Ahead of the tech curve

June 01, 2009

Many days ago, I was a part time programming contractor for Origin Systems. I worked on a couple of canceled Commode 64 titles and helped with the conversations in Ultima V. When that project was completed I spent some time with Rich Garriott mostly to try to continue to have work to do. He was working on Ultima VI technology and I asked him a newbie type question: "Why are you working on tools that will help you create a game when few in the public have the processing and graphics power to play it?".

The answer might be obvious: "By the time the game comes out, it will be more common". He was thinking two years ahead, when I was thinking of today. It was a great lesson that I have carried with me ever since.

The one genre that must always push the tech edge is First Person Shooters. I worked on a couple of these and if the schedule is pushed out at all, the ugly head of "XXX game looks better" rears! And its also hard to argue with.

I've only worked on a couple of console systems and I was surprised o find that although the hardware is set in stone, the programmers were still expected to make ghames that looked better or did more with each generation.

While I was at SEGA, one of my bosses was approached by the marketing department.  They needed something to put in their print ads that showed SEGA had something better than Nintendo. They both had the same processor speed, basically the same graphics power... s0o we had to have some edge.  He called a meeting... we all bounced ideas around and out of know where, he said: "How about Blast Processing".  We all laughed.  There was nothing in the Genesis that blasted anything, but it sounded fast.

I think I'll just say that he was ahead of the marketing tech curve, and let it go at that.




J├Ârgen said...

I think this is so true at this date too; business managers often only see the business and not technology in its right context (independent of business type). And thats ok as long as they have reliable producers/project managers in their staff who provides good data to make descions from.

The main concern might be how fast the developers can grow into the platform and produce stunning visuals etc from an ancient hardware. That is perhaps a two sided coin; the faster the console develops (i.e. sells great games and give pay back to the investors), the faster the next generation of consoles may appear. As you (almost) say: "Think for tomorrow"

But then we have the PS2, good things die hard :)

Mac said...

Great comment! I think its still viable to include the PS2 in your business plan as there are so many of them still out in the wild.

Which begs the question, will we ever stop making games for the DS? That might be grist for another post... :)