Category Archives: games industry

Which languages need Entity Systems libraries right now?

A few months ago I ran a survey to find out which programming-languages people were using with Entity Systems:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/18JF6uCHI0nZ1-Yel76uZzL1UfFMI21QvDlcnXSGXSHo/viewform

I’m about to publish a Patreon article on Entity Systems (here if you want to support me), but I wanted to put something up on my blog at the same time, so here’s a quick look at the stats.
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LFG: I’m looking for CTO/TechDirector/Head of Mobile/Consulting roles in CA, TX, London, and Asia

TL;DR: experienced CEO/CTO/TechDirector with long background in programming, sales, and business management (Corporate, iPhone/Android, Games, Education) looking for strategic roles in USA, UK, and Asia.

After a year-out to do a post-graduate degree in Education, I’m looking for something new and exciting to do next. My primary goal is to boost a company or team rapidly and show significant outcomes – increased revenue or other KPI’s – either through Consulting or full/part-time senior leadership.
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#Unity3d hardware usage + implications – Summer 2015

There’s tonnes of blogs out there, so I only talk about the bits that other people have missed, or were too polite or inexperienced to cover. Often that means I’m the one pointing out the flaws (most people don’t want to write bad things. Screw that; ignoring the bad points does you no favours!).

Sometimes I get to talk about the good bits that – sadly – few people have noticed. Here’s one of those.
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6 ways to massively improve the #unity3d AssetStore (for #gamedev’s)

Six months ago I tweeted a handful of obvious ways that you could make the Unity Asset Store greatly more profitable.

One of the Unity folk reached out to me, claimed that Unity was highly invested in improving this and asked for specific suggestions. So I wrote longer, detailed versions of each tweet and emailed them.

It’s been six months. No response. So … for Unity’s competitors, maybe looking to make/improve their own Asset Stores (or newcomers hoping to unseat the incumbents), here’s six obvious commercial improvements.

I’ve cut a few paragraphs I wrote to Unity about who I think their 3 main audiences are on the Asset Store; I included them as a “here are the assumptions I’m making” – I have no idea what their real audiences are. So I omitted that here.

NB: I’ve made the formatting webpage friendly, added some details, but this is essentially an info dump. I was too busy at the time to sugar-coat it – I figured that if Unity wanted to talk, I’d talk to them, and in person I’m really quite friendly and gentle. But at the time we were working 24/7 getting ready for a major exhibition, so this is a bit … terse.

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Promoting an Indie game: what should you link to?

Background

Every Saturday, thousands of indie / hobbyist game developers publish screenshots of their in-progress games. Unlike most forms of marketing, this is:

  • honest / genuinely representative (it’s actual content)
  • interesting (show’s the dev’s intentions)
  • exciting (pictures of games are usually more fun than words)

i.e. … it’s an amazing marketing tool.

But many game developers are screwing this up. A year ago, I posted a long list of advice, tips, and explanations – worth reading. But some devs are still misunderstanding / screwing this up. So, what should you do?

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How to Become a Game Designer (2014)

Step 1: Do not buy the book with this title.

Writing a book is tough, and I respect the time and effort that goes into it. But I don’t rate a book highly simply because it was hard to write: it has to fulfil it’s purpose, and help the reader. Some books are so poor they actively hinder the reader.

This one is being marketed to bloggers to promote it (for cash) without reading it. This (no review copies) might be a beginner’s mistake. I hope so; the alternative is horribly cynical.

For bonus points, the email was sent from a bouncing email address. If you want a job in the games industry, you probably don’t want to be advised by someone so careless/clueless they send out emails from broken email accounts.

That annoyed me enough to look through the marketing materials for this book, and it seems weak.

The author does not appear to have been a recruiter, nor a hiring manager, and apparently has never run a studio. If you read a book on this topic – make sure the author has spent years recruiting, hiring, and managing people in the industry. That’s the core expertise you want from the author – if they don’t have it, they need a really good excuse.

Further, the title seems deliberately misleading – linkbait for readers. It’s titled “become a game designer” but the content appears to be “get a job, somehow, doing something – anything you can scrape-by on – in the games industry”. Core topics are missing from those listed – e.g. how to advance your skills as a game-designer (key to getting hired!), etc.

