GZ Interview: Torus Games brings unique technology to GBA; many 3D games to follow

April 7, 2003

 

Torus Games brings unique
technology to GBA; many 3D games to follow

by

Louis Bedigian

 


The makers of Doom II GBA and Duke Nukem Advance have created a
new 3D engine unlike any other.  Unique, 3D games are the result, and they’re
coming to a Game Boy Advance near you.

 

 


As
3D gaming continues to move closer and closer to the Game Boy Advance, more and
more development studios are putting their efforts into creating new, superior
technology.  One of those studios is Torus Games, makers of the GBA’s first 3D
motorcycle racing games, Moto-X.

 

Considering the kind of game
that this is, Torus needed all of the speed that they could get.  Unlike other
3D games, Moto-X doesn’t use polygons.  Instead its engine uses voxels*,
allowing the developers to create fast games more efficiently.

 

 


Moto-X Engine Technical
Specifications:

*    Real-time, 3-D landscape rendering.
*    An incredible frame rate of 20 frames per second!
*    Vertical textures, perfect for detailed realism
*    A completely free-roaming environment – go anywhere!
*    Static light mapping, applied from imported light maps.
*    Multiplayer Mode, with simultaneous, linked play for up to 4 players.

 

The pictures and technical
specs are intriguing enough, but GameZone wanted to know more, so we hopped on
some dirt bikes and attempted to launch ourselves off of a 10-foot hill.  After
getting out of the hospital, we dragged our injured bodies to Torus Games.  Once
there, we received a lot of detailed information about the game from producer
Mick Solomons and lead programmer Michael Smith.

 

 

Question: There are a lot of developers out
there claiming to have created a 3D engine for Game Boy Advance. What makes your
engine different from theirs?
 


Michael Smith, Lead
Programmer:
Most
of the 3D engines available are ray-casters, which are only suitable for indoor
maps. Our engine uses voxels, not polygons to create the landscapes. The
advantage of voxels over polygons is that voxels require less CPU processing, so
we can concentrate on other aspects of the game such as frame rate speed and
having numerous sprites on the screen.
 

 

Voxels enabled the
developers to create 3D landscapes

without slowing down the
gameplay.

 


What kind of special effects can it produce?


Michael Smith: As compared with other racing games, which use ‘Mode 7’
engines, our engine is capable of far richer and more interesting landscapes.
These landscapes can feature rolling hills, vast chasms, cliffs, massive
mountains, detailed rocky terrain and more. Most other games have only very
limited ability to produce hilly terrain. All of this comes without sacrificing
the free-roaming ability of the game.


We can also produce impressive urban environments, featuring roads, buildings
and even skyscrapers. Other possibilities include such things as animating water
and sprites, and even deformable terrain.

Was it difficult achieving realistic 3D visuals on the GBA’s standard, unlit
screen?

 


Mick Solomons, Producer:
No, we used quite
a bright palette for the landscape so the game came out very bright and
colorful.

As the first official 3D racing game for the GBA, what can players expect
from Moto-X?


Mick Solomons: Fast gameplay, big air and big crashes!!! Play against
your friends in link mode – it’s a load of fun.

 

 

Interactive terrain would
not have been possible

without Moto-X’s powerful 3D
engine.

What kinds of gameplay features are being planned for it?


Mick Solomons: So far we have planned to have a Championship series in
which the player races against opponents in checkpoint races. Winning races
unlocks new levels and allows the player to upgrade their bike. In races, the
player can take the easy path (which is longer) or the hard path (shorter but
with more obstacles). Another one of the main features is spring-loading the
suspension. The player can hold down the shoulder button to preload the
suspension, and release at the peak of a jump to get some big air. One of the
most fun things that we did here was trying to break the longest jump record (I
think the record was 202 meters!). We are also planning on having challenge
mode, where the player must complete a set of challenges such as finding
pickups, getting a certain number of trick points or successfully jumping over a
landmark within a set amount of time. There are plenty of other features planned
such as tricks, rewards…I could go on forever!

Are there any multiplayer modes in the works?


Mick Solomons: Yes, we are planning to incorporate multiplayer into the
engine. Up to four players will be able to race against each other. Each player
will require the game cartridge.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about the gameplay?


Mick Solomons: It’s a heap of fun and certainly more involved than many
other racing games on the GBA.

How is the frame rate coming along?


Mick Solomons: The frame rate is good, we spent a lot of time working on
this because we wanted the player to have a feeling of speed, its one of the fun
things that people like about motocross games.

In its incomplete state, Moto-X is already looking mighty impressive. How
long do you anticipate it will be before the game is completed?


Mick Solomons: We are looking for publisher attachment before we take
development of the game any further, but we anticipate that it would take
anywhere between 3-6 months depending on what features the publisher requests.

Will you be demonstrating Moto-X or any part of your technology at E3 or any
other upcoming game show?


Mick Solomons: We’ll definitely be at E3 this year showing off not only
Moto-X, but [also] our PS2 game, Ice Nine.

 

 

Aside from
developing great GBA games, Torus is working

on an
impressive-looking FPS called Ice Nine.

Do you think that there will ever come a time when 3D gaming will virtually
replace 2D gaming on the GBA just as it has on the next-generation game
consoles?


Mick Solomons: 2D games are still the most popular games on the GBA so I
don’t think it will happen.

Have you shown your 3D engine to Nintendo or any other big publisher? (If so,
what was their reaction?)


Mick Solomons: Yes we have shown Moto-X to Nintendo and many other big
publishers. The feedback we have [been getting] has been really promising. Let’s
hope that we can make an announcement shortly!
 

 

**Voxel is the
smallest distinguishable box-shaped part of a three-dimensional space. A
particular voxel will be identified by the x, y and z coordinates of one of its
eight corners, or perhaps its center. The term is used in three-dimensional
modeling.


Source:

Dictionary.com