In what is starting to look like the new textbook example of what not to do when launching an MMORPG, Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada said at a recent press conference that he regrets they have let their brands get “sloppy” and that they will have to rebuild them all again.
It is pretty obvious to anyone following the Final Fantasy XIV disaster by now, that the game was released far too soon with too little attention to beta tester feedback. The downward revision of Square Enix profits by 90% makes it apparent now why they were in such a rush. Perhaps Square was really counting on FFXIV to make up for the less than spectacular performance of other titles such as Final Fantasy XIII. With the stock price falling, I can’t help but wonder when Square Enix might become a takeover target for the likes of EA, Activision, or Nintendo.
Square Enix still has some great IP and the fans haven’t totally deserted them just yet. As one of those fans, all I really wanted in FFXIV was an improved and updated Final Fantasy XI which would borrow the best from the likes of World of Warcraft wrapped up in the aesthetic of Final Fantasy. As a fan, I’d love to see a remake of Final Fantasy VII which is where so many of us began our relationship with Square. As a fan, I hope it is not too late for this to happen.
I spent a good portion of the day finding and buying the tools I will need to get my iPhone development efforts off the ground. And as I did this, I became more and more aware of the monstrous task before me. This is a lot more than creating Hello World we’re talkin about here! And I know that it can take months, or even years for a talented team of developers to bring a AAA package to market.
I don’t have years to spend on this project, but I still think I’ve got a decent shot at achieving my objectives. So standing here at the base of Everest, I cannot wait to see the view from the top. But guess what? I don’t have to reach the top to win the battle. I just need to stay focused and keep bringing interesting/fun/useful apps to market.
Somewhere along the line, I went from being the premiere gamer in my household to dead last, even behind my 8 year old son in hours of gaming per week. Seeking to stop and reverse this alarming trend, I decided to spend a little time exploring the beta of a new MMO from SOE. While the game really looks good and I think has a lot of potential, it also reminded me of the great need for large betas. Not really a complaint or a slam. People too often forget that beta means test in the development world. And I should note that it made me hunt down and remove Zimbra Desktop which sucks down a lot of resources even when you are not using it. Just sitting there it had swiped 100MB of memory and I suspect it was responsible for some Firefox slowness and wonkiness I’d been seeing. So thanks SOE! Nothing like seeking gaming goodness to get one to do some digital housekeeping!
Back to gaming. Thanks to Google Reader, keeping up with gaming news from a variety of sources has gotten a lot easier. One source I discovered that way is Massively. Judging by the stories and the ads in the news stream, there are a buttload of MMOs, most free to play, out there now. It’s like the plague of list your Top 5 X applications on Facebook! From what I’ve read, most are not top quality, but for free, what do you expect? That aside, someone must be making money on this. Probably the game engine house most of these are probably using along with the server hosting facilities. It definitely bears further investigation. If computing horsepower of the magnitude needed to support the typical MMO, plus bandwidth is widely available and cheap, that just screams opportunity. And so far, at least, the economic downturn hasn’t greatly impacted the gaming industry.
Software development is a world that is always changing, especially the world of open source software development. It takes a bit of effort just to keep up, so with that in mind I decided to go to Flourish! Open Source Conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago today.
I almost didn’t go because nothing on the schedule appeared to be directly related to my current projects. But after having been reminded of the conference by a coworker, I decided what the heck, it’ll probably be fun! And I was not disappointed.
I went to talks on Kubuntu, the Open Source Lab at Oregon State, the Processing development language and environment, and a couple on Android app and game development. I was particularly interested in the Kubuntu presentation because KDE apps have started showing up everywhere, including Windows. But the presentation that totally blew me away was Processing!
Processing allows artists to create incredible graphics and animation often with only a few lines of code. I’m really not doing it justice with this description, so please visit Processing.org. All I know is that I just discovered something that I may be able to use to better visualize the data in a big project I’m working on!
So my day at Flourish has paid off far more than I would have imagined. It really is a blessing to be able to do what you love for a living! I won’t be able to make the whole day tomorrow, but hopefully I can at least get there for the Processing workshop and afternoon panel.
My son and I, thankfully, do not have a Darth Vader – Luke Skywalker kind of relationship at least not yet. But this weekend I couldn’t help but feel a little Jedi-like as I helped him work on writing a video game in Multimedia Fusion 2. Even though there isn’t a lot of direct coding in MM2 in the early stages, I nonetheless took great pleasure in passing along to him some general programming practices concerning the organization of assets for a project and some graphics editing techniques. So I feel the the xkcd web comic below is particularly relevant for me today.
There’s nothing like the good creations of others to inspire greater creativity in oneself. In that vein, entries for the GBAX 2007 coding competition are now available for download! I’m particularly excited since this weekend I finally got some time to really start coding for the Xbox 360. They’re baby steps in the larger project, but I did manage to hit some important milestones. So anything that spurs me on to keep at it, and fight for the time to actually do something is a big plus.
Games have always been a part of the PC software landscape. And in the era of the PC compatible and the Macintosh, computer game publishers have not been required to pay anyone royalties to publish PC games, as they would have to do to publish a console based game. So Windows PC games sold by 3rd parties do not directly make any money for Microsoft. With that in mind, and the shrinking market share of computer games versus console games, it is no surprise that through XNA Game Studio, Microsoft would make it relatively easy to port PC games to the Xbox 360.
