Ubisoft announced that they've partnered with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox to start work on a game based on James Cameron's Avatar. They have Massive Entertainment, one of their subsidiaries, working on the project and the game will be based on the Snowdrop engine that powers The Division.
According to Polygon, Ubisoft is working on the game right now and made the announcement in light of the Game Developers Conference taking place in San Francisco, California, as well as news that Avatar 2 will begin shooting this summer. In the video they released for the announcement they talk about how they'll be diving deep into the world of Pandora, which led Polygon to presume that the game may be an open-world title.
They may not be far off.
Massive Entertainment's The Division is coasting on patches and light expansions at this point, and they 're currently hiring to go into full production on Avatar. Over on their hiring page, there are some hints about what they're looking for and who they need for the project. We know that there's hardly anything set in stone given that they're looking for concept artists, which means some key assets such as characters and environments aren't done yet.
Another interesting thing on the page is that they're looking for programmers. Obviously every game requires programmers, but specifically, they need programming engineers to work on the SnowDrop game engine. So how does hiring programmers for SnowDrop reveal anything about Avatar being an open-world game? Well, it gives away a few things.
First of all, they're overhauling the tools, which means they're upgrading the engine to handle new tasks. The engine was designed around The Division, a third-person MMO. So they're taking an engine designed for massive multiplayer online gaming and adding new things on top of it. Now if they were just making a standard non-open world game, they could have grabbed a quick UE4 license and called it a day, but they specifically have Massive -- who worked on The Division -- to use their MMO-themed engine for the upcoming Avatar game. And they're specifically upgrading this engine to handle larger scale tasks.
What's more is that on the hiring page they're also looking for online infrastructure engineers, to integrate the Avatar project into Uplay and live operations for online functionality. So we know that there's an online component to this upcoming game, and we know that the game will revolve around exploring the fictional world of Pandora, and we know that the game is running on an engine built for MMO-style projects.
I actually think Polygon is right on the money insofar of pegging the game to be an open-world title, the staff hiring seems to suggest as much. Details on the project are obviously limited given that they don't seem to be very far into development.
This is actually the second major AAA attempt at making a game based on Avatar. The first project was also published by Ubisoft and made by Ubisoft Montreal. It ran on Far Cry's Dunia engine, which was based on the CryEngine -- both of which were designed mostly for action oriented games. This time around they've acquired the services of developers known for working on an MMO using an MMO engine. So it sounds like this could be an open-world MMO game similar in scope to The Division. No release date has been set for the game just yet.