Gamebryo has powered some of the popular last generation games such as Bully: Scholarship Edition and Catherine but for the last few years they have been keeping a low profile. Feeling intrigued by the continued absence of any news and updates from Gamebase, the company that is behind Gamebryo, GamingBolt decided to get in touch with them.
In a pretty revealing interview with Gamebase’s executives Bryan Tarlowski and Yoonjae Hwang, it seems that the engine is undergoing a major transformation. So what exactly they have been working on? Read on to find out.
Rashid Sayed: The Gamebryo engine has been a massive success, powering some of the biggest hits of the last two generations so far. Why have you guys kept a low profile for these last few years?
The last few years have been a transitory phase for Gamebase, between last generation and next generation. The team has been preparing for a major overhaul of Gamebryo, involving architecture-level changes to support future technologies. In the progress of this development, the importance of mobile game has continued to increase. In order to achieve these 2 different goals, high-quality graphics and scalability, our team has spent the last few years focusing on large development.
Rashid Sayed: Recently, Epic and Unity have all announced cheap access and subscription models to their engines. Gamebryo is apparently still only available as a purchase (either in the form of binaries, or the full source code). In light of changing market conditions, are you looking at changing your market model as well?
The change to subscription models is a very interesting development. It’s similar to what we have seen Adobe do with the Creative Cloud plan. The Adobe Creative Cloud plan is a great way to stretch the dollar for part time graphic designers, with the ability to turn off the service during slow months and turn it back on when projects come around. Our usual customer for Gamebryo have been large development teams, these customers are not interested in a royalty fee back end which comes with the monthly plan. These customers need a solution for hundreds of developers; the subscription model doesn’t meet their needs. However, small teams have been making amazing and interesting games. We would like to have these developers use Gamebryo,so we are investigating new pricing structures to go with our new technology.
"Rapid Iteration and real-time hot updates will increase production efficiency by unblocking artists, designers and programmers working on different platforms. Developers can iterate with gameplay mechanics, look-and-feel, and art assets in more detail with less time, to get your game looking and playing the way you want on any platform."
Rashid Sayed: What are the technical changes you have made to the engine and its source code to ensure that it will be competitive and up to players’ expectations from the PS4 and Xbox One?
One of the key trends in the latest rendering APIs is command buffer based rendering, which enables multi-core CPU utilization for sending graphics commands to GPU, Gamebryo is making progress in increasing this functionality. Also, rather than forcing developers to use a specific lighting/shading scheme like physically based rendering, we are working to offer more flexible material system that allows artists to express their imagination intuitively. To that end, our artists tools, including DCC tool plugins will be deeply integrated to Max/Maya in order to aid artists in producing more detailed in-game graphics.
Rashid Sayed: Given the engine’s modular and highly saleable nature, how easy has the latest iteration of engine made it easier for multiplatform development across PC, PS4, Xbox One?
Gamebryo is built on a one common architecture, but is specifically targeted and optimized for each platform. This will also apply to PS4 and Xbox Oneand Gamebryo will provide developers with the best multi-platform development experience. Rapid Iteration and real-time hot updates will increase production efficiency by unblocking artists, designers and programmers working on different platforms. Developers can iterate with gameplay mechanics, look-and-feel, and art assets in more detail with less time, to get your game looking and playing the way you want on any platform.
Rashid Sayed: Both the new consoles have extremely similar architecture but yet they are slightly different from each other. The PS4 has unified memory architecture and the Xbox One has an extremely fast memory in eSRAM. How is GameBryo taking advantage of these two similar yet distinct architectures?
Gamebryo implementations on each platform are written in a way to maximally utilize underlying hardware. But developers won’t need to take different code path because Gamebryo API encapsulates the different hardware capabilities. For example, on PS4, Gamebryo will try to reduce deep copies between CPU and GPU whenever possible, and on Xbox One, Gamebryo will put some of frequently accessed GPU resources on eSRAM according to their access pattern.
"Indirect lighting can be a key technology for next-gen graphics. Even though our focus for now is to improve direct lighting, Gamebryo’s render system is flexible enough to integrate those global illumination solutions effortlessly."
Rashid Sayed: PC as a platform has grown ridiculously in the last 2 years. We already have dual GPU cards in R295X2 which are light years ahead of the new consoles already. This is a major achievement in my opinion as the new consoles are not even six months old. How will GameBryo cater to the needs of high end PC games development?
