November 3, 2021

11 Min Read

inside ubisoftpeoplestudio updates

Ubisoft Da Nang – Creating Tools to Save Time and Build Better Nano Games

The team at Ubisoft Da
Nang

is primarily focused on developing Nano games – a
collection of fun and accessible instant-party games including Brawlhalla:
Grand Slam
, Rayman’s Incrediballs
Dodge
, Assassin’s Creed
FreeRunners
, and more. To help streamline
the game-creation process for developers while also creating better, more
engaging games for players, the team has built an internal tool called the Nano
Game Core (NGC), which allows developers to benefit from faster development time
by standardizing the game features and flow, while still maintaining each
title’s unique character and gameplay. To learn more about the Nano Game Core,
those who built it, and what their roles mean within the team, we spoke with
UX/UI designer Hai Le Quang and scrum master Man Nguyen Huy.

[UN][News] Ubisoft Da Nang – Creating Tools to Save Time and Build Better Nano Games - IMG 1

Could you tell us a little about the Nano team at Ubisoft Da Nang and what you
are working on now?

Man Nguyen Huy: Right now, we are working on small web and mobile games
using the HTML5 framework. The goal is to create very fast-paced instant party
games on a fast-paced schedule, which has so far led to nine releases in about a
year and a half since the studio opened. We have a dedicated
website
where people can play all of them. We are a
team of around 50 people with more plans to grow and expand in the future. We
have just launched our third season of Nano games, with titles like Rayman’s
Incrediballs Dodge
, Brawlhalla Grand
Slam
, and Might & Magic:
Armies
. We are currently in the selection
process for Season 4. Season after season, the NGC grows and adds features,
which in turn makes for more complete games, produced at a faster pace.

How would you summarize your roles in the Ubisoft Nano team?

Hai Le Quang: As a UX/UI (user experience/user interface) designer on the
Nano team, I work to make the cross-feature designs become a reality. On the
user experience side, I try to design a solution that best fits the context of
each game. I try to match the visual style of the cross-features with that of
the user interface, then I work with the developers to make the UI run.

In a way, I’m the man in the middle, working with designers, developers, and
artists to understand the features so that I can align the UI with the style of
both the individual game and the larger Nano game universe.

MNH: To sum up my role in two words: clearing obstacles. A scrum master’s
role is to deal with complexities in the workflow chain, maintaining a high
level of quality in our work and adapting to the changes in the team and in game
development. I make sure that all the processes and mechanics that are in place
are adapted to get the best out of our teams of developers.

We meet daily with teams, we have weekly review sessions and retrospectives, all
to make sure things are on track and the teams can work at their best. So, for
example, if a developer comes to me and says “Hey, I don’t have a license for
this software,” then I’m the one making sure they get that license. I’m here to
create the best possible environment for our teams to perform well. The advice I
got from Aurelien Palasse, our studio manager here at Ubisoft Da Nang, is that
my job is to make sure people communicate with each other and connect with each
other.

How did you start working at Ubisoft?

HLQ: When Ubisoft came to Vietnam, I heard about the opportunities they had
opened up. I was still new to UI/UX and was not very familiar with the games
industry until I started working at Gameloft, where I was when I heard about the
roles at Ubisoft. I applied on the recommendation of a friend, and I was invited
for an interview and started working here soon after.

MNH: My story is actually quite similar to Hai’s, in that the same friend
recommended for me to apply at Ubisoft while I was working at Gameloft. I had
heard of Ubisoft, and knew it was a really big company in the games industry,
and I personally dreamt that maybe one day I could work there if the opportunity
came. I was surprised when I heard Ubisoft had chosen Da Nang as the city to
open a new studio, instead of Saigon or Hanoi. So, I took the chance, and
everything since then has been a blast. It’s very professional, and I work with
so many talented people. Every day these people challenge me to be better at my
work and to improve myself.

[UN][News] Ubisoft Da Nang – Creating Tools to Save Time and Build Better Nano Games - IMG 2

What do you think is unique about Nano games in particular?

MNH: First, I think it’s the instant-party aspect, which means that people
can access it anytime through multiple devices with no downloads or install
times. Our games are also designed to be easy to share and play together with
friends on different platforms, with a Facebook login, a Ubisoft Connect login,
and more. As instant-party games, the multiplayer aspect is very important to
our production. Anyone with a phone, PC, or other compatible device can play
them. We also believe in the quality of our games; we spend a lot of time on
graphics and assets, and I think that we have some of the best-looking web games
available.

HLQ: For me personally, Nano games offer an opportunity for players who may
not have played a Ubisoft game before to get acquainted with these exciting and
long-running franchises. Until five years ago, I never had a console to play an
Assassin’s Creed game, but I was able to experience some of the mobile games.
Thanks to this, I was able to explore the universe and story of Assassin’s Creed
on a platform that was readily available, and I think Nano games provide a
similar opportunity.

