This week, Ubisoft kicks off its 14th annual Ubisoft Developers Conference (UDC), an event that brings together Ubisoft developers from around the world for a chance to attend presentations and workshops, share knowledge and new innovations, and meet and collaborate with colleagues from across the company. This year’s UDC in Montreal is both an in-person and remote event, with speakers and Montreal employees attending physically, and employees worldwide invited to tune in remotely.
Above photo: Base Camp Animator Michel Kunta hosts on stage at UDC in Montreal
Director of Production Communities and Competitive Intelligence Vicky Lagarre leads a team that helps support and grow internal production communities of practice – groups of Ubisoft employees organized around common technical and production-related disciplines and interests. One of her team’s roles is to help organize internal events, including UDC; to find out more, Ubisoft News spoke with Lagarre about why UDC matters to Ubisoft, how it has evolved in recent years, and what’s in store for this year’s conference.
Above: Director of Production Communities and Competitive Intelligence Vicky Lagarre
What makes UDC a unique event within the games industry? What makes it exciting to you?
Vicky Lagarre: One of our biggest strengths at Ubisoft is collaboration. With tens of thousands of talented developers in more than 45 development studios worldwide, UDC is the ultimate production event that brings together Ubisoft teams to share knowledge and spark discussion about the latest solutions and innovations. This year, some of us have the chance to be back physically in Montreal, and this is definitely what excites me the most. UDC is the best place to network and meet people from other studios and countries who are interested in the same topics.
Why is UDC such an important event for Ubisoft? What does it bring to Ubisoft’s company culture?
VL: UDC is the ultimate internal knowledge-management event, where our employees share tech ideas and new developments at Ubisoft. We are very good at sharing, and people mobilize themselves for our internal production events to share learnings, postmortems, innovations, and challenges. UDC is an occasion to shine and share our developments, but also our challenges, and maybe even find some solutions.
What really differentiates UDC from other external events is the level of transparency into our innovations, challenges, and learnings, which we cannot always communicate externally, especially when it comes to innovations in development and/or from unannounced projects.
In general terms, can you share a little about what attendees can expect from UDC this year?
VL: We are, first of all, very happy to have it back physically here in Montreal, and to be able to connect with our Canadian employees in person, and remotely with all our employees from Ubisoft’s worldwide studios.
This year, our employees can expect more than 80 presentations and tech talks, with deep dives and learnings in key areas such as live ops, gameplay programming, AI, or 3D programming with presentations from our partners at NVIDIA and AMD. We will also share updates about our tech convergence roadmap – a plan to align tech-development resources and efforts toward common, shared goals – and updates about the development of some of our home-grown tools and technologies, on which we are accelerating. As technology evolves and continues to change the way we create games, we are excited to launch, for the first time, a Discovery track that builds bridges between job families by introducing tech topics to some of our colleagues, as well as non-technical topics to our production teams.
Last but not least, we will also address some topics that are key to helping us achieve our objectives, including diversity and inclusion, for example with a panel that will welcome author Matthew Syed to discuss the power of diverse thinking. There is evidence that teams with diverse thinking – a variety of experiences, expertise, and perspectives – perform better when working on complex problems and tasks than teams without it.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect UDC? How has it evolved since 2020, and has becoming a virtual event enabled it to grow?
VL: As with all in-person events, COVID-19 had a major impact on UDC, which had to turn remote for two years. But our developers really wanted UDC to happen, so we kept it 100% digital. The second year, 2022, we even managed to build a hybrid solution, with a dedicated TV set connected to Paris on which some experts joined us during the presentations, and from which the top management shared their executive talks. The results were amazing. We learned a lot from those experiences, and decided to capitalize on this hybrid model by keeping a strong momentum for our digital UDC, to enable everybody to attend.
How has the virtual UDC encouraged or enabled the kind of networking and collaborations that characterized it when it was purely an in-person event?
VL: We put digital rooms in place after each talk to enable the speakers to exchange with the audience. Our Teams communication channels were also very dynamic and impactful. We also capitalized on our existing communities of practice – groups of internal experts gathered around a transversal topic – who had collaborated digitally for years, and drastically accelerated the engagement and the fun parts of those digital editions.
Are there any key trends or topics that have attendees especially excited this year, that showcase how UDC enables Ubisoft to stay ahead of the curve?
VL: At Ubisoft, we love talking about disruptive technology, and UDC has always been a place to leverage this. This year, of course, we will talk about generative AI, something we have been working on for some time and that has been trending lately. There is a big opportunity for our industry, and a strong consensus among our developers that it is here to stay. This conference is a great moment to share internally how we are accelerating in that field. I am sure lots of our discussions on generative AI during UDC will be about how to better handle it around different domains and practices – 2D art, narration, etc. – and how to empower our developers with the right toolbox.
Fighting toxicity in games is also a key topic that will be addressed this year. Professor Maude Bonenfant, Canadian Research Chair in Gamer Communities and Big Data at the Université du Québec à Montréal, will give a talk titled Effects of Persuasive Design on Player Behavior.
What do you see as the future of UDC?
VL: UDC should remain our main production event of the year, and to do this, we need it to be both digital and in-person. We are drastically decreasing the number of physical events at Ubisoft to align with our corporate social responsibility objectives; in this context, UDC should increasingly become the moment of the year when we can gather around our experts, celebrate, and see each other for real. I really want to thank our Montreal teams again, who have always been such key partners to welcome us all in Montreal over the years.
I would also love for UDC to open more to all production domains, such as design and producing. UDC is historically a tech event, and we are slowly opening some tracks that are not 100% tech, and I am very happy about that since there is a strong request from our creative and producing communities to exchange more about their own practices.
For more insights from previous UDCs, check out how Riders Republic created procedurally generated trails, find out what UDC means to its attendees, and learn more about Ubisoft’s communities of practice. And for more news from UDC and inside Ubisoft, visit our dedicated news hub.