PCGH: What will be the base technology of Call of Duty: World at War? Do you as a new developer write a brand new engine from scratch of do you reuse many parts of the technology of Call of Duty 4? Why do you decide program a new engine/modify the existing technology?
Cesar Stastny: Treyarch has worked on various games during the last decade so we had our own engines, including the one on which all the Spiderman games were built. For Call of Duty: World at War, we chose the original Infinity Ward Call of Duty4: Modern Warfare engine as the base technology. Call of Duty 4 is widely considered the best cross platform game to date (Xbox 360/PS3/PC), so it is logical to consider its engine as the best next generation cross platform as well.
We chose it for its excellent lighting and game scripting. We enhanced the existing Call of Duty 4 engine with visual improvements, new effects, cooperative multiplayer, as well as using Activision's proprietary DemonWare technology for online, lobbies, matchmaking on PC and PS3 platforms which do not come with the equivalent of Xbox Live.
PCGH: Call of Duty 4 was developed cross platform and there were no major differences between the console and the PC version as far as visuals and other technical aspects is concerned. Will this be the case for Call of Duty: World at War too? If yes, what are the advantages of a cross platform development? If no, how do you optimize your technology for the different platforms?
Cesar Stastny: The only difference between consoles (Xbox360/PS3) and PC will be if a player has a machine that is less powerful than actual consoles. In this case, you may dial back some visuals to compensate. If you are running on a modern multicore CPU and Nvidia 8800 video card you will get the same look and gameplay experience with the same or better frame rate and equivalent or higher video resolutions (1680x1050 or even 1920x1080).
The big advantage of cross platform development is the guarantee that the PC gamer can play the same game on the same date as the consoles -this is not a classic port which usually ships later and from a different studio than the original developer. Treyarch has a lot of experience in cross platform development. We were one of the first studios to ship on all major consoles (Spiderman 1 and 2) and we have been doing this consistently for the past 5 years, shipping all of our games on all consoles on the same date.
PCGH: At the moment Cross Platform Development is very popular. Do you as a developer have a possible explanation for this? Regardless of financial interests do you think that the gap between PC and consoles as far as base and engine technology is concerned is closing nowadays? Do you have the impression like many of your fellow developers that the PC as a gaming platform pales in comparison to the next gen consoles?
Cesar Stastny: From the gamers' perspective it is best when a game is available on all platforms. Then gamers can buy the version of the game to match their hardware, instead of the other way around as is necessary with platform specific titles.
From the developers' perspective next gen consoles are equivalent to high end PCs now. We have the Xbox 360 using the ATI video chipset and PS3 using Nvidia. Both are present in terms of power and features in the PC market already. And in the past 2 years AMD and Intel have moved to multi-core CPUs which are present as well in next gen consoles.
From the publishers' perspective obviously the cost savings are big factor: development costs are much lower; distribution and marketing can be utilized by all versions of the game if they come out on the same day.
PCGH: If you had to promote Call of Duty: World at War by listing the technical features that cannot be found in other titles of the genre what would be the technical highlights that are worth mentioning?
Cesar Stastny: Fire and Water simulation, dynamic foliage and physics. Cooperative multiplayer and enhanced online experience through our proprietary Demonware technology.
PCGH: Titles of the Call of Duty series have always presented a very detailed visual presentation by using modern rendering techniques. What would be the visual highlights of Call of Duty: World at War? Will you once again utilize techniques like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Soft Shadows, a HDR Rendering, Deferred Shading, Ambient Occlusion, Shader 4.0 support or post effects like Tone Mapping, Motion Blur and Depth of Field? If yes can you give some examples how they are utilized. Are there other rendering features that are worth mentioning?
Cesar Stastny: We added a completely new dynamic water simulation never before seen in games (waves, foam and reacting to objects), plus enhanced dynamic foliage that responds to wind, fire, and objects. We also have some new cool post effects and of course all the existing graphics tech from Call of Duty 4.
PCGH: Previous Call of Duty games did scale quite well with multi GPU or SLI/Crossfire solutions. Will Call of Duty: World at War keep up this "tradition". Can you already say if players with this kind of hardware can increase the performance remarkably? Do you have to add the support for multi GPU setting when developing the PC Version?