I also think another important aspect is the multiplayer features of the games.
There are not a lot of casual games in this market that have multiplayer, and
while there may be multiplayer in a lot of AAA games, these can be so much more
complicated to learn, and require a lot more of players’ time than casual ones.
Players can easily pick up and play a Nano game with people from all around the
world, or with groups of their friends, and they are quick and easy to learn and
very fun to play with others.

What is the Nano Game Core, and what does it do for your team?

MNH: The NGC is essentially a project template that allows us to simplify
work for our teams, and contains a lot of tools to help us build games. Imagine
building a house: It needs pillars to stand, and the NGC essentially represents
the pillars for our games. In the past, the game team had to work on all the
social features, the login features, things like that. It’s repeated work that
we’ve been able to cut out.

So, the NGC exists to support the game teams, and make building games faster and
more focused. One example of this is the UI skinning tools for the game team,
which allow for very easy reskinning of all the different UI features. We have
also implemented live-ops tools, which allow us to monitor all the features in
real time.

HLQ: We built the NGC as a foundation for the game team, but this foundation
needs to have a certain level of flexibility, because we don’t want to make
games that look and feel exactly the same. The NGC needs to have the ability to
tweak features and fit the different games that use it. The game team can even
mix and match aspects of features if they need to in order to maintain the
game’s originality, while still benefiting from the NGC in the background.

The part of the tool that’s specific to my job as a UI/UX designer, we are
temporarily calling the reskin system. If the game team wanted to adapt a
feature in the game, they needed to go through a manual process and alter each
element individually. When done one-by-one like this, you can imagine the
workload is very large and repetitive. The reskin tool allows them to use a
system that does the work once for each game, and it then applies to every
single UI screen while still giving the flexibility to tweak individual
instances. So it’s much easier to manage and create a unique but consistent UI
across the game’s various screens.

Are there any other positive effects that the NGC has had on the games,
outside of saving time?

HLQ: I think that it can effectively make the development process more fun
for the game teams, since they don’t need to focus on the smaller features, and
can just focus on the game itself. It’s less stressful, and they get to spend
time doing what they enjoy and what they are good at, instead of worrying about
the small details.

MNH: I also think centralizing the work has a positive effect on the teams,
since the games share a lot in their internal structure but are very different
in terms of gameplay. Besides the UI, this allows us to track what’s working and
what isn’t across our games. When we find an individual area of improvement, it
might prove to be something that we can implement across all of our games.

Could you give us examples of some of the successes, and what you’ve learned
while making Nano games?

MNH: One of keys to our success was being able to balance our games live and
in real time, having all the parameters ready so that we could control things
right away in case of issues. Previously, it was harder to be reactive, since
every change required us to release a totally new build. One example that we had
lately was an issue that was live on one of our features. Instead of having to
do an emergency redeploy of the whole game and deal with passing a new build
through quality control, we just had to go on our live-ops tool, deactivate that
particular feature, and it was done. That’s an example of when the hard work
that goes into making everything flexible really pays off.

HLQ: Another learning experience was making the games more playable for
casual players. To do this, we had to simplify some of our ideas. We can’t
assume that people will understand every aspect of the game, because the player
could be someone who isn’t familiar with the language of games. If we want to
make things work well for everyone, we need to consider all kinds of players.

What has been your favorite Nano game to work on so far?

HLQ: My favorite game is Rabbids Volcano
Panic
, where you assume the role of
Rabbids characters, and you are put on platforms which fall if you stand on them
for too long. The goal is to survive for as long as possible before falling into
the lava. The game is really fun, and every time the player falls, the Rabbids
let out this fun yell. You also have to avoid all the other Rabbids characters
around you, so as the name suggests, you definitely feel the panic with everyone
on screen fighting for a free space. The Rabbids are cute, and the gameplay is
very fun, so I truly love this game.

MNH: This is a tough choice for me because following the production every
game is so unique. But if I had to choose, I would say Rayman’s Incrediballs
Dodge
, one of our latest games. The
player is placed in a field where there are a lot of traps they have to dodge,
and you can also pick up a boxing glove and push people off the map, which is
very fun. To be honest, this was one of the smoothest production projects that I
have worked on, and the game turned out to be great. When we played the first
demo, everyone was so impressed. I’ve sent it to a lot of my friends as well,
and they’ve had the same reaction.


You can apply to open positions at Ubisoft Da Nang by visiting the Ubisoft
careers portal
, and stay tuned to the Ubisoft
News hub
for more stories and the latest news from
Ubisoft teams around the world.

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