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Thursday, September 17, 2009

AGDC: Wizard101 - Lions and Tigers and Ninja Pigs, Oh My!

After a wicked busy (but productive) burst of partner and Customer meetings, I went to the post mortem for licensee KingsIsle's title, Wizard101 - "Wizard101 - Lions and Tigers and Ninja Pigs, Oh My!":
"In this post-mortem, WIZARD101 creator J. Todd Coleman discussed the challenges of making a kid-focused MMO, and the role of iterative design in discovering a games personality. How do you blend family-friendly characters, a cinematic combat system, and a collectible card game into a cohesive virtual world? Find out as the director discusses what worked (and what didn't) in KingsIsle's quest to introduce persistent world gaming to a new generation of gamers."
The game is tween MMO that runs lightweight on a PC, it's an 8 Mb download, and streams.

You might have seen the Game Developers Magazine article on the Wizard101 post mortem, but if you haven't, I encourage you to check it out.

One of the things I found particularly interesting from a planning / pre-production standpoint was their plan to create a game that had 3 areas of focus -- and if some 800-pound gorilla launched during their 3-year cycle, they would shift their focus to 1 or two of the other areas of focus. Very savvy from a risk-mitigation perspective.

What's Unique:
  • Personality (the game's got flavor)
  • Combat (card-based)
  • The World (The "spiral mechanic" - which allows for creation of oddly themed expansion worlds and side quests - is brilliant)
  • The story (At the same time, there is a single narrative thread-- as opposed to the typical MMO trope of multiple mini stories -- that keeps things cohesive
The game is ultimately about saving the world, with stark lines between good and evil, and each player is the hero.

Persistence? Respawning? Who cares? It's all about keeping it fun for the individual kid player.

The names in Wizard101 may be the greatest part of the game (Samoorai? Sherlock Bones? Meowriarty? Awesome.)

Combat is turn-based, cinematic, and uses a card collecting mechanic (the goal was approachable like Toontown, looks like Yu Gi O, plays like older Final Fantasy).

On the progression of the battle system, Coleman said they created a physical card game for focus testing with kids (sounds like they did a lot of focus testing throughout pre- and production). Next was a 2D prototype that let them further focus test the gameplay, and the AI. Then they did a canned cinematic to show how it would work together. Then they integrated everything.

What Went Right:
  • Scope - 30 people, and linear play made for needing less assets
  • Prototyping helped refine mechanics
  • Digital download/FTP mechanism for distribution
  • Minimum spec machine - Coleman asserts that kids get the lowest quality machine in a household; interestingly, he said this also enabled them to unexpectedly hit a chunk of the burgeoning netbook market
  • Steady, ongoing launch (as opposed to running up to a launch, getting big numbers, then dropping off sharply)
He showed comparative stats via that I'm going to have to dig into a bit more.

What Went Wrong:
  • Modular world building (bland, and the supposed re-use that drove the decision wasn't worth it)
  • Micropayment model (not enough variety at launch, not enough price points at launch)
  • Stats & Metrics ("too much is as bad as too little"; they had to many probes everywhere)
  • Design for growth (technology is scalable, but the design is not; this is due to things like using % for growth rather than absolute numbers, which causes problems when you need to raise your level cap)

There are social differences in a kids MMO - like for kids, everyone is a friend - but it's different (they'll friend you, but they won't socialize).

They offer a family pricing plan (Yay! Console service providers? Can you please do this?)

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Emergent updates

I'm gearing up for the Game Developers Conference in Austin (I'm in TX now), prepping presentations for new stuff that's coming down the pipe for stuff from the company.

Catch up with us while we're in the Capital City, and contact me if you need to.

A few new games are out (or will be relatively soon).

Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, out for a while on Steam, is now out on XBLA. I've fawned about (on?) this game before, and it's now doing well on Microsoft's service, too.

Monkey Labs is a new educational video game from Larian Studios -- the same folks making Divine Divinity 2: Ego Draconis. I so dig the diversity of this studio, building a top-tier RPG and the next generation of edutainment titles.

While not new, Wizard101, from KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc., is doing wicked well, and seems to be everywhere. This multi-age MMO is celebrating a year, touting millions of users, has a post mortem in this month's Game Developer Magazine, and is doing a session or two at GDC Austin.

That's good for now. Catch up with me in Austin if you can.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pre-E3 2009

E3 is coming, and hopes to nod more toward its glory days from before the past few years -- and it may just do that.

I'm looking forward to several things, and while there are lot of predictions out there, I'm keeping mine fairly small and fairly me-centric.

And while I'm going to comment on some of the rumors out there, I'm not going to chat up anything I may have knowledge about thanks to my day job -- that would be bad form, and this industry has enough problems with loose lips.

First up and close to home, I'm excited about four titles powered by Gamebryo tech from Emergent Game Technologies that will likely be making a big splash next week. Two will definitely be on the show floor, two are likely, and I'm not going to announce any of them until they make their debut. And we have some long-time and new licensees that will be doing some exciting pitch work at the show, but I won't talk about that, either.

See, I'm starting out as a tease.

Here's the big presser line-up:

  • Microsoft conference – 6/1, 10:30 a.m. Pacific
  • Electronic Arts conference - 6/1, 2 p.m. Pacific
  • Nintendo conference – 6/2, 9 a.m. Pacific
  • Sony conference – 6/2, 11 a.m. Pacific

On the big announcements front, I hope Microsoft or Sony do an announcement similar to Microsoft's disruptive Netflix announcement from last year. I hope Sony doesn't just announce they have Netflix, too -- because that would feel me-too(ish), and not as fun. It would take away from Microsoft's differentiation, though, so that would be a smart business move.

