October 14, 2022

17 Min Read

From the Studio to the Classroom: Ubisoft’s Educational Games and Services Help Players Learn Around the World

Since their inception, video games have helped players and students improve their knowledge and skills in a fun and engaging way: they bring students together through rewarding experiences that offer new perspectives and enable spaces to play, test, and practice new skills. Since its founding in 1986, Ubisoft has created video games to not only entertain, but also to help players teach and test, and share knowledge; foster exploration; master puzzle solving; and even learn a new language.

Ubisoft regularly partners with education industry professionals around the world to share their knowledge and ensure our games and services are up-to-date with the latest in education technology no matter players' age, skill level, or learning needs. Whether players are practicing new guitar and bass chords with Rocksmith+, learning coding with Rabbids, building mathematics skills through completing mini games, discovering a piece of history with Valiant Hearts, or interacting with ancient worlds in Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft has many outlets to foster learning.  

We met with Ubisoft'sindustry experts who helped to create some of our most popular educational games and services to ask them about their creative processes and favorite stories from the classroom and beyond.


Explore History in the Classroom and Beyond
Between travelling to some of the most iconic historical sites of all time, the Assassin's Creed Discovery Tour series provides educational opportunities for players, educators, and students around the world. The Discovery Tour series allows discovery and learning opportunities about the Viking age and ancient Greece and Egypt from various perspectives, offering a unique role-playing opportunity without in-game conflict. The series serves as a set of exploratory DLCs that enable players to further explore the worlds of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Origins, and Valhalla, respectively.

Antoine Guignard, Producer at Ubisoft Montreal, focuses on Ubisoft's training, HR talent training, and educational resources. He was inspired to create educational content for a younger audience after seeing opportunities that came from the world created in Assassin's Creed Origins. According to Guignard, "The world of Ancient Egypt really leant itself to becoming the inspiration for the first Discovery Tour game. We wanted to ensure we met with educators and gamers because we wanted the game to be both fun and useful in the classroom."

As the Assassin's Creed franchise developed, so did the Discovery Tour's interactivity and storytelling. Guignard says, "The addition of the interactive guides in the Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece gave a human touch to the game, as players must interact with important historical figures to learn and understand the world. We added a quiz element to the end of each area with guides to help players retain information and even challenge them a bit in some areas. 

When developing Discovery Tour: Viking Age, the team we made sure to gather additional feedback from teachers who used the previous two installments to build on the next game. Discovery Tour: Viking Age leverages lessons learned from the previous titles by putting narrative at the core of the game experience. "Players step into the shoes of 9th century people - a couple of Norse merchants, a young monk and King Aelfred of Wessex - to live their stories from their perspective," explains Guignard. "We saw that giving players a more 'empathy-driven' experience allowed for greater interest, involvement, and retention in the classroom. We also partnered with McGill University in Montréal to include  teachers' guides for each Discovery Tours game to help educators create lesson plans, and we've had great feedback from these being utilized in the classroom," says Guignard.

Like much of the world, many classrooms in Montreal were forced to temporarily close their doors, suspend in-person classes, and cancel learning trips following the outbreak of COVID. "The pandemic provided an opportunity for growth in digital leaning, and thankfully the Discovery Tours series was able to assist several schools around the world," shares Guignard. "We're always open to receiving feedback from teachers who use the Discovery Tours in the classroom, and one instance that was really special came from a high school in Montreal, where a teacher was forced to cancel a school trip to Greece. The class was able to utilize Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece's interactive tours to learn about and discover a new world in a time when travelling in person was not possible.

In the series' newest installment, Discovery Tour: Viking Age, players complete quests, make decisions, and learn about both Viking and Anglo-Saxon life in 11th century Northern Europe. This interactivity allows players to not only view the world, but also to participate in it. Viking Age was created in collaboration with specialists in Norse and Anglo-Saxon history to develop a truly immersive experience, and provides additional lore, historical facts, and even development commentary about creating the world of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. As a bonus, as players unlock items in the Viking Age installment, they can be transferred over to their Assassin's Creed Valhalla playthrough.


Practice Coding in Outer Space
For the average person, learning a computing language sounds like an intimidating task. Thankfully, Rabbids Coding has helped many learn the basics of coding and machine learning theory in an easy-to-use, fun environment. To begin the game, players are greeted by a group of pesky Rabbids who've invaded the International Space Station, and it's their job to launch them back into space! To complete each level, players must correctly run a simplified code to guide robots trying to catch the Rabbids before they destroy the spacecraft. Through its 32 levels, Rabbids Coding teaches a variety of general programming concepts including loops and conditions in an easy-to-understand way. The final level rewards players by offering a sandbox create-your-own level to practice the techniques learned in the game.

Rabbids Coding has been used as a popular resource in computing classrooms around the world. Some offline initiatives have also been implemented in the UK to ensure each student has a chance to learn about principles of coding in a simple and fun way, including providing Rabbids worksheets and teachers' and parents' information packs. These resources have also been implemented into the virtual game to help teachers incorporate Rabbids Coding into their curriculum.

