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AGC: Gambryo and Metrics

Aaron Roxby Posted:
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Emergent Technologies: Interview from AGC

Aaron Roxby spoke to Senior Engineer Vincent Scheib about the engine that powers WAR, DAoC and CivIV

At Thursday’s Austin Game Conference, I had the opportunity to speak with representatives from Emergent Technologies about their Gambryo game engine and Metrics database system. I was introduced to Gambryo by Senior Engineer Vincent Scheib. Gambryo is a game engine designed with flexibility in mind. The engine made its debut with Bethesda’s popular game Oblivion. To give some idea of the flexibility Gambryo offers, the second game created with it was Sid Meier’s Civilization IV. The engine has since been licensed by Mythic, who is using it for both Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. Electronic Arts has recently licensed the engine as well.

While Gambryo does trade off some of the benefits you can receive from a more specialized engine, it makes up for this with several factors. From a licensing standpoint, it is a less costly alternative. In fact, Emergent offers Gambryo Element, a low cost version of the engine, designed for smaller development teams, such as those creating games for Xbox Live Arcade.

Gambryo’s flexibility comes from its ability to be reengineered and integrated with existing technology. The engine comes out of the box with integration for the Ageia PhysX graphics processor, Bink Video, Miles Audio, and the Scaleform and Anarch User Interfaces. In addition, the engine includes documentation, demonstrations and samples, to help developers easily use these products together. Emergent has also added a DPVS system to the engine. DVPS stands for Dynamic Potentially Visible Set. Essentially, it is a system that tells a user’s computer what exactly needs to be rendered visible at any time. This is important in games such as MMORPGs, where the game world is extremely large. To make a product that is able to be used with many different products, Emergent’s focus has been on supplying extensive documentation and clean code.

Scheib also explained that they are currently working on optimizing Gambryo for use with the Playstation 3. To this end, they are developing Floodgate, a Stream Processing Engine. The PS3’s multithreading Cell processor can make development complicated and Floodgate hopes to simplify the process. One of the more exciting aspects of Floodgate is that it is being designed as a cross-platform engine. So, once you have developed a game for the PS3, it can be easily ported directly to the Xbox 360 or PC. Of course, Floodgate will also work with any custom code that the developer creates.

After speaking with Vincent Scheib about Gambryo, I was given a tour of Metrics, by Senior Vice President John Austin and Karina Speider. Metrics is a database tool that allows you to collect and display information about almost every aspect of a game. During development, it can track things like poly counts and frame rates. During game play, it can track anything from the number of kills players are making, to player’s frames per second and other information that can be used to tweak game performance and balance. The tool may also be used after release in, for example, an MMO setting, allowing developers and support personnel to track any in game statistics that they may need.

Metrics has an easy to use interface, which displays information as a number of customizable charts. Data can be added to or subtracted by simply dragging and dropping data filters. You create custom templates that can include any data in the system, along with blank elements which may be filled in by the user. All of these components may be browsed through a Windows style Catalogue Explorer. The interface that I was shown was not complete and I was promised that the final interface will be even simpler when Metrics launches on the first of next year.

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Aaron Roxby