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tech: Don't take the Weather(TM) with you
Posted on Friday, July 30 @ 17:55:20 CEST by julian

Geek

A big change is set for the gaming industry this month with the giant Electronic Arts gobbling up Criterion Software, makers of the widely hailed Renderware brand of middleware.

While the change will juggle chairs at the not-so-round table of mass title game-development, it also heralds a tectonic shift in the look'n'feel of many games we'll be playing in future...

Renderware is used by many feature game products, like Grand Theft Auto and Sonic Heroes, as a plug'n'play solution for engine developers needing high end rendering and physics in their own product.

This is significant for the blockbuster game market, and also for smaller developers; now that EA own the technology, will companies that have built up a portfolio with this middleware still be interested in licensing it as a third party product? I doubt it.. No longer on the same competitive turf with the maker of the worlds best B-Grade games, they'll just look elsewhere, to open-source solutions or other emerging middleware vendors.

Middleware supposedly speeds up the development cycle, but at a chunky cost - even more if you want to manipulate the middleware code itself, which ships as precompiled binary files in most cases (they are 'linked against' by other modules of the engine at runtime).

More interestingly however, moments like this in the industry offer a refreshing change to the very feeling of the games we are used to playing; the lighting recipes, texture processing and mesh drawing have been touched by the brush of Criterion more often than we are aware...

Code is Culture, but in the case of games, the relation is deeper. Code uniquely governs the appearance, playability and even the ontolgoy of worlds in which millions of people will 'invest' their time, in subtle but pervasive ways. This is the danger of centralised code-bases in game-development. I'll say it again, diversity is strength.


 
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