When Michel Ancel, the creator of Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil, suddenly announced he was quitting Ubisoft after 30 years to work at an animal sanctuary, it was a big surprise. Ancel was the creative director of Beyond Good & Evil 2, a sequel nearly eight years in the making that he seemed passionate about finishing. But today, French news outlet Libération published two reports in which multiple employees say Ancel created a toxic work environment and mismanaged the project. In the wake of that report, Ubisoft and Ancel confirmed he was under investigation before resigning, but Ancel has since denied the allegations on Instagram.
Both Libération's initial report and a follow up interview with Ancel are in French, but users on ResetEra have translated both articles. The initial report describes a development nightmare perpetuated by Ancel, who would allegedly force development teams to abandon months of work on a whim. Ubisoft employees say that Ancel would frequently change the creative vision for BG&E2, even inventing new features while talking to press that were never communicated to the development team beforehand. Burnout and depression were allegedly common, and Ancel was supposedly so volatile that Ubisoft had to separate him from development staff by layers of middle management.
"He's able to explain to you that you're a genius, that your idea is great, and then disassemble you in meetings by saying you're a piece of shit, that your work is worthless, and not talk to you for a month," one employee told Libération (as translated by Orbulon on ResetEra). "He's someone who has a creative process that is based on erosion, erosion of his vision and erosion of the people around him."
Ubisoft did not reveal that Ancel was under investigation when he announced his departure on September 18. That detail only became public knowledge when Ancel confirmed it in a follow-up interview with Libération, saying that he was told personally by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot of the investigation back in August—not long after the company was embroiled in a massive controversy following dozens of reports of sexual harassment and abusive behavior involving several senior executives.
In that interview, Ancel sidestepped direct questions about his management and behavior. "A lot of people were not prepared for it," he said regarding BG&E's troubled development. "To say that there are moments of doubt, that the direction I'm taking is not understood or badly explained, it's possible."
After that interview was published, however, Ancel posted on Instagram denying the accusations. "I will fight for the truth because such accusations are a shame," Ancel wrote. "I worked hard on every of my projects and always had respect for the teams. The accusations are wrong."
Ancel's post goes on to directly address a few key issues raised by Libération's initial report. He claims that, as the director on BG&E2, it wasn't his responsibility to manage the development team but to "bring vision" while "producers and managers decide what to do, when and how." He also denies that he frequently forced developers to start their work from scratch—in particular the city that was the focus on BG&E2's initial reveal. "The news from liberation contains fake [information] revealed by few people who [want] to destroy me and the projects," Ancel wrote.
In a statement obtained by Kotaku, Ubisoft confirmed it has been investigating Ancel, though it didn't specify whether the investigation has to do with the same behavior detailed by Libération. "Yves Guillemot committed back in July that any allegation will be investigated and no one will be outside of that process—and this would include Michel Ancel," a Ubisoft spokesperson told Kotaku. "And as Michel confirmed to the journalist at Liberation, he is under investigation. The investigation is still ongoing and we have nothing further to share as we respect the confidentiality of this investigation."
According to Libération, Ancel says he left Ubisoft of his own accord.