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Adam Creighton, Computer and Video Gaming (Subscribe)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

GDC 2009: The Media

OK, I'm not talking about the public media for the show, I'm talking about personal media.


Since it's a games convention, and I'm a gamer, I picked up far too many DS titles for my cross-country trip and week o' gamey goodness.

I'm finally giving up on Advanced Wars: Days of Ruin. Vince and Mike shamed me into playing it, it's awesome, but I've been stuck at the very end for too long, and there are too many good games to play for me to keep beating my head against a wall. Great Game, though.

I picked up Dragon Ball Origins, because it looks like a good lightish RPG crawler treatment of a license I like.

Then there's Lock's Quest, a strategy title which I've been meaning to snag for a while, and finally did. I hope it's deeper than Ninja Town.

I want to see what all the fuss is about, so I'm bringing a copy of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All. Probably going to be more interactive fiction-y.

Thanks to a series of unfortunate events surrounding Circuit City, I finally added to my library Chrono Trigger (dirt cheap) from recent EGT customer Square Enix.

And Vince gave me Professor Layton and the Curious Village, which he can't stop raving about, and it will hopefully keep me sated until the anime comes out.


I filled an SD card with SXSW tunes from this year's festival. I may have not been able to go, but I've got a bunch of fare from bands who did, including a ton o' tunes my beloved Rainbow Quartz Records.


Here's my odd mix for this year -- a gut-wrenching important book about being a father and man of honor for little girls, and 40 years of Spider-Man and Captain America on DVD. I shall switch back and forth between both.

So that's my personal media; but we'll see if I get to any of it; I still have to write up the all-hands talking points and floor demo instructions.


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Adam at GDC

I'm getting ready to head out to the Game Developers Conference, arguably the biggest industry trade show of the year.

We'll be launching our new product, Gamebryo LightSpeed, and demonstrating it in some pretty unique ways with a demo we built with the software suite.

I'm the product manager for Gamebryo, and the producer for this year's demo, so I'm pretty stoked for our showing this year. I also did the audio design, mixing, and VO, so if you don't like it, blame me.

If you're at the show, swing by Emergent's booth #5818.

I've said before, folks in the industry are talking about the industry's needs for rapid prototyping and rapid iteration -- but come by our booth so we can show you what it looks like in action.

I've also synched my Brightkite posts to my Twitter account, so if you're in SF and want to catch up, DM me if you're close, and I'll get the message on my phone.

Best of luck to all of us next week.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Competitive Positioning

GDC is next week, we're launching a new product at Emergent, and the competitive positioning and borderline mudslinging is getting hot and heavy.

A lot of the rhetoric over the next few weeks is going to sound the same -- the industry knows a lot of the problems that need to be addressed. And there's a truism that says there are no new software implementations under the sun.

And while I do take issue with that assertion, even if it's true, I genuinely believe that the innovation is in the implementation, and there's plenty of innovation still to be had.

I'm incredibly excited about Gamebryo LightSpeed. Sure, I'm an EGT employee, so I hope I would be; but the truth is, I'm the kind of guy who needs to be passionate about what I'm building, and if I wasn't, I'd be looking for more exciting opps.

But like I said, the competitive positioning is ramping up, and while I hope this post is similar to my friendly back and forth with Brett Seyler over at GarageGames, The recent Gamasutra Terminal Reality / Joe Kreiner positioning interview -- I feel -- creates a good opportunity for me to talk about Emergent's particular business model.

The Gamasutra interview provides launching point fodder anyway, but Mr. Kreiner takes pains to call out EGT, calling some our statements "outrageous".

Oh, no he di'n't!

First, let's get a couple of things out of the way.

I don't know Joe, and so don't really have an opinion about him, per se. He's new to Terminal Reality and (as far as I can tell), direct licensing game development middleware, but seems to have a good (and well thought of) career at companies like Logitech and Cyrix. So he and I share some large-company background.

He also seems to be savvy, articulate, and polished (at least in print). All good things I look for with industry folks.

And outside of Joe, one of the things I'd like to get out of the way is our difference in business models. There are multiple game middleware business models, with the two I care about for purposes of this discussion being "middleware developer that also publishes a game", and "middleware developer that does not".

