BS: I was going to ask you a long time ago about the PC and PS3 thing -- making the versions have network interoperability.
MR: We have the capability to do that using GameSpy, because it's the same online system between the two. We decided close to the end of Unreal Tournament 3 that we weren't going to do that, because for us, it meant keeping compatibility between the two different versions of the game on the PlayStation 3 and the PC.
I don't know if you're aware of this, but when you go to create a game for a console, you have a rather lengthy certification process. Which is a good thing. I'm not criticizing that, but it means that it would be very difficult to bring in a change to the game, or hunt down a cheat or exploit -- things of that nature. It could take weeks or maybe months to ship that update on the PlayStation 3.
So what do we do? Do we sit on the PC version for a couple of weeks or months while we go through this process? We really didn't want to hamper our PC players with that kind of responsibility to the console. We really wanted to make sure that we had a really great -- and I'm very proud of the guys who have made what you played tonight -- a great PlayStation 3 game. It feels just right when you're playing it, and there's enough subtle differences between the PC game and the PlayStation 3 game that making the two compatible would be a challenge.
We would definitely have to change
some things on each platform to make them similar enough that we could
have cross-platform play, and we didn't want to sacrifice our PC audience
-- our tried and true customer that's been with us for a long time.
We felt strongly that we didn't want to make them suffer for our art.
BS: Certainly that is true, but
Guitar Hero III is releasing a patch day-and-date with the 360
proper release, because there were some co-op problems.
CN: That is true, yeah.
Guitar Hero III released a patch the same day that the game came
out. The patch was ready for the game's release date.
MR: Oh, sure. That's not uncommon. We did that with Gears of War. A lot of guys do that. A day-one patch is almost a necessity these days!
BS: I was just saying in terms of that being a limiting factor.
MR: Remember, they sent us the game before that. Weeks or months earlier, it went through cert, got put on a disc, manufactured, and shipped around the world. Quite a bit of time elapsed from one to the other, whereas an online patch is a different story.
BS: So in terms of being able to make mods and maps and stuff on the PC and then play them on the PS3, is that still happening?
MR: Absolutely, yeah.
BS: How did you get that to go through? It seems somewhat technically difficult.
MR: No, I mean, we have Unreal Editor
on the PC version of the game, and the content is compatible between
the two. That's the thing that people don't realize. When you take a
level in Unreal Tournament 3, you build it on PC. The exact same
levels you're running between the PC and the PS3.
The things that are different between
the games aren't really the levels. They're the speed that certain vehicles
move, the firing rate of weapons, the turning radius for the player
camera. Things like that are tweaked specifically between PC and console.
But the levels and the content itself is 100 percent compatible. It's
really no big deal. You make something on the PC, and say, "Oh,
now I can go test it on my PlayStation 3," right then and there.
What we do to finalize it, make sure it makes the most efficient use of memory, and runs the fastest, is we bake it down to the PS3 version, but that's just like saving a file in Word in a different format. If you save it on a PlayStation 3 format, you can stick it on the Internet, and someone can download it, put it on a memory card, and import it into their PlayStation 3 version of the game. That works really well.
BS: Level files are pretty small, in general.
MR: Not always! There's more than just levels we're talking about here.
BS: Is it also possible to do graphical mods?
MR: Absolutely. You kind of have to
divorce yourself from the idea that levels are just maps. Let's say
you have something called the level. A level can contain maps, vehicles,
models, static masses, materials, UnrealScript code, our digital scripting
tools, matinee cinematics, and cascade particle systems. That's what
our game content is. Pretty much what any gamer would want in a level.
BS: To me, that's surprising. You
don't have to comment on this, but people have had trouble developing
things for the PS3 because of the way it deals with certain types of
data. If a modder is creating a mod, obviously they're not going to
be as savvy as PS3-committed developers. It seems like it would be...
MR: I don't understand that logic.
CN: Well, the engine's already running on the PS3.
BS: Right. The engine's running. That's the hard part.
MR: A mod maker doesn't have to be any less savvy than Epic Games. That's what we do. We get the engine up and running on the platform, get it to run fast, and get everything to work. It takes a while to learn the system and do that, but once that's done, any content that runs on a PC that's roughly equivalent to the performance of the PlayStation 3 should run pretty much the same on the PlayStation 3. It's a breakthrough. I know it's hard to wrap your head around.
BS: I'm thinking about new assets kind of stuff.
MR: Yeah, people create completely new assets. It's a wonderful thing.