TimeShift interview: PS3 version, state of Russian development

TimeShift is the first major game from Saber, a studio run out of New Jersey with the bulk of its development staff in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In Gamasutra's interview, VP of production, Andrey Iones, talks about the unique structure of the developer, the strengths of working with in-house tech, and working on a title that switched publishers during development as well as being sent back for a year of re-development after originally being completed in 2006.

Andrey Iones discusses the Russian game development market, praises programming and art skills, but suggests "you can't find people like designers and producers" for larger games in the still-growing market.

On the fifth page of the interview they are talking about these:
- How it's been to develop the PlayStation 3 version of TimeShift?
- Why are there a great deal of significant games that are running late on the PlayStation 3?
- Is there something that going to bring the PlayStation 3 to the forefront?

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Kururo3891d ago

"AI: I believe both systems are pretty similar in terms of what they can achieve. Things like having, for example, a [guaranteed] hard drive on the PlayStation 3 allows you to do certain things which you can't do if you don't have it on the Xbox 360, but even that is kind of obsolete. The Xbox 360 is coming out with a built-in hard drive, and they're calling those systems that don't have a hard drive obsolete."

industry insider slip?

Greysturm3891d ago

And i expect it to at least last a year before they discontinue it.

Anego Montoya FTMFW3891d ago

One thing I want to ask about the PS3 SKU is that it's coming out a little after the Xbox 360 and PC SKUs. Can you talk about how it's been to develop the PlayStation 3 version of the game?

AI: We started to work on PlayStation 3 about a year ago. I believe the PlayStation 3 implementation went pretty smoothly. Obviously, we had to spend some time trying to understand the hardware, and figuring out all the details -- things like multithreading and SPUs, and the rendering features of the hardware. But ultimately, the PlayStation 3 SKU is going to be released only three weeks after the Xbox 360 SKU, which is, I believe, a pretty significant achievement on Saber's and Vivendi's part.

It's not easy to master the hardware. You definitely have to put a lot of resources and people on it. But it's a really, really great piece of hardware. You can do a lot with it. Right now, if you run the PlayStation 3 and the 360 version side-by-side, they will look pretty much the same.

If you look at the multiplatform games that are coming out this fall, there are a great deal of significant games that are running late on the PlayStation 3. Stranglehold was about two months, and The Orange Box isn't out yet, even though it's out on the other platforms. There are other examples. Why do you think that is? What do you think is holding it back?

AI: That's a really good question. I can only explain why Saber managed to put the PlayStation 3 version of the game out within this year, and all those other companies having trouble publishing the SKU, I believe stems from the fact that the Xbox 360 was around for a longer time, so people have a much better understanding of the pipelines and the architecture.

Granted, Xbox 360 architecture is a little more straightforward than the PlayStation 3's, so you have to allocate people to PlayStation 3 SKUs, and let them figure out how to take advantage of it, and make sure that it has a good framerate, and that you fit all that you have into the PlayStation 3's memory. TimeShift proves that it can be done with great quality. Like I said, if you compare the two versions, they run at similar framerates, and the quality of the picture is the same.

But you need to allocate really significant resources. People are probably a little bit concerned about not having enough PlayStation 3 retail units out there, and they're focused on getting PC and Xbox 360 out first and foremost, and they just didn't have enough resources on the PlayStation 3. That's my explanation. But clearly it's a hardware that can run really well, but it's pretty demanding.

People do talk about the difficulty of working with the Cell processor, and they talk about the RAM situation. But there's also little things, like the OS takes up more memory on the PlayStation 3. BlackSite recently announced that they're dropping voice chat from the PlayStation 3 version. Are these things... do they all contribute? Is any one significant, or do you think it's a large number of small problems?

AI: I believe it's a large number of small problems. I don't think there is one thing. There's nothing in particular that can't be overcome. Obviously, things like voice, like you mentioned, do require a significant amount of memory and CPU power, which is even more important, but the Xbox 360 was out for two years, and the PlayStation 3 was out one year. They're still working on tools, and they're working out the kinks of the technology.

But our experience proves that if you put enough experienced engineers on those types of challenging technical tasks, you can definitely resolve them all. Make sure you do feed into memory, you do have good framerates, and you don't downres your textures so that it looks like sh!t. It just doesn't happen. But it does require a significant investment on the tech part.

If you have your own technology that allows you to fully leverage the complexities of the hardware, you can put it how you want. Whereas if you're running on somebody else's, you might have limited access to how you can configure it, and how you can optimize various aspects of the game, like loading times, feeding into memory, performance. If you have specific technologies such as [time] reversal, for example, you don't have all the control you need. Having our own tech really allows us to fully embrace this hardware.

actas1233891d ago

Thanx for the summary. Its much better then the original lengthy article.

Charlie26883891d ago

I finished TimeShift the other week, if you like FPS I recommend you this game and remember the demo is one of those cases that might give you the wrong impression (if you liked it well that is good too :P) since the first episode (the city) is rather generic for a FPS BUT after that EVERYTHING just keeps getting better and better :D

Morbius4203890d ago

I just finished it today and I'm glad I didn't decide to get it based on the demo. I just thought the premise for the game sounded like fun and although it isn't GOTY quality it was @ least fun and that's what a game should be.

FPS nut3890d ago

I doesn't matter what system this game is on it's not worth waiting for.