Interview

Matthew Hopwood of AGB Games on the Amazing WFR Engine

Apparently, it can bring Quake to the Game Boy Advance in true-3D. Wow.
Matthew Hopwood of AGB Games, took some time out from the continued development of their hand-held gaming technologies, to answer a few questions related to their most interesting creation, the WFR engine. The engine’s already brought true-3D (polygonal) environments to life on the Game Boy Advance; and now their showing us how Quake might look on a hand-held! It really is quite impressive...

Firstly, how many polygons can the engine push on the GBA, and how closely can it replicate the visuals of the original? Mat: Bantering around polygon figures don't actually mean much from a GBA developers point of view because we could easily push 100,000+ polygons a second, but they would only be only a few pixels in size each. Realistically in terms of useful game polygons that are texture mapped we can probably push around 10,000 per second, this figure does drop slightly when real-time smooth shading and perspective correction are added, to more like 7,000 per second. We also allow the tiling and transparent textures. We don't mind losing a few thousands polygons per second for the sake of added environment complexity / variation and special effects that can be created using this type of polygon renderer. How well-suited is the GBA to true-3D visuals, and what compromises / opportunities has this resulted in the development of the WFR engine?

Mat: The GBA is at heart a 2D machine, but fortunately Nintendo added a half-decent CPU and 256 and 32,768 colour display modes, which are all you need really to create 3D games. Any type of 3D on such a limited device is going to be difficult, its just a case of making the best of every single polygon that you have. What are your plans for the engine; other than its continued development? Are you working on any actual games or do you plan to license the technology? Is a Quake game a real-possibility? Mat: We have a dozen game proposals that all utilise OHE, WFR engines or a combination of both. We hope to either place some of these projects with a publisher or work on publisher specific titles that utilise our technology. As far as licensing to other developers goes, that is something we are considering.

I gather the engine can also be used for other hand-held devices such As PDAs; how does the technology scale between this and the GBA? What are the various advantages and disadvantages of each platform? Mat: As an example, a Pocket PC version of any products that we create using our technologies will differ in the following ways:

  • Higher resolution
  • More colours – 32,768+
  • Chromatic smooth shaded polygons instead of monochromatic, which means simply coloured light sources that can be mixed
  • Semi-transparency for better special effects
  • Much higher detailed environment and in-game models.

    Our technology has been designed with scalability in mind from the start, so upon the advent of GBA2, we simply switch up the parameters of the renderer and all our current tech and games will run using the better capabilities of GBA2. Do you believe a game the scale of Quake could be squeezed onto the GBA's tiny cartridges? Why did you choose Quake to showcase your technology? Mat: Absolutely. It will mean some loss in the complexity of the Geometry and possibly sprite based characters, but I'm confident that it would still feel the same. The test Quake level was something that we did for the fun of it and when we saw it running on GBA we were quite taken aback. Were we ever to create Quake on GBA, we would like to make it mission based and bring elements of gameplay across from some of the new FPS's.

    What are your plans and aspirations for the engine's future? Mat: We are currently creating other environments to demonstrate the flexibility of our technologies. (We will have shots and footage to show this soon) We would like to be producing a number of games utilising our technologies, but without publisher backing, producing a game on GBA could prove to be a waste of time, no matter how good the game is.

    Finally, when can gamers get hold of something to play that uses the WFR engine? I'm itching to see what it can do. Mat: We have put a heck of a lot of work into our technologies and game proposals, so we hope that this hard work pay off soon, then everyone will be playing our games! Thanks for your time, Matthew, and best of luck with AGB's developments. Further images demonstrating the engine's versatility, can be found here.

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