Who are you? (Where do come from? What’s your job in Ubisoft?)

Hello there! My name is Marius and I am the PC Director for Eastern Europe at Ubisoft. Hailing from Bucharest, Romania (home of one of the largest studios in Ubisoft), I’ve been an avid PC gamer for the past 30 years almost. Happy to be here!

How did you come to work in games?

I’ve always had a passion for computers and hardware to begin with, so that helped a lot with choosing the field of interest as a teen. I was fortunate enough to have access to a PC in the early 90’s so that played a huge role in later signing up for a quality control tester job at Ubisoft in 2006; thinking that it would be a good starting place / summer job to cover my education taxes … I ended up staying for what’s now been almost 13 years.

What did you want to do when you grow up? Did you always know you wanted to work in games?

Planes, definitely. I was hyperactive in my early years so I might’ve wanted to do many things, many of which I can’t remember now, but I clearly recall my ultimate dream as a kid was to build airplanes or space ships – not that original now that I think of it. Despite what seemed to be just a childhood phase, I actually pursued this later in life through education.

Did I know I wanted to work in games? Surely no, initially I saw games as entertainment and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about making a career out of it. It was just unimaginable for someone living in Romania post-1990, that there would be a market for this in less than 10 years.

How do you spend your free time?

Which free time? Just kidding … or am I, now? I try my best to find a balance between my personal life, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, strength and conditioning training and streaming PC games (a bit too much PC gaming if you ask around). I’ll probably cut down on my gaming time once I get my instructor diploma, though – my guild-mates will hate me after reading this, haha!

What is your favorite movie quote?

I have many quotes that come to mind but one that really stuck with me was an A-class life advice given by Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder. He says that: “I learned a long time ago that worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere”.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?

Hands down the flight simulator cockpit. While in University, the whole class had the opportunity to experience flying the fuselage that we had built throughout the year as part of our project. Needless to say we crashed it flawlessly. Was a unique experience however and the cockpit projections were so full of realism that it made for a thrilling moment that I’ll never forget. Nothing beats crashing with an airplane in terms of “interesting”, right? I still get spooked while flying because of that.

Why do you play on PC?

Freedom of choice, power and performance, scalability, multi-purpose, just to name a few. Growing up, I realized that PC and technology in general is the future, and it combined relaxation purposes with education (school projects and such). Today, I choose the PC because it allows me to play and relax while watching an interesting stream or documentary, I can customize my experience in the games I play in minute details, I can experiment with various pieces of software, and productivity tasks for myself or work – the examples can go on. I just can’t see myself not owning a PC in this day and age. I love the modularity of a PC, the RGB and custom case modding, the gaming gadgets and desks. I guess I’m a sucker for cutting edge technology and extremes which I obviously find on the PC platform.

The selection of games that I grew up on is also a factor to take into account for staying faithful to PC. Games such as Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, Heroes 3, NFS, Half Life, Monkey Island, Doom, Unreal, Wolfenstein … oh gosh, they’re so many to name here. And MMOs, so many MMOs! They shaped my childhood and allowed me to meet a lot of wonderful people.

What’s your first memory on PC?

My first memory would definitely be MS-DOS 4.0 or as I call it, “the brutal sucker punch” (coming from a SEGA Genesis device with less requirements). You had to know your way around to use it efficiently and I found it extremely intriguing at that time - it’s what lured me into wanting to debug and optimize (EMM386.exe anyone?). In terms of playing games, clearly Prince of Persia (1989 version) on my very first PC running the above DOS monstrosity. Funny how destiny works in mysterious ways, that I had started my journey with a UBI title only to return to it.

If you were forced to play one game for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My friends reading this will troll me hard for it, but here goes: Cabal Online. It’s an old Korean MMO that I’ve played since day 1 of EU release (around 2006 I think). The player base is not what it used to be anymore but I’ve clocked more than 40.000 hours in that game and I honestly believe I could play it forever – that’s also because it’s a “grinder” type of game that somehow ticks all my completionist needs, but that’s a different story!

What is your favorite PC game?

I’m torn between Diablo-series (1, 2, Lord of Destruction and 3) that I’ve played for more than 15 years and Cabal Online. Diablo magic finding takes the crown even though I couldn’t go back to it now. Yeah, definitely Diablo.

What does your PC setup look like at home?

I’m currently transitioning (or as a friend of mine likes to call it – between relationships). I’m currently sporting a 3rd-gen Intel Core i7 / NVIDIA combo but I plan on switching to Ryzen and Vega. On top of betraying the configuration that has served me for so long, I also plan on pimping it properly with a custom-mod and some … yeah you know it: RGB!!!

Seriously now, I have to upgrade my rig, I’ve been delaying it for too long and it’s showing in my streaming sessions that I need some more “juice”.

Which character of any game would you most like to be?

Stay awhile and listen - Deckard Cain. So calm, so positive, so wise and knowledgeable. So charging 100 gold to identify items if you skip rescuing him in Act 1.

What is your best memory working in Ubisoft?

Ohh, tough one! It has to be experiencing my first internal Ubisoft PC event, in person. These events bring together representatives of the PC ecosystem from all corners of Ubisoft. It’s always refreshing to meet passionate like-minded people from across the Globe with whom you shape the future of the platform you love!

Which is your proudest moment on the job?

