A Review of “Dream Architects” by David Polfeldt

This is a easier-to-read version of a Twitter thread I made with my thoughts about David’s new book and my thoughts on what it means for my personal favorite game and everything else it covers.

I finished the book “Dream Architects” by David Polfeldt (Massive‘s Managing Director) and will follow up with what is in it, what I thought, and what I think it says about the future of our beloved #TheDivision. Quickest take: It’s a great book for any gamer.

The low down of what is in it (from my memory):

  • A snapshot of a more nomadic game dev world
  • Insight into acquisitions and sell offs of studios
  • Somewhat of a deep dive of #TheDivision1’s development
  • Much more detail about the @officialavatar partnership
  • Lots of cursing

Since most people who follow me do so because of my #TheDivision and #TheDivision2 fanhood I’ll say that much of the 2nd half of the book focuses on the franchise. It’s mostly about the tumultuous development/release of TD1 and barely touches on TD2 at all. No hints about TD3.

What I will say is that I had no idea how important #TheDivision was in securing @UbiMassive‘s spot with @Ubisoft. Basically the purchase of Massive wasn’t popular and TD1 probably decided whether Ubi kept them aboard or not. Massive did not want to be a support studio.

I appreciated multiple instances of David blatantly saying how shitty TD1 was not long before launch. He did also show that while TD1 had a rough release, which makes sense when you read the story about it’s development, the game was in many ways a huge success on paper.

This book really showed me how intertwined the #TheDivision franchise is with @UbiMassive and I hope that means we see a #TheDivision3 and more in the future. While the game is imperfect to say the least it provides a unique experience that’s yet to be equaled elsewhere for me.

The whole mission of @UbiMassive was to have their own engine and to have 2 IPs on it. They have that with Snowdrop, @TheDivisionGame, and the upcoming @officialavatar game. They have other projects like @UbisoftUplay and possibly unannounced things so it seems things are well.

There is a part talking about their new Eden studio location and how it’s intended to have 700+ (maybe more than a thousand) developers in it eventually which leads me to believe that 1. Avatar is a huge project and 2. #TheDivision is even more likely here to stay.

It did interest me that #TheDivision actually began development (code named Rogue, of course) before Ubisoft even purchased Massive. I’ve heard rumors that a sizzle reel for this early project/concept was shown to people before TD1 released.

There was actually a lot of discussion about the #TheDivision movie and how it went from one writer/director to a new one (while retaining Chastain and Gyllenhaal). It seems this project is still fully expected to happen and even mentions the switch to being release on @netflix.

Beyond #TheDivision there’s a lot of talk about how the Avatar game was earned by Massive including a life size mech suit, cocaine & a pitch for a procedurally generated world in Snowdrop bigger than anything they’ve done & it being a 10 year project with the 4 upcoming sequels.

I also found the story of David’s journey to Massive, which takes up the first half of the book, from being in art school to where he is now to be interesting. With multiple “start ups” and miniscule gaming development teams to being the head of a giant, famous studio today.

David’s story cover everything from depression, to adulation, to disappointment, and hitting the highest of highs… and buying underwear with his boss in Paris while The Division was in fear of being cancelled. He’s very raw and open in this book which I honestly appreciated.

The book does a good job of seeing the human side of game dev and how it’s such an imperfect science even at the top levels like Massive now is. Despite billions of dollars at play it makes you realize they’re still just a bunch of nerds making a miracle that is releasing a game.

To wrap this “review” up I will say that I’m not an avid reader unless it’s something I’m deeply passionate about. I would suggest this to any The Division fan but also anyone interested in the dirty behind the scenes world of game dev and those interested in doing it one day.

David is very raw and honest about the shitty things, his own failures, and his own hopes for the future. His self reflection in much of the book is a great lesson for all of us to allow ourselves to pat ourselves on the back but not get too cocky.

Thanks for your time.

Husband, Father, Podcaster, @Twitch Streamer & Guy With Opinions | #TheDivision2 & #Xbox Fanboy | PC Casual | @theECHOcast Gaming Podcast Host