IRC Chat Transcript from IGN's moderated chat with Bioware's MDK2: Armageddon PS2 Development Team
We logged this IRC chat conducted by IGN with the Bioware team on November 14, 2000.
As with any live chat, it is a free forum. There may be questionable or offensive language contained herein that would not normally be found on GameVisions. GameVisions, nor the GV Staff members involved are responsible for any such thing. They are the words of the public who joined the chat, re-pasted in their entirety.
18:37:02 <MarcAudy_Bioware> is this going to moderated or out of control?
18:37:16 <Reverend-IGN> There, we are presently moderated.
18:37:32 <GregZ_BioWare> Marc, I think you're the only one out of control.
18:37:38 <Doug-IGN> Neither can be bribed at all, unless you have some really good beer...
18:37:52 <MarcAudy_Bioware> I would care to dispute that given the last bit of output
18:38:12 <GregZ_BioWare> You mean about the beer?
18:38:33 <KarlBioWareQA> mmmMMMmmm beer
18:38:50 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc -- go into the other, developer window, OK? And you know what I'm talking about when I'm talking about beer, you lushes...
18:39:58 <KarlBioWareQA> :)
18:40:15 <DavidBioWare> #ignpsx is the dev window?
18:40:47 <Reverend-IGN> Okay, I think we have a question about the Vector Units here: "I mean actually how this co-processor useful, as sony stated, for physics and how other advanced stuff is managed?"
18:42:00 <DavidBioWare> There are two vector units (VUs) that are specially designed to do vector and matrix arithmetic, as well as certain transcendental functions like sin, cos, pow, etc..
18:43:07 <DavidBioWare> The VUs can operate completely independently of the main CPU, which means you usually have to download microprograms to the VUs and get them to transform your level geometry independently. It can be challenging to leverage that power, but it's *very* powerful.
18:44:00 <DavidBioWare> Done.
18:44:09 <Doug-IGN> Marc and Greg: Is it really hard to make the game on PS2? And will you guys contiue to make games for PS2? (When you end an answer, please write the word "end," so we know when to put in another question).
18:44:34 <GregZ_BioWare> It's not easy to make games on ps2.
18:44:45 <GregZ_BioWare> then again, it's not particularly easy on any system.
18:45:08 <GregZ_BioWare> Once you've got a handle on the philosophy of the hardware design it gets a lot easier.
18:45:16 <MarcAudy_Bioware> Also, the system is very new to us and not similar to the pc platform so there is a steep learning curve
18:45:36 <GregZ_BioWare> We're starting to get a pretty good understanding of the PS2, so it's getting a bit easier.
18:45:51 <GregZ_BioWare> As far as other games on PS2, we're certainly keeping it open, though nothing is announced yet.
18:45:55 <GregZ_BioWare> end
18:46:01 <Reverend-IGN> Some more about VU0 in particular: "How do you divide the work between VU0 and VU1? How flexible are they in their work? I thought developers should use just the VU1 for T&L and the VU0 for other SIMD friendly stuff...can you give me some help on this?"
18:46:35 <DavidBioWare>reb> There's essentially no difference between VU0 and VU1
18:47:20 <DavidBioWare> VU0 is only different in that you can bind it more closely to the CPU if you like, using like an FPU coprocessor.
18:47:53 <DavidBioWare> Right now, we're mainly using VU0 in this "macro" mode, rather than having it run a microprogram independently.
18:48:21 <DavidBioWare> We have plans to take advantage of VU1 later, once we've got our engine feature complete and we're into optimisations.
18:48:22 <DavidBioWare> end
18:49:26 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: Is the famed 'synthesis' whereby you can create landscapes, trees and other objects procedurally solely the preserve of the PS2 or can X-Box ang GC reproduce them too?
18:50:12 <Reverend-IGN> \/mode #ignpsx +o DerrickBioWare
18:50:42 <GregZ_BioWare> Hmmm...
18:51:14 <DerrickBioWareQA> there I am! :) Thx Reverend
18:51:39 <GregZ_BioWare> I'm not too sure how to answer that one.
18:51:39 <DerrickBioWareQA> And thanks to Sadas too!
18:52:04 <Doug-IGN> OK, We'll try another one, Greg.
18:52:09 <GregZ_BioWare> In theory any system with a powerful processor should be able to procedurally generate content.
