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Monday, October 27, 2008

Gamebryo 2.6 is live

I'm stoked to say Gamebryo 2.6 -- the newest version of Emergent's multiplatform game engine -- has gone gold and is shipping. So, it's available now for making game and other 3D interactive awesomeness.

Philosophically, I want to be able to give developers the best tools possible so they can make their games their way. And while we're a multiplatform engine, we're targeted and optimized for each. This 2.6 release is geared toward providing further differentiated platform offerings for each, and introducing tool and workflow improvements for artists and designers.

We're not content to rest on the laurels of our well-received 2.5 release, and with this release we introduce the new version of our Nintendo Wii offering (including an integration with the new Emergent Terrain System introduced in our 2.5 release). Developers can develop for multiple platforms simultaneously, or start on the Wii as their lead SKU, and aim at other platforms later in development, or point their existing projects already developed on PC, 360, and / or PS3 toward the Wii, for more potential commercial return.

We also added optimized D3D 10 rendering support for PC, and for all platforms, a new XSI exporter, huge improvements to our Animation System, Scene Designer enhancements for artists and designers, engine upgrades, and more technology partner integrations (we're not so arrogant as to think we should build everything for everyone).

More details on the release are available from, and from the Gamebryo forums, and see the shipping release notes, and blah blah blah.

Ignoring competitive rhetoric, Gamebryo actually does hit the sweet spot for developing 3D interactive experiences -- of any size or type -- which for me means making sure we make the best tools and tech available to people making all sorts of games with all sorts of time and budget restrictions. Casual games? Check. Serious Games? Check. Triple A? Check. Commercial titles? Check. MMOs? Check. More? Check.

So, less than a year into the new job, two launches out the door, and more to come.

Stay tuned ...

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shopping deals (Oct. 26)

A couple of deals float my boat this week.

First, I'm chomping at the bit for Bethesda's Fallout 3, but was kind of on the fence about paying $20 extra for the special edition. Over at Circuit City, though, they're giving a $10 gift card and a mini strategy guide if you buy the regular or special edition version (and $10 cards for various other games shipping this week). Hey, for what's ostensibly a ten-spot extra, I'll pick up the special edition, with its art book, bobblehead, making-of DVD, and lunchbox (I needs me a new lunchbox).

Next up for anyone looking for an Xbox 360, there look to be a bunch of deals coming up at Sam's Club. While the search on the site seems a bit borked right now, Kotaku reveals a Guitar Hero bundle -- which, besides the 60Gb, should - be - the - only - version - but - we'll - call - it -our - middle - SKU, version, and the bundled Kung Fu Panda and LEGO Indiana Jones games, it also comes with the full-guitar version of Guitar Hero III. And it's only $50 more ($349 total) than the 60Gb version by itself. Should be available middle of November.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Download Fable, Fable II music

I meant to post this a week ago, but you can download some free music from Fable and Fable II.

Sounded like a better deal at first, what with " wonderful selection of Fable 1 music and 3 brand new tracks from the upcoming Fable II soundtrack".

But since the zip file contains 6 tracks total, you get 3 Fable I, and 3 Fable II tracks. But that sounds less markety.

You do get the Fable I Danny Elfman theme, so that by itself is worth the price of admission.

Anyway, link below (the Sumthing Digital promo code on the site is borked).

Download from

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Begun, the Shark Wars have ...

Ah, the joys of company culture.

We folks at Emergent Game Technologies work wicked hard. It turns out putting a commercial game engine that doesn't suck into the market is a wicked lot of work. Putting out one that kicks it hardcore on multiple platforms takes a wee bit more work than that. So we work hard. Constantly.

That said, if you put a bunch of wickedly smart people together, things get wickedly wonky, and, well, entertaining.

Here's a snapshot.

It started with a quote and bet, and then spiralled from there.

The quote is from Austin Powers' Dr. Evil:

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done."
The bet was ... multifaceted. But let's just say part of it was made between two engineers, and dependent on the creation of an actual shark with frickin' laser beams.

So, after a bit of jury rigging to a rubber shark (provided to Engineering by Yours Truly), Emergent ended up with a shark that, indeed, has frickin' laser beams attached to its head. And independently controlled fans. And is pluggable into a computer to receive notifications (like when we lose network access to our source control repository).

Below, feast your eyes on the Engineering Shark, traditional lasers and all:

Emergent Engineering Shark

Me? I saw opportunity for a bit of a friendly competitive battle, and having provided Engineering this cute little fellow, I ordered a five-foot inflatable badboy, attached red faux gems (and had a bad 80s denim Bedazzler flashback) and red yarn to the eyes, to create "analog lasers".

