With a forthcoming announcement that developer EA Mythic's (Dark Age of Camelot) forthcoming MMORPG Warhammer Online will be developed using Emergent's Gamebryo Element, we talked with Mythic's CTO Matt Shaw and Emergent CEO Geoffrey Selzer about their mutual relationship, and how each party has helped the other evolve.
Speaking exclusively with Gamasutra about Warhammer Online, which is set for a 2007 PC release, EA Mythic chief technology officer Matt Shaw said, "As we've gone through and produced new games, it wasn't even a question for us to use Gamebryo when we started production on Warhammer. We've had a pretty aggressive schedule with Warhammer - we actually signed the deal at E3 2005, without a line of code or a piece of artwork for it."
EA Mythic's partnership with Emergent continues a long line of mutual support, with Emergent's Gamebryo also powering the developer's Dark Age of Camelot series. Said Emergent CEO Geoffrey Selzer, "We have a number of key customers, of which we consider Mythic to be one of the primary ones. The relationship with Mythic is a very powerful one for us to get feedback on the direction of our products, and we certainly are looking forward to the further development of this pipeline that we're building as we go forward. Mythic is very important to us from the point of view of providing us real actionable ideas and focus on the evolution of our entire pipeline. We're very focused on the online space."
But that focus on the online space expands beyond simply MMOGs, and is one in which Emergent, outspoken on the challenges of the next-generation, believes its strategy is unique. "MMOGs, we believe are the starting point to all new types of content," says Selzer, "whether you're talking about episodic, or you're talking about persistent worlds with instance-based gaming popped on top of it. Whether you're talking about continually expanding worlds, or user created worlds, we think MMOG technology points a direction toward the future, and that's why we've taken a modular approach. We think MMOGs and the evolution of that type of content is where the future is. We don't think it's MMOGs as we see them today."
And that particular modular strategy is one that the engineers at Mythic have found key as well, with Shaw explaining, "The online space, especially in the case of MMOs does represent a unique set of challenges. You have a freeform world, you have an undetermined amount of players and figures that have to enter your world and can fire off spells and special effects at any given time, all of those challenges quite difficult. We consider the Gamebryo system a 'swiss army knife,' as far as a fantastic general toolkit that gives us the flexibility to do what we need to do and to get it out of the way in order to make load decisions. That's actually one of its greatest strengths, is that it doesn't impose much in the way of a paradigm on you."
Selzer says that the avoidance of that forced paradigm is very much the point, adding, "We look at massively multiplayer games, which Mythic was one of the true innovators in and continues to be one of the innovators in, and we see our role as providing this element that does some of the technology heavy-lifting in this modular format, with a very flexible plug and play infrastructure."
"There are other solutions out there that are almost like a game that you simply re-skin," says Selzer, "but because we're so modular, and we're really designing ourselves to be a standard for the next generation of gaming, the relationship with Mythic - when they're doing so many different creative things on top of our engine - helps us make sure that our core is rock solid, and how we create the interfaces between what they do and what we do really helps us calibrate the scope of our product."
Shaw admits, "Like most graphically oriented engineers, my lust is to build a new engine myself, but my pragmatic hat says that's very expensive - years and years worth of work, and there's never been the thought that 'we could just do this ourselves.' Gamebryo has a lot of good avenues in there that you can use it when you want to, if you really need to do something super special, you can hit DirectX completely within it and still keep going with the rest of it being Gamebryo-based, that's an incredibly useful feature."
EA Mythic's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, based on Games Workshop's tabletop fantasy war game, will be released in 2007.