Development of Scott Pilgrim vs The World was proceeding as normal over at Ubisoft Montreal. The levels were designed, the game was working and all that needed to be done was build the rest of the content and put it together. But then, six months before launch window, Ubisoft’s higher-ups commanded a change in priorities, shifting to bigger next-generation projects. The schematics for Scott Pilgrim were ready to go, but the idea needed to be realized in no more than five months so it could successfully pass through the certification procedure and make its concurrent release with the movie.
Enter Richard Tsou and his studio, Ubisoft Chengdu, the folks who had the guts and persistence to double-time this gem down the production line to meet its release goal. “No other studio around Ubisoft would pick this up,” said Richard in an interview with Siliconera. “They wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Why? It’s like five months to make 80% of the game. You know? Who in the right mind will sign up for that? But it was a great opportunity for us. I’m like, no problem.” And to top it off, Richard included, “We were a rookie studio. We’ve never shipped a game before.”
Still, under the direction of a small group of the creative leaders, the studio executed its orders immediately and without question. “Because we didn’t argue about what color blue it was,” said Tsou. “You know what it was. We just did it.”
Tsou partly attributes this unprecedented success to the unique Chinese culture that focuses on productivity rather than creativity. “I would always make games in China because there are going to be very loyal soldiers who will follow things…it’s culture and education… The teacher says, ‘I say, you do,’ and you follow exactly that.”
So, if the game had stayed with a western developer, would it still have been a success? Tsou doesn’t think so. “I’d say the biggest challenge in the West is that there are too many people who think that they are creative and want to be in the creative process. You need a core team of that, but you need a lot more executors,” Tsou continued. “They are always going to be complimentary workers to have and I will always believe in that model for the rest of my life until you can see in the West that people who want to get into games also like to be followers. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
The bottom line, according to Tsou, is, “You don’t need too many creative people to make a good game.” Scott Pilgrim vs The World is proof of that.