18:52:33 <GregZ_BioWare> It's more a function of what you're trying to make and the software routines you're using to generate it.
18:53:12 <DavidBioWare> Yep, the PS2 doesn't have a special "Generate landscape" coprocessor. :)
18:53:36 <GregZ_BioWare> Not to be confused with the make game button we install on all of our development machines.
18:54:25 <DavidBioWare> end
18:54:38 <GregZ_BioWare> that's right! end!
18:54:47 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: Seeing as how BioWare has developed on the PC and non-PS2 consoles, and with the PS2's hardware being a radically different design, you would imagine that the company would have some new things to get used to. My question is -- Is BioWare fully understanding the design philosophy of the PS2, and is this the really big challenge in programming for it?
18:54:54 <DavidBioWare> :)
18:55:06 <GregZ_BioWare> I can't say we fully understand the PS2 yet.
18:55:22 <GregZ_BioWare> It's the kind of machine we'll be able to work on for years and we'll still discover new things.
18:55:49 <GregZ_BioWare> It's certainly analgous to the PSOne - the games have really been getting better throughout it's lifespan.
18:56:06 <GregZ_BioWare> So far, I can say we have a much better understanding of the PS2.
18:56:20 <GregZ_BioWare> And if we were to do a game from scratch for the PS2 we'd have a good idea on how to approach it.
18:56:33 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
18:57:17 <Reverend-IGN> More of a design thing: Has Armageddon evolved since you last talked about it, or are you still essentially aiming for a PS2 version of the DC/PC original?
18:57:40 <GregZ_BioWare> The direction is the same - but we've managed to further refine the gameplay.
18:58:06 <GregZ_BioWare> Sony recently had a look at it and they were very pleased on how MDK2 Armageddon was looking.
18:58:31 <GregZ_BioWare> The most significant difference between the other versions is in both the controls and the gameplay.
18:59:03 <GregZ_BioWare> There's something very satisfying in playing MDK2 on the PS2, using the dual shock controller, that wasn't present in any other version.
18:59:06 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
18:59:23 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: What was Sony most pleased with? And can you describe some of the ways in which the controls are better?
19:00:16 <GregZ_BioWare> Sony felt MDK2 Armageddon was the best version of MDK2.
19:01:03 <GregZ_BioWare> They felt the gameplay improvements we've made (overall better balancing and reworking parts of every level), combined with the difficulty levels and slick controls really make the MDK2 Armageddon for PS2 the definitive version of the game.
19:01:32 <GregZ_BioWare> It got great reviews on the other platforms, so we're really excited to see what people think about it for PS2.
19:01:46 <GregZ_BioWare> As far as the controls, there's simply a huge variety of options.
19:02:21 <GregZ_BioWare> Because there are essentially 4 different axial controls (dpad, 2 analogs and action buttons), and we require use of three of them, we can really mix it up.
19:02:40 <GregZ_BioWare> For example, I like to play using both analog sticks - one for camera and the other for moving.
19:03:22 <GregZ_BioWare> Todd Morgan, our producer at Interplay, uses the d-pad to move and right analog for camera..
19:03:43 <GregZ_BioWare> There will be a comfortable way to play for everyone.
19:03:43 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:04:17 <Reverend-IGN> Tech fun again!: "In the last chat you said that low video RAM was limiting things like the textures and Anti-Aliasing. Isn't there some way you can take some Main RAM and assign it to be video RAM? And if not, why?"
19:05:01 <DavidBioWare> Yes, the video memory situation has improved dramatically since last time.
19:05:37 <DavidBioWare> The problem was that there was too little video memory to fit all our textures, and the machine can't use a texture unless it's specifically in video memory.
19:06:07 <DavidBioWare> What we've found since then is that the PS2 has enough bus bandwidth to transfer each texture from main memory to video memory as it's needed.
19:07:18 <DavidBioWare> That's on the order to 100s of Mb per second. We hadn't anticipated that the PS2 had that kind of brute horsepower on its bus. No other machine I've used does, including any PC or the Dreamcast.
19:07:44 <DavidBioWare> We had to reorient our thinking after that. :) So now we have almost more texture memory than we know what to do with.
19:07:45 <DavidBioWare> end
19:09:15 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: Can you talk a little about the game's story? What is the story, and who are the characters, and what makes them unique? Do they play differently?
