Summary: FiringSquad talks with Mark Frohnmayer of Garage Games about their Torque X engine and utilities, and how they mesh with Microsoft's XNA Games Studio Express.
FiringSquad: First, GarageGames has been very successful in promoting the creation of indie games with their own tools. Why did the company want to team up with Microsoft to help their own efforts with XNA Game Studio Express?
Mark Frohnmayer: We see the XNA framework as one of the most important emerging platforms for independent game developers interested in console games. We thought it was a natural fit for our tools, giving users of the Torque engines another great platform on which to develop and deploy their games.
FiringSquad: Was GarageGames suprised that a major company like Microsoft wanted to give people the freedom to allow the ease of use of making games?
Mark Frohnmayer: We could hardly believe it when we heard about it. Not only have they staked out a real leadership role in beginning the process of opening what has always been a rigidly controlled development platform, but they have a real commitment to making coding on it substantially easier than it's been before.
FiringSquad: How hard was it to port over your tools so that it would work with XNA Game Studio Express?
Mark Frohnmayer: Surprisingly easy. We actually haven't ported over the tools though - what we've ported over is key pieces of the 2D and 3D engine technology. We're also in the process of making our tools capable of outputting data to both Torque and the new Torque X.
FiringSquad: Since XNA Game Studio Express is free to download and use for making PC games, will the XNA version of Torque Game Builer also be free to use as well?
Mark Frohnmayer: There won't actually be a separate version of Torque Game Builder for XNA - TGB will simply be compatible with Torque X. As for pricing on Torque X, that has yet to be determined.
Mark Frohnmayer: Well at the very least it will mean that more people coming in to the games industry will arrive with actual console game development experience under their belts. I am hoping it also means that there will be a much larger number of successful indie titles in the console space. I think with the advent of low cost downloadable console games via the 360's Live Arcade, as well as the ability for people to dev on their own devices, we'll see a continued growth in the number of developers willing to strike out on their own and be successful at it.
FiringSquad: Are there plans to release versions of the Torque Game Engine and Torque Shader Engine that will also work on XNA Game Studio and if so will those tools be as easy to use as the XNA version of Torque Game Builder?
Mark Frohnmayer: To be clear, Torque X is essentially the XNA analogue of the Torque Shader Engine, with 2D game engine functionality included. On the tools side as we go forward, we're bringing many of the ease of use lessons we learn from the development of the 2D game builder into our next generation 3D tools.
FiringSquad: While these new tools clearly are a help to artists with little to no programming experience, what about others who do not draw but want to make cool looking games as well?
Mark Frohnmayer: The tools we're developing for both 2D and 3D are applicable to artists as well as level and gameplay designers. For the programmers the Torque X framework itself will provide a big leg up in getting both 2D and 3D games coded quickly and efficiently.
FiringSquad: Will GarageGames use XNA as its sole way to make upcoming games or will it still use code like C++ to make games as well?
Mark Frohnmayer: While we will certainly use Torque X for building games, as we like to prove our technology with actual shipped games, but we won't necessarily use it for all future games. It will depend mostly on what engine and target platform best fit the particular game we are trying to make.
FiringSquad: Can you give us an update on upcoming GarageGames titles? We heard you are making a multiplayer map pack for the Xbox 360 title Marble Blast Ultra but what other projects are in the works?
Mark Frohnmayer: We've just put the finishing touches on an update for Marble Blast Ultra that includes 11 new multiplayer maps and some bug fixes as well. We're also about to ship our first internally produced casual game. On the game development side we're about to ship the Torque Shader Engine, version 1.5 of the Torque Game Engine, a new level building tool called Constructor and of course Torque X.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about GarageGames and its plans for the future?
Mark Frohnmayer: Going forward we will continue to make our game development tools both easier to use and more technically capable. We look forward to the time when anyone with the idea for a revolutionary game can bring it to life. We're also going to make some really fun games :)
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