So far this makes perfect sense, or so I thought until I got today’s Xbox.com newsletter. In that newsletter there was an ad for the Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver which for less than $20 allows wireless Xbox 360 controllers to be used with a Windows PC. Suddenly it made sense to me why, at present, XNA Game Studio only supports Xbox 360 controllers. It would appear that Microsoft is still very interested in bringing Xbox 360 games to the PC, even though they won’t get any royalties for those games, as far as I know. If it is true that an Xbox 360 game developer can port games to the PC for some royalty-free additional sales without a lot of work, that can only make the 360 a more attractive platform. And depending on the game, it might even sell a few more copies of Windows.
Last night my son came across the 2nd controller I bought for the Xbox 360 attached to my computer monitor. My Xbox 360 was bought mainly because I was fed up with trying to run Final Fantasy XI on the PC. So it has never been in the living room or played with by the kids. I explained to him my plan to create an entry for the XNA Game Studio Warm Up Challenge which requires two player support. I also told him that I wanted him and his younger sister to help me as beta testers. So I guess I’m really committed now!
Things are starting to roll with the announcement of the Microsoft XNA Game Studio Warm Up Challenge! The Warm Up Challenge requires you to build a new game based on the Spacewar sample project included with XNA Game Studio Express. I think this is a clever way to start out because it essentially levels the playing field because you can’t just whip out something you’ve already been working on for months. This, instead, is a sort of Iron Chef of game development, and today’s theme ingredient is Spacewar.
For me, a supplemental ingredient was another $40 Xbox 360 controller. Why? Because Spacewar is a two player game, so I needed another controller to develop and test the new game. It’ll be interesting to see how many entries come in during the Feb 21 – 28 entry period. Of course, the one I’m most interested in is mine! I can’t wait to put my gamer kids to work as beta testers! 8)
After weeks of checking the original XNA Game Studio Contest web page, I thought it strange that the contest, scheduled to begin in January, had not appeared to have started yet. As it turns out, the contest apparently started at the end of January, but no one has as yet pointed the old page to the contest web site. I stumbled on the new site after a search in the Microsoft XNA forums. Silly me, I should have been paying more attention.
In any case, the contest has started up and I can shift things into high gear now. I’ve been batting around a few ideas and playing with the tutorials. I’ve gotten quite a thrill out of seeing things I’ve written running on my own Xbox 360. The challenge of a contest is my favorite carrot and stick to getting a project completed from start to finish. So, one way or another, I will submit an entry! Hopefully I’ll be able to elicit a a few WTFs and LOLs.
Dream Build Play Contest Web Site
Innovative devices usually spawn innovative ways of using said devices. I’ve already seen some speculation about using the accelerometer in the iPhone to create a Wii-mote for use with Nintendo’s Wii games console. But why not go one step further? There is a growing library of games for the current generation of iPods, that will be playable on the iPhone. Why not create games in the spirit of the Wii that are controlled by moving the iPhone. I’m sure that notion has already gone through someone’s mind at Apple. So I won’t be surprised to see some iPhone games that take advantage of the accelerometer and other sensors before the end of 2007. Indeed, given that OS X is at the heart of the iPhone and there are already thousands of OS X developers out there, it is inevitable. I think life just got a little harder for Sony’s PSP.
After sitting on the thing for weeks, I’ve finally got things in gear to produce an entry for the XNA Dream Build Play competition. Like the Google Gadget contest before, I’m using this as a way to get off my backside and actually finish a game. I generally learn the most when I just jump into a project like this, but the real key is to finish the damn thing!
With that in mind, it would be kind of nice if the contest itself had more than just a placeholder page at this point. Well I’m not going to let that stop me in any case. I’m not really planning anything revolutionary, just a little whimsical. I’m going to take an earlier game I put together and evolve it a bit. Probably no chance of winning, but if I can make people laugh a bit and get my head around XNA, then that will be enough.
Pfffffft! Just another blah blah Monday for me as I work off the Thanksgiving hangover and get back on my diet after a weekend of relative excess. All of the talk of sales on and offline though, has inspired me to update my sites in hopes of snagging some commissions along with the sheer fun of creating some new themes. And on the development front, now that my main computer is back online, I’ve finally had a chance to sink my teeth into XNA Game Express and want to build up my main site with some XNA focus. While I haven’t completely abandoned Flash, the appeal of getting content on a console without too much hacking cannot be ignored. And Microsoft probably makes the best development tools in the business, serious developer bait indeed!
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 development tools aimed at indies, students, and hobbyists are in beta and available for download today! I can’t wait to see what I can do (or fail to do) with these tools. I’ll start with something goofy just to get my feet wet real fast.
XNA Game Studio Express
Gamesindustry.biz reports that developer Planet Moon has been signed on to bring Sega classics to the PSP. The first thing I wondered when I read this was whether or not NiGHTS into Dreams might be reborn on the PSP. The article doesn’t say anything about specific titles, but there was some speculation about games involving flying based on recent Planet Moon job adverts. NiGHTS was not a free 3D flyer, it was on rails, which I’m guessing might make a PSP port easier. Not only that, NiGHTS might actually work fairly well with the PSP’s single analog control stick. And the music should sound pretty good on the PSP as well. So I guess a guy can hope and dream.