Thursday, July 5th 2018

On Ubisoft's Aim to End Finite Gaming Experiences

Lionel Rainaud, Executive Vice President of Creative for Ubisoft's Canadian studios, shared via a blog post an interesting, albeit not novel idea, for games. The aim is to end the disparaging of resources that is the finite game experience: as in, the game that you experience once or twice, but that once you've seen the campaign's completion and finished all the end content, goes back on the shelf never to see the light of your interest again: all the development time (measured in years) and effort (and dollars) for what amounts to an 8-hour experience (or less). The goal, then, seems to be to take online experiences to a whole new level, where a game's content can be constantly updated so as to keep the credits from rolling.
"(...) the will to not give finite experiences. The idea was that you have this conflict, and the resolution, and then it's finished - you've killed the bad guy, for instance. We build a strong nemesis, and the goal of the game is to kill him or free the country, we've done that a few times in our games. But when you succeed, you have to leave the game, because there is nothing else to do. So the goal was to break this, and say that you will be the hero of a region or population many times, not just once. And if you get rid of a dictator or an oppressor, something else is going to happen in the world, and you will have a new goal.
At a high level, this seems like an interesting idea, if not a novel one. This has been done time and again in the past with MMO games - WoW, anyone? More recently, it is being explored, arguably badly, by Destiny 2 - and will likewise be too by BioWare's Anthem. The idea for an infinite experience with constant content drops isn't a new one, and is the holy grail of today's revenue schemes for games: microtransactions, cosmetics, and downloadable content. I get giddy thinking of the promise of a game like Destiny 2 done right - a breathing world, with constant quests that advance the storyline unfolding organically with in-game events, single-player DLC drops that are essentially a new game, a new campaign - I'd love for Halo Infinite to be something of the sort, if it was done right. Reduced development times? Yearly campaign content drops? Yes please.
But at the same time, I'm unsure. I'm unsure because game development is a business, and as a business, they (developers/publishers) will look to leverage the maximum amount of profit they can. And there are multiple ways to do that in these experiences.
Take Lionel Rainaud's quote, for instance. If there's one thing I value is closure - story arcs that unfold and end organically, that have a beginning and an end - a challenge that is met by us and the characters of these worlds, the struggle to defeat conflict, and then the consequences of said conflict. There's such a thing as wanting to have an impact in the world - at least in these 3D ones. It's empowering. It feels right. Now imagine finishing Far Cry 4, defeating Pagan Min... And oh but wait. Now there's another one dictator taking his place. And then another one. And oh now there's a warlord vying for control. And now another one. There's such a thing as desensitization. If done right, the story has to move forward at all times - not be frozen in time with these cheap, almost automatic artifices and systems. The Nemesis system used in Middle Earth: Shadow of War is great in an enclosed campaign, adding a personal conflict to Talion, and for us, gamers, to surpass. Can you imagine a game that surpasses being finite by constantly throwing a new warchief at you? For me, that might be cool for a while, but it's tiring, and depressing - what am I doing with my time? There are infinite orcs here.
Another very important measure, and perhaps the most important, because it's the most likely: industry stagnation. A game that has no end and can (theoretically) last the entirety of a console's shelf-life with mere content drops, without the need to revamp the graphical engine or the games' systems, will likely stagnate not only technology, but also the entire development of the videogame market. If games have extended "online support" periods, and if studios can keep using their tools to just build and build on top of the game, they'll do it. If after a game is done, it will last for years, and most of the world has been built, then there's no need to retain as many developers in the team - a skeleton crew will accomplish that just fine, and increase the bottom line at that. At the same time, since there's no longer a need to push for the best-looking games at such a regular basis - what counts is the amount of time you spend in the experience, doh! - it's likely graphics and game systems' development would take a hit as well, and slow down the new generation of hardware.
Like everything, this approach has in it the potential to be amazing for the games medium and the industry... Or the exact opposite. I tremble, because most times, the smartest business choices aren't the best ones for gamers, developers, or the advancement of the medium. That is usually ruled mostly by the good old greenback. Source: News @ Ubisoft
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35 Comments on On Ubisoft's Aim to End Finite Gaming Experiences

#1
dozenfury
There is a place in gaming for both styles, but with infinite gaming experiences the key is how it is done. Finite games can be amazing, Ubi's own Far Cry 3 for example.

