This past week I looked in again on Ageia (and will some
more next week). Ageia has found they have to get closer to the developer
community—not a big surprise, you say, ATI and Nvidia learned that years ago.
True enough, but for a startup it’s not something you really want to have to
take on; there’s a lot of expense supporting the game dev community and then
there are the development cycles. But the Ageia folks aren’t newbies either,
and so they steeled their investors for such an eventuality. OK, that’s Ageia’s
However, in discussing games that will exploit Ageia’s
physics processor we learned about the international team that came together to
develop a game that exploits the physics engine. That game is called
“CellFactor,” and it’s written up on page 14 of this issue.
The remarkable thing about it is the energy and commitment
that a bunch of kids, several still in school, made toward this development.
You may recall a writeup I did on a “FarCry” mod by Matto
(See TechWatch, February 26, p. 27) that
talks about a group of young guys who built a multi-level mod to “FarCry” that
was (in my opinion) really great. And that experience reminded me of the Demo
group in Finland, and some of the earlier mods to “Quake” and “DoomX.”
Matto and “CellFactor” are different from the past efforts
and others that I’ve seen in that these new guys are able to get access to
really powerful software development tools, existing libraries (where a lot of
the hard word has already been done), and super powerful AIBs and supporting
Although it would seem like the development time would be
shortened, it isn’t on a startup. Once these ambitious and energetic teams get
some assets built up their dev time will shorten.
Nonetheless the scenes, skins, effects, lighting, and
special features (not the least of which is physics) are first-class if not
even better. And yes, you can, if you want to pick them apart, find places
where they either didn’t know what to do or they took a shortcut and
compromised either quality or game play a little. Those things are “so-whats?”
in my opinion. The bigger picture is to look at what these self-funded,
sleepless kids have done.
They have the burning desire, the passion to build a world
that invites us to run around in it, shoot things, blow up things, and in the
case of “CellFactor,” bust things apart.
And it’s only going to get better
Recently Nvidia sponsored classes for aspiring game
developers, and AMD has similar programs under way. The University of Southern
California has game development classes, and other schools in Seattle and Texas
are following suit. All of this will bring forth a whole new generation of
trained and presumably talented kids who will have extraordinary tools and the
shoulders of giants to stand on.
What’s the end result? You know what it is, a horde of new,
novel, and fun games that will exploit the GPUs like never before,
And then what happens? Well, the big-name companies EA,
Ubisoft and others will either try to buy these fledglings, or at the least
distribute for them. This will, however, be disruptive, and the big game dev
companies may find they have a new gorillalike competition that they can’t
stand up to, and will try to suppress. That would be a very bad thing.
Challenges still exist. DX10 is no walk in the park, just
yet. It will be interesting to see who comes out with a really great game in
DX10 first, some renegade kids, or some big-name studio. Me? I’m betting on the
renegades, but then I always do. Remember that cartoon with the two vultures sitting
on rock, and the one says to the other, “The hell with this patience, I’m going
out and kill something.”