Note: This has been taken from the ParaKnowYa website.
Q&A with Particle Systems Ltd
Monday 11/02/2002 12:44
Q, Can you introduce yourself and your job?
I'm Derek Marriott and my job title here at Particle Systems is Senior Programmer.
Q, How long have you been in the gaming industry? Has it always been your dream to work in the gaming industry?
I-War2 was actually my first game. Fortunately the rest of the team made up for my inexperience. My background is in high performance computing and photo realistic rendering. So I like to think I know something about making computers go quick and look good. As for it being my dream job; I'm not much of a gamer, perhaps getting through a couple of games a year. But I've always been interested high performance code and I thought it might be fun for a while.
Q, Can you tell us a bit about Independence War 2: Edge Of Chaos and what parts of the game you worked on?
I-War2 is a space combat game, with adventure and free-roaming elements. It's set several hundred years in the future, in a frontier area known as the Badlands. The corporations control pretty much everything, and life is pretty difficult for the average citizen. You play a young boy called Cal Johnston, whose father is killed by a corporate gangster. Cal gets sent to prison for trying to take revenge, and 15 years later breaks out with a bunch of prisoners, and sets himself up as a pirate.
The game features a realistic physics flight engine, advanced graphics and sound. The control system is designed to be as easy to use as possible, via a special menu system.
Unlike many other space games, where the action takes place in small space 'bubbles', in I-War2 you can fly around virtually wherever you want, using the game's 'LDS' planet hopping drive, and jump between star systems using the 'Capsule Drive'.
Your ships (you can fly 5 different ones), are fully upgradeable with over 30 different weapons and systems. You can use automatic loadout or customise them yourself. You also have access to two 'Turret Fighters' which can dock to your ship as gun turrets, or fly free as wingmen.
The action revolves around free-form piracy, and scripted missions. The piracy is great fun, with over 600 cargo types, and involves attacking freighters, forcing them to give up their pods, then getting your freighter to pick them up for you. You can trade the cargo for ship upgrades, or recycle it to make missiles and other consumables.
The scripted missions form the basis of the game's plot, and feature many different tasks from simple fetch missions, to assaulting an entire system.
Multiplayer is included, with several different game-types, and the game is fully moddable, with both a graphic and scripting SDKs available.
On I-War2 I worked with the lead programmer Will Vale on our Flux game engine, implementing most of the special effects, collision detection and generally anything that needed doing. The loading bar was one of mine.
Q, A few games have compatibility problems with the Kyro due to it being a Tile-based card. Did you have to go out of your way to get I-War 2 working with the Kyro?
I only recall one problem and that surprisingly wasn't in the 3D part of the game. That turned out to be my fault and it shouldn't have worked on any other graphics card.
Q, Were ImgTech/PowerVR helpful in giving idea's in getting I-war to run well with the Kyro?
Yes. They seem a nice bunch at ImgTech. They gave us a couple of suggestions which we managed to get into the code.
Q, What impressed you most about the Kyro?
Since its such a different architecture to the other cards out there, I was impressed that it worked first time with I-War2. Considering the problems some traditional graphics cards have, PowerVR have done a good job. The colour quality on the Kyro is exceptional. The renders are very crisp and well balanced. The FSAA stays crisp as well.
Q, Do you consider FSAA to be playable on most systems or do you consider it as luxury item that slows down the game too much?
I-War2 seems playable in FSAA at 800x600. The chip people will probably dedicate more silicon to FSAA when they run out of other things to speed up. The Kyro architecture is particular well suited to this kind of scaling.
Q. What is most important in modern graphics cards? Is it performance, graphics quality, innovations or something else?
Personally I'm a quality junkie and don't mind sacrificing a little performance. Performance is still big and it does take the load of the CPU and allow us to do more game related work.
Q, What do you think about the current situation of the 3D market as a whole? What do you think of its evolution?
We're starting to get the first generation of programmable graphics chips now. Vertex and pixel shaders allow us to get up to some neat tricks. It will probably take a couple of generations to become really usable. Its good to see 3D chips making it into laptop computers, and of course mainstream graphics processors are now used in games consoles. I doubt it, but hopefully the market will mature a little and start to consider image quality over speed a little more.
Q, I-war is one of the best looking space games out there. What, if anything would you like to see added to 3Dcards so that you could improve the graphics even further.
The card manufacturers always ask us this and I suspect they get fed up with us saying fill rate (how many pixels you can get onto the screen in a second). Cards are going the way I would like with vertex and pixel shaders. We can improve the lighting models used with these. If they can expose more information and give us more instructions in these stages then we won't be far off being able to do in hardware all the things the photo realistic boys can currently do in software.
Q, How important do you consider graphics in I-war and games in general? Some people seem to think game play is more important, while other think graphic are more important. Personally I see graphics as adding atmosphere to the game play.
I would tend to agree with you. I-War2 especially is about buying into a story and it only takes one badly rendered object to kick you out of that world. Coupled with that I wouldn't underestimate the need for high quality sound effects and music. You wouldn't believe the amount of time we put in to try to get things feeling consistent.
Q, Is I-war still selling well and did it sell as well as you thought?
Lowly programmers don't get such information. People seem to like it and its won a couple of awards for its category.
Q, I always like the realistic physics model in Elite 2 & 3 and I am glad to hear it's in I-War2. Lots of gamers complain when realistic physics models are used in space games. Did you get a lot of complaints when the realistic physics model was announced?
A few reviewers had problems with the physics. But most reviewers had already played the original I-War and knew what it was all about. We've never had a complaint from and actual user. I think most people understand that flying a space ship isn't going to be the same as flying a aeroplane. Our physics model is coupled with a sophisticated fly-by wire system and autopilots which make flying the ship and handling the physics much easier. Of course ace pilots can always turn the flight assist mode off for advanced manoeuvres.
Q, Are there any plans to port I-war 2 over to new platforms?
Not in its current form.
Q, Have you played Elite 1, 2 & 3 and did they inspire you to work on I-war?
I will probably be giving my age away if I say I used to play Elite on my Acorn Electron. For those outside Britain, the Acorn Electron was like a computer but with all the useful bits removed. The designers on IW took most of their inspiration from science fiction novels and films.
Q, Are there any plans for I-war 3 and personally what would you like to change or add to a sequel?
The designers have been working on a few things that may or may not turn into I-War3. That tends to be the publishers call unfortunately. If we do get another chance I have a pile of graphics tricks I would like to try out to get the quality up a few more notches.