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Interview: Emergent Unveils Gamebryo LightSpeed

Interview: Emergent Unveils Gamebryo LightSpeed Exclusive

March 2, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

Emergent Game Technologies is announcing LightSpeed, a real-time feedback and rapid prototyping module designed to build on its Gamebryo engine (Civilization Revolution, Warhammer Online).

Talking to Gamasutra on the new technology, company president Scott Johnson explains, "The legacy of Emergent and Gamebryo has been focused on the engineering community, and our history has created a strong following from those folks."

He continues of the tech, which can be applied to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and PC titles: "What we realized is we need to take that same dedication and apply it to the designer community as well."

With Emergent's LightSpeed -- supported by a new $12.5 million venture capital investment -- the company hopes to add functionality "directly focused" at designers to its genre- and platform-agnostic toolkits.

"So it is an extension of the Gamebryo product, but extended to a pretty profound extent," explains Selzer. Adds Johnson, "it is a big difference; we think of it as a new product."

Rapid Prototyping Advantages?

And Emergent makes some grand promises for the new tech: "LightSpeed is all about rapid prototyping, rapid iteration, realtime updates and going from prototype to gold master on one production pipeline," says Selzer.

It's underlaid with a new framework and entity modeling tech to drive the functionality, Selzer and Johnson claim. "With Gamebryo in the past, teams had to build a lot of game systems on top, or bring their existing game systems in on top of our tech," says Selzer.

"We realized that we weren't empowering teams to do rapid prototyping right out of the box. With LightSpeed, you can literally have levels up and running in a matter of days." For example, Selzer says the first team with which Emergent tried out the new tech was able to build their first level in 18 hours, excluding the time for art assets.

Part of LightSpeed's promised brisk pace comes from its ability to implement updates in realtime. "It's too often the case in today's pipelines, where designers and artists are making tweaks in outside editors, or having to hit save and recompile and wait a ridiculous amount of time so they can then realize the changes they've made," says Selzer.

"What we are delivering is, inside of our new world builder tech, is the ability to see realtime updates."

Moreover, realtime updates can be implemented across the four separate platforms that Gamebryo supports simultaneously. "We can literally [be] manipulating an asset in Maya, and within 30 seconds, you will see that asset as modified on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC at the same time," says Selzer.

"All of that will be running on our Floodgate multithreaded tech that is optimized for each of those platforms individually."

Same Platform For Prototypes, Final Game?

Selzer also says teams will be able to build their final product on the same pipeline and with the same tools with which they build their prototype, something Emergent sees as an advantage in the current high-risk economic climate.

"Gone are the days when you can walk into a publisher with a paper pitch and get signed," he says. "Teams are having to do these prototypes in a hodgepodge kind of technology environment, maybe from their last game, to go get greenlit -- and then it's like, 'now we can start building our technology."

"There's a massive shift of cost involved in going from your prototype to production, and it's completely unnecessary when you're working with LightSpeed," he says.

Emergent president Scott Johnson claims that LightSpeed's launch also represents a new stage of growth for the company.

"This has always been our plan," says Johnson. "This has been a long-honed, long thought-out strategy... we knew that once we built this foundation rock solid, from here on in, the capabilities that will show up on top of LightSpeed just come really quickly."

Game Developers Conference 2009 is set to be the "coming out party" for the new tech, and Selzer and Johnson don't mind getting people's hopes up.

"We're making some pretty declarative statements here," concludes Selzer. "And we've been working on this for three years, and we have not been speaking this way to the press because we have not been fully ready to. LightSpeed is the launch of the strategy we've been working on for a long time."

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