Ubisoft Will Unveil the Tech Behind The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege and More at GDC

on January 9, 2016 4:00 PM

Ubisoft is one of the publishers with the biggest presence (at least if we consider what has been announced so far) at the upcoming Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, opening its gates on March 14th.

The panels presented by the publisher’s developers will focus a lot on animation, but will also include art direction, design, AI, graphics, tech and music, touching games like The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Animation Bootcamp: Motion Matching: The Future of Games Animation…Today

Kristjan Zadziuk | Animation Director, Ubisoft Toronto

Game animation has come into its own in recent years, forcing animators to wield a unique blend of art, design and technical prowess. The animation bootcamp is at the forefront of sharing that knowledge with developers everywhere. Bringing together a group of experienced and specialized animation experts, across AAA and Indie, this bootcamp is a daylong gathering to rally developers from all over the industry, with a focus on deeper discussions into the needs of strong character performances and player communication. The day starts with more “traditional” focused talks on expected animation process but then throughout the day the focus will quickly transition into how to best apply that knowledge to game development. Through different tools and disciplines, the talks will show how the unique constraints and demands of games are creating the need for a new breed of animator.

Takeaway
Attendees will leave with all manner of new ideas on what game animation is capable of. Be it tips about leveling up their animation fundamentals, new tech and processes for implementing their work in game or how best to work with and understand game design, anything that animation comes in contact with during game development will be shown in a new light.

Intended Audience
Animators and other disciplines specifically interested in what animation has to offer in regards to character performance, emotion, action and gameplay.

Animation Bootcamp: The ‘Animate’ Button – Mocap Automation Techniques at Ubisoft Montreal

Dan Lowe | Senior Technical Animator, Ubisoft Montreal

Game animation has come into its own in recent years, forcing animators to wield a unique blend of art, design and technical prowess. The animation bootcamp is at the forefront of sharing that knowledge with developers everywhere. Bringing together a group of experienced and specialized animation experts, across AAA and Indie, this bootcamp is a daylong gathering to rally developers from all over the industry, with a focus on deeper discussions into the needs of strong character performances and player communication. The day starts with more “traditional” focused talks on expected animation process but then throughout the day the focus will quickly transition into how to best apply that knowledge to game development. Through different tools and disciplines, the talks will show how the unique constraints and demands of games are creating the need for a new breed of animator.

Takeaway
Attendees will leave with all manner of new ideas on what game animation is capable of. Be it tips about leveling up their animation fundamentals, new tech and processes for implementing their work in game or how best to work with and understand game design, anything that animation comes in contact with during game development will be shown in a new light.

Intended Audience
Animators and other disciplines specifically interested in what animation has to offer in regards to character performance, emotion, action and gameplay.

IK Rig: Procedural Pose Animation

Alexander Bereznyak | Technical Art Director, Ubisoft

IK Rig is a technology created to share any animations between any characters, and change base animations to produce new actions and motion types for characters.
So we turn humans into octopuses; male walk into female crouch; create uneven terrain navigation, weapon carrying and interaction with other characters; all of this at runtime with full artistic control over any aspect. This tech can be applied to video games or to feature films; for main characters or for crowd simulations; for offline or for runtime implementation.
While the tech borrows from retargeting, the core principles differ and allow for application at runtime. This introduces realtime reaction to change in environment (obstacles), props (weight and style of operation) and character stats (tired, wounded, etc).

Takeaway
This presentation aims to show a new way of sharing animations between versatile rigs, and applying procedural transformations to modify animations at runtime. Attendees will see a working system that will allow for more animations and learn how to implement it in their own work. “Please try this at home.”

Intended Audience
The audience is anyone who has a passion for video games, as a maker or player. IK Rig tech solves a lot of the problems from conventional approaches, – most applications can be understood without any technical knowledge required. The talk is heavy with video examples, keeping it fun and entertaining for everyone.