…but I haven’t read the book, so I can only give vague suggestions and guesses at what it contains.

TL;DR

Personally I’d steer clear of all such books, and spend the time entering Game Jams instead. Every jam you enter will teach you more, and give you more experience that’s directly exciting to hiring managers, than reading books like this one.

I have classes of teenagers making their own games with little or no help; if they can do it, why can’t you?

Indie Developers do an AMA…

A bunch of indie game devs (including various friends of mine) are doing an AMA right now on Reddit. Go have a look (and ask some questions) if interested.

I found the answers this question a bit depressing though, given that the audience has increased 100-fold in the last 2 decades. Sad that indie developers still find it almost exactly as hard today as they did in the 1990’s :(.

Tomb Raider 2013 shows games as a force for good

Ashelia/HellMode’s review of Tomb Raider 2013:

“Tomb Raider triggered me, sure. But it didn’t do it needlessly. It didn’t do it tactlessly. It didn’t do it for a cheap rise. It instead captured a real emotion and a real experience millions of women will encounter in their life. Some of them won’t be as lucky as I was. Some of them won’t be as lucky as Lara Croft was, either. Some of them won’t survive. Some of them will be silenced forever.

Some of them will die and some of their attackers will live.

Tomb Raider triggered me and that’s ok. Maybe that’s even good. I think it is because it means it’s the first realistic, non-gratifying portrayal of violence against women that I’ve seen in video games. It’s the first one I’ve seen that wasn’t exploitive.”

GDC 2013 feedback on speakers

This year: I hadn’t even left the talk before I got this email:

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 11.36.14

This is excellent. Easy and automated (using the RFID tags in the pass itself, that’s scanned as you walk in the door), it’s quick and accurate.

As a bonus, I can rely on it to give me an email record of which talks I attended (so I can easily look them up, share with colleagues, etc).

I’m looking forwards to more conferences doing this…

“We are a compromised profession” (Game Designers)

Carlo Delallana responds to the sensationalized report that “I think most game designers really just suck”:

“One of biggest problems that game designers face in their path towards mastery is respect. It’s easy to respect an artist with a demonstrable skill, no average person assumes they can do what an engineer does. But game designer? For one thing our profession faces a common misconception, that game design is coming up with ideas (as noted by Garrott’s comment on lazy designers). That all you need to do is clone, that you are no better than your competition (as noted by Mark Pincus).

We are a compromised profession, tasked at executing a formula to minimize risk. Unfortunately, executing on formula is counter to mastery of any skill. If the marching order is “status quo” instead of “challenge yourself” then how does a game designer grow?”

(NB: Gamasutra clearly did the IMHO scummy journalist thing of sensationalizing RG’s quote; and RG should have been a lot more careful – personally I believe he didn’t mean it the way it came across, but it came across … badly)

Either way, Carlo’s reply is worth reading in full

Teenagers learn to program, write own 3D game, in 3 weeks

Background

Last year, Pearson ran the first ever Innov8 competition, giving tech startups a chance to make their own innovative new product/project. The grand prize was £5,000 towards building the product.

Most of the teams were adults (even: real companies), but a team of students from Blatchington Mill School won, with their idea for an iPhone/iPad app: “My Science Lab”.

Team: Quantum Games

The three students named themselves “Quantum Games”: Jon, Nick, and Oli. All three of them have been studying for their GCSE’s in parallel with this project.

They’ve been supported by Mark Leighton, Assistant Head / ICT Director at the school.

For mentoring and game-development expertise, they had me – Adam Martin – previously CTO at MindCandy and NCsoft Europe, now an iPhone/Android developer

Previously

The students chose to focus on a game that would help other students revise the “Momentum” part of GCSE Physics.

In summer/autumn 2012, they learnt the basics of game design and development. We didn’t do any formal teaching – they simply had to pick up the skills they needed as we went along. YouTube videos, and “trial and error”, were our primary techniques…

In particular, they learnt 3D-modelling and texturing (using Wings3D and Photoshop) and game-programming (using Unity3D and Javascript).

By the end of 2012, they’d written their own physics engine, some basic gameplay, and a simple simulation of an exercise/problem in Momentum.