Cesar Stastny: Yes, we are working with hardware vendors to ensure scalability on a multi-gpu and multi-cpu hardware environment.
PCGH: Developing for Console and PC usually requires an engine that is strongly multithreaded. Is that the case with your engine? If yes why is a multithreaded engine the ideal base technology for a game like Call of Duty: World at War?
Cesar Stastny: Multithreaded engine is required by the next generation consoles which have 6-8 CPUs. With Intel and AMD introducing multi-core x86 compatible CPUs PC gamers will naturally benefit from the fact that engine was designed and developed to be multi-threaded.
PCGH: How do you as a developer think about the topic? Can performance in general be increased remarkably by raising the number of Cores on a CPU? Is this the future way to go?
Cesar Stastny: In the past the easiest way to increase the performance without changing the software is to increase the CPU speed. Unfortunately we have reached the limitation of the silicon material and now the only choice is to go with multiple CPUs on the same die. In general this is a big change for the software development and recent studies show that the biggest spending in software development for the coming years will be to pre-qualify software engineers to program in a multi processor environment. Game developers are among the "lucky" ones that had to start doing this earlier. We have been developing games for the past 3 years for multi-processors. We learned a lot of lessons that other software developers have yet to go through.
PCGH: As far as performance in Call of Duty: World at War is concerned will the engine profit from dual or quad core CPUs? Does your engine even scale with more than four cores? If yes what different calculations can be or are split up into different threads and what is the expected performance gain resulting from two respectively four or more cores?
Cesar Stastny: Yes. We are working in collaboration with hardware vendors to maximize scalability.
PCGH: The previous Call of Duty parts offered a detailed physics simulation. Do you keep that? Is the technology behind it middleware or an in-house development? Does the game even support hardware accelerated physics like Nvidia's new technology calculating Physics on the GPU? What is your personal opinion about that topic?
Cesar Stastny: We use our own in-house developed physics engine which is in its 7th year and has shipped with many of our games. The engine is cross platform and thus not using GPU or special physics hardware on PC. It is optimized to utilize special vector processing instructions and multiple CPUs. Our test show that our Physics engine is in par or superior (on consoles) compared to Havoc when it comes to performance and stability of the simulation.
PCGH: Do you utilize the physics simulation just to add more eye candy or will it have an important impact on gameplay?
Cesar Stastny: Definitely both. A good example of impact on gameplay is vehicle physics.
PCGH: Will the PC version support DX10?
Cesar Stastny: No.
PCGH: What were your reasons to do without?
Cesar Stastny: The game will be equivalent between PS3, Xbox360 and PC. This is by design.
PCGH: Will there be a patch after the launch of the PC version that integrates Direct X 10 later?
Cesar Stastny: Maybe if there is a compelling benefit to doing so, such as new superior hardware which requires DirectX 10.
PCGH: From a developer's point of view, can DX 10 be seen as a milestone in game development?
Cesar Stastny: Nope. The reason is that no major consoles including XBox360 from Microsoft supports it's API. For cross platform developers like Treyarch it doesn't make sense to use DirectX 10 since it is not portable to consoles like DirectX 9 is for Xbox 360.
PCGH: Finally: When approximately is the release scheduled? Can you at the current state of development tell our readers what hardware will be required to play the game with all detail in 1.280x1.024 (no FSAA/AF) and 1.600x1.200 (4x FSAA/8:1 AF)?
Cesar Stastny: Since we use the same engine as Call of Duty 4 the minimum spec requirements would be the same. Our game will be enhanced visually with some very cool environment effects not present in Call of Duty 4 so to get the same frame rate with full detail you may need a better graphics card. But it is still too early to tell. It makes sense, especially in cross-platform development, to save a lot of the optimization work until late in the development cycle.
This is work happening right now. We have been playing the game for quite a while with full detail at 1680x1080 with a solid 60+ FPS on a typical high-end gamers PC. Look for Call of Duty: World at War to be on shelves for holidays 2008.
More PlayStation 3 News