As you know, Ubisoft has been releasing PC games since the 90’s so we’re no strangers to the platform. A couple of years ago however, I believe it was around 2014 - early 2015, we were sailing some rough seas when it came to PC gaming. Players were criticizing our releases (and for good reason), internally we were displeased, reaching a tipping point and things just generally weren’t going as we would’ve wanted them to go – it was obvious to everyone. That year, before a crisis could strike, we had our very first PC Summit. It wasn’t a highly exposed event even internally, but it allowed us in a small group to put the building blocks of an internal “PC Revolution”. That was the spark that was needed to start turning things around (and trust me, in a company as big as Ubisoft, it’s the difference between turning a little boat and a large carrier). Tools, plans for the future, design, but most importantly ourselves, we changed all of that in record time for a corporation this size. It was only years later that the commitment of every PC team would show the fruits of our labor - and what a great feeling that was.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not yet at our destination, we haven’t relaxed, we’ve just begun - but we’ve definitely taken HUGE steps towards making things right for our PC fans. Some of them will disagree reading this, it’s only fair they do, we have a history – we don’t let it define us though. This change, this turning point which was so crucial for us and the elegance with which it was handled internally, is hands down the proudest moment at work. Remembering this alone makes my skin shiver, can’t wait to see where the road takes us, striding forward!

What does a typical day look like for you? What are you currently working on?

*I sense dilated PR pupils* These days, I’m spending my time working on unannounced projects which are in development and projects that are in the LIVE phase in post-launch, in the Eastern Europe studios, as well as transversal topics that improve the overall PC ecosystem at Ubisoft. My priority is solidifying the foundation for building our PC games and this includes the future choices that we will have to make to ensure success on PC.

A typical day begins with a good short coffee and networking with colleagues. I spend a good amount of time researching the market, looking at our releases, player reviews and forum complaints for our games, competitor releases, new technology, and announcements – the drill. It’s of paramount importance that we are up-to-date on what’s happening on PC, especially since it’s such a volatile market. You could be a champion now and a persona non-grata in 6 months, in the snap of a finger.

In the remaining hours, I split my time between doing PC design reviews, mailing, meetings, presentations, networking with colleague and external partners, and transversal topics. You don’t get to realize how time flies which both is upsetting and great, depending on what you had planned for that day.

How has being involved in game development changed your life outside of work (free time)?

It’s had a huge impact on my evolution as a professional and as a human being and I’m glad you asked. There’s this misconception that games are so fun to make, that start to end we’re all milk and honey, laughing at conferences, smiling in interviews. And that’s fine and it’s true, that’s a part of the process too, but it’s not only that – as they say, the success is just the tip of the iceberg, nobody shows you the ugly, the undesirable, the hardship.

The way this industry has the power to change you is unquestionable: I entered Ubisoft as a light-headed adolescent at a young age, slightly arrogant, rebellious and righteous – you know, the perfect recipe for failure in a corporation. I cannot begin to describe how working and interacting with ages varying between 18 and 50+ helps turn you into a proper human being. I’ve learned how to accept diversity, how to set my moral compass on the right track, how to be understanding and supportive. It really feels like a huge family took you in and didn’t do anything to force you to change but instead it showed you the world and let you choose next. And it’s an amazing world to see, it really is. Having contact with people all over the world, different cultures, different ages, it’s eye-opening. I’m still evolving and I’m learning new things on a daily basis and I hope others have the will and endurance to experience this.

The hardships that we’ve gone through as individual, as colleagues, as teams, really forced the best and worst in us and I like to think it ended up making us better people, pushing our limits. I definitely miss the ones that gave up on this journey and have chosen a different, hopefully better path. At the same time, I’ve learned to appreciate (even more) the ones that are still striding. They feel like family and I absolutely love having them around and working with them.

Has working in games changed the way you play games?

It definitely has. You can be the kind of gamer that does reverse engineering and deep research on the games you play, but nothing comes close to understanding and seeing how the pieces of the puzzle come together from the inside out. It’s a humbling experience. I’m appreciating good artwork differently now, I’m awed by great game design choices, game rules and logic; I’m understanding performance and frame times and frame composition and real-time processing limitations versus hardware. Now that I know how much time it takes to create a scene, a drawing, to optimize for a couple of milliseconds less in your frame – one word: mind-boggling.

Overall, I’d say that having access to all this information within Ubisoft has definitely given me a different perspective with the most important aspect being: Maturity while gaming.

I used to be quite toxic towards games and game developers when I was younger, thinking I could do better if given the opportunity, the kind of bla-bla immature behavior that doesn’t care about the people behind the game and their 3-4-10 years of work and dedication. Then I realized that you have time for maybe 10 big games in your lifetime as developer, not that many chances to get it right and not much time to learn from your mistakes. And when you see how much time and energy is dedicated into making a game, even the worst game ever, you start seeing things differently.

Where many choose to see the low quality of a product, I can’t stop but think about the hundreds and thousands of hours that those developers stayed away from their family, their kids, their pets, working to deliver the best they could given the situation. Props to you, developer, wherever you are – your effort is appreciated!

Once the game is out there, how do you feel when people react to it?

My heart shrinks down the size of a marble then goes supernova (if the game is a success) or stays the size of a marble (if reception is not that great).
My goal as developer is to try to make people happy after a long day at work or a huge argument with the ones they love, or just an average lousy day. I don’t want to be just another sad episode in their lives, especially when I know they’ve been waiting for that game for years. It’s a huge pressure to bear and it’s only humbling when your 3-4 years of work ultimately make people happy. A simple yet powerful “Thank you, guys, for all your work, I love the game” is what everyone can hope for in the end.

What are you known for in the office?

Phew, you’re really digging me a hole here …
I’ve never asked around what I’m known for, but I would guess it’s my passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, streaming a game with 1 player (me), the guy with inappropriate jokes and dark humor, metalhead without long hair and last but not least, easy-going attitude .

Thanks for reading all of this!