GameSpot recently talked with Jeff Tunnell, one of the founders of GarageGames, a company devoted to supporting independent game developers and distributing an open-source version of the V12 game engine used in Tribes 2. In the interview, Tunnell talks about how the company was founded and how it is related to Dynamix and Sierra, the developer and publisher of Tribes 2. He also points out some of the features of the V12 engine and describes what other services the company will provide to game developers.
GameSpot: First, can you tell us a little about the background of GarageGames? How did the company get started? What is the company's relationship with Dynamix and Sierra?
Jeff Tunnell: All the founders, which include myself, Tim Gift, Rick Overman, and Mark Frohnmayer, are from Dynamix and have been working together for many years. The entrepreneurial bug had bitten us, and we had been looking for the right business opportunity for a couple of years. As the open-source movement was starting to heat up, we came up with the idea of applying kind of a modified version of the concept to a game engine, and the result was getting the rights to the Tribes 2 engine from Sierra and selling the source code behind it for $100. As a result, Sierra is a minority shareholder in GarageGames.
GS: It sounds like GarageGames' business model is somewhat similar to the upcoming RealArcade business model. How does GarageGames' plan differ from that model?
JT: I have not studied Real's business model in depth. One big difference is that we supply the source code to our engine.
GS: The V12 engine was developed with Tribes 2 in mind--how easily can it be used for other kinds of games?
JT: The predecessor to the engine powering Tribes 2 was used in Tribes, Starsiege (a giant robot/tank simulator), Trophy Hunting 4, and FPS: Skiing. It can be used for many types of games.
GS: Can you tell us about some of the engine's features that will appeal to game developers? Other than the $100 price tag, are there any specific points that make the engine easier or better to work with than other game engines on the market?
JT: The V12 is an absolute state-of-the-art engine with the best network code in the industry. In addition, it supports seamless interiors and exteriors, a scripting engine, and vehicles. None of the state-of-the-art engines are easy to use. They require a programmer who is well versed in C++ to really get the maximum performance out of them. However, our price is low enough that we envision many beginning developers buying it just for educational purposes. We highly encourage anybody who is interested in programming games to do this.
GS: What kinds of challenges have you faced in making the engine accessible to other developers? What kinds of changes did you have to make?
JT: The biggest challenge was getting all the attorneys involved to agree on all the contracts. We are just now getting the Tribes 2 specific code such as Won.net authentication out of the code. The biggest challenge now is just the sheer size of the engine, and trying to get it into shape to ship to developers.
GS: What kind of response have you had from developers so far?
JT: We have been blown away by the response to the GarageGames concept. I think this is an idea whose time has truly come. Our Web site traffic has gone through the roof, and we can barely keep up with the forum posts. Preorders for the V12 have far exceeded our expectations.
GS: GarageGames is more than just the V12 engine--can you give us an overview of the other resources the company provides to aspiring and independent game developers?
JT: GarageGames' mission is to provide independent game developers with technology, education, resources, and a market so they can make games and be successful. In addition to the V12, we have an online marketplace for creating teams, posting resumes, and telling the world about your project. We also have more than 2,000 development resources, which are references to Web sites, books, articles, and so on that have been personally submitted by our community and categorized and edited by Tim and Rick. Soon we will reveal our online ESD (electronic software distribution, that is, download) initiatives so our developers can make money with their creations.
GS: When do you expect the first GarageGames games to be released? Can you tell us anything about the games themselves? Have you started working on any new in-house games?
JT: We will release the V12 "real soon now" (see the site for updates). From there it will take at least six months for games to be released that will be fun to play, and six months from there before we have any games that are worthy of making money. We don't know what kind of games developers will make, but we are looking forward to creative projects that publishers would not take on.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
JT: GarageGames will be a place where players can come for exclusive and unique content on the Web. It will be powered by technology that is driven by our staff and improved upon by the GG community. GG developers will use the platform as a tool for education, as a showcase for their talents, and as a source of income. I can't wait to see what kinds of content and games come out of this experiment.
GS: Thanks for your time, Jeff.
To learn more about Tribes 2, read our full review of the game.