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News: Havok interview

by on April 16, 2007

Normally I wouldn’t point people to a game development tools company interview, but this one‘s pretty good. Havok, if you don’t know, is company that makes physics tools for developers, and has recently moved into animation. This interview was done primarily for developers of course, but I think people who simply want to know about the industry would find it interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that he explains some difficult concepts that lots of people speculate about, and wonder about, in language that I was able to understand. Stuff like whether the harddrive matters in the PS3 or 360, and why it’s tough to port from 360 to PS3, but not the other way around. The other reason I like this, and yes I’m tooting my own horn, is that I was very proud of myself for holding my own. Two years ago I never would’ve been able to do an interview with a tools company and make it even remotely interesting, or even know what they were talking about. I went into the interview with one question and wound up doing 20 minutes. Here’s a bit of the good stuff:

GS: At this stage, I’ve heard some people say that when starting with an Xbox 360 version, they have trouble getting the PS3 version to look as good later on. It’s interesting, because the PS3 is potentially more powerful.

JY: I think a lot of it has to do with slicing and dicing the task and moving it to each of the smaller processors. Those processors are really powerful, but you have to plan for it. We’ve spent the last two years re-architecturing our software so that you can have one interface that, when used appropriately, can get maximum use out of the SPUs. You do need to plan for that, and if you have one massive world presented as one object, it’s a little more challenging. It takes preparation.

GS: I suppose it’s because you can use bigger chunks on 360, whereas on PS3, you have to chop it up a lot more?

JY: Yeah, you have a more unified memory architecture on 360 and PC in general. I think that there are merits to both, though. If you can move the world over to many processors and structure the game so that you can dice stuff up, there’s a lot of leading-edge technology out there that seems to be going in that direction. That might just be one of those paradigm shifts that the software development component of the game industry goes through over the next five or ten years.

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