GP: So lets start with who you are and what do you do for Ubisoft?
Luc: My name is Luc Duchaine and I am the Senior International Brand Manager for Avatar at the Montreal studio. So I have been on the project for two years now. I have been working on the game itself, also on the film.
GP: Was Avatar ever going to be anything other than a third-person shooter?
Luc: Yes it was. It was originally a first-person shooter. More than a year ago we decided to change it for many different reasons, one of them being you would upgrade to all this new gear as you play and suddenly you cannot see it. And as a third- person you can see your gear, so we changed our minds, and I think for the better.
GP: How much room to do feel there is in the Avatar universe for sequels or prequels?
Luc: I think it’s endless. That’s a new world, that’s a new universe that has been created. I think there is room. Just the games, for example, have the movie story, you have the next-gen story, the Nintendo Wii is a different story, the DS is a different story. So we are already expanding this world. Everything is consistent, we are all sharing Pandora, but it is so vast and rich. So we can create a different storyline to really take advantage of this great world they have created for the film.
GP: So obviously there are multiple endings because you get to choose to play more the Human or Na'vi side. So are there just two or are there more than two?
Luc: I don’t want to go into too much detail… it might be something else. That’s for the player to discover when they play. If you played like Other Ubisoft games, like Assassin’s Creed, I worked along with them on that one and when you finished it you know at the end it was quite mysterious and so we try to raise some cool things at the end there. So I think we have some cool things here too.
GP: How much of the movie have you seen?
Luc: I haven’t seen the full movie yet for sure, but I was fortunate enough to see many different scenes in the past year and a half while visiting them. It’s like, we were going to them for the meaning of the game and they were always OK, cause like at Leipzig they had this viewing room and the movie producer was always taking us in to show us new material. And that was amazing, because we can truly get a sense of where they are going in the film and I can always remember the first time I saw a scene from the film. James Cameron was sitting in this room and was like “yeah, we haven’t shown this to anyone yet, so there it is guys.” But I was at Comic-Con so I saw what they were showing there and I saw the twenty minute showing they had. So in total I’d say I have seen about thirty minutes of it and I have seen some material at their studio which is still work-in-progress and has not been shown yet. And… it will kick ass, I am confident of that!
GP: How involved was James Cameron with the development of the game?
Luc: He was really involved. I mean obviously he was doing a film, so he was really busy on his own. But him and his team, they were really involved. The producer came to Montreal two times to help us work on the game. We visited him him, I don’t know, so many times. One joke I said to French media once was that I have been in LA enough, so I don’t need a GPS any more to go around. It was not a relationship where it was a “gate meeting”, it was a continuous relationship and Jim was seeing regular things we were sending them.
GP: Cool, so how do you want the player to feel in Avatar? What are some of the key emotive drivers for the development team?
Luc: I think in terms of emotion we want the player.. I think one of them is surprise. Everything is happening in the world around him. We want to surprise him, like you are running around and there’s a chopper flying by you and baboom! It shoots missiles at the Na'vi. So we want the player on the edge and to always feel like something is about to happen. So that’s for one. How can I describe…. You know, it is difficult to describe an emotion in English when you are French speaking...
GP: What’s the French word? I can always just google that?
Luc: (laughs) No, it the amazement of when you see a beautiful world. To just be a amazed by this world and at the same time threatened by it. Because it is a beautiful world but dangerous. So we want the player to feel like “wow, it is a beautiful place, but damn!” And that is by putting him in some situation where you will have to face this duality of beautiful and dangerous at the same time. So that’s two examples for you.
GP: Movies and books have always had a moral or message they want their audience to take away with them. Does this game have anything they want the player to take away from them? And how important do you think that is for the gaming industry in general?
Luc: I think for sort of a message, for this one I think I would probably spoil some of the elements of the game if I told you the message we wanted to give. But I think it’s about not judging things at first sight. I think you might have the perception, but things are not always black and white. I have been showing people today and like, I have done probably two weeks of full presentations for the past few months and some say that the humans are the bad guys, or Na'vi are the bad guys. So throughout the game people will see that it is not always as it seems. So, it is not black and white, it is a big thing.
GP: The 3D is obviously a pretty big thing for the game, but most people cannot afford the kind of TV they would need to use it. How important is the 3D?
Luc: With the 3D, first and foremost was to make a good game. Whether on a 12” black and white TV or your giant home theatre at home, we want to make a good game. So when the player grabs the pad, they have fun. 3D was on top of everything. It is another layer of immersion in the world, but even without it you will still enjoy the game. It is kind of like 5.1 sound. Even if you don’t have the system at home, you will have fun. The game or the film you will play and watch will be good, and the home theatre will bring the bass and the immersion. The chopper will fly in behind you. But if you don’t have it, you will still enjoy it. So for us it was important because the film will be in 3D and we want to bring this innovation in the game. We know people will play it in 2D and we are confident that once people play it in 2D, well once you get a 3D TV in the next year or so, because they will be a lot more affordable by then you are gonna play it again and you are going to discover it again in a new perspective. And I think that is really great for the player.
GP: Does the game have multiplayer, and can you tell us about it?
Luc: It does have multiplayer! I can tell you that it is going to be pretty amazing to play Na'vi vs humans but I cannot go into more details, but this will be coming up very soon. What I will say is that it is going to be amazing with the two different sides. What is unique is that it won’t be guns vs. guns, but two really different tactics that you are going to need to play the multiplayer.
GP: Cool, well thank you so much for your time.
Our thanks to Ubisoft NZ for this interview. For more information about James Cameron's Avatar game, check out the official site.