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Five-Minute Interview with the Chiefs of Game Developers
—by Jade Dragon

Have you ever wondered about who the people are behind the games you love? What they look like? What they eat? Well, I came up with 5 questions for my five-minute interview with the leaders of popular game software companies. We will feature one Chief each week. And I've also got a photo of each Chief I've interviewed, so that you can see what they look like. As for what they eat, that's highly classified information.


Eidos Interactive logo

With the release of Tomb Raider on the Pocket PC platform (read our review), Eidos, one of the console and PC game giants, has made their way into new territory. If Tomb Raider for Pocket PC is successful, does this mean that Pocket PCs are coming to an age where they’ll share the super power of mainstream gaming? We certainly hope so!
We chatted with Nick Robinson, a top secret agent at Eidos Interactive PDA Gaming division. Sorry, we couldn’t ask what he had for lunch- we didn’t want to be terminated.

Jade Dragon: Eidos is a big player in the PC and console gaming market with huge hits like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy 8 and of course Tomb Raider. What made you decide to branch out to the Pocket PC platform?

Mr. Robinson: The current generation of PDAs, and the related technology which is beginning to make its way into the next generation of mobile phones, is at a level which enables us to bring high-quality, fully interactive content to a mobile market for the first time. Typically these products represent the flagship of a manufacturer's or operator's range. We will continue to work with current and future partners in the wireless industry to take advantage of these new devices but also to develop content that is appropriate for the mass-market devices and handsets.

Tomb Raider is arguably the strongest brand in the games industry and has the mass-market appeal upon which we hope to build a successful product line. That said, we are always particularly careful with Tomb Raider to ensure that any implementation of the game, or of the character, is faithful to the original and maintains the high standards we have set ourselves to date. Although we have been keen to bring Tomb Raider to some of the newer technology platforms in the past, it is only now, with the current level of hardware sophistication and with the availability of Segundo, that we feel we can do the character justice.

Jade Dragon: How long did it take you to port Tomb Raider to Pocket PC? How many people worked on it?

Mr. Robinson: The original Tomb Raider itself took approximately two years. The technology used to enable the game to run on Pocket PC devices, Segundo from Ideaworks3D, has similarly been in development for an extensive period. However, one of the key strengths of Segundo is the ease with which it enables games to be brought to new platforms in a very rapid manner. The initial port to Pocket PC took a few weeks; the majority of the time since has been taken up with an extensive programme of test and performance tuning. The net result is that we can bring classic games to the PDA without compromising on the game play in order to make a cost effective product. Total dev team for TR PDA itself, as opposed to Segundo, was probably around 6, including producer and QA.



Jade Dragon: How did you manage to transform what must be over a hundred MB of graphics files to the Pocket PC?

Mr. Robinson: Ideaworks 3D's "Segundo" technology incorporates sophisticated compression technology that allows us to get the full PlayStation game, including all levels and all content within those levels into the game on a standard Pocket PC. The full game occupies approximately 12MB when installed, including documentation. The only content omitted from the Pocket PC version of the game is the FMV (full-motion video) sequences which provide the narrative link between levels in the game. The videos have been replaced with still images and text. In this way we can advance the story in the cut scenes between levels, without taking up the huge resources required by video. In future, as the memory capacity of these devices increase, additional storage becomes more common, and video compression technologies improve, we may be able to bring the original video sequences to games for handheld devices.

Jade Dragon: Are you happy the way the game turned out?

Mr. Robinson: Yes. Next question. Seriously, we are extremely happy with the game. Ideaworks has done an excellent job in replicating the real "Tomb Raider" experience on Pocket PC and we feel this represents a groundbreaking advance in gaming for these devices.

Jade Dragon: Tomb Raider currently only supports iPAQ. Do you have plans to support other Pocket PCs?

Mr. Robinson: See above answer to "Will the game crash the device?" Also, we will continue to evaluate the commercial viability of bringing the game, or other games from our catalogue, to other PDA devices. Ideaworks3D's technology platform would allow us to do so with relative ease, although our stringent Quality Assurance process means that we will not officially release and support a game for a device unless we are confident that there are no issues surrounding the idiosyncrasies of that device in particular.
The game has been extensively tested on all supported devices to ensure that any bugs are ironed out prior to release. We will add new devices to the list of those supported only after we have tested them to ensure that the game does not compromise the device, or the data contained in it, in any way.

Jade Dragon: Do you think we will see more Eidos titles on Pocket PC? Can you tell us more about the future plan?

Mr. Robinson: Mr. Robinson: We hope so! In addition to further titles in the Tomb Raider series we are also considering the release of other classics from our catalogue.




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