GDC 2001: Looking at LithTech 3.0

The new version of Monolith's game engine introduces improved multiplayer, PlayStation2 support, and vertex and pixel effects tools.

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LithTech has announced version 3.0 of the game engine that has grown out of Monolith games such as Shogo and No One Lives Forever. The new version includes several significant improvements beyond the version 2.5 technology used in No One Lives Forever, including a step-up to support DirectX 8. It also adds support for the PlayStation 2. A subsidiary of Monolith, LithTech licenses its game engine to third-party game developers, such as Interplay's Black Isle Studios, which just announced a new role-playing game called Torn that uses the engine.

The improvement in LithTech 3.0 that promises to have the most impact on gameplay is the new multiplayer networking code. The engine's multiplayer has been overhauled to add client-side prediction in order to smooth out movement in server-based multiplayer games by predicting how other players are moving in between data packet transmissions. As seen in games like Quake III, such prediction routines make network games much more playable for modem users. Another improvement is dynamic packet size control, so the game can adapt to changing network speeds to optimize speeds and avoid data loss.. LithTech developers told us that these changes make much larger games possible, going from the previous upper limit of 16 players up to around 100 players, although this seems more likely for the purposes of role-playing games than first-person shooters.

The other new PC components in LithTech 3.0 are focused in the physics and rendering engines. In a move toward DirectX 8, the new version introduces RenderStyles, a toolset to make vertex and pixel effects easier to develop. These advanced special effects can be difficult for artists and designers to quickly integrate into real games, but this feature adds a library of effects as well as revisions to LithTech's rendering engine to apply the effects in real time in DirectX 8. LithTech 3.0 includes the full source code for No One Lives Forever.

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