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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

A Look At the Tech Behind Burnout Paradise 44

Eurogamer sat down with Richard Parr and Alex Fry of Criterion Games about the evolution of the technology behind Burnout Paradise , and how they engineered a complex, open world across multiple platforms. "Criterion's method of exacting the most performance from the new architecture isn't so much about threading as such, it's all about parallelization. Rather than lump different game aspects onto different threads (where massive latencies can build as each processor waits for the other to finish its work), game code is highly optimized to make use of what processors are available at any given moment on whatever target hardware, and by choosing the all-important balance points, the experience is like-for-like on all platforms. High-level management code that is unique to each platform then processes the game code according to the hardware that is available." The first part of their Q&A session has also been posted.
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A Look At the Tech Behind Burnout Paradise

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  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ubrkl ( 310861 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @06:52AM (#28371747)

    This is more like an ad for their new DLC. TFA is very light on technical details.

  • "isn't so much about threading as such, it's all about parallelization"

    umm, isn't that what you do with threads... run processes in parallel?

    • by Edgewize ( 262271 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @07:53AM (#28372093)

      The interview (as opposed to the article) is at least a little more interesting.

      There is nothing fancy here but he is trying to explain about the distinction between between running five tasks at once (a classic "threading" model), and splitting one task into five work units.

      Many common threading models in video-game engines do not reduce latency; eg, "render thread", "audio thread", etc. You get a big win from doing two or three threads, but after that your physics takes an entire frame, or your rendering takes an entire frame, and you bottleneck. No matter how many more CPU cores you throw at it, those fixed number of threads are not getting any faster.

      Nine women can't deliver a baby in one month, etc etc.

      Hardly groundbreaking, but still a nice achievement given the state of most video game engines out there today. Burnout Paradise runs at 60hz with very low latency between input and screen. That's worth some kudos.

      • so he is just using more threads....
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MadKeithV ( 102058 )
          No. There is some distance between "parallelism" and "threads". For example, SIMD instructions, are parallel, and have nothing to do with threads. On the other hand it is perfectly possible to have multiple threads that are not running in parallel (on a single processor for example).
          See also: Threading/Concurrency vs. Parallelism. []
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by AlXtreme ( 223728 )

            From article you link to:

            If on a single core machine you are using threads and it makes perfect sense for your scenario, then you are not "doing parallelism", you are just doing multithreading.

            There are different types of parallelism, and you and the blog article you link to define parallelism as strictly speeding up processes using multiple processors.

            This is a false dichotomy. Parallelism at a process level allows a single program to run multiple bits of code in parallel of each other (instead of sequenti

      • he is trying to explain about the distinction between between running five tasks at once (a classic "threading" model), and splitting one task into five work units.

        Well, that's your interpretation. I think he's not trying very hard to explain whatever it is that he's talking about. Long on spin, short on examples.

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @10:51AM (#28374071) Journal

        I agree with Edgewize, and while it's a little less "on topic", I'd also add that this game was one of the best values for the dollar in games for my PS3, to date.
        Unlike most new release titles, they didn't hit me for upwards of $50 as retail price, for starters. The game turned out to be more fun and playable than some of those $50+ titles, too. And after that, the value kept building because they regularly released updates to the game (such as adding motorcycles to it, a couple months after I owned it).

        This is the way a console title SHOULD be, IMHO. The fact it was coded intelligently doesn't surprise me.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am far more interested in the rendering technology behind Burnout Paradise, particualrly on the XBox 360. Does the map use an enormous BSP file, or is it broken into sections? Why did they choose BSP trees over quad or octrees? How did they implement the gourad shading so efficiently?

  • this reminds me that since finishing my exams 2 days ago. Ive had nothing to do. Perfect time to play burnout paradise and check out the new dlc. And just so that I'm still on topic....go "parallelization" woooo!!!!!...yeah....i dunno what it actually means except from what little was stated above but anyway.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday June 18, 2009 @09:28AM (#28372957)

      i dunno what it actually means except from what little was stated above but anyway.

      It means they've found a way to affect a paradigm shift by developing synergy and fostering a team environment.

      • now all they need to figure out is how to show the crashes that occur when you crash the bikes ingame and still keep the rating it currently has. C'mon people i wanna see the bikes crash. This is burnout and the bikes are pretty redundant without the crash element.
  • I played through BP on one-player a while back and loved it. I sold it, but re-bought it recently as a party game (now I have a console-friendly housemate) and we discovered it doesn't do f***ing split-screen multiplayer - even if you buy the add-on party pack, it's pass-the-controller action.

    So if I want to race my friends, they have to be in another house. How sociable!


    • Yeah, the current gen is really lacking for single-machine multiplayer (except the Wii).

