RSE Interview Page 2
By: Hatchetforce

Published : October 16, 2006


In November of 2005, several GhostRecon.net staff visited Red Storm Entertainment studios in North Carolina. The following interview transcript is the result of hours spent talking to RSE. The answers given are from a particular slice of time within the development cycle (close to beta). Keep in mind that game features and details may have changed since then, and RSE’s statements shouldn’t be taken as descriptions of the final product, but rather as a ‘snapshot’ of GR:AW MP for 360 during that period of game development.

  • Christian Allen (CA) – lead MP designer for GR:AW
  • Brian Tate (BT) – overall lead artist for GR:AW MP
  • Pete Sekula (PS) – co lead artist for GR:AW MP
  • Robbie Edwards (RE) – producer
  • Travis Getz (TG) – authenticity coordinator
  • Hatchetforce (HF) – GR.net Staff
  • ZJJ – GR.net Staff

 

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TECHNICAL DETAILS

HF – The game, is it only designed to run in one fashion on both the core system and on the premium system or is it all going to load into resident memory or if you have a hard drive will it stream off the hard drive?

RE – It’s going to be the same.

HF – So no difference in the load times?

BT - You wouldn’t be able to get DLC if you don’t have the hard drive, but otherwise it’s the same.

HF – Does the system pre-load on the hard drive when you are first booting it up like GR2 did when you go through the pre-loading process?

RE – That’s actually one of the changes they made to the Xbox that they hated. That’s how everyone used the Xbox hard drive for was cache to make the load time faster so it’s a requirement that you cannot do that on the Xbox 360, you have to do things differently.

HF – I knew that that was a requirement, but I didn’t know if they gave you the option, you know, for the game to basically do a check if someone has a hard drive and I’ll do this because it is more efficient.

RE – TCR is for loading and such so it is pretty strict.

BT - It’s a technical checklist of requirements for players even if you had a hard drive you wouldn’t notice a difference.

RE – Even if you did cache to hard drive, you are talking less than 30 second load times.

HF – So you’ve been that impressed with the 360?

RE – We’ve got a game down there that loads up in 6 seconds. From the time you boot the console until you are playing the game is 6 seconds.

CA – What you saw today was with like load times and stuff is all unoptimized.

BT – Yeah the load times will be no higher than GR2 Xbox, yet we are loading 10 to12 times as much data.

HF – You consider yourself at a late alpha, a beta, mid beta stage? Where do you think the game sits at right now? What were we looking at today?

BT – That’s a good question for Robbie.

CA – That’s a Robbie question.

RE – As far as content, we’re still a few weeks away from beta. As far as features and engine technology we are pretty close to beta. There are few other things we got to deal with. There are some technical things we got to sit down and talk about.

HF – Is the AI code locked? Did you already hard code that?

BT - It’s still getting tweaked, Nothings locked right now. Of the things you saw today probably the in game, the HUD and the interface, the reticules, are the most unpolished, unfinished.

HF – I know it’s a requirement for all Xbox games 360 games to run at 720p. That’s what you are fixing to run it at, 720p? Talk about a few titles running higher than that.

RE – What we run at 720, and well, is the 4x3 format, right?

BT - Yeah, we do native wide screen and 4x3 if you have a non HD television or a non widescreen television. And the vertical resolution is 720 either way. If you have a widescreen TV you are getting a little bit extra screen real estate out of the deal.

HF – Which makes a difference in some games in MP, because your peripheral view is actually an advantage.

BT – It’s definitely more playable for split screen. I would say, if you want to play you and a buddy side by side, it’s a lot better experience on a wide screen TV because you basically get a square view port instead of having to split the screen into two thin slivers. It’s definitely a lot more playable that way. I’ve really liked playing on a wide screen TV playing split screen stuff.

RE - I’ve been playing a whole lot.

HF – The SDK for the Xbox 360, there has been a lot made of this. I asked you about it earlier, about the tools that MS furnished you for the 360 for development. Is it this quantum leap in development that we were lead to believe the 360 was going to offer real easy to use?

RE – Depends on what you worked on in the past. If you worked on the Xbox, you know, it’s not that different, but if you worked on maybe other consoles or other platforms I think you wouldn’t have a very favorable view of the SDK and stuff offered by MS.

HF – Has the XNA, which has been harped on has that sped up in anyway? The boilerplate code which were going to take care of the XNA has that in anyway helped you out?

BT – Not a major factor yet.