There are all sorts of rumors for peripherals or some other announcement from the Big M, which as a consumer I've been expecting for a while. Have you been paying attention to what feels like really liquid pricing on the current 360 camera, including dirt-cheap pick-ups for in-game bundles of it? Noticed the wireless headsets selling for nearly half of its MSP? Etc.

Maybe Microsoft will do something with convergence -- what can they do to leverage the PC, Console, Zune, and windows mobile platform across each other? We've gotten a bit of this with the announcement of Zune HD and the Zune Store being made available to 360 owners. That's good convergence, and the Zune is seriously under-rated. Maybe there's a Windows Mobile 6.5 or Windows Mobile Microsoft - says - it - doesn't - exist - but - get - real version 7 crossover opportunity? Microsoft's exciting challenge there is to not cannibalize any of those platforms (for example, intro'ing an iPhone competitor would hurt both Zune and Windows Mobile)

But really, I'd like to know: Where the #### is Live Anywhere?

Sony needs to do something. I can't get my head around Microsoft doing so well on the media catalogue / media convergence thing against Sony -- They have a freaking extra-dimensional monster closet vault of music and video, so why aren't they doing something with it? Is there some mistaken notion that it will undercut the value-add of the PS3 as a Blu-ray player?

I'd like to hear some big announcements on Sony convergence, and maybe that'll be PS3 / PSP (or rumored PSP Go) or PS3 / Sony Ericsson phone or -- dare I dream -- an announcement for a massive, unified Sony device synergy that is real and awesome. I don't think the "PS3 Slim" will be there, and I don't think it would be wise -- I think it would hurt PS3 sales, and unless they've done power and heat dissipation magicks, I don't think it would be a full-featured PS3, which could cause consumer confusion (and raise gamer ire).

Nintendo is going to be Nintendo, which you can take as you will. They will be innovative, their handhelds and Wii own the commercial consumer non-core space, and the company is still printing money, if a little slower than they were. I hope they surprise everyone with yet another new peripheral. And by surprise, I mean something that makes people say, "Wii remotes and nunchucks and Balance Boards and MotionPlus and Wii Speak, and everything else -- those are cool, but this, this I must have!"

I do expect some game coolness for Nintendo, but think it may come uncharacteristically from 3rd parties (I'm hoping the High Voltage Software Wii FPS The Conduit does as well as that developer and SEGA hope it does).

Despite a ridiculous amount of pre-E3 leakage, Microsoft is uncharacteristically under wraps, so I'm hoping for bigness, because they're talking a big game.

And I honestly am hoping for a bit of competitive rodeo, because Microsoft's presser goes first this year, and if you're Sony or Nintendo, how do you head off the under-wraps Microsoft?

Traditionally (besides having big stuff of your own) you take away the differentiators -- take away Netflix, or something. Maybe do more with Miis on the Wii than Xbox Avatars are doing -- but watch out, because I don't expect Microsoft to keep those still). Better, leapfrog the differentiators by announcing Netflix, and something like an XM exclusivity.

And someone needs to add a social networking component. (In a way that matters.)

Yeah, but it's all about the games, right?

Right! (I'm lying, but the games are cool.)

What am I stoked about?

Besides the Gamebryo titles I hint at above (and genuinely, as I'm off the clock and out of shill mode), here are some of the titles or rumors I'm looking forward to.

Modern Warfare 2. Infinity War is top-notch. The previous game was fantastic, and this one continues on. And despite the reveal in Game Informer Magazine, they claim "big surprises" are still in store for this title. I hope we learn those at E3.

Crackdown 2. I don't think this is on anyone's radar for E3, but a sequel to one of the better games on the 360, after a premium theme randomly popped up for purchase? C'Mon, show me some super-cop love.

Dead Rising 2. Sure, the games not going to be shown, but the US arm of Capcom will likely be in attendance, so maybe it will. I so dug the first game, despite hating the save and escort mechanics. I really thought it was an indicator of what next-gen gaming could be, and it sounds like the sequel -- as long as gameplay is pushed as hard as raw polys -- could build on and explode that legacy. Plus we should all be practicing for the inevitable.

BioShock 2. If you don't know why, you haven't played the former. Go do that then come back and apologize.

Assassin's Creed 2. Sure, it was a bit of a super-polished more intricate period-piece Crackdown, but it was a rocking super-polished more intricate period-piece Crackdown.

New Splinter Cell. Ironically, wetworks dude Sam Fisher has gone dark in the real world, too. Ubi says he's back, so show him to us, and make us uncomfortable. Very.

God of War III. We need next-gen sacrilege on the PS3. It will move consoles.

Halo ODST will be there (it's not E3 without Halo), but I hope there's more excitement about it then announcing an attractive female actress as part of the voice cast. Maybe also give us an update on the Peter Jackson Halo effort (or tell us it's dead, so the mourning can begin).

Capcom could surprise and delight me with a new Marvel vs. Capcom (it's my fantasy, dammit), I wish Epic would update us on what People Can Fly are doing, they may announce Cliff's horror game (though the rumored PS3-exclusivity seems like an ungrateful thumbing at Microsoft for the the Gears and Gears 2 successes).

I still hold out hope that the 3D Realms is doing a masterful Duke Nukem feint, thought that's feeling less and less likely.

Shooters Singularity and Brink have me intrigued, given Raven's and Bethesda's / Splash Damage's pedigree (respectively).

