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Life In Vegas: Surreal's Alan Patmore On Open World Innovation
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Life In Vegas: Surreal's Alan Patmore On Open World Innovation

June 23, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

I was talking to Matt about the shared tech, and obviously the investment that Midway has put into this shared tech -- which is built around Unreal. What do you think is the advantage of that, for your studio?

AP: It actually has had huge advantages for our studios. Unreal gave us a great head start. It allowed us to start prototyping, and building next-gen content really early. As a matter of fact, some of the casinos that are in the game were built three years ago, when we were first speccing it out; so the art team can jump right in.

Now, obviously, since we're an open world game, we had to heavily modify the engine. We had to add streaming, for large environments, and actually the AI system, the nav meshes for character pathfinding, and that kind of stuff.

We had our own systems to support open world, but since it was a shared technology effort, we gained from [Midway's Newcastle, England studio] -- we got a lot of their driving physics.

And it's cool, because you can pull what you want. So, just most recently, we got, basically, their attack systems. Ours are not nearly as deep in car combat as they are, but they had some really cool physics systems, on how you bounce off objects, and just make driving feel really good. We also had a bunch of their designers tune our cars.


AP: Yeah. The cool thing about the shared tech initiative is that you're all working on the same technology platform, so it's very easy to share resources. So we've had team members help out other projects -- Stranglehold -- and then we've had team members from other projects help us out.

And they can just dive right in, and we're all using the same stuff, so they know how to tweak the physics parameters. And yeah, each game has its own particular weirdnesses, but it's really easy to get an advantage from other people in sharing resources.

I'm interested to hear that about that process with Newcastle. Because they're deep in development in their game, and you're shipping this fall, so... It seems it's too altruistic to believe.

AP: There's always grumblings here and there, but they get something out of it. We worked on the streaming system, so we're the ones who basically built the streaming system that allows them to stream their beautiful world.

So they got that, and it's just sort of a trade-off, and we strategically figured out who's going to do what; we had expertise in streaming, from The Suffering, and Drakan, so we were the guys that were tagged to do the streaming tech.

But, overall, it has really had an advantage. And I'm looking at the next round of games, and that's really where we're going to start paying off in dividends. I mean the ability to pull resources, and to use tech from all the different projects, is just going to give us a tremendous head start.

You worked more on the streaming, and they did more of the car physics and car combat. When you're planning the next slate of Midway games, are you talking to different studios? "You're focusing on this element of your game, and we're planning to have an exchange."

AP: Well right now we've gone from tech sharing, to everyone's finishing their games off, and we haven't really, we're not focused on the next round of games. But we are going to meet back up once we get these games taken care of, and we'll start going through that process again.

You guys all shipping --

AP: We're shipping near each other.

Then you'll have meetings?

AP: And go, "OK, we need to make improvements on the streaming system; Surreal, why don't you guys do that." Or, "We need to make some improvements on the vehicle damage system -- or whatever it may be -- hey, Newcastle, you're good at that..." So it really goes to the core competencies of the studio; really leveraging off that.

And the cool part is, when you have a shared studio approach like that, not only do you get the core competencies of your individual studio, if you're a multi-project studio, but you get the strengths of the other studios. So I can go to Brian Eddy and go, "Hey, the way you do damage in Stranglehold, that was cool! Let's take it from your game; show us how to use it, and how can we make it better?" That sort of thing.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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