This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Jade Raymond is arguably one of Canada's most influential video game developers. When she joined Ubisoft in 2004, she began as a producer on the first Assassin's Creed, a franchise that would become emblematic to the massive company, and make Raymond emblematic to Assassin's Creed. When Raymond left Ubisoft last October, many wondered why and where she'd end up. This week provided those answers: opening up Motive Studios, a new EA-affiliated studio in Montreal, her hometown, to work on an as-yet-untitled Star Wars game.
"I love making games," wrote Raymond on Motive's site, in an introduction bubbling with vague but hyped optimism. "I got my first job in the industry 20 years ago and am just as excited by the potential of games as I was on my very first day. There is no recipe for what a game should be and the only limit is the team's imagination. The endless possibilities, the talented people I get to work with and the passion that gamers add to make each game their own is what motivates me. Everyone in this industry has a motive, an idea they want to bring to life, a new idea they'd like to see in a game. It's what's so great about this industry. And it's what I want to get back to."
Previously, Jade Raymond was the managing director for Ubisoft Toronto, a branch employing hundreds, and the only major commercial studio of its size in the city. Montreal, however, has long been known as Canada's hub for game developers, with studios representing Warner Bros., BioWare, Eidos, and, of course, Ubisoft.
Ubisoft Toronto opened up in 2009, and Raymond's involvement with that branch was a large selling point. To date, their only release is Splinter Cell: Blacklist, in 2013, which impressed critics but underperformed in sales. Ubisoft Toronto has otherwise provided backup for the latest installments of Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, including the much-maligned Assassin's Creed Unity, which was released undercooked, with an unsatisfying storyline and a three-ring circus of glitches.
When Raymond first departed Ubisoft, she was fairly cagey as to why. Some speculated she would follow the trend of other stars of the industry, tapping out from traditional blockbuster productions to tinker with smaller studio models, as BioShock creator Ken Levine, Mega Man co-designer Keiji Inafune (who we just recently interviewed) and Gears of War's Cliff Bleszinski have done recently. A few months later, a more candid interview with Polygon suggested she was considering pretty much anything.
"I like the part of thinking what the big new franchise could be," Raymond told the games site. "I also am pretty excited about all the new tech and platforms coming out. I think games, in some of the new spaces, whether it's purely online with free-to-play or VR or stuff like that, have other opportunities to innovate, which you might do on a smaller scale. It's a different kind of experience where you could also deliver something."
This new thing, as it turns out, may only be new for Raymond. Star Wars isn't exactly a fresh intellectual property, and Raymond has actually worked for EA briefly before, as a producer on The Sims Online. Details on this Star Wars game are scarce. What is exciting, on top of Raymond becoming involved and opening up a new studio to work on it, is the team-up with Amy Hennig, a veteran of action games and instrumental to beloved series like Uncharted and Legacy of Kain.
When games studio LucasArts (read our feature on it) was closed by Disney soon after their purchase of LucasFilm, many were nervous that Star Wars games would be permanently downscaled. Some of those anxieties were waived very recently, with EA showing off a new Star Wars Battlefront at E3, which promised something to be excited about. Furthermore, some speculated that the game Hennig, and now Raymond, are working on is related to Star Wars 1313, a massive action game that died with LucasArts, revealed posthumously to be a Boba Fett origin story. That game, similar to the wall-scaling, jumping-from-flaming vehicles epics from both Raymond and Hennig, seem within their wheelhouse.
So, enjoy, gamers: Montreal's chosen-child has returned, giving the city an additional mega-studio, and big Star Wars games live yet again. New Assassin's Creeds will go on regardless, of course - kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall and we'll all get to climb a ton of walls.
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