Game Network Newsletter - July 2011
July 13, 2011 (Back to archive)
In This Issue: GDC Europe
- Epic Games - Epic Games VP Mark Rein discusses Gears of War 3, mobile focus and presence at GDC Europe
- Crytek - Crytek's Managing Director, Avni Yerli, talks exclusive first looks at GDC Europe
- OnLive - OnLive's Director of Publisher/Developer Relations, Chris Donahue, discusses OnLive's cloud gaming platform and strategy
Epic Games VP Mark Rein discusses "Gears Of War 3," mobile focus and presence at GDC Europe
Mark Rein: Mike Capps, our president, is going to do a wonderful talk on Epic's approach to making AAA games. Mike will delve into our best practices for maximizing resources across teams and disciplines, streamlining the production pipeline, finding ways to squeeze the juice out of hardware at the end of the console lifecycle, and much more. Mike will point to the "Gears Of War" series as the primary example, touching on how we safeguard and evolve the IP, and also reveal what we've learned from "Gears Of War 3"'s development.
Q: Can you tell us what will be special about "Gears Of War 3"?
Rein: It's our longest campaign ever and my favorite of the three games. We have the best multiplayer yet with Horde 2.0 that features upgradeable fortifications and command posts, deeper player progression, a new experience system, and boss fights at certain waves. On the versus multiplayer side, we've added a fun Team Deathmatch mode and made some really great improvements to Capture The Leader and King Of The Hill modes. Add to all of this the new Beast mode plus dedicated servers and improved matchmaking, and I think it's pretty clear this is the best Gears game we've made yet!
Q: There's a rumor going around that you are working on a sequel to the classic 1994 game "Jazz Jackrabbit" – this time for iOS devices – since you showed a tech demo of it with the Unreal Engine 3. Are iOS games the new direction for Epic – and why?
Rein: The rumor is true. In fact, we already released the game! Actually, it is a tutorial that is available to show Unreal Development Kit users how to prototype using Unreal Kismet, the visual scripting system in Unreal Engine 3. We released the source as well as a tutorial video that shows how you can construct some pretty cool gameplay elements without writing a lot of code. UDK is downloadable for free and we already have more than 800,000 unique developer installs of it with some great games on the way.
iOS is certainly part of Epic's future. Our recent iOS game, "Infinity Blade," has already earned us over $10 million in its first six months and hammers home the notion that iOS users are ready for the kind of high-production value games that Unreal Engine 3 is uniquely qualified to produce on iOS. Our engine is also available on Android and one of our licensees – Trendy Entertainment – holds the distinction of having the first-ever game certified for Android's Honeycomb tablet release with "Dungeon Defenders." They were also demoed on Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play (aka the "PlayStation phone") and we showed them onstage at the Tokyo reveal event for Sony's next-gen portable, the PSVita. Epic and Unreal Engine 3 are already big players in the mobile and handheld space.
Q: You recently announced a partnership with Nvidia to add DX11 capabilities to the Unreal Engine 3, including tessellation and support for the GPU firm's PhysX, APEX, and 3D Vision technologies. Tell me about that partnership...and what other additions can we expect for the Unreal Engine 3?
Rein: We worked with NVIDIA to incorporate their cutting-edge physics refinements for our GDC "Samaritan" demo. This was a real-time Unreal Engine 3 demo showing our proposal for what the next generation of gaming will look like. Shortly after GDC, we released all of this cool DirectX 11 technology to our licensees and users of the Unreal Development Kit. Every month we have a new release of Unreal Engine 3 (and its free development kit, UDK) with great new features. There are way too many improvements from month to month for me to highlight here so I'll just send your readers to our site to check out the release notes and news pages.
Q: Epic is once again a big supporter of GDC Europe as both a title sponsor and speaker. What keeps you coming back?
Rein: GDC Europe is a great place for us to connect with our Unreal Engine 3 licensees and prospective licensees. Epic Games' European territory manager Mike Gamble runs the show for us at GDC Europe and several of us from the head office are attending to service worldwide interests. Anyone looking to meet with Epic should e-mail us.
Crytek's Managing Director, Avni Yerli, talks exclusive first looks at GDC Europe
Q: Avni, last year at GDC Europe you contributed to eight different talks, including one on how the CryENGINE 3 can be used to develop prototypes of almost any game, in real-time, as you play. I recall that you created a completely new game experience live on stage. How are you going to beat that this year?
Avni Yerli: That's indeed not the easiest task but, as you can imagine, here at Crytek we are happy to take on that challenge. At this year's GDC Europe, we'll again have an exclusive CryENGINE 3 booth where we're going to showcase our newest tools and some exciting stuff for gamers. Our CryENGINE development team will give presentations on topics ranging from AI to animations to cinematics in regular intervals and, on top of all this, GDCE attendees can get their hands on the engine at one of our demo pods and test our latest tools and features by themselves. Of course we'll also have ready some thrilling surprises for all visitors but, unfortunately, I can't reveal them yet.
Besides those show floor activities, we're also again contributing to a great number of different talks. Two of them will focus on our recently released game, "Crysis 2." Peter Hall will give insights into the programming side of things and Pierre-Yves Donzallaz and Tiago Sousa will both give an in-depth talk about the lighting in "Crysis 2." In addition to those game-related talks, we're going to cover a few more unconventional topics. Bernd Diemer will continue his lecture from last year and explain "how nuking the fridge can sour your grapes" and Peter Holzapfel will use the example of jazz to explain how different art forms can help us create better games.
