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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mike Acton of Insomniac on PS3 and next-gen game development

The Guardian Online has a great informative interview with Mike Acton, Engine Director at Insomniac, the developer behind Resistance: Fall of Man, as well as the Ratchet and Clank series.

Mike goes into detail about the versatility of Insomniac Game engine and provides a great read for anyone that is a fan of Insomniac games.

Can you tell us when you started work on the current Insomnia engine and what your ambitions were?
Was it a brand new project or did you take elements from previous technologies?
The principal ambition of both our engine and tools is to empower our gameplay and content teams. The goal of the engine, in particular, is to leverage as much of the available hardware as we can toward the things that are most valuable to the game and, ultimately, the player. The goal of the tools team, though, is minimizing the iteration time required to make additions or changes to the games while allowing the content teams to maximize the features in the engine. In other words: The engine is about making better, faster stuff while the tools are about making better stuff faster. Along with the engine, the tools we're now using are radically different from what we used for the previous generation.

Insomniac's PlayStation 3 engine was a completely new effort from the start. The team understood that the techniques that worked on previous systems weren't going to continue to be as effective on this generation of hardware. So everyone took a step back and tried to create something much better suited to the PS3 (and the Cell), specifically. Sure, there were missteps and bumps along the way, but ultimately we were able to make a great game that looked good and ran at a rock-solid framerate for the PS3's launch.

In what ways has the engine evolved since Resistance 1? There was a lot of talk about streaming textures at the time... What elements have you added since that game and what have you learned?

The engine is constantly changing. It's continually being upgraded and simplified, while we add new features and remove less useful ones. A sign of any maturing technology is that it becomes simpler rather than more complex. And as we work on our third-generation PS3 title, this is what we're starting to see. We've tried several approaches for different features and we're now definitely seeing a convergence of the ideas that have worked out well. For example, the physics, animation, glass, inverse kinetics, effects, and geometry database systems (just to start with) are now less complicated, thus offering more and significantly faster features than the versions found in Resistance 1.

We've also solidified some design patterns that are simplifying things. Take SPU Shaders, for example, which we discuss in detail on our newly established R&D site. SPU Shaders helped to make the big systems and all the little changes that come along during development a lot more practical to implement. They've also helped shed some light on programming the SPUs. Just having the ability to start putting high-level logic and AI on the SPUs was a major milestone that validated a lot of our ideas on how to distribute that type of work. This isn't to say that we have fewer challenges with each new generation of game--we just have all-new, even better and more streamlined challenges!

Read Full Interview>>>>>


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