The Pandorapedia

December 29th, 2009

James Cameron has spent well over a decade crafting his detailed and vibrant universe for Avatar, and Ubisoft has been building upon this universe for nearly 3 years, so, as a bonus for people that crave more information about it, we offer the Pandorapedia. Accessible through the pause menu, the Pandorapedia is a compendium of accumulated knowledge about all things Avatar.

In the Pandorapedia, you will find detailed descriptions of virtually every facet of the universe of Avatar. From the arsenal of weapons, vehicles and armor of the Resource Development Administration (RDA) to the diverse flora and fauna found on Pandora, everything that you come into contact with in Avatar has an entry in the Pandorapedia. Think of it like a “Hitchhikers’ Guide to Pandora.”

Best of all, the Pandorapedia evolves as you play Avatar: The Game, so, if you meet a new character in the game, the Pandorapedia updates its files to reflect this newly-gained knowledge. In addition, the Pandorapedia is a self-editing system, so as information changes due to the shifting fortunes of the war between the Na’vi and RDA, the Pandorapedia will note these alterations for you.

This process is not totally automated, however, and you are expected to assist in the maintenance of the Pandorapedia’s database. As an explorer on the frontiers of this alien moon, you are equipped with an interactive scanning system which will analyze new data when activated. Whenever you scan an object, the Pandorapedia will update its database with the data you have collected. While some entries update automatically, it is important for you to do your part and help keep the information housed within the Pandorapedia as fresh as possible, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for new specimens.

For your viewing pleasure, I have provided a screenshot depicting the entry on Polyphemus, Pandora’s parent planet.

Of course, it must be noted that this screenshot shows only the barest fraction of the massive quantity of data compiled within the Pandorapedia… and we hope you will enjoy adding to the Pandorapedia during your journeys through James Cameron’s AVATAR™: THE GAME.

Thanks for reading!

CONQUEST - The Metagame

November 26th, 2009

Now that we are rapidly approaching the release of the game, I thought it would be cool to take a look at a feature that we haven’t talked about very much: Conquest. This feature has been capturing the attention of quite a few of the journalists that have been lucky enough to get early peeks at James Cameron’s AVATAR™: THE GAME, and several of the playtesters as well. So, what is Conquest?

The Conquest metagame is a turn-based strategy game that allows you to take part in the overarching battle for Pandora, but with some interesting twists and some valuable in-game rewards. Your game progress (in the Na’vi or RDA campaign) and the experience you gain influences much of your success in Conquest, and vice-versa, your success in Conquest has a positive effect on your character development and performance in the campaign. Accessing Conquest is easy, and you can do it almost any time you want while playing Avatar. Whenever you use a GMI or Tree of Vision, you will have the option of entering Conquest and participating in the battle for Pandora on a grand scale.

In Conquest, your objective is to capture and hold as much territory as possible on behalf of your chosen faction (RDA or Na’vi) and thus gain control of the moon of Pandora. You will be rewarded for you efforts with in-game bonuses such as extra armor, damage and critical strike chance.

Let’s take a look at the basic map layout below:

As you can see, I have taken the liberty of numbering some of the more important features on the map. Here is a description of what you are looking at:

1. Your current experience points

2. Your chosen faction

3. Percentage of Pandora controlled by each faction

4. Information on the currently selected territory (number of units stationed there)

5. Currently selected territory (in this case, controlled by you)

6. Available credits

7. Territories held by your faction

8. Territories held by enemy faction (scroll over them to see troop strength and defenses)

Here’s how it works:

When you enter Conquest, you will receive a number of credits based on the amount of experience points (XP) you have collected in the game up to that point. You can spend these credits on purchasing new units in any territory where you have a factory set up (more on factories in a bit).Of course, you start with a fair number of units to shuffle around, so you can skip purchasing more and just get right into the action, if you prefer.

The next step is moving your units to either one of your controlled territories (if you are planning to stage an attack from the new territory or simply wish to fortify it with more defenders) or attacking an adjacent territory controlled by your enemy. Whichever you choose, you decide how many troops you wish to commit from each of the three unit types: infantry (RDA grunts or Na’vi warriors), heavy infantry (AMP Suits or Thanators) and aerial units (Samsons or Banshees).

NOTE: There is a fourth type of unit for each faction, but these are only available under certain circumstances as they are the most powerful unit types in Conquest.

