Week of Rage: Gil Costa, Creator of EvE Engine Speaks

Gil Costa is currently studying a masters degree in computer science in Portugal, so it should come as no suprise that he’s a tad handy with coding and creating flashy things on computers.

He’s also the creator of the EvE Engine, a brand new development tool that will allow indie coders to create their own side-scrolling beat-em-ups with ease and pull off a lot of modern visual trickery.

It helps people make amazing things…like this:

Following this post, there will be a round-up of demos that Gil and his friends have created using Streets of Rage 2. They are very impressive and show just how powerful the engine is.

It will be great to see how the Streets of Rage fan community use EvE Engine to create superb tribute games. Here to explain how it works is the man himself..Gils Costa *applause!*

The EvE Engine Logo

Dave: Can you give me some background on the creation of the EvE Engine and yourself? What are your roots as a coder and why did you decide to move into the beat-em-up genre?

I’m currently doing the master program in Computer Science at (Portugal). I’m following a specialization in computer graphics and multimedia. The course isn’t focused on games, so I’m on my own on learning and practicing with game programming.

Gil currently studies at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal

The game engineering love comes from my childhood. Before I got my first console, I used to play and watch games at a friend’s home, and when I returned to mine, I used to sketch new levels for games on paper, and imagining the game running it. I started with gamemakers around 10 years ago. After learning programming I started making some small games like Tetris, Arkanoid clones and space shooters. I wanted to go with something bigger, but I hadn’t enough time and material to start.

The opportunity came when I meet SiddTheKid on the Streets of Rage fan communities, which was needing a programmer for his game “sor Evolution”. Working in a team made the dream executable. Later I decided to make it even bigger, independent of Sidd’s game and of streets of rage itself. I like other game styles as well, but I’m a big fan of beat’em ups like streets of rage, soI was keen to make a beat’em up engine. EvE is on it’s first development stage. There is a prototype, but I’m starting a more consistent version almost from scratch.

Dave: Was the inspiration to create EvE always homebrew based or do you feel this is a tool that mainstream developers could integrate into their own projects?

It was pure homebrew. I see expansion possibilities like derivation of new engines for other kind of 2D games (like platform games). Also some creation tools may become more independent for open usage on other projects. But I’m not thinking on the mainstream. I don’t think that mainstream developers are interested in 2D.

Dave: Do you feel that the homebrew scene is healthier than it ever has been thanks to tools like EvE, Source and Unity, alongside easier routes to market thanks to services like Steam, XNA and iTunes?

Developers tend to focus their effort on the engineering process more than implementation. That’s why graphical languages (GUI based tools) and libraries are so important. It minimizes the implementation effort to what really matters.

Fortunately for homebrew enthusiasts, for scientific researchers and even for the industry, there have been an effort to open applications to the general public. That really gives a boost on the technology progress because it is openly available to everyone to work on it. So I have to thank opensource and free software initiatives more than particular tools, it’s the true path for progress- cooperation rather than competition. EvE, among so many applications, couldn’t be possible without these initiatives!

EvE Engine is most definitely not as all-encompassing as Unity, but it does widen the scope for beat-em-up development

Lets not compare EvE to Source, Unity and other 3D engines. EvE has a very restricted domain, so it can’t compete with 3D nor with wider 2D engines. However, wider range usually implies harder usage, so EvE should fit well for it’s objectives – small domain, easy to use.  I think that industry took well the opportunity created by the homebrew boost to provide services that brings them to market. However applications independence can be limited by joining a third service, for example by just letting the big companies manage our own products as part of their business.

Dave: Can you give me a general overview in your own words about how easy it is to use EvE? What sort of level of base knowledge is needed? Will there be plenty of support open to would-be developers?

Yes, there will be much support on the site, starting on the forum, tutorial videos and pages, small open demos to play with, etc. Not forgetting that user contributions will help a lot too.  Creating a full beat’em up game will be possible for anyone, no specific knowledge needed. But obviously that advanced users can get a lot more from it than starters. A basic user will probably start with templates and a fixed structure, creating only new characters and levels on the graphical tools. A more advanced user will be able to define it’s own physics, AI, effects, etc, mainly with the help of Lua scripting language.

I think the tutorials will raise starter users to a higher level in few days.  After making the prototype, I had to use it for a few demos. I don’t like the prototype: tools are too rough, not much consistent nor user friendly. However I found it quite easy and fast to create things. Each demo took me just a few hours. So I have great expectations for the new version!

Dave: Some of the effects showcased in your videos, particularly the sand imprint demo with Max allows for a wide range of visual tricks developers can use. How difficult are these to code into the engine? How much testing  is required to ensure they work properly?

The footprints and dust examples are really simple: they are animated objects, so, on the frames that we want them, we just define a point where they are going to be shown. This is done on a GUI tool, and for the next version I expect it to be as easy as dragging-and-drop effects into the character frames, making it possible to get the desired result immediately.

Gil’s Sand demo shows how simple graphical touches can vastly improve a stage

I also have good expectations about shader effects, the ones seen on the alien power demo. Waving and changing colours was just an example. I have some tricks planned for lightning effects inspired in 3D. But anyone can actually program their own GLSL fragment shaders.

Dave: Why do you feel that Streets of Rage has stood the test of time and  remained as popular as it is today?

I think it’s because of it’s unique physics and arcade feel. It’s physics aren’t extraordinary complex nor realistic, but are fun to play and requires good strategy from players, making them wanting to master it. Also the SoR1 cop call is a unique trademark of it, unforgettable.

Dave: If Sega asked you to create Streets of Rage 4, what would the final product be like? Stages? Plot? Soundtrack? Controls?

Well, I’m a programmer, not a game designer, I don’t care much about the plot. Since it’s enjoyable and makes sense with the previous games, it’s fine for me. I care more about the gameplay. If using new technologies like wiimote and Sony Motion Controller, I would go with a normal 3D first person fighter, where the player uses it’s own arms and feet to fight on the streets!

SoR with Wiimote or Natal control? An interesting prospect.

Dave: Why do you feel Sega are holding off from doing another Streets of Rage title?

Maybe they think it isn’t popular enough. I looked at the online petition and got surprised by seeing less than two thousand signatures. For the while that it’s running, I expected a bit more. Maybe it isn’t enough spread out.

Other reason can be that a SoR4 must be 3D and full of high technology, or it won’t sell (society bias?). Turning a successful 2D classic like sor into a new modern game involves some risks, the new game style can change everything.

Times have changed, so, despite technology, it can hardly surpass the feel and success that the original had on the 90s, and that would break all the great expectations and hopes generated around it. So it’s safer to make completely new modern games other than reliving successful classics that become untouched for years.

Dave: If they do go ahead and make SoR4, what is the biggest mistake Sega could make?

To cancel it. Okay, kidding. I think introducing modern styled characters that doesn’t fit in the classic feel can ruin it. Instead, they should bring back the 90s, combining it with the most advanced technologies. Most of actual games shows a modern or futuristic feel, or perhaps very old ages. 80s and 90s seems forgotten on games industry. Bringing back 90’s nostalgia keeps the original sor mood and gives to market a singularity that can lead to success. That’s what i think.

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