Interview: Terminal Reality's Kreiner Talks Infernal Engine, Kinect
While it only began significantly ramping up licensing plans for the Infernal Engine a year and a half ago, Terminal Reality has been licensing out its game engine behind the scenes for the past several years, amassing over 15 licensees and some 25 games in development overall on the tech.
Today, the studio reveals that a number of new and upcoming titles are built on its engine, including Disney's Guilty Party, Konami's Def Jam Rapstar (to which it's been contributing development, along with 4mm Games), LucasArts' The Force Unleashed 2, Sega's Captain America and Thor, plus Activision's Wipeout: The Game and High Voltage's The Grinder.
The company itself has two studios and a separate engine team, and at any given time it's working on two titles itself. Though the studio hasn't announced what it's currently working on besides Def Jam Rapstar, reliable Gamasutra sources tell us that Terminal Reality is using its Infernal Engine to develop Star Wars Kinect.
Talking to Gamasutra, VP Joe Kreiner wouldn't confirm or offer details, but tells us that the studio does have a Kinect project in-house, and that the tech-heavy developer is learning a lot from having early access to the equipment. Ultimately, says Kreiner, Terminal Reality's Infernal Engine will support developers of new motion controls, including Move and Wii (as with Sega's Captain America on Wii).
"Having early access to the Kinect equipment has been very useful, not only for us here, but also for our other engine licensees that are interested in making games for the tech," Kreiner tells us. "When a hardware manufacturer gives us early access to either a new console or a new piece of hardware, it only benefits them, because it multiplies the number of developers that are going to get a head start on developing for that platform."
Kreiner calls Kinect "a radical departure in the way people play video games. You really have to focus on design; it's a design challenge." The Terminal Reality team has thrown itself full-force into exploring those challenges: "We've set up Kinect experience rooms at the studios," he says. "We've set up a living room environment where we can test gameplay and see... for a new device like this, you really need to continually be testing to see what's fun, and also watching what other game developers are doing to try to learn what they've learned."
"But we've found that the most important thing is to really have our designers using Kinect on a regular basis... to see what's really going to draw you into the experience," he adds.
Terminal Reality built such a considerable base of licensees using Infernal Engine for major projects in such a short time because the technology had been carefully tuned, says Kreiner, long before the studio revealed their plans to license it publicly. "We were licensing it behind the scenes for several years to other studios like Red Fly down in Austin... for a couple of years before we actually took it public," he says. "We wanted to verify we had all the pieces of the puzzle in place, the support structure... because we'd been focused on the technology for so long."
Kreiner tells us that the company's tech focus, and the quality of Ghostbusters -- the title that marked Infernal Engine's big debut -- helped attract Microsoft to this level of partnership with the studio. "Coming off of Ghostbusters, we were with Microsoft to show them the Infernal Engine; we were showing them Ghostbusters during that meeting, and they thought it was a high-quality title, it did very well on Metacritic," he explains. "When they were looking for developers to do some of these titles for Kinect, I think we were pretty high on the list."
Without providing details on the specific project, Kreiner suggests: "Our studio focuses on action-adventure games, like Ghostbusters -- it just seemed to fit, while you have an IP similar in stature to Ghostbusters, though maybe more of a deep kind of thing... it was a similar project, and they were looking for a quality developer."
Kreiner says Terminal Reality is on board with the perspective of the platform-holders that sees new motion control technology as a refresh of the console cycle that will ultimately lengthen it: "I think Microsoft, for sure with Kinect, is treating it as a way to broaden the audience for the Xbox 360," he suggests.
"Because we're focused on tech here at Terminal Reality, we'd love to see the next gen of consoles come out sooner rather than later, just because it's new hardware for us to support and a technology direction we want to go in," he says. "But as developers, it's always good to work on hardware that has been around, and you know what it's capabilities are."
Does Kinect feel like a new platform? "Kinect is really a revolution in gameplay, whereas the base hardware for the Xbox 360 has been around for a long time and is a very known quantity for us," Kreiner says. "We have excellent support [for Xbox 360] in Infernal Engine. I wouldn't say it feels like a new platform, it just feels like a completely different design strategy to make the games fun."