Nov 252009
 

In my opinion, I would say no. I don’t believe we need an entirely different console configuration at this time. But, if current generation console features could be improved upon, I think that would be a move in the right direction. We are at a place, technologically, where the graphics capabilities in video games have the same effect in entertainment that movies do. We can tell a story and we can tell it well. We can, perhaps, tell a story even better than movies can because video games, by nature, are much more immersive than a movie can be.

With the advent of new technology also comes an awkward period for developers at the very beginning of a platform’s release. Developers are forced to learn, most of the time, an entirely new SDK (Software Development Kit) tailored specifically for the new hardware and the new technology used by the hardware. Aside from the obvious negative aspects that exist for developers, what does this mean for the consumer? This means that for the first few months or even a year or more after a console’s release there is going to be a dry period for game releases. There are going to be very few games released and the quality of each title will more than likely be under par. These are the costs of acceptance of emerging technologies. But, at this point and time are the costs of a new platform worth the benefits? That is the question that must be addressed. It is inevitable that new technology will be developed. I only wonder if we’re ready for it now.

It would seem that most console developers tend to adhere pretty rigidly to the release of some new console over a specified interval:

Nintendo Releases over 6 year intervals (approx.):

Sony Releases over 5 year intervals (approx.):

  • [1995] – PSX
  • [2000] – PS2
  • [2006] – PS3

Given current trends Microsoft is due for another console release. So far, Microsoft has consistently released a console every four years (Xbox in 2001, Xbox 360 in 2005). Now approaching the end of the 2009 year, one can only wonder what Microsoft has in store for us. I can only assume it to be their current R&D focus; Project Natal.

Project Natal might serve as a new and innovative platform (really no more than a peripheral for the current gen platform) capable of pushing both participation and immersion in video games to a previously inconceivable level. Will everyone jump on the band wagon and wait in line to get it on release day? From what we’ve seen so far, the platform seems to be targeted toward the casual gamer, or the “family” gamer. But with the introduction of this new input format or others like it, will the old input format, the controller, be supported still? Or will it instead become obsolete? What will become of competitive gaming if controllers that we’ve been accustomed to using for decades are phased out? These kinds of questions are important to a less represented demographic; the hardcore or competitive gamer.

Regardless of any of my previously mentioned opinions I actually believe that improvement of the Xbox 360 through development of Project Natal is a good move for Microsoft. As described previously Microsoft will avoid the overhead of a completely new platform while directing their current console iteration to a much larger demographic; the casual gamer.

Project Natal is also good for consumers for a couple of reasons. The new console “dry spot” will be avoided since the core hardware hasn’t changed much. While the influx of Project Natal titles might be limited at first, there will still be constant releases of Xbox 360 core titles (titles not utilizing Project Natal technology). The cost of new hardware will be reduced considerably as well since the price of a peripheral will always be less costly than an entirely new console.

Well, despite all of my opinions expressed here, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll probably end up purchasing Natal eventually, but I’m in no hurry to get it on release day.

Thanks for reading!

Nov 182009
 

Nexus J

We have been working hard at Quicksilver over the past year on an internet gaming platform. Our development team, Team J, conceived the idea of a gaming platform that could be used to play various board games over network to connect multitudes of people who enjoy the same games. Our current focus is the euro board game scene and our flagship title is a card game that’s short and very easy to learn but fiendishly clever. Loco!, by Reiner Knizia, pits players against each other in a race to collect the most colored “chips” while striving to maintain the highest value for your chip colors while driving down the values of your opponents chip colors. In the end the winner is the player with the highest point value based the chips held in hand and the cards played on the table.

For more information on Loco! and game play basics, check out Board Game Geek’s description page for Loco! by Reiner Knizia. This should be helpful if you are unfamiliar with the game. The rules in PDF format are also a good place to start.

We are currently in open beta for the Nexus J platform. The client is available for both Mac and PC. All you need to do is download the client (see links below), register an account and you’re ready to play!

Enjoy great features on the Nexus J platform such as:

  • Live Leaderboard Rankings! – Know how you rank against your friends. Can be filtered by specific game type or overall.
  • Live Chat with other players! – Enjoy the convenience of live chat with others in game.
  • Auto-Updating Client! – The Nexus J client takes all the guesswork out of updates. Simply launch your client and Nexus J will check if it is up to date and if needed will update itself!

There are always more improvements to come. Improvements are made constantly, and updates are provided frequently.

Download

Nexus J runs on Windows and Macintosh computers as a standalone client application. Here are the download links:

Announcement!

We will have an internet wide Nexus J party this coming Wednesday (tomorrow), November 18 from 6pm to 8pm Pacific Time.