Behold, Product Management Shark 1.0:

Emergent Product-Management Shark (Profile)

Analog lasers and all:

Emergent Product-Management Shark (Analog Lasers close-up)

Now, the fact that the Product Management shark is hanging in my office, the red gems' propensity to pop off at a moment's notice, and the general irritant of the phrase "analog lasers" created a culture of engineers walking into my office and taking shots with NERF guns at Jabberjaw (affectionately and respectfully named for the Hannah-Barbera character, and, uh, my loquacity; and/or my tendency to say, "bite me"). His poor little eyes kept popping off.

To protect Jabberjaw and mitigate the "those don't count as a defense mechanism" verbal barbs (words hurt), I picked up some cheapy motion-activated dart launchers, strapped them around his middle, and put the sensors near my door.

Enter Jabberjaw 2.0.

That gave me a couple of weeks of giggles as visitors were beaned in the head (or nether regions) before someone got done and stole my darts. Jerk(s).

Undaunted, and guessing the toy dart launchers were too cheap to use unique RF signals, I picked up another set. Sure enough, one set of transmitters will set off multiple missile launchers, so Jabberjaw 2.5 (I'm just enhancing functionality he already had, after all) is now equipped with two launchers, each capable of launching 2 missiles, for a 4-missile volley that makes people think about whether they really want to talk to me.

Jabberjaw 2.5:

EGTPM Product Management Shark 2.5 LOLcatted

There's more to the back-and-forth Product Management and Engineering good-natured ribbing, but I think I'll save recounting the next round of that for another aggrandizing post.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

The Tokyo Game Show is in full swing, and other than putting some links over on the left to TGS tags or sections of industry sites (IGN, Joystiq, and Kotaku*), I haven't been able to write much -- though I've been keeping up.

So what's the big news at TGS?

Depends what you like.

If you're of a certain type, maybe it's all about the TGS "companions" and their "outfits".

I'm not writing to your type. Ever.

Industry Happenings:
From a lightweightish touchpoint of the industry perspective, the platform representation is a bit interesting. Not definitive by any means, but the percentage of titles per platform at TGS08 is an interesting indicator of commercial interest (and therefore, addressable market) for those platforms. Obviously, the data slightly skewed due to the regional (and, therefore, regional consumer interest) nature of show.

Unofficial breakout of platforms represented at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show
Attendance is down around 11,000 from last year (continuing a downward trend), probably due to Nintendo's continued absence, and the in-betweenness of big shipping titles and not-yet-playable titles, and/or Microsoft as one of the big publishers still not being the Japan draw that Sony is (or Nintendo would be, if they deigned to show).

But ignoring jaded gaming press's various wailing's about "not much happening" at TGS this year, for gamers who still love games, there's some good stuff, and Saturday's public attendance (from picts) at least looks respectable.

If you're an Xbox 360 fan, there was a lot of good noise on that front. Besides the formal announcement the New Xbox Experience (NXE) coming November 19th, (confirming what we already knew, based on an XBL ad), it sounds like the monolothic, twice-a-year Xbox dashboard updates of the past may give way to more fleet-of-foot updates, which as a gamer, program and former development manager, makes me happy. Plus, the videos of the new dashboard in use is pretty exciting.

And the laggard "Bringing it Home" downloadable content finally showed up (anyone else find it funny that Xbox Live's Major Nelson seemed surprised by the content?). Oh, but good luck finding it in one place on your Xbox, since I have yet to find the TGS08 button there, what with all of the "Shocktober", Quantum of Solace, Gears of War 2, and other noise on the dashboard. (UPDATED: Turns out I got to it by going to Marketplace --> Spotlight --> Games --> Tokyo Game Show 2008 (37 slots down from the top? Seriously?).)

If you're more on the 360 fanboy side, you should take glee in Microsoft's further eroding of the Sony exclusives by taking Tekken 6 (out next year), adding to the usurped Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy franchises.

Oh, and Halo junkies? Bungie finally got to make their late- and- undercut announcement of Halo: Recon, a boxed-title expansion pack for Halo 3, that will be a prequel (single player campaign and new multiplayer maps and modes), featuring a playable Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) marine -- a bad-ass looking character I've been waiting (and I'm pretty sure I've been promised I'd be able) to play since Halo 2. The trailer shows off the repeat top-notch, triple-A, traylor madd skilz we've seen in past Halo universe trailers. Some of the cool stuff is pretty subtle (which makes it cooler).

Of similar interest is the Halo Wars RTS, and I'm hoping it gets the love it needs from Microsoft and Ensemble, given the former's recent shuttering of the latter.

Public service announcement: I still want Otogi 3, but From Software's Ninja Blade will likely fill the gap until someone comes to their senses and makes that other thing happen.

And on the free- publicity- better- than- your- own- game- PR- could- do front, I'm not sure Microsoft could get better than Kotaku calling Banjo Kazooie "More Like LEGO Grand Theft Auto".