Art Direction: Graphic Design is Key

Liam Wong | Graphic Design Director, Ubisoft Montreal

First impressions count.
In a crowded marketplace it is becoming more important to have a strong visual identity as it is the first thing that consumers will see.
This session will highlight the importance of graphic design as an art direction tool. Sharing processes for defining the visual signature (‘look and feel’) of a game, focusing on graphic design elements such as: typography, iconography, logo, colour, graphical elements and how they may be executed across different mediums: user interface & menus, print, key art and motion graphics; forming the visual identity.

Takeaway
Attendees will leave this session with a clear understanding of the importance of graphic design and ‘design thinking’ as an art direction tool.

Intended Audience
The primary target audience for this session will be visual artists. Additionally, those who are building their games and wish to gain insight and an understanding of how to build the visual identity for their game. No prerequisite knowledge is necessary.

Engines of Play: How Player Motivation Changes Over Time

Jason VandenBerghe | Creative Director, Ubisoft

In an unholy psychological fusion, Jason has merged the 5 Domains of Play and the Big 5 with Scot Rigby’s PENS model SDT. The result is a startlingly usable model of your player’s motivational journey through time. It starts with taste, expectations, and individual variation; and then carries through to long term satisfaction, nostalgia, and deciding to buy the sequel.
Knowing which of your proposed game design features fit with what part of your player’s motivational journey is what this talk is all about. As a bonus, this unholy semi-unified motivation model also works as a fantastic tool to communicate your project’s answer to the timeless questions: “Who are our players? What do they want?” on your team, in your company, and even to your players.
Don’t be scared. It’s just science.

Takeaway
An understanding of what motivations are likely active in your players at each part of their experience with your game, and a template to help you map out how your game will engage those motivations and communicate that plan to everyone involved in making your game.

Intended Audience
The talk is intended for designers, marketers, producers, and other developers who already have a basic working knowledge of how game elements interact with human motivations, but the talk will provide enough of a basic framework of the topic to ensure that newcomers won’t be lost.

Blending Autonomy and Control: Creating NPCs for “Tom Clancy’s The Division”

Philip Dunstan | Senior AI Programmer, Massive Entertainment – a Ubisoft Studio
Drew Rechner | Game Designer, Massive Entertainment – a Ubisoft Studio

This presentation explores the design and creation of the combat NPCs that populate Tom Clancy’s The Division. NPC Designer Drew Rechner and AI Programmer Philip Dunstan will show, from design through to implementation, how the NPC AI handles the combination of open world gameplay and Level Designer scripted encounters that exist in The Division. Particular focus will be placed on the ways in which Level Designers can influence the NPC systemic behavior, both before and during combat, to create interesting combat encounters.

Takeaway
Attendees will learn the approaches used to design and implement the large number of distinct NPC character types used in Tom Clancy’s The Division. Attendees will discover how the NPCs behaviors support both systemic open world environments and Level Designers authored encounters.

Global Illumination in “Tom Clancy’s The Division”

Nikolay Stefanov | Technical Lead, Ubisoft Massive

The session will describe the dynamic global illumination system that Ubisoft Massive created for “Tom Clancy’s The Division”. Our implementation is based on radiance transfer probes and allows real-time bounce lighting from completely dynamic light sources, both on consoles and PC. During production, the system gives our lighting artists instant feedback and makes quick iterations possible.
The talk will cover in-depth technical details of the system and how it integrates into our physically-based rendering pipeline. A number of solutions to common problems will be presented, such as how to handle probe bleeding in indoor areas. The session will also discuss performance and memory optimization for consoles.

Takeaway
Attendees will gain understanding of the rendering techniques behind precomputed radiance transfer. We will also share what production issues we encountered and how we solved them – for example, moving the offline calculations to the GPU and managing the precomputed data size.

Intended Audience
The session is aimed at intermediate to advanced graphics programmers and tech artists. It will also be of interest to lighting artists who are interested in improving their workflow. Knowledge of key rendering techniques such as deferred shading and 3D volume mapping will be required.

