Many thanks to Patrick Plourde, Lead Game Designer at Ubisoft Montreal  for an in-depth look at Designing Assassin’s Creed II. Presented by the ACM SIGGRAPH Vancouver  chapter last evening, Patrick’s presentation covered the main design focus followed to cram all of the great features and improvements we saw in Chapter Two of this very successful franchise.
The amount of development that went into Assassin’s Creed II  is mind-boggling. With over 230 features and a dev team of over 300, just the massive amounts of data to keep a rein on would bury the uninitiated. Patrick stated that through the entire development process, the most important things to pay attention to are your game play pillars and the need to keep an honest perspective. He said that your game play pillars are used to create the challenge, while your supporting features give meaning and depth to the core, while exotic features are used to change the pace of the game.
Patrick also drew attention to the importance of play tests and making the most of the test feedback in the development of your title. Using a two-fold process of Qualitative and Quantitative Reporting will give developers a very good perspective of what gamers like or do not like, as well as how they are playing your game. The Quantitative portion focuses on data tracking and usability reports, which provide concrete information to orient discussion on data instead of personal opinions. Meanwhile, the appreciative, or Qualitative reports, give context to the data you’ve collected, and you can see what is working, what isn’t, and what changes need to be made so that the gamer can more fully experience (and enjoy) the mechanics of the game.
Patrick also touched briefly on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and how everything learned in the two previous Assassin’s Creed development processes helped the team work quickly through a very short ten month production window. A big part of this was the strength, scope and depth of the team’s design documents. He stated that it is very important to keep your documentation up-to-date right through until the end of the project. Paying attention to your development documentation will cut down on needless questions and distractions, as well as force you to think and keep track of the vision for your title. As has been stated in many, many game dev seminars – it is cheaper to fail on paper than in production – and Patrick reiterated this by saying how important it is to challenge every feature you want in your game on paper first. This is not a perfect process, but it will reduce risk to your bottom line. In reply to a question asked from the audience, Patrick noted that features drove a large part of the story, and have a big part in the future of where the Assassin’s Creed franchise is heading in the future. Too bad he wouldn’t expand on that future…just where is Assassin’s Creed III going to take us? Curious gamers want to know.
SIGGRAPH Vancouver has two more upcoming events which may interest you. The first is Alice in Wonderland – Creating Underland  on May 25th at the Empire Theatre on Granville. This session features two presentations, the first with animation director David Schaub  (Sony Pictures Imageworks ), who will give you a look behind the talent and tools that were used to create Alice In Wonderland. Mr. Schaub will focus primarily on the standard creative elements of the show, but he will also provide insight into the surprising challenges and innovative technical solutions that were used to breathe digital life into over 30 inhabitants of Underland including the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen and the Cheshire Cat.
The second Creating Underland session will be presented by freelance Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas , who will focus on the process of photographing the “live-action” component of the film, as well as the many challenges that he and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Ken Ralston faced in post production while creating the visual and stereo 3D effects. A screening of Alice in Wonderland will follow the technical presentations. Tickets for this event are $20.00 for non-members and $15.00 for members.
The other upcoming SIGGRAPH Vancouver event, just announced last night, will focus on The Making of ModNation Racers. Featuring Clint Hanson, Lucas Granito and James Grieve from United Front Games , this panel presentation will take place on June 29th at the VanCity Theatre. Tickets will be available to members for $10.00 and $20.00 for non-members. As of press time, this event had not yet been added to the SIGGRAPH Vancouver web site, so you’ll have to check the association’s site later for ticket availability.
Interactive entertainment company Ludia  and FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME) have announced the availability of The Price Is Right game ($9.99) for the Sony PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system on the PlayStation®Network. Players can now “COME ON DOWN” for their shot in Contestant’s Row, bid on items in 19 different pricing games, test their luck with spinning The Big Wheel, and experience the winner-takes-all tension of the Showcase.