I'm losing interest in Borderlands, and I want them to change my mind. Lost Planet 2 doesn't have to do much pwn me, because while I can't articulate it, the first game pwned me too.

Aliens vs Predator will be there. And it will rock. I listen to my gut on this one (just before it's used as a footstool for a chestburster).

And while the cinematics and roster aren't as big as the previous title, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 will be in my library, so I'm excited for more info that shows me this is doing comic books right again.

Mini Ninjas from Eidos looks cute and fun.

From EA, I don't think Brütal Legend can fail, so I hope it doesn't. Dante's Inferno is interesting, and I want my spiritual successor Dead Space Extraction to do well. Because I'm that kind of dad. Dragon Age: Origins needs to show me gameplay, I'm fanboy nervous about G.I.Joe, and I'm curious about Spore Hero. I go back and forth on The Saboteur.

I'm hoping Painkiller: Resurrection fits my previous guilty pleasure, but it'll probably make me upgrade my PC to do it.

I want A Boy and His Blob and Flip's Twisted World to be good for Majesco and for platformers.

Maybe the last 4 years have been good to Huxley?

Marvel Super Hero Squad may make me buy a personal Wii this fall. Wish they'd hire me for voice work.

I want Valve to wow me. I've got an itch in the back of my brain about a team that is using their tech that had some promising stuff, and it escapes me now. The itch tells me I'm mildly iterested if it's them.

On the more dark-horse(ish) front, BlActivision's been teasing an "all-new" game -- what if it was exclusive to one console? Square-Enix has teed up new games -- exclusives?

What about a 360 MMO?

And I want Heavy Rain to cross the uncanny valley. And build a bridge so others can follow.

And now I'm rambly.

It's going to be noisy, and I am concerned publishers will try to take advantage of the eyeballs to push everything -- not just their top-tier offerings. Think movie tie-ins, other licensed fare, and non-AAA sequels. That may take away from the good stuff, and the sleepers (who can ill-afford it).

I think E3 still suffers from an identity crisis (is it a consumer or industry show?) but maybe this year will help it suss out what it wants to be when it grows up.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Triangle Games Conference

The Triangle Games Conference kicked off today (or last night, if you count yesterday's excellent IGDA Triangle chapter conference kickoff drink fest party).

There are five track sessions at the conference, offering something for everyone in the biz:
  • Game Tech & Programming
  • Game Design & Production
  • Games & Media
  • Serious Games
  • The Business of Gaming

Keynotes will be from Mike Capps ("What Makes US Epic") and Peter Tamte ("Please Publish Six Days in Fallujah" "Brave New World: The 3 Forces Re-shaping the Videogame Industry").

With well over 600 folks attending, and conference-goers and presenters from at least as far as Germany (the wicked smart and very pleasant tech guys from Crytek), the Triangle's inaugural games conference has turned into anything but "just a local event".

Emergent Game Technologies will be well-represented at the show as well, with architect Vincent Scheib giving a talk about "Rapid Prototyping Technology", VP John Austin sitting in on the "Breaking into the Game Industry" panel, and a bunch of us running around there today and tomorrow attending sessions and getting caught up with our industry brethren.

Hope to see you there.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Recent games powered by Gamebryo

I've probably missed a few recent games powered by Gamebryo, but here are two commercially released titles and two academic prototypes that recently saw the light of day.

First up is winter sports title Ski Doo: Snowmobile Challenge, from some of my favorite devs Coldwood Interactive, published by Valcon Games). Think intense, authentically licensed snowmobile racing, including online multiplayer matches, and great in-house physics. (Boxed title for PS3 and Xbox 360.)

Next up is Wheel of Fortune from Sony Online Entertainment, joining the previously released Jeopardy TV - gameshow - to - console translation. (DL for PS3 via PSN.)

Then there are couple of student projects from the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy.

These student projects are done as part of the two-to-four-week "Rapid Prototype Production" course, a boot camp for making first games and innovating gameplay. Both titles are same-box multiplayer, and downloadable to play on PC (be sure to read the system requirements, first).

Ballocalypse -- A puzzle game described as "intense, fast-paced, multi-player 'Pong meets Peggle' on steroids!" It's a fun diversion, and has some nice little add-ins like rumble, pan/tilt/zoom, etc.

Arcane Fury -- a straightforward, multiplayer contained arena multiplayer brawler, and there's something very satisfying about freezing and then pushing off another player (though boost is a tricky, as I keep sailing off the platform to my death).

Again, these titles were made in less than a month(ish), and have all of the gameplay elements tied in.

Like I said, I'm sure I've missed more titles that have recently released, so I'll try to pick those up in a later post.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Zorsis is Dead Space for Wii's Daddy

OK, not really, but I am pretty tickled by the similarities.

If you're not up to speed on the Wii offering for the top-notch survival horror Dead Space title from Electronic Arts, it's not going to be a port -- it's going to be a prequel, implemented totally differently as an on-rails, almost light-gun(esque) title.

If you're not familiar with "Forbidden Terror on Station Z!" (aka, "Zorsis"), it's the technical demo Emergent Game Technologies did for our Wii engine offering for the 2008 GDC (I wanted a gritty, atypical Wii "grown-up" demo), and it's a zombie on-rails "light-gun" shooter (in space).

Here's a Zorsis screen cap from GDC a year ago:

Zorsis screenshot from Emergent Game Technologies; contact Adam Creighton for more information
And here's a screen cap of Dead Space: Extraction (shipping from EA this fall):

Dead Space Extraction  Various

Even the Extraction targeting reticules have the same blue and orange motif!

