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Porting games made easy

by Kosta Andreadis - January 11, 2000, 7:19 am PST
Source: IGN 64

Saffire talks about the Sage framework (multi-platform game engine).

Many of us believe that when the Dolphin is fully launched we will see a horde of Playstation 2 titles being ported over to the superior Nintendo console. Well this may seem simple but developing and 'porting' for that matter to various consoles can be a pain staking and sometimes unsuccessful process. But someone out there is finally doing something about this, and they be Saffire an already well known Dolphin supporter. The framework for this is called SAGE and lets the development process not specify a single console but instead targets system resources without slowing the system down. IGN64, interviewed Saffire about this very technique and about a game being co-developed for PS2 and the Dolphin called Young Olympians. Here's a decent chunk of what they said.

IGN64: Explain to our readers what SAGE is?

Saffire: It's a cross-platform game framework. It allows Saffire to target just about any platform that it wants using the same API [Application Programming Interface], and it provides a quicker means of getting to the end product, which is a reliable, bug-free game.

IGN64: How does SAGE ease the pain of porting a game to another console?

Saffire: If a game is design on SAGE, it'll simply be a recompile of the software with just a few loose threads here and there that you'll have to tie up in order to do some platform independent stuff. There may be, of course, some artistic considerations that have to be made; for instance, if you're targeting N64 versus PS2, you're going to want to beef up your graphics quite a bit. But the framework itself should already understand how to take advantage of the better power of the PS2. And even if you didn't add any bells or whistles you'd get a better game on PS2 just because the framework understands that you can take a concept and make it so much better on a platform like that.

IGN64: Do you still develop software with one initial game system in mind?

Saffire: Yes, we do. About 85% of everything we do is completely cross-platform and about 15% of the work goes into making it a platform-specific game. So, if you take Young Olympians, or Xena, which we have contracts to do for the next-generation platforms, SAGE will be used to do the first iterations and then we'll be able to take a quick turnaround for the next platform.

IGN64: Is SAGE, a multi-platform framework, as powerful as something designed specially to capitalize on one console platform?

Saffire: Don't look at it as an engine, but as a framework to build off of. Take all of the pieces that make up a game and you'll find that 85% of it has nothing to do with the hardware. So, if you abstract out that 85% and make sure it will run anywhere, what you have left is 15% of this framework that you need to do hardware specific. When we aim at a specific hardware, we take full advantage of its capabilities.

Let's say, for instance, that I'm going to target PlayStaton 2's hardware so that I can actually rasterize to it. That's going to be totally different than rasterizing to a Dolphin. The hardware is going to be significantly different. Most of the 15% difference is where we actually have to touch the hardware -- where we have to read information from different controllers, read information from different DVD drives with different OSs underneath them. And then ultimately put the output on the screen to different platforms.

One of the things that we're doing is looking at the capabilities of these next-generation systems, Dolphin and PlayStation 2 in particular, and we're saying, "What are the things we're going to be able to accomplish? Let's shoot for the stars." SAGE wants to be able to take advantage of all the capabilities of the new platforms.

IGN64: What's happening with Young Olympians?

Saffire: Young Olympians is scheduled to come out in the middle of 2001, initially on PlayStaton 2. It's an adventure game. One of the things that SAGE is going to allow us to do is take advantage of some of the expertise that we've got in animation, IK and graphics. The most important part of it, though, is that whatever we do through SAGE on PS2, 85% of it we'll be able to reuse on another platform, say Dolphin.

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