RE – But what has helped us out is the friend’s list and game advice. All this stuff we had to do for GR2 that easily took man months or man years of development over time is done for us now so we have been able to focus on making our UI fun for our game and not dealing with the TCR requirements of the Xbox.

BT – We don’t have to do any of the stuff that is common to every game. MS handles all of that, it’s a godsend.

RE – Seriously, it’s easily a year’s worth of development time done for us. Not only with this title, for every title we ever do on the Xbox 360.

CA – It’s great for the gamer too, because when you go on your friends list it is the same, no matter what you do, you’re going to have one list scrolls this way, or one game works this way, it’s really, really been nice. Nobody wants that kind of stuff.

BT – It’s also nice for the customer because the customer is getting a better product? Red Storm is able to spend a lot more time working on the fun parts of the game that the customer really enjoys, versus all this background minutia stuff. You should be able to take it for granted as a consumer. It’s almost to that point as a developer, that you can take those features for granted.

HF – Even at the stage you’re at, the frame rates are pretty good in there. Do you think you’re going to see at least above the 30 mark?

BT – Definitely. Definitely. 30 would be like the floor…

HF – Thirty is like the minimum right now the most people say if they stay above 30 right now, they’re OK. PGR3 is the one that had to play around with the 720 scaling to get them above 30.

BT – Right.

RE – There’re having to do that?

HF – Yeah, they’re actually not running at 720p, they’re actually using this scaling trick, and there are some big articles on the web about it. It’s technical, you can go read it. But they are actually I might say cheating, in order to get the game to run at 720p.

BT – Well, no cheating here. We’re going 720p all the time, and 30 FPS would be our floor for frame rate.

BT - Pete might be able to spit out some info about the texture memory and polygons, and how it’s different from GR2 and GR3.

PS – It’s apples and oranges. Xbox, we need specifically a budget 13.5MB of memory to work with for a map. And you know, we’re not streaming data on the fly, it’s all just loaded up front, so it kind of put a little cramp on detail, but the maps still looked great. As far as Xbox 360 is concerned, we have a budget of about 200MB of memory, so we’re throwing a whole lot more on to that.

RE - 15 times more.

PS - And that’s just on texture memory alone. As far as triangle count, 4 or 5 times as many triangles.

BT - if not more.

PS - And combined with performance optimizations, I mean the whole map can be millions of triangles. So it’s more than just a jump between Xbox and 360, it’s just a huge, huge difference in quality. It’s great.

CA - It’s funny, because on like the weapons models on GR2, the guys made the weapons models, right, and they were like done, I reviewed them, and I was like “Yeah, those look good, everything’s right, they look good”, and when we first did the weapons models on GR3, I was like “Oh. That screw should be a Phillips head, not flat head, and the distance between these two rails is a little bit too wide, and this scope latch here is too curved.” Because you had so much detail, you could literally see that much stuff and go “Oh well” you know there has a screw head on both sides. The kind of detail that goes into the games is just amazing.

HF – One of the problems with SOCOM II in order to balance the weapons, they reduced rates of fire on the weapons, well, consequently it affected the fire so when I heard the weapons sounds in the game I went, pft, the weapons doesn’t sound like that. SOCOM III comes out, I’m running it, one of my guys has a 60, he starts cranking away, I put the controller down and listened. I went, “This is a 60.” They decided that just the way to balance the weapon in the game because they said, you know what, we have to find a different method rather than retarding the weapons because that was a big issue with the gamers and it was all over the SCEA boards about doing that. I was talking to Justin about it, the sounds in that title are just phenomenal. The M4 you hear, that’s an M4 running, because an M4 sounds a little bit like a buzz saw. I mean it’s more rapid than people realize and an M60s got that chugging sound and when I heard it I was like they are dead on the money with it. So I am kind of curious about the sounds in that regard.

CA – Yeah, definitely. Wesevich will be able to give you more detail. I know they went to a new studio and got almost all new sounds, we go through a 5 panel review process to get rates of fire and type of ammo, the difference between a 6.8 suppressed and a 5.56 suppressed … all that kind of stuff.

BT – It’s all over my head. As long as the gun looks pretty

PS - and the shell casings have that nice specular highlight.

BT - I had to get the highlights just right on the shell casings.

HF – He was pointing out the little Red Storm logo

PS – on the shell casing?

HF – no side of the

CA – on the receiver

PS – no one’s found my Red Storm manufacturing text that I had written on the shell casings, yet.

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