I think both business models have pros and cons. EGT is very committed to not making games, Primarily because our conviction is we don't want to take resources away from developing our tech for our licensees. That means we have to guard against not getting too distanced from game development, but it's not the all-or-nothing scenario Joe says it is -- and it's certainly not that "Emergent's statements frankly show that they really don't understand game development".

He said we were making some outrageous statements. But I'd call this one of his "ludicrous".

Our employees, besides coming from enterprise backgrounds like me (Visa, IBM, Siebel, etc.), come from the industries that provide our customer base (video games, serious games and visual simulations, academic, and so on). On the games side, just a small sampling of the companies from which our folks come include the likes of Codemasters, The Collective, Criterion, Destineer, Electronic Arts, Hasbro, Microprose, Red Storm, Softimage, Sony, Turbine -- not a bad pedigree for a game industry company to have.

Adding to that, we also partner directly with several of our licensees, where they give us immediate feedback into what works and what features they need (and you're going to be seeing more of this kind of thing).

So that's our business model. Other companies (like Epic and Terminal) include in their business model a studio that make games, in addition to having teams -- smaller than what EGT has -- working on the engine tech.

There are some pros to that. I think the model works better for someone like Epic than Terminal, since Epic owns their IP (Gears is pretty slick), and can give those assets as part of an engine license, as opposed to Terminal needing to "have to remove the talent and any copyrighted items" from the Ghostbusters starter they intend to ship to licensees.

Indulging in some competitive positioning of my own, as a potential licensees of the Infernal engine, I personally would be concerned that Joe says, "we're focused on engine development, but we also have a studio side, so we're not necessarily dependent on that licensing income to improve the engine and survive."

To me, that could derail a company from focusing on creating good, solid, repurpose-able middleware. Which one is Terminal's core competency? Or are they just hedging their bets in a down economy?

Speaking of licensees, Terminal has some good (and personally respected) ones in their initial six. I do think it's important to call out Kreiner is candid these "existing licensees were mostly developers that were familiar with Infernal just from either working at Terminal Reality or with us on other projects". And, almost without exception, these are not licensees exclusive to Terminal as far as middleware engine licensing goes.

And Terminal has six licensees. Emergent is in the hundreds.

Now, I fully expect (and am excited to hear) more announcements from Terminal (and Epic, and Garage, and ...) on the middleware front at GDC this week and next.

You'll certainly be hearing more from us.

I think things are going to get very interesting in this space over the next several months. I, for one, am excited about the challenges, and welcome the competitive motivation.

To be clear, this post isn't at all meant to be a pissing contest (the problem with pissing contests is all parties get wet). This is just a response I felt is warranted by Joe's direct reference to EGT, and what I feel is an inaccurate (but purposefully chosen) characterization of our business model and our claims.

Plus it gave me a good springboard from which to post.

More next week.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gamebryo LightSpeed

I'm wicked stoked Emergent Game Technologies has finally announced our new product, Gamebryo LightSpeed.
We'll be launching LightSpeed at his year's Game Developer Conference, where you'll likely see me running around like a madman presenting, meeting with partners, and working with Customers.
We'll be unveiling more and more as we drive toward the formal launch in a few weeks, and you'll be getting more and more feature details in various press releases and interviews.
As background information, though, we're trying to offer better tech that makes it easier for people to make their games and other interactive experiences. Building onto (not just "bolting on") the success that is Gamebryo, we've spent the last n years to create tools and technology that let game developers stand up content quickly in a playable form to evaluate technology, assess level and asset look and feel, and gameplay mechanics, and rapidly iterate to change their game without recompiling their assets (art, world, logic, etc.).
And while we've been successful with Gamebryo on the engineering and art pipeline fronts, LightSpeed, in particular, introduces some new functionality and features for game designers of multiple types (gameplay, level, content, technical, and system).
Not only are we introducing new features and functionality, but we're introducing new tools that make it easier to do something with that functionality. So we're not just introducing the shizzle, we're introducing a way to play with the shizzle. (Or something.)
One particular reason I'm excited about this new product (besides finally being able to talk about something that's pretty much consumed me for a while now) is because I made the professional move into the games industry from where I was. I had a good gig, but I wanted to get good tech into game developers hands so they can make great games. I'm an avid gamer, and I wanted to be a contributor, in addition to a consumer (same reason I'm an actor).
Gamebryo enables great game making. Gamebryo LightSpeed does that in spades.
Stated another way, we took the awesome provenness of Gamebryo, and added much more awesomer to it.
More to come.

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