We're using a heavily modified version of Unreal 2.x, and it continues to be heavily modified in just about every area -- we'll re-do the network code, we've already just about totally re-written the rending side of things to get bump mapping, etc. in there, we've made it seamless world, we've completely replaced the player character technology (skinned FPS models don't cut it in an MMOG), plus a lot more.
We feel very confident this modified engine will be perfect for Vanguard at release (just as, like you mentioned, the L2 guys successfully morphed the engine for their MMOG).
Will we switch to 3.0? Well, we look at 3.0 and learn from it all the time, but as to officially switching over to that code base, it would be huge endeavor... it would both slow us down right now, plus 3.0 just isn't as mature as the 2.x code base so we'd be taking some risks. That said, at some point after Vanguard's release, I could certainly see us making the transition.
Source: Official FAQ
Our graphics engine is a hybrid, really. We licensed the Unreal engine, and used it as our starting point so we could rapidly get design and art working on the game, as opposed to just programming. Unreal is a FPS engine, and lots and lots of modifications are being made to make it an MMOG engine that suits Vanguard's specific needs.
Our lead programmer, Ryan Elam, is good friends with Tim Sweeney at Epic, and they talk often, share ideas and code, and we have access to all sorts of technologies.
Here is our press release regarding our use of the Unreal engine:
SIGIL GAMES ANNOUNCES USE OF UNREAL® ENGINE TECHNOLOGY
"Vanguard: Saga of HeroesTM" to Utilize Top Third-Party Engine
SAN DIEGO, California. - May 6, 2004 - Sigil Games Online, Inc. today announced that the company is using the Unreal® Engine as one of several licensed technologies used in their flagship product, the massively multiplayer RPG "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes."
"Unreal Technology enabled us from the very beginning to start making a game instead of an engine," said Brad McQuaid, president & CEO of Sigil and the co-producer for "Vanguard." "From nearly day one, our highly technical team of artists were taking their visions from paper to playable. Furthermore, within a few short months, our designers were seeing real gameplay and functional technology. It is integral to a content-based product like 'Vanguard' that the artists and designers rapidly generate assets and see results, and that all departments are working concurrently as quickly as possible."
The Unreal Engine has been instrumental in bringing dozens of titles to market on multiple platforms with fast, clean, and polished production value. "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes" will heavily modify the Unreal Engine and other technology over time to better support an MMOG's many special needs, while at the same time reaping the benefits of an extensive tool set and the support of the Unreal Development Network.
"I've known Tim Sweeney and the guys at Epic for over ten years", expressed Ryan Elam, lead programmer and graphics 'guru' for "Vanguard." "I've watched the Unreal Engine practically since inception, and I agree wholeheartedly with their philosophy of giving the developer a strong, stable foundation upon which to build a game. Frankly, they free our programmers up to do the 'Cool Stuff'!"
"We're thrilled to be collaborating with Sigil to combine their world class design and artistry with Epic's leading-edge 3D technology," said Tim Sweeney, CEO and technical director of Epic Games. "Sigil's core team members are largely responsible for the popularity of the MMORPG genre today, and it's almost scary to think of the potential of their talent coupled with the Unreal Engine's flexibility. Historically, massively multiplayer games have not pushed graphical detail and realism as ardently as other genres, but 'Vanguard' looks to demolish that trend."
Early on, as Sigil evaluated their technology options, McQuaid and Elam recall discussing their previous experiences building large and ambitious games with either home-grown or licensed technology.
"Given the scope and scale of 'Vanguard,'" said McQuaid, "it was really a no-brainer to use technology like Unreal's to accelerate the process. I'm glad we licensed third party technology for "EverQuest®" back when I worked at SISA/989 Studios, and I'm happy we made a similar decision with 'Vanguard' here at Sigil. The results speak for themselves."
The Vanguard client will be built to take advantage of the average gamer's machine at the time of release. The graphics engine is very scalable, so a below recommended spec machine should be able to run the game, albeit with less graphics goodness than a more powerful PC. Likewise, as newer and more powerful systems and cards come on the market, the Vanguard client will take be able to take advantage of them , scaling upwards.
1. Dual core already works fine. That said, we've not finished moving things to different threads to fully take advantage of it, so it will just get better. I run a 3.2EE dual core at home and use it to play almost nightly.
2. Just ran Vanguard the other day on a 64 bit CPU on XP 64. Ran fine. Some who had used the box more claimed it ran faster, but I didn't notice a huge difference. This was a 32 bit client (Vanguard) running on a 64 bit chip and OS. We hope to release a true 64 bit client at some point as well.