If you have chosen to attack a neighboring territory, a screen will pop up representing the units defeated in the ensuing battle. Now, you need 500 troops to occupy any territory, so even if you win, you will need to have 500 troops remaining in order to lay claim to the newly-conquered territory, otherwise it will remain uncontrolled in the sense that you will reap none of its rewards (more on that soon) and will be unable to construct defenses or factories.

Whenever you have 500 troops stationed in a territory, you will have full control of that territory and gain the ability to build defensive structures and factories. There are three types of defensive structures that correspond to each of the three basic unit types. Factories make it possible for you to build new units in the territory in which they are constructed, thus eliminating the need for moving troops from far away.

The screen below gives you an idea of how rewards are laid out among the territories (specific values for each reward vary from territory to territory):

And that’s about it! Happy Conquering!

Developer Interview #4: Brent George

November 12th, 2009

Animation Director Brent George

Got another developer interview for you all to check out. In this one, we ask Animation Director Brent George the famous questions. In recent months, Brent has taken a more prominent role as one of our key spokespeople for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game and his responsibilities have had him running from one corner of the globe to another almost non-stop. We are very pleased that he could take a moment to give you an inside peek at the game from his perspective.

ComDevGabe: What games have you worked on previously?

Brent George: I’m a new import from Toronto where I worked in the film and television industry.  I also had the opportunity to work at a couple of the biggest Toronto-based game companies.  When I first got to Ubisoft, I was working on an unannounced title before being moved onto Avatar.  Convergence between film and games is a hot buzz word these days.  My experience in both film and games gives me a unique perspective on how we as an industry leader in games can make this buzz word a reality.

CDG: What are you doing on Avatar?

Brent: My official title is Directeur – Art Animation for the “Next Gen” version of James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game.  Translation - Animation Director.  My role on the project typically involves providing direction for all movement in the game as well as dramatic performance in the cinematics, directing motion capture sessions, working closely with the game design and programming departments to ensure that the animation helps enhance the player experience, and to occasionally provide the entire team with some comic relief. ;)

CDG: How has your past experience helped you?

Brent: Both video games and film/television have their own unique challenges.  Having spent a fair bit of time in both industries, it’s my hope that I can bring the right mix of experience to the Avatar Game table.  It’s a very exciting time in game development, as developers are beginning to cross paths with epic film directors like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.  It’s funny, I’ve worked in film for years and never had this kind of access to Hollywood’s upper echelon of movie makers.

CDG: Do you have any anecdotes from your history as a developer or from Avatar’s development?

Brent: Hmmmm…so far, one of the high points for me on Avatar would be at E3 this year.  It was a day of firsts, as it was the crowd’s first glimpse of Pandora, and it was our first time seeing fresh reactions to what we’ve been so hard at work creating.  I found myself sitting down, facing the crowd, so I could observe the audience.   Feverishly, I took notes so that I could report back to the team as to which parts of the demo loosened jaws the most.  Of the people who witnessed this unveiling, was none other than Steven Spielberg.  Unfortunately, due to the crowd and his entourage, I didn’t get the chance to ask him personally what he thought of the game.  However, I can tell you, he was smiling the whole way through.

Thanks Brent!

Developer Interview #3: Xavier Rang

November 5th, 2009

Animation Project Manager Xavier Rang

Welcome back to the Dev Blog!

This time out, we check in with the Project Manager for the Animation team Xavier Rang to uncover a little bit about his history with Ubisoft and his first meeting with the man himself, James Cameron.

ComDevGabe: What games have you worked on previously?

Xavier Rang: My history with Ubisoft goes all the way back to Ghost Recon, so I’ve been here awhile. I’ve also worked on Red Steel, Lost and, most recently, Far Cry: Vengeance.

CDG: What did you feel were the biggest innovations with Avatar?

Xavier: Really, the closeness with which we worked with Cameron’s crew is the biggest innovation from an animation perspective and that helped us to define the style for Avatar: The Game. Sticking to that direction was easy since we got to participate in refining it through collaboration with Cameron’s team.

Animating six-legged creatures was also new to us, since Ubisoft has never actually had to deal with that many legs, haha!

CDG: What are you doing on Avatar?

