Ubisoft kicked off their E3 conference on an unexpected note at the Los Angeles Theatre earlier today, talking about technology and their vision for the future before jumping into their gaming showcase.

First up on the agenda, Ubisoft has announced the upcoming launch of a new online portal for gamers called UPlay. This portal will feature four distinct and self-explanatory sections: UShare, UWin, UHelp and UShop. Ubisoft's upcoming games will start offering content on this portal, such as game tips in the UHelp section. The portal is set to launch by the end of the year.

Next, a quick comment was made to highlight Peter Jackson's involvement in Paramount's upcoming Tin Tin game, based on the popular comic books. No further details on the development of the title were made available.

Ubisoft's CEO then talked about a new direction for the publisher, having recently bought Hybrid, a visual effects company, as the foundation of the new Ubisoft Digital Arts. The goal is to ultimately bridge 3D rendering engines with pre-rendering technology to provide better, crisper graphics at reasonable frame rates. The new studio also contributed to over 100 shots for James Cameron's upcoming movie Avatar, and has been crucial in the development of the video game of the same name. This technology will also be the basis for upcoming short movies based on the Assasin's Creed 2 universe.

Now on to the games.

James Cameron's Avatar
This game has been in the making for two and a half years, following the universe crafted by James Cameron for the feature film coming up this holiday season. Though many of the designs and storyline were cleared with Cameron, the game was developed in tandem with the movie and will contain its very own story. This, Cameron hopes, will be the key to a movie-based game that "does not suck" since the universe, cultures and themes can match without impacting the storyline, as the storytelling mechanisms of the two mediums are considerably different. To make a long premise short, prepare yourself to visit a distant moon and meet the Navi: a wise but technologically primitive culture who tame fearsome animals and are increasingly anxious about the growing human population on their moon.

Red Steel 2
The sword-swinging action is back on the Wii with MotionPlus support, allowing a one-to-one mapping between the controller and the in-game sword. The badass gunsligner/samurai hero launches into a mythical desert with a katana and a revolver, hoping to rid the area of evil. The graphic novel styling jives well with the superhuman abilities of the hero, like throwing foes into the air and slashing them up before they hit the ground. This title will be bundled with the MotionPlus accessory at launch.

Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage
The snowboarding experience is coming back to the Wii using the balance board, and that's about all we know so far.

Academy of Champions: Football
Let it be known right now that this is actually a soccer game, no matter what those English blokes call it. Lead your scrawny friends on a team-building exercise to victory on the field.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Convictions
Sam Fisher is back and really really pissed off. He has quit his job in order to pursue his daughter's death, and the investigation leads him to a drug dealer on the island of Malta. The mechanics of the game have been tweaked to emphasize stealth as a tool, rather than forcing it upon the player. This will lead to faster and better action sequences and much more fluid gameplay. A really neat feature is the "projected movies" which tell the story and lists your objectives on nearby walls without interrupting the flow of the game, and seamless transitions between environments complete the package. The new "mark and execute" allows the player to define a game plan before charging in and shooting at the target points in sequence. The "last known position" indicator shows where enemies think you are, helping you either draw their attention or circle around and hit them from behind.

A fresh take on the RTS genre, R.U.S.E introduces deception techniques that will let you bluff your enemy: camouflage your troops, lure your opponent with decoy units, sabotage his logistics; this one is strategy supercharged. Combined with an interesting new take on visuals with a revolutionary zooming engine, R.U.S.E is one to keep an eye on.

Casual Games
Ubisoft is proud to report that its casual games, including Imagine and the Petz series, are doing rather well on the DS. A new title, Style Lab makeover, is to be introduced shortly, giving girls the ability to use the DSi to capture their photo and digitally alter their appearance. Other titles such as Petz Hamsters Superstars have younger players doing things with their pets that are just downright cruel.

Your Shape
Ubisoft's answer to the fitness craze comes with an exclusive camera for the Wii that takes a snapshot of your body and helps you configure a workout plan that's best for you. In addition, the game will watch you exercise and give you realtime feedback that your body just doesn't bend that way. On the plus side, you won't need any crazy peripherals because the game can just help you make use of that medicine ball gathering dust in the basement. You'll have to wait for the holiday season to start getting slim.

Rabbids Go Home
The Rabbids suddenly decide that the moon is where they came from, and building a giant mountain of random junk is the way to climb up there. Naturally, that means crazy rabbids roam around town collecting whatever they can get their hands on (with a curious knack for ripping off peoples' clothes) and stacking it all in their shopping cart. Feeling that this could get monotonous pretty quick, you can later strap your cart onto a jet engine and blast through an airport terminal. Didn't we already see this at the Namco Bandai booth a few years ago?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up
The Turtles will be celebrating their 25th anniversary by kicking the shell out of each other. If you're thinking Super Smash Bros. with different characters and different environments, you've got the right idea.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
The sequel to the Wii action title of the 2007/2008 holiday season is on its way, and we're hoping to discover additional details for this one as the week progresses.

Assassin's Creed 2
An absolutely gorgeous-looking sequel is set to hit store shelves on November 17, and we couldn't be more excited. The trailer was set in Venice, Italy in 1486, and that's about all we know about the setting. Let it be known that shady characters are still all over the streets, and the voluptuous women are in all their corset-wearing glory. The trailer also hinted that the main character is Altair's son, which could prove to be rather interesting.

That's it for the Ubisoft Conference recap. Look for in-depth previews of these games and more on GamingExcellence as the E3 week progresses.