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Ludia ranked among Montreal’s Top Employers 2020!

Our commitment to the well-being of our employees was rewarded this year by being selected as Montreal’s Top Employers 2020!

A wonderful accomplishment!

Ludia is very happy and proud to be part of this ranking. More than a distinction, it’s an accomplishment that echoes all the efforts made in our studio to promote the well-being of our employees and allow them to have a good balance between their professional and personal lives. This encourages our desire to go even further, to offer the best possible work environment in order to carry out exceptional projects and to promote the development of our Ludians!

The criterias for an exceptional work environment

The Montreal Top Employers 2020 ranking is based on a list of precise criterias that reward the most exceptional work environments in the Greater Montreal area! These are divided into 8 distinct categories:

 (1) Physical work environment;

(2) Work atmosphere and social aspect;

(3) Health, financial and family benefits,

(4) Holidays and free time;

(5) Dedicated employee communications;

(6) Performance management;

(7) Training and skills development;

(8) Community involvement.

Ludia was able to meet these criterias with some of the highest scores to make it into the final rankings! But our studio distinguished itself more specifically around these 3 reasons:

  • Along with three weeks of starting vacation allowance, Ludia is supportive of employees spending time away from work with paid time off during the winter holidays (up to five days) as well as up to five paid personal days off, which can be scheduled as needed
  • Ludia lets everyone share in the company’s success with profit-sharing and year-end bonuses, and also offers generous referral bonuses for employees who help recruit friends (up to $5,000 per successful hire)
  • Ludia’s head office features a number of onsite amenities and perks including unlimited breakfast goods (bagels, English muffins, raisin bread), fresh fruit, a fully stocked employee lounge (video games, pool table, a tiki bar and personalized beer on tap known as “La Ludique”) and free membership to an onsite fitness facility

For more information on Ludia’s selection, have a look here : https://reviews.canadastop100.com/top-employer-ludia

What does Live ops mean at ludia?

Perceived as a chore to enter data, a project management science, a perpetual search for optimization, a sales catalogue or a complex construction of activities’ campaigns, the Live Ops activity is in constant evolution.

Defined as the set of events that animate the life of an online game, whether an exclusive game mode, time-limited content or special offers, Live Ops keeps generating an ever-increasing proportion of our games’ revenues.

Since I have been working on Live Ops throughout my career in game economy design at Ludia since 2012, I am happy to share a testimony of  my learnings and how my perception evolved along the projects.

Fred

Jurassic Park Builder : Where it all started

When Jurassic Park Builder was released  in 2012, we were far from thinking that the game would still be active 7 years later! Its success definitively placed us among the successful developers at the time. The principle was simple: the player builds his park by collecting buildings, decorations and unlocked dinosaurs along the way with the possibility of buying exclusive ones using premium currency.

It quickly became a priority to animate the game with events.  And to do so, only few possibilities were available at the time: giving discounts on virtual currencies and dinosaurs, activating exclusive dinosaurs in the market… and that was pretty much it! Other possibilities came much later but having to deal with those few tools at first taught us to improvise and be resourceful. As a designer focused on monetization (the term “game economy designer” was not yet really used at that time), I was involved in many aspects of the implementation, such as setting the schedule with marketing, making sure that everything was running smoothly with production, evaluating and proposing combinations of offers with the analysts… 

And the results were there! The game was progressing relatively slowly, thus the special offers had a lot of appeal. So much actually that this lead to an abuse on our side sometimes but taught us to better manage the offers’ timing in order to create envy and stimulating events for our players. Thanks to this experience, we gathered knowledge around content management for collectible games, which was useful for all our future productions, such as our famous How to Train Your Dragon: Rise of Berk released two years later…

Jurassic World The Game: the evolution

It’s 2015, and Jurassic World The Game is in its last gestation moments. Thanks to successful testing on other games, it benefited from a whole set of improvements and features: dinosaurs combats and different creatures’ environments had been successfully introduced in Jurassic Park Builder, and will therefore be an integral part of the Jurassic World The Game experience.

The game also looked very promising using its introduction of card packages to distribute dinosaurs, which would no longer be unlocked as single entities, but as creatures that the player would help evolve using duplicate copies: this may seem obvious today, but at that time, we were still operating with direct sales. To be able to give the duplicates functionalities reinforced the depth of the collection we could offer.

We wanted to create an impressive visual experience around combat where the central plot of the game would be built around it. The genius part of it was to develop tools that would also create events around these combats, which means that we could create special events to vary the experience and guide players to the unique dinosaurs’ collection!

When the game was released, we had access to a real arsenal to create interesting gameplay events and a virtually unlimited variety of offers to support them. This is how our first campaigns were born! We also made use of all the experience we gained from previous games to rigorously monitor public feedback, around sales performance or special events.