Last month

The big thing this month has been BETT. Pearson had a large stand, and asked the students along to talk about the project. They gave an excellent presentation to an audience of approx 30 people at BETT, covering the background and some of the things that went well, that didn’t, and what they’d learnt from it.

Leading up to BETT, they worked hard to squeeze in a new build of the game, with a rethink on the interactive sections and how they hang together. Unfortunately, we hit what seemed to be a major bug in Unity’s camera-handling, and none of us could fix it in time (nor could we get an answer from Unity support in time). But the students managed to invent a workaround at the last minute which worked fine for demoing at BETT.

The game isn’t finished yet – GCSE’s and schoolwork left too little time to complete it before BETT – but we’re very close now. The students are aiming to finish it off this month and next, and I’m hoping I might even be able to take a copy to the GDC conference in March (taking place in San Francisco, GDC is the commercial games industry’s main annual conference).

In the meantime … you can sign up now on the Quantum Games website (http://quantumgames.co.uk), and we’ll email you as soon as the game is ready – or sooner, with a private beta-test!

Amazon and the high-value of a low-margin business model…

Some good observations on tech business strategy here

Low-margin can still mean high-value-business:

“Most people just look at a company’s margins and judge the quality of the business model based on that, but the cash flow characteristics of the business can make one company a far more valuable company than another with the exact same operating margin. Amazon could have had a margin of zero and still made money.”

Preventing the number-1 biggest threat to a mainstream company (disruption):

“Study disruption in most businesses and it almost always comes from the low end. Some competitor grabs a foothold on the bottom rung of the ladder and pulls itself upstream. But if you’re already sitting on that lowest rung as the incumbent, it’s tough for a disruptor to cling to anything to gain traction.”

And … an idea I’d considered more seriously back when I started in iOS development. This was the perfect way to disrupt agencies (tough and unpleasant though it was):

“Not having to sweat a constant onslaught of new competitors is really underrated. You can allocate your best employees to explore new lines of business, you can count on a consistent flow of cash from your more mature product or service lines, and you can focus your management team on offense. I”

How middleware (and open source) downloads ought to work – Unity3D

While upgrading Unity, I noticed the current download page is a great example of how it SHOULD be done:

Unity 4 has some … issues … with backwards compatibility – but at least they made the “need an older version?” link prominent. And how many old versions can you download?

Many!

(it goes on right back to unity 3.0)

Old versions? Who cares!

Well, that backwards compatibility thing is a *****. If you work on a project with other people, and they’re using Unity 3.5 … you SHOULD NOT (must not?) use Unity 4 (there be Dragons).

But it’s fine; Unity makes it trivial for anyone joining such a project to get exactly the version they need.

Some games middleware *cough*Hansoft*cough* companies declare that everyone must use the latest version, even if it is buggy and breaks existing projects. Or if it requires staff retraining. You must retrain EVERYONE! NOW!

(Hansoft has probably changed by now – maybe unfair to single them out. But for a long time they only allowed you to download the “latest” version, and actively deleted everything else. As soon as a new version existed, BOOM! Everything else got wiped. A happy customer I was not)

Recap

So, here we have a piece of middleware, with a download page:

  • Lives at an obvious, permanent URL: http://unity3d.com/unity/download/
  • Makes it very easy to find the download link (many open-source projects: shame on you)
  • Uncluttered webpage, and makes it easy to understand which download you want (Eclipse.org: shame on you)
  • Every version has its release notes right there, for you to click on! (Apple (every product), and Firefox: shame on you)
  • Every version has BOTH the windows AND the mac downloads (computers today are cheaper than they’ve ever been. Many people have a laptop thats Mac, and desktop that’s Windows, or vice versa. You can’t assume that the browser they’re using dictates the desktop they’ll be working from)

Designing a website to look simple is certainly a difficult and non-trivial task.

But in the case of a download page – where almost everyone has the same needs, and there are many examples to copy (plagiarise) from – it doesn’t take much. More projects (and companies) should at least try to do this.

Free art can help create a generation of non-pirates

The 21st century will be dominated by “digital” culture and art. History suggests that non-digital art will flourish too (while becoming a smaller, more specialized, part of a larger pie). So it’s all good: more people will have more opportunities to create – and more access to experience – a wider array of art. Win/win!

