The Messy, Stalled Reckoning At An Assassin's Creed Co-Developer - Kotaku
Jul 21, 2021 5 mins, 4 secs
“Ubisoft Singapore has always been kind of known [internally] to be one of the worst Ubisoft studios in terms of culture,” said one former developer at the publisher of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry.

But the reality on the studio floor is often very different, and Ubisoft Singapore is a perfect example.

Like the seventeen studios that came before it, Ubisoft Singapore would help the mega publisher churn out sequels for franchises like Assassin’s Creed.

Some said the de facto arrangement could even give Ubisoft Singapore the feel of a colonial outpost in a country with a history of domination by European powers.

“They just value the face of the company more than the actual employees,” another former Ubisoft worker said.

Ricour was eventually forced out of his role at Ubisoft Singapore last fall, to the relief of many developers who spoke with Kotaku.

A few people nicknamed it the “French Mafia.” Others referred to it as the “French Connection.” Whatever they decided to call it, many who Kotaku spoke with felt there was a “French ceiling” at Ubisoft Singapore that made it hard for those from other countries or who didn’t speak the language to succeed, especially if they were from Southeast Asia or were women.

“If you’re not French you have to take their side and cover up for their mistakes,” said one current developer.

For a number of positions on a government site that posts new jobs, four current and former developers told Kotaku that local employees might be paid just below the minimum salary range listed, while expats were paid somewhere in the middle, a difference that could add up to anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 a year, or more in some instances.

In addition to the claims of racial pay disparity, three former developers claimed that senior managers at the studio are paid significantly more than their counterparts overseas at studios like Massive or Ubisoft Montreal.

Following a year of fraught development and delays amidst the global pandemic, 2021 pay raises at Ubisoft Singapore were limited to just 2 to 3 percent on average, according to two sources with knowledge of the decision.

Such measly raises also make it hard for locals and junior developers to ever catch up to other peers in the industry in what is already a low paying company, they said.

Multiple current and former developers said HR wasn’t helpful when it came to other complaints as well.

The entire process took roughly nine months, and while the former developer said it resulted in a new formalized email reporting system for similar complaints and mandatory sexual harassment training, it still felt like an uphill battle to change the “bro culture” on the studio floor.

Another former developer told Kotaku about a series of incidents beginning shortly after she arrived at the studio.

“I’m not going to stick around in a studio that bullies my friend into leaving and promotes the guy who did it and who makes all these creepy comments to girls,” she told Kotaku.

When comparing Ricour’s management style to that of his predecessor, Olivier de Rotalier, one current developer said it was like replacing a velvet glove with an executioner.

Ubisoft Singapore, like all of the company’s studios, invests a great deal in its front-facing image as a diverse, collaborative, and fun place to work.

“When you feel like you’re going to get fired because you’re saying the truth on a project that’s by definition a toxic environment,” said one former developer.

The flipside of this, several current and former developers said, was that those at the studio who were ambitious and tried to curry favor with Ricour could follow the same spiteful playbook.

“He seemed to be the kind of person who got off on making you feel inadequate,” one former developer told Kotaku.

According to several former developers, employee evaluations played a major role in driving a culture of fear and intimidation at the studio.

One supervisor told Kotaku they could only give out a limited number of positive reviews, forcing them to leave even great developers with largely negative feedback.

“It always felt like you were fighting for your team just to give them what they deserved, trying to make sure that they got at least some recognition for the stuff that they did,” said one former developer.

“Hugues was open in saying that everyone was replaceable and you should all be thankful to be there,” said one current developer.

It detailed allegations of sexual harassment and toxic management at several Ubisoft offices, including the Singapore studio.

Alongside the Gamasutra article, there was also a series of posts by an anonymous person on the Whisper network for National University of Singapore alleging that a programmer from Ubisoft Singapore coerced the poster into sex after they expressed interest in applying for a position at the company at a 2019 campus job fair.

“The studio of Singapore has always been very isolated compared to the other studios of Ubisoft,” said one current developer.

It wasn’t until Ubisoft’s official statement to Kotaku on November 18 confirming that Ricour would be transferred back to its Paris headquarters that those in the studio learned he would remain at the company despite his alleged conduct.

More cynical current and former Ubisoft Singapore developers predicted Ricour’s seat would simply be filled by yet another white man from France or Canada.

Current developers tell Kotaku that Long is an improvement, but are still waiting for an end to the studio’s alleged pay gaps and informal hierarchies.

But a year after Ubisoft was the center of widespread allegations of employee misconduct, harassment, and bullying, there are plenty within the company who feel it hasn’t acted quickly or decisively enough.

A year after Ubisoft promised to take bold action in the face of mounting allegations of misconduct, the second chances to Ricour and others are a symbol of the old Ubisoft controlled mostly by lifers and the family who co-founded it

And it’s like, that’s ridiculous,” said one former developer

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