Game chang­ers

Ex-Nor­tel em­ployee says made-in-Ot­tawa tech­nol­ogy could save video game pub­lish­ers mil­lions of dol­lars.

Ottawa Business Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­COB SEREBRIN Spe­cial to OBJ

Ot­tawa’s long his­tory of net­work­ing com­pa­nies might not seem to have much to do with video games, but that his­tory – and the tal­ent around it – is what led one Van­cou­ver­based game de­vel­oper to open an of­fice in Ot­tawa.

Akimbo Cre­ations hired its first lo­cal em­ployee in Jan­uary. The com­pany, which is less than two years old, has since ex­panded its lo­cal pres­ence and now has five em­ploy­ees in the cap­i­tal who are work­ing out of an of­fice at In­vest Ot­tawa head­quar­ters.

“The Ot­tawa area is re­ally the tech­nol­ogy area,” says Akimbo CEO Behrouz Poustchi. “The Van­cou­ver area is re­ally the game area.”

Akimbo Cre­ation’s Ot­tawa team will work on a new peer-to-peer tech­nol­ogy that Mr. Poustchi says could save the pub­lish­ers of large mul­ti­player games mil­lions of dol­lars.

He plans to use the tech­nol­ogy in the game his com­pany is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing as well as li­cense it to other game de­vel­op­ers.

For Mr. Poustchi, it’s a way of hedg­ing his bets in a fickle mar­ket.

“Cre­at­ing a game is a very risky busi­ness, so I needed some­thing a lit­tle bit more than just a game that may or may not suc­ceed,” he says. “We ob­vi­ously think it’s go­ing to suc­ceed, but I’ve seen a lot of games that don’t suc­ceed as well.”

Mr. Poustchi says it makes sense to lo­cate his tech­nol­ogy team in Ot­tawa.

“It’s a net­work­ing project that we’re do­ing (and) all the good net­work­ing peo­ple should be in Ot­tawa,” he says.

Mr. Poustchi should know. He spent a long time in the cap­i­tal’s net­work­ing in­dus­try while at Nor­tel in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In the early 2000s, he was the chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer of Ot­tawa-based Nim­cat Net­works, which de­vel­oped peer-to-peer phone tech­nol­ogy.

That ex­pe­ri­ence is what led to the tech­nol­ogy that Mr. Poustchi’s com­pany is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing.

Cur­rently, most mul­ti­player games use a client-server model, in which all the data about what play­ers are do­ing has to go through cen­tral servers.

That means gam­ing com­pa­nies

re­quire mas­sive num­bers of com­put­ers and have to pay for large amounts of band­width be­cause ev­ery­thing a player does or sees in the game has to be sent back and forth from those cen­tral servers.

Mr. Poustchi’s tech­nol­ogy is based on a peer-to-peer sys­tem in which the pro­cess­ing done by the cen­tral server is de­cen­tral­ized and han­dled by play­ers’ com­put­ers.

His tech­nol­ogy also has what he de­scribes as “fault tol­er­ance,” with mul­ti­ple ma­chines do­ing the same cal­cu­la­tions to catch dis­hon­est play­ers.

“If some­one’s cheat­ing, we can quickly de­tect it in real time,” he says.

That’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant, he says, be­cause many mod­ern games are de­pen­dant on mi­cro-trans­ac­tions. Cheat­ing could up­set a game’s econ­omy or turn play­ers off be­fore they start spend­ing money.

“We are talk­ing to some de­vel­op­ers, so the in­ter­est seems to be there,” he says.

But Mr. Poustchi’s com­pany isn’t just de­vel­op­ing net­work­ing tech­nol­ogy for games – it’s also mak­ing its own games.

On Sept. 12, it launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to fund con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of its first game, ARC

Con­tin­uum.

The com­pany has re­ceived some fund­ing for de­vel­op­ment from the Cana­dian Me­dia Fund and has al­ready done sig­nif­i­cant work on the game.

How­ever, Mr. Poustchi says the money raised through the Kick­starter cam­paign will al­low him re­lease a more pol­ished prod­uct and gather feed­back from po­ten­tial fans.

The cam­paign’s of­fi­cial tar­get is $100,000, but Mr. Poustchi says he hopes to ex­ceed that sum. He says his big­ger goal is to de­velop a game that looks as good and plays as well as any big-name ti­tle.

“Cre­at­ing a game is a very risky busi­ness, so I needed some­thing a lit­tle bit more than just a game that may or may not suc­ceed.” – BEHROUZ POUSTCHI, CEO OF VAN­COU­VER-BASED VIDEO GAME DE­VEL­OPER AKIMBO CRE­ATIONS

PHOTO COUR­TESY AKIMBO CRE­ATIONS

Akimbo Cre­ations CEO Behrouz Poustchi.

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