Digital Foundry: What's the balance between your research and development and production work? The last time we spoke we were discussing the launch of Big Surf Island on Burnout Paradise, so were you working on Chameleon then or did it all kick off a bit later on?
Alex Fry: We didn't start working on Chameleon until mid last year. Little tiny bits. We identified a few things we really had to fix.
Richard Parr: The new version of the asset management database... that was one thing we started straightaway. We were thinking about how we were going to restructure the complete architecture of the run-time side. I was trying out some bits and pieces.
Alex Fry: And I was looking at lighting and gamma correct rendering. We were doing bits and pieces and prototyping and the elements of the engine we did change we couldn't ship in the DLC pack as that would have required changing the whole world and that was obviously not an option. We researched a few things, but not a lot. The major bulk of the work didn't start until around mid last year and in the rest of the time around that we were just trying out ideas.
Richard Parr: I think one of the things we don't do is any explicit research - the occasional prototype or trying out ideas - but for me it's more about development of stuff. It's based around developing a game at the end of the day and you have to do little bits of research to find out the best way to do that. We don't do what people might call blue sky research. We have a few specialists who look after that asset management database and other guys who are all about how smoothly our build processes work.
So it takes 30 minutes or so to take all assets out of the database and munge it into a disc that people can play on three platforms. There's a couple of guys just sitting there making that work.
Alex Fry: On Burnout Revenge it was eight hours to build a disc on one platform and you could run it overnight. So you come in, you try the new build, and if it doesn't work so you'd have to wait all day for the next one. Now it's 30 minutes to build a disc on all three platforms.
Digital Foundry: Yes, you're on three systems at launch this time. So the work you did on Burnout Paradise PC - was that laying the foundations for this?
Alex Fry: It was a learning experience. When we started the new engine we knew what the best architecture would be to suit all three platforms so we did that architecture and then we pulled across a lot of the other lines of code that made sense... yeah, we did take some of the work that had been done on Burnout Paradise PC.
Richard Parr: Stuff like arbitrary resolutions on monitors, bizarre controllers and stuff like that we had in our minds from the beginning whereas some of the guys who worked on Paradise on the PC had to crowbar that into what we'd already done, which doesn't always go well.
Digital Foundry: What sort of spec are you looking at to play the PC version of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit?
Alex Fry: I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the system requirement. We haven't gone crazy on that.
Richard Parr: We've been telling our marketing people that it's slightly above our min spec on Paradise but it's not much higher than that. Paradise didn't run on some stupidly low spec hardware but it was pretty kind to lower end machines.
Digital Foundry: An entry level Core 2 Duo and an 8800GT gave you 1080p60, pretty much. I thought it was great - maxing out the settings, lowering CPU speed, disabling cores and then slotting in progressively weaker GPUs and it was still working very nicely.
Alex Fry: We've kept the same ethos and haven't done anything to impact the speed of the fast engine we've got. The learning's still there, the same performance is still there.
Richard Parr: Low-end PCs may suffer on the CPU side this time compared to Paradise than on the graphics side. We've put a lot of work into making the physics more realistic and that takes more time and in terms of how the SPUs are used on PS3 or the other threads on 360, if you draw a graph from it (which we do!) we're doing a lot more work this time than on Paradise.
Alex Fry: You'll need a multi-core machine to run it.
Richard Parr: At least a couple of cores, but it'll certainly take advantage of any cores you've got lying around.
Digital Foundry: Are you still sticking to the Burnout Paradise philosophy of the same code being run on every platform? Did you see the presentation Bizarre Creations made on how they moved lighting across from GPU to SPU for Blur on PS3?
Alex Fry: That kind of thing is quite radical, yeah. If you start to dump GPU tasks onto your CPU that's when it starts to get a bit...
Digital Foundry: Lairy?
Alex Fry: Yeah. It's really good that people do different things because you can learn a lot from it. I like seeing people trying different stuff. But no, our deferred rendering is still done on GPU on all platforms. We aren't putting anything back on CPU. We could and see how we go, but a simple architecture is simple - you can change it and it's easy. Well... easier. As soon as diverge from that, things get a lot more complicated. It's something you might choose to do if it's a decision you take early on. We chose not to do that and we've not paid for it.
Digital Foundry: I asked you earlier about specific R&D development time. Are you working directly on the game now with the programmers or are you working on new stuff?
Richard Parr: We like most of our programmers to be focused on the game itself rather than the tech. We have some guys who are just bonkers-good at maths and understanding chips and stuff. They're probably doing a better job because we just give them hard maths to do and that's fine. We give them some optimisation to do and that goes on through to the end and that's good.
Alex Fry: In Burnout Paradise, we - and by we I mean the graphics and the engine side - spent about 75 per cent of our time writing the tech and optimising and about 25 per cent doing feature work. I'd say it's exact opposite for this game, and obviously lighting is one of the key features.
Richard Parr: And even now, as good as it looks, Henry LaBounta - the art director - is still out there with a big list of features he'd like to cram in there before we go.
Alex Fry: There's some more stuff going on in the background that you've not yet seen. There are a lot of things we're still looking at. The faster we can make it, the more things we can do and the better it'll look. The four or five weeks we have left is a long time...