between many different job groups: programmers, visual artists, testers, project manager and many more.
How does the recruiting process work? Do you find qualified people for a AAA studio in Berlin or do you concentrate on a worldwide search?
Istvan: It’s both, actually. We are recruiting on a local and an international level. Currently, around 60% of our team members come from non-German speaking countries. This is due to Berlin holding so much appeal for a diverse pool of international talents, as Benedikt stated earlier. At the same time, we are also dedicated to hiring young talents which have been trained at local universities or similar institutions. We have several ongoing collaborations with leading German universities which aim to help us find and hire the experts of tomorrow.
You worked as a producer on “The Settlers” – a pioneer game of its genre that has since become a household name. How does it feel to have such a benchmark? Does it set the bar higher for your other projects?
Benedikt: We have just announced a brand-new The Settlers during gamescom, which is the latest entry in the franchise. I’m happy to see our development team in Düsseldorf studio being so passionate about this game, because it is such a cool project. First, there’s the opportunity to develop The Settlers together with Volker Wertich, the original creator of series, who is returning as the Creative Director. Second, as with every new The Settlers game, we want to improve upon the last one. As such, The Settlers will add brand new elements, advanced gameplay features and a modern look, while maintaining the spirit and mechanics of previous The Settlers games.
While we are staying true to our roots, we are also constantly widening our scope of expertise. In recent months, we have been successfully exploring new technologies and genres, such as a VR Escape Room experience titled Escape the Lost Pyramid or innovative approaches to developing games like the procedural generation of game content.
What’s in store for the Berlin studio in the near future?
Istvan: Our plan is to continuously grow Ubisoft Berlin to a size of 150 employees by the end of 2020. As we speak, there are several teams forming inside the studio, each of which dedicated to work on a very successful Ubisoft brands I can’t go into more detail and the moment, but you can expect big things from us.