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Q&A: Emergent's Selzer, Johnson Rebut Epic Claims

Following Gamasutra's recent interview with Epic's Mark Rein, we spoke to chairman and CEO Geoff Selzer and president Scott Johnson of rival engine firm Emergent
Gamasutra recently conducted an in-depth interview with Epic's Mark Rein, spanning a variety of topics surrounding the Unreal Engine. Among the subjects discussed, Rein commented on rival Gamebryo engine developer Emergent (Oblivion), questioning both Emergent's internationalization strategy and their recent announcement that Gamebryo now supports Wii development. Said Rein in the interview, "You hear the Gamebryo guys say, 'Well, now we run on the Wii!' Well, you always ran on the Gamecube, so it's not like... anything that runs on the Gamecube also runs on the Wii, so they made an announcement out of nothing, I guess." Gamasutra recently spoke to Emergent chairman and CEO Geoff Selzer and president Scott Johnson, who wanted to rebut Rein's comments in some detail. "We have an awful lot of respect for Unreal," Selzer stresses. "There are just some things here that indicated a lack of understanding of some of our core direction and core values." "We haven’t done any speed races between different engines out there," he continued, "but the battle in the marketplace is not who has incrementally the fastest engine – we all provide, or at least Unreal provides, and we provide, world-class solutions to all three platforms. We just have very different philosophies." 1.x Versus 2.x "We're a horizontal solution," he says. "It's a very different philosophy than an engine like Crytek or Epic has -- those are very vertical solutions, they're extremely powerful and offer good toolsets for specific types of games. When you want to build other types of experiences using the core technology, you want tech like Gamebryo to be designed precisely for flexibility and customization." Continues Selzer, "The point that I think Mark brought up about our Wii solution -- that Wii is basically an overclocked GameCube -- there’s some real truth to that, there's nothing incorrect about that statement." But Selzer delineates a clear difference between Emergent's first-gen, single-threaded engine for GameCube and PC and their current, multi-threaded engine for PS3, Xbox 360, multi-core PC and Wii. He says core technology and runtime aren't the point -- it's the context in which that technology is deployed. Selzer explains the decision to make "a bunch of fuss" around their Wii solutions was a carefully-calculated one. "Our GameCube [solution] was not built on our 2.x platform, it was built on our 1.x platform," he explains. "So when we decided to launch the Wii SKU, we had a lot of internal discussion -- Do we want to launch the Wii SKU with a lot of publicity?" Johnson added, "We are in pretty deep conversations with Sony on a number of fronts, we’re in conversations with Intel on a number of fronts, all having to do with next-gen game engines. So when we announced the Wii we were very afraid that somebody like... I dunno, Mark Rein... might say something like ‘oh yeah, that’s just their old engine,’ when in fact it’s a huge step forward in the marketplace. We’ve only been able to do what we wanted to do for Wii because of our next gen platform in the marketplace." Selzer continues, "The answer was yes, for only one reason. That’s because our customer base was fundamentally asking for it. Our customers always come first. We don’t build games, we don’t build technology for specific games, we build flexible technology for many different types of games." Internationalizing Selzer also discussed Emergent's international footprint, giving further detail into their recent partnership with Acquire to form a Japanese branch, in light of comments by Rein that "that's not our style, to go through a middleman or a distributor. What would be ideal for us would be to have a native, fluent Japanese speaker who is also a fluent, conversational English speaker." Highlighted Johnson, "The head of our business development has spoken Japanese for 20 years, and for the majority of his career has been working in Japan, speaking Japanese in the game industry, and it was strongly his initiative that got us to do a partnership over there." Continues Johnson, "In Japan, we know it's difficult to get into the internal areas of an industry just by setting up an office over there. So we created a partnership with a company that uses our technology. And it's very well respected in Japan, has a terrific relationship with both Nintendo and Sony and a terrific relationship with us, and we believe that’s the best way to provide these services and technology into the Japanese market." Johnson also notes that Emergent works with a reseller in Korea, and says they sell more tech into the game industry than any other supplier in that country. Additionally, the company's getting set to announce some further initiatives in China. "And because of how greatly we've scaled there, we've decided to do that as a partnership as well." "The partners that we’ve created these strategic relationships with over in Asia were relationships we had as our customers first," Johnson adds. "They were very collaborative relationships with a lot of dialogue, and that really speaks to the direction we are headed as an organization." He continues, "We’re putting our money where our mouth is in growing territories with relationships that we have and people that we've worked with in the past, and we’ll continue to do that, as opposed to just trying to find somebody with a lot of marketshare in a particular region and develop a cold relationship. The Emergent team feels positively about their flexible engine solution, and are looking forward to the future. "There are some opportunities for us to create some low-level standardization of the more difficult problems this industry faces over this generation and the generation beyond this one, and those are the things that we’re working on," says Selzer. He continues, "You'll see some lessons coming out of the enterprise world being brought into this world with absolutely no sacrifice being made for the flexibility of what developers want to create."

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