Matt West has been a part of Ubisoft Toronto for over 11 years. He’s currently overseeing development of the Splinter Cell remake as Producer. His previous experience includes titles such as Splinter Cell Blacklist and four Far Cry games. Read on to learn about his career journey, what he values at Ubisoft Toronto and his advice for others interested in a career in video games.
Hey Matt, tell us more about what you do as a producer, and what’s your favourite thing about your role?
As a producer, my job is simply to create the best possible conditions for my team to make the game that we’re making. On the ground, this takes many different forms and shapes, and changes shape pretty much every day. I started in the industry on the creative side of the fence, and only crossed the Rubicon 6 years ago. The reason I did that was because I wanted to be able to have a positive impact on a larger number of people. As a producer, I can have a positive impact on more people than at any other point in my career.
What drew you to Ubisoft Toronto?
I’ve been at Ubisoft Toronto since the studio opened in May 2010 (with a brief sojourn away from the studio for a while). Rather than saying what drew me to Ubisoft Toronto, I think the better answer is what drew me back to Ubisoft Toronto. Easy, one word answer: people. The folks that I get to work with here at the studio are funny, warm, genuine real people, who also happen to be incredibly talented.
It’s not an uncommon opinion, but it’s one I came to honestly — Games aren’t made by amazing tech, or innovative ideas. They’re made by the people behind those things. Having folks that I appreciate stationed on both shoulders? Folks that I am genuinely happy to talk with, to laugh with (and often have to remind myself that we have a job to do)? This is why I work here.
What are you currently working on? Anything you can share with us? 👀
We’re doing a remake of the original Splinter Cell. We’re still pretty early days, so I can’t share too much, but I’m really happy with how we’re approaching it. I think I can safely say this: it all starts with Sam. For us, Sam IS Splinter Cell. It’s about taking him back to the roots. That dry wit, his calculated approach, and sharp professionalism.
Want more info? Check out our recent roundtable discussion in celebration of Splinter Cell’s 20th anniversary!
Any special memories from playing previous Splinter Cell games? What do you think makes the franchise so unique?
Here’s three: Spies vs Mercs, in “Pandora Tomorrow.” (Luckily, we weren’t really tracking work too closely at the company I worked for at that time, because productivity DIPPED.) The split jump in the police station in the OG. Getting to work on the series in “Blacklist.”
What did you do before working at Ubisoft Toronto? How’d you break into the video game industry?
I worked at another video game company before Ubisoft Toronto. I learned about the industry there, and also learned that I care more about the people side of things than pretty much any other factor. I broke into the industry by going to see “Fellowship of the Ring” with “a friend of a friend” who happened to be the creative director at a studio. We had our job interview in the game section of a Walmart. It was a different time.
What are some tips you’d give to someone hoping to land a similar role to yours?
Practice speaking. You don’t have to speak to rooms filled with people, but your clarity of communication is one of the things which will set you apart and make you memorable. It’s a collaborative industry – practice the skill foundational to collaboration.
Do passion projects. Capstone projects are great (really great – I want to be clear), but doing something entirely yourself – even if it’s teeny tiny – shows drive and passion.
Slightly off topic, but I love telling people in interviews not to be nervous about being nervous. You’re nervous enough as it is – don’t compound that by worrying about not being chill. When I see that someone is nervous in an interview, I often thank them, as this is a sign that they really want to work here.
What’s the biggest takeaway lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
Own what you’re good at, and broadcast what you’ll need help with. I used to think that asking for help meant that I was deficient in some core skill. Holy sh*t was I wrong! Asking for help shows confidence, and it shows commitment. It helps the team around you, and it means that the job gets done better, stronger, faster.
LIFE AT UBISOFT
What are Ubisoft Toronto’s strengths? What has changed for the better and what can we work on?
Ubisoft Toronto benefits from being part of a mature company. As a company, Ubisoft has shipped many, many games, and we always try to learn something from each one. This doesn’t always happen — and that’s something in the “what can we work on” category — but we always make the effort to look at what we’ve done and think about how we can do it better. The result? A robust process to support all of the different parts of making a game, as well as reflecting on creative choices.
What do you do to relax?
I don’t just have one thing that I do. At various points in the year: playing video games, reading, making furniture with not the right tools, and telling myself that it’s not weird that I don’t watch television.
People of Ubisoft Toronto is a monthly series featuring studio members from a variety of projects and backgrounds as they share their experiences at our studio, perspective of the video game industry and, perhaps, even a sneak peek of what they’re working on! ;)
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