Streamloading of interactive applications

Masters Thesis opportunity at Ubisoft Massive

Computer Science / Software Engineering
Scope: Masters Thesis or equivalent, 2 Persons, in collaboration with but not located at Massive

The game industry is adapting to Games as a Service (GaaS) which means that the ship date of a game is no longer the end of the project. Games are either distributed physically or digitally, but any updates made to the game will only be distributed digitally.

Digital distribution has some problems that need to be addressed in order to create a better first impression for our customers – the traditional “single-chunk download” is an unnecessary barrier as in many cases it is quicker to go to a store and install a game from disc than to download the game.

With GaaS the update frequency will be at least once per week, and the size of each download considerably larger than today. Single-chunk distribution of updates is a source of frustration our customers don’t need.

Consequently, we need faster digital distribution technologies, even if physical sales continue to be the primary medium for the initial sale.

Prior work

Ubisoft Massive has developed a proof-of-concept streamloader nicknamed the Warpdrive. It basically hooks into any game – without any changes made to the game - and lets the player play after just a short initial download. For example, a player can begin playing the open-world Far Cry 2 game after downloading only 25% of it - the rest is streamed while playing, according to file access patterns dynamically recorded from previous sessions. The Warpdrive is only functional as a proof-of-concept, it cannot practically operate in a production environment for many reasons.

Blizzard Entertainment is integrating streamloading technology into World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Spoon.net is distributing applications that are streamloaded.

All these technologies have some problems we want to overcome.

Areas of research

  • Automatic byte ordering – what to download when for interactive applications
  • Any-to-latest patching with minimal mandatory download
  • Game I/O and file-formats that can help speed up streamloading
  • Bit-torrent support for cheaper distribution
  • PC and Mac I/O hooking

Contact

Please contact Anna Wahlström (anna.wahlstrom@ubisoft.com) with an application containing CV and personal letter motivating why you are a good candidate to do this thesis.

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