All kidding aside, kudos to EA for not just shoe-horning Dead Space as a quick-and-dirty port to the Wii. This new entry in the franchise really showcases their commitment to treating it like a leverage able IP (not that the comic books, animated film, etc. didn't).

Still, there is a weird, kindred similarity to "Zorsis" ...

Zorsis gameplay vids (PC and Wii) can be found on YouTube, and you can download the PC version of the demo to play as well.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

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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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Penny Arcade doesn't hate Gamebryo

(Ergh. There are so many things wrong with that faux endorsement, and I realize I'm setting myself up to be possibly harpooned by the brilliantly snarky (yet biting) barbs of Gabe and Tycho, but they've given me a launching point.)

I'm tickled Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, is doing so well (though the game's Halloweenie Website hurts my eyes).

As I've said before,
"I would characterize it as that new breed of title that is high production value, great bang-for-the-buck, and innovating under new challenging models of budget and timeline constraints. You should play this game."
Given how I feel about the game and the developer, I'm even more tickled the Gamebryo logo splashes at the game start up.

If possible, I'm even more more stoked Penny Arcade (or at least Tycho) loves the game. Not surprised, per se, because I think they like capable indie devs (and because I use "per se" quite a bit), but it's nice to see PA's appreciation for the game at PAX extending to a gushing about the "voice acting, production values, pretty much everything about it."

There's a free demo of the game, but at twenty bones to get a good game and support a good dev, you can save yourself a step by just buying the game.

Secondly, I'm regularly ridiculed at the office for my proclamation of love fanboy ardor for the Blood Bowl franchise -- So what? It's fantasy sports in an other-kind-of-fantasy candy shell, with gibbage filling. And now there's going to be a proper interactive video game for said gibbage-filled fantasies candy. And Tycho doesn't hate it.

(I'm sooo stoked for this game.)

And neither with Defense Grid nor Blood Bowl do Jerry or Mike (crap; broke the fourth wall) subject Gamebryo to their brand of intellectual belittlement.

So, that's something.

(Oh, and "gibbage-filled fantasies candy", "gibbage-filled candy", "candy with gibbage filling", and derivatives are (c) Copyright 2009 Adam Creighton.)

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Video game middleware pricing, licensing, and positioning

For some time, I've been drafting a post with various directed thoughts around middleware pricing, licensing and product positioning for the vidoe game market -- both in general and relation to Gamebryo from Emergent Game Technologies.

After reading a post Saturday morning from Brett Seyler, Biz Dev manager for GarageGames's Torque SDK, I'm pulling out a subset of that content, and piggy backing off of Brett's post.

First, let me say the GG post has some very good, very candid information. I'm impressed with what GarageGames has done in the market, I personally share several of the same philosophical goals detailed in Brett's post, and he and I share at least some slant common background in that both he and I have had to make "a very weird kind of transition ... from that button up [financial services] world to the laid back, but hyper-competitive world of a startup software company". I probably could not agree more with him that "business is just business, and finding ways to succeed and get more done is universal across those kind of boundaries." (Frankly, the game industry as a whole would do better if they would get over their hubris, acknowledge this, and utilize applicable genuine big gun folks from other industries.)

And I empathize with Brett, because developing pricing and licensing models is wicked hard work -- "throw something at the wall and see what sticks" is a legacy (and potentially company-costing) way to figure out business models.

But ... ;-)

All that said, there's more going on in the GG post than just the listed "Pricing and Licensing" topic. It's a also a product positioning post, and there is intentional or misinformed placement of Gamebryo within the context of the post (which, to be fair, may be due to the candor and scope of the post, so it's almost guaranteed some things will fall out).

First (and easiest) to correct is Brett's mischaracterization of Gamebryo as an "upstart". Gamebryo is, in fact, one of the longest-standing and oft-used game engines in the market, reaching back to it's storied roots with Numerical Design Limited (NDL) and the NetImmerse engine. A lot of the same engine developers have consistently updated, redesigned, and re-architected the engine over the years to meeting the needs of interactive developers, and keep up with that changing landscape of hardware platforms. Gamebryo easily predates Torque (even in it's pre-GarageGames incarnation as the Tribes 2 FPS game engine developed by Dynamix in 2001).

Second, it's easy to see the "competitive positioning 101" marginalizing going on here.

(Hopefully, what follows will be articulate, and still respectful of GarageGames's positioning.)

In positioning your company and / or product, you obviously want to showcase why you're the only right solution for the problem, and why anyone else in the same space is either (a) not really a competitor, and / or (b) is missing the boat for actually solving the problem.

Brett posits the following in his post:
"Gamebryo has some good tech and a good marketing / sales team, but no dedicated studio to consistently test the tech and then demonstrate where they stack up next to Unreal or other AAA competitors, so I think they're doomed to fail in AAA."
Intentional or not, this is a masterful positioning statement. Acknowledging that it does tip its hat to Gamebryo's proven technology, it still attempts to do the following:
  1. Minimize the tech as flash over substance (just "a good marketing / sales team")
  2. Question our credibility (inferring "no dedicated studio" is a negative in Emergent's product / service offering)
  3. Ignore published titles to imply there is no way to measure how we "stack up next to Unreal or other AAA competitors"
  4. Marginalize us as being "only" a triple-A offering
  5. Sow the seed of doubt as to our viability (um, "I think they're doomed to fail")

These are easy enough to answer, and that one sentence gives me not only a springboard to refute the allegations, but a nice framework with which to do so.