Q: In March, you added stereoscopic 3D to the CryEngine 3. Will you be discussing future CryEngine 3 capabilities at the show?
Yerli: We're definitely going to have some exclusive first looks at GDC Europe. One example that I can reveal is DirectX 11. For the very first time, Crytek will present this wealth of graphical improvements and performance optimization for the DX11 API live at a public show and give people the opportunity to actually play around with it.
Q: You released your latest game, "Crysis2," in March. What's up next on the Crytek drawing board?
Yerli: There's a lot of enthralling stuff coming up for us within the next 12 months – both technology-wise as well as gaming-wise. One thing we're really looking forward to is the upcoming release of our very first free-to-play first-person shooter, "Warface." Together with our publishing partner, Tencent, we're going to launch the game in China at the end of this year and then we're going to reveal more partners for more countries very soon. Besides that, we're busy developing our first Kinect title, "RYSE," in cooperation with Microsoft, and some other yet unannounced projects.
Q: Last month, you confirmed that your Budapest studio was going in a new direction and getting a new focus. Reports speculated that you were switching from Kinect games to tablet titles. Is that Crytek's new focus and, if not, which direction is Crytek headed – and why?
Yerli: There's not one particular direction that we're focusing on. It's more like we're spreading our wings into all kinds of directions – be it mobile games, AAA games, Kinect titles, online games, and so on. We really enjoy experiencing new technologies and concepts and love trying out new stuff. Over the past months, we found out, for example, that our team from Crytek Budapest perfectly suits the idea of developing mobile games since they have the appropriate expertise and experience. That's why we decided to rearrange the existing organization and shift the studio's focus to mobile games.
Q: As a Frankfurt-based company, GDC Europe is right in your backyard. What would you tell game developers who are trying to decide whether to attend? What will they be able to get from coming to the show?Yerli: I'd definitely recommend attending GDC Europe since, in my opinion, it's a must for all current and future developers. It allows you to meet the industry's best talents and veterans and learn from their knowledge and experience. Over the past two years, United Business Media (UBM) managed to build up a super-professional and helpful event with GDC Europe that underlines the importance of the gaming industry and its promising nature. I think the fact that the number of attendees is continuously growing proves the success of GDCE.
OnLive's Director of Publisher/Developer Relations, Chris Donahue, discusses OnLive's cloud gaming platform and strategy
Q: Chris, you are California-based and yet you're a sponsor of GDC Europe? Why is a European show so important to you that you're not just an attendee or exhibitor but a title sponsor?
Chris Donahue: Correct, we are a U.S.-based company but Europe is a very important region for OnLive with a large number of very talented developers and publishers. Also, we will be launching in the UK later this year with major partners like BT, and will follow with the rest of Europe shortly thereafter. And because we are so passionate about developer education, we are also a very big supporter of the Game Developers Conference in general – here in Europe as well as in the U.S. We sponsored the Independent Game Festival this year and we'll be sponsoring at GDC Online in Austin later this year too.
Q: OnLive is a cloud computing, gaming-on-demand medium. For folks who aren't familiar with OnLive, what should people know about your business model?
Donahue: OnLive's cloud gaming platform makes it extremely easy for customers to get on board and start playing all the great games we have on the service; you can literally be playing any game within seconds, from high-end AAA-type titles to small, indie, casual ones. We also make it possible for people to play games that usually require a large hardware investment (like a PS3, Xbox 360, or a beefy PC) to be played on really low-power machines – all of our games play on any old PC, Mac, now on tablets, and/or in your living room (using the OnLive Game System). We also eliminate piracy and used game sales – something that is a real problem for the industry. Big picture? We make it easy for publishers and developers to get their games live on OnLive and then we make it really easy for people to just play.
Q: You have over 20 publishers as partners – from Ubisoft and Epic to THQ and Take-Two. Are you looking for new partners...and why would a publisher get from partnering with you?
Donahue: Actually we have over 50 publisher and developer partners – we work with the top publishers in the business and we're also huge supporters of the indie game community. We're all about great games, regardless of where they come from. The major benefit we offer to developers and publishers is a very low barrier to entry to get your game onto OnLive, backed by a very solid business model, getting their games in front of loads of people who would love to buy and play them, with as little friction as possible.
Q: In the past year or two, cloud gaming has become increasingly popular...and, as a result, you've found yourself with quite a few new competitors – from Gaikai to Playcast Media to SFR. What distinguishes OnLive from the other cloud computing systems?
Donahue: The cloud space is definitely heating up, but OnLive is extremely different from the other players in many ways. Firstly, we are, as far as I know, the only cloud gaming service that's live and in full service. We are also a full gaming platform complete with all the standard features one would expect from a next-gen platform, and then some; in fact, we just announced integration with Facebook and a wealth of great new social features. Next, our users can access their games via almost any device – their PC or Mac, on their TV by using our OnLive Game System, and later this year you will be able to launch OnLive directly from Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players as well as tablets and smartphones. So any screen that's connected to the Internet will give you access to your whole library of games on OnLive. There is no other game platform that offers that!
Q. OnLive will be speaking at GDC Europe. What will the focus of the talks be?Donahue: We will be talking about the OnLive service from the business and marketing side as well as doing an overview of our SDK and the process of getting your games published onto OnLive. We'll be demoing the system using a number of our target devices as well and showing some new stuff too. We will also be available during GDC Europe for meetings; we'd love to meet with as many developers and publishers we as can and help them get their games onto OnLive for our European launch!
Paul has covered the videogames industry for over 15 years now, currently writes for Gamasutra.com, and was editor-in-chief of UBM's GamePower.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.