Michel Ancel (born March 29, 1972) is a French video game designer for Ubisoft. He is best known for creating the Rayman franchise, for which he was the lead designer for the first two games, and the recent Rayman Origins.
He is also known for the cult favorite Beyond Good & Evil and for the video game adaptation of Peter Jackson's Peter Jackson's King Kong. He is currently working on a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil with a small team of developers, using development tools specially designed to make game development more accessible to a greater audience.
Ancel's first demo, Mechanic Warriors, was developed for software house Lankhor. Ancel then joined Ubisoft as a graphic artist after meeting the game author Nicolas Choukroun in Montpellier at the age of 17. He made the graphics of Nicolas' games such as The Intruder, Pick'n Pile before doing his first game as both programmer and graphic artist Brain Blaster published by Ubi Soft in 1990. In 1992, he began to work on Rayman, his directorial debut. It was originally released in 1995 for the Atari Jaguar, and in 1996 for PlayStation and Sega Saturn.
Ancel was also heavily involved in the development of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, but had only an advisory role on Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Although he praised its development team, he claims he would have "made the game differently".
In 2003, he created Beyond Good & Evil, which garnered critical acclaim and a cult following, but was a commercial failure. However, film director Peter Jackson's admiration of the game — and his frustration with EA's handling of the The Lord of the Rings license — led to Ancel being given direction of the King Kong video game adaptation. In spite of Ubisoft's reluctance to produce a Beyond Good & Evil sequel, Ancel has expressed a clear wish to produce one in the future.
On April 5, 2006, Ubisoft announced Ancel was leading the development of the fourth game in the Rayman series, Rayman Raving Rabbids, for Wii. The game began production in early 2005 and was released on November 15, 2006 for the launch of the Wii. However, Ancel was notably absent from the project after its E3 announcement, and he has made no public appearances regarding the game after the development team switched focus from a free-roaming platformer to the final mini games format shortly after E3. In the final game Ancel was only credited with storyboarding and character design, while design credits were shared between multiple other people.
In an interview with Nintendo Power, Ancel confirmed that he is working on a new project that means a lot to him. He also talks about Jade from Beyond Good & Evil and says "I really hope that Jade will continue to keep her values and her personality". Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot has confirmed that Michel Ancel is currently working on several unannounced projects, as of March 2008.
In an interview with French-based video game magazine JeuxVidéo, Ancel stated that a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil had been in pre-production by a small team for about a year, but they were awaiting Ubisoft's approval before moving into full production.
Beyond Good & Evil 2 was officially announced at Ubidays 2008 event on May 28, 2008. On December 18, 2008, at the VGL event in Paris, Ancel stated that the game has been under development for a year and a half and that the development team has received total freedom from Ubisoft, giving them the opportunity to make the game how they want.
In 2010, Ubisoft announced Rayman Origins, first an episodic video game designed by Michel Ancel and developed by a small team of five people, but then it was announced that it transformed into a full game.. The title is used UBIart Framework developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and Ancel. UBIart is a developer platform that allows artists and animators to easily create content and use it in interactive environment. The engine is optimized for HD resolutions and is capable to run at 60fps in 1920x1080. UBIart tools will be released as open-source software in 2011.
Speaking at Montpellier in Game conference in June 2010, Ancel revealed that he's developing similar tools to create Beyond Good & Evil 2 with a very small team to preserve its "artistic spirit". Ancel is experimenting with different development techniques and tools. He claims these tools are getting similar to those used by Weta Digital.
On March 13, 2006, he, along with Shigeru Miyamoto and Frédérick Raynal, were knighted by the French Minister of Culture and Communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, a knight of arts and literature. It was the first time that video game developers were honored with this distinction.
Ancel is also recognized as one of the best game designers in IGN's Top 100 Game Creators, ranking 24th out of 100.
Design philosophyEditAncel aims for a high degree of freedom in his games. He is critical of games that claim to offer freedom, but present limits or invisible boundaries where players do not expect them.
In designing Peter Jackson's King Kong, Ancel chose not to show any overlay information to increase the player's immersion in the game world, a design choice also seen in games such as Ico or Another World. For instance, low health is conveyed not with a meter but through blurred vision and the sound of heavy breathing.
Ancel rejects the often held belief that video games of French origin are more original, claiming the problem lies not in the development process, but in risk-averseness at US publishers.
- Pick 'n Pile (1990) – Story
- Rayman (1995) – Concept & Design
- Tonic Trouble (1999) – Concept
- Rayman 2: The Great Escape (1999) – Concept, Game Design, Artistic Design & Story Concept
- Rayman Arena (2001) – Character Design
- Beyond Good & Evil (2003) – Director, Game Design & Story
- Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (2005) – Creative Director & Game Designer
- Rayman Raving Rabbids (2006) – Character Design & Based on a World Created By
- Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 (2007) – Character Design & Based on a World created By
- Rayman Origins (2011) - Concept & Design
- Rayman Legends (2012) - Concept & Design
- Beyond Good & Evil 2 (TBA) – Designer
Ancel worked on, but did not design, Tonic Trouble (1999), which features limbless characters in the same mould as Rayman. He shares credit on his Rayman games with Frédéric Houde, while Jacques Exertier contributed many of the cinematic and story elements of Beyond Good & Evil and King Kong. He is also credited in Rayman games not designed by him because he was responsible for the creation of the character.