OS/2 Warp Game Developer's Seminar
Written by Dave Briccetti
On August 16th, 1995, I attended the OS/2 Warp Game Developer's Seminar, presented by the IBM Solution Partnership Center with speakers from the IBM Personal Software Products Boca Raton lab. The Seminar was held in San Mateo, near San Francisco. This is a brief report about my experiences at that event.
I have no association with any of the products or companies mentioned herein, except that I'm a member of several IBM vendor support programs.
After a continental breakfast I took a seat with about 80 other developers in the classroom at the Solution Partnership Center. Like the airlines, IBM had overbooked the event, but they weren't offering free future classes to people who would go away. (Their classes are free anyway.)
Welcome & Introduction
E. Lloyd Webber, Worldwide Games Brand Manager from Boca Raton, Florida, started the presentations. Lloyd announced the OS/2 Warp Entertainment Toolkit Beta 1, which is part of the now shipping Developers Connection 8. He made it very clear that IBM wants to help game developers, and told us that they want to hear from us about how they can help us.
Next up was one of the Entertainment Toolkit developers, Luis Rodriguez, on video performance with Direct Interface Video Extensions (DIVE). Luis showed an animated jet fighter in a window (some of you have seen this before), and it was running so fast it was just a blur. It was running at around 135 frames per second. Maximized on the 640 x 480 desktop it was about 36 frames per second.
Luis took us through the steps involved in using DIVE from a program. I won't go into the details since they are documented very well elsewhere. Take a look at the IBM OS/2 Games Home Page for more information. See the last section of this report for the URL.
One interesting feature of the toolkit allows a PM game developer to switch to full-screen modes such as 320 x 200, which is typical for games, and get the same performance as DOS games while still using the PM architecture.
3D Graphics (BRender)
After a break we had a fascinating and awesome demonstration of BRender, a 3D real-time, high performance rendering program, an evaluation copy of which is included with the toolkit. BRender stands for `Blazing Render,' and it truly blazes. Rich Seidner of Argonaut Technologies (formerly with IBM and then Kaleida) showed the product, along with several games such as FX Fighter which use BRender.
Here the topic drifted far from OS/2 as people asked esoteric questions about other platforms, and most of the stuff Rich showed was under DOS. Nonetheless, the technology is fascinating, and running under OS/2.
Rich announced a special offer: For a limited time, developers may license BRender for unlimited, royalty-free use under OS/2 for a onetime fee of $2,000. For multi- platform use, the fee is $10,000.
Lunch and Technology Demos
IBM fed us sandwiches and cookies and we wandered around to various rooms where we could meet the toolkit developers and other IBMers from Boca and Austin. One of those developers was Mike Brown, the author of PMMPEG, a program to display MPEG movies. Several months ago Mike added DIVE support to PMMPEG, and he showed me the difference. The color and speed improvements are quite impressive.
I also saw programs with the new network games APIs demonstrated. There were some glitches but the concept is pretty cool: OS/2 APIs to connect players up to a game over the internet.
Next up was Larry Kyrala who talked about Direct Audio and real-time MIDI. These features allow more precise control over audio in the dynamic game environment. One buzzword I heard was `score richening.' I think this means that when you're getting your butt kicked in a game the music gets louder and busier.
Herman Rodriguez was the next speaker. Herman leads the toolkit development team. He struck me as being very knowledgeable and capable. In this segment he talked about device driver support for generic input devices, and joysticks specifically. He has developed an API which not only supports current analog joysticks, but which will support new digital joysticks being developed. He said his goal was to generalize the interface to support devices such as data gloves.
The toolkit includes warpnet.dll, which provides an API to support multi-player games over a network. The API currently supports TCP/IP. There are functions such as WarpNetInitialize, Open, Broadcast, PackSend, PackRecv, and Close. Herman Rodriguez made this presentation.
After the presentations we were invited to wander around and meet the developers and look at their demonstrations. I saw an early version of Avarice, from Stardock Systems. It has stunning graphics, but the guy running it (an attendee like myself) didn't know how to run it and we just didn't get it. It was very soothing and mellow, but I'm a Dark Forces kind of guy, I guess. Psygnosis' Lemmings for OS/2 was cute. SimTown was there but I didn't see it. I think I saw Star Emperor, which I believe is the follow-on to the highly successful Galactive Civilizations. It looked good. Conclusion
I very much enjoyed taking a day and immersing myself in this new entertainment development technology. I remain convinced that IBM is committed to supporting OS/2 developers. IBM's developers of this new technology appear quite knowledgeable, and they obviously enjoy what they're doing. Now let's see if I can satisfy my own creative needs and develop something fun!
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and 74475,1072 on CompuServe, or by phone at 510 945-7565, Ext. 210. My WWW home page is http://www.best.com/~daveb.
The location of the HTML version of this document is http://www.best.com/~daveb/Programming/gamedev.html.
The IBM OS/2 Games Home Page is http://www.austin.ibm.com/os2games.
Herman Rodrigues, Toolkit Manager: email@example.com.
IBM Solution Partnership Center -- West
IBM Solution Partnership Center, OS/2 Program Manager, Keith Lew, firstname.lastname@example.org.