Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an ambitious title with a lot of big ideas. It takes place in pre-civilization, as we play our ancestors – the apes – as they try to survive against the harsh realities of life millions of year ago. It has a narrative of genetic survival that tells of the journey to mankind’s evolution, but that journey isn’t the only thing that took a long time to get to. It was also a hard sell for director Patrice Désilets.
In an interview with GamesIndustry, Désilets spoke at length about finding funding for the game, as well as his studio that would develop it. It was a hard pass for many studios, he said, when they realized he wasn’t out to make a new age Assassin’s Creed (Désilets was one of the original creators of that franchise). He went to no less than 45 different places before finally landing a publisher. For two years, the game was in pseudo-development without a studio to house it.
“JF and I spoke to 45 people before somebody finally said yes,” he says. “To start a business, you have to be willing to receive a lot of nos, but the first yes is what starts it all. Out of the four years it took to build Ancestors, those first two years was building a studio while making a game. We started with six guys coming to my place every Tuesday. Then we eventually got a little bit of money, and then I eventually could say: ‘Panache exists, f**k it.’
“I was at MIGS [Montreal International Games Summit] doing a micro-conference, and I didn’t want to put my Hotmail address at the end of the talk. I thought that was cheap, so that’s when I got the Panache email address. And people were like ‘he’s setting up his own studio,’ which got picked up by a journalist in the crowd, and it was in the local press.
“Then a friend of JF said: ‘Hey, do you need some money? Come pitch to us.’ It was someone in Montreal and that was the first one to give us money. So we started to open up and tear down walls… And then Take-Two was doing their thing with Private Division, so they called us up. Now we are four years later.”
The odyssey of getting there is almost as fun to think about as the one that’ll be in the game. Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey releases August 27th for PC, with a December release planned for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can also check out a fun webseries relating to the game and its many influences in the meantime.