When given the chance recently to present technical director of Evolution Studios Scott Kirkland with some questions, we took the opportunity to ask about the development of Motorstorm and where he sees future development efforts on the Playstation 3 as heading.
B3D: Earlier this year you were quoted in the press release
announcing version 4.5 of Havok's SDK; how closely have Evolution and
Havok worked together throughout the development of Motorstorm, and
to what extent has Havok formed a foundation for Motorstorm's
Scott Kirkland: Since adopting Havokâ€™s physics middleware, Evolution and Havok have worked in very close collaboration. While Havokâ€™s engineers concentrated on refining their core functionality and tools, our internal physics programmers were able to focus on MotorStormâ€™s application of physics... creating the gameâ€™s compelling vehicle dynamics systems, environmental interaction, and spectacular destruction.
B3D: In your mind, what would you say has been the most
significant in-house tool development at Evolution to have come out
of the Motorstorm project?
Scott Kirkland: We put a lot of effort into the development of real time remote (socket API) debugging tools. These included screen and AV capture, memory allocation tracking and hierarchical performance analysis of instrumented code. This work will provide the foundation for a much broader suite of tools to collect valuable statistics and allow our artists to interactively configure aspects of future products.
B3D: Will the next project out of Evolution continue to
build upon the Motorstorm engine, or is the present expectation that
work for a new title will commence with a clean slate from the engine
Scott Kirkland: During the development of MotorStorm our team learned a great deal about PlayStation3 exploitation and production process refinement. While much of this knowledge fed directly into our systems, some items had to be put on hold due to their more radical nature. As we progress, these areas will be subjected to some serious re-factoring to provide increased performance both at runtime and during development.
SPU usage is a good example. The progressive development of corresponding debugging and profiling tools made thorough exploitation of this powerful resource quite challenging for the less technically biased members of the team. In the aftermath of MotorStorm, with mature tools at our disposal, weâ€™ve been developing mechanisms to make the PPU and SPUâ€™s power and parallelism far more accessible to our entire team, re-thinking data organization and algorithms in the process. MotorStorm only uses between 15 and 20 percent of available SPU resource, so weâ€™re aiming to achieve a 5 fold increase in SPU performance, which should allow us to do some awesome stuff!
B3D: Cell's ability to assist RSX in rendering operations has been a topic of much debate and speculation of late. Was Cell used in Motorstorm to perform any lighting, vertex, or other transform work?
Scott Kirkland: We donâ€™t use the Cellâ€™s SPUs in this way at the moment. All of our lighting and transformation work is done in the RSXâ€™s pixel and vertex shaders.
B3D: Many thanks for your answers thus far Scott - one last
question before we go. Sony Worldwide Studios has seemed very
involved in assisting the efforts of closely-affiliated developers,
and Phil Harrison in particular has seemed very excited about the
title. To what extent would you say Sony WWS provided a hand in
aiding Evolution with the development of Motorstorm?
Scott Kirkland: We have had a close relationship with Sony ever since our early days as the PS2 World Rally Championship developer. Sony trusted us with the WRC license, even though we were just a small team with no console experience, just a big sack of talent and enthusiasm. Phil has often visited our studio and knows most of us personally â€“ we certainly never felt neglected by SCEE and their tech guys were always willing to answer our queries. That said, it is the guys at Studio Liverpool who we work most closely with, and they are top guys.