Giovanni Caturano (DroneZ) Q&A Conducted by Omni
Giovanni Caturano, Project Leader on the upcoming DroneZ (XB) and President & CEO of SpinVector gave us some of his time to tell us what's happening with DroneZ, slick graphics over gameplay, the hacker ethic and how game development is different in Europe than in North America. (DroneZ is scheduled to ship September 2003 from Metro3D.) Thanks for your time, Giovanni!
start with the introductions: Who are you, how long have you been
involved in the games industry, and how did wind up working on DroneZ?
is the crowning achievement of four years of dedicated work. In this
time span we developed DroneZmarK (a free OpenGL benchmark) and a
bundle-oriented version of DroneZ.
Metro3Dís DroneZ for Xbox and Xbox LIVE represents the
evolution of these experiences. Before
1998 our core team had worked together as a demogroup creating some
promotional games, did R&D for DEC and finally moved to Paris where
Zetha GameZ is based.
your own words, describe DroneZ and its general gameplay.
a near future, people will pass all their time connected to the V-Space
Ė the future of Cyberspace. DroneZ, the software agents created to
handle the physical needs of the human bodies will takeover.
up to each player to penetrate the structure of the V-Space with the
help of Doku, a young hacker who disconnected before any other,
exploiting a flaw of the main system while studying it. He is your
partner in the destruction of the enemy defenses (represented as
physical creatures) as you move through memory locations (revealed as
platforms in the game) striving to reach the Master Brain and destroy
its Controller. The goal is to reveal the truth and make people free to
character can move and aim independently. In addition, you will have to
manage your ZNRG (read ďZenergyĒ) reserve to shoot bolts and
activating a shield. Along
the way youíll meet numerous enemies with powerful secondary weapons,
but if you destroy them, Doku will be able to access their code and
upload the weapons to you! Moreover, he will always try to help you with
additional bonuses like helpers or shields and by moving platforms,
opening doors or activating buttons whenever possible.
DroneZ, frantic shooting wonít work alone.
Players must also develop a sense of observation and think of a
strategy (or maybe two) before facing your next enemy or be doomed to
the official DroneZ website, there is a lot of detail about the graphics
engine. Would it have been
easier to license an established engine than making a proprietary
The reason for the technical information being such a big deal is that the former PC version was a showcase for NVIDIA GeForce 3 and Intel Pentium 4, 2GHz. We still believe the visuals must be rewarding and that technology must be exploited as much as possible in order to provide the best possible gaming experience. Carmine della Sala, our technology leader always liked the idea of stretching the limits of
and thatís why he loved to work with that hardware. With this engine
we could really achieve the result we wanted.
In terms of illumination, whenever we needed a feature, we could
add it and seamlessly optimize the engine for the latest hardware. In
the end, itís something we like to do. Working on your own ideas and
technology is surely a greater cost, but also a competitive advantage
and a much more rewarding way to stay up at night with a computer. -:)
a shiny package and slick graphics supercede gameplay?
Sometimes a shiny package does attract buyers, and surely
rewarding visuals are a must, but gameplay is the main focus.
This is why we have waited so long before releasing DroneZ.
was the most difficult part about developing DroneZ?
such an original concept and quite unique controls, the hardest part has
surely been to balance the gameplay.
DroneZ is really a smart action game, but with so many gamers of
varying skill levels, we wanted to avoid frustrating some while not
making the game too obvious for others.
After many hours spent fine-tuning the gameplay, I must say we
are quite pleased with how DroneZ has turned out!
inspirations were drawn upon during DroneZ development?
cyberpunk literature: the same where Tron and The Matrix have strong
roots. Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling and, of course, William Gibson are
all favorite authors of mine.
there be multiplayer features included in DroneZ?
(Or offered as part of an add-on?)
for Xbox and Xbox LIVE comes with five online Death Match levels. The
game also features 15 levels exclusively designed for offline
multiplayer, with up to four players connected to the same console.
youíre proud of the engine DroneZ uses (nGenius 2), especially
considering the amount of time and effort that went into its
development. Will we see it
being used by other games?
will soon be working on a new version of the engine, but we donít plan
to license it to any third party, even if we had some offers in that
respect after the GeForce 3 boom. We
might change our mind if we feel that the project and the team really
match the features of the engine, but this has not happened thus far.
there anyone in particular that you look up to in the gaming industry?
Why do you look up to them?
are so many bright-minded, creative people in the industry that itís
impossible to name them all. From a personal perspective, I most look up
to Peter Molyneux, not only for his achievements and very creative
ideas, but also for his behavior as a person.
current hardware being used to its full potential?
is my opinion that hardware is currently evolving so quickly that itís
becoming almost impossible for people to exploit it at its full
potential. If you think of what people did (and do) with the Commodore
64, youíll see that nobody does it with contemporary technology. I
could recite the full memory map of the C64, but who could do that with
a PC? Anyway, itís an irresistible temptation, when you put your hands
on some new hi-tech hardware to try and do something beyond the limits
of that machine, but first you need to know it very well, and this is
surely easier with consoles. On the other hand, now the hardware
designers are much closer than ever to the coders, and itís easier to
share useful information with the designers and with other coders in
order to find better ways to exploit the system. In this sense, I always
find a good sense of collaboration not only with the engineers at NVIDIA
or Intel, but also with the other developers around the world as sharing
ideas and comparing techniques is often more important than reading code
what extent do you subscribe to the hacker ethic?
glad to have the chance to answer such a question.
the hacker in our game, found a breach into the V-Space system while
trying to explore it and stretch its capabilities (Iím almost quoting
the Jargon File) and this brought him to discover a scary truth.
Now, he wants to bring the benefits of his discovery and the
information he discovered to the advantage of all mankind.
To do this, heís trying to locate or create other breaches from
inside (thatís what the player does) in order to destroy the software
agents that limit the freedom of people.
Heís a hero of course not a criminal.
So, Doku is trying to share the information he has and hack up a
system with a good intent, which is why we never use the word ďcrackĒ. We
hope this will give a better perspective to the people who are scared of
the ďHĒ word.
does it mean to Zetha gameZ that DroneZ was being used to benchmark
performance of new PCs? (i.e., was used to showcase Intelís Pentium
I said before, present technology doesnít let you run after it. You
have to ride it or watch it pass. For us, itís a great experience to
work closely with NVIDIA and Intel on their new processors, not only
because they produce the most exciting consumer hardware in the world,
but also because of the people we meet in those companies -- truly
passionate engineers who love what they do and like to be challenged.
is game development different in Europe than in North America?
The hardest thing here is to fund games. Not that itís easy in the U.S., but the financing system in Europe is often affected by an outdated logic and project financing is seldom a valid option for a bank. To make things worse, here in Italy most traditional actors in the financial world have a blurred idea (if any) of what game development is. On the other hand, too many developers for too long have underestimated the importance of the technical factor in a game, but this is quickly changing as you can see from events like the GDC-Europe, etc.
(July 20, 2003)
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