Xavier: As the Cp animation, I am in charge of the animation team, but that actually breaks down into four separate groups. I’m responsible for making sure that the Gameplay Animation group, Character Modeling group and Weapons Production group work together to maintain the overall Avatar style. Then there is the Scripted Event team, which creates the in-engine story moments. It’s a big job, but I’ve been at this for a long time, so I welcome the challenge.

CDG: How has your past experience helped you?

Xavier: Working on other licensed games before was good experience for what I’ve been doing on Avatar. In my position, you have to constantly manage the production while taking into account what the client wants. It can be really complicated sometimes, but Jim Cameron has been amazing throughout this production. He wasn’t super picky and helped us a lot by providing tons of reference materials from the movie. As an example, a couple of months ago he asked his Animation Director Richard Baneham to come up here and give use more feedback regarding the way the creature move and that was marvelously helpful.

CDG: Do you have any anecdotes from you history as a developer or from Avatar’s development?

Xavier: The first time I actually met Jim Cameron is the thing that stands out the most, of course. He showed us a couple of rough shots from the movie so that we’d have a full understanding of what we were trying to achieve visually. At the end of the viewing, he actually asked us our opinion of the movie and whether we thought it was good or not… meanwhile, here we all were, sitting there with our mouths hanging open after seeing something so amazing. We almost couldn’t answer him, we were so dumbstruck!

Oh, then there is also the first time I gave the rest of the animation team some reference videos of Pandoran creatures taken directly from the movie… they were hysterical over them. I mean, these people have been working as animators for a long time and are total professionals, yet some of them were practically crying over how good these reference shots were!

Thanks Xavier!

Avatar Website Launched With New Movie Trailer

October 30th, 2009

Fox just launched the full site for James Cameron’s Avatar today, and we couldn’t be more excited! Of course, a lot of that excitement comes from the release of the new trailer as well which presents us with an epic, closer look at the narrative behind Cameron’s intricate universe.

So, just a short entry this week, because we are all too eager to hit up the Official Avatar movie site

See you there!

Gabe

Developer Interview #2: Lisa Gasior

October 22nd, 2009

Sound Designer Lisa Gasior

Welcome back to the Dev Blog!

In this installment of the Dev Blog, we’ll hit our resident sound geek Lisa Gasior with five questions to explore her history with Ubisoft, her responsibilities and experiences while working on Avatar: The Game and life in “the bunker.”

Take it away, Lisa!

ComDevGabe: What games have you worked on previously?

Lisa Gasior: I’m pretty new in the video game industry – I worked on my first next gen title and my first game last year: Prince of Persia. Before working in video games, I was a sound person with a few different hats – from location sound and post-production on short films to the recording and editing of a 40-minute historical audio tour of Griffintown in Montreal.

CDG: What did you feel were the biggest innovations with that title?

Lisa: Elika, the Prince’s AI-driven partner in the game, was definitely a success – she helped the Prince both in combat and in navigating the world. The connection between the Prince and Elika was also emphasized with the on-demand dialog system in which the player could choose to allow the two of them to talk, almost endlessly! They would eventually start to tell jokes and play games – it was great fun!

Obviously, other aspects of sound in Prince of Persia deserve recognition! As an audio designer, it was great fun to work on a game with so many imaginary creatures and elements of magic. The music reflected the game’s theme and moods simply wonderfully.

CDG: What are you doing on Avatar?

Lisa: I am a member of the sound team on Avatar. Although I focus on Foley sound – things like footsteps and clothing sounds – and some sound effects, we all help each other out with all aspects of the sound design which include voices, sound effects and music. Communication between departments is essential for the whole game development team and the sound team is no different – fortunately, we are a very cool bunch of sound nerds who love what we do!

CDG: How has your past experience helped you?

Lisa: A lot of the short films I’ve worked on in the past were produced in extremely short periods of time – often in as little as 48 hours – and this work has proven invaluable in game development. Since every aspect of a game depends on a number of people, from programmers to artists to animators to audio designers and more, we need to be able to prioritize and stay organized. Getting the job done well means being able to help your co-workers get their work done well too – we are pretty much all dependent on one another to produce the best end product possible!

CDG: Do you have any anecdotes from you history as a developer or from Avatar’s development?

Lisa: Working on Avatar is a very special experience – from the fact that we’re working with one of the best directors in Hollywood to the security that working on such a collaborative project brings. We’ve been able to share in the production of a highly-anticipated movie and game, which means having access to assets from the film and the benefit of bringing someone else’s vision to life in a different medium.

