Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Hope for Broader Collaborative Efforts in the Game Industry?

[Cross Posted from IShotTheCyborg]

Yes, usually I am writing about how no one in the videogame industry is sharing much. This time, however, I am happy to be writing about a new collaborative effort amongst one game company. Fitingly, its the same company that back in 2003 wrote about how much they benefited from a similar sharing opportunity. The following is a quote from the original Gamedeveloper Magazine Postmortem for Ratchet and Clank:

Sharing technology with Naughty Dog. ... Naughty Dog didn't want anything from us other than a gentlemen's agreement to share with them any improvements we made to whatever we borrowed plus any of our own technology we felt like sharing. In an industry as competitive as ours, things like this just don't happen. (Price 2003, pp. 55-56)

So perhaps a little "gentleman's" head nod toward Naughty Dog in all of this as well. Personally, I'm ecstatic to see this kind of thing beginning to happen. Its about time really. In their own words:

Joystiq - GDC08: Insomniac opens up to dev community with Nocturnal

At a GDC press conference, Insomniac Games (responsible for Ratchet & Clank and Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3) has announced a ground breaking initiative to open up their technologies for the development community at large. Through the "Nocturnal Initiative," Insomniac Games is attempting to break the common development practice of keeping technological advances a close-guarded secret. As they noted, "developers spend resources solving problems that have already been solved."

PR Newswire - Highly-Acclaimed Independent Videogames Developer Insomniac Games Announces 'Nocturnal Initiative'

"The Nocturnal initiative is designed to encourage greater communication and information sharing among the development community because it will ultimately enable us all to create better games at a lower development cost," said Mike Acton, engine director, Insomniac Games. "And, in the end, it's all about making great games."
"We feel that the time has come to share what we have learned, and learn from others to improve our solutions to the common problems that present themselves when making a game," said Geoff Evans, an Insomniac senior tools programmer who helped develop and launch Nocturnal.

Insomniac is allowing developers to use elements of its proprietary third-generation PLAYSTATION(R)3 (PS3(TM)) tools chain source code for any purpose, for free. Source code makes up the technological building blocks that drive software development. It is often closely guarded by companies as they create their technology. However, this has led to many functions and pieces of code being re-written time-and-time again, wasting resources across the industry and ultimately affecting consumers' gameplay experiences.

There is an important distinction to be made between unique problem solutions that really give you a competitive edge and just being intellectually stingy. Thus far the game industry by and large has been parsimonious. I do not really know if this kind of initiative will have enough momentum to change the game industry, but I certainly hope so.

I'd love to see an emergent set of standard APIs and protocols which could be supported on numerous platforms. It would make the lives of developers much more predictable. Console manufacturers in preparing their new devices for the market could ensure that these base level technologies were supported. Of course now I'm waxing hopeful rather than realistic.

Nocturnal Website
Insomniac R&D Pages
Gamasutra Coverage

Price, Ted. 2003. "Postmortem: Insomniac Games' Ratchet & Clank." Game Developer Magazine 10.6:52-60.

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