      Also, as a primarily-PC gamer who just bought his first next-gen system yesterday, I'd like to say:

      How can you console gamers put up with this? Expensive hardware, so many confusing options and add-ons, having to keep up with game patches and system updates... ugh, I think I'll just go back to the PC where it's so much simpler :)

      Hahaha, damn it felt good to type that.

      (for the record, I bought a 360--it would have been a

      • for the record, I bought a 360--it would have been a PS3, but my wife loves RPGs and there are way more of them on the 360, which is a total reversal from the last generation

        Yes, the 360 has more, but not "way" more. Neither system has as many RPG's out for it at this stage in their lifespan as the PS2 did. You might still have been better off with a PS3, in the long run, as long as it was a model with PS2 backwards compatibility. There's still more PS2 RPG's coming out later this year!

        • Already have a PS2. Both are getting FFXIII, and the 360 had the new Star Ocean as an exclusive, so that pretty much sealed it. IIRC, the PS3 only has 2-3 exclusive RPGs so far, and I think at least one is a tactical RPG, which is a sub-genre we don't usually play. The couple RPGs on the PS3 that looked to be the best out so far were also available on the 360.

          I felt dirty buying it, and despite the fact that it's one of the newer systems I can't shake the feeling that it'll suddenly die on us in a month

    • by GweeDo ( 127172 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @10:45AM (#28374005) Homepage

      No...they can be in your house. They just need another system + TV + Network Connection.

    • by Edgewize ( 262271 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @11:54AM (#28375017)

      The lack of splitscreen is, sadly, a design tradeoff for having a huge open world where you can drive anywhere.

      In most level-based games, like past Burnouts, the whole level is loaded ahead of time. Splitscreen just means having more players in the same amount of space. Every new player in splitscreen comes with a small, fixed overhead cost. The whole level has already been put into memory so there is nothing extra to be loaded.

      But in an open-world game like Burnout Paradise, the players could be anywhere. The world is too big to fit into memory, so the game loads as much as possible and then intelligently loads "ahead" of where the player is, so that the world appears to be seemless.

      But splitscreen players could be in totally different places on the map, driving at full speed in opposite directions. So the game would have to load twice as much data in the same amount of time. The second player doubles the cost of everything - twice as much memory, twice as much disk bandwidth to load ahead of each player, etc.

      There are hardware limitations about how fast textures can be loaded from disk, how much memory is available, etc. Splitscreen is very hard for open-world games. It can be done, but it would take significant resources - making it work would probably tie up their best programmers for months.

      Game development is all about allocating your resources as best you can. Ultimately someone decided that it was acceptable to drop split-screen in favor of making sure that the single-player and online experiences were as good as possible, and getting the game out the door on time.

      The removal of split-screen still stings, of course :( But maybe you can understand why it's missing.

  • I really like their approach of creating one codebase which runs on multiple platforms, as opposed to writing for one console and then porting to other platforms. That should make the process of updating the code and adding new features very streamlined. If they're really good, they've set up a system which will make it much faster to develop other cross-platform games as well.

    I can't understand why Google didn't take this approach with Chrome. It would have pushed back the initial release date, but in the

  • when I read Multi-playform i thought oh cool, but its really just console and PCs? ok so then I read PC....what does that mean, does it run on linux? or bsd...... wish they'd stop calling Windows games PC games..... i call b***s***!
  • The video on the story page looked really neat. The Sun moving across a big digital world? How cool!

    I thought, "Wow! Is this some sort of interactive game set in a futuristic city? Oh, well, it's not futuristic. Okay. Whatever. It still looks really fantastic. That sun moving across the sky looks wonderful. Er. . , but this video is beginning to look like it's all some dippy driving game. No. It can't be. All this work for a dippy driving game?"

    And then I realized, "Yes, actually! --This whole

    • There is a VAST difference between commuting and driving/cruising/racing.

      • There is a VAST difference between commuting and driving/cruising/racing.

        Granted. I prefer to cycle. You can move with much grater freedom and nobody but you is in any danger. But I wouldn't waste my time with a biking simulation. Flight sims are even worse; you'd think that they would be interesting because so few people ever get to fly, but once you're 'up' there, you realize it's also incredibly boring. Unless you have missiles. And then it's still boring, but now you have to go line up dots on you

  • I've played Burnout Paradise on the Xbox 360 in single-player and multiplayer mode. The graphics are really great and the game is challenging. Scenery is interesting. Not something I'd buy myself, unfortunately. My biggest gripe is that in multiplayer mode something about the way the graphics are done is different and gives me and my friend a headache. I noticed this on a bunch of Xbox original titles and am surprised that some games still have that problem.

    My favourite Burnout game was Burnout Revenge

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's