Servan Keondjian and Doug Rabson, the software pioneers who created Reality Lab and Direct3D, are to launch their 'future generation' middleware, 'Q', at GDC this month (Feb 18-22). http://www.gdconf.com
Until now Q has only been available to close partners of Qube, the company Keondjian and Rabson set up after leaving Microsoft. The pair believes that the technology will give the sector a badly needed shake up.
"Everything we learnt from building Direct3D and Reality Lab has been put into Q," said Qube's CEO, Keondjian.
Qube has designed and built Q to provide a consistent software framework for development studios, across multiple titles and target hardware ranging from previous generation consoles to top of the range DX10 PCs.
"We've designed and built Q to be fast and compact enough for last generation devices, at the same time it rocks on ALL the current generation of platforms and on hi spec gaming PCs, and it positions us well for next generation mobile devices," Keondjian said. "It's a solution that works for every genre; RPG, MMO, FPS, racing, sports, action and even the latest stars like rhythm action games."
"Q is purpose built for developers to give them a full range of tools combined with maximum freedom, maximum flexibility and maximum control," said Keondjian. "Q isn't a by-product of a game in the way that engines have been spun off from games like Unreal or Crysis are, nor is it just a low-level renderer where you have to build everything else for yourself from scratch."
Qube's CTO, Doug Rabson, says that one of Q's key goals was to tackle one of middleware's big problems; that all too often, middleware gets in the way of a developer getting the hardware to do what they want.
"We don't see any reason why middleware shouldn't provide low-level and high-level components, while still allowing complete control over the hardware," Rabson said.
"We believe we have solved this problem with Q through our plug-in framework architecture. What seems to have really impressed our partner developers during beta testing is that they can use it for multiple projects sharing framework code across all in-house games."
Q provides genre-independent core technology plug-ins for game development, whilst allowing developers full freedom to extend and specialize wherever necessary. The core plug-in set includes cutting edge features such as:
• support for arbitrary scene rendering algorithms
• support for programmable shaders
• background data streaming
• texture manager capable of handling scenes with many gigabytes of texture visible on screen
• cross-platform data format
• n-dimensional animation blending
• background work queue
• 3D editor which allows both core and custom plug-ins to run live inside the editing environment.
Keondjian set himself the goal of creating middleware that puts the developer in charge and to that end Qube actively encourages studios to both build plug-ins and licence those they create. Keondjian and Rabson anticipate the significant growth of a market in third party plug-ins for Q.
"Above all, the most important lesson we learnt was about freeing the developer to add their own features. Traditional middleware can often cause more problems for studios than it solves. In particular, the problems associated with adding custom features to a large external codebase can be crippling when new releases of the middleware arrive." Keondjian warns. "Q has solved that problem," he said.
"What some of our competitors are offering is a Betty Crocker cake mix solution," said Jamie Fowlston, Q's Program Manager.
"You buy the box, you mix it together and you get a cake just like the one Betty Crocker made earlier. Other middleware providers meanwhile are just selling a plain bag of flour. You've got to do absolutely everything else yourself."
"But in our experience developers aren't the tech equivalents of mum and dad turning out predictable goodies for a kids' party," Fowlston said. "They're more like master chefs. They know how to put ingredients together to make something new, completely different and, as often as not, something quite wonderful."
"But what Q offers is a range of the finest middleware ingredients known to mankind. Qube wants studios to pick and choose from our ingredients, to add their own, and to make the whole uniquely theirs by using the professional skills that most other middleware solutions don't allow them to bring to bear," Fowlston added.
"Q unlocks the genius of independent studios. It doesn't box them in."
The Qube team will be in the Strategy Room on the 3rd Floor of the W Hotel adjacent to the GDC venue on Feb 20 and 22 and on the ATI stand throughout the show.
Who's Who at Qube
Servan Keondjian; Managing Director
Servan Keondjian, 39, was building computers before he was 10 and writing 3D software at 15. He completed a degree in pure physics at Imperial College, London before impressing the legendary British game developer Magnetic Scrolls with his programming skills. Following several years at Scrolls, Servan was faced with a choice between programming and music. He played keyboard in his group, The Big Truth Band, which was rapidly gaining a following. The 3D bug continued to bite and Servan formed RenderMorphics in 1992, initially working with Hugh Steer, Scrolls' first programmer and later with Doug Rabson.
As the Big Truth Band disintegrated his former band mates went on to work with acts like Faithless, Dido and Stiltskin while RenderMorphics rapidly became a world leader in cutting edge 3D graphics technologies with the widely acclaimed Reality Lab technology. Microsoft bought RenderMorphics in 1995 and Servan subsequently headed up the DirectX 3D team at Microsoft responsible for integrating 3D graphics into Windows 95.
Doug Rabson, Technical Director
Doug Rabson, 42, graduated from Bristol University and joined Magnetic Scrolls to write their core tools; the compiler, debugger and language interpreters. Having interviewed Servan at Magnetic Scrolls he soon joined the newly formed RenderMorphics as senior engineer. The two have been partners in crime for some 16 years now.
Jamie Fowlston, Program Manager, Tools&Technology.
In the drive to build Q Servan and Doug have been joined by Jamie Fowlston. Jamie, 32, started programming at six and was soon writing games for his brothers on the Oric 1. He won a scholarship to Winchester College, studied at Merton College, Oxford and more recently spent three years at Reflections playing a leading role in creating Driver and Stuntman– something that an English public school and Oxbridge education had prepared him for perfectly.
Qube Software Ltd.
In 1997 Servan, Doug and Hugh formed Qube. Qube has been a labour of love, one that's finally bearing fruit with Q, the 3D engine Servan and Doug always dreamed of building, and Earthsim, a 4D solar system browser.
Interestingly Servan, Doug and Jamie share an interest in martial arts. Servan has spent years studying Wing Chun Kung Fu, Doug is a black belt in Aikido and Jamie is a brown belt in Karate– brown being, of course, the new black. Doug also finds time to be a major contributor to the FreeBSD operating system project and is a former member of the FreeBSD core team, Jamie paints in his spare time while Servan is currently exploring Tai Chi and remains the best keyboard player we know, doing occasional session work.
CEO Servan Keondjian will be available for interview from Monday Feb 4th .
Pictures of Servan, Doug and Jamie, together with screenshots of 'Earthsim'– an application built on Q– can be found on the Qube Software website; www.qubesoft.com
For further details contact Qube's Director of Strategy and Communications, Jonathan Kent, on 07981 803 144 (m) or email firstname.lastname@example.org and Alison Beasley, Lincoln Beasley pr; +44 (0) 1608 645756, +44 (0) 7966 449130 (m)