Ubisoft Scalar aims to make gaming more like the web

Everyone loves a good fit. It’s a great way to make your point, especially if you’re trying to explain something that doesn’t exist or can’t be shown in a way that everyone can understand.

Patrick Bach, managing director of Ubisoft Stockholm, certainly likes this analogy because he often compares Scalar, the publisher’s native cloud development technology, to the World Wide Web.

“Games don’t use the cloud like many other services,” he says. GamesIndustry.biz. “If you look at how you use the web today, it’s way more advanced and mature than what games do. Technology used to be the thing that made games great, and we were ahead, but we fell behind because we got stuck in our old ways and nobody made a big change in the way you think about how making games.”

His comments come as he explains the origins of the project. A group of Stockholm employees began asking why video games were developed a certain way, and what the medium might be in ten years’ time. Then they looked at what’s currently lacking before games got to that point, and cloud functionality was an important factor.

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Patrick Bach, Ubisoft Stockholm

Bach emphasizes that this is not about streaming like Netflix, but more about transferring computing, memory, and all the other essentials that allow the game to run in the cloud. The team hopes that Sklar will become a new foundational technology based on what the team believes in video games should He is.

“We’re talking about certain types of games that don’t exist today because technology limits you,” Bach continues. “Scalar allows you to have greater scalability, which means you can grow your game to sizes that you weren’t able to reach before. The memory footprint of the cloud is much larger than the box space next to your desk. And also, being able to use the resources in the cloud – the unit CPU, GPU, etc. – it will also give you possibilities beyond what you can do today.

“And all these things are required. Once things are in the cloud, just like on-demand web services, you can have what you want whenever you want. You can scale your game in real time, right in front of the players’ eyes, or you can make it smaller when you don’t need to. Resources. This isn’t just a possibility with local machines; your device is either on or off, either you’re using resources or you’re not. And it’s a complete waste of resources, to be honest.”

The ability to update and change games without having to shut down servers or put them into maintenance mode is a particularly nice aspect of Scalar. The industry has shifted dramatically in the past 10 years towards live service games that host thousands if not millions of players 24 hours a day. Ubisoft is no exception, thanks to the likes of Rainbow Six: Siege and For Honor, and even its single-player games like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 6 have live service items. Bach is confident that enabling Ubisoft developers to make rapid changes will allow not only a smoother service delivery, but the emergence of completely new game genres.

“Gaming does not use the cloud like many other services. The way you use the web today is way more advanced than what games do.”

Patrick Bach, Ubisoft Stockholm

It assumes that “if developers could add changes to games faster, they would.” “If it were easier, they would change more things and make their games better with a higher cadence than they are today – especially if it didn’t interrupt gameplay. So there is a need, a desire to give players better experiences in real life – the time is already there.

“It’s back on the web again. And it’s done every day: if you go to any website and they update the site, it can change completely. Sometimes when you scroll through a site, it starts to change – that’s really a fact when it comes to other types of entertainment. and services, so why not have games?”

He expands on this, noting the abundance of real-time information that runs in many of the cloud and web-based services we use every day: “If you wanted to use a map of the day, you wouldn’t go to the shelf and pick up a map or an atlas. You go to the web and you have all the maps. In real time.You can zoom anywhere in the world, we take that for granted.

“Today we take it for granted that you can use the cloud to browse petabytes of data in real time and that’s how you use maps today… To me, it’s almost clear that this will be the solution for games in the future. Maybe not for all games, but for some Perhaps the majority.

Per Olof Romell, Technical Director at Ubisoft Stockholm and Product Manager at Scalar, adds that the ability to make changes in real time will also benefit the company’s developers internally.

“When we test games, it takes a long time to build a build, you test it and something crashes,” he says. “Then you have to wait until tomorrow to test it again. That is not the case anymore. Now if we see something that is not working, we call the programmer and ask them to fix it, then we see it happen on the screen while playing it. This is amazing.”

He adds that technology could enable new ways of working – the most obvious of which are additional options for remote workers in this post-pandemic world – as well as change the structure of how games are made.

“The concept of game engines has been the same for a long time: you have a huge bubble, you remove things you don’t need, you add things and you modify things and that’s your game,” he says. “While we feel what it should be is you have a library of functions and you look at your game design and what you need for that, and you compose what will be your game engine using just the relevant pieces. It gives you a smarter way of working and the freedom to use the technology you want.”

