Ubisoft has announced their new technology called Scalar. It is a new cloud computing focused venture that Ubisoft Stockholm has taken the lead on. Several key Ubisoft staff including Per-Olof Romell (Scalar’s Product Director), Patrick Bach (Ubisoft Stockholm Managing Director), and Christian Holmqvist (Ubisoft Scalar Technical Director) spoke at length about the new development technology and its implications for both game designers and players.
Starting in the latter half of 2017, Ubisoft Stockholm had several questions guiding their creation of Scalar. Between Bach and Holmqvist the pair stated that they had a, “mandate to push the boundaries of game development and technology.” To make such efforts they asked, ” How could we reimagine what games could and should be in the future, and how do we build towards that?” Their answer was centered around the what that they were using to build games on. Hardware has been seen as a limiting factor in video game development, “for as long as we’ve made games,” said Romell. Out to break away from the limitations of hardware, Ubisoft’s Scalar was born.
To avoid confusion and specify Scalar’s purpose, Romell detailed the difference between cloud streaming, which is associated with game streaming, and cloud computing, which Scalar is. Romell explained, “we’re not talking about game streaming. It’s the difference between cloud streaming and cloud computing. Cloud streaming is a distribution model; it improves people’s access to games, but it doesn’t change, in essence, what games are, or the quality of them. The game is still being run on a single-processing machine placed remotely and then streamed via the cloud to your screen. It’s a bit like if you had a console placed very far away, and your internet connection is replacing a very long HDMI cable to your TV. What Ubisoft Scalar is focused on is cloud computing. Cloud computing – what Ubisoft Scalar enables – means the processing power for a game isn’t tied to a single machine, but a decentralized computation system. The processing is taking place in the cloud. This eliminated the limits of local hardware for players, improves the quality of games, and opens up new possibilities for game developers.”
Different from a game engine, but able to work with engines like Ubisoft’s Anvil and Snowdrop, “Scalar is a production tool.” Holmqvist elaborated by saying that with this new tool developers can have, “the possibility to break out each game engine function into its own microservice. This gives the option to work only on a single piece without having to worry about having all the other pieces on your machine. It greatly speeds up iteration speed and how quickly you can test your changes. It also makes it relatively easy to share your modifications with others. It really keeps all the things we’re already used to and gives them more space to evolve and change, in order to open up more possibilities.”
The possibilities for players that Scalar affords is a greater number of players in worlds that are, “on a scale and to a complexity we’ve never seen before.” A game created with Scalar is currently under development at Ubisoft Stockholm. When speaking about the game Bach said that, “It’s a bit too early to go into more details on this project, but we at the studio can’t wait to show the world what we’re cooking up!”