...But "Keeping Their Eyes On" L.A. Noire Tech
When we cornered Valve's Chet Faliszek for an interview at a recent EA Showcase, we were quick to ask him whether the venerable Source engine was finally running out of steam (no pun intended). His answer was that they'd "keep adapting it" to suit their requirements - and Valve have now confirmed that they have no plans to create a new engine in the near future. However, they are apparently keeping an interested eye on the facial animation software displayed by Rockstar's upcoming L.A. Noire. Valve also plan to stay out of the engine licensing race - and we have the full details below.
During an interview with Develop, key Valve personnel were quick to praise the rugged Source Engine's reliability - and believe that future Valve titles will simply require upgrades rather than a whole new engine.
There are lot of advantages on iterating on a mature and stable and shipped codebase, as opposed to starting over again. I think, when you see a game like DOTA 2, you’ll see how developers can get a lot more out of Source than most companies can get from a scratch-built engine.
Does that mean we’ll reach some architectural tipping-point where we’ll need to change? No. I mean, if Larrabee [Intel’s promising GPU that was cancelled as a consumer device] had shipped that would have probably necessitated some fairly dramatic changes in order to take advantage of it. But, so far we’ve been able to keep the engine moving ahead, robustly. I mean, I think it looks great. - Valve President Gabe Newell
We think it looks great too, Gabe. Valve have "twenty to thirty core people" working on the engine alone, meaning that there should be plenty of life in the old warhorse yet.
Newell has also confirmed that Valve are not planning to enter the lucrative engine licensing market - and join the fierce rivalry between Epic Games and Crytek for the best feature sets and user-friendly SDKs.
We're really happy if another studio wants to use our engine, but we're not going to go out there and try and muscle in on what Epic Games does.
A few people have used our engine, and I think a few more will find it useful now that we have a PS3 edition.
We're not sure if the Source engine necessarily has the basic grunt to toe the line with Cry Engine 3 and the latest Unreal offering, but with DoTA and Portal 2 looking great, we've certainly got no complaints.
Interestingly, though, a comment later in the interview reveals that Valve are rather excited about L.A. Noire's facial animation tech (DepthAnalysis' Motion Scan)- and keeping an eye on it with a view to incorporating it into their engine. However, the scripted animations may be too reactive to fit into Valve's usual dynamic style.
I think it's an important inflection point in the continuum of ever-increasing fidelity in game characters... There are pros and cons to that LA Noire approach, and we're keeping our eyes on that piece of tech, but it's not clear how we would integrate it.
One of my first impressions was the incredible high-fidelity of it... But the system is based on a playback of a performance, which can go against how we like to think about characters interacting with our players. We like our performances to be far more reactive to what the player does, and not to something pre-acted on a sound stage. It's not completely obvious how this tech would integrate into our work. - Valve 3D Visual Designer Jason Mitchell
We'll keep you posted - on both the story and whether L.A. Noire is up to scratch. [Develop]