Scivelation: Differences between PC and console version
PC Games Hardware had the chance to get some information about Scivelation. The action game is scheduled for release in Q2 2010.
Scivelation is a third-person action game which is currently developed by Black Wing Foundation and publisher Topware Interactive. The story takes place in the distant future where the Regime, a global dictatorship, is controlling the world after the Apocalypse. The developers promise an action packed scenario in which the player becomes part of the resistance against the Regime.
Now PC Games Hardware had a chance to get some technical information about the game from Aleksey Savchenko. The Black Wing Foundation CEO told us for example that PC version of the Unreal Engine 3 based Scivelation will benefit from the higher amount of system and video memory provided by the platform. Furthermore he hinted at a possible DirectX 11 features.
Below you can find the whole interview that reveals interesting information about Scivelation as well as the current state of the Unreal Engine 3 possibilities.
PCGH: You announced that the technical base of your game is the Unreal Engine 3. Why did you decide to utilize Epics technology instead of developing your own engine? What makes the Unreal Engine 3 so suitable for your title?
Aleksey Savchenko: Well, it always depends from priorities, right? Development of own engine drastically extends development cycle, makes it more expensive and less predictable. But from other side, the main advantage of own engine is absence of limits in technical design. If you want to introduce some cutting edge technologies and step into the race of graphic performance, you start one. If you want to concentrate on story, level design, cut-scenes and predictable rock-solid quality, you probably choose an engine to license. You have your boarders, but considered at pre-production stage they probably more help than restrict you.
To put it one simple line, we chose U3 because it fits to the project ideology and feature demands, presents a solution for relatively easy development for PC, Xbox360 and PS3 and gives an opportunity to create an atmosphere in the game that we just need. Something like that.
PCGH: Scivelation will be developed for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and it is no secret that Epics Engine is the ideal technical base for a cross platform development. Can we nevertheless expect that the game is not simply ported for each platform but separately developed for the consoles and the PC?
Aleksey Savchenko: The truth is that in very rare case console holders will be interested in an "easy port” of the game for all three consoles and yes, the game will have its gameplay, ideological and technical differences. To get more in detail, here is a hint: PS3 version is planned to be let us say QUITE different that PC and Xbox360 version. I would also like to say more, but I'm sure I wouldn't be allowed to do that by marketing department.
PCGH: Assuming that you develop a special PC built of Scivelation what features can only be realized with the PC as technical platform? Are there technical/visual differences between the PC and the console version of the game?
Aleksey Savchenko: Considering the power of modern PCs the game will be definitely better on PC then on consoles, but game features still will be mostly the same. So, expect visual differences, but very minor gameplay changes. Most differences will result from different amount of system and video memory available, so PC version can use more textures and with better detail level. Also modern PC's video cards allow to effectively render much more particle systems and translucent effects and we will use these points to make PC picture as good as possible. XBox360 has 512 MiByte memory shared between system and GPU, PS3 has 256 MiByte of system memory + 256 MiByte of graphics memory, but modern PC's in average have 2-4 GiByte or even more of system memory and 1-2 GiByte of video memory and that will definitely will be used in development. While XBox360 CPU is 3 3.2 GHz cores each with Hyperthreading (6 threads total) and PS3 Has Cell processor with 7 3.2 GHz active cores - their power is huge but modern PC's have the same or even more power (4 cores more that 3 GHz each is a standard).
PCGH: Do you heavily modify Epic's technology? If yes which parts of the Unreal Engine 3 were replaced/altered to tailor the technology to the requirements of the game? Which parts remained untouched?
Aleksey Savchenko: We are not planning any hardcore-deep engine modification, but it should be considered that in many areas UE3 provides only basic functionality so the design and implementation of that parts are totally ours. Plus we are re-designing mostly UI, AI and cover system to our needs, but rendering, sound and physics part are mostly would not be changed.
PCGH: What changes in the UI, AI and the cover system were necessary to design Epic's technology to the requirements of Scivelation (short examples with technical explanation will do fine). Do you completely replace these parts of the engine with an in-house development?
Aleksey Savchenko: Epic's AI system provides essential base for any actions, designs and ideas designers may have. But when it comes to implementation of unique features, it is all about people and additional introductions of aspects. For example, we have aspects like "work in pairs” and "team AI” with quite an extraordinary approach and huge impact on game-play.
Concerning the cover system, UE3 provides a great boost in development, but we decided to took a low basis from the engine and develop the cover system ourselves. Still, the engine functionality and dedicated engineers makes it available to add different cool features faster than it would be done from the scratch. The good example of Gears cover system helps to define many aspects without additional research, so mainly we use built-in editor functionality for cover system and some basic classes like CoverLinks and CoverSlots but all logic and behavior are implemented totally by ourselves.
