TerraForge is a
young developer intent on recreating the gaming world. They have
developed a series of proprietary systems for handling multiplatform
interoperability and completely new kinds of gaming communities. They
are putting these technologies to work in their first game, Yummiverse,
which will support gaming on a variety of platforms including PC,
consoles, and PDAs. This technology could truly revolutionize the way we
game, alleviating the emphasis on platform choices as well as taking
advantage of the array of game-capable devices we spend so much time
with each day. Needless to say, were excited about the possibilities
presented by the TerraForge technologies.
We were lucky to get the chance to ask TerraForge CEO, Adam Mateljan,
a whole armload of questions about the new technologies and their plans
for revolutionizing the gaming world.
GamesFirst!: Youve developed some fascinating new technologies
for game creation that could really change the way we view
cross-platform gaming connections. Can you briefly describe the roles of
your three major developments, the Asgard Gaming Community, the ODIN
Game Network, and Valhalla? How do these three components work together?
Adam Mateljan: The Asgard Gaming Community is the central hub
needed in the multi-platform gaming world. Asgard supplies developers
and gamers with a complete community for all their gaming needs. ODIN is
the core to the Asgard Gaming Community. ODIN supplies core community
functionality with a huge user repository that stores everything user
oriented. Valhalla utilizes the ODIN system functionality to bring
community aspect to games. Valhalla is a core logic game engine that has
been abstracted from the client graphical experience to facilitate
GF!: The idea of gaming across platforms is a very exciting one.
You have mentioned the PC, Mac, PS2, Gamecube, and PDA as systems that
can interact with each other using your technology. Is there a reason
that the Xbox isn't listed, and are there any intentions of adding it at
a later date?
AM: Xbox uses a flavor of Microsofts Windows, and given that
Windows is a proven platform with a Bazillion games on it already, we
decided that mentioning it was almost rhetorical. Asgard was designed to
be platform independent. If developers want their client software on a
specific platform, then creating it will have no effect on the core of
GF!: There are a great deal of differences between the different
listed platforms, specifically in power and interface. What styles of
games do you envision this technology producing? What kind of roles do
you think each player will have in a game played, for example, between a
PS2 player and a PDA user?
AM: There was a Tank game on the old Amiga called Firepower where
two tank drivers tried to destroy each others bases and capture their
flag. Besides traditional games I think it would be cool to have players
on different consoles working together to accomplish some goal. For
instance, the PS2 player drives the tank while the PDA player is the
turret. Beyond that, how games are designed will have a vast effect on
how they are played and on which platform a gamer decides to play on.
The point being that the gamer has a choice.
GF!: One of the more interesting aspects of the technology is the
ability to leave a game on one system, and then to pick it up again on
another system entirely. How exactly does this work?
AM: Saved games arent located on the clients system. Saved
games are stored inside the Asgard Gaming Community. Given this
scenario, I can be at home in the morning playing a game on my PS2, save
my game, hop on the train for work and bring up my saved game on my
wireless PDA. The added bonus to this is that clients do not have access
to saved game files directly, thus eliminating a form of cheating.
GF!: Currently your website describes a game called Yummiverse,
but it also says this game is for "PC". Will Yummiverse use the Asgard,
ODIN, and Valhalla technologies?
AM: We as a society understand the term PC to mean several
things. To TerraForge, PC means Personal Computer and PCs have a
multitude of Operating Systems on them that constitute them as being
different platforms. Our first client side release will be for Windows,
Linux, MAC, a Web Browser, and some form of wireless device; all of them
being able to play together, of course.
GF!: What will that multi-system interoperability look like in
AM: Multiple platforms playing together is seamless. Based on how
the client side graphical experience is handled, a game may have varying
degrees of visual stimuli but the core game functionality remains the
same. For instance, a war game on the Xbox may have great big
explosions, but on a Wireless PDA the explosions may be simple little
booms. The same event occurred on both platforms but they were handled
GF!: What game genres do you see as most naturally expressed via
the TerraForge technologies?