Except … our societies are struggling to work out how we’ll pay our artists when the marginal price of a copy is less than a penny.

Last week, something interesting happened when several unrelated projects I’m in all came together at once.

Someone is ‘stealing’ from CGTextures.com

Marcel at http://www.cgtextures.com/ gives away a huge library of high-res photo textures, aimed at game-developers, entirely for free. You don’t pay for access, you don’t pay to use them. You can include them in commercial games, make a million dollars – and you owe him nothing (bar gratitude).

Last week he came to a private forum asking for advice on suspected copyright infringers, who might have been taking his free images, removing the attribute/authorship info, and selling them for themselves.

Copying the images, and charging for them, is not theft. It’s illegal, but it’s not stealing. The original source is still available – free – to anyone who wants it. And many authors in this case are inclined to let the scummers go free, so long as they stop charging innocent users for something that’s free to all.

But CGTextures isn’t free to run; if they ever need to raise funds to pay for it, some of that money – which the community would happily donate – is being taken right now by a selfish scummer. Hmm. Tricky.

3D art is hard

If you’re “not an artist” (which for most people means: “I’m crap at drawing/painting!”) then making any kind of 2D art is very difficult, and tends to look like utter crap.

Computer games are dominated by good or great art. Even in the Indie scene, where “teams” are often no more than 2 people working together, we have a blinding array of beautiful artworks. At the opposite end of the spectrum – the AAA titles with budgets counted in “tens of millions” of dollars – it only gets better.

People love playing games – and they love making them too. Many people – artists and programmers – dream of “making a game”. But … just like “I’ve a great idea for a book” … the vast majority never manage it.

Two of the most common reasons they fail:

  1. Aiming too high: games require a lot more work than people imagine, and most people get 10% in and discover they’ve bitten off way too much to chew
  2. The artwork looks crap: everyone they show it to hates it (or they dont dare show it), the author hates it, they realise that no-one will play it, let alone pay for it, and they gradually lose the will to finish the project

Anyone can make a game: even un-trained teenagers

We’re in the final few weeks of proving this (a team of three 15-year-olds are about to publish their iPhone game that they designed, built, tested, and launched from scratch).

Starting with nothing but beginner-level knowledge of Javascript (not enough to write an app), they’ve:

  1. Learnt Javascript
  2. Learnt 3D-modelling
  3. Created all their own 3D models, with textures
  4. Built, tested, and refined a working game

Sounds hard, right? Well, yes, it was. But – if you know enough tricks of the trade – most of that can be made easy enough for anyone to do themselves.

  1. Game structure – use an established game engine
  2. Programming – stick to “simple” programming concepts
  3. In-game artwork – “stylised” 3D models are trivial to create (c.f. Minecraft)
  4. Testing – use a modern IDE with a decent debugger

This is all great, but I’ve glossed-over one item there: textures. You can avoid the need for painting skills by making your game-items 3D instead of 2D, but sooner or later you’re going to need to texture them.

JFGI

With the programming, one of the skills I’ve drummed into them is JFGI (Just F’ing Google It). Everytime you get stuck: google it. If you get no hits – fine, you’ll have to work it out yourself. But often you’ll find:

  1. It’s a bug in your tools, not your fault! Here’s a workaround…
  2. It’s practically impossible; don’t waste time trying to solve it…
  3. Your software documentation / manual was missing the following info: …
  4. It’s a generic boilerplate piece of code. Don’t worry about it, but use this copy/pasteable code solution: …

Leveraging the internet as a resource is fundamental to being a great programmer. I’ll gloss over the risks / dangers for now (I’ll write another post on that later), but most of the time you cannot JFGI too often.

But … with the 2D artwork, with the textures for 3D models … Google becomes a danger.

Google Images: the devil on your shoulder

Writing a presentation, and need an image? Google Images it!

…making a game, and need a “wood texture”? Google Images it!

WHOA THERE, JOHNNY!

Doesn’t feel like stealing (that’s cos it isn’t) – but it is something illegal: copyright infringement. It’s precisely why “copyright” was invented in the first place.