3. We have it running on SLI machines. Runs fine. SLI mostly helps with fill rate, and depending on which build we're on, we're poly or passes or fill rate or cpu bound, so how much it helps varies as well But this will be sorted out well before release.
4. We have it running on various machines with fast ram.
Source: Aradune Mithara
It already does to some degree and we plan to, as we finish up the game and optimize, to continue to architect it such that it will more and more.
It also runs great, or so I've been told by serveral people, on XP 64, even though the beta .exe is 32 bit.
We hope to have both a 32 and 64 bit client available, as well as support both XP and Vista.
It's too early to announce Vanguard's hardware, memory, or storage requirements.
Source: Official FAQ
I hope I don't worry anyone -- you know how I like to avoid speculating on system specs this early -- but I don't think Tom is benchmarking Vanguard He is correct, though, that current games don't take full advantage of existing hardware (which seems to be a truism -- hardware is always ahead of software). Even the latest FPS games which really push your CPU and the GPU on the video card don't push the ram on the video card too much because they're not dealing with seamless words, lots of PCs on the screen, and heavily customizable player avatars.
Vanguard will use 256mb, and I can see it using 512 in the future. That said, that's with the options mostly or all turned on. We run fine in 128mb with some options off. Going below 128mb on a video card is probably a bad idea though.
Source: Aradune Mithara
I don't know of any other games that requires 256 megs right now. Pretty sure most/all will run on 128. I imagine you could turn a bunch of advanced options on and push into the 128-256 range -- I doubt there's an app that would push past 256 though. Software is always palying catch up. (beta 2)
5. I don't think we have a physics card in-house yet, but I've heard the programmings talking about them, all excited. So I would say that there's a good chance, time permitting, that we'll do something with them, assuming they're out before we're out. Certainly at some point after launch as we have some pretty cool ideas. Can't promise by release tho, sorry.
Overall, I think our programmers have done a really good job architecting the engine such that it will grow with and take advantage of new tech that comes on the scene over the next several years. We learned that with EQ, where we had no idea how long the game would be popular and so didn't plan as well, making it harder to implement new tech. I think we're much better set up now.
Source: Aradune Mithara
We're currently working on better supporting NVIDIA SLI and also getting ready for ATI Crossfire.
We have a physics engine -- It's unclear to what extent we'll be able to use it by launch, but my understanding is that you'll be able to use additional ATI cards not just to boost graphics performance, but also to do physics in hardware. Very exciting stuff.
We should also be able to at some point in the not too distant future take advantage of shader 3.0 (we require 2.0). Also, the new ATI cards should allos us to put anti-aliasing back on at virtually know cost while keeping advanced features like HDR lighting.
In summary, we know that this game and the engine behind it have to last and stay as current as possible for a long time. So a lot of time has already been put into it, architecting it such that taking advantage of new tech will not require major surgery. – 31 October 2005
Source: Aradune Mithara
Vanguard uses true HDR and that is what you are seeing in the more recent screenshots -- they are not 'bloom hacks'. This same system also uses true tonemapping, world lighting, per pixel lighting, and a bunch of other stuff Ryan could list off better than me. – 24 December 2005
We believe so, yes, but are not committing to a minimum baud rate this early in development.
The main issue with broadband and MMOGs is still a matter of cost server side, even though bandwidth prices have gone down. In other words, it still doesn't make sense to send out a lot of data to each player's client, even if they do have the capability to receive it. Now, obviously this will change, but we’re confident that by the time it does the vast majority of players will have broadband too.
Lag from internet latency. This is the one that I think will be around for a while. We have experience coders who code very efficient network engines. But again, there are two factors. We still can't push a ton of data out to the player, and we'll still have situations where the player can't get a good connection to us. We'll do everything we can to minimize this, but I want to be straight up and say that the Internet still isn't where it should be, though things have gotten a lot better.
Lag as framerate. The answer here is, like I mentioned, lots of options that a player can turn off if he happens to be in a raid or near a ton of other people. That and hopefully a smart system that will adjust things in real time for you. This is important to us because we are pushing technology with this game. I'm glad we are, but it does mean we will be more subject to frame rate issues than, say, WoW. It also means that our min specs will be higher. It also means we need to have lots of options and also do a lot of optimization, both of which are in progress.
I can tell you what we are doing in beta, but it is subject to change, tweaking, etc. before we launch in order to avoid exploits.
