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Massive Entertainment exclusive: The story of E3 2013's 'The Division' reveal

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"It’s my favorite game memory. From being in the industry for 15 years, it’s absolutely my favorite memory. It was well staged by whoever directed the who thing because we did feel that we were not really where we wanted to be in January of [2013]," Massive Entertainment Managing Director David Polfeldt said.

Massive Entertainment stole the show when they shockingly revealed The Division at E3 2013, and we wanted to explore all that lead up to its reveal as well as how its influenced the studio since last June.

While The Division was a smash-hit when it was revealed at E3 2013, it wasn't always a perfectly executed game, when considering the ideas and concepts versus the actual gameplay itself.

"I think we were feeling quite uncomfortable just a couple of months before[E3]. I definitely think that Paris has always been very patient and quite cool, but I think they were also getting a bit nervous that, ‘hey guys this isn’t really what we thought it would be,’" Polfeldt said.

The mention of Paris that Polfeldt alluded to was a meeting Massive Entertainment had at Ubisoft headquarters, in Paris, toward the beginning of 2013. Once they left the meeting, they came away with the knowledge that they had a lot of work to do.

Knowing that they really needed to tangibly express the core concepts of The Division in its gameplay, Massive Entertainment had serious work to do.

"We went into this really, really intensive period of refocusing on some core ideas, challenging some of our own assumptions and killing some [ideas]. When you do that, the impact it has on the team is very strong. People get afraid, people get nervous, people get stressed out, some people suddenly see the light and are super excited.

"But it’s really like you put a stick into a bee’s hive. So you create this kind of emotional shock and the scary thing with that as a manager is you don’t know how it’s going to end. You can see that it makes sense, you can see that you need to be a little bit aggressive, ask some difficult questions and make some tough decisions, but you’re not able to predict accurately how it’s going to end.

"I was incredibly nervous and very uncomfortable with the whole idea of just messing up on our own project, but it was needed," Polfeldt said.

Having an amazing game on paper is one thing, but trying to translate that into gameplay and an actual moving machine is another. Finally, during the spring time and with less than two months left before E3 2013, The Division started to come together.

"Then come April, we started to see that this was working. ‘Hey did you play the last play-test? It was awesome.’ You [start] to see maybe, maybe were going to make it.

"Also visually, the game started to come into place and you could see ‘wow it’s going to be beautiful, we thought so, we had lots and lots of tests, but now you can actually walk around New York and it’s beautiful. It’s a really, really powerful experience.' But to us that didn’t become apparent until very close to before E3 [2013]," Polfeldt said.

The Division was real and tangible. Massive Entertainment brought their vision to life. When you're bringing something new and innovative to life, it's impossible to ignore the doubt and fear that accompany you on a daily basis, and Massive persevered through those doubts.

"When I went to LA, I had a feeling that ‘you know I think we made it, I really do, but am I just fooling myself? Is it just because I want to have a feeling that we did the right thing?’ When the press conference started I was honestly about to pass out because I felt that everything was accumulating to this one moment.

"The other part of that was we had to keep it secret, and it was really important for the effect at the press conference that it really was a surprise, not one of those poorly kept surprises.

"So I was nervous about that up until the press conference started. What if it leaks? What if somebody [says something]? You never know. There were of course a lot of people at Ubisoft that knew about it already.

"When it actually started I felt ‘okay we made it, first of all I think the game is great, I know the presentation is great, and I think we were able to keep it secret. I think people will be honestly, completely be taken by surprise,’" Polfeldt said.

Everyone thought Ubisoft's press conference was finished, but in true Ubisoft fashion, they had one more surprise in store. Yves Guillemot came to the stage to join Aisha Tyler, and as they say, the rest is history.

"I felt it like I think most people did who were in the room that, ‘you know sh*t! This is awesome! This is really good. This is an interesting game, these people have been [making] a lot of clever choices.’ It was such a great moment and the next three days were definitely my career highlight so far.

"I love going to E3, but that one was the one where we really felt that we were one of the biggest stars and one of the [groups] that everyone wanted to meet," Polfeldt said.

The Division was the toast of E3 and was the game everyone was talking about. Developers from DICE, Bungie and more all wanted to see the game, and even Hideo Kojima himself couldn't stay away.

"What meant more to us than maybe anything else, is that we had every single competing developer come over to our booth and asking for a show.

"Two minutes after E3 opened, we had Hideo Kojima come over to the Ubisoft booth and he said I want to see The Division. Then the press guy said politely, ‘okay so do you want to see the other Ubisoft games?’ [Kojima replied] ‘nope I just want to see The Division.’

The very first presentation we did at E3 was made for Hideo Kojima and his interpreter. Then he leans forward to his interpreter and he says ‘you guys are so good, it makes me want to quit my job.’

"So that was the first presentation at E3, and you can imagine after having been in what we felt like a coal mine for a long time, you get [Hideo Kojima coming over to see The Division] within 5 minutes of the show opens.

"We were like ‘dude this has going to work.’ We had DICE over, we had Destiny over, everybody else came over and said guys, ‘this is excellent, what have you been doing? Please show it to us.’ That was a career highlight, absolutely!" Polfeldt said.

Just like you, we can't wait to hear more about The Division and what all Ubisoft Massive has in store for us. The Division is scheduled to launch toward the end of this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC only.

For all of our latest exclusives, previews, reviews and features, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Game On.

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