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Despite clarion calls from our analyst chums that gaming is a recession-proof industry, the combination of economic issues and our position within the console boom-bust cycle means these are tricky times for the brainiacs designing the next-gen consoles. (And no, we don’t mean Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.)
Of course, multi-core, multi-chip hardware is already available – even in terms of massmarket laptops – but the jump from dual core to hundreds of cores will make all the difference. It’s such a clear trend that many of the game engine companies are already building it into their current generation technology.
“The next thing will be massively parallel architecture and the tests we’re doing with our stream processing technology in Vision 7 are designed to support that,” explains Dag Frommhold, MD of German outfit Trinigy. “Typically at the moment we’re looking at four to eight cores, but there will be many more in future, and the stream processing is developed with that in mind. We’re moving more of our internal development to ensure the new features we roll out for Vision also support it.”
Released during the summer as version 7.0, and updated to 7.1 in September, Trinigy’s Vision engine has always traded on its combination of modularity, solid integrated tools and competitive price.
“Both from a market and technical perspective, we always try to be somewhere in the middle,” says Frommhold.
“Our focus is different from competitors such as Epic and Emergent. I think we have a package that’s significantly more modular than Unreal. Of course, it’s not as complete, but we have a pretty competitive price and if you compare us to Gamebryo we have a more complete feature set. We’re in a relative sweetspot.”
The most recent focus for the technology has been meeting customer demand for large-scale open worlds, hence the new stream processing engine. “Vision is one of the few engines that can stream all types of resources including geometry, terrain, textures, shaders, animations and physics data,” he points out. “The system is also cross-platform, so the same code you used for PC and Xbox 360 can be recompiled for PlayStation 3 and it will automatically run on the SPUs and handle all the DMA transfers.”
Access to the stream processing is supported within Vision’s vForge editor, which was extended in the 7.0 release with a new terrain system, including vegetation painting and the ability to cut holes in the terrain to build caves and tunnels. Load/unload criteria for asset streaming, as well as more advanced options such as assigning resources to zones, can also be carried out in vForge.
“Because the engine is modular, we didn’t have to do much modification to support streaming,” says Frommhold. “We mostly just extended the architecture, which is designed so we can build features on top of the core without touching it.”
Other recent additions to Vision include networking integrations with PX Interactive’s NetDog engine and Quazal’s Net-Z and Rendez-Vous technologies.
“We focus on what we’re best at, which is rendering, infrastructure and tools,” Frommhold states. “Networking isn’t part of our main business so we think it’s better to go with specialists. These people are much better at networking then we could ever hope to be.”