French Magazine Accuses Beyond Good & Evil Creator Michel Ancel Of Abuse
After a series of abuse allegations rocked the company, Ubisoft has found itself back in hot water. French journalists Erwan Cario and Marius Chapuis have once again exposed abusive practices at the publisher – and this time, it’s from one of their most prolific employees.
Michel Ancel, creator of both Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil, is being accused of volatile and hateful behavior in the workplace. Cario and Chapuis’ article (translated on ResetEra) characterizes the developer as an unstable, angry boss who verbally and psychologically harasses his team during crunch. According to one employee, Ancel’s unpredictable behavior led to the breakdown and burnout of numerous devs.
“Around me, I’ve seen a good dozen people go on sick leave, probably more… Meeting people with tears in their eyes, it happens often. It’s the first time I’ve seen that at Ubi,” an Ubisoft veteran told the writers.
Unsurprisingly, that erratic behavior dictated Ancel’s leadership style on Beyond Good & Evil 2. The creator apparently had a part-time role, but was given free reign over what stayed and went in the game. Ancel would abuse this role to build up a solid vision for the game one second, then turn around and tear it down completely the next. This resulted in days, weeks, and months of work being torn down in a matter of seconds, according to the article.
“He’s able to explain to you that you’re a genius, that your idea is great, and then disassemble you in meetings by saying you’re a piece of shit, that your work is worthless, and not talk to you for a month. He’s someone who has a creative process that is based on erosion, erosion of his vision and erosion of the people around him,” an employee told the journalists.
So it’s no coincidence, then, that Ancel left game development last week. The article states that he was under internal investigation over his workplace practices, but that only a select few employees knew. From the outside looking in, it seems an awful lot like a timely and deliberate departure. But when the journalists confronted Ancel with the accusations, he handwaved the numerous issues mentioned by employees.
“Of course a person in burn-out is terrible,” Ancel said. “Of course, someone who stops a project after several years, it’s a part of his life that goes away. I don’t devalue that, but you have to consider the context of such a creation, its ambition, its complexity. Maybe that’s what can be questioned, indeed. Maybe we shouldn’t do it, maybe we’re burning our wings on it. But we signed up to put ourselves in danger, and putting ourselves in danger means burn-out, being sad, and so on.”
Worse yet, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemont was informed of the company-wide issues with Ancel’s leadership style, but ignored his team’s call to action and instead continued to protect his “privileged relationship” with Ancel. This led to an earlier investigation sputtering out after Guillemont chose to continue working with his longtime business partner.
All of this is very disappointing, to say the very least. It’s disheartening that Ubisoft’s culture of abuse was enforced and perpetuated by a beloved creator, and infuriating that earlier calls to action were all but ignored. It’s unclear what, if anything, can be done about Ancel now that he’s departed Ubisoft. Regardless, it’s clear that his legacy will now be tainted by these fairly heinous allegations – and that the company which enabled him still has a lot of suffering to answer for.
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