19:09:29 <GregZ_BioWare> Sure.
19:09:50 <GregZ_BioWare> Essentially MDK2 Armageddon takes place immediately after the conclusion of MDK1.
19:10:21 <GregZ_BioWare> It features three characters - Kurt Hectic - the janitor who puts on the famed coil suit and saves the world in MDK1.
19:10:47 <GregZ_BioWare> Max the 6 legged dog - his faithful sidekick and all-rough tough character.
19:11:19 <GregZ_BioWare> And the irrascible Doctor Fluke Hawkins - the nutty inventor, on whose space ship Max and Kurt live.
19:11:31 <GregZ_BioWare> That's the run down of the characters.
19:12:10 <GregZ_BioWare> During the game the player takes over each of the three characters, independently, on their own levels as they defend the Earth against the evil Streamriding Aliens.
19:12:22 <GregZ_BioWare> The story is told within the game via a number of in-game cut scenes.
19:12:51 <GregZ_BioWare> It's a very story drive action game with a ton of variety in gameplay. For goodness sake, you even play as a fish named Chuckleberry Finn!
19:13:19 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:14:07 <Reverend-IGN> Middleware: "Did you make use of any middleware tools to facilitate the work? How important to you view middleware in tackling a system as complex as PS2?"
19:14:33 <DavidBioWare> Not sure what you mean by middleware.
19:14:51 <DavidBioWare> We certainly used a 3rd party compiler and debugger from SN Systems, called ProDG.
19:14:54 <GregZ_BioWare> Things like Renderware (third-party graphics API)
19:15:14 <DavidBioWare> But if you're talking about a middleware API environment on the PS2 itself, no.
19:15:34 <GregZ_BioWare> In general our philosophy at BioWare is that we prefer systems that we build.
19:15:42 <DavidBioWare> We're using the hardware directly, and some of the standard developer libraries that Sony supplies.
19:15:50 <GregZ_BioWare> It's hard to have a totally unique game, if you don't do it from scratch.
19:16:11 <GregZ_BioWare> In some cases middleware is very helpful - e.g. movie players and sound libraries.
19:16:27 <GregZ_BioWare> But as far as a totally packaged "engine in a box" - that's something we tend to avoid.
19:16:38 <DavidBioWare> Yes, Greg's right. Particularly in games, where speed is one of the most important programming goals, the inefficiency of middleware is something we usually avoid.
19:16:51 <GregZ_BioWare> See - David and I actually agree!
19:17:02 <DavidBioWare> No, we don't. ;)
19:17:52 <GregZ_BioWare> end
19:18:09 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: Does MDK really mean Murder Death Kill? Or does it mean something else? And why did you guys choose this name? (From Doug: Or rather, why did SHINY name it this?)
19:18:27 <DavidBioWare> lol!
19:18:27 <GregZ_BioWare> We believe it mean Many Dangerous Kangaroos.
19:18:42 <DerrickBioWareQA> or Max, Doc, Kurt
19:18:44 <DavidBioWare> Mother Doesn't Know. Neither does Shiny. :)
19:18:48 <GregZ_BioWare> We took all the Kangaroos out, but the game is really all about them.
19:19:30 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:19:35 <MarcAudy_Bioware> I once heard that it stands for the home towns of the three of the lead developers at shiny - but i'm sure taht was vicious rumor
19:19:41 <Brad_BioWare> Milk, Dumplings and Kubasa
19:19:44 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:19:45 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:19:57 <DerrickBioWareQA> end :)
19:19:59 <KarlBioWareQA> The objective is to find all the none kangaroos
19:19:59 <GregZ_BioWare> It must remain one of the unsolved mysteries.
19:20:09 <KarlBioWareQA> err non
19:20:26 <DerrickBioWareQA> Karl lives!
19:20:32 <GregZ_BioWare> Leonard Nimoy went through the office doing an "In Search Of" (the meaning of MDK) episode.
19:20:39 <Reverend-IGN> More generally tech: "Many say the PS2 doesn't have a well-balanced architecture - what would you say?"
19:21:09 <DavidBioWare> Well-balanced? Hmm.
19:21:13 <MarcAudy_Bioware> I would say that I don't really understand what they mean by "well-balanced architecture"
19:21:19 <DavidBioWare> Let's say this:
19:21:35 <GregZ_BioWare> Many say that.
