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Saffire Dolphin Ready

by Mike Revier - December 17, 1999, 4:45 pm PST
Source: Nintendorks

Thanks to the Nintendorks, we have some info on Saffire's preparation for Dolphin.

Nintendorks talk to the main man at Saffire. Pretty tranquil guy too. Les Pardew comes clean with SAGE and projected Dolphin games.

The Dork-goodness is as follows:

Last month the boys upstairs, Casamassina & crew more specifically, reported a major announcement revealing Saffire is already in early development stages of a Dolphin-bound shooter. Considering Saffire just wrapped up three major N64 titles: Xena, Rainbow Six, and Top Gear Rally 2, it's surprising to learn that this relatively small developer of only eighty employees has had the time to think about Dolphin. Late last week we sat down with Les Pardew, Founder and CEO of the five year-old company, to find out just how ready they are for Nintendo's next home console.

Les had no problem admitting to us that Saffire has been anticipating and preparing for the next-generation home consoles ever since the beginning of 1999. Whoopty-doo, right? Well, Saffire has begun work on not just a game, but S.A.G.E. -- Saffire Advance Graphic Engine. So what the hell is SAGE? First off, Saffire no longer uses the acronym since Sega has recently publicized their graphic application which uses the exact same four letters. But to keep things simple, we will refer to it as SAGE and just be aware that we are referring to the Saffire Advance Graphic Engine.

"Last February, talk initiated between Saffire and another Utah based company, Strata. Don't be surprised if you recognize the name Strata because they are responsible for Strata Studio Pro which is one of the most popular 3-D rendering and animation applications available for the Macintosh. The rendered three-dimensional images you see throughout this article are just a shaving of what Studio Pro is capable of, and no doubt SAGE, in conjunction with the next-generation consoles, will be able to produce graphics ten times as phenomenal. In April of '99, Saffire hired twelve Strata employees and created a new office branch in St. Georgia, Utah. These twelve people, dubbed Saffire South, have been hard at work on SAGE for eight grueling months and have just completed the foundation coding for the engine. To make it a little less confusing, try this analogy on for size. If SAGE were a house, the cement infrastructure has just been laid down and the wooden framing is next to be built. Now that the base is secure, constructing the rest, though time consuming, should not be nearly not nearly as difficult. All right, sounds like it's time to get a little technical.

SAGE is what Saffire will use to develop all of their next-generation titles. The application will be able to do simplistic tasks like create a polygon; on the other end of the spectrum, Saffire will employ it for the more sophisticated tasks such as complex lighting from various sources and "soft-skinned" animation. However, the term "Graphic Engine" is a little misleading considering the engine will be used to incorporate music, sound effects, and behind the scene workings much like the physics engine.

Now this is just a picture showing off what can be expected from SAGE...on a bad day. (click pic for larger view) So, where do the next-generation consoles, specifically Dolphin, play into the SAGE equation? If you recall our house scenario, after the framing is upraised, the plumbing, venting, and wiring need to be integrated into the walls. In order to develop a game that takes full advantage of each individual next-generation console, separate pipes, vents, and wires are required for each system. Unfortunately, Saffire has yet to get their hands on a development kit for Nintendo's next console, and until they do (which may be as far off as late Spring according to Pardew) the particular Dolphin inner-workings for SAGE can only be established to an extent off the scraps of specifications Nintendo has released on Dolphin so far.

Young Olympians. Young Olympians. Repetition never fails to make you read

something more closely. Of course, Saffire has not just been creating a whole new engine without a game to use as a guinea pig along the development process. Entitled Young Olympians, the Greek mythological action title is based off a whole book/comic series that is currently being molded by none other than Les Pardew. Pardew hopes to unveil Young Olympians via a PSX2 dev kit along with the Saffire Advance Graphics Engine in San Jose, California, this March at the Game Developer's Conference. Young Olympians is no longer scheduled for a late 2000 release on the Nintendo 64 as the company originally announced last summer, but rather an early 2001 release on the Playstation 2 and/or Dolphin. Confirmed features so far include a multiplayer cooperative mode and Artificial Intelligence like no other.

Saffire looks very promising when it comes to our little friend flipper. With the first-person shooter and a possible Young Olympians readying for Dolphin, Saffire already gets the Nintendorks thumbs up, but Les went on to tell us that at this time, Saffire is discussing with two other companies that may result in even more Dolphin titles. SAGE, along with prospecting games, make us think that Saffire will be one of the top three developers for Dolphin at launch, and if Saffire decides to license their technology, we expect many video game makers to come knocking on Pardew's door.

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