And yet: this single problem can make all your effort, all your hard work on your own creative artwork (your game), invalid. You can have the most sublime game design, a control system that a toddler can master, a frame-rate as smooth as silk … but if the 2D graphics (or the textures) are crap … the whole thing falls flat on its face. And most people can’t draw.

How the pros do it

There are simple techniques for making very good textures starting from random photographs. Even a novice can create something perfectly “good enough” in a short amount of time.

Only one thing is needed: a big library of photographs, MORE THAN ONE per real-world “texture” you need to create. If you have the money, there are dozens of Stock Photography resources, each one costing hundreds (or: thousands) of dollars a year.

But if you’re students – undergraduates, high-schoolers – or simply “not rich” (“artist” isnt’ exactly a high-paid career) and working on your own, you probably don’t have “hundreds of dollars”.

Hey, I know! Let’s use Google Imag- … crap.

Enter stage left: > http://www.cgtextures.com/ – a FREE, ROYALTY-FREE, MASSIVE collection of photographs DESIGNED FOR USING IN COMPUTER GAMES. Why? I guess Marcel is just a naturally generous person.

I showed the guys CGT. No problem; texture sources a-plenty. And it’s all free. And legal…

Full circle

  1. potential pirates who are ‘creating’ are happy to respect copyright, if you educate them early enough … so long as they have viable alternatives
  2. if you take away the alternatives, they must weigh up the moral “cost” of infringement against the moral “benefit” (and personal satisfaction) of completing their own work
    • I’m not advocating this piracy; but where no theft is involved, to most people’s minds the cost is tiny and the benefit is huge. Realistically I expected few people to resist when he temptations – both moral and practical – are so big
  3. sites like CGTextures put “artistic creation with 3D” in reach of everyone
  4. pirating art from CGTextures is – AFAICS – only a criminal activity: illegally extract money from someone else’s work, with no ‘creation’ involved
  5. …but if sites like CGTextures go away (if Marcel gives up), and the next generation of artists lose their alternatives, “copyright” has no chance at all

IMNSHO, anti-software-piracy organizations tend to be idiotic, amoral, and begging to be nuked from orbit. They’re often part of the problem, not the solution. If they genuinely wanted to reduce piracy, they should be creating sites like Marcel’s: royalty-free resources of reduced cost that their industries could easily afford to give away for free.

The debate has – for way too long – characterized software pirates as “inherently evil; bad-doers; malicious”. This is undoubtedly true of some (my opionions of anyone re-selling CGT’s free art are unprintable). But we’re not born as software-pirates; we get that way because of the culture and society we grow up in. We have the opportunity to teach new generations respect for copyright – but that cuts both ways.

In the Digital Age, copyright needs to deserve our respect, not simply demand it.

Some other free texture sites

While checking some of the points in this post, I noticed a few other photo-texture sites that offer royalty-free images suitable for games dev, worth checking out:

All Game Developers should read Pat Wyatt’s blog…

I noticed a few months back that Pat Wyatt has been blogging rgularly and in a lot of detail last year. This (IMHO) is big news: Pat is an awesome developer who held key positions in the teams behind many of the bestselling computer games (e.g.: Diablo 1 + 2, Starcraft, Warcraft) and went on to co-found Arena.Net (creators of Guild Wars).

I worked with him briefly in the past, and he’s friendly and full of advice and knowledge – but while he was happy to share, IIRC it was rarely in published form.

I’ve had a tough few months, but I’ve been dipping into his blog a few times, and it delivers in spades. Here’s a few hilights:

Assertions: enable them in live builds

(I’ve always felt this was the “right” way to do it for servers – where you don’t have to worry so much about frame-time, and assertions are more valuable at runtime because they help with the hardest-to-trace bugs … but it’s hard to get broad data on what the performance cost is)
http://www.codeofhonor.com/blog/whose-bug-is-this-anyway:

“The bug was easily fixed by upgrading the build server, but in the end we decided to leave assertions enabled even for live builds. The anticipated cost-savings in CPU utilization (or more correctly, the anticipated savings from being able to purchase fewer computers in the future) were lost due to the programming effort required to identify the bug, so we felt it better to avoid similar issues in future.”

