GS: How did you work that issue of separate builds on the same disc? And how different was it developing each? I assume you shared assets?
PO: Yes, I mean we obviously are sharing assets. If we take one of the games, Big Bumping for example, we’d already started work on the Xbox 360 version when we realized we had to do the Xbox one as well. Our technology is all in-house, and all cross-platform. You’re probably aware of some of our past games. We try to make everything cross-platform. You never know when a publisher will say ‘we want a PS2 one, and an Xbox, and oh, actually, did we say we want a GameCube version as well?’
So when we’ve been going, and upgrading our engine and toolset and everything to the Xbox 360, we were still making it completely compatible. In fact all the assets and everything else were kind of compatible. All we had to do, really, is that there’s a difference of underlying codebase that actually hits the hardware. But we’d kind of built that anyway, as it’s already in our library. As for the assets, we just have to, where necessary, turn assets on and off. You know like on a PC you can say ‘do you want the hi-res models or the low-res models?’We basically have all that functionality built into our toolchain anyway. It’s pretty easy to do that stuff. It wasn’t horrendously difficult to generate the Xbox games from the technology we’d actually got.
We then had to provide builds to Microsoft each month, as everybody does, at the end of each month, and we had to ask, how do we get two versions of the game onto the disc –We actually just provided two masters, and they just put them on the disc. I’m guessing what they did is basically the Xbox just looks for a certain filename and fires it up if it’s Xbox, and looks for a certain file if it’s Xbox 360, then it fires up the separate executables. Basically two separate masters, two separate sets of assets, on the same disc.
GS: Are there serious graphical differences between them?
PO: Well, what we’ll say is obviously with the Xbox 360, we’re not exploiting its full power. The Xbox 360 is an awesome machine. In fact, a lot of people –well –nobody’s really exploiting the power of the Xbox 360 right now. These games were done in 7 months, we’re not exploiting the full power, and I wouldn’t say we’d exactly optimized our code on the 360, either. So effectively, while the games look quite nice on the Xbox 360, they’re not much more than the Xbox versions, which we’ve done god knows how many games on - five, six games on the Xbox? We’ve got a very optimized engine on Xbox, so basically there isn’t a hell of a lot of difference. Effectively, our Xbox 360 games look twice as nice, where in reality the machine is probably 15 to 20 times faster. We’re just not using all that extra power or speed. But a lot of people aren’t, so…
GS: So I guess it’s ok!
PO: It’s going to be really interesting when we start seeing second or third generation Xbox 360 games though. Things like Project Gotham, Fight Night and things like this, they weren’t touching the power of the Xbox 360, I mean there’s a lot more you can get out of that machine, with all the multi-threading.
GS: I was talking to Neil Young from EA the other day, and he was saying that programming for the 360 and PS3 is really quite different in terms of the ways you get the best out of each machine –cross-platform won’t be so simple if you want to maximize the hardware.
PO: It’s going to be interesting. The way we’ve always thought is that we want to be in complete control of our own technology and engine. In fact when Renderware got bought by EA, that completely validated that decision. We also believe that it’s economically viable to keep our engine completely cross-platform, and it worked fantastically well for the Burger King games. Without a cross-platform approach, we wouldn’t have been able to do them - it would’ve been impossible.
What we’re trying to do at the moment is make our technology cross-platform between the Xbox 360 and PS3, which is tough, because fundamentally they do work in a completely different way. We do have some stuff that is working, where the game teams just write compatible code which will basically run on a high-end PC, it’ll run on Xbox 360, and it’ll run on PS3. We are getting there, we are cracking it. It is a tough nut though.