He continues: “Scalar is about giving our creators more options to create a wide variety of experiences, some of which weren’t possible before… It’s not just about scale, huge worlds, and many, many players. It can also revolve around the super-complex simulations you’re used to seeing in The movies, but you’ll now see them in games in real time, which is really impressive.”

Of course, we’ve heard a lot of these promises (and those in the video above) before. Unlikely talks about using the cloud to enable game types like never before, with larger worlds, more concurrent players, complex simulations and player effects that have been going on for nearly ten years now. So far, only two notable games have been released that use this technology: Bossa Studio’s Worlds Adrift, which closed after one year of Early Access, and Midwinter’s Scavengers, which is still in Early Access. The company has even sold or acquired studios it has built to demonstrate the potential of cloud technology in games.

“Previously known limitations that have been in place for 20 years in game development will be gone forever”

Written by Olof Rommel, Ubisoft Stockholm

Likewise, Hadean has been raising funds and partnering with the likes of Eve Online developer CCP for experiments that push the number of concurrent players beyond the usual limits, but the final product has yet to come out. Even early cloud gaming services struggled. Many of Google’s Stadia problems have been well documented, and Square Enix shut down the Shinra region two years later.

So what makes Scalar different? Rommel admits that when he started the project, he was also skeptical.

“Obviously we’ve looked at the solutions that exist – we don’t want to build something we don’t have to do – but we haven’t really seen anything that does what we wanted to do,” he says. “For us, the difference is that we are already proving. This is not a theory, we have succeeded. We will get to the point where previously known limitations have been in place for 20 years and game development will be gone forever. This will be a huge moment.”

Bach adds, “We wish we could show it to you, but now we can’t. I don’t want you to take our word for it that we have it and that others aren’t doing it. One thing that’s hard for us to do is know what these other companies are doing, what the actual solution is, and what is the code etc. The thing we’re seeing is that this was originally created to do these things, not something that you’re inserting into existing technology right and then all of a sudden your game can do things that you weren’t doing before. We totally flip that – that’s the gist of what Games can use it and then you can connect different things to it.So it’s a different way of approaching the same issue.

“The important thing is also that we’re not trying to sell you anything, we’re just talking about what we want to do. Ubisoft doesn’t want players or other companies to buy this technology, we’re just hinting at what the future will be like.

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Written by Olof Rommel, Ubisoft Stockholm

The proof of the pudding is as they say in eating, so when will we see Scalar in action? Bach cannot give an exact date, but he does give us a rough idea of ​​”as soon as possible”.

In addition to Scalar, Ubisoft Stockholm is working hard on a brand new IP to use, given that new games are “the best way to showcase any technology,” according to Bach. Perhaps surprisingly, Ubisoft isn’t counting on an established franchise to drive this new technology, but Rommel stresses that technology is built around the game, not the other way around.

“This is the opportunity we have: a new studio, a new IP address and the ability to start thinking about these things from the start, rather than getting caught up in a sequel or having to carry a lot of baggage [from previous entries],” he explains.

Bach adds: “We are not innovators [other Ubisoft] IP addresses. You need to know what it means to provide an IP address, and it would be disrespectful to just take the IP and compress it into a different technology. You should start from the idea and goal of the intellectual property, and then consider the required technology. “

Regardless of the ways Scalar might enable new ideas and make development more efficient, there’s no doubt that the main takeaway for some people – potentially avid gamers – will be that it enables bigger worlds. But since Ubisoft is already synonymous with sprawling virtual landscapes in games that take hundreds of hours to complete, we have to ask: Are game worlds really need to to grow up? Revealing the full Far Cry 6 map or the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla map is enough to put some players off (really including your own).

“are we need to Games to be bigger? No, “Bach’s Reasons”. Will some games take advantage of their ability to be bigger? definitely. It depends on that game, the goal of that game and its makers.

“No part of the game should be driven by the phrase ‘more is better.’ This is the technology, and that doesn’t dictate the games you build, but there are games that will definitely benefit from being bigger, more detailed, and being more scalable and bigger than they are today. I don’t think That there is a real connection between games getting bigger and being better or worse. It depends on the creators and how they want to spend their energy to achieve their vision.”