Game Boy 010 – For Honor

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

This coming week will mark my 3rd anniversary of working in the games industry — I moved to Montreal during the first week of May 2015, to start work at Eidos Montréal a week later on the 11th. It’s also interesting to see that the first game I worked on, For Honor, is not only picking up steam more than a year after a release (and it was a strong launch), but it’s also celebrating with a Free Weekend event, in which you can play the game for free until Sunday on PC, PS4, and X1.

After exiting Eidos Montréal — or more specifically, the Shinra Technologies project — at the start of 2016, I was then hired by Ubisoft Montréal in February, and it was to work as part of the live team on what was to be the launch of an ambitious new IP for the company. Better known for its open world games, this was to be a multiplayer-focused “live” game, and it was exciting to be part of that of that final year of production before launch.

I still remember the first time I saw mention of For Honor, as part of its unveiling at E3 the previous year, and thinking that it looked like a cool game, of course not knowing at the time that I would eventually be joining its production team.

As the game was preparing for launch (on February 14, 2017), I moved over to a different team at the studio, and so no longer “lived and breathed” For Honor, but it’s still a project I feel a strong attachment to — even if it’s not a genre of game I generally spend a lot of time playing — and I’m happy that following the launch of dedicated servers a couple of months ago, the game is still getting a lot of love and attention. And as has been announced, there’s more to come, with some reveals coming at E3.

It’s also great to see that the documentary about the making of the game, Playing Hard, is currently showing at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto — it originally aired as 3 episodes on TV here in Quebec last December, and has now been edited into a film. I’m quite happy to have this document of a production I was a part of, and even though I’m biased, I think it’s a pretty great story to tell (check it out for yourself, to see all of the drama that can happen in this world of AAA game-making).

So yeah, with the Free Weekend happening, this week I just wanted to take a moment to think back on the experience I had working on For Honor, and hope a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to play it will take the opportunity to do so.

Game Boy 008 – Terrace

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

I’ve now worked at Ubisoft Montréal for just over two years — my first day on the job was February 15, 2016, which is an easy date to remember since it was exactly a year before the release of the game I was hired to work on, For Honor (which released on the heart-filled February 14, 2017).

I quite enjoy working at the studio. After my first year on production, I moved over to a service team, which has also been a great experience — and it gives me a chance to work alongside a great many of our game projects, both in and out of Montreal. But the studio itself is also quite an interesting place to work in. Up until January of this year, I was working in the studio’s “main” building (yes, the studio is so big that it covers a collection of spaces in the Mile End neighborhood), called Peck. In January, our team moved over to one of the floors in a 12-story building on De Gaspé avenue.

One of my favorite things in this new space — apart from the great view we have of the city since we’re on the 12th floor — is the big open area that’s located near the location of my desk (and pictured above). With all those giant tables (and there’s another even larger one that you can’t see, in the foreground, along with a comfy couch and chairs), it’s just perfect for us to play various card games and board games either at lunch time or after work. I run a Magic: The Gathering league inside our team, and so most lunch times we’re using those long tables to play our matches. We also play other card games, as well as board games, like Gloomhaven, which I organize on a mostly weekly schedule. But I’m lucky not just for the nice space we’re afforded to play in, but also for the fact that I have so many colleagues I can convince to play with me — which I guess is not incredibly surprising when you consider that we work at a game studio.

But going back to Peck, the best feature of that 5-story building is the rooftop terrace. It’s open all summer (or rather from late spring to late fall), and on top of being a nice place to go hang out or to eat your lunch outside, the studio often organizes happy hours there — and for some of them, you can even bring a friend or family member along.

The reason I bring this up is because this week it was time for the annual winter happy hour, when they open the terrace for one special drink-up in the cold and snow. This was my third one, and although it was still pleasant — and I downed quite a few mugs of hot cider — I was a bit saddened by the lack of snow this year, although 0 degrees Celsius was definitely more agreeable than the -20 we got last year.

Moving on Up

Please allow me a bit of flag waving. First off, I was very pleased to see the following list by Forbes of the best employers in Canada, with Ubisoft Montreal (where I work) coming in at #6, and then #1 for the province of Quebec. I find it to be a pretty great work environment, and so it’s nice to see it recognized as such.

Also, this week marks my first official title change since I started working in the games industry in 2015 (following my move from Japan). After working as a production coordinator at both Eidos Montreal (on the Shinra Technologies project) and Ubisoft Montreal (first as part of the For Honor team, and then on the studio’s Game Operations Online team), I’ve now taken on the role of project manager. I actually did the transition back at the end of the summer, but it took a while for all of it to become official (it accompanied a level change, which I’m also very happy about).

Pictured above is the meeting room I book every week to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at lunch time with a couple of colleagues — we started with episode 1 of season 1, and are now in the middle of season 2.

Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot

The moment I saw Shigeru Miyamoto walk out on stage at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, I was ecstatic. It’s no secret that I have quite a bit of fondness for Nintendo, and so to not only see the company I work for collaborate with them, but then to also see Miyamoto himself help with the promotion, it was awesome. The game itself, Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom, looks super fun and I can’t wait to play it. Here’s a Eurogamer interview with both Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot talking about the collaboration.

Yesterday was Ubisoft Montréal’s annual assembly, and not only did Yves show up to talk at the assembly, but I also had a chance to take a photo with him (below), and at the same time tell him how happy I was that we were collaborating with Nintendo like that, and how excited I was when I saw Miyamoto on stage at our press conference.

2 Years a Game Dev

Today marks two years since I became a game dev.

After leaving Tokyo on March 31, 2015 and then spending a month in my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick, we moved to Montreal on May 5, with my first day as an employee at Eidos Montréal — part of the Shinra Technologies team, based in the Square Enix Montréal studio — on Monday, May 11.

A lot has happened in these two years. After the Shinra adventure ended in January 2016 (due to the unfortunate cancellation of the project), I started at Ubisoft Montréal the following month — on February 15, to be exact — happy to join the For Honor team to experience the final year of development of this new franchise for the studio (the game came out on February 14 of this year, almost exactly a year after I started). For the past six months I’ve had the great joy of working as part of the studio’s Game Operations Online team (or GO-2, as we call ourselves), a service team that supports the live aspects of the studio’s various productions via operational guidance and tools.

What an interesting journey it’s been so far.

I have a ton of people to thank for helping me along the way, whether it’s through guidance, support, or plain ol’ friendship, and instead of going through a long list of names, I’ll give you all a big collective hug.

I’ve had a lifelong passion for games, and it became my dream to work as a game dev. Here’s to many more wonderful years in this industry.

Liam Wong

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I came across this post on Design You Trust with really fantastic photography of Tokyo by Liam Wong, and then after doing a bit of digging, I find out that he’s an art director at Ubisoft Montreal (that’s where I work). You’ll find more of his city photography at his Instagram account, and you can buy prints and other things from his Society6 page.

Update: All these lovely photos were actually first shared in this post on Kotaku back in March, by none other than my buddy Brian Ashcraft.