1:06pm PT by Patrick Shanley
'Mythic Quest': How Ubisoft Created the Fake Video Game at Center of Apple+ Comedy
Nothing derails a film or TV show about video games faster than featuring a terribly fake-looking game. For a series like Mythic Quest, which focuses on a game studio developing the world's most popular game of the same title, avoiding such a pitfall was of paramount concern to series co-creator Rob McElhenney and his partners at Ubisoft.
"It was really important to the team behind the series to bring an authenticity to the world," Danielle Kreinik, director of television development at Ubisoft and executive producer on Mythic Quest, tells The Hollywood Reporter.
"We’re Ubisoft," adds Jason Altman, head of film and television, and also an exec producer. "If we’re going to make a show about video games, the game part needs to be legit."
Game footage is a big part of Mythic Quest, not only as the central theme of the show's overall plot, but also as interstitial segues between scenes and stages for some of the series' most dramatic moments. To pull it off believably, Ubisoft brought in its studio Red Storm (which has worked on the Far Cry and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon franchises) to create original game assets and "actual working gameplay sandboxes that we shot practically as the actors played on set," explains Altman.
"There are two types of game footage in the series: from existing games and those custom-crafted for the show," says Altman. "You’ll see Ubisoft brands like Assassin’s Creed and For Honor, and titles from other studios, like Kingdom Come: Deliverance, among others." Those shots are primarily used for transitions between scenes, while the team at Red Storm crafted the actual Mythic Quest seen in Mythic Quest.
"We worked with a real game dev team, to make a fake game, that feels like a real game, for a TV series," says Altman.
"Red Storm also did a great job modeling avatars for the [Mythic Quest characters] Masked Man, White Knight and Poppy," says Kreinik. "It was a joy to work with a games team who is first, super talented, and secondly, had a handful of Sunny fans who understood exactly what we were doing."
"Through our partnership with Ubisoft, any time we said we needed to talk to a game developer, they would bring in one of their consultants," says McElhenney, who also spoke with a number of other game developers and game studios around the Los Angeles area while making the show to accurately portray the industry.
For Altman, making a show centered on game development was a passion project and he spent time in the Mythic Quest writers room alongside McElhenney and co-creators Charlie Day and Megan Ganz. "We spent time talking about everything from gameplay trends and technical hurdles to problems facing the gaming industry like diversity and the culture of crunch," he says. "Everything was on the table, otherwise it wouldn’t be authentic."
"For us, it was really important that the show was grounded in the actual world of gaming," Kreinik says. "There were a handful of consultants brought in to talk to the writers room, some from Ubisoft and some from other studios. We wanted the writers to have a full understanding of what goes into creating games."
Both Altman and Kreinik were "consistently in the writers room" in order to keep the team on track. "Once we were in production, we were both on set every day to answer any questions," says Kreinik.
"We worked a lot with the art department of the show to make the set feel like a real game studio," Altman says. "Everything from the character art on the walls, to the monitor setups and even the desk toys. We wanted the programming screens, bug trackers and animation programs to feel like real game development."
That level of authenticity and attention to detail was key for McElhenney, as well. "We wanted to make sure that nobody felt pandered to," he says, "and if there is a community that recognizes pandering, that’s the gaming community and they do not appreciate it."