Gamebryo: Proven Tech that isn't Flash (Minimize the tech as flash over substance)

Building on the freshly reiterated fact we've been around for a good while, keep in mind Gamebryo's been used in more than 250 titles, with more than a hundred more currently in development. This doesn't include academic, research, some government, and related licensees of ours, which makes this number go waaay up.

All of this is across multiple platforms -- more than any of our major competitors, and also more than Torque (and it may be more than any of our major competitors combined, but I need to fact-check that).

I also find this allegation from GarageGames interesting, since one of the things they try to head off is the perception of Torque (particularly Torque 2D) as being a Flash also-ran. (See, I made a funny with the title of this section, combined with middleware humor. Erm, I also totally dig Flash.)

Emergent's strength is making technology for your game (inferring "no dedicated studio" is a negative in Emergent's product / service offering)

There are pros and cons to developing / publishing games as part of a middleware business model. Same goes for not developing a game.

On one extreme is Epic, who makes their game engine to power Unreal Tournament III and impressive Gears of War 2, and licensing those game feature enhancements as engine enhancements for an ancilliary revenue model.

On the other extreme are hobbyist game engines that do nothing but make the engine (or subsets like math libraries or software rendering), with no vehicles exercising or demonstrating their tech.

Part of Emergent's business model currently is to not make games. We revisit it on a regular basis (like I said, there are pros and cons), but I think it's pretty important that I'm responsible for a product that makes technology so you can make your game. In my smaller moments, I like to say, "Your title won't be unrealized because we're making ours."

This lets us put more people working on the game engine tech and tools (and more people than GarageGames says they're putting on Torque 3D and its "parallel project").

And, we do make sure we dogfood our own technology by creating samples, demos, mini applications, and playable "games" that test, exercise, and showcase the features. We ship these with the product, with full source code and assets for our evaluators and licensees. Some of these we even make publicly available in playable binary form (like last year's GDC zombie shooter). And speaking of GDC, this year's attendees are in for a treat with our show floor demo (full disclosure: I'm the producer).

Like I said, we constantly evaluate our business models, but this is where we are right now. Gamebryo's power is in large part due to its flexibility, and the fact that you can make your game with the tech, rather than just cracking open someone else's game and -- after a boatload o' work -- running the risk of your title looking like you just re-skinned the engine provider's in-house game.

Our licensees showcase their technology -- and ours (Ignore published titles to imply there is no way to measure how we "stack up next to Unreal or other AAA competitors"

This one is odd, because for me the way to at least superficially measure tech is to look at the titles using it -- and like I said above, there are a lot of titles using Gamebryo.

If you look at just a sampling of titles built with Gamebryo, and current triple-A titles in the market, you'll see us included in big guns like PC MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, multiplatform strategy title Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution, and the upcoming console reincarnation of Splatterhouse. And it's not Crytek's or Epic's logo you'll find on the back of titles like the - current - way - I - spend - my - days - and - nights, Fallout 3.

Sooo ... I think I know how we stack up.

Emergent is AAA -- and then some (Marginalize us as being "only" a triple-A offering)

Gamebryo is proven in the triple-A market, but to marginalize it as being "just" triple-A is a clever way to try to convince licensees (and investors) that GG is going after a different market -- one served just by them.

One of my personal philosophies driving my participation in the game industry is to make the best tech available to people so they can make the best games. That's largely independent of budget or genre. This is a big chunk of why I made the jump from my previous more lucrative financial services gig (that and me just being personally passionate about games; and alliteration).

Sure, Gamebryo is in the headline-grabbing games above. But we're also a great fit for projects of various team sizes, budgets, and project durations -- well below the tens - of - millions - of - dollar, multi-year development cycle titles. And we provide the same great tech and tools to those teams.

As I've written before,

"... 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."

Not to belabor the point (and acknowledging I don't believe we can be all things to all people), we're also very well-suited for that class of game (with which I join Brett in championing) that is the less than big-box priced, but still innovative, unexpected, and just plain fun title.

As an example, yes, we're in the excellent Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution. We're also underneath Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, available from Steam for ~$20.

It's important to say I would in no way characterize Defense Grid as a "budget" title. I would characterize it as that new breed of title that is high production value, great bang-for-the-buck, and innovating under new challenging models of budget and timeline constraints. You should play this game.

Last year, Gamebryo launched our "Casual" program, and while this particular section of the game development market needs a new moniker to showcase the diversity in titles, budgets, timelines, and innovation we're seeing in the space, what hasn't been ambiguous is our success with the initiative. Full Gamebryo, but tailored for your project constraints? Huzzah!

Going back to Brett's contention of shrinking high-end game budgets, I do question his reduction of the AAA addressable market (I'm not sure what he's using to quantify it); though he may just be doing this as an artifact of arguing that's not an addressable market of interest to GG.

While I agree Epic is the well-hyped name in the high-end space (and Brett has some good barbs on that front), budgets for high-end games (and therefore addressable market dollars) have significantly expanded this console generation. While big-budget titles may have had budgets of $10-15M in the Xbox, PS2, and GameCube days, today's titles of the equivalent caliber can run budgets of $25M or more. Since the number of title starts hasn't lessened, linear math says this is ostensibly doubling the addressable market dollars a middleware company could conceivably go after -- but that's independent of the additional growth the industry is/was seeing, at least prior to the economic downturn. If you look at the dollar value of the AAA market as compared to the non-AAA, you could argue triple-A title starts could be anywhere between an eighth to a twenty-fifth of the rest of the market before those addressable dollars started getting smaller than the addressable dollars of those other projects.