There are lots of approaches, GTA 5 for example with a finite campaign but with GTA Online to continue playing afterwards. Wow as mentioned in the article is the big one with a living world. But also for every wow and gta 5, there are/were dozens of failed mmos and similar type games that were did not do it well and were flops. It depends how well it is done. You can make a game stacking cups that is infinite but no fun at all, so it's not just a matter of giving gamers things to do. They have to give them compelling things to do that are fun.
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#2
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
a bold step tbf. Meanwhile EA and Activision are pushing for 'games-as-a-service'. While there is space for both to co-exist, I have to give Ubisoft some respect for not following the rest of the crowd and hopefully make games that has a good meaningful ending to tie up the rest of the storyline.
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#3
the54thvoid
Like everything, this approach has in it the potential to be amazing for the games medium and the industry... Or the exact opposite. I tremble, because most times, the smartest business choices aren't the best ones for gamers, developers, or the advancement of the medium. That is usually ruled mostly by the good old greenback.
I agree but thankfully there is an exception to the rule. Just checking numbers, the Witcher 3 helped CDPR earn $60 Million in profit in 2015, and the game sold 10 million copies. A well-made game with attention to detail and setting can always make money. It's a shame so many AAA titles are budget busting behemoths that somehow have nothing original to say. *cough* BF V. Even though I'll be buying BF V.
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#4
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
the54thvoid
Even though I'll be buying BF V.
Looks like i'll be getting it too then :(
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#5
BadFrog
a game that was playable for 5+ years would be great but wouldn’t the game engine limit it in the future? As new tech gets released but still using older engine or can game developers swap it out? I’m not a programmer and my logic says probably not without rewriting the entire game? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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#6
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
An "infinate" experience rests solely on gameplay, as sooner or later the writing will turn bad. You can't keep up a universe forever without stagnation.
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#7
Prima.Vera
BadFrog
a game that was playable for 5+ years would be great but wouldn’t the game engine limit it in the future? As new tech gets released but still using older engine or can game developers swap it out? I’m not a programmer and my logic says probably not without rewriting the entire game? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
World of Warcraft released 14 years ago.
No further comments.
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#8
lynx29
Prima.Vera
World of Warcraft released 14 years ago.
No further comments.
Blizzard quality control > Ubisoft...

No further comments.
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#9
TheLaughingMan
Sounds like someone on staff watched Ready player One like 12 times.
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#10
eidairaman1
The Exiled Airman
Call it World of Warcraft approach.
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#11
Mussels
Moderprator
sounds like radiant quests in fallout 4
"another settlement needs your help!"


AKA, a fucking terrible idea.
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#12
XiGMAKiD
Many player will still get bored of it no matter how good the content and story are, and while they play other finite experience games they would get behind in this infinite experience game then decided to just watch it on Youtube and voila your infinite experience game doesn't have that many player

Treat game like food industry, too much customer will left many leftover and too little they will left unsatisfied
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#13
Easo
Oh, yeah, then maybe do not make 6-8 hour games? Again, overused, but still the best example - Witcher 3. 200 hundred hours is totally normal, if you want to do everything, and it still has replay value due to choices you can make and how storyline changes because of those choices.
Of course, depends on the genre, FPS campaign lasting for days would get boring, that is understandable, but that is what multiplayer usually is for, if needed.
Single player games are perfectly viable. People still replay Half Life 2, or stuff like Prince of Persia, even why you do not get anything new out of them.
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#14
silapakorn
Sounds like an excuse to ship an unfinished game.
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#15
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Reading this, all I can hear is "Windows 10: product as a service." Ubisoft already did it with The Division. They took a complete game and then changed everything and added more stuff in subsequent updates. I think he fails to see two things:
1) the developer component: developers don't like beating a dead horse any more than the next guy. They want to explore different ideas because it is fun, rewarding, and challenging. There's going to be retention issues with product as a service model.
2) a lot of gamers won't keep investing time and money in a game they consider finished even if it is significantly updated; moreover, the more of these product as a service games there are, the less time/money they have to spend on other games. Ubisoft really needs to take into account player satisfaction when considering this model. There's also gamers that simply won't buy an incomplete game which means a long-term boycott of the product.
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#16
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
This is a horrible idea. I recommend all major publishers visit CDPR and any of a dozen excellent indie studios I’ve played games from in the last couple years.

