The name Ubisoft carries a certain weight and rightly so, however few understand just how large this video game creator has actually become. Originally founded in France in 1986, the now global company employs 9700 people in 28 countries worldwide.
Ubisoft is responsible for Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, the Tom Clancy series, Rainbow Six and a litany of others titles over the past three decades. Since the Toronto operation opened in 2010, it has contributed to Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4 and Far Cry Primal. Now approaching 500 employees, the Toronto team is heads-down on Watch Dogs 2, For Honor and a few more secret projects.
Their stunning office, designed by SDI Interior Design, is located in a Toronto area known as The Junction. The former General Electric factory is an impressive 4-storey brick block, blending beautifully into a peaceful neighborhood on Wallace Avenue. The company occupies two floors totaling 78,000 square feet.
The Toronto office (“UbiTO”) is made up of designers, programmers, quality control teams and various business related staff. Working out of open-concept spaces, staff enjoy flexible hours, career development and industry education support. UbiTO has received several accolades, including being named as one of the country’s top 100 employers and Global CEO Yves Guillemot named as one the country’s Highest Rated CEO’s.
A 2012 expansion saw the addition of an 8000 square-foot performance capture studio. This impressive space includes a stage surrounded by 80 cameras equipped with high powered LED ring lights working in sync to create into a single, 3Dview. The cameras track the movement of any actors, set pieces and even trained dogs wearing motion capture gear.
The team is constantly working on creating and improving proprietary software to better capture not only body movement but also the actors’ facial expressions and voices. This information is composited and contributes to realistic animations in the end product. The facility also includes an entire prop house and wood shop where set-pieces are constructed to emulate anything from building ledges to life-sized shaking helicopters.
Hardcore gamers are welcomed into testing suites to try out new titles and provide feedback for developers to make tweaks to the final product.
After walking past the entryway, the space opens up to a massive light-filled kitchen. This is just one of three kitchens in the space where staff have access to in-house daily meal plans and impressively stocked kitchens where many cook their own lunches. Teams usually head to local spots for lunch on Friday and return to freshly baked apple crumble prepared by one of the studio’s many social clubs.
Video games are an art-form. This notion is apparent in every space throughout this office. Immediately adjacent to the kitchen is a gallery-style hallway adorned with photo-real modelling works submitted for the Ubisoft Toronto NXT Competition, an annual competition designed to showcase the talent of local art and game development students looking to start a career in the video game industry.
A massive mural, created by an UbiTO artist, stretches the length of a service hallway featuring characters from Raving Rabbids, a classic title in the Ubisoft Canon. As an homage to this Canadian office, these Rabbits are dressed up as hockey players, missing teeth and all.
The family wall is proudly displayed in the entryway where past and present team members’ photos live. A balanced lifestyle is not taken lightly at Ubisoft; onsite yoga, meditation, and massage therapy are all mainstays. Add to that ergonomic assessment, dedicated wellness room, wellness related lunch n’ earns, boot camp classes, an incredible on-site gym facility with showers, and a produce delivery program for employees are all present to keep people healthy and happy.
A recent renovation added an impressive gymnasium-style space, complete with bleachers, skylights, and fully automated theater-viewing modes. Teams use this for everything from studio update meetings, project demos and live streaming events to yoga and meditation classes.
What do video game programmers do when the work is done? Play video games, of course.
This home-made arcade runs the classics of anyone up to the challenge. Foosball rounds out the activities in the kitchen, which also plays host to the Craft Beer Club, Scotch Club, and Board Game Club. Every month the studio hosts a themed ‘UbiBash’: craft beers on tap, signature themed cocktails with video and board games.
Much like the building’s former manufacturing tenant GE, Ubisoft is a giant. They have defined an industry in that didn’t exist before them and thirty years later they continue to dominate it by creating legendary titles that consistently set the bar miles beyond the competition. Ubisoft is in the business of fun, and they are dead-serious about it.
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