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  • Interview with Mafia 2 developer: PC gaming will never die

    Mafia 2 will appear soon and 2k czech is going to make you an offer you can't refuse. PC Games Hardware was able to talk to Denby Grace from 2k czech to get more background on the technical spects of Mafia 2.

    On August, 27th Mafia 2 will hit the stores and 2k czech will sent you to Empire Bay. PC Games Hardware took the chance to talk to Denby Grace, senior producer at 2k czech, and asked some technic related questions on physics, engine and cpu perfomance. So let's go ahead to the interview.

    PC Games Hardware: For Mafia 2 you programmed a new engine called "Illusion”. Do you develop the engine code from scratch or are some remains of code from the latest iteration of the LS3D Engine (used in Mafia) to be found in your new base technology? What were the reasons for developing your own technology? What are the advantages when utilizing your own technology?

    Denby Grace: The engine code has practically been written from scratch, so very little has been carried over from the first title; maybe some old vehicle code but literally, not very much at all.

    As for developing our own, the fact of the matter is that there is no off the shelf solution for what we wanted to achieve with Mafia II, and at the time there was no game engine that could deliver the stunning visuals an open world environment like the Illusion Engine can create. Also, our cut scene tool is critical to our ability to create the epic emotional scenes that are one of the corner stones of the Mafia II experience. We needed this tool to be fully integrated into our technology so we wrote it ourselves.

    PC Games Hardware: You announced that you game will be developed for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Will the game be a pure cross-platform product or will there be an optimized version for the PC? If there is a special built for the PC what technical feature cannot be realized with the console version or in other words are there any features the PC is the ideal platform to develop for (for example higher texture resolutions)?

    Denby Grace: We developed the engine and the game to be a true cross platform experience, so the core game experiences will look and feel the same no matter which platform you play it on.

    As stated in some of our recent announcements concerning the technology of PhysX, we are making great use of the hardware available to us on the PC. Amongst numerous other abilities, we can push the textures to a higher resolution, and the PhysX to many more particles.

    PC Games Hardware: Are there any differences between the Console and the PC Version of Mafia 2 as far as technical as well as visual aspects are concerned, for example GPU accelerated PhysX effects?

    Denby Grace: You hit the nail on the head. The biggest difference is the GPU enabled physics effects. While on a system without GPU (consoles and ATI cards), the game will have a great PhysX simulation with particles and cloth, however, if you have the extra hardware we are able to push things to a whole new level which has not yet been seen in open world game before. Our destructible environments feature thousands of physical particles which in turn can be affected by individual explosion force fields to make them move. It's all very impressive and it's these kinds of improvements that high end PC gamers can expect.

    PC Games Hardware: We know you are using Nvidia's PhysX API and also APEX moduls ("Clothing”). Besides PhysX support why did you decide to use Nvidia's physics middleware instead of other physics libraries like Havok or ODE? What makes Nvidia's SDK so suitable for your title?

    If you utilize GPU-Physics for the PC version of Mafia 2:
    • What are the visual differences between physics calculated by CPU and GPU (via PhysX, OpenCL or even DX Compute)?
    • Are there any features that players without an Nvidia card will miss? What technical features cannot be realized with the CPU as "physics calculator”?

    Denby Grace: PhysX is a really scalable system, which is something that appealed to us. We get to integrate a base system that can be dialed up and down, dependant on what system specs the users have. We have a minimum benchmark frame rate that we want to see, then the PhysX simulation level will adjust itself based upon the type of hardware you have.

    CPU vs GPU quite simply means that we can really push the boat out with that much dedicated horsepower without being concerned that it's going to affect the performance of other areas, separating this out is certainly preferable. Going a step further is separating out the gfx from the physics with separate GPU's (SLI configuration).

    People without a GPU PhysX card will still have these effects but it won't be quite as advanced. We were very careful in ensuring that this would not affect the game play experience, no matter what system you have. , Mafia II I think looks absolutely amazing even without the full PhysX.

    PC Games Hardware: Does regular by CPU calculated physics affect visuals only or is it used for gameplay terms like enemies getting hit by shattered bits of blown-away walls and the like?

    Denby Grace: No we don't do this. We didn't want to alienate a part of our user base with that sort of selective functionality.

    PC Games Hardware: By now multi core CPUs have become very popular and the numbers of players with such machines is rapidly increasing. Did you integrate multi core support into the engine from the beginning? Are you constantly trying to optimize your own technology for multi core Processors?

    • If yes how many cores are supported and what is the expected performance gain from 2, 4 or even 8 cores?
    • What different systems run in separate threads?
    • Does your engine profit from SMT/Hyperthreading or do you recommend turning it off for maximum performance?

    Denby Grace: Yes, we are big fans of multi-core processors and our engine absolutely, fully supports them. The more cores you have the better it is for the game.

    PC Games Hardware: Last year on Gamescom 2009 we talked to Denby Grace who informed us that Mafia 2 offers only a support for Direct X 9. What are the reasons to do so? Are there any existing plans to patch in support for DX10/11 later?

    Denby Grace: Currently, there are no plans at this time, but I would never say never. There are definitely features we feel we could make use of with DX 10 and 11 but for us the game experience was really the focus for the title rather than having all the latest tech gadgets and gizmos.

    PC Games Hardware: Playing Games on the console becomes more and more popular. On the contrary PC Gaming becomes less interesting and developers concentrate more on developing the console version than a special PC version of a game that utilizes the technical qualities of the PC to full extend - especially in the field of rendering. Will PC Gaming slowly fade out in the next years?

    Denby Grace: No, not in my opinion. PC gaming will never die while there are people like yourself, your readers and developers such as 2K Czech. With this generation of consoles I think we have seen gaming firmly move out of the bedroom and into the living room onto the HD TVs and huge 5.1 sound systems. I think that is the biggest change and this is the biggest hurdle for the PC to overcome. How can it get itself on that shelf next to the console?

    With that being said, we are wholly committed to bringing great gaming experiences to all gamers no matter where they are or what platform they want to play on; provided there are people who want to play. We will be there, whether it's on the console or on the PC.

    PC Games Hardware: Thanks for your answers.

    Denby Grace: It's been pleasure talking with you.

  • Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven
    Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven
    Take-Two Interactive
    Illusion Softworks

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