Tom:  Is this OK to share with other gaming and not gaming lists?  Thanks.
In God we trust.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Thomas Ward" <>
To: "Gamers Discussion list" <>
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2010 12:21 PM
Subject: [Audyssey] USA Games News 3/18/2010

USA Games News

March 18, 2010


Hello gamers,
   Welcome to another edition of the USA Games news letter. I know it
has been a very long time since our last issue, and truth is there
hasn't been much to say over the last couple
of months or so. Mostly we have been involved in rewriting the core of
our Genesis engine
which has been a massive undertaking. More about that later.
   However, we finally have some good news on the way. It looks like
2010  is going to be a
more productive year for us, and we are finally going to start
delivering some of the titles
we promised. That is certainly some good news in deed. So without
further comment let's get
straight to the news.

Genesis Engine

   As many of you may recall back in early December we decided to
rewrite our game engine,
Genesis 3D, from scratch in C++. The rewrite was suppose to resolve
several ongoing issues
with Mysteries of the Ancients such as: problems with newer 64 byt
Windows platforms,
improve system performance, resolve some bugs do to Managed DirectX
itself, to simplify the
installation of the game, and possibly create cross-platform versions
for Mac and Linux. To
a large degree our rewrite that attempts to meet all of these design
goals was a success
over all. However, during the course of development we discovered that
cross-platform versions of our engine and games isn't technically or
financially feasible at
this time.
   For one thing there really is no standardized way to program an
application for Mac,
Linux, and Windows. Each of these platforms have there own unique
libraries, tool kits, etc
we call APIs that are often as different from each other as the
operating systems
themselves. This obviously makes it difficult to write anything that
can be compiled and run
on another operating system without some degree of rewriting some part
of your program to
support the new platform. While there are game APIs specifically
designed to help create
cross-platform games such as OpenAL, SFML, SDL, etc these APIs don't
meet the same standards
of DirectX or XNA, and lack features I would otherwise get by using
a more professional
API like DirectX.
   To explain this situation better imagine writing a game such as
Raceway where you want
to support special game controllers such as a racing wheel with force
feedback support.
While SDL, SFML, and DirectX all have reasonable support for standard
devices like mice and
keyboards the same can't be said about specialized game controllers
like racing wheels. SDL,
for example, has very generic joystick support that often doesn't work
at all on Linux and
Mac, and has no support for specialized game controllers such as a
racing wheel with force
feedback ability. This obviously is somewhat of a disadvantage as I
can't provide the same
degree of features on Mac and Linux releases that I could on Windows releases.
Another case in point is DirectSound verses something like OpenAL.
OpenAL is a decent audio
API for Mac, I can't argue that, but at the same time it lacks
features I could get with
DirectSound. One very simple example is a stereo pan control. In games
like Mysteries of the
Ancients the sounds only need to be panned left and right. This is a
simple process with
DirectSound as it has a function for this. With OpenAL it was designed
with 3d audio support
in mind and it lacks a basic pan control which is over kill for a game
like Mysteries of the
Ancients. So in other words with OpenAL I have to use the 3d audio
processing weather I need
it or not. This is hardly ideal for a side-scroller.
   There are plenty of other technical issues I could mention here,
but I won't. Needless
to say creating cross-platform games is less than ideal for the
developer or the end
customer alike. There are, however,  commercial routes I could take
such as licensing
Transgaming's Cedega and Cider cross-platform engines, but this is
also expensive. Before I
go that route I'd have to be sure I'd get my money back on the
investment, and from what
I've seen so far the Mac and Linux markets are still too small to make
this financially
feasible. Writing accessible games doesn't make much money as it is
without the cost of
investing in expensive cross-platform tools for a small minority
market within a small
minority market.
   Cross-platform issues aside the engine itself is coming along very
well. I've
successfully rewritten the engine  in C++. I have dropped support for
the .NET Framework,
and have rewritten the game as a native Win32 application with support
for DirectX 8 and the
FMOD Ex API. This should resolve most bugs/issues present in MOTA beta
10 and earlier, and
will greatly simplify the game installation for new customers. Since
it uses native Windows
libraries it should  install and run on Windows XP or higher right out
of the box so to
   As I write this the core of the engine itself is almost finished.
This excludes tools
such as a level editor, which I still have to write, but the core of
the engine itself is
about done. What this means is that I'll be able to release games like
Mysteries of the
Ancients beta 11 in the not too distant future.

Mysteries of the Ancients

   Over the past couple of months I've frequently been asked
questions like "when will beta
11 be released" or "what new features will I be adding to beta 11."
Both of these are
difficult questions as both really depend on the completion of the
Genesis Engine first.
That has been my priority for the last three months, and obviously has
to come first.

Without the engine I wouldn't be able to create Mysteries of the
Ancients. However, I can

answer a few of these questions based on where I am right now with the project.
   As far as when the game will be released I can't in truth give a
definitive answer to
that question. However, as the new Genesis Engine is ready to be used
for game development I
can say it will be pretty soon. I have already ported the game's code
over to the new engine
and have been playing around with it. There are some loose ends and
bugs to fix, but I'm
certainly getting there with it. I figure the game will be going to
the private test team
within the next couple of weeks.
   As far as new features and content none are planned for beta 11.
The main reason is, of
course, that I'm still very much actively involved in getting the
engine together let alone
upgrading it. In fact, you may find beta 11 will temporarily have a
few less features as I
work the bugs and problems out of the new engine and try and get it up
to where we were with
beta 10 before we began the rewrite. Don't worry though any missing
features will be updated
and returned in later updates to the game. Although, It is likely I
will address all of
these during the private testing period.
   Mostly the major changes are superficial changes such as instead
of Scansoft Karen I
have restored Acapela Heather as the voice of the game as per request.
I have made a few
keyboard changes such as speak strength is now on the s key instead of
the g key. As I've
said most of the changes you will notice are very miner and
superficial.  The real changes
are at the game's core, in the engine, where you will likely notice
some improved system
performance if I did my job right. One thing about C++ it does allow a
game developer to
fine tune a game so that it takes full advantage of a systems
processor, memory, and
operating systems native libraries. All and all I do think you will
enjoy the results.

Thomas Ward
president of USA Games Interactive

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