Sidhe Talks About Sony’s PhyreEngine

gripshift_1.jpgPhyreEngine. It’s a funky name, but what the heck is it?

We asked Sidhe Interactive’s sexy technical director, Tyrone McAuley, to help us demystify Sony’s cross-platform tech. Sidhe developed its PSN/Xbox Live Arcade/PSP title GripShift using the engine, so if anyone’s going to know a thing or two about it, it will. Of course, there may be a few deities that know more, but they’re hard to get in contact with, for obvious reasons (we did try).

Hit the jump for the gorgeous text that makes up the interview!Kotaku AU: How long have you been using PhyreEngine?
Tyrone McAuley: We have been using PhyreEngine for about one and a half years, starting with GripShift for PSN.

Kotaku AU: How complete of a package is PhyreEngine? Does it include physics, sound and networking middleware along with a graphics engine?
TM: PhyreEngine is mainly a graphics engine. We use other middleware or open source solutions such as ODE and FMOD for other components.

Kotaku AU: What do you feel are PhyreEngine’s most compelling features? Why would you choose it over other cross-platform technologies such as Gamebryo and Unreal Engine 3?
TM: A compelling factor of PhyreEngine is the fact that it’s free. Other engines are great and we are happily also using Gamebryo on some projects with great success. But if a particular project has a tight budget using PhyreEngine can save you valuable dollars.

Kotaku AU: Does PhyreEngine support OpenGL on PC platforms, or just Sony’s OpenGL ES-based PSGL?
TM: It supports both.

Kotaku AU: Does PhyreEngine support Direct3D 10?
TM: It only supports D3D9c at the moment, but that may change over time as Sony continues to invest in the technology.

Kotaku AU: How easy is it to develop for the PS3 and PC simultaneously? If you wanted to port a title to the PC or vice versa, how much work would be involved?
TM: It is very easy, though obviously you have all the usual performance and usability issues to consider when developing multiplatform titles.

Kotaku AU: What do you see as PhyreEngine’s advantages? Disadvantages?
TM: PhyreEngine is an inexpensive, multiplatform engine solution that comes with tools, exporters, and source code. Sony is committed to supporting and extending it over time, so it will continue to improve in terms of its capabilities. Right now, the tools aren’t quite where they need to be to for totally smooth and efficient development, but they have become incrementally better over time and will continue to improve.

Kotaku AU: Why did you choose PhyreEngine to develop GripShift? What has PhyreEngine allowed you to do with GripShift that another third-party engine would not, or would be more difficult to achieve with?
TM: PhyreEngine allowed us to get up and running on PS3 very quickly. We had a very challenging development timeframe for GripShift for PSN, and PhyreEngine allowed us to port the game to PS3 very quickly so we could start concentrating on optimisation and improvements in the game itself immediately rather than getting stuck on just trying to get the basics going.

Kotaku AU: How difficult would it be to port a PhyreEngine-developed title to the Xbox 360?
TM:We have already done this in taking GripShift for PSN on PS3 across to Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360. The process was not without some issues, but it’s getting easier over time as Sony continues to develop and support the technology such as upcoming support for HLSL [High Level Shader Language] .

Kotaku AU: Does PhyreEngine includes tools for optimising Blu-ray disc access, network latency, etc. Basically, does include performance analysis or is it just a game engine?
TM: Sony has a number of analysis and optimisation tools in the basic PS3 SDK, and these can all be utilised when developing using PhyreEngine.

Kotaku AU: Does PhyreEngine provide workflow tools and management in the same way as Microsoft’s XNA?
TM: No, it doesn’t really include anything like this.

Kotaku AU: How open is the technology? Do you have access to all the source code for PhyreEngine?
TM: Assuming a developer is licensed to develop for PS3, they will be able to access the source. Sony is very open about the technology and very supportive in helping developers use it how they want.

Kotaku AU: What would you say to other developers looking at PhyreEngine to develop a PS3 game? How about a PC game?
TM: It’s certainly worth considering PhyreEngine for PS3 development, even in the case where a development may be multiplatform across PC or even 360. While there is a learning curve there and some aspects aren’t mature, from a cost perspective it can’t be beaten, it allows you to get up and running on PS3 quickly, and it will continue to improve over time.

Kotaku AU: Will you be using PhyreEngine for future games?
TM: Yes. We are already using it on upcoming products.

Kotaku AU: What costs are involved in using PhyreEngine?
TM: Outside the cost of becoming a licensed developer and obtaining the appropriate PS3 development hardware, it doesn’t cost anything.

If you’re after the summary: PhyreEngine is great for licensed PS3 devs looking for an inexpensive way to start their careers on PC or Sony’s console (and Xbox Live Arcade if you’re willing to sweat a little). While it still has a way to go in terms of functionality and ease of use, Sony is dedicated to making it better. It should also be noted that unlike Gamebryo or Unreal Engine 3, PhyreEngine is just a graphics engine. There’s no Direct3D 10 support, but seeing as this is only important for PCs running Vista, I’d hardly call it a disadvantage. In fact, it’s a wise move on Sony’s part.

Thanks to Mario and Tyrone from Sidhe for the interview!


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