When the news that Dragon Age’s Mike Laidlaw was joining Ubisoft, I was curious to see what he’d be working on. Nearly a year later though, he announced his departure from the Quebec City studio. Laidlaw left the studio in February 2020.
NEWS: Fans have long wondered why Ubisoft hired Dragon Age designer Mike Laidlaw only for him to leave after just a year. The answer: Laidlaw's King Arthur game was canceled because former Ubisoft creative chief Serge Hascoët didn't like the setting https://t.co/tIMHfrMgza
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 28, 2020
He thanked the people he had worked with and that was that we never learned what his project was. Until today, which includes a peek at what Laidlaw was working on during his brief stint at Ubisoft.
Quick update from me!
Today (Jan 31st) is my last day with Ubisoft. Huge thanks to the talented and welcoming folks at Ubisoft Quebec City for my time there.
Now to take stock and figure out what’s next!
— Mike Laidlaw (@Mike_Laidlaw) January 31, 2020
According to a new report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Laidlaw was working on an unannounced King Arthur game that was codenamed Avalon and included playing as famed English king in a co-op multiplayer, Monster Hunter inspired setting. A lot of people who worked on the project were ecstatic about the team working on it and all the progress they’d made.
However, one person, in particular, didn’t like the setting or the gameplay and because of that, the entire project was cancelled. Serge Hascoët was the gateway between approval or cancellation and his position has stifled a ton of creativity at Ubisoft, which has led to so many games feeling and playing the same. His decisions actively alienated the staff and idea with potential were nixed in favour of more of the same video games. According to insiders, Serge Hascoët wanted a fantasy game “better than Tolkein,” which effectively set the bar extremely high for employees.
Ubisoft’s big games for 2019 flopped, as The Division 2 came and went, reviewed well but sold horribly. Later, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, which featured Jon Bernthal delivered a disappointing experience for fans and critics. These failures led to Ubisoft’s stock dropping 40% from the previous year, leading to an editorial team shakeup.
Laidlaw’s project Avalon went through several iterations while he was there. First, they changed the setting to ancient Greece, but Hascoët didn’t like it, then they shifted to sci-fi and that was turned away, with the game effectively being cancelled this past fall. Laidlaw left at the end of January this year.
With massive shakeups needed at Ubisoft, this is sad to see that artists were actively being stifled by an executive who worked against the people in the company. Having one person in charge of these crucial decisions needs to be addressed and possibly, turned into a group decision for the company going forward.