LinuxGames’ Focused On: Project Offset

August 22nd, 2006 by micks

The second title we’ll focus on is a new fantasy-themed FPS game known by the working title of “Project Offset”. You may remember that LinuxGames already mentioned the project in the past and you might also be aware of the fact that Offset Software, who (as the name suggests) are responsible for this particular piece of software, were originally part of the S2 Games team. (Yes, the blokes who gave us Savage: The Battle For Newerth and are currently working on Savage 2: A Tortured Soul — minus those who left to found Offset Software and Jon “slothy” Shiring who works at Infinity Ward now).

While S2 Games’ Silverback 3D engine used in Savage was impressive in itself, especially for a core team that consisted of no more than seven people, the gaming world was hardly prepared for what the newly founded Offset Studios had in store.

After leaving S2 Games, Sam McGrath started working on the next generation Offset engine, while Travis and Trevor Stringer worked on the game’s art. Their ultimate aim was to create a full-fledged fantasy FPS worthy of comparison with the most popular AAA titles out there, regardless of the team’s limited resources.

After a year and a half of continuous work on the project, the first “sneak peek” video was released for the public to enjoy. The video showcased a state-of-the-art engine (with superior lighting and shading, motion blur on _all_ in-game objects, etc. — see the full list of features on the project’s website) combined with amazingly accomplished art. It immediately had the gamers and game developers alike excited about the project (and I don’t believe I mentioned rideable dragons yet).

Since then, more videos were put up at Project Offset’s website, Offset Software recruited more artists and programmers (including former BioWare lead technical artist for Dragon Age, Rod Green) and licensed its new engine to Red 5 Studios, the company founded by some of the key people behind Blizzard‘s World of Warcraft, for their upcoming MMO title.

Ok, so now we get to the big question — will this all run on Linux? Sure, the original Savage did have a Linux port and there were some hints posted by Offset Software suggesting the game might end up supporting Linux as well, but as the team was rather low on funds, time and developer manpower at that time, there could hardly be any promises regarding the topic.While it’s always nice to have a good new game run on Linux, having a top-tier engine (especially one written with licensing to third party developers as one of the goals) ported is crucial, as it greatly enhances the possibility of at least some (if not all) of the third party titles using it supporting Linux as well.

Fairly recently Offset Software put up a news post on their website announcing they are now being backed up by a major publisher (whose name has not been disclosed yet), so we figured this was as good time as any to investigate a bit about the current chances of the engine being ported at some point (knowing that some publishers might be a tad less friendly towards Linux than others). We contacted Offset’s lead developer Sam McGrath who turned out to be a very nice person and promptly replied to our set of questions:

Is the new publisher good/bad/neutral news regarding the possibility of a Linux port (in terms both financial and of the potential hostility towards Linux version on the publisher’s part)?

It’s too early to say at this point. Our publisher would probably not be happy about us taking time away from the development of the game on Windows and console platforms to create a Linux port, but I doubt they would be adverse to a Linux release after the main release of the game. It’s really just a matter of resources and if we’ll be able to fit it in. Since we are a technology licensing company as well as game developer, having the engine up and running on Linux is obviously a plus for potential licensees, so that gives us another incentive to do the port that other game companies might not have. I’d remain hopeful. (-:

In one of your posts you mentioned the engine was being written “with portability in mind”. Does this mean projects like the upcoming Red 5 Studios’ MMO game, licensing the Offset engine from you, are more likely to support Linux (or, for that thing, Mac OS X) in the future?

Linux will at least be supported by our game as a means to run dedicated servers. The engine is definitely quite portable for the most part, though a not-insignificant amount of work would still have to be done to port the core rendering code to OpenGL in order to run the client on Linux without an emulator. I hope to find some time to do this porting during development, but it’s just not something I can make a priority. If I am able to fit this into our dev schedule, then I suppose it could translate into support for Linux by our licensees, too, but they have their own set of priorities and I can’t speak for them.

The game has succeeded in drawing fans from the FPS and RPG audiences so far, thanks to the amazing engine and the fantasy setting (rarely seen in FPS games in the past few years). Are you considering adding additional RPG elements (apart from those already mentioned on your website) to make this new kind of audience happy?

We’re making an action game, first and foremost, but I think the RPG crowd will be happy with some of the things we have planned. That’s all the detail I can give you right now!

What is the current state of development? Is there anything your fans can do right now to support the project?

In the early days of this project we were able to survive partly on donations from our fans, which was amazing. Our fans have been so generous and supportive, and we can’t thank them enough. We’ve since taken the donations link down, but we encourage everyone to pass around links to our sneak peek vids and get the word out there about Project Offset.