We work in what has been affectionately named “the bunker,” here at Ubisoft – which means very limited access in and out. We also all have 2 computers, one connected only to the Avatar network and the other connected to the general Ubisoft network and internet. My parents are very impressed that I’m important enough to have 2 computers… don’t tell them it’s like that for everyone, ok?

Thanks Lisa!

Developer Interview #1: Kevin Shortt

October 15th, 2009

Welcome back to the Dev Blog!

As I’d promised in the first entry, I’ve got a bunch of interviews with our developers for you. Walking the halls of “the bunker,” I see an awful lot of our devs sporting t-shirts emblazoned with the codenames of past projects they have worked on for Ubisoft (Avatar: The Game has had a few codenames of its own over the last few years of development). So, the first thing I wanted to do as your humble Community Developer was acquaint you with some of the key members of our team and show off their experience and talent. To that end, I presented these developers with five questions regarding their past and present work.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Kevin Shortt, our “Story Guy.”

ComDevGabe: What games have you worked on previously?

Kevin Shortt: I’ve been a scriptwriter and story designer with Ubisoft Montreal since 2006. I’ve shipped two games: Far Cry 2 and Lost - Via Domus.

CDG: What did you feel were the biggest innovations with those titles?

Kevin: Far Cry 2 was especially exciting for me since we attempted to create a dynamic story that shows tangible results based on multiple player choices. I worked with Patrick Redding, the lead story designer for FC2 and Clint Hocking, the creative director. They’re both an inspiration to work with and I’m extremely proud of the work we did on that game. I think we’ve still got lots of work ahead to make dynamic narrative a true success story, and Far Cry 2 represents a significant stepping stone.

CDG: What are you doing on Avatar?

Kevin: I’m the lead scriptwriter and story designer on Avatar. I’m responsible for coming up with the story for our game and ensuring it enhances the game experience and expands on the universe that James Cameron has created. To do that we’ve worked closely with James Cameron and his team. They opened their doors to us. We got a close-up look at all their working assets. And they were wonderfully receptive to our ideas.

CDG: How has your past experience helped you?

Kevin: By past experience, I’m guessing you mean my life before game development. Before joining Ubisoft, I was a filmmaker and a writer & producer for television. That experience has been invaluable. Storytelling in film is all about shorthand. How do you convey an idea or emotion in the simplest ways, with a single shot, with a single word – or no words at all? Storytelling in games is so often in support of the game design. The last thing we want is that a story takes over the adventure. If you wanted to sit and watch a story, you’d rent a movie or see a play, right? Well, a game is all about interacting. So my job is to find ways to tell the story in the simplest fashion that enhances the game experience without getting in the way. And without a doubt, my experiences with scriptwriting for film has been key to my success in video game writing.

CDG: Do you have any anecdotes from your history as a developer or from Avatar’s development?

Kevin: The most unusual thing about working on Avatar is the intense level of security. Within the Ubisoft studio, the Avatar team has been cordoned off from the rest of the building. Access is highly restricted and we’re tucked in a corner of the studio affectionately called the bunker. It’s unusual for a project to be so removed from the rest of the studio in this way.

Thanks Kevin!

Welcome to the Dev Blog!

July 9th, 2009

Hello everyone and welcome to the developer blog for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game!

I’m Gabe and, as your dedicated Community Developer, I’ll be responsible for providing you with the latest news, links and info regarding Avatar.

As many of you likely know, Avatar has been kept under tight wraps for a very long while. All aspects of this project have been the stuff of legends and I’m delighted to be able to finally spill some of the goods on such a well kept secret.

Of course, our E3 announcement is the biggest news, but over the coming months, I’ll be able to share even more details as we continue to polish and refine James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game. To that end, I’ve got some interviews coming up over the course of the next few weeks designed to acquaint you with the world-class talent that we have assembled here in our Montreal development studio. Comprised of seasoned Ubisoft veterans from a vast array of titles, I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce you to what could essentially be considered Ubisoft Montreal’s “Dream Team.”

As we approach the release of James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, I know that many of you will have a whirling maelstrom of questions and comments and I invite you to share those with me in the comments section below and I will answer them to the best of my ability. You can also follow me on Twitter by clicking this link.

Thanks for visiting, I’ll see you again real soon!

Coming soon!

July 2nd, 2009

Thanks for visiting the site! We’ll be posting updates very soon.





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