Besides, I'm a big fan of scrappy, aspirational companies upsetting the status quo -- regardless of vertical market.

(As an aside, independent of its representational accuracy, for whatever reason I'm tickled by this graphic of Brett's, and Mark Rein's encrumbed face. Dunno what that says. Maybe it's because pecan pie is my favorite?)

Brett Seyler AAA middleware pie diagram

(As an aside aside, I think I've used more parentheticals in this post then I have ever used in a post; if not in a given month.)

We're diversified, and we're here for our licensees (Sow the seed of doubt as to our viability)

Just like middleware is not "our game in a box" (above), it's thankfully also not "your game in a box" (if it was, everybody could make your game, out-of-the-box).

I feel that Gamebryo is a great fit for triple-A projects; but we're not "just" for triple-A titles.

I also believe Gamebryo works well for casual projects; but we're not "just" casual projects (or whatever we name this broad swatch of opportunity that exists between hobbyist and Big Studio).

And while Brett doesn't really talk academics as licensees (which is odd, since I thought roughly half of GG's revenue comes from that constituency), but we've got those folks (including students) covered, too.

I get that Gamebryo isn't for everyone. Being a bit snarky, maybe those folks not needing to save money and time by licensing proven tech that also includes a boatload of additional middleware integrations shouldn't license us.

Being less snarky (and totally honest), I do know Gamebryo isn't for everyone. There are some titles that plan on being so specialized, they don't know if customizing licensed tech will save over building their own from the ground up. There are other projects that might require our tech to be so generalized it would be no good many of our licensees (platform-specific or otherwise).

There are others that don't have the budget or need or for a commercial game engine offering. for some, Flash is a better option (depending on their needs).

And so on.

The good news is we have past licensees who had a later project that wasn't a match for our tech, and come back to us when they have one that does. We have had prospects for whom we genuinely weren't a match, and because we had the conversations and they knew what we were about, they followed up with us when they had projects that were a match -- and they've been tremendously successful.

Multiplatform support, flexibility and extensibility for developers, enabling the power of multiple hardware threads -- these are core product differentiators for us, and they benefit our licensees.

Steady, hardened releases, ongoing new features and functionality, new licensing programs to address customer needs, responsiveness to market and developer requests, tighter platform partnerships benefiting teams at the technology level -- these are all hallmarks of Gamebryo releases.

Those things -- which enable time and cost savings for licensees for all types and constraints -- are what make us successful in the middleware space.

Make no mistake, it's challenging out there right now. There are a bunch of new middleware competitors cropping up. Studios are changing their business models as they react to immediate events, acquisition changes, the "professionalizing" of the industry, a wicked tough global economy, and knee-jerk Wall Street reactions. These all make for the challenging problems we're trying to solve in product positioning, licensing, and pricing models.

Again, I really respect what Brett laid out in his post, and I'm grateful for the springboard it gave me (if you've read this far, maybe you're not ;-).

Comments? Hit me up through my Web page (please include a working Email). Or you can always reach me through LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Gamebryo 2.6 Preview?

I've got a new podcast up at my Emergent Game Technologies Product Management podcast / blog site.

This is a "preview" podcast for Gamebryo 2.6, even though 2.6 released last month, and I'm just now getting around to posting the audio for the interview with Dan Amerson, technical director for Gamebryo.

So, in an odd way, I've created a time-traveling blog / podcast, and you get to come along for the surreal ride. Unfortunately, there are not yet any dinosaurs. Not yet.

Or something.

This is what happens when I live head-under-water with video game middleware. But wicked good things are happening on this front. Wicked. Good.

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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 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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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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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

Just a few quick updates on the toy job front.

Forbidden Terror on Station Z, our "Zombies on Rails Shooter in Space" gameplay / tech demo from GDC08 is now available to the masses, via You, Joe Gamer, equipped with at least a middling PC and an Xbox 360 controller, can download and play this nice little time-suck. Evaluators and licensees can actually download the full source code, crack it open, and play around -- on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii (assuming you're licensed for those platforms).

I'll actually be in Austin for the Austin GDC (as will a bunch o' EGT folks), and I (and a co-worker) will be presenting a case study for the demo Monday at 3 p.m.:
"Zombies Ate Our Dogfood (and Drank Our Kool-Aid®)"
We'll be playing and deconstructing the demo. Dunno which (Any? All?) platforms I'll be bringing for play, but it promises to be an engaging chat

(In the schedule, this is probably listed as "Zombie Survival Seminar: A Case Study on Short Timelines, Limited Resources and Achieving Big Results.")

On the conference front, EGT had a strong showing at Leipzig, and licensee Larian Studios had a strong showing of sequel Divine Divinity 2: Ego Draconis ("I the Dragon").

Speaking of strong showings, Gamebryo-powered MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, has gone gold and announced a September 18 ship date. (For those liking the behind the scenes side of things, be sure to check out the production podcasts.)

Continuing the MMO news, another title with Gamebryo under the hood, Wizard101, went live today. Calling it a "'Tween MMO" is probably a bit underselling, and I'm intrigued by this almost all-ages MMO, and the steps the team has taken to make it a safe, fun, engaging online experience.

Also, Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, was well received at last week's Penny Arcade Expo. This looks to be a fun tower defense implementation, and is already looking visually spiffy.

