Game talkWhat does Google’s new OS mean for games?

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Jul 072009

Great question. The blog post announcing it says it’s for netbooks, really, and that the development platform “is the Web”:

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

— Official Google Blog: Introducing the Google Chrome OS.

Except that we’re still quite a ways from games of the Web meaning something other than Flash. The kernel is Linux, which could mean that AAA games that run on Linux (all three of them) could show up. Maybe. But I wouldn’t bank on it anytime soon.

Will Flash show up on here? Hard to imagine a Web-centric Netbook or tablet that doesn’t need it, if only for YouTube videos. So perhaps Flash will simply extend its crossplatform dominance one step further.

Who knows is this OS will gain adoption; one thing for sure, though, people will play games on it if it is possible. And the more possible it is, the more adoption it will see.

Game talkTwo great Flash-related posts

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Jul 062009

There’s two great posts related to Flash surfacing today: has an open letter to Adobe asking for them to make Flash the default console for the web. This is a developer-centric post, focusing on weaknesses of Flash as a generic platform for game development:

Adobe, make Flash like unto a console! Give us consistent performance! Give us excellent tools! Flex Builder is not that great, Adobe. Your compilers could be a lot better, too. Don’t worry too much about lots of fancy features. People who have to have super high end 3d and do not want to run everywhere will use tools like Torque or Unity that do 3d really well. Be everywhere, run well, be easy to develop for, and you will be loved and well rewarded.

Adobe, I have a vested interest in you succeeding. Please listen to my words. I have spent years developing game middleware on a variety of platforms. Now I am working with Flash. If Flash dominates the game industry, it will be possible for me to afford to eat.

A lot of the gems aren’t in the post, but in the comment thread that follows — worth reading.

And the inimitable Dan Cook of Lost Garden has a wonderful analysis of the business models behind Flash game development and where they are broken — and what a developer can do to fix it.

When you design your game, pick three or four revenue streams and build them into your game. Here are some categories of users that you may want keep covered.

  • People who don’t want to pay: Advertising is a good option to keep around. A few hundred bucks is still money in the bank.
  • People who are interested in more of the same: Once you’ve established the value of your game, some players want more. Give them more levels, more puzzles, more enemies in exchange for cash.
  • People who are interested in status or identity improvements: Some people see games as means of expression and identity. Give them items that let them express themselves or customize their experience.
  • People who have limited time: Some people live busy lives and want to consume your game when they desire and how they desire. Cheat codes, experience multipliers and other systems that bypass the typical progression all help satisfying this customer need.

Looks like this is just part one of a lengthier series of articles — I look forward to the next one!

Game talkTorque 3D goes for a web plugin

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Jun 262009

Torque 3D looks to be challenging Unity for the 3d game in a plugin market; check out this feature on their home page:

Deploy any Torque 3D project from the World Editor to a web browser in seconds with our web publishing options. Torque 3D supports all major browsers and operating systems, including IE7, FF3, OS X and Chrome. Games perform at 100% native speed, with no performance cost, completely in your browser.

Both solutions,  of course, require that the plugins that host the native client be widely deployed, which is the biggest challenge. The gap between something like Flash or Javascript, and something like this, is measured in the hundreds of millions of installs. Of course, what you get for the native renderers in the plugins is desktop quality graphics.

The push on the other side, of course, is to upgrade the graphics in a form basically native to the browser, so you don’t need a plugin at all, or if you do it’s one you already have (because you visited YouTube once).

Game talkFlash for smartphones this fall

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Jun 232009

Flash Player 10 beta coming to most smartphones this fall, says CNet. This was promised last year, (see this YouTube video showing the Flash movie playing on an Android Phone, from last November) but now there’s a date.

In a Q2 audio press release, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen confirmed that Adobe will release a beta version of Flash Player 10 in October for a number of smartphone browsers, including Windows Mobile, Google Android, Palm WebOS, and Symbian. In addition, Narayen said ARM, Nvidia, Broadcom, Intel, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm are currently optimizing the player for their products.

No iPhone, probably because they are betting on JavaScript instead?

Game talkGoogle’s O3D and VW’s

 Posted by (Visited 5784 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , , ,
Jun 012009

GigaOM has an article titled Will O3D Get Google Back Into Virtual Worlds?. Apparently, at the MetaverseU conference (which I usually attend but couldn’t this time), the tech lead for O3D said that his team’s next goal is to fully integrate it into Chrome. By the end of the year.

After his presentation, a group of developers surrounded Kokkevis, peppering him with tech-heavy questions. He told me there weren’t any companies creating MMOs in O3D yet, but he raised the possibility that Google might port Sketchup and Google Earth into O3D, “once we become part of the browser.” (Both have been implemented for MMO-related projects.)

I wrote about O3D back in April; its integration into Chrome is certainly interesting, but Chrome itself has quite a lot of adoption barriers yet. But it’s still highly intriguing tech to keep an eye on. If Sketchup and Google Earth migrate to it, that’s a pair of apps to drive adoption, for sure.

Meanwhile, the same article says Unity has reached 10m installs…

Game talkNews games on the rise

 Posted by (Visited 5425 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
May 082009

Dan Terdiman has an article on the rapid proliferation of “news games,” which were an unusual and even controversial genre a few years ago when Ian Bogost and others started pushing them. Today, they are all over the place, thanks to the huge Flash community: tiny games that serve as a replacement for editorial cartoons (editorial cartooning, btw, is a business that is apparently in trouble).

