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Interview with Thomas Frieden

On January 19, 2000, it was announced that Monolith had extended their agreement with Hyperion Software to port Shogo: Mobile Armor Division to Linux in addition to the Mac and Amiga ports originally agreed upon. I am obviously a big fan of Shogo and have recently become interested in Linux. As a matter of fact, my system now dual-boots to either Windows98 or Red Hat Linux 6.1. Wanting to know more about the Linux port, I sent email to Thomas Frieden who is the project leader for Shogo/LithTech at Hyperion Software. He was kind enough to send along the following responses.

A.T. Hun: Why did Hyperion decide to do a port of Shogo to Linux?

Thomas Frieden: All of us at Hyperion are die-hard Amiga fans. But we also look at other markets, and next to Amiga, we consider Linux as some sort of distant cousin, a strong community much like the Amiga, so we also decided to work on that.

A.T. Hun: What is the greatest challenge in porting a Win32, Direct3D game to Linux?

Thomas Frieden: Well, it's getting the Win32 and DirectX stuff out of it :). That's most of the work. Direct3D and especially DirectDraw are the most critical parts, as well as DirectMusic. There are other considerations, like byte ordering, which is no problem on an x86 based Linux, but on PPC and Alpha. Then, there's also some small work to be done to come across compiler specific constructs. But in the case of Shogo, we are using gcc on Amiga and Linux version, so this is no issue anymore.

A.T. Hun: Is an entirely new graphics engine being developed for this Linux port, or is currently existing technology being used?

Thomas Frieden: We are using the OpenGL renderer that's currently being worked on for the Amiga and Mac versions. OpenGL is portable, so there's just some minor changes to be done for all of the platforms we develop for.

A.T. Hun: Will the Linux port support the new standards that have been recently introduced, such as the Direct Rendering Infrastructure (DRI) or OpenAL 3D audio?

Thomas Frieden: Probably. It's always good to support this, because it pushes these standards, and I think if there's anything good in Windows, it's the standard everybody complies to. You do not worry about what joystick or soundcard is in it. You just use the API.

A.T. Hun: Will user-made levels be compatible with the new version?

Thomas Frieden: Yes. Although we are building a client based on a newer version which is not compatible, we've already built compatibility into the Amiga and Mac version, and this will of course go into the Linux version as well . . .

A.T. Hun: Will the client and server be network compatible with the Win32 version?

Thomas Frieden: Yes. Again, there were changes, but we've included a compatibility mode. This can be switched on and off before starting, so a Linux vs. Linux match can use the newer features . . .

A.T. Hun: How difficult will it be to port a mod to be usable with the Linux version?

Thomas Frieden: It depends. For the Object.lto/ServerShell, it took 20 minutes to port it over to Linux. The ClientShell is a bit heavier on Windows code. If the changes to the original are not too extreme, mod authors can use a lot of our code to fill in the gaps.

A.T. Hun: Ever since Shogo originally came out, Monolith talked about releasing a Linux dedicated server but never did. Would Hyperion consider making the dedicated server downloadable?

Thomas Frieden: It's not decided yet, and the decision may not be ours at all. Our contracts require us to distribute Shogo on physical media (CD-ROM), though, so download would be out of question....

A.T. Hun: When do you estimate the port will be done?

Thomas Frieden: I would say Q2/2000. Most of the work is already done with the port from Windows to Amiga/Mac. In fact, the standalone server is already working under Linux.

A.T. Hun: What will the system requirements be?

Thomas Frieden: x86: Pentium 166 with 3d hardware, 233/MMX with software rendering. ppc: 603e/160 with 3d hardware, 604e/180 for software rendering. Any Alpha would do :)

A.T. Hun: Will past purchasers of Shogo get a price break, or will they have to buy the port as an entirely new game?

Thomas Frieden: That's a difficult question. We'll be offering it at a competitive price, but I think a price break is unlikely. After all, we didn't make the Windows version.

A.T. Hun: Who will be distributing the game in the United States?

Thomas Frieden: That's not fixed yet. We've got some offers, but are still evaluating . . .

A.T. Hun: Any last comments on the Linux Shogo port or Hyperion in general?

Thomas Frieden: Well, if the Shogo port runs well, we'll be looking forward to more activity in the Linux market. Hyperion's aim is support of non-Windows markets, and Linux qualifies for that :)

I wish to thank Hyperion's Thomas Frieden for agreeing to this interview and for being so prompt with his responses! Look for any future news on the Linux port of Shogo on The Haus front page. For more information on Hyperion Software and the other products they are working on (including a port of SiN), check out their website at http://www.hyperion-software.com or http://www.hyperion-software.de.