Rendering Rainbow Six | Siege

Jalal Eddine El Mansouri | 3D Technical Lead, Ubisoft Montreal

Rainbow Six | Siege is based on the first iteration of a new current gen only rendering engine. With massively and procedurally destructible levels, it was important to invest in techniques that allow for better scaling on both CPU and GPU. This session will describe the most interesting work done by the R6 graphics team to ship a competitive game on Xbox One, PS4 and up to 5 year old PCs. It will focus on architectural optimizations that leverages compute that are only possible with the current generation hardware. The talk will also present their new checkerboard rendering technique that allows for up to 50% faster rendering times without great quality loss.

Takeaway
With Temporal Checkerboard rendering you can win up to 50% GPU time without significant quality loss. This technique also allows you to cut the memory footprint of all fullscreen render targets by half.
Using a GPU-Driven pipeline can vastly improve drawcall count scalability allowing you to draw tens of thousands of possibly unique objects per frame.

Intended Audience
Attendees will need to have very good to advanced knowledge of realtime rendering techniques as basics will not be covered. 3D programmers, technical leads, and technical artists are the intended audience.

The Art of Destruction in Rainbow Six: Siege

Julien L’Heureux | Physics Programmer, Ubisoft

Introducing a game-changing technology in a AAA game comes with its own set of challenges. It’s not enough to develop a new technology, you need to make it play nicely with other systems in the game. This session is about developing and integrating Realblast, a destruction engine, as a core gameplay feature to Rainbow Six: Siege, a multiplayer first person shooter, and all the technical hurdles we had to address along the way.

Takeaway
Attendees will learn how an internal destruction solution from the ground up was developed and how the team reacted and adapted to production needs and requirements.

Intended Audience
This session is intended for programmers and anyone involved on the techincal side of creating dynamic destructible environments.

Unified Telemetry, Building an Infrastructure for Big Data in Games Development

Maurizio De Pascale | Technical Architect, Ubisoft Montreal

During the development of Rainbow Six Siege, we built a unified infrastructure for metrics and perf capture to centralize collection, processing and storage of every info coming out from our engine and tools: logs, events, scopes, memory and performance captures, aggregated stats, per-frame sampled data, systems’ snaphots, and so forth.
Unifying all these different information in a single system allowed for big-data analysis, resulting in extremely valuable insights into engine performance, tools usability and human processes.
Given the multi-site nature of development at Ubisoft, we designed the system to be completely scalable and be able to continuously record and process gigabytes of data, from every running instance of our game and editors, from all our studios involved across the world.
This talk will describe the overall architecture of the system, implementation details for the parts that we built internally, and discuss the third party solutions employed for storage and visualization.

Takeaway
The audience will learn how an omnipresent data collection infrastructure was built and used during production of Rainbow Six Siege to constantly monitor engine and tools.
We’ll discuss the rationale behind our technical decisions, cover implementation details, and share the highs and lows of the experience.

Intended Audience
This talk is targeted at programmers looking for inspiration to build or improve their internal tracking infrastructure and their tools for debugging and profiling.

Waltzing with Blades: The Music of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Austin Wintory | Composer, Austin Wintory
Christian Pacaud | Music Supervisor, Ubisoft, Quebec City

For ASSASSIN’S CREED: SYNDICATE, the 6th installment in the long-running, highly successful franchise, Ubisoft decided to make a stark, bold shift in musical direction from its previous titles. Collaborating with the Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory (JOURNEY, THE BANNER SAGA) they crafted an intricate, adaptive score steeped in the 19th century sensibilities of the game’s setting. This talk will unpack the many aesthetic and technical decisions made in an effort to push the boundaries of the AC franchise’s musical legacy. Ubisoft Music Supervisor Christian Pacaud will be on-hand for the Q&A, to help shed even deeper light on the under-the-hood work done in integrating this large, elaborate score.

Takeaway
The ideal takeaway is a deep understanding of the music for AC: Syndicate, but primarily valuable insofar that understanding offers a broader inspiration to push one’s own creative boundaries, with specific ideas and techniques on how to achieve that.

Intended Audience
This talk is intended for all members of the game audio community, with an emphasis on composers (at any stage of their careers).

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.