Sony folks? Were you bummed like I was that anticipated title White Knight Chronicles -- a game showing up this year -- wasn't playable on the show floor, and its session was a PowerPoint presentation? Hey, at least 4-player co-op news snuck out.

But the Resistence 2 (PS3) and Resistence: Retribution (PSP) interconnectivity sounds nifty (actually the whole "PSP Plus" tie between the PSP and PS3 (including DualShock functionality) feels cool, and I hope devs exploit it).

I'm watching to see if LittleBigPlanet becomes the atypical console mover I think it could be. But the brilliance of leveraging Sony's IP as Sackboys (Kratos from God of War, Nariko from Heavenly Sword, "Old Snake" from Metal Gear Solid 4, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII), while kind of a "duh" move, showcases the kind of tactical marketing savvy I like to see. Now, if they could only do the same thing with their video and music catalogs on PSN...

On the multiplatform front, Resident Evil 5 is looking grr-eat, and the co-op deets (I'm a co-op bigot) make me happy.

Konami's going to get us a new Xbox 360 and PS3 Castlevania, but other details or neigh non-existent.

Namco Bandai's Afro Samurai? Looks wicked sweet.

And, no, Square Enix didn't announce a date for Final Fantasy XIII. [Sigh]

And this Street Fighter IV trailer? Art. Again. I want the game to look like the ink or watercolors or sand post-processing effect. Please?

Changing Business Models:
On the "changing business models front", Microsoft's NXE goes a long way in that direction, because it will give better access to the wealth of content that's made the 360 a victim of its own success, and it'll be an interesting experience in the "core, non-core, social interaction" realm (a la the avatars and LIVE Party). Sony making all first-party PSP titles downloadable is a very cool, moving- into- the- digital- distro move, and Level 5's surprising ROID digital distro (Steam?) competitor gets props for super sexy packaging, and console- transformer- red- herring tease (but they don't have any PC or mobile games in their portfolio, do they? Hmm.).

As a left-field kind of thing, I really like what I think is an important industry statement from Peter Molyneux (Fable II):

"More and more we are saying these ones here are core games and these one here are casual games. Actually I think that is an incredibly divisive thing and if we're not careful the amount of attention we put into these core games will get less and less because they are so expensive to make."

Show Floor:
Here's an embed of what the Tokyo Game Show floor must be kind of like, from / Kotaku (who, despite my rant below, I think are probably fine folks).

More as I think about it. Maybe.

* (What is up with Kotaku? Much as I like those guys, why the hell do I have to dig through so many fractured tags to get all of my TGS info? ("tokyo game show 2008"? "TGS08"? "Lets TGS" [sic]? WTF? Oh, and there's TGS content not tagged. Nice.)

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Gamebryo takes 4 out of (a) Top 10

Things like this happen on an almost minute-to-minute basis, but I'd be remiss in my job if I didn't point it out when I see it (totally recognizing I'm risking an inaccurate shill-pimping perception here).

But at least at 10:32 a.m. October 6, 2008, Gamebryo-powered titles included 4 out of the 10 "Most Popular" titles on (including #1):
  1. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  2. Dragon Age: Origins
  3. Fallout 3
  4. Little Big Planet
  5. Spore
  6. Civilization IV: Colonization
  7. The Witcher Enhanced Edition
  8. Worldshift
  9. Silent Hill Homecoming
  10. Fable II

So, Gamebryo's under the hood of new PC MMO contender Warhammer Online; anticipated triple-A RPG title Fallout 3 (PS3/360/PC); PC Sci-Fi/Fantasy RTS Worldshift; and PC strategy title Civilization IV: Colonization (Gamebryo was also in the mix for the title's Civilization: Revolution PS3 and 360 brothers).

Not bad for the middleware engine that can -- and does -- over and over again, across hundreds of titles, a dozen-plus genres, and a bunch o' platforms.

(FYI, this post delays the initiating event by a bit, because I was verifying the status of one of the titles.)

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Defining Good Middleware

Yesterday, Kyle Wilson (Day 1 Studios) posted a "Defining Good Middleware” opinion piece on

It is a good, direct, cogent little piece of writing better and more succinct than most of the "buy versus build" seminars I've endured over the past decade.

Wilson discusses several attributes of "Good Middleware", including:
  • Provides you with more code than you could write yourself for a fraction of what it would cost you to try
  • Offers structure ("Middleware draws a line between the things that you have to worry about and the things you don’t")
  • Lets you hook your own memory allocator
  • Lets you hook your own I/O functions
  • Has extensible functionality
  • Avoids symbol conflicts
  • Is explicit about its thread safety
  • Fits into your data pipeline
  • Is stable
  • Gives you source code
Using Wilson's article as a starting point, Gamebryo architect Vincent Scheib posits, "Is Gamebryo Good Middleware?"

Fortunately, the answer is Gamebryo is good middleware. Very good middleware.

Give it a read, and let me know what you think.

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