by Joseph Leray
Patrice Désilets cut his game design teeth on “The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” and “Assassin’s Creed,” which made him a hot commodity in Canada’s Great White Games Industry: when THQ opened their own studio in Montreal in 2010, they tapped him to develop a new IP called “1666.”
Things went pear-shaped soon enough, though: THQ closed its doors and sold its Montreal studio — and Désilets’ team along with it — to Ubisoft late last year. Désilets’ reunion with his former publisher didn’t go smoothly and he was fired after only a few months. He eventually sued Ubisoft for the rights to the mysterious “1666,” and the game’s been on indefinite hiatus while the case works itself out behind closed doors.
And that’s a shame: to hear him tell it, “1666” was going to “evolve the action-adventure genre.”
Speaking with GameReactor Spain, Désilets explains that work on “1666” started in June 2011. He spent the first year building a team, convincing staffers to sign on with an already-sinking THQ, studying history, and creating the new property.
“Is there a universe to make multiple games?” he wondered. “It was the next ’Assassin’s Creed.’ I say that in my humble opinion, but I’m paid to have those types of ideas and visions. I did it in the past and I felt that ’1666’ was the next big thing that I’d come up with.”
From a publisher standpoint, the comparison makes sense: Désilets believes he has a historical framework strong enough to support ongoing development of ambitious, big-budget projects. Once the game moved into pre-production, however, the “Assassin’s Creed” similarities start to die off.
“It was all about playing and finding all the mechanics, not giving an F about the IP and the story, just about the gameplay, and we were nailing it down,” he explains. “And it was not easy. I was not making a little guy jumping around with swords, and I was not making a shooter. I was trying something different again, to push boundaries.”
That seems to be about where “1666” hit the skids: Ubisoft alleges that part of Désilet’s contract stipulated that his team provide a playable prototype, which they apparently failed to do.
Désilets called his current legal battle “a bump in the road,” one he clearly hopes to surpass eventually. As such, he was tight-lipped with any plot details, except to mention that the Dutch painter Rembrandt was still alive in 1666. “Rembrandt was still alive in 1666, died in 1669,” he teased. “Took one of his most famous paintings, The Philosopher, and put it there [in the design documents], so I referred to it, more or less.”
Mysterious stuff! Whether or not “1666” ever sees the light of day largely depends — at this point — on the Canadian courts. If Ubisoft hold onto it, their official party line is that they “can develop and publish 1666 with Patrice Désilets or without him. It prefers to do so with him.” If Désilets wins out, though, he’s been considering self-publishing his game in bite-sized episodes.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter