Global Game Industry News Blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dude, I so called this one (another XNA Post)...

Well, I called this one way back when the XNA Game Studio Express was first announced, or at least said it would be the smartest thing ever if every year Microsoft sponsors a game development competition. Now MS is going to have just about every hobbiest game developer or industry hopeful aiming to for Xbox Live Arcade based on content created in XNA GSE. Surely they're not going to guarantee Xbox Live Arcade inclusion based on the contest, but you can bet that if the winners do live up to the kind of content quality standards they're hoping for, they'll be showing up.

I really think that this platform could be an interesting boon for the Indy Games world. While I don't think it's the only thing the game industry needs to be doing to foster innovation, it's a great idea, and its really based on the model movie studios have been using for a while. Let the hobbiest's and hopefuls play. It behooves you have more people involved in creating things rather than fewer (which current licensing regimes do).

XNA Game Studio Express: Dream-Build-Play Competition
"Create an original game using XNA Game Studio Express. You could win fantastic prizes and global envy! The contest doesn't start till January, but get a head start and download XNA Game Studio Express for free today.


Ok, then someone has to go and make a stupid comment, as well as some smart ones...

So there is a lot here to comment on, but let me say a couple of things.
  1. Not allowing people to use C++ and being forced to use C# is stupid. It's not about "productivity" in this case, it's about getting more people to use an MS run language.
  2. I think YouTube is a bad example, there are a few more barriers to entry into this market other than a computer and a webcam or video camera.
  3. We should also be asking professionals to make some contribution to pushing their work to be "edgier", which isn't to say it should be about "[s]hoot-em-ups with political characters," that's a pretty weak concept of edginess. As a matter of fact, that is edgily unedgy.
  4. (last one) CS programs have bigger problems than games can solve. Part of it is their curriculum. The other thing that needs to be made clearer is that the "recruitment crisis" has to do with design, art, and management as well. For some reason code is the focus for the game industry.

XNA Express will start YouTube for games, says Microsoft's Satchell //

"Where our vision's really heading is taking that YouTube concept and bringing it into games. Think about a Community Arcade, being able to share your own games with the whole community on Xbox Live."
Satchell went on to claim that a vibrant amateur development community would help head off the recruitment crisis threatening the videogame industry, citing "disturbing" admissions figures for computer science courses in the US - which are falling by 30 per cent year on year.

"If you can give people a way to communicate, to talk about content, to rate it and express what's cool, then you start a virtuous cycle, because more people want to get involved, more people create content and more people comment on it," he said.

"I absolutely believe we will find new stars in this industry from that community. I know publishers will be watching for what's cool and who's doing it."

According to Satchell, users will be free to create edgy videogame content that professionals couldn't because it would be "too risky".
Commenting on the decision to use C#'s managed code, as opposed to the native code used by most professional developers, Satchell noted that with ballooning budgets and team sizes, priorities in game development were changing.

"We're all concerned about performance in gaming, but in the future, in five to ten years' time, productivity is going to be more important than performance," he observed.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Take Many Pictures of Animals...

I take a lot of pictures of animals it seems. I'm not sure precisely why I do this. I think in part because it has something to do with it being more socially acceptable, or personally acceptable for me to whip out my camera and take a photo of a random puppy, dog, frog, cat, cow, or other animal than to pull out the camera and start taking photos of people. Somehow one seems miraculously less awkward than the other.

I'm also happy to make the assertion that these animals are simply indexes of what I see a lot of here. However, for the most part I feel less like a creepy tourist or random sweaty white guy taking photos of these animals than if I were to take photos of other things. Some random academic part of me also believes that Donna Haraway needs to come here and check out these companion species for a bit. For those of you that haven't read any of her recent work on dogs and companion species, that wont make a lot sense, and that is alright. Just think of dogs and other animals as offering a kind of special insight into both the canine and human conditions.

So, this little pup was hanging out at the Fireflies secular ashram where FoU (Friends of Udhay) was held this year. He and his buddy were pretty freaked out by anyone they didn't recognize. Then I callously went and snapped his photo. Dogs have been particularly interesting for me here. Mostly because when I first arrived in Bangalore I saw a lot of them. I see quite a few of them, but as I've written about before, the ecology of cows and dogs was particularly interesting there. I've referred to them fondly as "road dogs" because you'll often see them walking along with people along the side of the road, or fast asleep almost in the road. Which brings me to my next two photos.

This guy has wisely chosen a non-road spot, though his compatriot cares significantly less about the logic of this idea.

Most of these dogs are stray it seems, though I don't think that means that they don't have friends or relationships with humans. Most of them have bumps, scrapes, missing chunks, gimps, post-litter tits, and numerous other aspects that make it clear that this is how things go. While on a trek across town last night I saw a puppy blindly crossing the street, if he made it safely, he's lucky. I'm sure you learn pretty quickly if you're not doing things the right way, the primary question is if you'll live to learn from the experience. I didn't look back to see if he made it. It was rush hour, and I was too scared that I already knew the answer to the question.

