This year, Ubisoft chose to close out their E3 not with gunpowder, but powdered snow. Steep is an open-world multiplayer snow sports title from Ubisoft Annecy, and we caught up with creative director, Igor Manceau, to discover the driving force behind the game’s inception.  

This is an atypical Ubisoft game – where did the decision come from?

Igor Manceau: If we had to choose a milestone for the start of development on Steep at Ubisoft Annecy, we would go back a few years to a technical demonstration of the game engine for Ghost Recon Wildlands. It showed a huge mountain, an incredible panorama, but also granularity and varied topology near to the player. It was the first time we had simultaneously perceived the contemplative aspect of the mountain, the impression of freedom it gives in our real world, as well as its potential to serve as an almost infinite game setting. The rest came naturally. We knew we wanted to create Steep, and had a clear vision for the project.

What was the motivation behind creating the title? What made you move in this direction?

For us, it is a dream come true to work on Steep because it combines two of our passions: sports and the outdoors. The Annecy Studio is only a few miles away from Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. We definitely are mountain lovers, and very much enjoy all the exciting things you can do up there. We also love and were inspired by the people who go out there, pull off insane lines, share their experiences on social media, and become inspiring figures.

We are also convinced that we can bring something strong and unique to the sports game segment by making use of our past experiences at the studio. We’ve had the chance to work on numerous major titles over the past twenty years, including Tom Clancy’s The Division and the Assassin’s Creed series. Needless to say, we’ve already had some great opportunities to put our multiplayer experience to the test! Our team, made up of passionate veterans of the industry, is a combination of mountain and outdoor sports enthusiasts and online/multiplayer game experts. In a nutshell, it’s a perfect recipe for creating Steep!

Where did you go to research/capture the environment and the athletes themselves?

Our team is passionate about the mountain and we spend most of our weekends there. We used a lot of visual, topologic and even sound references over the past two years.
We were inspired by the essential elements that give the Alps their reputation, and that mountain-lovers will be delighted to find in the game: Mont Blanc, the summit of which features expanses of immaculate powdery snow, huge cliffs and glaciers; The Aiguilles, craggy and extremely steep; the Matterhorn, probably one of the most arduous areas of the game, and many more.

Apart from topological references, we also worked on a lot of sound references. Many skiing sounds were recorded on-site. We conducted several recording sessions in the mountains, on every type of snow imaginable – fresh, powdery, packed snow, ice, pebbles – that particular session more or less transformed a certain pair of old skis into kindling. The proximity of the mountains and the production personnel experienced in skiing and snowboarding really helped the recording of all these sounds. We also used motion capture technology in order to capture the tricks: professional athletes equipped with captors were filmed on a trampoline in order to make the tricks as realistic as possible.

How many sports can we expect to see included as playable?

The game includes four playable sports: snowboard, ski, wingsuit and paragliding. Each of these sports offers a great variety of experiences. Multiple activities allow players the freedom to explore Steep’s open world in whichever way they choose, and you can easily switch from one sport to another. As we announced recently, we will also offer four additional sports through the Season Pass. These news sports include winter sled, rocket wings, base jumping and speed gliding.