When we talked five to ten years ago about how games were going to be the dominant medium of this century, I don’t think most people were thinking in terms of this sort of tiny minigame, mostly made by amateurs. And yet, I think that is kind of where we’re going.

It makes me ponder, what other areas of media will have little games slip in and replace the old way of doing things? We could maybe walk through the newspaper and see: how about classifieds? Obituaries? The social column? The letters column? Anyone got a Flash game to replace the Arts page?

Some choice quotes:

Doherty’s Fubra bought Sock and Awe from its original creator on eBay for more than $8,000, but said ads on the game earned the money back in just 48 hours. And Tocci said his creations earn money from royalties paid by the casual games sites that host the titles.

That leads to staggering numbers like the 14.5 million viruses tackled in Swinefighter and the 93.5 million shoes tossed at Bush in Sock and Awe alone. Tocci’s Double Bird Strike has been played more than 400,000 times.

“It’s a shame the innovation (of providing CDC advice about swine flu in Swinefighters) was left to two entrepreneurs,” said Doherty. “It would have been great if the World Health Organization had realized they could use a game to raise awareness about preventing swine flu.”

— ‘News games’ put public in charge of hot topics | Geek Gestalt – CNET News.

Game talkGoogle 3D Web plugin

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Apr 212009

Add one more competitor to the race to create the standard for web-delivered 3d. This time, it’s Google, with a new API called O3D.

The O3D plugin leverages hardware accelerated rendering, which means that it is powered by the GPU and can deliver strong rendering performance. The API supports loading 3D models, much like Mozilla’s high-level C3DL library. Google has published several open source demos which show how the API can be used to build interactive 3D Web applications with JavaScript. One of the demos even features a JavaScript physics engine.

— Google joins effort for 3D Web standard with new plugin, API – Ars Technica.

It’s not compatible with Mozilla’s Khronos effort, but Google says they intend it to converge over the course of a few years. And yes, it is fully cross-platform. There’s a shader language (again, non-standard, doesn’t match HLSL or Cg), and of course it supports loading SketchUp as well as from Max and Maya. It also can run inside an OpenSocial gadget, or run offline in Gears.

It’s a developer release only, found here. But it’s very worth keeping an eye on. Google has to get it adopted, of course, and that will take using powerful distribution leverage, the way that Flash uses YouTube and Microsoft uses NetFlix and Windows Update to push Silverlight.

Here’s a video.

Game talkFlash on TVs

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Apr 212009

Just briefly noting that the Open Screen Initiative, which I have mentioned before (1, 2), seems to be moving into higher gear.

The company will on Monday announce its latest version of its Flash multimedia platform that will essentially put its technology in Internet connected TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and other digital home devices. The main purpose of the TV and consumer electronics optimized Flash is to allow viewers to see high-definition video, interactive applications and new user interfaces right on their TVs.

As part of the announcement, the company revealed a number of partners that plan to use the technology, including, Intel, Comcast, Disney Interactive, Netflix, Atlantic Records, and the New York Times Company.

…Developers will also be able to create “widgets” for TVs to help bring Web content onto the TV screen. Widgets are specially designed Web applications that can easily be added to consumer electronics devices.

— Adobe’s Flash comes to TVs, set-top boxes | Digital Media – CNET News.

Game talkGaikai: virtual worlds streamed as video

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Mar 272009

Gaikai is basically like OnLive, but for 3d MMOs.It uses Flash to stream video from a high-end gaming PC, and captures clicks and keystrokes and sends them back to the server.

The browser “sandbox” may curtail gaming, but it does not limit the streaming of video. As YouTube and a multitude of copycats have shown, streaming videos online in a web browser is fast, efficient and reliable. This is the key to our technology. When you play a game through our service, you are actually watching a video stream. A very high resolution, high quality, stream with stereo sound, but in essence no different to the last video clip you watched.

I guess this is an idea whose time has come — dumb client terminals that just display a picture. Everything old is new again; this is exactly how Prodigy worked back in the day. 🙂

Game talk3d canvas in browser on its way

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Mar 252009

I have been commenting to people that for me this GDC is slightly dull partly for an odd reason: I no longer seem like a crazy prophet in the wilderness preaching about all the changes coming. The changes kinda just came. And now I wander around the halls and all the buzz is about digital distribution models, UGC, playing in a browser, microtransactions, web models, that traditional publishers are dinosaurs in trouble, iPhone indie games… you get the idea. The controversial talks of 2006 are today’s hallway gossip, and I need fresh new controversial material. 😉

The latest bit to come true is the prediction that the battle for 3d in a browser would keep heating up. Flash, of course, continues to push. I mentioned Silverlight’s remarkably high penetration numbers not very long ago, and now the shoe finally drops on the Mozilla efforts, with the announcement that Mozilla and Khronos plan to have OpenGL ES through Javascript in Firefox 3.5.

The intense focus on Javascript performance over the past year has seen tremendous improvements across all browsers. Raw language performance is getting to the point where it can keep up with the raw computational requirements of 3D. It will only continue to improve, spurred on by 3D and other use cases. Second, the hardware required for accelerated 3D is becoming pervasive; hardly any desktop computer ships without some form of hardware acceleration, and the latest crop of smartphones almost uniformly have at least OpenGL ES 1.1, if not 2.0 available. Starting this work now ensures that a standard will be ready when Web developers want to take advantage of the capabilities available in hardware.

— Vladimir Vukicevic of Mozilla

So, the war is on in earnest now.