But over time, we fell into some misfortunes. We kept multiplying gameplay and offer events without necessarily seeking synergies beyond a specific moment, which led us to organizational difficulties and a wearisome overproduction… but ultimately it pushed us to be more inventive, more precise and more innovative in the approach. So, more than a year and a half after the game’s release, we launched a new Live Ops approach introducing monthly themes, and a series of events better structured around the evolution of the player’s collection. This brand new methodology was well thought out as a team and enabled us to give more meaning to our approaches. Instead of simply trying to build the most profitable event at a given moment, Live Ops is now a tool that concretely creates rendez-vous and keeps an audience on the edge until the desired climax!

Today, a great community of dedicated fans still follows Jurassic World The Game and remains on the lookout for each live event. It is also a complex machine to maintain, but an invaluable source of learning for Ludia to understand the needs in order to optimize Live Ops’s management.

Jurassic World Alive: reaching maturity?

While we were getting ready for Jurassic World Alive, Ludia had already experimented the following in terms of Live Ops:

– The advanced articulation of game events and sales on Jurassic World The Game.
– The systematization of offers on How To Train Your Dragon Rise Of Berk.
– The creation and automation of game event cycles and offers on TMNT Legends.
– The segmentation, dynamization and remote management of the offers for Buzzr Casino and the Price is Right Slots.
– Numerous experiments and revenue optimization campaigns on all projects.

It would have been a shame not to take advantage of that legacy! So naturally, Live Ops was already part of the game’s conception. This time though, the objective was to offer events right after the release of this ambitious experience, such as a mix of geolocated dinosaurs hunting game to attract the public, a deep combat system to engage our players in the competition and fun augmented reality photo features to enjoy the collection. We really made good progress in the vision of the experience we wanted to offer, and Live Ops just had to embellish this approach.

 To do so, we benefited from the development of an internal tool called Dazzle, our online content and planning manager, which eases our events management and their activation in the game. We also adapted our organization and built a Live Ops cell within the development team. Which meant that any interesting feature would be considered for an event!

 Our experience enabled us to better understand how to build our event inventories and how to standardize them in order to quickly create interesting routines. This gave us much more time to focus on the calendar highlights and, on top of that, geolocalization opened new opportunities for varieties: the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA finals? Quick, let’s organize a raptor hunt in Canada to honor them!

 We also have been very lucky to work with our community management teams. Thanks to them we never miss an opportunity to understand, inspire and stimulate the passion and expectations of our fans. This relationship grows stronger over time, and gives a whole new dimension to the surprises we launch: for example, if fans create a support group for the Lythronax, an unloved dinosaur, we will pay tribute to them by creating a boss fight with the great Lord Lythronax, a super-powerful creature specially created for the occasion!

 Today, we are extremely proud of what we have achieved with Jurassic World Alive. Its success encourages us to venture even further. There is still a lot to learn, and we look forward to creating new, more fun and engaging events!

Conclusion

It’s not an easy exercise to list all our progress on Live Ops over the years. There is a reason why we build our business strategy around our ability to run our games over a long period of time. In today’s market, fresh content and regular, interesting events offered to players are key in guaranteeing the health of our audiences and our ability to monetize them.

It was always our choice to develop at our own pace. Our priorities above all are to optimize our approaches, wisely use the tools at our disposal, and keep learning from our operations, with challenges ranging from service management to organizational corporate strategy. 

Through experimentation, we learnt that each game will be different depending on its Live Ops, and that its audiences will have completely different needs and wants depending on the license and game type. 

In fact, we learnt a lot of things. But most importantly, we learnt that we still have a lot to learn.

Thinking about it, the most important question to you today is: are you ready to learn with us?

Universal and Ludia: it’s all about trust !

Maggy, Jurassic World Alive’s Senior Producer, started working at Ludia in 2015. Not only does she supervise the creation of the dinosaurs for the Jurassic World:The Game and Jurassic World Alive mobile games, but she also works with the largest Game team at Ludia. During production, the team consisted of more than 100 developers, artists and designers! And we’re not even talking about the day-to-day work with other teams, such as IT, marketing, back-end, live-ops, community management, etc.

Maggy

For all those aspects, she is the perfect resource at Ludia to provide insight into Ludia’s collaboration with the Universal Games team on one of its strongest licenses.

Ready? Ok Maggy, let’s talk about the Jurassic World universe, and Ludia’s relationship with Universal.

Working with Universal, how is it really?

