The Division’s Dark Zone experience could turn up in Assassin’s Creed

1710775We speak to the head of IP at Ubisoft Massive, Martin Hultberg, about the sharing of The Division’s technological advancements with other studios within the company.

The Division is a spectacularly beautiful game, with a spectacular cool new multiplayer experience in the Dark Zone. It’s all driven by the Snowdrop Engine, which was built from the ground-up for The Division. The aim was to capture the team’s impression of an eerie, desolate New York where a pandemic has driven a societal collapse leaving the few survivors to battle the elements and each other. The chilling atmosphere sees dynamic snowstorms blow through a landscape that changes with the time of day, but it’s the studio’s sleight-of-hand around the Dark Zone that has us most impressed.

The Dark Zone is a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer zone in the middle of a grander map of Midtown New York that also includes a much larger player-versus-environment campaign zone. When you move from the campaign area into the competitive multiplayer, it happens seamlessly. There is no menu to go through or matchmaking to worry about. You can go from single player, to multiplayer, and back again at will and with ease. It’s a perfect fit for the setting and tone of the game, but we can also instantly imagine this technology unfolding in other Ubisoft titles.

“Internally we try to share as much technology as possible between the studios,” head of IP at Ubisoft Massive, Martin Hultberg, explained to during a recent press event for the game in Times Square, New York.

“It’s just more efficient that way. In our case we developed the Snowdrop Engine from the ground-up because we needed middleware that could run on the new consoles and PC, while doing everything we wanted to do with the open world, the weather, time of day and such features. Now we’ve made that engine available to other studios, and not just the Clancy teams. Any Ubisoft team can use Snowdrop now.”

The idea of dynamic weather, day/night cycles, gang-mentality AI and destructible environments filtering into other Ubisoft games is certainly exciting. Especially given they are used to drive emergent gameplay sequences where the sandbox AI ecosystem reacts unpredictably as the features are randomised or player-driven.


But what about the concept of having future Ubisoft titles ditch the divide between multiplayer and campaign and allow the two to co-exist in the same play state. Imagine moving into an area of the next Assassin’s Creed, where suddenly other human players lurk amongst the crowd with their own motivations and agendas? Imagine a game that, regardless of genre, can transition between being an MMO or a single player campaign on demand.

“The Dark Zone experience in itself isn’t technology specific to the rest of the game,” Hulkberg continues, “but the transitions that we do between the [campaign and Dark Zone] game modes – the fact that we do not use lobbies or menus – is the key part of the Snowdrop Engine. I think that feature could definitely be incorporated into other Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed. It’s a really immersive feature that I think fits with pretty much all Ubisoft’s IPs.”

More The Division content on VG finder

25 internally developed Ubisoft IPs that can now use the Snowdrop Engine

Games eligible to use the Snowdrop engine
Anno H.A.W.X Shaun White Snowboarding
Assassin’s Creed Heroes of Might & Magic Silent Hunter
Beyond Good & Evil I Am Alive Splinter Cell
Blazing Angels Just Dance The Crew
Driver Prince of Persia The Settlers
EndWar Rainbow Six Trials
Far Cry Raving Rabbids Watch Dogs
For Honor Rayman
Ghost Recon Red Steel
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