Happy New Year to you all! I have a real New Years treat today, regular (or sporadic) readers will no doubt have noted the high regard I have for some old console games (particularly from my long lost gaming youth days.) Goldeneye is a game that stands out in particular not just for me, but many others. I randomly came across a lengthy piece by Martin Hollis, who was at the time, Head of Software for the Goldeneye (and later Perfect Dark) projects at Rare. His account of the frantic months and years of work which eventually culminated in these masterpieces make for fascinating reading.
So, in the specific case of GoldenEye, and with the benefit of hindsight, the gameplay model was Virtua Cop with a bit of Doom, plus some Mario 64. The theme or setting was (obviously) the Bond universe and particularly GoldenEye. Many of the visual effects and kinetic moments I took from Hard Boiled or other John Woo flicks. Especially, things exploding. Visually, there’s more to that than you might think.
His accounts of the lack of discernable direction or ‘game plan’ for many of the elements speak particularly loudly to me as I am myself now in software development. It is frankly amazing that the project was able to organically mature into the final product given how late in the day some design decisions were ultimately made.
I compiled a list of about 40 gadgets from various Bond films, most of which were modelled, and then Dave and Duncan tried to find levels where we could use them. This is backwards game design, but it worked very well. These models were the game design; there was very little written down on paper. And the models were researched and milked extensively.
Even more incredible was the lack of any real development hardware to properly test their work. Whilst architecturally similar, the SGI Onyx machine they did have was sufficiently different (and underpowered) to make the whole project akin to stumbling blinding along a dirt road at night. From my own coding experiences, it makes me a little edgy if I have been working on a large project (or piece of code) that can’t be compiled or tested until completed. In this situation it is far too easy to make a mistake which could cause untold hours of grief later on. The fact that this lack of ‘comfort zone’ for the majority of the Goldeneye project and not even having the concrete hardware capabilities of the Ultra 64 (later n64) platform until close to completion speaks to the commitment and, frankly, the nerve of the development and management team.
I mentioned we didn’t have an N64 or anything like one. The closest we had was an SGI Onyx or two. Thankfully, as it turned out, the N64 could render triangles much faster than the SGI Onyx. This was shocking as the list price of the Onyx was $250K dollars, and the N64 launched for about 1000th of this price. That’s progress. And it totally saved us, as several of the backgrounds rendered at about 2Hz (2 fps) on the Onyx, without even drawing enemies, objects, or Bond’s gun. My attitude was always, well, if it runs at all on the Onyx, we can probably get it to run at about 30Hz on the final hardware.
As you can no doubt tell from the gushing commentary I am very much in awe of this team’s accomplishment. I can’t recommend highly enough that you read the whole post for yourself.
I must admit I was a bit surprised to see this, but it appears the PSP now has some limited third party touch screen support. Although noble in aim, I have grave doubts about the viability of this project. Its welcoming to see that there is no soldering iron required, although for any serious game developer to take notice would require mass adoption, which lets face it, is not going to happen.
According to the developer, the original idea was to turn the PSP into a fully functional GSM mobile phone, although this was later scaled back to just a touch screen device. I think they made the right call on that one, N-Gage anyone?
Some youtube videos of this in action:
A calibration / test program:
So bottom line: its ugly and lacks any serious support. Still, it is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of members of the community. Speaking of the PSP homebrew community, I wrote a few months ago about a n64 emulation project for the handheld which was then showing a fair amount of promise. Unfortunately, to my great sadness, the developer Strmnnrmn seems to have dropped off the face of the earth not having updated his blog since last December. Its always sad to see projects just die like this.
I was just reading Strmnnrmn’s blog this morning. For those that dont know, Strmnnrmn is the coding genius behind the PSP port of daedalus, a n64 emulator. Whilst I have been hanging on his every release since R6, I am starting to get a bit frustrated at the lack of perceivable progress with every release. Whilst I do not doubt that Strmnnrmn is working hard and implementing new features in every build, to the end user, if the frame-rate increases marginally per release then they should be happy.
Why am I not then?!? Partly because with every release I harbor the notion of playable (even if it is sub real-time) emulation. This so far has not happened. The recent R13 release broke a few of the roms and despite all the technical improvements made, still felt like a step backwards which was really disappointing. Every time a new post appears on his blog, there is talk of a minor improvement here and a fair few extra fps there although it is barely perceivable.
I should say at this point that I am simply in awe of Strmnnrmn, I am not about to criticise a man for giving his personal time and effort for a free community focused project (AND release the source code) I just hope he cracks it soon! Until then, pop over to his blog and read his recent progress update.
Listing all those games is more than a little over enthusiastic given the present compatibility of R13. One thing I will say is Strmnnrmn needs to do a bit of SEO, I always have to make sure I bookmark his site as its buried some where deep on the second page when the google query “n64 psp emulator” is searched for. SEO, for the uninitiated is not the black art of search engine result page (SERP) hijacking (although frequently used for this) but a method of optimising parameters of websites to make it easier for search engines to identify their relevancy. This in turn helps Google serve more relevant results and is one of the main factors responsible for Google’s success in the search engine market. But anyway I had better wrap this up before I majorly digress.
UPDATE 05/04/08 : No word from the Dev for almost four and a half month – this is not encouraging although there are murmers he has adopted a different Alias. I will post more about this when I know.
UPDATE 30/05/08 : Still no word from the Dev – lots of murmerings on the comments about a new identities and conspiracy theories etc. There has been longer gaps between updates before, but I starting to get a little concerned. After all, how hard is it to post “Hi, really busy but still alive – be patient” ?