On the partner technology front, EGT released an updated Audiokinetic Wwise integration (version 1.0.5, which supports Gamebryo (for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360) or Gamebryo (for Wii) and Wwise 2008.3).

We also released an Umbra (hardware-accelerated occlusion culling) integration (v1.1.0) for Gamebryo (available from and supported via Umbra). The Gamebryo 2.5 version of the integration is still in development and will be announced down the road.

Other than that, I'm heads down as the producer for our GDC09 demo. We're doing things quite a bit different for next year, so as a Product Manager, I've got to make some decisions as to if / when / how I'm going to tease demo info out. More to come.

UPDATED: Added mention of Gamebryo-powered Defense Grid: The Awakening from Hidden Path Entertainment, which was received very well at PAX.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Gamebryo for Casual Games

One of the initiatives I've pushed most recently as the Product Manager for Gamebryo at Emergent Game Technologies is making a bunch of waves in the industry:
Gamebryo Casual.
This is the full version of Gamebryo, targeted toward the real-world constraints of casual development timelines and budgets.

I'm stoked about this offering for a bunch of reasons.

First and foremost, I'm absolutely convinced we need to give developers and publishers the best tools so they can make great titles, and we need to meet teams where they're at with budgets, timelines, and other development restrictions.

Secondly, "Casual" is a bit of a misnomer, but the industry knows what it is. It's all of that stuff outside of "big box" development. It's also not "breezy, jump - in - jump - out - with - no - commitment" gameplay -- that's the player's experience with a lot of these titles.

The developer's experience is more along the lines of "holy - crap - I - have - no - money - and - no - time - and - I - have - to - get - a - high-quality - title - out - the - door - yesterday." There's an urgency and a desperation that requires the right titles to rise to the top to help folks see what the developer has to offer.

Gamebryo does that, and now we're raising awareness for casual game development on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC.

Lotta info follows below, but I'm trying to do at least two things with the recent push.

First, we're raising awareness of the product we've had, and will continue to have, for casual game developers (or whatever the market segment ends up being called).

Second, by way of short-term promotion, we're making it really easy for folks to do multiplatform casual game development. It's not a one-size fits all promotion ("casual" development isn't "hobbyist"), you have to qualify, pricing isn't public, blah blah blah.

But if you're interested, contact Emergent and see if you qualify for this product and promotion.

Keep in mind, this is the same tech being leveraged for the likes of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Fallout 3 , and Spatterhouse, and is perfectly suited for developers faced with reduced budgets and development schedules who still want to make high-quality titles. Developers still have access to the same tools as big-box devs (content exporter plug-ins for Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, and SoftimageXSI, our Scene Designer and Animation tools, the new Emergent Terrain system, etc.).

Gamebryo's flexible and extensible, so devs can leverage the pieces of the product they want, remove unneeded others, and optimize their titles for their distribution and platform needs.

Speaking o' flexible, Gamebryo's geometry system lets developers export their assets to target platforms and balance maximum detail and minimal download size (more objects for a game with a smaller footprint). The new system has the previous runtime efficiencies, and in version 2.5 we added increased load-time efficiencies (makes it faster). Data files are now smaller, and the end memory representation of those data files can be smaller (with pretty much zero perceptible loss to the end of the user).

Hundreds of titles in virtually every genre have used and are using Gamebryo. Casual developers should have the flexibility to build the title they want, in the genre they want, with the gameplay they want (a small sampling can be found at Even better, we're looking for you to create innovative new genres and gameplay models.

Casual titles need to maximize their commercial return. Using Gamebryo, developers can more easily put their same title on multiple platforms, increasing their additional revenue potential without significantly increasing their cash outlay.

And since we do technology integrations with other middleware, developers can leverage other technologies and systems for their use, picking additional tech to meet their game needs and distribution restrictions. Remember this post? Allegorithmic's offering is a great example of Emergent partner tech that meets challenges in the download / digital distro space.

So that's the skinny.

(This has turned out to be a pretty high-profile effort, so I'm curious to see what the competitive reaction is. Lately, other companies have been doing a lot of verbatim lifting of EGT messaging and collateral (which is an Unrealistic way to build credibility, and lacks Vision), so I'm curious to see what "me-tooism" comes in response to Emergent's focused efforts with this offering.)

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Austin: Emergent Game Technologies is hiring

This is an update to my last post about a Friday (August 22) evening mixer at Dave & Buster's in Austin, TX.

I won't be there, but you should be. Tell 'em I sent you.

The officialness is here, but here's a cut-n-paste of the deets:
We are primarily looking for folks to support our Online Game Server product, but will be taking resumes for other positions as well. We are looking to create a core group of contract developers IN AUSTIN.

We are looking for:
  • Online Service Integration Experts ( XBOX Live, PSN, Wii Online Services)
  • Security and Deployed Testing
  • Networking Experts
  • Distributed Simulation Experience
  • Console Performance Optimization
  • Game Scripting in Python or Lua
Come trade your resume or business card for food and drink and find out more about these opportunities with Emergent.

WHAT: Emergent Meet and Greet Cocktail Hour
WHEN: Friday August 22 5:30PM to 8:30PM
WHERE: Dave & Buster’s
9333 Research Blvd. Suite A600 Austin , TX 78759 512-346-8015

Questions or RSVP to:

kristoffer.singleton[that at sign]emergent[the dot thingy]net
But, really, if you miss the RSVP, don't let that stop you from going. And don't miss the fact that if you've got mad skilz that don't fit in the above buckets, we are still wanting those other mad skilz.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

EGT podcast

Over at the Unofficial Emergent Game Technologies Website, I've posted the first of (hopefully) many podcasts I'll be doing for EGT.

