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Front of the Q

Qube Software's Servan Keondjian on the latest version of the company's middleware solution

Yesterday Qube Software announced the latest release of its Q middleware platform has been released - version 2.1.

To find out more GamesIndustry.biz caught up with company CEO Servan Keondjian to find out how the tech had been received so far, and what had been added this time around.

GamesIndustry.biz What have the last six months been like for you?
Servan Keondjian

Well, six months ago we hadn't released a product, so we had no news about it out there at all. The major change we're in now is that people are actually using the software, and are very happy with it. Word is getting out there that it works.

For me the most exciting thing that's always been the message that we have is that it's a studio-wide solution, that you can use across all different types of title - and the fact that that's been confirmed in the industry is very exciting.

The thing that follows that up, which is what's happening in India - because Sony is pushing the PlayStation 2 there - it seems that we're the only middleware solution that's got its very latest release running on PS2. That confirms the flexible nature of what we've got, so it's been a real validation for us.

GamesIndustry.biz There are still huge numbers of PS2s out there, after all - and with the developing regions, isn't it a bit surprising that more people aren't supporting the platform?
Servan Keondjian

Definitely, it's a huge installed base, well over 100 million which is as big as everything added together pretty much. I guess a lot of the PS2s have probably moved to younger siblings, and maybe the people that are going to buy lots of games are on it that much.

I don't know - it's a publisher decision at the end of the day, they'll decide where to put their money, but obviously you'll be able to sell much more on it for a while because there are so many out there.

GamesIndustry.biz What sort of feedback are you getting on Q?
Servan Keondjian

People are liking it, that's the main thing and what's so exciting. We had so many years developing it for that reason - because our goal was making middleware that developers like using.

Once people get over the learning curve our support load drops massively - we're not seeming to need to help any of the studios at all once they get it, they can just run with it. That's what we're after, the freedom a studio can get, almost like they feel like they developed it it's so configurable.

GamesIndustry.biz How long does that "get it" period take for studios when they first use Q?
Servan Keondjian

It tends to be two or three weeks of hard learning curve, and then they start going downhill, it starts getting easier from that point. But we do need to prepare them for it - a few days in they say "Wow, this is all very interesting".

Then at about day four they do start beginning to feel lost, just because the framework's there to let them do anything. At that point we tell them to focus on what they want to do, perhaps build a game level, and once they're focused on that they normally start picking it up.

But because it's a general engine, it's so general purpose that they've got to focus on goals. Because if somebody tries to understand everything that we've got too quickly, it's too much to absorb. Through the goals then they'll understand it.

GamesIndustry.biz It sounds a bit like the difference between a sandbox MMO, like Eve Online, when compared to more of a theme park experience, like World of Warcraft - some gamers get a bit lost without specific targets?
Servan Keondjian

I think that's a very, very good analogy - because it's exactly that. Our philosophy has been to open it all up for everybody in every way. That's what's going to give them the creativity, the feeling of power, once they 'get it'.

But at the same time you won't get it straight away, there's no simple hand-holding immediate way - you've got to do a little bit of work.

For games studios we know it's what they want, to have that ability, that control and power. That's been the message we keep sending out.

GamesIndustry.biz So what does Q 2.1 add?
Servan Keondjian

The main thing that it includes that wasn't in the earlier release is a script debugger and a script engine in there. We had scripting in there in the earlier releases, but we didn't really want to talk about it until it had a full integrated debugger, because you can do some script, but until you can start debugging it yourself you don't really have the power.

Everything you can do in the engine in code can be done in script, so that's a really powerful feature - and combining the two you can develop for all platforms, or one platform. If you write something in script, you don't even need to recompile, and it's going to run on the Wii, or the PlayStation - you can develop on your favourite box.

GamesIndustry.biz And what else can we expect in the future?
Servan Keondjian

Well, we'll keep adding incremental features, we'll probably talk more about physics in the next release. I'm not certain yet - we've got a choice, and we'll pick what we're closest to.

We've got a long-term map of the things we want to do, but we don't force them into place.

Servan Keondjian is the CEO of Qube Software. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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