How the UbiArt Framework encourages risk at Ubisoft

How the UbiArt Framework encourages risk at Ubisoft
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

September 17th 2013 at 3:45PM

Engine allows Valiant Hearts team to iterate quickly and create a unique experience

The UbiArt Framework enables developers at Ubisoft to take on small and riskier projects, says the development director behind upcoming Ubisoft title Valiant Hearts.

Last week the publisher revealed it was working on a new narrative driven puzzle platformer set during World War I, which takes advantage of the company’s in-house development platform.

Speaking at Digital Days, IP development director Adrian Lacey, told Develop the engine enabled developers to tackle unique subjects, iterate quickly and make a game with a small team that could still last ten hours plus if needed.

The tech also offers a strong focus on art, allowing the artists and developers to create visually unique and hand-crafted worlds, as previously seen in Rayman Origins, and implement them straight into the game.

“One of the philosophies behind the UbiArt Framework engine was giving the artist the control to bring his artwork to life, very simply, without worrying about render times and doing things in real time and he can check if it fits and if it works,” he said.

“And it’s the same in terms of level designers, they can play with the platform, they can play with objects that are in the decor and actually do it iteratively and very quickly, and that’s one of the advantages. It means that teams can be much smaller. We have a lot more liberty in terms of indies. As an indie it means we can be 12 people and we can still make a game that can last ten hours.

“It means we can play with subjects that are a little bit different. Because we’re not going for something that’s five years development or what have you, it means we can iterate and play with something that’s a little bit more of a delicate subject. World War I has never really been treated, or not that often anyway, in games. And we just think it is a way we can bring the art, the styling, the narrative and the character all in one, and deliver something that is interesting for the player.”

Lacey added that the game would have a strong narrative focus, as it shifts through various characters telling different stories. He explained the emotional side was important to the developer, and was keen to create a new experience for players, a job made easier through the use of the UbiArt Engine, which has kept the team relatively small compared to Ubisoft’s triple-A ventures, with development time expected to last a year in total.

“Gameplay is the root of what we do, so the way the teams are and the way we iterate, UbiArt very much allows level designers to play with the mechanics of the game itself," he said.

"But we’re going to take much more risks on the emotional, the character side, the narrative side than we would on certain games.”