“We are pleased to extend our tremendously successful The Price Is Right game to PlayStation 3 systems via the PlayStation Network,” said Alex Thabet, Founder and CEO of Ludia Inc. “This first game release is just the beginning for Ludia games on PS3™, and further reinforces our multiplatform game strategy.”
The Price Is Right for PS3™ features:
* 19 favorite pricing games to play including Plinko, Cliff Hangers, Punch-a-Bunch & many more.
* Rich graphics, including stages, The Big Wheel, and other game elements combined with all the familiar music and sound effects to create a true-to-show game experience.
* Original, fully customizable 3D player avatars: choose hairstyles, clothing, accessories and more.
* Two game modes: single player and multiplayer.
* Unlock bonus items as a reward for progress in the game.
“The Emmy Award-winning The Price Is Right is the #1 daytime game show on television, and one that holds a consistently solid fan base” added Olivier Delfosse, Director of Interactive for program licensor FME. “We are delighted to continue to work with Ludia to bring an authentic brand experience to an even broader public of PlayStation 3 systems owners.”
Mobile Game Studio  invites you to travel The High Seas  on your iPhone. This new action packed game will put you in the boots of a treasure hunter. Fighting against the mighty pirates, lethal castles and deadly whirlpools you sail the seas in search of treasure chests. Pass through the Caribbean and Arctic on your quest for the title of a first class treasure hunter.
The High Seas  brings you into a whole new world, full of action, danger and mystery. Each level will present you with a new challenge; a number of gold. You are to collect the set amount of gold, but the mighty pirates will do everything in their power to protect their loot. Take a stand against your enemies with your cannons, which follow your command at the touch of a button along with a steering wheel you rotate to guide your ship across the seven seas. The sea is also against you on your quest as they put deadly towers, castles, icebergs and whirlpools in your path. The Ghost Armanda will bring your skills into question along with the mystical ghost towers. The title of treasure hunter never looked so far away.
At an official ribbon cutting ceremony at ParetoLogic’s  Victoria head office, company executives unveiled PC Health Advisor  to the public. The new software packs a huge number of features and tools to optimize, secure, and maintain Windows PCs. With ParetoLogic’s successful track record, indications are that PC Health Advisor will help millions of customers and their computers. 
“We are absolutely ecstatic about PC Health Advisor and the ways it can help people,” said Elton Pereira, ParetoLogic’s President, CEO and Co-Founder, at the program launch celebration. “This is the software that our users have been asking for.”
PC Health Advisor raises the bar for system utility and optimization software. Included in the digital multi-tool are a registry cleaner, privacy scanner, and malware process detector. The registry cleaner detects and removes problems in the Windows registry to improve performance, speed and system stability. The privacy scanner locates personal information and then permanently erases it. Computers continually record a user’s actions, the files accessed, and websites visited. PC Health Advisor removes this privacy and security risk. The malware process detector, as the name implies, searches for active malware on the system. This ensures that malware does not annoy users with pop-ups, or endanger them with keyloggers or Trojans.
“We’ve integrated truly essential functions,” said Ted Deng, Senior Project Manager at ParetoLogic, “not only are vital optimization features included but we’ve also added completely new tools and controls.”
These tools include direct access to Windows customization options, a process manager, duplicate file finder, Startup Manager, and BHO Manager. The software pairs ParetoLogic’s user-friendly interface with an array of technologies that have traditionally been the exclusive domain of highly trained technicians. All told, the toolkit gives Windows users unrestricted control over their computers, and instant power to clean, tweak, and fine-tune them.
“The software is so powerful, but the interface so easy-to-use,” said Pereira with a smile, “PC Health Advisor might end up giving some users a reputation as a computer whiz.”
With a new management team firmly in place, Vancouver’s Rainmaker Entertainment  continues to evolve as a multifaceted animation studio with its focus on creating, developing and producing its own animation projects. To that end, the company has unveiled its first slate of proprietary projects, it was announced today by Catherine Winder, President and Executive Producer of the company.
