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Emergent: Game-Specific Engines Create 'Redundant Expenditures'

Development engines licensed from game companies create an inherent conflict, says Emergent CEO Geoffrey Selzer -- who suggests that genre and game-specific engine tech is creating a financial drain on the industry.
Development engines licensed from game developers and publishers create an inherent conflict, says Emergent CEO Geoffrey Selzer, as his company announces an evolution on its own game engine, Gamebryo LightSpeed. Adds Emergent president Scott Johnson: "We don't compete with our customer. We're not making games. and in that way, we are the only other engine company out there that can say that." The company also asserts that not only do engines that don't originate from existing games -- such as its own -- enjoy more specific customer support, but the genre specificity of game-based tools is ultimately limiting and expensive. "There's been this historical bias that the technology for building a game has to be dedicated to a single genre," says Selzer. "And that comes from the concept that engines were built around individual games." "Most of the game engines out there today have been built based upon a single game," says Selzer. "What happens is if you want to work outside of the context of the purpose that engine was built for, you have to refactor the technology -- you have to rebuild the tech to some extent." Qualifying the company's Gamebryo technology -- as used in titles like Warhammer Online and Civilization Revolution -- as modular, Selzer adds, "Every time you do that with a 'complete' solution, something else breaks." The result, according to Selzer, is redundant expenditures on these engine modifications. "Our estimates are that there is somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six hundred million dollars spent a year on core tech in this industry worldwide," he suggests. "At the very least, half of that are redundant expenditures -- probably more." Selzer calls the industry-wide concept that engines should be dedicated to specific game genres "not technically accurate," and suggests that agnostic solutions would trim budgets and work to the overall betterment of the industry. "This money being spent in redundant tech -- imagine the incredible games that would be created if we took that money and applied it towards pushing the creative direction of the game," he says. "We're not suggesting programmers don't live on game teams," he adds. "We're suggesting they do things specific to the games designers want to build, and this is the movement that's happening." Selzer and Johnson's comments came as they discussed the company's just-announced new realtime feedback and rapid prototyping technology, Gamebryo LightSpeed, with Gamasutra yesterday. The development of LightSpeed is backed by $12.5 million in venture capital funding, and the company will present it at this year's Game Developers Conference for the first time. "We're making some pretty declarative statements here," Selzer conceded as part of yesterday's interview. "And we've been working on this for three years... LightSpeed is the launch of the strategy we've been working on for a long time."

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