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One game, multiple universes; XDefiant honours Ubisoft’s creations

In the hands of players worldwide since May 21, XDefiant brings together multiple factions from different Ubisoft universes in one single first-person shooter game. 

Co-developer Ubisoft Saguenay supported lead studio Ubisoft San Francisco with the creation of five arenas for players to host their matches in. Below, the team explains how they managed to combine several Ubisoft licences into a single game. 

Gameplay at the core 

Creating a map based on a game that wasn’t within the FPS genre is a stimulating challenge. First, the team must explore the brand’s most iconic levels and seek out its elements. When the Saguenay studio was commissioned to create a Splinter Cell map, it decided to take inspiration from Splinter Cell Conviction‘s “Echelon HQ” level, which is hugely popular with players.  

The map inspired by Splinter Cell Conviction‘s “Echelon HQ” level 

“My greatest pride as a designer is to be able to make the XDefiant gaming experience seamless and fluid regardless of the original licence from which we take inspiration. What makes XDefiant different from other shooters is its responsive movement, cooperative/competitive feel, and immersion in iconic Ubisoft environments you already know.” – Alexandre Larouche, level designer 

The map’s gameplay is prioritized from the start, all while retaining and honoring the influences from the source game. Splinter Cell, for example, focuses on corridors and closed environments. But what works for a stealth game doesn’t necessarily work for a competitive shooter, so the team had to adapt the environment. 

The team kept the key areas of the original level, such as the reception, server, and control rooms, while adapting the layout and lighting to fit a shooter game. The brand’s emblematic ventilation shafts were kept, but found another role by becoming shortcuts throughout the map. 

“The aim was to recreate the layout of the rooms and pay homage to the iconic Conviction level. Inspired by Splinter Cell’s dynamic close-quarters combat, infiltration, and stealth aspects, Echelon HQ was designed to blend intense close-quarters combat opportunities with those of long-range peripheral combat, while giving multiple options for escape, ambush, and fast movement.” – Alexandre Léger, technical artist

Once the design has been validated, the art team gets involved to add the brand’s unique flavour. This step is crucial, because it ensures that players really feel as if they’re in the universe of that brand. For this map, the team brought back text projected on walls, a unique feature of Conviction. 

“It’s a brand I know well; I was lucky enough to work on five of the six Sam Fisher games, including Conviction. So it was really a pleasure to work on this map. It brought back fond memories.” – Marc Meyer, level artist 

And so, the Saguenay studio accomplished its mission: to offer players a unique experience while paying tribute to the brand on which the map is based, both in terms of gameplay and art. 

An amalgam of styles and experiences 

One of the key aspects that set XDefiant apart from other games is its ability to switch from one Ubisoft universe to another. There is a freedom in including influences from Watch Dogs, an action-adventure game, and Ghost Recon, a tactical shooter, to coexist in the same game.  

A map inspired by Watch Dogs

While an artist may not have the opportunity to work on every Ubisoft brand in the course of their career, XDefiant allows them an opportunity to try designing for a myriad of titles.  

“As an artist, working on XDefiant is a unique opportunity that not only offers you a varied perspective on Ubisoft’s many games, but also helps you learn versatile skills in design, storytelling, and adaptation. XDefiant allows us to bring our artistic vision to several of Ubisoft’s successful brands and, at the same time, offer a refreshing new experience in the vast field of FPS.” – Guillaume Couture, lead level artist 

A map inspired by Ghost Recon 

The game manages to keep a coherent artistic direction by having its factions as an anchor, since their visual style remains the same in all maps. However, the maps themselves use iconic elements from various Ubisoft games to transport players into very different environments. 

“XDefiant is a showcase of the Ubisoft catalogue. The idea of tapping into the Ubiverse will make veteran players relive fond memories, and introduce new players to other Ubisoft titles.” – Tariq Bellaoui, associate art director  

A map inspired by Far Cry 6 

Artistic fatigue doesn’t have time to set in, because the shorter production cycle of a map lets artists frequently change context, theme, environment, and take on new challenges, enriching their creativity and skills. There’s always something new to work on. 

“Working on XDefiant is a unique experience. For me, it’s the equivalent of being on several projects at once. Our artistic vision is constantly stimulated by working on very different themes. No two weeks are ever the same.” – Cédric Henin, modeller 

The “Meltdown” map, an original creation for XDefiant 

Join the community your way 

XDefiant is available on PlayStation, Xbox Series X|S and on PC via Ubisoft Connect. You can stay up to date with the latest XDefiant news and content on Facebook, Instagram, X, or Discord. 

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