…and a great rule of thumb for any Programmer:

“After my experience reporting a non-bug to the folks at Microsoft, I was notably more shy about suggesting that bugs might be caused by anything other than the code I or one of my teammates wrote.”

Some bugs are due to … user’s broken hardware

http://www.codeofhonor.com/blog/whose-bug-is-this-anyway:

“Mike O’Brien, one of the co-founders and a crack programmer, eventually came up with the idea that they were related to computer hardware failures rather than programming failures. More importantly he had the bright idea for how to test that hypothesis, which is the mark of an excellent scientist.

He wrote a module (“OsStress”) which would allocate a block of memory, perform calculations in that memory block, and then compare the results of the calculation to a table of known answers. He encoded this stress-test into the main game loop so that the computer would perform this verification step about 30-50 times per second.

On a properly functioning computer this stress test should never fail, but surprisingly we discovered that on about 1% of the computers being used to play Guild Wars it did fail! One percent might not sound like a big deal, but when one million gamers play the game on any given day that means 10,000 would have at least one crash bug. Our programming team could spend weeks researching the bugs for just one day at that rate!”

AI cheats to improve game balance in RTS’s, starting with Warcraft/Starcraft

http://www.codeofhonor.com/blog/the-making-of-warcraft-part-3:

In most Warcraft missions the enemy computer players are given entire cities and armies to start with when battling human players. Moreover, Warcraft contains several asymmetric rules which make it easier for the AI player to compete, though these rules would perhaps be called outright cheating by most players.

One rule we created to help the computer AI was to reduce the amount of gold removed from gold mines to prevent them from being mined-out. When a human player’s workers emerge from a gold mine those workers remove 100 units of ore from the mine and deliver it back to the player’s town hall on each trip, and eventually the gold mine is exhausted by these mining efforts. However, when an AI-controlled worker makes the same trip, the worker only remove 8 units of ore from the mine, while still delivering 100 units into the AI treasury.

This asymmetric rule actually makes the game more fun in two respects: it prevents humans from “turtling”, which is to say building an unassailable defense and using their superior strategic skills to overcome the computer AI. Turtling is a doomed strategy against computer AIs because the human player’s gold-mines will run dry long before those of the computer.

Secondarily, when the human player eventually does destroy the computer encampment there will still be gold left for the player to harvest, which makes the game run faster and is more fun than grinding out a victory with limited resources.”

Reaction to CoH (City of Heroes) community, and NCsoft’s response

(background: after 8 years as one of the world’s mid-tier MMO games, City of Heroes (+ City of Villains) is being shut down. The community banded together to ask if they could take over running the world that meant so much to them; NCsoft (the publisher, and a company I used to work for) said: no)

“No means no”

NCsoft is basically saying: “Please. We love you, but … you just *don’t understand*. It’s more complex than you could possibly imagine!”

That’s not a dialogue; it reads like a “this conversation ends when I stop talking” monologue.

“Why on earth wouldn’t you say yes?”

Lots of people wondering that. Obviously, being a public company, no-one’s going to answer that in public. We can only guess. But hear’s a few (over the top) suggestions…

If the community succeeds … then THE FEAR IS: some Executive(s), somewhere, are going to look like bad (I’m not accusing; I’m just saying that in corporates I’ve worked at, this kind of *fear* is common). A lot of the work they do is guess-work. That’s fine, they’re paid to make the best decision they can, while never truly know if they made the right one.

But if a bunch of inexperienced, eager novices come along and offer to do it for free. And – the worst possible outcome – they succeed … that could make someone look really bad.

Another thing I’ve seen in corporate politics at this level is a lot of “horse-trading”. i.e. sacrificing one project (that someone else resents, or has been snubbed by) in return for that person helping out out with a problem on a separate project, that you’re trying to rescue.

Who (individually or collectively) made the decision, and what did they stand to gain or lose? (they are probably worried about / aiming for / trying to win … something bigger than this single game. c.f. my 2009 post on why NCsoft is so huge a company gains nothing from “profitable” games, they need “mega profitable” games)

“Software is software”

Ha!

Has anyone found out yet what format(s) the data is in? Imagine the most insane, unwieldy, incomprehensible, inconsistent, unusable format that bears no relationship *at all* to the game itself … and you’re probably half way there.