Currently, if you crash out/disconnect, when you return as long as you don't move, cast, attack, etc. you have a temporary invul buff on you. The idea is that you have some time to re-group with your party members and re-orient yourself, especially if you disconnected in a nasty spot.(beta 2)
XNA is a growing group of software tools that allow developers to more rapidly develop their games. Additionally, Microsoft wants to share tools and technology between its different platforms (e.g. Win32, Xbox, future platforms).
Vanguard is one of the chief early adopters of this ever-growing group of software. For example, we will be using technologies from Xbox live, voice communication, and already have the ability to play the game via an Xbox-style controller with a tiny keyboard attached to it (a TID).
There will be more information about all of this later.
Vanguard has been announced as a Windows game. We remain open to the idea of taking advantage of future architectures, but nothing is written in stone. Certainly, Vanguard would not run on the existing Xbox platform.
Vanguard simply requires more resources than the current generation of consoles can handle (xbox 360 and ps/3). Will the next generation after 360 and ps/3 be capable of handling Vanguard? I have no idea, but I do know that we'd like to see the game on muliple platforms as long as it doesn't require us to make Vanguard any less of what it is (e.g. sacrificing quality or quantity).
Source: Aradune Mithara April 26, 2006
All I have to say is "No - there are absolutely no plans for vanguard to be released on Xbox360." That's not to say that we wouldn't consider an adaptation to the 360 at some point after release - but there is no work going on to that end at this point.
I hear you. We will be as honest as we are allowed to be (it's not all in our hands, but the marketing departments seem very cool about these things -- I'm just saying I don't have authority over that area, just influence).
But I think you guys know I'm very straight up with you. I'd like to post minimum specs that are really minimum specs (e.g. you can play the game and have fun, but all the graphics goodness slider bars will be turned off), and then recommended which would be the slider bars in the middle, and then 'crazy' or some such, which would be the best system you could buy at the time. Though keep in mind the best system buyable during beta or release likely will not be able to have everything turned all the way up -- the game has to scale both backwards and then forwards into time so it still looks great years after release.
The reason we are not talking about specs now is that it's just not a good idea for the following reasons:
1. the game is not done
2. the game is not fully optimized
3. technology changes very quickly
4. the price of technology changes very quickly
Thus the system I use to run Vanguard today in alpha mode will likely be MUCH cheaper when the game comes out (or even during beta), and also I'm running on relatively unoptimized code (though we are putting some optimizations in for E3 demos and such).
Yes, Vanguard will support voice communication—participating in voice or group communication will be completely optional.
Source: Official FAQ
We are unlikely to have any form of baked in voice support when we ship (bordering on 100% certainty at this point) and there are currently no plans to build our own solution. As we've said all along, we expect people to use 3rd party solutions - if they want to use voice at all. - September 2005
I want to reiterate that voice won't be rolled into the game at launch, and isn't planned in the foreseeable future. That being said, we do expect a lot of people to use 3rd party voice apps - but at the same time, we're not relying on it - so nothing about the game experience will require it. - 31 October 2005
We will have a 64 bit client before launch -- it's just a matter of priorities. Btw, even though the client is still 32 bit, I've run some tests and you get around at 5% (sometimes up to 10%) performance boost running on XP64. And this wasn't just running Vanguard -- I ran 3dMark too -- I can dual boot my 3.2EE dual core into either XP 32 or 64 since it's a newer chip and supports the 64bit instructions, and I've run the game and third party 3d tests on it. December 22, 2005 (Beta 2)
Vanguard and all Microsoft Game Studios products are requiring Windows XP and Vista(eventually). The biggest reason is that we have a dependency on Direct X and the DX team no longer supports Windows 2000 as a platform.
Today and perhaps even in the foreseeable future Vanguard may run fine on the Win2K platform. But that may not always be the case. If there is an optimization or new technology that we want to take advantage of in Direct X version 9.x we can't guarantee that the game will run correctly on Win2k.
While the technology may be very similar between the two platforms it all boils down to support costs. Right now given XPs market penetration it makes sense to target it as our primary platform. I would rather funnel that money into making Vanguard a better game for ~95% of our player base rather than supporting ~3% of the users using Windows 2k.
(Numbers obtained from a valve survey of 800k+ machines running half life 2)
It's never easy to cut off support for an older platform. However it doesn't matter when we make that decision, we are likely to offend someone. When we stopped supporting Windows 9x, etc we got the same message. December 23, 2005 (Beta 2)
Since Microsoft is our publisher, that's a safe bet. - 9 November 2005
In the works will also be Vista clients, but their availability will have to do with the OS's release first.