The relationship between Ludia and Universal is one of the most collaborative among all of our projects. Since Jurassic World: The Game, Ludia’s first co-production, we worked closely on every single aspect together. From the dinosaurs, story writing and characters, to establishing the roadmap, reviewing the designs, developing the live ops calendar, and much more. Our objective is to continue building on a winning partnership that will continue to grow for many years.

Trust is key!

Thanks to our our collaboration on Jurassic Park Builder, Jurassic World: The Game and Jurassic World Alive, we’ve developed a strong and rewarding working relationship with Universal. I like to call it a trust-based relationship. This trust enables us to explore new ideas and concepts with a collaborative mindset. And we’ve found that due to our history together, we now are usually on the same page about the features that we find most important for the long-term success for the various titles.

Working with such a strong license like Jurassic World gives us an amazing advantage and visibility marketing-wise. The franchise is adored by almost two to three generations!  Our team consists of a real fan-base for Jurassic World, they all know the dinosaurs by heart!

Anything unique about this collaboration?

We had the opportunity to work on our first full-length live-action trailer for the launch of Jurasssic World Alive, in collaboration with the Universal Games marketing team, and it has been viewed more than 3 million times! We were also able to leverage the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom film marketing campaign toshowcase the game in fun ways, such as when we were given the opportunity to tag the game at the end of the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer that was shown in theatres.

Second, working with Universal continues to be a ton of fun and their input is very valuable in helping to bring our gameplay vision to life. To reinforce the authencity our games, we are given access to resources and assets that help us to make informed creative decisions during the development process, like being able to read the Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom script almost a year before the film was released.

Finally, more recently, we partnered with the team at Universal Studios Hollywood on the recent opening of the new « Jurassic World – The Ride » attraction. The collaboration allowed us to created an event specifically for the ride location, so that when the people come out of the ride, they can battle with their own dinosaurs. Fans visiting the theme park were also able to collect their favorite dinosaurs and track down an exclusive Epic Incubator, a capsule that contains valuable resources, such as dinosaur DNA.

It goes without saying that being able to make our own contributions to some of Universal’s biggest launches has been very rewarding.

Key learnings to build the best relationship with strong licenses

The key to success is simple – treat your licensors like true partners. A strong collaboration helps make things go faster and everyone is able to accomplish their goals.

Drawing dragons with Dreamworks

CREATE DRAGONS WITH DREAMWORKS

Working with licenses in the video game industry can be a complex topic: a formidable source of opportunities for some, a creativity brake for others. One could agree that there are as many reasons to work with licenses as there are existing brands and studios.

But how does it work at Ludia? How do we work with our licenses? Do our artists feel constrained in their creativity? A quick feedback from Philippe, artist on Dragons: Titan Uprising.

Philippe

Working hand in hand

After studying art and animation, Philippe joined Ludia 4 years ago and has since worked on exciting projects with Dreamworks, such as Kung Fu Panda and Dragons: Titan Uprising: “I am responsible for the artistic design of the games and visuals”, says Philippe.

How does it work in practice?

Well, for the Dragons: Titan Uprising game for example, the Ludia Game Designer may need a new dragon. This is where Philippe comes in. His work consists in imagining and drawing the dragon including the research phase, sketching, adding texture, final drawing, colorimetry: everything is well thought through. Philippe collaborates with Dreamworks throughout the whole process to bring this unique universe, its dragons and characters to life.  They share the visuals, make live comments and are in constant touch until the final validation.

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Working with Licenses: How to Train Your Dragon

As Ludia’s Lead Game Designer on DreamWorks Dragons: Titan Uprising for nearly 3 years, I’ve seen first-hand how working with a beloved franchise empowers game development.

There’s a common misconception that working with established licenses stifles creativity and results in mediocre products. While the early days of games are littered with half-baked movie cash grabs, things have changed dramatically over the years. From 2018’s Spider-Man on PS4 to Jurassic World: Alive on mobile, gamers have more options than ever to dive deep into their favorite franchises. Licensors now understand the value of high-quality titles supporting their brands, and Ludia has become a mobile expert in licensed gaming.

Written by Kevin Messer

You Already Have an Audience

Let’s face it—getting people excited about a mobile game and forming a community is really hard. There’s more competition every day, and mobile still carries a stigma with old-school gamers. Building around a known franchise not only helps with marketing, but you already have an answer to “who’s our audience?” Knowing your audience helps in all stages of game development, allowing the team to focus on what really matters to people who already care.

In the case of How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD), I’m constantly amazed by the passion and civility of the fans. The inherent optimism in the franchise attracts some wonderful people who treat others with respect. Even when they find bugs, they often let us know with a tone of “I want to help improve the game” instead of “the devs are terrible!” This creates a collaborative atmosphere with the community and motivates teams to constantly improve.

