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French video game publisher Ubisoft unveiled its cloud-based technology Ubisoft Scalar as part of its preview for the Game Developers Conference.
The technology will use the cloud to enable better game production to widen the types of games that can be created for huge experiences or new types of games, Ubisoft said in a panel ahead of GDC 2022 next week. Natively
cross-platform and scalable, it allows them to gather by the millions in a singular, shared virtual environment for new types of games and massively social experiences.
Usually, online games limit the number of players in an online multiplayer game to around 100 players in a single shared space. I’m not exactly sure what Ubisoft is talking about, but it sounds like how Microsoft has tapped its Azure cloud to create extended landscape for its Microsoft Flight Simulator game, where the cloud feeds landscapes into the flying game on the fly. Ubisoft said it plans to liberate gamers from single-machine computing, where instead the player’s machine will tap the supercomputing capabilities of the cloud.
“We also have the mandate to break out of the molds that we know about how to make games and also how can we push technology further try something completely new,” said Patrick Bach, managing director for Ubisoft Stockholm, said in a press briefing. “How do you reimagine what games should be and what they could be in the future, and then start to build towards that to create new experiences? Because in general, games are usually an iteration of what it has done before. We want to break free of that and build something big.”
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It’s not about streaming games to players using the cloud. Ubisoft Scalar is targeted at game developers to sue the cloud to enable them to have more creative freedom and do more with their worlds. It’s also not a game engine per se, but rather a cloud production tool that enables game developers to use a game engine as a service.
The company didn’t describe the tech in detail, but it said Ubisoft Scalar unlocks the power and flexibility of cloud computing for Ubisoft’s game engines — the software used for creating games. It reduces dependency on players’
hardware and provides new possibilities for game development and player experience.
The result could be huge game worlds populated by millions of players at once.
The company said the tech is under development at Ubisoft Stockholm in collaboration with Ubisoft studios located in Malmö (Ubisoft Massive), Helsinki (Ubisoft Redlynx), Bucharest, and Kyiv. Ubisoft started the Stockholm studio in 2017, with a number of Battlefield veterans from the EA DICE studio.
Bach said the idea is to reimagine what games could be in the future and build toward that to create new experiences.
He said, “We can now build even bigger worlds for players to play.”
Ubisoft Stockholm is working on the intellectual property using Ubisoft Scalar, but it can’t say when it will start talking about that, Bach said.
“We need to rethink and relearn how to make games,” said Per-Olof Romell, chief technology officer at Ubisoft Stockholm. “I would expect you to see the broader spectrum of games.”
Romell said the tech is decentralized in that other Ubisoft studios can use it as well.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing to take part of,” Romell said.
Romell mentioned Ubisoft is looking for talent. Ubisoft has been involved in a #MeToo scandal where employees have alleged sexual harassment, and it saw a lot of talent leave the company. Meanwhile, the game industry went through a boom in the pandemic and a lot of companies have had a hard time recruiting developers.
Christian Holmqvist, technical director at Ubisoft Stockholm, said the company is attacking the limitations for big game worlds. Developers can use a piece of a game engine on their local machines and develop more quickly using just the tool that they need.
“What scalar actually enables us to do is to totally remove those limitations, rather than pushing the boundaries of them. If we remove them, what do we actually want to create? So that sets us up for a new set of challenges. We need to rethink and we learn how we make games, to create the experiences that we actually want,” Holmqvist said.
How it works
Games using this technology can therefore leverage a virtually infinite amount of computing power to push the envelope on all aspects and run anything from vast virtual worlds to extremely deep simulations and environments that were previously unachievable.
“The game is always running. And it’s always possible to update pieces of that game,” Holmqvist said. “So developers can create very rich worlds, which can develop and evolve and change as the players are actually playing them. Right. So it’s bringing a much closer connection between players and the and the creators of those teams.”
With scalability as a core design decision, one of Ubisoft Scalar’s key differentiators lies in its on-demand philosophy, the company said. The technology dynamically starts and stops services, optimized based on players and developers’ activities to only use required computing power in real-time.
This optimization extends to intensive compute tasks that are cached and distributed globally, removing the need to recompute what has been computed already. In addition, the flexibility of cloud computing also enables developers to update and improve one service without impacting others, or even add new features to a game without interrupting play sessions, meaning no patch to download and no downtime for players.
Removing historical frictions between creativity and technology, Ubisoft Scalar lets creators fully focus on game design to offer radically new gaming experiences to players. And with cloud-accelerated systems, game worlds also reach a new level of persistency where players actions can have an immediate and lasting impact on their environment, opening the doors to new forms of emergent gameplay.
Ubisoft Scalar will progressively be made available to all Ubisoft studios whose future projects require cloud capabilities.