Ubisoft is currently promoting the visual and practical strengths of its "Snowdrop" engine, an always-on real-time development toolset built for Tom Clancy's The Division. Given the primary audience attending the Game Developers Conference, Ubisoft is focusing more on the engine than the post-apocalyptic nitty gritty of the game itself, which is being made for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
With The Division's progress and 2014 release being questioned in recent rumors, though, I asked Ubi-owned developer Massive Entertainment for some clarity on how it's being built. According to Rodrigo Cortes, Massive's Brand Art Director, "game and technology is the same," and it "never goes offline."
"So, while we develop - this is actually with every engine, you need to have a game connected to it. Otherwise it's never going to be useful if you don't have all the real user-cases that you would get when other people are working with it," Cortes said. "Right now everything is embedded, game and technology is the same. But it is a new technology, so there are a lot of firsts that we have to do on many things, that you get for free on upcoming games. So, it's a big technology and it takes a lot of time to actually do it and get it right."
Snowdrop allows for real-time content creation and immediate play testing, Ubisoft says, allowing developers to quickly create assets and effects at the quality expected of next-generation games like The Division. Cortes described work as happening in "sprints and iterations," with the game – or simulation, in this case – always staying in motion throughout.
"We had the game running, from very early on, like a week on, it was running, and it's been running since in one way or another. And it's very important for us," he said. "Every week we have playtests and we play the game. Whatever version it is or whatever we change, there's always a running version. The game never goes offline."
Ubisoft didn't comment on The Division's overall progress, or explain how much of the game was represented in the promising E3 2013 demonstration.