While millions of video game fans were not surprised to see Assassin's Creed III rank as one of the best video games in the world at the Spike Video Game Awards on Friday night, only a fraction of them were aware that Université de Montréal's close links with the digital arts, both in Canada and abroad, contributed to the success of the game.
The awards underscore the university's exceptional relationship with the digital arts. Professor François Furstenberg of the university's department of history worked closely with the editors of Assassin's Creed III to ensure the historical accuracy of the narrative. “If they had wanted to depict the revolution without showing slaves, or portray the Americans as noble liberators, I would have hesitated,” Furstenberg explained. “But the characters in the game ask the same questions I could ask in my class. If you were Mohawk at the time of the American Revolution, who would you ally with? If you were a slave, who was the liberator: the English or the Americans? The game has compelling pedagogical aspect.”
Université de Montréal is shoulder-to-shoulder with the video gaming and feature-film industries when it comes to technology, too. For instance, Derek Nowrouzezahrai recently left his position at the Disney Research Lab in Zurich to pursue his collaboration with the lab as a professor at the university's Department of Computer Science and Operations Research. “My work focuses on creating the most realistic computer-generated images possible, specifically in the simulation of light reflection and diffusion, fluid animation, and shadow projection," Nowrouzezahrai said. Professor Nowrouzezahrai develops simulation algorithms that operate in real-time, changing the appearance of objects interactively as the scene changes. “Real-time simulations are faster but typically less accurate than their offline counterparts. We are working to close the gap between these two families of methods in order to achieve real-time speed with offline accuracy.”
The university is offering gamers – and non-gamers, for that matter – a real opportunity to get behind the scenes. Professor Nowrouzezahrai, for example, is actively looking for students who want to do graduate work in the field of computer graphics. “Candidates can propose their own research projects or adopt existing projects we offer in our lab. In both cases, I design projects and evaluate their results according to the state-of-the-art in academic and industrial needs,” Nowrouzezahrai said. Prospective students can also consider the University's innovative post-graduate video game design programme (diplôme d'études supérieures spécialisées (D.É.S.S.) en design de jeux) which is run in conjunction with Ubisoft's Montreal studio and boasts a 75% industry placement rate upon graduation (2006-2009 statistics).
Montreal boasts a strong video game and feature-film sector, fostering deeper and more diverse links between these industries and Université de Montréal. More information about the university's local and international collaboration can be found at the links below.
- Further details regarding François Furstenberg's contributions to Assassin's Creed 3
- Further details regarding Derek Nowrouzezahrai's CGI research and collaboration with the Disney Research Lab
- Université de Montréal's video game design programme (in French)
- François Furstenberg
- Derek Nowrouzezahrai