Supporting high-end machines is as vitally important as supporting mobile devices for us. We are researching as to how we can move some of CPU-intensive operations to GPU so that we can get dramatic performance increase by utilizing thousands of compute units of high-spec video cards. Other than that, explicit multi-GPU programming using CUDA or Mantle is one of our research areas, which can be potentially more efficient than traditional alternate frame rendering.
Rashid Sayed: Tell us about LightSpeed. How has the product evolved in the last few years?
The biggest difference between Gamebryo LightSpeed and its previous iterations is game framework. Since the first release of LightSpeed, we have improved it with background entity loading, replication, flow water, terrain decoration and so on. Also we added new rendering features like light pre-pass renderer, and post-processing effect framework to our rendering stack.
Rashid Sayed: Lighting is now a major element in game engine these days. Geomerics seems to be doing a great job in that department. Then we also have the likes of Confetti who are pushing the visual boundaries with Global Illumination Technique. Tell us how you are using LightSpeed across the PS4, Xbox One and PC?
Indirect lighting can be a key technology for next-gen graphics. Even though our focus for now is to improve direct lighting, Gamebryo’s render system is flexible enough to integrate those global illumination solutions effortlessly. Gamebryo’s lack of indirect lighting can be compensated by that kind of middlewares and we think integrating them to Gamebryo can be the best of the both worlds.
Rashid Sayed: I have always maintained that terrain enhancement is one area where substantial enhancement has not been achieved. Are you guys working on this?
We’ve got many feedbacks on our terrain system and well aware of some of its weaknesses like limit of available resources per terrain sector. We are currently working on new improvements to the terrain, we agree!
Rashid Sayed: Given the rise of many major publishers’ insistence on using their own engines- EA, for example, uses Frostbite, or its EA Sports engines, for its games. Konami has Fox, and Ubisoft, Square Enix, Valve, all use their own internally developed engines. Do you see the market for middleware being adversely affected by these developments?
I could see middleware that is not adaptable being affected by the rising popularity of in house solutions. What interests some companies in Gamebryo is the ability to use their in house framework with our rendering solutions, or vice versa.
"Mantle enables us to share many rendering code for Xbox One and PS4 and brings many benefits even on PC like explicit Multi-GPU management. Also Mantle exposes more low-level features than DX12 as extensions."
Rashid Sayed: Let us shift our talk towards DirectX12. What kind of development benefits will this bring to PC/Xbox One games development when used with GameBryo?
Although it’s true that DirectX12 offers opportunities for better performance by allowing developers a lot of low-level control of graphics device, it also means that application needs to do explicitly a lot of book keeping and validation that video drivers used to do for us. Using Gamebryo can eliminate this kind of tedious work from developers while still obtaining all the benefits of DX12. Also Gamebryo abstracts away architectural differences between DX11 and DX12 like the removal of immediate context, so Gamebryo can help developers move to DX12 in the least intrusive way.
Rashid Sayed: Are you planning to include Mantle integration with GameBryo? Or does DX12 do enough of a job for giving low level access as it is?
Our engineers have been testing Mantle. Mantle enables us to share many rendering code for Xbox One and PS4 and brings many benefits even on PC like explicit Multi-GPU management. Also Mantle exposes more low-level features than DX12 as extensions. Although we are going to inevitably support DX12 as well, Mantle is definitely the key technology that we’d like to adopt for consoles and high-end PCs .
Rashid Sayed: GameBryo has essentially been used for developing vast open worlds. Fortunately the new generation is being slated an open world generation. This personally excites me since I loved what you guys did with Oblivion. Can you tell us the potential of GameBryo when used with PS4/Xbox One in order to create to massive game world?
One of the goals of next major update of Gamebryo is support of more massive world. Even though Gamebryo is a genre-agnostric game engine, many MMORPG games have been powered with Gamebryo and this area is definitely the part we’d like to improve. With more memory and processing power available on recent hardware, we are experimenting with various techniques to render massively large world.
Rashid Sayed: The new consoles have a ton of memory now. If you go 5 years back, I am sure you must have heard several developers complaining about limited memory on PS3 and Xbox 360. And now we have high end games which already require 8GB of memory. Are we going to see a repeat of what happened last gen and how will GameBryo tackle this memory issue?
In next release, Gamebryo will support 64-bit platforms, and 4GB RAM (or 3GB effectively) limit will be removed. Actually this is a requirement from the latest consoles and DCC tools. On top of it, recent graphics APIs and platforms support GPU virtual memory. Combining both of them will largely reduce the limited memory issue.