From GPS Weapons Systems to Video Game Engines

Randell Trulson is founder and CEO of Neuron Games Inc. He has worked as a developer for many years on everything from Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) to GPS weapons systems before venturing into the field of game development. DIG spoke to him about the challenges he was trying to solve with the creation of the Super Cortex engine.

Arti Gupta: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Neuron Games.

Randell Trulson: I started developing games way back in junior high and high school. I didn’t really know you could actually make a career out of it, so I went to college for commercial art hoping I could get in that way. After a semester or so, I realized commercial artists don’t really make a lot of money or get into the gaming industry very readily. So I went into computer science. I got an internship working for firmware- and semiconductor-type companies doing SCSI, integrated development environment (IDE) and things of that nature. I started Neuron Entertainment, now Neuron Games, in 1997. I quit my job to go full time in 2001.

A.G.: What are the game development challenges you were trying to solve with the Super Cortex engine?

R.T.: Other than world dominance?

A.G.: That’s a good one.

R.T.: We initially started to build the Super Cortex engine based on some old technologies. Since I had developed other engines, I saw a lot of the pitfalls of game engines. I also saw how much it cost to license a game engine and how much ramp-up time was needed on game engines. Because of all of that combined, and then trying to get the game engine customized for your needs, we decided to build a game engine that was customizable for our needs for all the types of games that we could possibly do. The challenges we came across were trying to build an engine that was scalable, that you could build games on any front — from casual to 3D games — and to make it polymorphic.

We teach people about coupling and cohesion — when to do it, when not, how to make the code polymorphic and how to not reinvent the wheel. So many times in the gaming industry people build the engines so monolithic and one-sided, and they’re so for-one-genre, that they pigeonhole themselves. A lot of times when a sequel comes out, they’ll use a whole brand-new other engine because they made the original engine so monolithic. We tried to steer away from that mentality by doing this.

We also wanted to make a gaming engine that pretty much made it to a point where it didn’t put a dampening or a wet blanket on creativity. A lot of times, these game engines are so steeped in technologies that the creative side of gaming gets put on a back burner because everybody is trying to work around the technical aspect of how the game engine works. On a lot of game projects, there are rifts that happen between the artists and the musicians and the game developers. What we try to do is make the technology be like the foundation and let the creative side of things come out.