The LithTech Engine
Monolith Productions
15th of May, 1998
By Rik Wade

lithlogo.JPG (11610 bytes)

 

Could you briefly introduce yourself and your company's work?

Mike Dussault:
I'm Mike Dussault, the lead engineer on LithTech.

John Jack:
I'm John Jack, Project Manager on Riot and LithTech.  I basically beat Craig and Mike over the head until they implement everything they promised to implement 18 months ago.

Craig Hubbard:
I'm Craig Hubbard, the lead game designer on Riot. I'm an Aries and I like listening to angry music and drinking huge quantities of beer. I'm sorry, what was the question?

 

Monolith have gained massive popularity on the Internet in recent months with titles such as RIOT:Mobile Armour and Blood2, but possibly more importantly, through the development of DirectEngine (now the LithTech engine). Could you tell us how this all came about and possibly give a little history of your organisation?

lith3s.jpg (3643 bytes)John Jack:
It took awhile for us to gain the momentum--we just recently began publicly talking about our products under development, which may explain the recent surge in popularity.  We also just announced our buy-back from Microsoft, which caught everyone's attention as well.

Monolith's been around for about 3 years--our 1st product was the Games Sampler CD for MS, but we really made a splash with Blood (published through GT).  We're a 4-project development/publishing studio with 56 employees (most of whom are in development).

 

The LithTech engine is somewhat different to many others out there in that it is based entirely on Direct3D . Most other companies either decide on a software rendered which they can then adapt to the various APIs, or have used OpenGL. Part of this may be answered above (feel free to reference), but why did you select Direct3D as opposed to OpenGL and do you feel now that it is a more capable API given the working platform (Windows)?

Mike Dussault:
When we started LithTech (then called DirectEngine), OpenGL hardware acceleration was virtually nonexistant for video cards like 3Dfx. Direct3D had hardware acceleration for cards like the Rendition and 3Dfx cards so it wasn't a tough decision. When DX6 comes out, I think Direct3D will be much more capable than OpenGL for the Windows platform.

 

With Microsoft and their associates constantly developing DirectX, how do you think that the LithTech engine will scale with future developments (DirectX6.0 and the future OpenGL/DirectX mix)?

Mike Dussault:
We'll definitely take advantage of everything new DirectX versions have to offer.   We're eagerly awaiting DX6. I think we'll be able to get a significant framerate boost with it.

 

We have seen some amazing work done with OpenGL over the past year or two. Firstly Quake and now QuakeII obviously spring to mind. Do you feel that the LithTech engine is directly competing with this sort of technology? If so, are there any pros and cons that you can realistically cite? (hardware support through windows/flexibility of API/standards based etc.)

lith2s.jpg (2867 bytes)Mike Dussault:
We're definitely competing with this technology.  I would say the biggest advantage to Quake-engine based games right now is that they had the video card manufacturers actually write their OpenGL implementations, so the drivers took full advantage of each video card for what Quake needed to do.  The current crop of DirectX5 drivers for most of the video cards are incomplete and buggy, so that's been a problem for LithTech.   DirectX6 will fix all of that though :)

 

We know of RIOT and Blood2 that are using the LithTech Engine. Are there any other titles (under development by yourselves or other houses) that we should be aware of? (We now know of Get Medieval and Grutz.. others?)

John Jack:
There's a title currently under development that uses the LithTech engine, but we can't talk about it publicly yet... ;) Hopefully some news on that one soon...

 

Continuing from this, what are your future plans for the Engine? And can you see a "killer application" for your work?

Mike Dussault:
The overriding theme for future versions of LithTech is large environments and interconnected servers. We'd like you to be able to run all day across interconnected servers and not hit a wall.

 

RIOT in particular has been causing a real stir in the first person 3D gaming scene. Probably because it is more advanced than Blood2 (judging from the AVIs that I watched). Would you care to give us a quick rundown on this title and why you thought it would make a good technology demonstrator (and commercial software title) for your Engine?

lith1s.jpg (2927 bytes)Craig Hubbard:
Speaking for myself, I'm far more interested in making a fun game than a good technology demonstrator. If you have a competitive engine and take advantage of it as a game designer, the technology pretty much demonstrates itself. The cooler the game is, the more impressive the technology seems. Otherwise, you get people saying things like, "Wow, just think what a creative game developer could do with this engine!" We intend to settle that question with Riot and Blood 2. :)

 

I think one of the engine's greatest strengths is its flexibility. Riot and Blood 2 are both looking incredible, but they both look incredibly different as well. There are features in Blood 2 you won't see in Riot and vice versa, because we've let game design determine how we use the technology rather than trying to demo every possible engine feature in both games.

 

What 3D hardware have you worked with while developing the Engine?

Mike Dussault:
Pretty much all the first and second generation cards.. at least 15 different cards.   We primarily focus on 3fdx cards.

 

Can we expect to see specific support for PowerVR (PVRSG) hardware in future LithTech products?

Mike Dussault:
Definitely PVRSG, and hopefully PCX2 as well. What we saw at CGDC was really impressive--can't wait to get a hold of the new cards.

 

Any other comments that you would care to make regarding the PowerVR and its performance (and PVRSG performance) under your software would be greatly appreciated.

Mike Dussault:
Fill rates promise to be impressive--however, as most developers know, there are a few quirks with the current cards, but the effort is definitely worth it when you see the results. The SG cards promise to alleviate a lot of those quirks and up the performance bar considerably.

 

Last but far from least, two brand new shots from RIOT: SHOGO Mobile Armour Division

lith4s.jpg (3429 bytes)lith5s.jpg (3123 bytes)


 

PVR-NET wishes to thank the Monolith team for taking time to answer these questions, and we wish them the best of luck!

1998 PVR-NET - All Rights Reserved