As part of the 2022 Game Developers Conference, Ubisoft has announced a new game development technology that the Assassin's Creed giant says will allow the company's teams to create "limitless" worlds. Ubisoft Scalar is the new "cloud-native" technology, and it's already being used by Ubisoft's teams in Stockholm, Sweden and other offices around the globe.
Ubisoft Scalar is not a game-streaming service, but instead it's a new under-the-hood toolsuite that developers can use to take advantage of cloud computing.
"Ubisoft Scalar unlocks the power and flexibility of cloud computing for Ubisoft's game engines--the software used for creating games--reducing dependency on players' hardware and providing new possibilities for game development and player experience," Ubisoft said.
Ubisoft Stockholm is heading up development on a new IP with Scalar, but the company isn't ready to disclose specifics about this, studio boss Patrick Bach said in a media session attended by GameSpot. Whatever this new game is, it will show off Scalar's "full potential to deliver an experience at a scale never seen before." Ubisoft's teams in Malmö (Ubisoft Massive), Helsinki (Ubisoft Redlynx), Bucharest, and Kyiv are also working on new projects with the Scalar technology that will be announced later.
With Scalar, Ubisoft is trying to create a "development framework focused on crafting the ideal game design and experience, rather than working around traditional production constraints."
Scalar is a platform-agnostic tool that Ubisoft is employing to try to create and power "the games of tomorrow." This is all just talk for now, as Ubisoft has not shown any footage or spoken specifically about what Scalar-powered games will look like.
For developers, Scalar promises "unprecedented scalability, flexibility, and creative freedom." It is no surprise that Ubisoft is announcing this at GDC because the annual event is often a recruitment event, in addition to operating as a forum for developers to get together and discuss their work.
Traditional game engines have features and functions that interlock, so when one element is updated, others can be affected. This in turn can create bottlenecks and other issues for developers. With Scalar, which seems to layer on top of the engines that Ubisoft might be using, developers are able to independently work on individual elements of a game engine without impacting others. Ubisoft says this will help with iteration and general speed and ease of development, and whatever is created using Scalar can be "relatively" easily shared with other workers, Ubisoft said.
"Built on a microservice architecture, Ubisoft Scalar places each component and system of traditional game engines independently in the cloud (AI, audio, physics…), moving from the closed, single-processor systems of today to a distributed model across a potentially unlimited number of machines," Ubisoft said. "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."
Scalar has an "on-demand" philosophy, Ubisoft said. It's capable of "dynamically" starting and stopping specific services, based on the requirements of players and developers, so that only the necessary computing power is being used at any particular time. "This optimization extends to intensive compute tasks that are cached and distributed globally, removing the need to recompute what has been computed already," Ubisoft said.
What's more, Scalar is capable of giving developers the opportunity to add or update features within a live game, without interrupting any game sessions currently in progress. The big takeaway here is that no patches, downloads, or extra downtime would be required for players in this setup. That's potentially a huge deal given how massive game updates can be these days, but again, Ubisoft this is only an idea at this stage. We've yet to see it in practice; still, it's an exciting prospect all the same.
"This is a major moment in our careers as game developers. We feel that same inspiration and freedom as when we first started using our home computers as teenagers-that feeling that you can do anything by fully tapping into the power of cloud, for the first time in gaming," Ubisoft Stockholm's Christian Holmqvist said.
For players, Scalar could allow developers to create games with "limitless" worlds. With a Scalar game, it might be possible for "millions" of players to gather in a "singular, shared virtual environment" in what Ubisoft says could be "new types of games and massively social experiences."
"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 said.
Scalar was created by Ubisoft's newly formed Production Technology department, which has more than 500 people working to create "the best tools and technologies" to help developers make better games.
A foundational technology, Ubisoft Scalar stems from the recently created Production Technology department, a transversal group of more than 500 tech experts with the mission to develop the best tools and technologies that bolster Ubisoft game creators to bring their visions to life.
"Ubisoft builds on 35 years of continued investment in R&D and proprietary technologies, because technological independence is a critical differentiator," Production Technology VP Guillemette Picard said. "Ubisoft Scalar is in line with that spirit, enhancing both our creativity and our unique co-development model with new, seamless ways to collaborate at a global scale. It marks a step forward and an exciting milestone for the gaming community."