“Rainmaker is fully utilizing its resources – creative talent, storytelling and technical and artistic skills – to bring an exciting and entertaining array of ideas to the global animation film, television and home entertainment markets,” said Winder. “We have over 200 talented artists who are eager to set the company on a new course, leveraging our expertise in CG animation and our breakthrough animation techniques. Our team is also comprised of top notch development veterans and, with our production acumen, we’re now ready to take Rainmaker to the next level in realizing our goals as a full fledged animation studio.”
Rainmaker Entertainment, which purchased Mainframe Entertainment and its mainstay and groundbreaking TV property ReBoot, the first ever CG animated series, have released the following details about its new slate and updates on the creative staff working on the projects:
Ogo, in development as a theatrical animation movie, is based on Canada’s famous water monster, believed to reside in Lake Okanagan in the South Central interior of British Columbia. The movie is a comedy that pokes fun at all idiocracies of the monster’s lore and its impact on modern life. The story is about a little girl who reveals the monster’s existence to the world and then must do everything in her power to protect it. Ogo is written by Jacob Medjuck, formerly an animator at DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Interactive, Sony, Warner Bros and Fox and currently an independent filmmaker. Rainmaker is actively seeking distribution partners for Ting & Juma as well as Ogo and Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.
Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, being developed as a series of animated holiday specials for the television and home entertainment/DVD marketplace, is based on the 1939 children’s classic written by American author DuBose Heyward. Rainmaker has acquired the rights to the book, in which Heyward tells the story of a country bunny who always dreams of being one of the five Easter bunnies chosen by the old, kind and wise Grandfather Bunny. Bernice Vanderlaan (Disney’s “Life With Derek”) has been signed as the writer on the project. Vanderlaan has also written over 30 episodes for PBS Sprout’s preschool blocks, including its holiday special “Preschool Musical on a Stick”. She has also co-created and produced several imaginative children’s programs including Disney’s “Flash Forward”, Family Channel’s ” Hello, Mrs. Cherrywinkle” and GMTV’s “Rockabye Bubble”. David Snowden and Alison Fine, who won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Bob’s Birthday”, are also on board as Consulting Directors.
Ting & Juma: The Movie rounds out the initial Rainmaker development slate. Ting is a tiny frisky alien with an attitude, while Juma is a forest dweller with a thirst for creativity and adventure. Rainmaker’s artists created the characters and have already produced several short films of their exploits together. In the movie, Ting and Juma team up on a journey story to find Ting’s home. Rainmaker is currently taking pitches from writers for the project.
Open Text Corporation  has been awarded a 2010 SAP® Pinnacle Award in the category Global Software Solutions Partner of the Year. Pinnacle Awards are granted to leading SAP  partners that have excelled in enhancing the customer experience, addressing critical issues such as accelerating co-innovation and improving return on investment. Winners were selected based on over 230 nominations in 27 categories received from partners and SAP employees. Open Text received the award at a special awards ceremony held on the eve of SAPPHIRE® NOW, SAP’s international customer conference currently underway in Orlando, Florida.
“The SAP Pinnacle Awards reflect the strong success we are seeing globally in helping customers in a wide range of sectors from energy to financial services to government agencies connect their content with SAP solutions,” said Patrick Barnert, Vice President, SAP Solutions at Open Text. “The fact that we’ve now won an SAP Pinnacle Award three years running underscores that this is a highly effective partnership and that Open Text is committed to bringing real business results to customers. We look forward to even greater success in the coming year.”
Nova Scotia’s Innovacorp  has won one of the highest international honours for its work in helping new businesses. Stephen Hartlen, Innovacorp’s interim president and CEO, accepted the National Business Incubation Association’s international award for its work in the business incubation industry on May 18, at the association’s annual international conference, also taking place in Orlando, Florida. 
“This award represents the hard work of our dedicated and professional staff, and our partners and clients,” said Mr. Hartlen. “Combined with our compelling economic, client satisfaction, and leading indicator measurements, this award tells us that our High Performance Incubation business model is globally competitive.”
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Bill Estabrooks, acting on behalf of Economic and Rural Development Minister Percy Paris, congratulated the corporation on receiving this distinction.