It can get really warm (especially in Chennai) during the day. I can't decide what keeps these dogs sunning themselves rather than opting for the shade. I suppose that's what the sweaty American dogs would be doing. They're surely used to the weather. They're also used to the spicy food too. I noticed a dog getting a munch of some leftovers, and I couldn't help but laugh thinking that surely I would be sweating, and an American dog would be rubbing its face in the dirt trying to figure out what the heck was going on with the inside of it's face.

While in Bangalore you could hear the dogs at night. One person even talked about how since the city pretty much shuts down at 11:30PM, the dogs own the city after that point. All restaurants and stores are closed, and for the most part the auto-rickshaws stop running. I suspect that the buses continue to run for those people working late at the call centers, but by and large things are very quiet once 11:30PM rolls around. It's at this point that the dogs come out to play, presumably expending all of that stored up photo-electric energy gathered during the day. Whether they're doing battle with the cars out late, or arguing with one another, they are much more vocal than during the day.

This little guy wandered into the parking lot of RedOctane the other morning. He was just so cute and tiny that I couldn't not take a photo of him. He walked into the courtyard looking like he'd thought he had found what he was looking for, but alas, I was not that. He then turned around and walked back through the grates of the gate.

The guard found it interesting that I'd take the time to whip out my trusty cell phone camera to take a shot of this little guy, but I guess it's just a habit of mine.

One of the workers at RedOctane was saying that recently they've begun a neutering program in this state, and perhaps it is country wide of neutering the male dogs. Veterinary volunteers go around giving the boy dogs a little snip-snip here and there. My first thought was that it must suck being a female dog in heat in a city of boys with no balls. This new policy apparently replaces a previous one where rounded up and disposed of.

And now for my recent favorite. When I was out wandering, I found this "road cow" hanging out with the bicycles and motorcycles. Apparently she had an itch which she couldn't quite reach, and was using this motorcycles handlebars to reach the spot. I stood and watched for a couple of minutes while she scratched and scratched.

The juxtaposition of all of these animals (I saw a chicken the other day, but did not have a camera, it was quite sad) with the rest of society is interesting. It has just prompted me to think about certain things, and I couldn't bring myself to not post these photos, even though I feel a bit silly in retrospect seeing just how many animal shots I have taken while being here.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Microsoft Releases XNA Express - Let the REAL Revolution Begin

I really do wonder when Sony and Nintendo are going to notice what's going on here. I mean, if they don't have a plan to answer this, every game industry hopeful, hobbyist, and Open Sourcer interested in games is going to be developing code for the 360. You're going to have a wealth of available tools and code. Microsoft will still control the delivery pipeline (unless people start pressing their own CD's and distributing them, but who cares, that sounds like Indy music to me?!?) (Xbox Live Arcade) but they've opened up the production pipeline. This is still massively closed for Nintendo and Sony.

I see the consequences of this behavior in the game industry all the time. I've seen it in the last couple of days with folks here in India developing games these platforms. They feel like they're constantly reinventing the wheel, with no information as to how others have done it. And they're right! They are. This is part of the reason why crunch exists in the video game industry. You have an entire industry built up entirely around secrecy. Sharing is rare. It's rare even amongst studio owned by the same publisher.

I can seriously understand why you want to protect intellectual property. The importance of that is not lost on me. Nor is the importance of education, learning how to deal with these systems. I think what is ridiculous is to expect developers to do all of this work without any sort of community structure outside of their own organization. The IGDA certainly helps with this, but it's not like they can talk about how to get good read-rate performance out of _FILL IN BLANK HERE_ because it's covered by their NDA's.

Open up the production pipelines. It's good for the industry. It hasn't hurt the art world, music world, movie world. As a matter of fact it tends to invigorate things.

Microsoft Releases XNA Game Studio Express //
Microsoft has also announced plans to launch a new competition, titled Dream-Build-Play, which is open to Windows and Xbox 360 XNA Game Studio Express users. The winning game will be released through Xbox Live Arcade, and the contest will begin in January.

"Xbox Live Arcade has opened up a wealth of new publishing opportunities for established and independent developers alike, so it made perfect sense to also extend this privilege to hobbyists and amateur programmers," said Greg Canessa, group manager of Xbox Live Arcade.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming talent through the Dream-Build-Play contest, and we can�t wait to share their creativity with our gaming community around the world."

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Posting Pictures

It has come to my attention, that I'm boring. ;) Just kidding. I know I haven't posted nearly enough pictures of my trip, but I'm going to remedy that RIGHT NOW.

This was the place I stayed while in Bangalore. It was a cute little service apartment about 4 blocks from Dhruva Interactive, the company that I was working with there. The kid who worked/lived there was nice, putting up with me coming home late. That was probably the most interesting aspect of the service apartment was that the help actually lived and worked there. He was around at all hours if you needed something. Service apartments came about actually because hotel prices in Bangalore are astronomical, even by US standards. In many cases people will stay at a hotel during the week and fly somewhere else on the weekends to avoid paying the weekend rates at hotels. I was happy to have this spot though.

