Massive MD on The Division: You Have to Create a Monster Game to Cater to All, Other Games Struggle with This

Alessio Palumbo
The Division 2

Massive Entertainment is now living up to its name. In an interview published on the latest EDGE magazine (April 2019, issue 330), Managing Director David Polfeldt revealed that the Malmo based developer almost doubled its headcount (now around 700) from the release of the first The Division game to the second one, due on March 15th. That's not even counting a 'sibling' studio set up in Stockholm with another fifty employees or so.

This helps to deliver a 'monster game', which is needed to cater to all kinds of different states, something that Polfelt noted other games struggle with.

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If you look at the learnings we made from The Division, we know that people play the game in quite different ways. And people fall in love with different aspects of the game. The Division is expected to cater to quite a lot of tastes, which is never an easy thing. How do you create a game that caters to all that? The answer is that you have to create a monster game. I think this is a challenge for some other games that are in the same genre: you’re expected to deliver on a lot of different tastes and preferences. It’s really fun to do, but it’s not easy. And yet you also have to remember that Massive is a studio that is 20 years old, and we don’t want the easiest challenge. We want to win the Champions League. And yes, that’s really difficult, but that’s why it’s exciting to us.

The Managing Director of Massive also mentioned that unlike other Ubisoft studios, the team is focused squarely on doing their own thing and possibly looking at other great titles from other companies to learn from. This causes Massive to stand out among the internal Ubisoft developers.

Massive is a little bit known, internally in Ubisoft, to have too much tunnel vision, and be very, very focused on our own stuff. There is a lot of exchange and lots and lots of conversations and sharing within Ubisoft overall, which I think is extremely healthy because there are smart people everywhere. But in general, we’re quite focused on what we do on our own. And I think we don’t compare our own stuff so much with other Ubisoft games; we’re looking much more at games that are made by other companies that we admire and can learn from, and also want to be better than. So I think our references are more, to be honest, whoever is the best in the world at the moment.

I think that on a bad week, we’re considered to be a bit of a prima donna. On a good week, I think we’re considered to be Steve Jobs. And the pendulum swings back and forth between the two.

Lastly, Polfeldt briefly touched upon the other big project in development at Massive Entertainment, the adaptation of Avatar. He revealed meeting James Cameron for the first time in 2012 before the first The Division was even announced, and there were years of discussions that led to 'trust-building on both sides' before the deal was finalized. Now, the big challenge will be to translate the same high quality of the two-hour movie across an experience of 'up to 800 hours' in the game (which suggests Avatar will also use the games-as-a-service model, probably in a persistent online world setting).

As a reminder, The Division 2 is getting an Open Beta tomorrow on all platforms.

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