For Benedikt Grindel and the Blue Byte team, it’s always been about creating the best PC games possible. Blue Byte has worked at the forefront of PC gaming for nearly 30 years, and although they’ve dipped their toes in other projects and platforms along the way, they are now fully focused on PC development.
“PC has traditionally been the strongest platform in Germany, and after early hits like The Settlers and Battle Isle, it became the studio’s lead platform,” says Grindel, who leads the studio as Blue Byte’s managing director. “The team is absolutely passionate about PC gaming, and most of our developers are die-hard PC gamers.” This passion and renewed focus has been rewarded, with the team leading the charge on developing the PC version of For Honor, playing an important role in post-launch content for Rainbow Six Siege, and continuing to lead their own projects.
While Blue Byte has traditionally focused on developing established brands like Anno and The Settlers, “developing the PC version of For Honor is a watershed moment for the studio,” says Grindel. “We’re working to establish ourselves as experts in developing console titles for PC.” With a depth of knowledge that includes online games and big-name franchises, the studio is perfectly positioned to tackle the challenges of bringing PC players to the battlefields of For Honor.
Multiplatform development comes with inherent challenges, which the team is battling head-on. “It needs to have a PC look and feel, but it is also a balancing act,” says Philipp Sonnefeld, associate producer on the PC version of For Honor. “PC is the most powerful and diverse platform to develop for, so it’s about pushing the game to the limits of new hardware, while still keeping it accessible to a broad audience of PC gamers.”
“We’re working very closely with Ubisoft Montreal to ensure we deliver a true PC experience for players,” adds Sonnefeld.
Striking the right balance between performance and accessibility is key to success, and Blue Byte has an edge when it comes to understanding the expectations of PC gamers. They were one of the first teams at Ubisoft to actively seek feedback from the community, and this practice was further developed through free-to-play games like The Settlers Online. “These games allowed us to build strong relationships with players,” explains Sonnefeld. “We learned a huge amount from their feedback.” Thanks in part to this attentiveness to the needs of their audience, Blue Byte brings an expertise, care, and attention to detail to their games that they hope will be felt by gamers around the world when For Honor launches on Valentine’s Day 2017.
Around 90% of the team at Blue Byte’s two locations (in Dusseldorf and Mainz) are dedicated to PC projects, ranging from AAA development, to improving Ubisoft’s digital distribution platform, to creating in-house development tools. In addition to taking on more cross-studio collaboration projects like For Honor, Blue Byte’s established brands remain a top focus. The 300-strong team, which has grown five-fold since 2010, continues to lead with PC titles such as the upcoming Champions of Anteria, featured on the floor at Gamescom this week, as well as franchises such as Settlers and Anno.
This shared focus and passion has created an incredibly diverse studio culture. “There are around 40 different nationalities represented at Blue Byte, which gives the studio a very international feel, and is certainly an advantage when collaborating with other Ubisoft teams around the world,” says Grindel. There is also a focus on education and development with Blue Byte Goes to Campus, an initiative that works with schools across Germany to improve game education. Sharing expertise is a key part of how we develop games at Ubisoft, and with nearly 30 years of PC experience, the Blue Byte team has a wealth of knowledge to impart. “We’re looking forward to contributing more of this knowledge to different Ubisoft projects, and the broader industry, in the future,” says Grindel.