We met with Mickaël Newton, whose team focuses on philanthropic initiatives, charitable donations, sustainability, and sponsorships. Newton says, "We wanted to create a game that was specifically tailored to both children and their parents, so we focused on making it user-friendly for all age groups. It was also important to us that everyone felt motivated to continue progressing even if the game became difficult, so we added tips and tricks throughout the game to encourage players to continue through the levels."

Rabbids Coding inspired Ubisoft to initiate a worldwide design competition in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing literacy and education worldwide. The competition was open to students from around the world, drawing over 300 participants and 70 different level designs. The eight competition winners, representing nine universities and five countries, had their levels added to the game. "It was really interesting to see the variety of ideas presented during the competition," says Newton. "It's very rewarding to see a new generation of programmers, designers, and developers discover their passion after having this opportunity with our game."

Newton's team has also worked to ensure Rabbids Coding is accessible for users around the world. The game has already been translated in nine languages, including Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish and is currently developing an update featuring Ukrainian and two Afghan languages.


(Re)connect With a Childhood Friend
For many French-speaking children of the 90s, Adibou, the friendly alien, and his gang of pals were essential to the world of early PC gaming. Through solving puzzles, competing in mini games, and growing fruits and vegetables, Adibou helped children master their reading and basic math skills in a fun and unique environment. The original game spawned a series of educational games exploring similar themes that lasted from 1992 to 2009 and amassed a following of over 10 million players.

Now, through a new partnership with Wiloki, Ubisoft is re-imagining the Adibou series in a new way by bringing the game to PC, tablets, and mobile devices. The Wiloki platform allows the newest Adibou installment to create a personalized experience for each child by using AI to recognize the strengths and areas of improvement for each user and adjust the game content to their individual needs.

Along with activities from the original game installment, the newest Adibou game features a brand-new learning space - The Knowledge Tower. This new space was created with input from educational professionals to create a personalized learning plan for players. The Knowledge Tower hosts over 1,500 new activities for kids to experience that are both fun and educational, helping children master the basics of language and math. Throughout their learning journey, players gradually apply their knowledge in mini games that stimulate their memory, logic, creativity, and literacy skills. Wiloki has also revamped the original game's features, including baking in the kitchen and planting vegetables and flowers in the garden.

Amy Jenkins, Ubisoft Strategic Alliance Director, shared her team's inspiration behind reviving the title. "For many children, the character of Adibou serves as a big brother figure," Jenkins says. "Creating the game really was a family effort: Wiloki was created by the children of the co-creators of the original Adibou game. It was important that the new game kept that family feeling, especially because the main Adibou players are young children and their parents," shares Jenkins.

The new Adibou game is also closely related to the original title many French children grew up with. "Wiloki developers worked closely with Ubisoft teams to adapt content in the new title to fit every child's needs," Jenkins explains. "We shared our vision with Wiloki, who had the platform and technology to produce the content. We really worked hand-in-hand: Wiloki and Ubisoft collaborated through the entire game production process, from initial discussions, UX development, character design, and even testing."

The newest Adibou title is available now on mobile devices in French and will soon be available in English, German, and Spanish. Adibou features interactive learning guides for 4- to 7-year-old children based on international school curriculums, and soon players will have the opportunity to share their in-game flowers and cakes with other Adibou players worldwide.


Learn to Play Your Favorite Songs
Whether players are learning acoustic, bass, or electric guitar, Rocksmith+ offers a new digital learning experience complete with over 5,000 songs, real-time feedback, and customizable learning tools. Created by Ubisoft developers around the world, the Rocksmith+ team worked over 10 years to perfect the Rocksmith experience. Building on the 2011 Rocksmith original release and 2014's Rocksmith remaster, Rocksmith+ provides players with an updated experience, including new technology to analyze user performance, recommend related songs and exercises to progress learning, and the ability to connect any guitar or bass for a customized experience. Additionally, the Rocksmith+ mobile companion app can be paired with player's PCs to pair their instruments, track progress, and suggest areas of improvement. 

We met with Dr. Margaret Jones, whose team helped develop the music editorial aspects of Rocksmith+, including creating videos and written content for both service users and social media followers. The goal for every Rocksmith title is to provide an experience as similar as possible to using an in-person music teacher. "One of the great things about the service is its ability to be manipulated for the users' particular needs," shares Jones. "For example, if someone is practicing a song with a particular reoccurring technique, they can choose to have a lesson that focuses just on that skill. We can also show different angles of the same song or different ways to approach a skill users' want to perfect."

To celebrate the five-year anniversary of Rocksmith 2014, Jones and her team hosted a concert in San Francisco featuring players from around the world. "We flew in several Rocksmith players who used the service to become really great guitarists," recounts Jones. "One of the most memorable performances was from a user in Japan who did an amazing job shredding the guitar on stage! She shared her story of learning to play through Rocksmith 2014 and now she has a career as a full-time guitarist in the music industry. We hope to continue traditions like that to share cool stories from our players," Jones says.