“Innovacorp plays an important role in business growth in our province,” said Mr. Estabrooks. “It helps Nova Scotia-based knowledge companies sell their technologies and succeed in the global marketplace. This helps create good jobs and grow our economy.”
Innovacorp helps Nova Scotia entrepreneurs prosper in the global marketplace through its High Performance Incubation business model, which is based on a unique approach of incubation infrastructure, business mentoring, and seed and venture capital investment. Its key industries include information technology, life sciences, and clean technology.
“We continuously refine our business model and assess ourselves against other models around the globe,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Thayer Scott, chair of Innovacorp’s board of directors. “It’s very gratifying when the premier international organization in our sector recognizes what we do as being best in class.”
Absolute® Software Corporation , the leading provider of firmware-based , patented, computer theft recovery, data protection and secure computer lifecycle management solutions announced today that it has partnered with Trend Micro ™ to include Computrace® LoJack® for Laptops in select bundles to be offered by Trend Micro. Offerings will be available for the back-to-school shopping season. 
The combination of LoJack for Laptops and Trend Micro Internet Security offers joint customers a more comprehensive computer security package. With Trend Micro, computers are protected against online theft and viruses. With LoJack for Laptops in place, customers can be assured that if their computer is stolen, the Absolute Theft Recovery Team can gather evidence and work with local law enforcement to get their computer back.
“Computers have become the blue-prints to our lives. We do our banking there, store our passwords, and record our lives in pictures and video – everything to do with who we are. If your computer is stolen, it can be a scary occurrence, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Mark Grace, vice president of consumer business at Absolute Software. “With Absolute on your side, you have your own investigative team standing by to take action. We can delete your sensitive data, render the computer useless, send messages to the thief, conduct a full investigation and physically recover your computer – all while working with local police to help catch the thief. Without Absolute, you’d have little chance of seeing your computer again. Absolute greatly increases your chances of recovering your stolen device.”
“For Trend Micro, our customer’s personal online freedom directs how we design our products and solutions,” said Tobias Lee, vice president of consumer marketing, Trend Micro. “We’re pleased to partner with Absolute Software and offer our mutual customers an extra layer of mobile and laptop security.”
Multiplied Media Corporation  has announced the availability of an enterprise build  of their award-winning Poynt  application. BlackBerry smartphone users on a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) will have full access to the benefits and features of the Poynt application.
Poynt is a convenient and timesaving GPS-enabled application that connects users to local businesses, people, restaurants and movie theaters at the moment they want to find or acquire products or services. Poynt gives consumers the ability to move beyond discovery of their local area to view movie trailers and show times, book dining reservations, compare local gas prices, view directions on a map, click-to-call a business or view a website.
“Poynt is an effective tool in reducing business costs and enhancing workforce productivity through fewer directory assistance calls and the ability to quickly set up business lunches or find meeting locations,” said Andrew Osis, CEO of Multiplied Media. “The new BES build allows BlackBerry enterprise administrators to easily manage distribution and updates of Poynt to their colleagues, connecting them with the local area to get quick search results, turn-by-turn directions and mapping, or detailed location information.”
“Poynt is a very useful application and we are pleased to now be able to give our organization access to it,” said Gavin Wilson, Senior Support Analyst at Oxford University Press. “We appreciate that Multiplied Media delivered a well-packaged BES build of the app that is easy to deliver to Oxford University Press’ Blackberry users.”
Multiplied Media has turned off update notifications in this enhanced enterprise build to ensure BES users do not need to download the app directly when an update becomes available. Poynt offers two versions of its Enterprise build to ensure BES users can fully utilize the application whether it’s through a desktop manager or BES connection only. Poynt is currently available for BlackBerry® smartphones  in Canada, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain.
The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, has announced the appointment of Ram Krishna Raju as a member of Telefilm Canada .
“I am delighted that Mr. Raju has accepted this appointment,” said Minister Moore. “Telefilm Canada will undoubtedly benefit from his strong leadership, dynamism, extensive knowledge, and experience in the digital and information technology industry.”