This game was written *8 years ago*.

Read the biographies of the people involved. Were they non-game developers … academics with decades of expertise in distributed systems and real-time transaction messaging? … or … were they a bunch of smart guys trying to catch up with the academic research in the space of months, just enough to build and ship a major new computer game? And … most importantly … to make it “fun” before they ran out of budget.

I’ve not yet found an MMO where the people who made it feel – with hindsight – they had any idea what they were doing at the start. When they started, of course, many of them thought they’d covered all the bases, and were “well prepared”. Everyone tries their best up-front (or fails completely); but everyone finds it much harder than expected.

What should we/they do?

Looking at it analytically and logically, I’d give the community a very high chance of failing dismally if they were given the game. But … the eagerness, the excitement, the sheer determination: I’d give them a small chance of succeeding despite everything. Simply because: when you see this much determination, it often wins out and overcomes the obstacles in its way.

So, I say: Go for it.

They know the game they’re trying to (re-)create. The difficulty is simple: whenever you try to re-create a game, the temptation is always there to “improve” it … and 99 times in 100, you find you slightly misunderstood what you were “improving”.

The real cost of game-consoles (inflation-adjusted)

35 years of game-consoles, and their original retail price, adjusted for inflation:

i.e. a (reasonably) direct comparison of how expensive they were at the time they were launched.

Some quick observations:

  • NeoGeo and 3DO/Jaguar were insanely expensive – and, of course, sold very poorly and went bye-bye.
  • Until the Wii and the GameCube … Nintendo’s NES and SNES, and Sega’s Master System – the best-selling consoles of the goldern-era – were almost the cheapest ever launched.
    • (I’ve long argued that hardware price is one of the biggest factors in the sucess of a console, so I’m biased and cheering for this ;))
    • PlayStation 2, which kept up the immense sales trend of PS1, was slightly cheaper, following the curve down. PS3 bucked it … and sales were disappointing.
    • This chart lists *only* the launch price, it doesn’t say anything about the deep price drops over the consoles’ lifetimes; “price” is the main thing a platform owner can change after launch (changing the hardware features / design is almost impossible)

    (Found via reddit, but no link to that bad person, because they linked the image without credit / citation. Grr!)

Jon Blow: “almost no certification process for iOS”. LOLz.

Jon just published an interesting letter about the current state of cert processes for game consoles / platforms.

There are some real problems with certification today. Unfortunately, Jon’s post doesn’t really touch upon them, and seems to go instead after the IMHO untrue and unhelpful claim that iOS is better for having “almost no certification”. No, really:

“The certification processes of all these platform holders were based on the idea that all these steps they test are absolutely necessary for software to run robustly, and that software robustness is super-important for the health of their platform and its perception by customers.

But, look at iOS. There is almost no certification process for iOS, so by the Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo theory, the apps should be crashing all the time, everyone should think of iOS as sucky, etc. But in fact this is not what is happening. There is no public outcry for more testing and robustness of iOS software.”

Personally, I’d say that iOS has a certification process of comparable length to console cert, given the comparitive size/complexity/many-years of development in the apps, and for a couple of years it was considerably nastier than TRC’s because *it had no documentation*.

(my first hand experience: I created and maintained a large site that documented the app rejections by Apple, and interviewed the developers on what got rejected, why, what happened after the rejection, etc.)

Even with the nightmare of never knowing what the rules were, there was a positive net effect: many apps were forced to resubmit until they hit a minimum barrier of quality. Again – I know this for a fact, I had many conversations and interviews with developers about this, often getting to read their conversations with Apple. Even today, there are many apps being rejected every week for failing on basic quality / functionality / crashing / etc.

For me, that rather undermines his argument. Which is a pity, because there ARE major problems with cert – on all platforms, Apple included – and we should be focussing on them. But it’s not the idea of cert that’s at fault, it’s either the choice of items (e.g. Sony, where some of the rules come from PlayStation 1 era and are barely relevant today) or it’s the poor implementation of the process (e.g. Apple until 2011), or it’s the big chunks of stuff that SHOULD be part of cert but isn’t (…everyone…).