Interviews

Mark Rein: Unreality bites

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Saying that, between our two games, which are more different than people realise, we're not going to exercise every last function needed by developers. We'll certainly never exercise every last function we put in the engine, because we put them in for our own purposes. But there's certainly other functionalities that developers need for their specific titles that we don't have. Developers in some cases are certainly doing more to extend the engine than we have. The bottom line is: I don't think you can be an engine provider without being a very critical engine user and we're probably the most critical of all.

The next-gen's arrived now with Xbox 360. What kind of impact do you think that's made and how do you think Microsoft's launch has gone?

Mark Rein: I think the Xbox 360 launch has been extremely successful. Yeah they've struggled with getting the quantity of units out there and I think you could certainly have a much worse problem than that. But I think the quality of the launch titles was very good, probably the best I've seen of a launch console and I think the device is very good. I think they really nailed what they needed to have for this time frame and this generation.

As we've said in the past, the 360 turned out to be more powerful than our original estimates were, based on specifications and that's always a positive thing. The developers seem to be taking to it like crazy. You know, we talk to a lot of developers and the uptake of 360 is extremely high amongst developers. There's more excitement than I've seen in the past, for example, with Xbox one. So that's really good news.

I was at the XFest conference here in London yesterday and the organisers had to turn away 150 people, they just didn't have room. I think that's a really good sign, it's the sign of a console that's going to do very well and have a very active developer market. Xbox 360 certainly established that.

I think there's a very bright future ahead. Obviously we know what some of the second generation Xbox titles look like and they're really what users are expecting - or I should say, what users are hoping they'll see from Xbox 360. Those titles are coming and I think that's going to be extremely impressive.

This year should see the launch of PS3 - we hope anyway - and with Unreal Tourny being shown at last year's E3 as the first game on the system... What's your take on developing for the system compared to Xbox 360?

Mark Rein: The architectures of the two systems are relatively unique. The graphics parts have different philosophies and obviously the CPUs have different philosophies. We're finding the PlayStation 3 to be a really challenging development environment, just like Xbox 360 was when we really got into the meat of it. But ultimately I think it's going to deliver a very satisfying experience for the users. We like to think that our technology will help developers really take advantage of the system and put out some really spectacular games. We're pretty happy with the way things are going there.

There's a ton of speculation swirling around Sony's proposed PlayStation HUB service recently - do you think it needs to develop a Live-style service to really seize online this time around?

Mark Rein: First of all, let me say I think Xbox Live is fantastic and Microsoft has done an amazing job with it, as we're now seeing the numbers come through for conversion rates for Xbox Live Arcade and how many people have downloaded some of the games. [I'm] Really enjoying the Marketplace, really enjoying Xbox Live Arcade and I know they're going to do a lot of really cool things with it. This is only version one and it will morph over a relatively fast amount of time into a much better service.

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