Michel Ancel

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Michel Ancel
Ancel in 2007
Born (1972-03-29) 29 March 1972 (age 52)
OccupationGame designer
Years active1989–2020
Notable workRayman, Beyond Good & Evil, Rabbids

Michel Ancel (French pronunciation: [miʃɛl ɑ̃sɛl]; born 29 March 1972) is a retired Monégasque-French video game designer. He is best known for creating the Rayman franchise and was the lead designer or director for several of the games, including Rayman Origins and its sequel Rayman Legends. He is also known for the critically acclaimed (if poorly selling) video game Beyond Good & Evil, as well as for King Kong, based on Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, which sold well and was critically acclaimed. In 2017, he began work on Beyond Good and Evil 2, although he left the project in 2020.

Early life[edit]

Born in Monaco in 1972, Michel Ancel spent his early years travelling all around the world due to his father's work as a soldier.[1] It was in Tunisia where he first discovered a video game console. Since then, Ancel had been drafting game concepts while learning to program in his computer. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high-school in order to pursue his career as a graphic designer for Lankhor.[2]


Ancel's first demo, Mechanic Warriors, was developed for software house Lankhor. Ancel joined Ubisoft as a graphic artist after meeting the game author Nicolas Choukroun in Montpellier at the age of 17.[3] He designed the graphics of Choukroun's games such as The Intruder and Pick'n Pile before doing his first game as both programmer and graphic artist Brain Blaster published by Ubisoft in 1990. In 1992, he began to work on Rayman, his debut as lead designer in a game. It was released in 1995 for PlayStation, Atari Jaguar and Sega Saturn.

While Ancel was heavily involved in the development of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, his directorial debut,[4] he would only have an advisory role on Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Although he praised the development team's efforts in the final game, he claims still that he would have "made the game differently".[5]

In 2003, he created Beyond Good & Evil, which garnered critical acclaim and a cult following, but was a commercial failure. However, film director Peter Jackson's admiration of the game — and his frustration with EA's handling of The Lord of the Rings license — led to Ancel being given direction of the King Kong video game adaptation. In spite of Ubisoft's reluctance to produce a sequel Beyond Good and Evil 2, Ancel has expressed a clear wish to produce one in the future,[6][7][8] which was officially announced at Ubidays 2008 event on 28 May 2008.[9] On 18 December 2008, at the VGL event in Paris.[10]

On 5 April 2006, Ubisoft announced that Ancel was leading the development of the fourth game in the Rayman series, eventually known as Rayman Raving Rabbids, for Wii.[11] The game began production in early 2005 and was released on 15 November 2006 for the launch of the Wii. However, Ancel was absent from the project after its E3 announcement, and made no public appearances regarding the game after the development team switched focus from a free-roaming platformer to the final party game format shortly after E3. In the final game, Ancel was credited with storyboarding and character design, while the directorial credits were shared amongst Patrick Bodard, Jacques Exertier, Yoan Fanise and Florent Sacré.

In 2010, Ubisoft announced Rayman Origins, first unveiled as an episodic video game designed by Michel Ancel and developed by a small team of five people, but it was announced that the project had been expanded into a full game. The game was the first Ubisoft title to use the then newly-created UbiArt Framework. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and Ancel, UbiArt is a 2.5D game engine that allows artists and animators to easily create visual content and use it in an interactive environment.[12] The engine is optimized for high-definition resolutions and is capable of running games at 60 frames per second in 1920x1080 resolution. UbiArt tools were expected to be released for third-party use as open-source software in 2011,[13] but this failed to materialise due to concerns of the perceived complexities to properly develop in it raised from personnel within the company.[14]

In 2014, Ancel announced he had formed an independent games studio called Wild Sheep. He would continue to contribute to the development of projects at Ubisoft, including "an extremely ambitious new title that is very close to his and the team's heart."[15] Wild Sheep are currently (2015) developing an open world pre-historic survival game called Wild.[16]

Ancel announced he was leaving the video game industry in September 2020 to spend time on a wildlife sanctuary. He stated that his two current projects, Beyond Good & Evil 2 and Wild, were in capable hands with his departure.[17] One week after his departure, Libération published an article investigating allegations of Ancel's toxic leadership at Ubisoft.[18] Ancel confirmed he was aware that he was being investigated but denied the accusations against him and called Libération's report about him "fake news".[19]


On 13 March 2006, he, along with Shigeru Miyamoto and Frédérick Raynal, were knighted by the French Minister of Culture and Communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, a knight of arts and literature.[20] It was the first time that video game developers were honored with this distinction. Ancel is recognized as one of the best game designers in IGN's Top 100 Game Creators, ranking 24th out of 100.[21]

Design philosophy[edit]

Ancel aims for a high degree of freedom in his games.[22] He is critical of games that claim to offer freedom, but present limits or invisible boundaries where players do not expect them.