To sum things up: it seems we can hope for a point release of the Linux port sometime after the initial Windows release (maybe even simultaneous if we are very lucky). If the engine does get ported to OpenGL, third party licensees will probably consider releasing a Linux client too (as this would be fairly little trouble for them with the engine already ported). As always, polite support from their Linux-using fans might help Sam feel his and the other developers’ precious time isn’t wasted on producing a port; use the comments for this and any questions you might have and we will try to have them answered the next time.

Download: [Project Offset sneak peek videos ]

10 Responses to “LinuxGames’ Focused On: Project Offset”

  1. kccricket Says:

    This really is quite an interesting column you’ve created, micks.

    I hope to read more of them.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed. Keep it up =)

  3. Logy Says:

    [q]To sum things up: it seems we can hope for a point release of the Linux port sometime after the initial Windows release (maybe even simultaneous if we are very lucky). If the engine does get ported to OpenGL, third party licensees will probably consider releasing a Linux client too (as this would be fairly little trouble for them with the engine already ported).[/q]
    That seems like in incredibly optimistic interpretation of Sam McGrath’s responses. When he says something like “I hope to find some time to do this porting during development, but it’s just not something I can make a priority.” I feel the opposite of hopeful.

    Game development, particularly for smaller outfits, is notorious for high-pressure schedules. With a project this ambitious, they’ll probably be under tremendous strain just to get the Windows version out on time. I’d be shocked if they could find the time to work on a port.

    The idea that third-party licensees would “probably consider releasing a Linux client” because the engine is portable certainly isn’t borne out by history, either, considering how many Unreal and Quake 3 (and now Doom 3) engine licensees didn’t bother to port their games.

    I always get a little edgy when I read this sort of language, because it seems people start to interpret “we’d like to do a Linux port” as “we swear on our mother’s graves there will be a Linux port”, and then when one fails to materialize, the once hopeful Linux users start screaming bloody murder about how they were lied to, and how they should boycott every future product from that company and publicly flog all its employees, etc.

  4. gaminggeek Says:

    I saw the videos for this about a year ago and man if this would be ported to linux that would be a great do for linux gaming

  5. zborgerd Says:

    Micks – Great article!

    Sam and co. are some great developers. Savage was an outstanding piece of work, and it hooked me for a good year. When I first discovered Project Offset, I was pleased that Sam and a few of the other S2 guys would be moving on to work on something new, and have been crossing my fingers for a Linux release.

    It’s not that I don’t also have a lot of hope in (the reformed) S2 Games’ Savage 2 release. I’m pleased that it’s coming to Linux as well. On the other hand, it is my opinion that the majority of the best brains behind the first Savage game are now working at Offset Software. I suspect that their Project Offset title will be quite impressive. And, though the game engine isn’t the most important thing of all, it’s quite pleasing to see that they are already picking up licenses for the new game engine. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe that Silverback was ever licensed for a non-S2 game.

    Sam – Thanks for talking with Micks about your new project. It’s exciting to hear what you have to say about Offset Software and your next game. As a fan of Savage, I hope that we Linux gamers will be able to experience your next game.

  6. micks Says:

    You are almost right ;) — Moonstruck Games have recently licensed Silverback for their upcoming Project Survival (if I understand this correctly, the MG folks have connections with both S2 and Offset Software) which was recently confirmed to come with a Linux port at launch.

  7. zborgerd Says:

    Ah! That’s right. I remember reading that a few weeks ago. It’s good to hear that Silverback will be in another game. It was an impressive engine, and would still make for a good game today.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    [i]a not-insignificant amount of work would still have to be done to port the core rendering code to OpenGL[/i]

    I’m usually optimistic until I see comments like that which generally mean the engine isn’t nearly as portable as they make it sound.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    By portability, I assume they mostly mean that the engine will run on the Xbox 360. :-)

  10. Logy Says:

    I didn’t mean to come across as bitter in my previous post, because I’m not at all. I just think it’s important to manage expectations realistically, because…
    [q]”screaming bloody murder” at them not only wouldn’t help at all but would pretty much be an insult[/q]

    When BioWare was talking about a Linux client for NWN, they used language like “we plan to” and “we expect”, which some people took as a blood oath to release a Linux client in the same package with the Windows client, complete with penguin on the box.

    A year after the Windows release we finally got a Linux client, and two years after that there were [i]still[/i] people around here who would go into hair-tearing, Wrath-of-Khan histrionics at the mention of the name “BioWare”.

    I can’t help but wonder how much of that whining contributed to the current policy of routing all requests for a Linux port of NWN2 straight to /dev/null… uh, I mean “Recycle Bin”.

    I should also add that yes, do I think these “focused” articles are really cool, and it’s great that there are devs out there who will take the time to address Linux users. Seriously, keep up the good work!

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