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Let’s talk about autism in the video games industry

Anxious, sometimes clumsy in society, not always easy to understand but amazingly detail oriented, meticulous and innovative : they are often called the forgotten of the workplace. Who are they? They are the people with autism spectrum disorders, and we are so proud to count some among our crew members at Ludia.

Michel

Diversity at Ludia 

At Ludia, when we talk about diversity we want to include all types of differences, not only to be tolerant, but offer a place where we want each and every Ludian to feel free to celebrate his/her differences, share and discuss with open-minded people, and always feel accepted and respected.

So, in this context, Michel Blanchet addressed the topic of autistic people at the workplace during one of our Lunch and Learn a few months ago, to help everyone get a better understanding of those specific profiles and how to act around them and integrate them. Let’s take a look back at this topic that deserves such special attention.

The Asperger myth

Michel has been working at Ludia for almost 4 years. First as Build Master, then as Backend Developer 6 months ago as part of his evolution. When you see him, he seems quite different from what we have in mind when we think of autism: smiling, sociable with various interests.  “Autism is not something well known by everyone, and a lot of people have their own idea of what it is.” He explains to us that people still strongly associate autism to a kid that is rocking back and forth, that does not want to be touched nor be disturbed in his own world. “But autism is so much more. We all have our personal characteristics and differences.”

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What does it mean to be inclusive at Ludia?

At Ludia, we embrace diversity, whether in trades, origins, languages, individuals and their passions, expertise and personalities. Being a Ludian is also about taking action, even if small, to improve the feeling of being part of a crew and to build a more convivial, secure space at Ludia where we can all feel like home.

Leslie

This year is a special year at Ludia, because for the first time, the company decided to walk the Pride Walk with other Gaming studios here at Montréal on the 18th of August 2019. “ I am so happy we are finally being part of the Pride Walk, I have been waiting for that day” says Leslie Martin, a french Technical artist and Ludian for 6 years.

If there is one thing we can say about Ludia, is that everyone here feels accepted and part of a crew. It’s one of the reasons why people stay. “For a long time, I didn’t feel normal, wondering about my sexuality, my purpose, what it meant to be a woman. Today I have learnt to embrace my femininity, and changing countries broadened my view on things. LGBT in Canada is much more developed and accepted than in other countries, same sex marriage was already recognized in 2005!” Leslie does not really believe in gender binarism, gender is a spectrum. When we look at the new generations growing up in a more accepting world, the line between genders becomes more ambiguous and people are more free to be true to themselves.

A lot of initiatives have been set in place at Ludia to build a healthy working environment, for everyone to feel included and accepted. Starting with our given classes around manners and respect for each other at work, our lunch & learn sessions given by colleagues, where they speak about depression, burn-out, autism, self-improvement, meditation for instance. “It’s cool to see how people are more and more comfortable here to share their personal findings and experiences without being ashamed”

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Inclusion, our studio’s main pillar

It has always been part of Ludia’s DNA, to accept people for who they are, with their personalities and skills. And even if for some, this is not a topic for conversation, well to have women working in the video games industry, especially in programming, was not always easy (and still isn’t for some today).
But this was never an issue, nor even a question at Ludia, says Catherine Barbeau, who has been working at Ludia since its creation in 2007 and today in charge of technical back-end projects.

Catherine

An obvious integration

Catherine has been evolving at Ludia for 12 years now! She saw the company bloom from a small start-up to today’s mature studio. And what remained constant during this incredible evolution is the continuous integration of all types of profiles and an open mindset.

“At Ludia we are generally good when it comes to hiring people who are enjoyable to work with, therefore I was never put in a difficult position for being a woman. I always felt like I had  a great support around me, it wasn’t a problem at all. I know there are girls who would have different stories to tell, but for me it has always been very positive. I was able to find my place and evolve with the company.”
After having been in the Jurassic World Alive programming team as co-lead of a dozen programmers, Catherine is now in charge of a team of 5 programmers who provide all the server infrastructure for the games. Being part of teams composed mainly of men (which is still a reality in programming), and being their leader even has always gone very smoothly for her.

A natural recognition

Catherine is aware of how lucky she is that she never had to fight as a woman in her working-environment. However, she admits that she felt a bit anxious when she had to take her first maternity leave. “There were not many women at Ludia’s at that time: a one-year maternity leave was not common. I was really worried about what was going to happen when I came back. Was I going to lose my position? »

None of that happened of course!  A place was naturally found for her in the teams. During her second maternity leave, she left much more serene, and she is now glad to see her colleagues go on maternity or paternity leave with much less apprehension than she had felt at the time. As Ludia has evolved over the years, this was integrated in parallel to its culture: no more uncertainty and anxiety.

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