Game breakers

At Vertex Animation Studios, in Dubai's Studio City, a group of game developers are working on the early production phases of a video game called Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis. Windows Magazine spoke to the development team

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  April 14, 2009

At Vertex Animation Studios, in Dubai's Studio City, a group of game developers are working on the early production phases of a video game called Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis. Windows Magazine's Gareth van Zyl had a chat with the game's Technical Manager, Ahmad Jadallah, about the game's development.

Close to Dubai's Autodrome, amongst various office buildings rising from the desert sands, is Vertex Studios in Dubai's Studio City where a group of game developers are working on the early production phases of Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis. Timeless is set to be a next generation action adventure game in which gamers play a character from Dubai who travels through different settings and different time periods.

The game is being made for the PC and next-generation consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation 3 and whilst Chronicles of Atlantis will include multiple playable characters, multiple weapons and multiple enemy types; the game's settings will also vary from an apartment in modern day Dubai to a Spanish village under Muslim rule in 8 AD.

With settings such as these, the team at Vertex are trying to ensure that the look and feel of Timeless encapsulates the culture, history and essence of the Middle East. Many of the game's characters and stories will be from the Middle East as well.

Vertex Animation Studios' Technical Manager, Ahmad Jadallah, is not willing to disclose too much information about Chronicles of Atlantis' game-play just yet. However, he has told Windows Magazine that Timeless could have 8 or 9 levels with around ten hours game-play and three difficulty levels. The game will include multiple approaches to different puzzles; so, one player might progress through a stage by adopting a stealthy approach, while another player might want to fight their way through a stage.

After Jadallah showed us two early stages of the game, it's clear that the team at Vertex Studios are working hard at perfecting the game's small details such as artificial intelligence (AI), shading, texture and 3D effects. Some aspects of the game are being developed all over the world but the bulk of the game is being developed at Dubai's Vertex Studios.

This company has been working on the game for the past year and a half, with the game predominantly being in the pre-production phase during this period. In this phase, they have been working on issues such as the storyline, the characters and the setting; and they're now at the finishing stages of a prototype or demo of Timeless.

The game should be in full production then very soon, with a team of up to 20 people consisting of members from the Middle East and other parts of the world.

When talking about the team behind the game's production, Jadallah says, "We play games all the time. The development team are core gamers at heart, and we examine all the new products."

Once Timeless has gone through the whole production process, it will undergo localisation and focus group testing, and once it has a publisher, the game will be released worldwide, with Vertex Studios saying that the release date is predicted for some time in 2010.

Timeless is not the first game to be developed in the Middle East though. There have been other games made in the Middle East that represent Arabic history and culture as well such as Quarish, touted by the game's developer, Afkar Media, as being the "first Arabic 3D real time strategy game (RTS)".

Quarish tracks the origin of Islam in desert Arabia from 590 BC through its evolution until it builds into a state. Quarish was developed by Syrian company Afkar Media, which is headed up by renowned Middle East game developer Radwan Kasmiya, who has been highly active in games development in the Middle East for a number of years.

But Timeless in particular has received great interest in the Middle East with Intel Capital recently investing in Vertex Studios. Intel Capital, the chip giant's global investment organisation, recently invested in Conservus International, Pulse Technologies and Vertex Animation Studio from its Middle East and Turkey fund.

Intel Capital is providing both funding and technology to these investments as Intel Capital is Intel's global investment organisation that makes equity investments in technology start-ups and companies across the globe. It invests in a range of companies offering hardware, software, and services targeting enterprise, home, mobility, health, consumer Internet, semiconductor manufacturing and clean technology.

Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and executive vice president of Intel has been quoted on ITP.net recently as saying that while Intel Capital is cautious about investing, it stills see opportunities for new ventures.

"These investments are testament to our commitment to invest in the Middle East, coming on top of our investment in Sphere Networks in November last year [2008] and we will continue to seek, and find, investment opportunities.

"We are always very careful in our investments, and look at the macro situation of the area we are investing in, as well as the industry sector, but that is something we do on an ongoing basis. What we are looking for in our investments is a unique characteristic, unique technology or unique products that people are going to want, notwithstanding the current environment," he added.

The companies that Intel has invested in have received both cash funds, and technology support from Intel, in a variety of areas, as well as support to further grow the companies. Vertex Studios, in particular, will initially work with Intel in the development of its next generation video game with Vertex gaining access to Intel's expertise in areas such as optimising graphics performance and the use of processor technology to deliver superior performance.

If you want to find out more information about Timeless, you can visit the Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis website. The website to visit is www.timeless.ae and on this site you can also sign up with the newsletter online. Apart from game's development, Vertex also develop virtual reality applications and animated movies and shorts.

With Chronicles of Atlantis' development and the relevant interest it has been receiving from companies such as Intel, the team at Vertex are confident that Chronicles of Atlantis will become a success story that will spur on even further games development in the Middle East - we'll definitely be watching this space.

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