As founder of e-academy Inc., Mr. Raju has built and led, since 1997, one of the world’s leading providers of hosted electronic software delivery solutions and software licence compliance for the education market. This company is recognized by leading software companies such as Microsoft, Adobe Systems, and several other major software developers.
Prior to that, Mr. Raju worked at Dalhousie University as a Professor of Information Systems and as a Manager of the Computing and Information Systems Department, where he established a university computer store that has remained profitable since 1984. His work in this field was recognized in 1995, when he was elected Vice-President of the Canadian Association of Campus Computer Stores to represent more than $125 million in purchasing power in negotiations with hardware and software companies. Mr. Raju holds three degrees from Dalhousie University: a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, and a Master of Business Administration.
Yahoo! Canada  continues its vision of becoming the centre of peoples’ online lives by delivering customized content across multiple platforms and innovative new products to Canada’s World Cup 2010 fans. As Canadians prepare to join hundreds of millions of soccer fans from around the world this June and July to celebrate the world’s biggest sporting event, Yahoo! Canada is creating an online home for Canadian soccer fans who want to access all the action from their desktop or web-enabled device.
“It’s a big year for sports in Canada, and Yahoo! Canada is excited to continue providing original content and real-time coverage and insights for Canadians around the events that matter most to them. Whether it’s the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and now the World Cup, Yahoo! Canada is as passionate about providing leading online sports coverage as Canadians are about cheering for their favourite teams and home town athletes,” says Max Tremblay, Director of Marketing, Yahoo! Canada.
Yahoo! will provide sports fans with customized online and mobile experiences during World Cup 2010. Canadians can follow all the World Cup action online . Later this month, Yahoo! will also launch a comprehensive mobile site  for Canadian soccer fans.
Yahoo!’s reign as a technology leader continues by kicking up the science for this year’s World Cup and offering the following innovations for fans:
* New Shortcuts in Yahoo! Search results that will launch in more than 25 markets throughout the summer. These Shortcuts will provide rich information such as photos, videos, schedules, live scores, stats, team information and news, right on the Search results page.
* Real-time scores, schedules and breaking news, all of which fans can have at their fingertips by downloading the Yahoo! Toolbar  with World Cup coverage. The toolbar can be customized with a country-themed skin to support any competing team.
* Yahoo! Sports World Soccer 2010 , a pick’em style fantasy soccer game available to Canadians that allows fans to select winners for each match of the World Cup.
* Yahoo!’s first global online penalty shootout contest — Yahoo! Penalty Shootout  is set to launch at the end of May. Soccer fans will be able to compete with friends, other fans, and sworn soccer rivals from around the world for a chance to win the Yahoo! Sports Pass, tickets to any four premier sporting events in the world over the next four years.
* Predictalot  from Yahoo! Labs  is a fun experiment that puts the “wisdom of the crowd” about the World Cup to the test. Predictalot allows fans in every country to make millions of interesting predictions, like “How many teams from Europe will advance to the quarterfinals?” or “Will a country that has never won before win it all this year?”
Both Yahoo!’s PC and mobile platforms will allow fans to get breaking news and analysis, scores, player stats, live commentary and video from Yahoo! Canada Sports and will include:
* On-the-ground reporting from South Africa by award-winning sports writers Martin Rogers, who spent seven years as a soccer writer for the London Daily Mirror, covering the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and international soccer; and Yahoo! Sports editorial team members Dan Wetzel and Les Carpenter.
* “World Soccer Roundup”, a daily video news show that will recap top stories and give information on upcoming World Cup events.
* Dirty Tackle, a leading soccer blog from editor Brooks Pecks and contributors Richard Whittall and Ryan Bailey.
And in very late-breaking news from the INplay 2010  conference happening right now in Toronto, Shaw Communications  has announced that they will be adding a new digital media programme to their Rocket Fund. Further details will be available via the Rocket Fund’s web site  this coming Monday, May 24th.