Connecting the Dots

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Imagine every time you started a new job, you had to learn an entirely new way to use email, word processing and spreadsheet software. Imagine Excel never existed, or if it did, Microsoft only developed and used it internally. No, imagine wherever you work, no matter how big the company is, there’s a team of engineers toiling away, creating similar versions of the productivity software everyone else uses everywhere else, but by God, it’s their version of generic productivity software.

This, up until the past few years, has been how game development works. Want an engine in your FPS? Start coding. Want special gravity? Start coding. Facial animations? Tree physics? Get to work, Skippy. But thankfully, that’s all changing. Big engine shops – Epic, id and so on – started the trend, selling off their frameworks, allowing developers to focus more on gameplay and less on the foundation. Since then, middleware, as it’s called, has exploded.

Now, pretty much anything a developer needs to assemble a game is available on the open market. You can buy the Unreal engine to create a world, toss in Havoc physics to make the explosions pretty, mix in some SpeedTree for stunning background foliage and even track all the bugs with Bugzilla. Really, all a developer really has to worry about is making the game’s soul, its content, compelling and fun.

Middleware developers are the folks who make your games better, and they never even work on them. We thought it was high time we take a look at the grease in the wheels, and in issue No. 109, “Connecting the Dots,” we do just that. Our own Russ Pitts talks to Kevin Cloud of id, “the most humble superstar you’ll ever meet.” Erin Hoffman takes a look at the latest trend in project management, Scrum development. Allen Varney investigates what game engines can do outside the industry and finds himself surrounded by architects. Shannon Drake profiles Lasse Seppänen of Remedy Entertainment, makers of Max Payne and heavy users of middleware. And N. Evan Van Zelfden talks to Dave Mitchell of Microsoft’s XNA team.

You’ll find this and more in this issue of The Escapist. We’re positive you’ll love what you read.


Joe Blancato

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