However, as COVID-19 impacted learning around the world, the Rocksmith team knew there was an opportunity to create an even more meaningful service. "I was literally teaching students how to play guitar through Zoom. The silver lining of the situation was that the pandemic helped our team think about teaching in a different way, and that eventually led to the creation of the real-time feedback tool," says Jones.

Based on the award-winning Rocksmith method, which has helped over 5 million players of all skill levels around the world, Rocksmith+'s proven learning techniques include a powerful suite of tools that give players control to learn their way, including Riff Repeater and Adaptive Difficulty. With new lessons added monthly and interactive video lessons, players can be sure there will always be fresh content available online. In addition to Rocksmith+'s massive library of songs, the game also offers the opportunity for players to create or upload their own songs to use with the Rocksmith+ software: The Rocksmith Workshop. Once uploaded, players can manipulate the song's notes, change its tempo, and edit its chords to customize their learning experience.


Fight for Love and Friendship in War-Torn Europe
Originally created to commemorate World War I's 100th anniversary, Valiant Hearts: The Great War shares a moving tale of destiny, friendship, and courage during one of the most significant wars in world history. Set in a creative, 2D comic book-like world, Valiant Hearts features a variety of gameplay experiences within the adventure game universe, including exploration, action, and puzzle-solving.

Developed by a team of developers at Ubisoft Montpellier, Valiant Hearts features some of the most important World War I battles - including the Battle of the Somme, the Nivelle Offensive, and the Battle of the Marne - and takes players through famous locations including Reims and Montfaucon. Collectible items throughout each level also contain facts about the war. To ensure the game's accuracy, developers researched first-hand accounts of the war, including letters from soldiers, and visited some of the remaining trenches in France.

Paul Tumelaire, Ubisoft Art Director and Guillaume Cerda, Valiant Hearts Product Director, told us about the game's creation and practical application in the classroom and beyond. "We did a lot of research and worked with historians to make sure the game was authentic, accurate, and engaging," says Tumelaire. "In the end, we created a game that's really narrative-driven because we wanted to put the player in the middle of the story to help them learn the lesser-known stories of World War I."

Following four interwoven stories, players switch between characters to help a young German soldier find his love in the midst of warn-torn Europe. Cerday says, "Valiant Hearts follows the stories of ordinary people experiencing conflict. We really wanted to show the impact of the war for common people because, for a lot of our players, their ancestors really experienced World War I from this perspective. We knew that could be a way to create a relationship with our players and really help immerse them in learning about this important time in history."

Because of its unique story and gameplay, Valiant Hearts has been utilized by students of all ages and disciplines around the world. "We've even gotten feedback from a community of French professors who utilized the game to share the country's history with their students," shares Tumelaire. "We were also invited by the United States Department of Education to present the game as part of a conference on historical games' use in education, which was really cool! We even worked with the Assassin's Creed Discovery Tours team to present our games and host a workshop about history."

"We never wanted the game to be a replacement for doing research about history: we want to inspire students to learn more about World War I in a fun way that's heavily inspired by real events," shares Cerda. "Because of this, we really wanted to make a game that was approachable by players of all skill levels, so we included a lot of different gameplay styles that are easily-approachable, no matter the player's age or experience with games."  


Tools to Facilitate Learning for Years to Come
Finally, we asked our experts: What role do you think video games will play in the future of education?

"I hope video games can increase motivation among students, especially in high school and university. Also, I hope teachers can see the benefits of utilizing games in the classroom as really powerful learning tools," shares Guignard.

"I think games can serve a major role in education - they're such powerful tools to learn new skills in a fun environment. I hope video games can help students open their minds to events happening around the world, and even provide them with the knowledge to help us preserve the planet in the future. Games are a great way to involve everyone in having an active role in forming the future," says Newton.

Jenkins says, "When players are immersed in an interactive experience, they remember information better and for longer, and the impact is so much deeper than simply listening to or reading a text. We are seeing more and more digital content being recognized for its value in the classroom with learners of all ages. Virtual reality content is also coming into classrooms across the world and we will be seeing more and more of it as a powerful learning tool."

"I think interactive learning services can play a central role in education. Younger generations have the great privilege of having many options for learning skills and implementing interactive experiences really opens the door for facilitating that. I think being creative with games and online platforms can really help foster learning for years to come," Jones says.

Tumelaire shares, "Learning through games is really useful because it solves the challenge of learning while still having fun. I hope that all sectors of teaching utilize interactive learning: Everything from mathematics, learning a new language, philosophy, and discovering different parts of our history can implement these fun ways to learn." 

Ubisoft's complete library of educational games and services is available on Ubisoft Connect or online retailers, including the Apple App, Google Play, and Android Store.




Discover even more about Ubisoft's educational games and services, including the Assassin's Creed Discovery Tour series, Rabbids: Coding, Adibou, Rocksmith+, and Valiant Hearts, and begin learning today!

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