Toward the end of 2016, long-time BioWare writer and creative director Mike Laidlaw joined Ubisoft Quebec as creative director. It's the studio behind Assassin's Creed Odyssey, leading folks to speculate he was working on the following title in the series. Odyssey was RPG-leaning, and Ubisoft had just hired a man who was key to some very beloved RPGs. Laidlaw had been a creative consultant on an unnamed project, before it was decided to make the relationship more permanent.
More than a year later, Mike Laidlaw left Ubisoft Quebec. "Huge thanks to the talented and welcoming folks at Ubisoft Quebec City for my time there," wrote Laidlaw at the time. Speculation was that the creative director had been working on Gods & Monsters, a brand-new IP from Ubisoft built on Odyssey's technology. But we lacked any firm details.
Today, a report explains what Laidlaw was working on and why he left the studio. According to Bloomberg, the game was called Avalon, a triple-A action adventure focused on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Avalon was a cooperative multiplayer title, planned as full fantasy adventure, with swords and sorcery at the forefront. Laidlaw and his team tried to salvage the game over 2019, pitching more science fiction and Greek mythology-focused versions, but those ideas were shot down too.
The report states that Laidlaw left after Avalon was canceled by Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoët. Hascoët was the boss of Ubisoft's Editorial division, which decided which games got made at the studio, essentially giving him veto power over any project. He resigned earlier this month after multiple allegations of misconduct, as a part of a culture at Ubisoft that gave a pass for sexual misconduct and harassment.
Hascoët apparently vetoed a number of fantasy-focused games during his time at Ubisoft, following similar reports that he prevented creative teams from creating more female-led entries in the Assassin's Creed series. Hascoët's preferences could've led to the diminishing focus on games like Prince of Persia and Might & Magic (pictured above) over the years. The report also pointed to his control over Editorial as the reason that many of Ubisoft's games feel conceptually similar.For his part, Laidlaw essentially confirmed the report with a few tweets following its publication. "Apropos of today’s news, thinking fond thoughts of my immediate team in Quebec City today, gathered together by [Ubisoft senior producer Jeff Skalski]. Incredibly hard working, passionate creators whom I was honored to join, even if things didn’t work out quite like we hoped," wrote Laidlaw.
Laidlaw even obliquely confirmed the Arthurian focus of Avalon. "I studied Arthurian literature in no less than four classes in University while working on my English Language and Literature degree," he wrote. "For the record, I lean Mallory over Monmouth just because I feel Lancelot was such a strong add to the mythos."
A project focused around King Arthur was actually one of the Assassin's Creed settings hinted at in a survey released by Ubisoft in 2017. Ubisoft sends these surveys out to test the waters, and this survey asked which future settings players would most be interested in. The survey answers include "The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta," which was the setting of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and "Viking invasions and their great army," the setting of the upcoming Assassin's Creed Valhalla. On a list that has "William the Conqueror," "Genghis Khan and the Mongol invasions," and "the Warlord Battles in Feudal Japan," you'll also see "The Dark Ages and the Historical King Arthur." It's likely that the latter concept was the genesis for the game that Laidlaw consulted on, before ultimately taking it in a further fantasy direction.
Alas, despite Hascoët being gone, it's unlikely that we will see Avalon in any form. Ubisoft Quebec is currently working on the formerly named Gods & Monsters, now tentatively called Orpheus. That title was planned for release this year, before being delayed. Ubisoft previously stated that it would come out during this fiscal year, ending on April 2021, but it seems like Far Cry 6 will be the last major release from Ubisoft during the period.