Virtuos Paris's General Manager Clement Galiay spoke about the company's working practices and culture, shared their approach to education, and discussed the external development market in France.
Hello, I'm Clement – General Manager of Virtuos Paris. I graduated from business school and have been working in the games industry for about 20 years now. My original aspiration was to join the movie industry as even though I've always been an avid gamer, I didn’t realize that working in games was a possibility. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a project management role in a company providing services to video game studios and went all in for it! Later, I got to meet the guys who created Worms – a PC game I spent long hours playing with friends in my youth – and attended GDC for the first time, then joined Montreal-based Compulsion Games which released We Happy Few and became part of Xbox Game Studios.
When I eventually wanted to return to France, I looked for an ambitious, international company that works on exciting titles. I also wanted the opportunity to manage a team and push them to excel in delivering great games. I’ve known Virtuos since its founding, and I’ve always been interested in the external development model – so when I saw the opportunity to join, I ran! I’ve been here for almost three years, and it’s been a fantastic ride. I feel that it’s still only the beginning of our journey as we have so many exciting projects to be announced, and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.
The External Development Market in France
France has a long history of video game development. It all started in the 80s with Infogrames and Ubisoft and flourished in the 90s with a large creative scene. The crisis of the 2000s significantly impacted the industry – the closure of big developers and their eventual spin-off as smaller companies resulted in a more dynamic and varied landscape.
And as the industry evolved, the collaboration between different studios came naturally, but only a handful embraced the external development model fully as most still want to develop their original creations. So while we have a lot of great development studios, the external development market is comparatively niche.
There are also fewer large studios in France, so overseas projects generally are the key driver of business for external developers. The external development mandates that come from French clients are typically smaller, but they positively impact the local industry as smaller companies can remain competitive due to the fit between demand and supply.
One thing is also certain, in France, we have high-quality education specific to video game development, as well as art and animation. This means that manpower is always growing with new talent whom companies are geared up to welcome.
At Virtuos Paris, we have a matrix organization: our people are organized according to function and project. We leverage the matrix structure in three ways.
Firstly, our team members will each have a line manager who is a subject matter expert. That ensures that our members are supported in the growth of their domain knowledge, as they progress along a clear career path. They are also provided specific training with ample opportunities to leverage the learnings and experiences of over 3,500 fellow Virtuosi around the world, thanks to our Central Technology Group – a team of knowledge facilitators who collaborate with art directors and producers, game designers, and technical experts to provide and manage training at Virtuos worldwide. Locally, we have department-wide training and everyone comes together in the studio to exchange knowledge.
Secondly, each project team has members of every function represented. This creates efficiency and builds a synergy that enables faster iteration and higher-quality work. Members of each team also work in the office on the same days to perform their scrum ceremonies, as well as all other tasks we’ve identified as more efficient when done face-to-face, such as review sessions and social gatherings!
Lastly, we ensure seamless and efficient collaboration in our hybrid work approach by having detailed documentation and utilizing a blend of online knowledge portals and communication tools.
The Necessary Skills
Virtuos’ core values are excellence, trust, and positivity – so of course, that is what we look for when adding new talent to our team. Some of the soft skills we accordingly look for are creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. We want our people to always deliver their best selves and work, which has helped put Virtuos in a leading position. That requires us to constantly learn and share best practices, with team members entrusted with their areas of expertise while collaborating with other subject matter experts. Lastly, we also welcome people with diverse interests outside of video games, as they bring new perspectives and added value.
We help newcomers settle in at three levels – team, studio, and company. Day one usually takes place in our studio, where new Virtuosi meet their line managers and project teammates face to face. They will be provided with detailed onboarding documents and assigned a buddy who will help with any questions they might have about our company, policies, and more. That helps them get up to speed in the first few weeks when they might feel like they’ve boarded a fast-moving train. We also encourage referrals and it’s efficient as quite often, our newcomers already have some friends in the studio.
At the studio level, social gatherings and training sessions are frequently organized to facilitate team bonding. They occur in a hybrid fashion and virtual gatherings happen on a weekly basis so that newcomers can get acquainted with everyone else as soon as they arrive. In addition, we have global townhalls, cross-studio training and workshops, and even game jams to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of ideas, as well as to build a common understanding of our company goals and updates.
We firmly believe in maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for everyone and have a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination. We have established several open communication channels for people to share feedback, or whistleblow if they notice any misconduct.
To mitigate burnout, we put in place business practices that enable a healthy work-life balance for everyone. For example – we enforce excellence in project planning, carefully tracking our progress against estimations, and taking action as soon as we foresee any discrepancies. We might tap on more talent from other teams or sister studios, and discuss with partners to reassess deliverables. And because we’ve worked on so many projects worldwide over the last decades, we’ve faced a variety of situations and therefore, can promptly identify bottlenecks and implement efficient solutions.
If overtime is unfortunately required, it is tracked and kept to a minimum. We are respectful of our team members’ time, ensuring that flexible work schedules, rest periods, compensation, and time off in lieu are always provided. Project assignments are also reassessed if necessary, so we ensure that team members work on projects that are a right fit for them.
On top of that, we try to foster a culture of open communication where everyone can talk openly with their managers, producers, and HR about any issues. That is supported with a comprehensive healthcare package, which includes mental health support. We are constantly looking at how we can further improve and help ensure that stressful situations are kept to a minimum – so that everyone has fun working, learning, and making great games!
The Importance of Creative Freedom
We are in the business of creativity, and everyone is encouraged to explore, suggest, and contribute to projects and our business. New processes that allow us to increase efficiency and improve our quality of work are always welcomed and will be adopted. We believe strongly in giving autonomy to our team members as they are the direct beneficiaries, and will be able to make suggestions that can improve not only their work mandates but the company at large.
To facilitate ideation and sharing, Virtuos’ innovation committee gathers and reviews ideas from employees across departments and seniority levels every two months. Ideas can vary from building plugins for art creation tools to investing in an animation pipeline update to improve quality. Once approved by the committee, the idea will be funded and supported from development to deployment.
Approach to Education
Everyone learns differently so at Virtuos, no two studios have the same approach toward education. What we have in common, however, is that we all take training seriously and have a variety of options for our Virtuosi.
Firstly, our Central Technology Group prepares hundreds of training sessions and materials for the different crafts and specializations we have at Virtuos. Videos, exercises, practices – the collection of knowledge that has been painstakingly compiled ensures that everyone is well-equipped to deliver projects of the highest quality.
Secondly, we make sure to allocate ample time for our team members to undergo training. Training is generally fitted into work and project schedules to ensure that they stay up to date and can actively apply new knowledge to their projects in a timely manner.
Lastly, we look outwards to ensure that training is comprehensive. That can be in the form of attending ad-hoc sessions conducted by external field experts, industry conferences, or participating in our short- and long-term mobility programs. We look for people who are eager to learn, and in turn, we do our best to support their quest for knowledge.
We welcome artists who strive for excellence, have the ambition to work on high-profile projects, and are excited to bring their skills to the table. In addition, artists with strong technical skills – technical artists, VFX artists, and lighting artists – who are keen to hone their craft will find a home with us and the opportunity to work on challenging and exciting game titles.
Regarding the application process, interested candidates should send us curated portfolios showcasing their best work, diversity, and range. Less is more and we appreciate a representative, succinct sample of impactful pieces. Lastly, we strongly encourage talent from all horizons to join us as we believe that with more diversity comes richer culture and the making of better games. Check out open roles at Virtuos here!