One evening I ordered Dominoes Pizza (I know, I'm a sissy American), but I was craving cheese. Anyway, I ended up sharing a couple of slices with the kid. He was really nice and always willing to help out. His English was ok, but he got the important things, "shaver" (razor), "coffee", "laundry", "beer". It worked out well.

This is the main office of Dhruva in Bangalore. They actually own the building next door, as well as another building a block over. It's a cute place. It's got a spot on the roof of the building where they serve lunches. Parking is limited, but most folks ride mopeds or motorcycles into work anyway. Only a couple of people drive in cars regularly. You can see the corner of an auto-rickshaw in this picture. I think they were dropping off lunch actually.

I managed to make it out to the country on one day, offering myself up to the mosquito gods. It actually was just fine. I think I'd managed to consume enough spicy food by that point, that I wasn't totally attractive to mosquitoes, certainly not as much as a McDonald's fed white-boy. This was at a secular ashram outside of town called Fireflies. I was was there to meet with some members of the SILK list, a mailing list started by a guy named Udhay, and also referenced by Chris Kelty's work on Geeks and social imaginaries. I met all sorts of interesting people at this event. It was actually really neat, while we were there, about dusk there were thousands of dragonflies buzzing around, I can only assume they were munching on mosquitoes, but I'd never seen so many in one concentrated area. It was quite beautiful.

So, from ashram to the Bangalore pubs. This is one thing that Bangalore is known for, it's pub scene. There are numerous urban professionals that frequent these pubs. Many play hard rock or heavy metal. This particular one "Le Rock" played Led Zeplin, Metallica, and numerous other "metal" bands, however they did so from DVD rather than from CD or MP3, so one wall contained a large TV showing the video that went with the music. Quite interesting. This is Vinay from Dhruva. No, he's not drinking it all by himself. Keyshav and myself were quite capable as well.

Oddly enough, if Bangalore has a pub scene, Hyderabad has a lounge scene. I'll try to get some pictures.

So, auto-rickshaws, my primary means of transportation in Bangalore. Now that I'm in Hyderabad, I'm fed up with rick's. The ones in Bangalore, as long as you knew the town name, and cross streets, you were fine. You would likely arrive with only minor detours along the way. Hyderabad has been another story completely. Between them not wanting to run the meters and negotiating rates up front and then changing the amount they want on arrival, pretending to not have change, attempting to drive you all over town, driving like speed demons, and my recent favorite was the knocking over of a pedestrian, I've been mostly walking here in Hyderabad. Though the infrastructure here in Hyderabad is far superior to Bangalore's, it is counteracted (at least for me) by an inability to explain to rickshaw drivers where I want to go. Naming a town and streets does little good, and even when I do manage to convince them where to go, I have to actually direct them most of the way, often being dropped off prior to where I had been expecting to be dropped off. Not so fun.

Here is the hotel I'm staying at in Hyderabad. It's quite nice. Tequa has even gotten the royal treatment here. No, I didn't place her there, the cleaning people did. She says it's not time to go yet. She likes the people working here.


Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 01, 2006

Microsoft Hits a Home Run in India

So, none of the mainstream US game press has managed to notice this, but it's pretty impressive. Since I've arrived in India, the only video game company I have seen actively marketing towards Indian consumers has been Microsoft for the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, if you want to buy a 360 here in India, it's going to run you nearly 20,000 INR. That's about $450.00 for the basic edition, which will cost you $300.00 in the US. This is about right for most electronics here, take the price in the US and multiply by 1.5. So, that's obviously out of the realm of possibility for many average Indian consumers. Well, this new deal allows someone to go home with the systme for under 1000 INR (That's a little over $20.00). Suddenly the system isn't so out of whack with the economic abilities of folks here. Now, true, they still have to pay the remaining amount on credit, but I'm sure it's going to make a huge difference for 360 sales here. I suppose that isn't much different than putting it on a Best Buy Card here in the States, but it's a major departure for consumers here.

The interesting thing about consoles here in India. People know about and some even have PS2's. More seem to have 360's. This is still a VERY SMALL portion of the population. Most people know nothing about the Wii and Nintendo DS. Perhaps Nintendo ought to take notice to a market that has very little previous exposure to many video-games. A place where their family oriented, "more acceissible" systems might be seen as precisely the kind of thing that would work here.

ICICI Allows Payment of Xbox 360 in EMIs
ICICI Bank Credit Card will provide an EMI option available to ICICI Bank Credit Card holders only, for the purchase of Microsoft Xbox 360 products at designated Microsoft dealers. Credit card holders will have to initially pay Rs. 899 and an EMI, to buy the console.

Labels: , , ,