Q&As// Space Giraffe Creator: Jeff Minter - Part 2

Unity was canned basically because it was over ambitious

Posted 27 Apr 2007 11:46 by
SPOnG: The Neon light synthesiser on XBox 360 was a result of the cancelled Unity for Gamecube. Neon is also the basis for the graphics of Space Giraffe. Why was Unity cancelled, and would it be accurate to call Space Giraffe a rebirth of the project?

Jeff Minter: Well, I wouldn't say it's as simple as "Neon fell out of Unity". There was VLM3.5, which was the texture generator for Unity, and that was based on ideas for a modular lightsynth I first had in 1990-odd but which tech of that era couldn't really sustain. VLM3.5 implemented that modular architecture and I built an editor around it. The actual lightsynth modules in VLM3.5 and in Neon are quite different though - the GameCube didn't have shaders, and Neon is heavily shader oriented. Pretty much the only thing that VLM3.5 and Neon have in common is early parts of that editor framework.

The lamented Unity for Game Cube
The lamented Unity for Game Cube
Unity was canned basically because it was over ambitious; it was taking just too long to be worth the investment. There was stuff in there that was too complex for one guy to make in a timely manner - we had creatures whose shapes and behaviours were done with a kind of genetic algorithm. I wanted those to be able to "evolve" as play progressed and Unity didn't really know if it wanted to be a shooter or Spore or something halfway between.

SG definitely isn't "Unity reborn" - I learned a lot from the Unity experience and the main thing was not to bite off more than I could chew. So, SG has its own concepts that it puts over very well but it is also much simpler and straightforward, we didn't attempt anything that would get us bogged down and take ages to get working right in development. I still like a lot of the ideas I had for Unity but if they come to light in future it'll likely be as parts of smaller games where I can afford the development time rather than as part of something as large and complex as Unity wanted to be.

SPOnG: It?s been stated that the light synthesiser developed for the XBOX 360 is in fact the ?First Wave? of Neon. What kind of projects are you thinking about right now that could benefit from a Neon series? Is Space Giraffe the next ?wave??

Jeff Minter: We'll be using the Neon engine as the game engine for our upcoming games. It's versatile, easily extensible, and gives our stuff its own distinctive style. SG has left us with a nice extended version of Neon with "gaming stuff" added and that's a good starting point for future games projects. We'll also be launching PC Neon alongside Space Giraffe, which is much more powerful than the Xbox 360 version and comes with live camera support and the full editor, allowing people to get a hold if it and try it out for themselves if they like the kind of stuff they see in Space Giraffe.
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Juno Blaster 27 Apr 2007 17:51
He's becoming my hero!

Can't wait for this.
config 27 Apr 2007 18:31
You must be relatively new to this gaming lark - the Yak is many an 8-bit gamer's hero
FrankenVater 30 Apr 2007 11:18
Minter is a hero, there's no two ways about it. Llamatron was one of the best Amiga games ever.

But all this plumbing the depths of Tempest kind of freaks me. Let's remmeber, Tempest is David Theurer's creation, but it seems to have become Minter's legacy...

And his work on Tempest 2/3K was merely to add noise, swearing and distraction to a game that is one of the pure, hardcore gaming greats. Minter is cool, Tempest is cool. Minter + Tempest = not cool.

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