Ubisoft recently showcased a new technology, Scalar, at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2022. Developed by Ubisoft Stockholm, the technology uses cloud computing to break through hardware limitations and divide different components into modules, each independent of each other. others but working together.
Modularity allows various elements to be added or modified without affecting other parts, which brings a more homogeneous and massive open world. Ubisoft, one of the largest video game publishers, has always been at the forefront of technological development. Scalar is the latest innovation that aims to use computing to its full potential in the gaming industry.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda Gaming, Patrick Bach, Managing Director of Ubisoft Stockholm, and Christian Holmqvist, Technical Director of Scalar, talked about the various aspects of the technology, from its original idea to the future envisioned by the team.
Patrick Bach and Christian Holmqvist talk about the creation of Ubisoft Scalar
A few days before the announcement of Ubisoft Scalar, Sportskeeda Gaming was invited to preview the technology.
I was amazed by the interesting idea of breaking the game down into different components and using cloud computing to present a seamless title. Each element can be updated individually without affecting other parts.
On paper, it might seem impossible to break out of the traditional mold and redefine the way a game is made, but that’s what the developers at Ubisoft Stockholm aim to do.
Coming from a technical background with a particular interest in game development, I was amazed by the idea and wanted to learn more, and Ubisoft made it happen.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Patrick Bach, General Manager of Ubisoft Stockholm, and Christian Holmqvist, CTO of Ubisoft Scalar, and learn more about the technology.
From its original idea to its evolution to the future potential of the technology, Patrick and Christian have shared their experience and knowledge with Scalar. The following is an excerpt from the conversation.
Q. What was the idea behind Ubisoft Scalar? Did the development team imagine Scalar for what it is now, or has the idea changed and evolved?
Patrick: I can start by talking about the original idea was not scalar per se. The initial thought was, what should games be in the future? What could they be? What games have we not seen before that we think will be around five to ten years from now because we’ve seen these leaps happen in all types of technology and games?
Often you look at games and technology in iterations. So we tried to look deeper and realized that many of the hurdles game developers face today are based on technology and game engines, which are built very monolithically. It’s just the evolution of what they were before, and there was never any thought given to what they should be, how you can make them more modular, etc.
We also believe the cloud is underutilized for gaming, and we see the cloud as a crucial part of many other technologies. If you look at what’s happening on the Internet, in general, there are a lot of cloud services that people use every day that they’re so used to that they don’t even think about it.
For example, if you go and look for something on a map, very few people don’t go online and look for that on a map service. The amount of data you browse in real time is huge, isn’t it? So, people are already using the cloud in exciting ways today. We believe the gaming industry will eventually do the same.
We were going to be stressed when we realized that no one was pursuing this on a large scale. We said we wanted to make a game that takes that step. We want to develop a game that needs this technology. From there came the discussion on how one can then manufacture this technology?
This is where people like Christian have come in, and we will have to rethink a lot. [to Christan] I think you were very skeptical at first because it was crazy, right? But then suddenly he turned around and he’s now explaining to me how things are and why they should work. So I think Christian should fill in here.
Christian: Yeah, that’s from the vision we had, and that more direct implementation wasn’t something they had. So when we had the vision and the ideas and the thoughts behind what Patrick just mentioned, where we come from, it was a bit difficult at first to see how we were going to get out of where we work, and it was also obvious that it would take a lot of work.
But with that mindset, it’s something that we’re investing in, that Ubisoft is willing to invest in, and take that leap that’s changed so much that I thought, okay, well, if we do this, then we just do it for real.
It was a fundamental shift in mindset to tackle these issues head-on rather than sidestepping them, which we have been doing for a long time. So no, it wasn’t a direct plan from the start. But I think once we got past that mindset, a blueprint and the technical setup came through, actually quite quickly.
Q. During the presentation, it was mentioned that Scalar will work with Ubisoft game engines such as Anvil and Snowdrop to provide a seamless world. Could it potentially work with other commercial game engines such as Unity or Unreal?
patrick:To answer that, I think the answer is, well, it could potentially do it. This is not Ubisoft’s plan. Currently, Ubisoft’s goal is to use Ubisoft’s technology internally. This is where we are now.
Q. Scalar uses cloud computing to seamlessly add different components to a game without affecting other components. Does this limit Scalar-based games to online-only functionality, or could a player still single-player components of the title, albeit in a limited capacity?
Christian: Scalar was built, as I mentioned, in a very modular way. Thus, Ubisoft developers can take advantage of certain parts of the technology stack and speed up their engineering workflows.
For example, or their other development workflows, even if the data they produce is for a single-player game. It’s perfectly doable, intended for Scalar and all of it. We are very interested in online games. But some parts can also be used in other types of titles.
Patrick: One of the first discussions we had was the discussion on technological convergence. Me and Christan and many people here in the Stockholm studio have been working with games for over two decades. So we’re used to the way games are made.
Plus, we’re used to issues with the way games are made. We also wanted to address some of these issues: why is it so hard for people to work together on a game? Why does everything have to go through the same pipeline? You have to rebuild the whole game, even if you just made a slight change in one of the systems.
So a lot of what Christian is talking about is solving a lot of the production pipelines, where you, by having this microservices structure, allow people to work independently of each other, all adding to the same experience. So I think there are a lot of benefits to moving forward for a microservices framework the way scalars handle it.
Q. How do you think Scalar will affect the game development pipeline in the near future? How could this potentially change the whole game development process?
Christian: We have already seen that Onset engineers and developers have started using the system and seeing the possibilities. It’s, you know, a bit of an open mind because the options are so much more than everyone talks about fencing the same way when we started we had to get out of our state of mind. ‘mind, and we’re now saying uses of Scalar do the same.
So I think shortly that’s the biggest change that we’ll see, and the teams that are above that, so we’re going to see for real what they can build with you know their minds are unlocked somehow, so I think that is soon.
Q. Ubisoft Stockholm is developing a new IP based on Scalar. What can you share about the game, clues about its genre, setting or something else?
Patrick: I absolutely can’t hint at anything. Sorry about that. We still do not communicate anything around the new IP. But you can imagine that when we talk about Scalar and all the benefits and possibilities of Scalar, that kind of says where we’re going with IP.
Q. Will all future Ubisoft titles implement Scalar in their development pipeline, or will it vary from title to title, franchise to franchise?
Patrick: It will be up to individual IPs and project owners to decide how much Scalar they want to use. We know this is going to be a journey to not only change developer mindsets, but also, you should never force technology on a developer.
You have to use the right technology that gives you the best result, and sometimes you want to stay with the technology you have instead of switching technologies. The technology itself will not make the game better.
We see this as a step-by-step process where Scalar lets games start using parts of Scalar initially, and then we develop it over time. One of the benefits of working with very experienced people is that we know you can’t just throw something away and bring something new to the table.
You always have to help people change. People focus on their games and game development. Big changes will ruin games, even if the technology is better.
So our goal is to take it step by step, show what Scalar can do, and integrate more and more games to use parts or all of Scalar’s tools. Depending on the game and the product, they will use the scaler as part of the game.