19:21:56 <Brad_BioWare> We say it quietly...
19:22:21 <DavidBioWare> It's got a really powerful graphics chip, powerful vector math units, fast CPU, two complex sound cores, and a fast bus to link them all together.
19:22:40 <DavidBioWare> Making all of these powerful parts work together is the nasty part!
19:22:49 <DavidBioWare> :)
19:22:50 <DavidBioWare> end
19:23:14 <Reverend-IGN> And to settle a common one: "How many levels are in MDK2A?"
19:23:30 <GregZ_BioWare> Strangely enough that's a difficult question.
19:23:43 <GregZ_BioWare> Part A - there are 9 levels, one for each character.
19:24:02 <GregZ_BioWare> Part B - there is a 10th level, but there are three different versions of it, one for each character.
19:24:13 <DavidBioWare> And then there's the secret Kangaroo level...
19:24:23 <GregZ_BioWare> So there are either 10 or 12 levels in MDK2A - that is the same number as there were in the DC and PC versions.
19:24:36 <DerrickBioWareQA> that Kangaroo level is a though one to find though...
19:24:39 <GregZ_BioWare> Though, there have been changes made throughout all of the levels in MDK2 A.
19:24:49 <GregZ_BioWare> There is no Kangaroo level.
19:25:08 <DerrickBioWareQA> ahh, that would explain why I couldn't find it :)
19:25:10 <DavidBioWare> Dang!
19:25:16 <GregZ_BioWare> Much as we would like one, there just isnt.
19:25:22 <GregZ_BioWare> Remember - no kangaroos.
19:25:23 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:25:34 <KarlBioWareQA> you mean me and my boys have been searching for it for the last year, and it's not there?????
19:25:46 <Doug-IGN> Come on guys, come clean with the kangaroos...
19:25:54 <Brad_BioWare> ...great...now you blown the secret to keeping QA motivated!
19:26:03 <DavidBioWare> That's NOT a Kangaroo in my pocket!
19:26:18 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: What are your inspirations for level design? Also, how good is the PS2 for sound synthesis?
19:27:58 <GregZ_BioWare> The artist set out to make levels unlike any seen before.
19:28:22 <GregZ_BioWare> Some levels are familiar (e.g. the Jim Dandy - the doctor's ship).
19:28:38 -> * gregz_bioware* here's another idea for the meaning of MDK, keeping with the theme: Musical Dancing Kangaroos
19:28:42 <GregZ_BioWare> While others are totally otherworldly - most of the alien landscapes of Swizzle Firma.
19:29:25 <GregZ_BioWare> As far as sound - the PS2 has some nice features.
19:29:56 <GregZ_BioWare> But the one that was missing that really surprised us was playing CD audio - it's added some extra work we wouldn't have anticipated.
19:30:42 <GregZ_BioWare> It's a bit of a challenge getting the entire sound system to work because we're juggling so many different streaming audio sources...
19:30:44 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:30:47 <DavidBioWare> Charles is the programmer doing the sound system, and he could give you more detail, but he's not here tonight, unfortunately.
19:30:50 <DavidBioWare> end
19:31:04 <GregZ_BioWare> He got FFIX and suddenly disappeared!
19:31:25 <DavidBioWare> =)
19:31:26 <Reverend-IGN> More sound: Do you mean the system doesn't support redbook audio in-game? Also, will you be using 2.0-channel surround sound?
19:32:25 <DavidBioWare> That's a fuzzy area. The new PS2 sound chips don't support playing back CD audio tracks.
19:33:13 <DavidBioWare> Sony recommends that you stream audio data off the CD in a slightly different format, decode it in chunks and send those chunks to the sound chip. It's a lot more cumbersome, but it does allow us to compress our music and voice files a bit.
19:33:35 <DavidBioWare> end
19:33:54 <DavidBioWare> Oh, sorry stereo, I forgot!
19:34:30 <DavidBioWare> We haven't made a final decision on stereo or mono for the music. It mostly depends on how much space we have left on the CD once our other resources are in place.
19:35:03 <DavidBioWare> The PS2 CD is smaller than the Dreamcast GD-ROM. There's also the complexity of interleaving the channels while streaming.
19:35:09 <DavidBioWare> We'll see how it develops.