There, they can learn that a story, well written and well executed, WILL sell, and sell well, if it sucks you in and puts you in that world for 20 to 100 hours, much like a great book does. Even the hours aren’t necessary if we’ll done. I count What Remains of Edith Finch one of the all time best. And it is 4-6 hours.

It’s ok to have an end, and I for one WANT closure of the adventure eventually. A good end to a great game is perfectly ok! Sure, I love it if it takes many hours to get there, but for me, an end is necessary, as I see games as worlds I enter, just like books or very good movies. They all have an end, and I expect them to finish. I want to see my games to continue to end as well.
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#17
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Mussels
sounds like radiant quests in fallout 4
"another settlement needs your help!"


AKA, a fucking terrible idea.
No, I don't think that's it. I think he's thinking turning a game like Watch_Dogs into Grand Theft Auto Online (open world multiplayer) mixed in with Hitman (paid episodic content).
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#18
petepete
Let's not overthink and oversimplify things such as, but not limited to: games' replay-ability ("AAA" companies seldom disappoint). (Great) Games should be in one's repertoire and cycled imho (an active player base is the by-product of a good game, a great game would be remembered for many years, until it becomes niche or loses its lustre, to say the least (listening devs aren't the be-all-end all, it is awfully generous of them though).. depending on one's current state or excitement. Different games capture different playtimes and playstyles; the ebbs and flows of anything should be objectively determined by one's current attention span and state-of-mind to enjoy such game. UBI has pumped out more than a few great titles (PoP: tSot was huge for me as a kid) and consumers are generally pretty nit-picky and like to smear now-a-days imho..
and let's get one thing straight, Without Warcraft 3 there wouldn't be a World of Warcraft.. Things start from somewhere.. It doesn't just magically appear :p
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#19
Vayra86
Isn't this VERY old news? Its been done time and again and what he says here is about 0% different from what Guillemot said many years ago in an interview "We are going to give players what they want, and we will give them lots of that repeatedly" or something along those lines.

It is that statement (made somewhere around 2008 I believe) upon which we saw the infinite rehash of the Ubisauce formula across literally every franchise. So beware: if Ubisoft says these things, it means this is their direction for the coming time. But I do think Ubisoft has wisened up a bit; they respond much more quickly to community sentiment these days but they are still stubborn in their ways, I think its a French thing. When they go left, everybody better go left. And it shows across all studios. What's being said in this interview is already being done.

The idea of 'everything as a service' is just a hype and it will pass. It has pros and cons and it takes an extremely high level of dedication to make people not stumble over the cons. In that respect its no different from any kind of development, there is no 'easy way out' and SaaS certainly isn't it.
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#20
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
It's just done to make the games addictive and encourage you to spend more and more time and money on their products. There's enough crap vying for my attention nowadays for me not to waste time on this. What's especially annoying, is the way you're denied a sense of satisfaction of having completed anything. It's similar to watching a movie where the story isn't quite complete at the end, leaving tantalising open ended storylines which leave the way open for a sequel that may not even come.
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#21
enxo218
people ubisoft already did a beta test on this idea in an offline environment, actually it's in progress....its called assassins creed
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#22
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
enxo218
people ubisoft already did a beta test on this idea in an offline environment, actually it's in progress....its called assassins creed
Every one of my AC games had an ending.
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#23
enxo218
rtwjunkie
Every one of my AC games had an ending.
but we are still in the animus are we not?
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#24
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
enxo218
but we are still in the animus are we not?
Not. Nearly every game has scenes outside of different animus devices, and then has the protagonist going back in.

They are all fragments, each gathering disjointed pieces and putting them together in a limited geographical and time period story.
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#25
enxo218
rtwjunkie
Not. Nearly every game has scenes outside of different animus devices, and then has the protagonist going back in.

They are all fragments, each gathering disjointed pieces and putting them together in a limited geographical and time period story.
to me the very war with the templars and worldly threat never end. It's true the setting and actors are refreshed but what I assume is the core aspect of the game has no end.
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