x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

CSI: Hidden Crimes mobile game app released by Abu Dhabi’s Ubisoft

A new mobile game app that includes familiar characters from the popular show was recently released, thanks to the work of Abu Dhabi-based games-design team Ubisoft.

Hicham Habchi work on the CSI: Las Vegas game at the Ubisoft Abu Dhabi Studio, Delores Johnson / The National
Hicham Habchi work on the CSI: Las Vegas game at the Ubisoft Abu Dhabi Studio, Delores Johnson / The National

The gruesome scenes in the dark alleys of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have little in common with the clean streets of Abu Dhabi, until now.

A new mobile game app that includes familiar characters from the popular show was released on May 1, 2013, thanks to the work of Abu Dhabi-based games-design team Ubisoft.

CSI: Hidden Crimes has been written, drawn and built in the Ubisoft Abu Dhabi Studio, in twofour54, over the past 18 months.

“The first step was to create a studio here, the second step was to think about what the studio was going to develop for Ubisoft, it was a white page,” says Yannick Theler, the managing director of the Abu Dhabi studio.

“It was the emergence of mobile gaming at that time. It was new for Ubisoft, too.

“We started analysing the market, we did our homework: who likes mobile games and what kind of mobile games are working? After that the guys started working on the concept.”

The Abu Dhabi team submitted a proposal to Ubisoft’s headquarters in Montreuil, France, to get the go ahead to start building it.

“After the first presentation they thought it was a good idea, but asked if we could do it – multi-

platform android technology isn’t that easy,” says Theler.

The free-to-play game, which is set in Las Vegas, is the first mobile game app released for Android and iOS at the same time.

“It was a challenge for a new studio,” Theler says. “It took us a year and a half and the project has been top secret.”

There were only a few people outside of Ubisoft who knew about the game. One of these is Jack Gutowitz, a writer for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, also known as CSI: Las Vegas, who was brought in to make the storylines authentic and keep the dialogue true to the television show’s characters.

“When I first started, they had already developed the concept and the first case, so it was really easy, my job was adding the forensics into it,” he says.

“I would get their case and go and research all the forensics with them. They wrote all the suspects beautifully, but there’s little nuances that our characters say. Ted Danson has a certain way of saying things, completely different from the others.

“I put a little bit more CSI into it, it was a little bit more detective case to begin with. Instead of looking at it as a detective, you look at it from the point of view of a forensic scientist.”

Gutowitz’s resume includes stints as production assistant on The West Wing, and writer, assistant and script coordinator on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Initially working from the United States, he liaised with the Abu Dhabi-based game director to create the six chapters that launch today.

“We would talk for a couple of hours about each case and turn it in a few days later,” he says. A gamer himself, Gutowitz, who spent two weeks in Abu Dhabi last month in the build-up to the launch, was determined to keep the app as close to CSI: Las Vegas reality as possible.

“We have tried to set the games up like a drawing-room mystery, like an old Agatha Christie mystery. And their art is beautiful. Ted is like: ‘When is this coming out? I want to play it.’ They have been looking forward to it for months.”

On top of the six chapters launching today, Ubisoft has more in the pipeline. It also hopes to translate the game into Arabic, but changing the user interface from left to right makes the task more difficult.

If all goes to plan, the Abu Dhabi studio hopes to become one of the most successful satellite studios to release mobile games.

“We want to be one of the best studios for mobile games,” says Theler. “I think this game is amazing, we are very proud of what is going to be released. That’s our project, that’s our baby.”

CSI: Hidden Crimes is available now on iTunes

munderwood@thenational.ae