If you’ve been a fan of Ubisoft games for a while, the name Clint Hocking is probably pretty familiar to you. From the early days of Splinter Cell to Far Cry 2, Clint Hocking made a huge impact on the games industry during his time at Ubisoft Montreal, before leaving the company in 2010. But now he has returned, joining the team in Ubisoft Toronto to take on new challenges, which is sure to spur a few questions regarding the studio’s future. I spoke with him to see if I could get some answers about what drew him back to Ubisoft and what his new team is cooking up.
What brought you back to Ubisoft?
Coming here and talking to the people who work here and seeing how familiar everything is, I mean, seeing familiar faces is one thing, but having familiar conversations, encountering familiar thinking, it got me excited about what we could achieve. And being interviewed by other designers and being asked about how I work as a designer… it made me realize how much my time here shaped my thinking and my design sensibilities, and maybe a little bit how the contributions I had made years ago shaped some small part of the culture here. That was really interesting. It felt like a really good fit. It felt like family and it made a lot of sense.
What’s it like being back so far?
Relocation is always stressful and challenging, but everyone here has been super welcoming and the team is really excited and chomping at the bit to get going on our project here. It feels great to be getting traction and moving things forward. We’re starting to talk to different people about different ideas. Instead of just imagining, we’re actually doing.
You worked at Ubisoft Montreal for 10 years. What’s it like now working at Ubisoft Toronto?
When I started at Ubisoft Montreal, there were about 500 people. By the time I left, there were over 2500. I was there for 10 years, but it still grew very quickly. There aren’t 500 people in Toronto yet, but in a lot of ways it feels like Montreal did when I started there. It’s very familial. People all know each other. They hang out together. Everyone is really collaborative. If someone here isn’t on your current project, he was definitely on the last project with the guy sitting next to you. Everyone knows everyone. If you have a question, someone can tell you exactly who would be the best person to talk to. It’s very easy to pick things up here. It’s very fluid and very rapid.
Did you already know a lot of the people you now work with?
I personally know most of the people who founded this studio, and then I know some of the people in the group I’m working most directly with. I’ve heard of a lot of the people here and we also have a lot of people who we know in common. There are people who worked on sequels or iterations of games I made here in the past. Then there are people who are familiar with my work and my games and I’m familiar with their work and their games. So even if we haven’t worked together here directly, or if I don’t know them personally, we have a lot in common, which is really good.
So I need to ask the question. Are you working on the next Splinter Cell?
I am not. When I stopped working on Splinter Cell after Chaos Theory… the honest truth is I didn’t think I could make a better one. I feel like I had made the very best Splinter Cell I could ever make and the best thing for me to do for Ubisoft and for Splinter Cell fans was to hand it off and let someone else try to figure out how to make that game differently or better and bring a new vision and a new flavor to it. Maybe one day, 5 or even 10 years from now, it will be the right time and the right place for me to make another Splinter Cell game, but that time is not now.
Can we talk at all about what you are working on right now?
I can’t say specifically what I’m working on yet, but I’m working with a great team on some things that I think are interesting, challenging and innovative. They are going in the direction that I think games need to go in, for both players and for Ubisoft in the future. It’s great that Ubisoft is so forward-looking and so interested in developing the medium and the industry and the community of players. Ubisoft is also working on building a community of game development responsibly here in Toronto. These are all things I’ve always been interested in, and so those are the things I’m focused on.
What are your thoughts on the future for Ubisoft, your team and the industry in general?
I wish I could say, ‘The industry is at a major transition point and there are a lot of things for everyone to figure out going forward and the future is a big unknown and the unknown is bigger than it ever has been before.’ But I think that has been the answer ever since I started making games. Every day, every month, every year, every project… Everything is always completely new and you are always starting from scratch. You’re cutting your dress out of whole cloth. The future is always going to be unknown.
To learn more about Hocking’s return to Ubisoft, take a look at his personal blog.