When it comes to game engines, things are a lot easier nowadays. Go back 10-15 years and developers didn’t have pre-packaged offerings from Crytek, or Epic Games to utilise, they had to build their own physics engine and their own animation systems. Still, while there are a lot of great FPS offerings and real cross platform development options with something like Unity, you don’t hear much in the way of strategy engines. Well that’s what Oxide has been working on.
Made up of a who’s-who list of game developers, API builders and designers, Oxide wants to offer the world a cross-platform, 64bit 3D engine, with really strong multi-core support and designed with strategy titles in mind. Known as Nitrous, this development has already drawn the attention of a few game producers, so it might not be long before new strategy titles land that easily compete with the likes of Total War: Rome II in performance and visuals.
While Rome II might have used a somewhat antiquated engine in Warscape though – which makes its beauty even more impressive – Nitrous is designed with contemporary systems in mind. It’s said to to offer on-the-fly multi-core support, sending instructions to whichever core has the most freely available. This allows no bottleneck in CPU to GPU interface, as well as spreading the load from CPU related tasks. The fact that it’s 64bit also means there’s potential for truly massive textures.
It should also lead to huge unit numbers: “The Nitrous engine has made great progress on the fundamental substrate for parallel compute in PC games. Their tasking system shows near-linear scaling across Intel’s high-end desktop PCs, which translates into players being able to control an unprecedented 10,000 interactive units in their engine,” said Mike Burrows, principal engineer and technical director for visual computing engineering at Intel.
It’ll work fine on AMD hardware too, with next-gen consoles from both Microsoft and Sony to be in the loop for development, meaning we may see some better RTS titles on console platforms.
“We see an enormous opportunity for developers with a 64-bit multicore engine. The challenge in developing next-generation strategy games is that players expect the world to have visuals comparable to high-end first person shooters while still expecting hundreds or thousands of units, buildings, and other elements on screen at the same time,” said Derek Paxton, vice president of Stardock Entertainment. “With Nitrous, we’ll be able to have visuals and performance with a fidelity never seen before in a strategy game.”
Some of the names involved in the development of Nitrous should turn a few heads. Dan Baker used to work at Microsoft, developing the D3D9 10 and 11 APIs; Tim Kip, engine development veteran; Marc Meyer, Civilisation V interface designer; Brian Wade, lead programmer on Civilisation V, Command and Conquer 3: Kane’s wrath and more; Brad Wardell, founder of Stardock and Nathan Heazlett, RTS artistry expert.
All of the names above are partners with the new Oxide company, apart from Mr Heazlett at the end there. Here’s hoping that doesn’t lead to a too many cooks in the kitchen situation. Mr Wardell though is an interesting addition, as it’s Stardock’s investment fund that is helping drive the new company and it’s engine’s development.
For more information, head to Oxide’s site.
KitGuru Says: I’ve long been a fan of strategy titles, far more than FPS games if I’m honest. I’m interested to see what Oxide can do here. It’ll need some developers to sign on before it’s hailed as anything close to a success however.