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EGO Trip

Codemasters CTO Bryan Marshall lifts the hood on his engine and talks next-gen tech

Codemasters' EGO technology has been attracting praise from gamers and press alike for its flexibity and graphical punch - powering the latest titles in both the Flashpoint and DiRT series. As an employer of around 800 staff, the company is also one of the biggest UK games industry establishments which remain.

To discover more about how the engine technology has evolved, and how the company runs, we caught up with CTO Bryan Marshall and PR head Rich Eddy to discuss EGO, Codemaster's partnership with Reliance Big Entertainment and why aiming for the niche can pay big dividends.

GamesIndustry.bizThe EGO engine has had a considerable polish of late, powering Operation Flashpoint: Red River and DiRT 3 - do you think there are more games left in it before it needs another overhaul?
Bryan Marshall

That's a good question. I definitely think so - in terms of some of the components we have in there. We're always updating things and we'll continue to do so, but in parallel we're working on, I guess, our next generation codebase, the EGO 2 side of things - that's been going on for about twelve months now. So we're in a really good position for when that transition comes. We can make the most of it.

GamesIndustry.bizI know you did a lot work bringing the tech up to date for the current generation - will so much need to be remade freshly for the coming generation too, or will you take a more iterative approach?
Bryan Marshall

Yeah, certainly. We got some things right last time, we certainly want to make some more improvements on what we've done - the competition is still tough and we need to stay competitive. So what we'll be doing, and what we have done, is to take the best bits of what we've got that we know will work on our... future predicted platforms, shall we say, then also work on new areas which I think we'll start to push in the new generation.

More evolution than revolution, in short.

GamesIndustry.bizI presume you're party to a lot of details on the new platforms which you're not at liberty to discuss, but what are your broad, general predictions for their technical capacity?

We should never underestimate the platform holders and new technology guys.

Bryan Marshall

These guys tend to do some very interesting things. Getting out the crystal ball is a very difficult thing to do! I don't tend to get into those sort of predictions. What we do do is what we've done with EGO 2, is to pick out some of the core strategies that may help us in the future. For instance, we got very early onto the DX 11 path with DiRT 2. What that's done is give us a really good of similar next-generation shader technologies, and the ability to understand how we can improve our draw core count by multi-threading our graphics command pipeline.

By doing things like that - and also at the same time, with our toolset as we continue to build those - we separate them a little bit more from the engine run-time, and have the ability to move across different platforms in a much more flexible and quick manner. We're not tied into specific platforms and their architecture, on the tool side. So I think that's been really important.

There have been a number of things we've done to prepare us for a perhaps uncertain future. We should never underestimate the platform holders and new technology guys, they'll come up with something cool that we'll try to work to.

GamesIndustry.bizYou were one of the first studios to master the Cell in terms of achieving platform parity, is that something you're confident of keeping in the next generation?
Bryan Marshall

Absolutely, we always want, I guess as you say, platform parity, but you have to play to the strengths of the platform as well. There might be some new stuff that comes up that we can really hang on to when it comes to a particular platform.