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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Guillemot: Ubisoft Branching Into Animation and CGI - 3D Specialists??

Cross the T's and dot the I's on this one! Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot recently spoke with GamesIndustry.biz and dropped some major TNT on not just the gaming industry, but film making as well! Here are the areas dealing with 3D and hold onto your hats:

Q: One of the most interesting announcements at Ubidays was the confirmation that Ubisoft is working on 3D, or stereoscopic, videogames. You're partnering with James Cameron for Avatar – are you sharing technology and assets for that?

Yves Guillemot: Yes, there are synergies between the two. What we are doing with Cameron is sharing what he's doing in his movies to actually create games that will use as many elements as possible. We are sharing all the assets and we're sharing what 3D will actually brings to the market. We are really going in the same direction.

Q: Are you looking to bring 3D capabilities to more games than just Avatar?

Yves Guillemot: The deal is to build a 3D experience on top of the normal experience. Avatar will have both.

Q: How is it going to work on a practical level – are you going to ship stereoscopic glasses with the finished game?

Yves Guillemot: It's with glasses on a specific TV. I've seen it, it's amazing.

Q: So it's not something that is going to work on a normal TV?

Yves Guillemot: No. It doesn't work on normal TVs. It means we will see an evolution on the TV. They are already in Best Buy in the US. You can already buy these TVs.

Q: That must be expensive to develop. Do you see Ubisoft making further use of the technology in the future?

Yves Guillemot: Well, it's not that expensive. But it's new, it's a new approach. It's not any more expensive than all the things we have to go through when we change over to new console machines or when we adopt new ways to animate our characters. It's another good technology that will be good to master but it's not going to be extremely expensive. We have to make the games in such a way that they have to be 2D and 3D so the experience will be good either way.

Q: There aren't many other publishers, if any, talking about working on 3D games publically. Are you aware that you're being watched by the rest of the industry and do you feel a responsibility to pioneer this technology going forward?

Yves Guillemot: Anything that is good for the industry is of interest for us. What we see is that because 3D is really bringing in a level of immersion that is very interesting, we think it is very important to test it and see how we can give an even better experience to our consumers. We don't know if other companies will follow us, what we know is that because Avatar [the movie] will be in 3D, being able to give consumers the same experience in the game will be very interesting for those coming out of the movie and experiencing the game on a 3D TV.

Q: Is there a connection between this 3D technology and what's going on right now at your CGI studio?

Yves Guillemot: There is a connection, automatically, because that's the way the movie industry is going.

Q: So what are your ambitions with the CGI studio?

Yves Guillemot: Our goal is to create a studio that will be very high quality, our goal is to try to get to the level of quality of Peter Jackson's Weta studio. We have been working to train people, to recruit highly talented people and we are in test mode at the moment. We are going to make sure that we get to the level of Weta. We have a long way to go but in getting to that level will help us to actually be one of the studios where everybody has to go.

We don't need to be always making the movie but what we have to do is make sure that what's necessary for our games is done close to us so we can reuse assets. Or we can have a specific relationship with a director who is going to do 3D imaging in such a way that we can also use them in our games. That is how we will improve the quality of our games, by giving our consumers a lot more than what we can give them today. Because if you have a USD 150 million budget instead of USD 20 million, USD 50 million of that can be used in creating better backgrounds, better animation, more defined characters and storylines. All those elements will improve dramatically the experience that consumers will have. This will be especially necessary with the next generation of consoles. It is important for this generation, but for the next generation when we will have machines that are a lot more powerful it will be a necessity.

Q: At the Edinburgh Festival last year you spoke of Ubisoft getting further into movie production and now you're establishing a CGI studio. So is this very much part of the evolution of Ubisoft, to produce movies rather than licensing out brands and IP?

Yves Guillemot: The goal is to produce the images, the animations, to work on defining scenarios, because that's what we need in our games. For the rest, we will start by working with external companies that are interested and know this business, but we will make sure that movies are coming out at the same time as our games, as our books and other ancillary products. We are not going into the movie industry because we want to become a distributor, we are going into the movie industry because we think the game can benefit a lot from that.

Q: With 3D advancements, CGI movie production and the recent acquisition of the Tom Clancy brand, is it right to assume Ubisoft is now a multimedia entertainment company, rather than 'just' a videogames company? You're looking to produce games and spin off into books, TV shows, movies and more?

Yves Guillemot: The goal is to really make sure we give more to our customers. When our customers spend GBP 20 or GBP 30 on a videogame they want to know the characters better. A book is a great place for that, but also a movie too. The player's emotion's are different in a book, compared to a movie or a videogame. A movie can set up a story for the player in a game. It's the combination of all these experiences that will give us the opportunity to give the player more emotions and leave the player feeling that they have experienced so much more.

What's also extremely interesting is that to create the games we need the talent, and this talent is in the movie industry. These kind of skills are in the movie industry because when they do animation – things like 3D modelling, clothing animation – they can really show what they can do in movies because they have no limit to the number of animations. Having that talent close to our games business will allow us to improve the quality of our games. But that talent is not available for the games industry normally. If we can create animation that will be used in the movie industry we will be able to use it in such a way that it will be used in a game as well.

All of this makes perfect sense and falls nicely into comments James Cameron has made alluding to unified movie and game projects. SHARING ASSETS. Brilliant. If you have spent a lot of time and dollars creating a specific CGI effect, why reinvent it for the associated video game? Reuse it. Reuse a lot of it! And as I have said before - get the public in on it too creating backgrounds and useable objects in both movies and games like they already do in creating player built levels or "modding". Why not?

Can you see how the future is changing here? Ubisoft is leading the way here with some very key partners including Cameron. There is a gap widening here between the innovators and the status quo - its exciting to watch! Ubisoft could be the go-to 3D specialists in the near future. They are learning the ropes from the man at the pinnacle of the 3D show right now, Cameron and crew.

Read the full interview at GamesIndustry.biz!

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