Year Title Role
1989 The Intruder Graphics
1990 Brain Blasters Programmer, graphics, music
Pick 'n Pile Graphics, writer
1995 Rayman Lead designer, concept
1999 Tonic Trouble Original concept
Rayman 2: The Great Escape Director, lead game designer, art director, story
2003 Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc Special thanks
Beyond Good & Evil Director, game designer, story
2005 Peter Jackson's King Kong Director, game designer
2006 Rayman Raving Rabbids Character designer
2007 Rayman Raving Rabbids 2
2008 Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party
2011 Rayman Origins Director
2012 Rayman Jungle Run
2013 Rayman Legends
Rayman Fiesta Run
2015 Rayman Adventures
2021 Psychonauts 2 Special Thanks
TBA Beyond Good and Evil 2 Original director

Ancel worked on, but did not design, Tonic Trouble (1999), which features limbless characters similar to Rayman. He shares credit on his Rayman games with Frédéric Houde, while Jacques Exertier contributed many of the cinematic and story elements of Beyond Good & Evil and Peter Jackson's King Kong.


  1. ^ "Michel Ancel: le Mal, c'est le marché". 13 January 2006.
  2. ^ "Michel Ancel, piqué au jeu". 30 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Ubisoft Developer Michel Ancel Interview". NowGamer. 14 November 2011. Archived from the original on 23 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Michel Ancel's Best Video Games". 18 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Interview". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 17 September 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
  6. ^ "Making King Kong, Interview with designer Michel Ancel". Joystiq. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
  7. ^ Brightman, James (27 March 2008). "10 Questions: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillem". GameDaily. Archived from the original on 11 April 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2008. Michel Ancel is working on several unannounced projects, and I [Yves Guillem] am afraid I cannot tell you more at this stage. You can expect to hear more from Ubisoft about these projects soon.
  8. ^ Kévin (15 May 2008). "Beyond Good & Evil 2 en préproduction" (in French). JeuxVideo. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  9. ^ Wales, Matt (28 May 2008). "Ubisoft Announces Beyond Good & Evil Follow-up". IGN UK. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  10. ^ "'Beyond Good & Evil 2' Already 1.5 Years into Development". WorthPlaying. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  11. ^ "Ubisoft Announces All-New Rayman Video Game for Holiday 2006". ubi.com. 5 April 2006. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011.
  12. ^ "How do you create an animation in UBIart Framework?". Archived from the original on 1 March 2015.
  13. ^ Fletcher, J.C. (6 July 2010). "Rayman Origins slapped on XBLA, PSN this Christmas, other platforms possible". Joystiq. Archived from the original on 1 February 2015.
  14. ^ Tim, Geoffrey (11 April 2016). "Ubisoft Boss explains why we haven't seen any UbiArt games lately". Critical Hit Gaming.
  15. ^ Stead, Chris (2 August 2014). "Another AAA Developer Goes Indie". Grab It Indie Games Magazine. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Introducing WiLD, a PS4 exclusive from Rayman creator Michel Ancel", blog.eu.playstation.com, 12 August 2014
  17. ^ Kerr, Chris (18 September 2020). "Rayman creator Michel Ancel leaving games industry to work on wildlife sanctuary". Gamasutra. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Enquête sur le côté obscur du géant "Beyond Good and Evil 2"" [Investigation into the dark side of the giant «Beyond Good and Evil 2»]. Libération (in French). 25 September 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  19. ^ Gach, Ethan (25 September 2020). "Report: Beyond Good & Evil 2 Director Michel Ancel Left Ubisoft Amid Investigation Into Complaints Of Toxic Leadership". Kotaku. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  20. ^ Dubin, Jayson (4 May 2012). "Miyamoto and Ancel Knighted in France". GameZone. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  21. ^ "IGN - 24. Michel Ancel". IGN. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  22. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew (17 July 2013), Michel Ancel Discusses Beyond Good & Evil 2 - IGN, retrieved 13 August 2020

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