Concerning the UI, game includes very cool Global Resistance Network, that gives player an opportunity to upgrade characters, weapons, get information from overall world conflict development. So, the overall UI system is quite complex and we currently think about some additional middle-ware licensing.
PCGH: Benchmarking and testing various games with Epic's technology we found out that the Unreal Engine 3 is optimized for multithreading, especially dual core CPUs. By now Quad core CPUs have become affordable and popular. Do you take this into account and try to improve multi core support in the PC version of Scivelation? Will the game as well scale well with four cores or even six or eight cores introduced by the upcoming generation of CPUs presented by Intel and AMD?
Aleksey Savchenko: You see, the most bottlenecks are still video cards but not the CPU and most of the optimization work is aimed on that aspect. Considering the multi-core support, we are working on that, but we do not set it as a high level priority aim to make a total "revolution for revolution” in that area, as engine development process mostly satisfies our general needs and we can cope ourselves with all the minor issues.
PCGH: Can you give some detail about the thread structure? What different tasks can be or are split up into different threads and what is the expected performance gain resulting from two respectively four or even more (6, 8) cores? Do you apply a thread scheduler?
Aleksey Savchenko: Basically now we have following separate threads:
1. Game thread
2. Physics simulation
3. Stats manager listener
4. Thread pool
5. Stats manager sender
6. Rendering thread
7. 2 Audio threads
8. Thread pool
9. Async I/O
But not all of them are time-critical. We also are taking into account the paralleling of Game thread, Physics simulation, and separating AI thread.
PCGH: Did you use the Physx-SDK that comes with the Unreal Engine 3 or do you develop your own physic engine for the game? If you utilize the PhysX Engine will the game support Nvidas Physx where special effects are calculated on the GPU/Physx-Card? If yes, can you give some details; if no why did you decide against Physx-support?
Aleksey Savchenko: We use the Physx-SDK that comes with the engine which is fully and perfectly corresponds to demands of the game. As for the very special features that will work only with limited amount of hardware we presume their implementation during final stages of development and have stage planned for that kind of changes which is like, well, once again cannot tell about that.
Aleksey Savchenko: Absolutely. EAX 5.0 will shine in its full glory.
PCGH: Will you make use of the ability of UE3's renderer to display DX10 visuals in the PC version of the game? If yes, will the DX 10 visualization differ substantially from the graphics that are rendered with DX 9 hardware or will DX10 just speed up the rendering process? If no, what are the reasons to develop without DX10 support?
Aleksey Savchenko: Ok, so there are number of tasks for implementation connected with that aspect and we are working on that now. Right now we use the DX10 for speeding up the abstract rabbits and experimenting with different visualization stuff.
We mean that just switching to DX10 results in an improved frame rate in many cases, and more - DX10 will allow us to use some extra effects in some places.
DX10 should produce a bit higher frame rate and allow us to use more sophisticated shaders in the game. The main difference that will be noticeable is that Anti-aliasing is off in UE3 DX9 (but still can be forced on in Graphic card system settings) but is working fine in UE3 DX10. And DX10 takes more load on GPU from CPU than DX9.
PCGH: With Windows 7 Microsoft presents a new API, DX11. Will your game support DX11? If no, have you nevertheless though about how your game could benefit from this very advanced rendering technique?
Aleksey Savchenko: Well, I guess you understand that in THAT aspect we are quite heavily dependent from the engine. But on the other hand, the engine told me that we shall probably have an opportunity to play around DX11. So, to say it would be used at maximum, I think not.
PCGH: "The engine told me that we shall have an opportunity to play around DX11”, does that mean that the version of Unreal Engine 3 that Epic supplied is a special build or contains extra libraries that offer you the opportunity to test DX11 features?
Aleksey Savchenko: Well, I guess if you want that level of details, it is better to ask Epic and get their official announcement :-) We can only say that with the high level of support and technical progress consideration from Epic plus constant cool and progressive changes in the one of the most developers friendly engine we ever laid our hands on, we are absolutely sure that DX11 will be present in its time. From our side, we are anticipating for DX11 hardware tessellation in U3 and determined to use any technological opportunities to the advantage of the project.
PCGH: DX9 and Windows XP are still popular among gamers and even Unreal Engine 3 can be seen as a technology that is basically tailored around DX9. When do you think game development will be at a juncture where it's more viable to put all the effort into one rendering-path using only DirectX 11 (with down-level-paths) and drop support for XP?
Aleksey Savchenko: When there would be no gamers demand for games at XP, which is still considered to be the most stable and proven platform. We all like technical issues and can discuss them for hours, but the truth is that we are making games for people and depend from them in that aspect. Windows 7 looks cool to me and has very strong potential to replace XP in some relatively not far away future, but when it will happen, God knows, I cannot predict things and events at this scale.
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