AM: Strategy games for sure. RPG of course has a huge shot.
Almost any smaller genre game like shoot-em-ups, puzzle, etc. Race
games. The only one we feel may have some issues at all would be First
Person Shooters. FPS games traditionally have the highest requirements
of any game out there. Games like Quake, Halo, HalfLife, and Doom all
have serious system requirements and creating client versions of these
games for a PDA or phone will require many bells and whistles to be
reduced. Will the game be playable? I think so.
GF!: These technologies seem like naturals for licensing to other
developers and publishers. Do you currently have plans to license Asgard,
ODIN, and Valhalla?
AM: They are naturals for licensing. When we designed the
systems, we kept in mind that we wanted others to be able to use the
functionality without having to directly interact with the code base.
Therefore, an API was created to work with that we use in house for our
own development. All in good time.
GF!: Are any other developers making titles using the Asgard,
ODIN, and Valhalla technologies? Have any publishers shown interest in
adopting the technology?
AM: Actually a few development houses have approached us already.
We definitely plan to work with other developers in the near future, but
at this time, until we publish some of our own titles, Yummiverse being
the first, we want to hold off on any contractual commitments.
GF!: At the moment, the technology is specifically targeting
online games. Is there any chance that this technology could be adopted
to a home network in the future, so that maybe a console and a PC could
be directly linked without access to outside servers?
AM: It could but that wasnt our original intention. We have had
other people express interest in this and like the idea but would like
to prove everything on a grand scale and then downsize to the smaller
GF!: Currently, different ports of games are sold separatelyif I
want a copy of Tony Hawks Pro Skater on the PS2, Xbox, GC, PC, and GBA,
I have to buy each disc and cartridge separately, representing about
$250 in game purchases. Will games built with TerraForge technology be
playable on all platforms out of the box, or will we have to buy
different versions for each platform?
AM: We cant change the way games are sold. Publishers,
developers, and platform creators have their right to sell whatever on
whatever. What we do allow for is the purchasing of a title on one
platform and being able to play it with people who own different
GF!: If all platforms are included with a single purchase, how do
you expect (or how have you already seen) publishers react to this idea?
If all platforms are not included in a single purchase, how do you
expect customers to react? Do you expect that people will buy the game
several times in order to have it on all of their devices?
AM: We have a publishing system worked out for this. If a
publisher decides to publish through our online system, then owners of
platforms with download capability may be able to purchase a single play
license and download any client they need to play, all of course tied to
their account. We do not plan on changing the way software is sold in a
store. Our titles, if sold at retail, will most likely include
everything, but we dont EXPECT or DEMAND anyone else to follow suit.
How other companies do business is their prerogative.
GF!: What have been the most interesting, enlightening,
difficult, or otherwise notworthy obstacles to overcome in creating such
AM: It has been very interesting to discover how various
platforms handle different things. Networking has been a huge issue.
Thankfully many platforms use the same underlining networking
functionality. Proper synchronization is a big issue for client side
experience. Moving to a central game clock solved that issue. The
biggest issue is yet to come: getting people interested in what we are
GF!: How do you see this technology changing gaming? So far,
there have been significant differences between most versions of games
released on different platformswhat do you see changing in game design
in order to accommodate these titles?
AM: Designers will think differently. With core game logic being
abstracted from the graphical experience and the powerful community
aspect, designers will be able to bring in functionality without having
to engineer it. The functional experience will be important again, not
just the graphical experience. The client side experience will be
different in the graphical aspect but the core functionality will be the
GF!: Is there anything we missed that youre dying to tell us
about? Let us hear it.
AM: Not really dying to. The gaming world is changing because it
needs to change. Graphically we are getting to a point where reality has
stepped into our games. So whats next? We believe that a strong online
gaming community that is platform independent is the next step.
GF!: When can we expect to see the TerraForge technology, or
Yummiverse, available for play? Do you have any release dates on titles
developed with your technology?
AM: We have a planned Beta release Q1 2004. Thank you for the
GF!: Oh, no, thank YOU.