P.S. There is also a very popular top-rated game in the works that we can’t really talk about yet. However, it may be available soon. Check back often for updates.

Thanks for reading!

Nov 102009
 

So, this is news to me, but, the Unreal Engine (SDK) is currently available under very flexible licensing terms. No longer is the engine targeted solely toward “AAA” developers with thick pocketbooks. Under the licensing terms the engine is actually free to use for non-commercial or educational purposes. For commercial development the terms are pretty reasonable as well; if you don’t mind forfeiting about 25% of the sales made from your game.

This presents a pretty awesome opportunity that Epic has allowed for the little guys. Previously the engine was licensed commercially as the Unreal Engine (Unreal Engine 3 being the most recent iteration) for hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars, which limited its commercial use to only the big dogs. Under the SDK licensing terms an independent developer, such as myself, could develop a freeware game with no money out of pocket. Now let’s consider that I wish to publish the game to make a little profit. Initially, I would be required to pay $99 to license the engine for commercial use. Then, depending on the amount of money I make selling the game I would be required to pay epic 25% of my profit in royalties (after the first $5000 made). As detailed in one of their examples, if I published a game developed using the Unreal SDK and made $15,000 dollars, epic would be entitled to $99 + $2,500 (or $99 + 25% of profits made after the 1st $5,000 profit).

This is great! Even if you don’t plan on striking it rich entering the game market professionally, you still have the option to sit down and learn this very widely used engine. Can you see a downside to this?

So, if you’re interested in the game industry, game programming, or just learning something new I would strongly suggest you check it out. I’m going to.

Thanks for reading!  Check back later for more game development and programming goodness.

Unreal Links

Unreal SDK Home  – http://www.udk.com/

Nvidia Developer Zone (Unreal SDK) – http://developer.nvidia.com/object/udk.html

Unreal SDK Licensing Terms – http://www.udk.com/licensing

Nov 032009
 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. To be honest I haven’t had too much spare time lately as I have picked up some more hours at work since I am the main programmer on an application we are developing. Not to worry, however, I still find some time to program on the side and fill my brain with various technical programming knowledge… but not necessarily enough time to blog about it. =)

I recently upgraded to an iPhone, and I must say, it is awesome. I’m in app heaven! I think I read somewhere that Apple just broke 100,000 apps on the iPhone which is a pretty monumental task; great for consumers, not so great for us developers trying to make a buck in that market. Flooded much?

Anyway, in my travels I found a pretty nifty wordpress plugin called xili-theme-select by xiligroup. xili-theme-select allows you to create a theme for your wordpress blog that is tailored for viewing on the iPhone. I gave it a try with my Suffusion theme and found it to work quite well on the iPhone. Instead of the blog blowing up the iPhone screen, it fits very nicely within the constraints of the iPhone window. I suppose it isn’t ideal viewing a technical blog on an interface as limited as the iPhone, but it looks a lot cleaner now than it did previously.

It’s pretty straightforward to install as well.  All you need to do is visit the plugin page and follow the simple installation instructions:

  1. Upload the folder containing xilithemeselect.php and language files to the /wp-content/plugins/ directory,
  2. Upload a specific theme for iPhone with a folder named as current theme + extension “_4touch” but don’t activate it as usual.
  3. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress,
  4. Go to the dashboard settings tab – Xilitheme select – and adapt default values if necessary.

After that you’re pretty much set.  You can tailor the theme placed in the special “_4touch” folder to your specific needs and desires for users that will be viewing your blog on the iPhone.  Its simple to do and allows for better exposure to new readers.  Sweet huh?

Well, that ends this post.  Check back later for more development goodness.  Thanks for reading!

Oct 142009
 

A great man died today.  Captain Lou Albano, otherwise known as Mario from the Mario Bros. Super Show, passed away this morning at the age of 76.

Born Louis Vincent Albano, Captain Lou began his career as a professional Wrestler and eventually moved into management of several WWF (now WWE) tag teams before retiring from wrestling in ’95.  He moved on to conquer Hollywood with roles in the Wrestling movie “Body Slam,” the hit TV Show “Miami Vice,” and the 1980’s music video “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” by Cyndi Lauper.  The role that I’ve personally known him best for, and the character that will forever remain as a vivid memory of my childhood is none other than Mario from the Mario Bros. Super Show.  I don’t remember much from the early years of my childhood, but I still have vivid memories of this show and what Captain Lou contributed to it.  Looking back on the show is hard because, admittedly, it wasn’t that great of a show.  But, as a kid it was the best.  And I’ll always remember it for that.  So here’s to you Captain Lou.