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Q&A: Futuremark Sets A New Benchmark With Games

3D benchmark developer Futuremark (3DMark) has announced a move into game development with the establishment of its Futuremark Games Studio, and Gamasutra quizzes sales and marketing VP Oliver Baltuch on the company's plans.
3D benchmark developer Futuremark (3DMark) has announced a move into game development with the establishment of its Futuremark Games Studio, and Gamasutra quizzes sales and marketing VP Oliver Baltuch on the company's plans. Futuremark isn't the first technology company to enter into the game space, with euphoria and endorphin motion synthesis technology company NaturalMotion announcing late in 2007 the forthcoming football title Backbreaker, but Baltuch said the decision to enter the market came much earlier. "Back in 2006, when I joined the company, we'd been doing purely benchmarks, and our board of directors challenged us to grow our business. The number of PC vendors was shrinking, which we saw conclusively with ATI being bought by AMD, and SiS pulling back from the PC 3D business," he says. "But," he continues, "the number of PC users and especially enthusiast gamers was increasing, which is why we chose to pursue creating games. We decided that we have all he right type of people and engines and desire to make games, but we wanted to do so very, very carefully." Because the company already has a dedicated discussion board and online results browser -- some 3 million, by the company's estimation, with 10 to 12 million downloading its benchmarking software every year, Futuremark conducted surveys amongst that network of high end gamers and decided, based on the results, that there was a prime opportunity to start creating its own game based on an original IP. "Our audience has been requesting a game from us for a very, very long time that looks like the scenes in our benchmarks," he adds. "The company has spent the past two years building out an engine," Baltuch continues, "researching the different tools and engines we'd need, how we'd organize development, and we've been working on the game itself for about a year and a half." Though Futuremark isn't prepared to give any further details on the game itself including a proposed genre, it has reached the point in development where the company has started "doing a proper search for publisher," but "the first step is to announce that we have established a Futuremark Games Studio." Asked if he expects its first title to be available at retail, as opposed to a downloadable, Baltuch agrees, but says any such plans would be determined by whichever publisher the company signs with. "We've done other games for semiconductor companies -- technology demos and game demos -- but we've never really done our own game to be sold to the public at large," he adds, "so we're taking the best advice from publishers and the press such as yourselves." "Though our staff is good at engines and art, the big thing that we spent more time on is gameplay," he continues. "That's the most important area -- if it doesn't have good gameplay, there's no reason to get out of bed." Asked about the experience of the team behind the game, Baltuch noted that the some 30-strong team of artists and engineers have had level- and game design experience, as well as experience with the Assembly demoscene group, including executive producer Jukka Mäkinen, also Futuremark's PC business unit VP, and producer Jaakko Haapasalo. Finally, we asked Baltuch if the company had plans to bring its technology to the market for other developers in the future. "That's really dependent on whether someone comes to us and wants it," he admitted. "The pipeline and the engines that are currently built are fairly generic, to get from XSI to our engine technology, but the engine itself is a brand new modern engine," he explained. "We support licensing," Baltuch ventured, "but against Mark Rein and the guys at Epic -- they have a team of 60 just working on licensing, and we're very much not right there." "I'll err on the side of extreme modesty here," he laughs. "Those guys are the best when it comes to licensing things."

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