On April 14th, students from Entertainment Technology Center – Silicon Valley (ETC-SV), visited Turbine’s west coast studio. Everyone at ETC-SV was anticipating our trip to Turbine because Turbine was going to be the first MMORPG company visit. During the visit, we learned more about Turbine, discussed the challenges of developing on console and showcased our student projects.
Learning about Turbine
During his introduction, Jeff Lind, Director of Engineering at Turbine West, explained that by opening a Redwood City campus, Turbine would like to tap into the game developers’ talent pool in the west. As a company, Turbine created award winning MMORPGs such as Asheron’s Call (AC), Dungeon & Dragons Online (DDO) and Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro). In addition, Jeff briefly explained the pros and cons of a central technical and art team. While it may be controversial in game development, in my opinion, central tech and art teams could increase the efficiency of game development.
In the second section of our visit, developers at Turbine West had an active discussion with the students from ETC-SV about the main technical differences of developing on console vs PC. Because students from ETC-SV were both working on the Xbox360 and the PC, we were able to hold a meaningful conversation with Turbine. Through the discussions, we agreed that the top challenge were:
1. Limited Memory on console: Memory on the PCs is cheap and relatively plentiful. Memory on consoles is extremely limited. For example, there are 512mb of memory on an Xbox360. In addition, there is no “Virtual Memory” to fall back on.
2. DVD-Drive / Limited hard-disk space: Everything from your game has to be loaded up from the DVD. Asset loading is significantly restricted by the DVD-drive speed.
The final portion of our visit was a showcase of ETC-SV’s student projects. Turbine West offered both project teams valuable feedback. Jeff discussed with Project See-Saw the direction that we could take to discover even more valuable insights. For example, when creating balancing systems that artificially promote an unskilled player’s ability, Jeff talked about the importance of finding the “pinch” point of a skilled player. He explained that while it is important to help unskilled players survive in the game, it is also invaluable to note the point when skilled players start feeling that they are being punished for being skilled.
Overall, Turbine West was extremely cordial. The developers at Turbine West did a wonderful job providing insights on how an MMORPG company functions. Our visit there was very fruitful to both project teams. Thank you Turbine!