19:35:19 <DavidBioWare> end
19:35:22 <Doug-IGN> Marc and Greg: Will you guys put a two-player co-op mode in the game? It would be a lot of fun! Maybe even a four-player deathmatch? And if not, why not?
19:36:09 <GregZ_BioWare> We had always planned to make MDK2 a great single player experience.
19:36:16 <MarcAudy_Bioware> The game is inherently designed as a single player game.
19:36:37 <GregZ_BioWare> We never planned add any multiplayer - primarily because we felt it would detract from the single player game.
19:36:48 <GregZ_BioWare> So - we're sticking with that for MDK2 Armageddon.
19:36:50 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:37:01 <Reverend-IGN> Formats: Why did you choose CD over DVD?
19:37:15 <DavidBioWare> :) That decision isn't final yet either.
19:37:43 <GregZ_BioWare> Most likely it's CD, but we've got a lot of data.... we've got our fingers crossed.
19:38:01 <GregZ_BioWare> The main reason to go CD is because we're familiar with it..
19:38:02 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:38:33 <Reverend-IGN> Secrets: Is there anything you earn for completing the game or other special hidden stuff?
19:39:03 <Doug-IGN> Such as...kangaroos, platipusses, wombats?
19:39:04 <GregZ_BioWare> There are a number of secrets throughout the game.
19:39:42 <GregZ_BioWare> Not many assorted marsupials, but instead things like pictures of the development team with associated Wu Tang Clan names...
19:39:48 <MarcAudy_Bioware> Some of them can be found on the 'easter egg' sites, some have yet to be discovered, some will be all new
19:39:51 <GregZ_BioWare> And a number of other silly stuff.
19:40:26 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:41:55 <Doug-IGN> Greg and Marc: just a few more questions... Are there any women on your development team?
19:42:13 <MarcAudy_Bioware> no
19:42:16 <DavidBioWare> ... not as such...
19:42:17 <GregZ_BioWare> Not that we're aware of.
19:42:29 <Doug-IGN> Can you be more specific ? :)
19:42:42 <DavidBioWare> Except for Charles. We know he's hiding something. ;)
19:42:48 <MarcAudy_Bioware> well we wonder about charles....
19:42:51 <Brad_BioWare> Yes Dr. Zeschuk, be more specific...
19:42:55 <DerrickBioWareQA> now his secret is out
19:43:11 <DavidBioWare> And he's going to kill us all tomorrow morning.
19:43:21 <MarcAudy_Bioware> only if he reads the transcript
19:43:28 <GregZ_BioWare> Not unless he gets so much FFIX he doesn't care....
19:43:33 <DerrickBioWareQA> or should that be 'her' secret? :)
19:43:36 <KarlBioWareQA> it's his fault for not being here to defend himself. :)
19:43:40 <DavidBioWare> That's very likely.
19:44:01 <Doug-IGN> Marc and Greg: Last question -- When is the game really gonna be released? Will it be on the deadline or will be delays?
19:44:11 <GregZ_BioWare> When it's done!
19:44:31 <DavidBioWare> We're firm on that! :)
19:44:49 <GregZ_BioWare> Our goal is always to ship games only when they're ready....
19:45:02 <GregZ_BioWare> That means flawless gameplay, no bugs and nothing that can be improved.
19:45:13 <GregZ_BioWare> That's about all we can say now.
19:45:15 <GregZ_BioWare> end.
19:45:28 <DerrickBioWareQA> when I can no longer break it, it's bug free. :)
19:45:30 <DerrickBioWareQA> end.
19:46:00 <KarlBioWareQA> See Derrick and I have to say it's done first. :)
19:46:10 <DerrickBioWareQA> Yup, that's QA
19:48:23 <KarlBioWareQA> of course we have to find that secrect kangroo level (even if greg says there is no suck thing) :)
19:48:36 <DerrickBioWareQA> no 'such' thing
19:48:42 <DerrickBioWareQA> :)
19:48:49 <KarlBioWareQA> doh
19:49:02 <Doug-IGN> Well listen y'all, thanks for dropping and visiting our little (big) chat with the guys from BioWare (secretly i think they're all kangaroos myself.). We gotta go and eat some dinner and play more...games! Thanks also to all of our great readers, technical wizards that they are. Cheers and see ya!
19:49:05 <Reverend-IGN> We'll keep our fingers crossed for kangaroos, then :)
19:49:16 <GregZ_BioWare> Thanks everyone!