Source: Aradune Mithara
I can't go into details, but it is important that Vanguard not only runs on Vista but also takes advantage of many of Vistas new features, especially as they relate to graphics. And yes we do have Vista beta. Beyond that it's too early to comment further, other than to say that personally, while Vista is still pretty early on, I'm really excited about it... some features have been pushed into later service packs, but overall I think it's going to be a great OS and one that moreso than any previously helps out games. (Beta 2)
Source: Aradune Mithara
That said we will make sure that Vanguard runs on any *Fully Supported* Vista box that meets our system requirements for the game. January 2006
We use an iterative approach. The closest officially defined method to what we do is a spiral, but even defining a specific method, in my mind, seems too corporate for the atmosphere here. We get requirements, write some code, test it, have other people test it, and revise with new approaches or new requirements, at least that is how it works from the gameplay side. It can often be a question of "Is this actually fun?" or "Is this too limiting/too complex?" that prompts another iteration, or it could just be a question of polish.
I'd say that the closest we have to the pair programming portion of extreme programming (is it just me, or does that name evoke images of a *very* absurd Mt. Dew commercial?) is helping each other track down and fix particularly obnoxious bugs, or a little good natured heckling.
The quote from Amanda's interview is very accurate. We have a very open atmosphere where suggestions from each other are seriously considered, and we all learn a lot from each other which is a testament to how well we get along and work together. - 9 November 2005
Generally we play at 1024x768, or 1280 x 1024, and I think most of us use an ATI x800 here. I play on a similar spec'ced system at home. 3.2ghz., 2gigs of ram memory, ATI x800.
1920x1200 isn't supported by most monitors, but we take most shots at that resolution for use as wallpapers, etc. But yea, still very playable at 1920 on a fast box. I think Brad plays at that resolution here at work.
Personally, I am waiting until just before release to upgrade my home card. Lots of really sweet tech coming out soon. - 15 November 2005
The December beta 1 screenshots were taken from my work machine. This was a 3.8 Ghz processor with 2 gigs of RAM and a ATI x1800xl video card.
But to be clear, that has nothing to do with the quality of the visuals. The faster machine helps with, rather, the FPS.
As long as you have a pixel shader 2.0 or higher card, any machine can display the game at this quality. Obviously a mid or lower end machine can't display the game at this quality (with all the graphics options turned on and the resolution at 1920x1200) with a good framerate at the moment, though on my 3.6 at home I play in this resolution and with all the graphics settings on every night just fine. But many people are playing in beta at lower resolutions with all the settings on.
We've still got a couple of optimization passes to go and hardware will be a lot cheaper by the time we launch. So while I don't know if I can promise the average gamer machine will be able to run at that rez even at launch, you should be able to run with those graphics settings. - 18 November 2005
Source: Aradune Mithara
I am getting between 15 and 30fps at 1920x1200 on a high end machine right now, and do every night when I play, and we're not even totally optimized. I am using a 3.8ghz pentium and an ATI 1800XT and fully admit that's a high-end machine that's relatively costly (though those screenshots were using 850XTs and 1800XLs depending on the date). But the card, cpu, etc. really only determines the framerate in this case, not the quality of the image. You can get that quality of an image on any shader 2.0 card (the x1800s are shader 3.0 but we're not using any 3.0 instructions as of yet). E.g. the game looks that good on a 9800XT, although currently with optimizaitons not done and all of those options on, I think most wouldn't find the game enjoyable at that rez on a lower end system with a much slower shader 2.0 card.
That said, there are many people in beta playing at lower resolutions (1280x1024, etc.) and without HDR/worldlighting on 9800s, 6800s, etc. and on 2.8ghz or so systems and playing just fine. Lastly, based on what both ATI and Nvidia are saying, cards that perform like x1800s (or even faster) will be in the under $150 dollar range by the middle of next year. - December 21, 2005 (Beta 2)
In order to have long view distance (clipping planes), we have to use LOD (level of detail) where depending on the distance between you (the camera) and the object, we display a different art asset with less detail.
When LODs switch to more detailed objects as you approach them, you can notice this. We are doing our best to make this an subtle as possible, but there's still no way to eliminate it. - 19 November 2005
Not for a *long* time. At some point, you do have to upgrade an MMOG to a more recent version of DX, but it's when the currently used version becomes several (2-3) versions behind (we did this in EQ too). Definitely nothing to worry about for 1-2 years minimum I wouldn't think.