BioWare veteran Mike Laidlaw, who was a crucial creative force behind the Dragon Age franchise for a number of years during his time at the Canadian studio, joined Ubisoft in late 2018. For a while, he was working on an unannounced project, before leaving Ubisoft just a little over a year later. Questions about what it is that he was working on and why he left the company after such a short time have been asked often, and now, a new report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier has shed some light on that.
As per the report, Laidlaw was heading up a new medieval fantasy RPG based on King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table in a “sword-and-sorcery fantasy world full of knights and legends.” The project, codenamed Avalon, had co-op elements similar to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, and was cancelled after less than a year of production by Serge Hascoët, who was until very recently the chief creative officer at Ubisoft.
Hascoët – who was essentially the be-all-and-end-all of creative decisions at Ubisoft for many years, and was described as the ultimate creative authority at the company – recently resigned from Ubisoft following a string of sexual misconduct allegations levied against him, with reports suggesting that he had also fostered a “frat house-like” work environment at Ubisoft. He is one of several top Ubisoft officials to have either left their posts at the company or left the company altogether due to recent allegations.
Reportedly, the primary reason for Hascoët canning Laidlaw’s Avalon was simple- Hascoët was not a fan of fantasy settings, and he set the bar for the development team very high, saying that if they were going to make a fantasy game, it would have to be “better than Tolkien.” According to Schreier’s report, several current and former Ubisoft developers have said Avalon and Laidlaw were among many ideas and high-profile developers to be stifled by Hascoët’s absolute authority over creative decisions. Many of these were fantasy projects before Avalon came about.
Currently, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is temporarily filling in the role of chief creative offer at the company. Following the failure of Ghost Recon Breakpoint and The Division 2 in 2019, Ubisoft restructured its creative process, putting in place a larger editorial team rather than having all the power rest with a single person.