My guest (Dan Amerson, Technical Director for Gamebryo) and I shoot the breeze over Gamebryo 2.5, the recently released version of our 3D engine.

You can also subscribe to the RSS/Podcast feed here.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

So what's up with Emergent Game Technologies and / or the Gamebryo game engine recently?

On the Gamebryo-powered games front (at least retail), there's Space Chimps from developer REDTRIBE and publisher Brash Entertainment, on the Wii, 360, PS2, and DS.

On the MMO front, the open beta for Magic World Online (dev Goldcool Games and publisher Ingle Games Ltd.) starts June 20.

The big PC MMO for this year, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, started its closed guild beta July 11. This is from long-time developer licensee EA Mythic, and is being published by Electronic Arts.

On the partner integration front, Allegorithmic's ProFX for Gamebryo 2.3 and 2.5 is available, as is our updated Gamebryo 2.5 integration with Audiokinetic's WWise.

Finally, there are also new case studies on the Emergent Web site, including Image Metrics (from the facial animation demo we showed at GDC this year), and Coldwood (another GDC demo with a long-time licensee, showing what seven or eight people can do to create a hot tech demo in about a month's time) -- video accessible via the pict below.

Coldwood Case Study screenshot

Right, that's good for the work side of my gaming life for now.

(EDIT: Cleaned up links -- thank, Vince, for the heads up.)

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

As Product Manager for 3D engine Gamebryo, it probably makes sense for me to -- at least every once in a while -- summarize what's happening on that video game front.

Aside from our recent release (was it just over a month ago?!), we're not standing still.

Here's what's happened in just the last few days (I'm too lazy to go back through the whole month right now).

On the games front, there are a few titles with recent movement from that long list o' titles I posted for this year alone.

Notably, this week (today) sees Gamebryo-powered title Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution hit store shelves.

There's also a little Gamebryo-powered offering from Google (Lively). It's for Google to talk about, but there are number of online interviews where Google mentions the Gamebryo engine.

Emergent is also good about technology partnerships -- we understand we can't build everything, and we're sensitive to our licensees' investments in other middleware. More than just "paper partnerships", our partnerships are generally tech integrations available out-of-the-box (or via easy download) that let you leverage other top-tier games middleware in a powerful way.

Updated integrations include Audiokinetic's awesome Wwise audio pipeline offering, compatible with Gamebryo 2.5.

Then there's Aristen, a new company with a special effects sequencing tool. There launch press release was earlier than I expected, but it has a nice plug for Emergent.

Finally (at least on this) we released our first Allegorithmic ProFX integration with Gamebryo. Massive procedural textures, itty bitty compressionables. Yum.

Good stuff -- more to come shortly.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gamebryo games releasing this week

I'm away from the official list, so the only Gamebryo-powered release that comes to mind for this week is Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution.

The demo's available online, and is a solid console offering for the storied franchise.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Upcoming Gamebryo titles

I mentioned I work for Emergent Game Technologies, the company behind the Gamebryo game engine.

I'm pretty proud of our tech being foundational in somewhere around 200 titles. There are also 100 or so additional titles in development.

Which got me to thinking: Which titles built on Gamebryo are coming out soon?

The trick is finding titles I can actually mention. We're very protective of our licensees (people in our own office often don't know what titles are being worked on, since we keep that info need-to-know).

So, with the help of Reid at work (a top-notch Technical Account Manager at EGT), I've got a list of Gamebryo titles that have shipped or are coming out in 2008. These titles have been mentioned in some form or fashion in the media. If they haven't crossed a press barrier of some sort, they aren't here.

And EGT doesn't make games -- so these are other folks' properties, and they retain all the rights, licenses, etc.

And this is list isn't a commitment for shipping in 2008. Production schedules can and do change, blah blah blah.

Here are a buncha titles that have licensed Gamebryo, and have shipped or should be shipping in 2008:


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Gamebryo 2.5 ships!

Gamebryo 2.5 has shipped -- the newest version of Emergent Game Technologies's game engine and tools (check out the new Terrain System), and my first release since joining the company as Senior Product Manager for the product.

I'm very impressed with the people who made this happen, proud of this release, and wicked stoked for the technology and culture foundation it's built for even bigger stuff coming down the pipe. And I'm a little bruised from the all-out NERF-fueled real-world celebratory team deathmatch that may or may not have involved an alcohol haze for some or many of the participants.

I'm in the throws of physical and digital shipping, forum announcements, and related activities, but expect to see more noise out and about if you're in the industry.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Speed Racer for the Wii is out

Speed Racer for the Wii is out now, and it's built on my company's Gamebryo engine.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The post I didn't write

I had folks ask me about one of my recent posts, where I said,
"And stay tuned -- there's another reason I'm coming clean about me and Emergent."
No, I didn't forget to write that particular post -- it just didn't need to be written.

The short of it was Mark Rein over at Epic Games was calling out my company Emergent Game Technologies, and trying to downplay our game engine (odd, I know -- since they have a game engine).

I was going to write a post about being flattered to be noticed by Mark, and call out what he's doing for what it is -- "Competitive Positioning 101" (like what Visa does with their competition: "... but they don't take American Express.")

But then my President and CEO were interviewed on Gamasutra about the whole thing, and anything I write would be beating a dead horse.

So, read the Gamasutra article. And stop beating dead horses.

"Emergent's Selzer, Johnson Rebut Epic Claims"

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