By Andy Thurai (Twitter: @AndyThurai)
Remember the old days, when we used to play “graphical” games such as Tetris, and were amazed by them? Twenty years fast forward, Ubisoft is doing things to enrich the user experience in an amazing way. Gone are the days the games are given to you statically so the results are predictable if you play them in a certain way. Now, the real-time games (such as Assassin’s Creed ®) are adapting itself to every player to provide a unique and tailored gaming experience based on each individual player’s skill and play style. This is the kind of experience Ubisoft wants to deliver to their vast customer base, which posed and interesting challenge.
[The most graphical modern game in the late 80s – Tetris]
As any teen can vouch for, gaming is moving from a console-based model to a device-based model (Console/PC/ Mobile/other devices). The games are not controlled by your keystrokes or game controllers anymore, but based on player movements as sensed by sensors such as cameras, body armor, gadgets, etc.
This change posed an interesting challenge to our recent customer Ubisoft. They needed to convert their existing legacy services into a cross-platform enabler to support the above and they also needed to build a new gaming platform for the future that will allow them to provide a richer, connected, and engaged user experience by providing a ubiquitous platform.
With 46 game development studios, in 19 countries, with thousands of developers engaged in producing real-time games, such as “Assassin’s Creed ®,” the issue of providing a cross-platform experience to the gamers becomes paramount. Ubisoft wants to open the APIs to the community, both developers and fans, to create new values in the future. For example, in the case of developers, it allows them to foster innovation, and in the case of users, it allows them to share, create, experience, and provide an enriched gaming experience such as stats pages across platforms. It also allows you to share it with your follower community or consume the game across multi-devices in a continuation mode. But before doing so, they wanted to make sure the games are secure, the APIs are secure, and validate the findings in an isolated environment, measured/monitored/validated before the APIs are made public.
Ubisoft’s existing legacy services consists of millions and millions of user data that can be exposed only using legacy services and/or forced to use legacy controls. They wanted to convert that into a newer gaming platform that can support current and future controls and enable them by transitioning from the legacy model to API model. And, of course, by adding Big Data analytics (with integrated Hadoop security) Ubisoft is able to understand a specific player behavior and adapt to the player’s needs/skills. This helps them to provide an enriched, personalized gaming experience based on behavioral patterns, instead of pre-decided development patterns, which will make the gaming experience very dynamic and very unique.
In order to choose the right technology to support their future gaming platform, Ubisoft had the following goals in mind:
- Help them create value around their brand by building REST web services APIs for newer devices/ consoles.
- Move their restrictive platform into a more lucid gaming platform.
- Have these APIs delivered either on cloud or on–premise based on need.
- An eco-system to help them build, collaborate, expose public/ private/ community developer APIs.
- Have those APIs mobile enabled.
- Secure those APIs to gaming and to industry standards.
- Help smoothen the special “Christmas” problem where the demand could be multitudes higher than the normal times.
- Have an adaptive licensing and architectural model that will help them seamlessly scale during peak demands such as above.
Be the heart of Ubisoft’s newer, modern gaming platform by providing technology to be more connected, more social, more mobile and be “ON” all the time. Given the sensitivity and the core of the issues, Ubisoft wanted to make sure that they chose the right technology partner. Essentially, this “partner” will not only help them with the current technology issues they are facing, but will also help them with future needs and evolve at a speed greater than Ubisoft’s needs.
When they engaged with Intel, in trying to solve these specific issues, and to move their game platform to the next millennium, they created a set of usecases highlighting the issues they are facing. They invited the usual players (6 vendors in total who matched the capabilities) in this space to complete the POC for those specific usecases.
According to the Ubisoft product director, “our ‘wow’ moment came when Intel finished the POC in a couple of days when other players were trying to figure out and strategize on how to execute this POC. Intel had already finished and packed up.”
[A scene from Assassin’s Creed 3 ®]
In the end, Ubisoft was able to expose their backend services as a unified API to all their game development teams. This allows them to on-board newer production teams. They are also able to expose more services and surface newer APIs fairly quickly. Ubisoft took months (sometimes years) to expose services to their developers, but now they can do that in a matter of weeks given this newer platform. According to Ubisoft, “Without the Intel product, we would have never been able to release something secure, manageable and scalable and be production ready for games shipping this Christmas season”.
The greatest thing that I gained out of this experience is that my teenage son thinks that I am “cool”. That in itself speaks volumes about Intel’s modern technology when a teen, who lives 24×7 in the gaming world, thinks that Intel is doing cool stuff to enrich his gaming experience.