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Nintendo. Wheee.

tepples (727027) writes | more than 5 years ago

Wii 7

In this discussion, godrik and I were discussing the relative merits of web applications that use AJAX techniques compared to local applications. I brought up the advantage that web apps can run even on machines where the user isn't allowed to install new software, such as someone else's PC, a set-top web terminal, or a video game console.

In this discussion, godrik and I were discussing the relative merits of web applications that use AJAX techniques compared to local applications. I brought up the advantage that web apps can run even on machines where the user isn't allowed to install new software, such as someone else's PC, a set-top web terminal, or a video game console.

Godrik countered that he'd never buy a machine that didn't let its owner install software, and that when he wanted a console to play games on, he bought a Wii and jailbroke it using Bannerbomb. He mentioned plenty of established PC titles that have been ported to libogc, the library used by Wii homebrew: source ports of Id Software's Doom and Quake, emulators such as FCE Ultra, ScummVM, and VisualBoyAdvance, and various Linux-original games that had been ported to about everything, such as SuperTux. These games had presumably recouped their costs of production entirely on the PC.

In general, there are four routes to being able to run code on a closed platform:

  1. Make a web application that runs in the console's web browser. These browsers are usually severely limited in performance and in how much of the system's capability the browser exposes through the DOM. Some can't even read more than one gamepad at once, and they're impractical for playing handheld games away from Wi-Fi coverage.
  2. Make a pay-per-download game and sell it through the console maker's online store. This is cost prohibitive due to various artificial overheads imposed by console makers such as Nintendo, such as the requirements of a separate office and a prior commercial title on another platform.
  3. Make a native game that ships on a retail game disc. This is even more cost prohibitive than download.
  4. Make a "homebrew" game that relies on a jailbreak. This is the solution that godrik appears to prefer, but it has problems.

First, jailbreaks break the console's warranty or worse. There are anecdotal reports that Nintendo charges more for out-of-warranty service, such as disc drive replacement after the first 12 months, if a jailbreak is detected than if not.

Second, Nintendo can break Bannerbomb at any time by fixing the defect in a new version of the Wii Menu and IOS. Nintendo would install the fix on newly manufactured consoles and require an update before people can connect to Wii Shop Channel (workaround: WiiSCU) or start newly manufactured Game Discs normally (workaround: Gecko 1.8+). It could take weeks for a new sploit to be developed and released on sites such as WiiBrew, just as it took weeks from Wii Menu 4.0 to Bannerbomb.

But finally, the homebrew community frowns on charging for anything, especially the jailbreaks (Twilight Hack, Bannerbomb) and the launchers (BootMii, Homebrew Channel). That doesn't look good for somebody who wants to feed his family but isn't rich enough to afford the overhead of a license to develop on a closed platform, or even someone who just wants a little economic incentive not to abandon his projects.

One could develop for an open platform such as the PC, but as I mentioned in my last journal entry, not all genres fit well on such a personal computer. For example, a developer might want to make a social game designed to be played with gamepads, a big screen, a sofa, and three friends, such as Nintendo's Mario Party series or Super Smash Bros. series. But four adults can't easily fit around a PC's comparatively small monitor, and a lot of PC gamers seem to be keyboard-and-mouse fanboys who would make other players take turns if they're not old enough to work and buy their own PCs and their own copies of the game. One could go the "home theater PC" route, running gamepads through a USB hub and a VGA or DVI-to-HDMI cable to an HDTV, but two-thirds of U.S. households still have an SDTV in the living room, most PCs don't come with an S-Video output, and the PC to TV adapter isn't sold in stores. Likewise, music games with key sounds, such as Beatmania and Guitar Hero, can feel unresponsive on PC sound cards with their much higher audio latency.

But then, godrik wasn't referring to free as in free beer but instead to Free as in free speech. One way an author can rely on Free is to make the game a massively multiplayer online game based on subscriptions or micropayments. This has its drawbacks: more complexity, requirement for lag-tolerant game play design, cost of administering the game server, need for a separate PC per player, generally no opportunity for children to play due to COPPA and foreign counterparts, failure to reach people who regularly game away from a reliable Internet connection (such as laptop users or people living in the country), and the fact that a lot of people prefer to buy rather than effectively rent their games.

Another way is to make the game engine Free but to charge for the data files, much like Doom and Quake after their GPL release. But are there any success stories of shipping a retail or pay-per-download game whose engine is free software from day one?

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I Like Playing (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28802223)

Odeon Party Time Nipple Rally.

A few comments (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28802667)

In this comment, free is always as in speech.

First, you probably know that but it is unclear from the article: you can actually boot linux on the wii. It means you a full OS with an Xserver. Unfortunately, it currently doesnot have a driver for the wifi chip and X runs over framebuffer. However, it can still be helpful (see the following).

jailbreaks break the console's warranty or worse. There are anecdotal reports that Nintendo charges more for out-of-warranty service, such as disc drive replacement after the first 12 months, if a jailbreak is detected than if not.

I believe (but IANAL) that in most european country (and also in the US), jailbreaking should not void the warranty unless your device is out of order due to the jailbreaking. So Nintendo (in this case) has no right to void the warranty for that. Of course, no one will pay a layer and go to court...

I agree most people won't play multiplayer games in front of a computer but instead in front of a TV. The SDTV point is indeed a problem. But it may be mainly sofware and a jailbroken wii may be useful here. You can of course run the game on the wii provided it is possible. Otherwise, you can use the wii controllers as a controler on the computer by booting a software on the wii that transmit the control through the network (or perhaps USB if both machines are closeby). If the network is not heavily used, the latency would be less than a frame.

Displaying on SDTV is another problem, but can be workaround I believe. It should be possible to do display on the wii through the network. NTSC (let's take the american format) is 854x486@60hz interlaced. I didn't find the color depth, but 24 seems reasonable. It is below 300Mbps uncompressed. Using compression (RLE could be enough), it should be possible to stream it.

Of course, you need a jail broken device to do that and a computer that let you use a network device as a screen but that should be possible on the main OSes.

I really believe hardware and software are not free enough. I see the problem of Nintendo that do not want arbitrary code to run on its platforms since people are going to pirate games after that. And free games could be difficult to sell.

However, you can do really cool stuff with free software that can not really be sold anyway mainly by improving the interactions between the different platforms. I already cited using the wii to expose its controller to the network. I did the same thing with the nintendo DS. And I am using a Nokia N810 (it is a PDA that runs Linux natively) to control my HTPC, exporting the keyboard to the HTPC in case of and the touch screen as a mouse, or just using ssh -X. Or I load it with software helper to play dungeon and dragons. I also discovered Kobo Deluxe when I checked the wii homebrews.

Moreover, having free game engines would be very nice not to lose the game with time. I do not think free games get lost with time. For instance, I do not know how old is xpilot but it is still (widely?) played. There are old awesome games I used to play on my amstrad CPC. But I can't play them anymore (Emulation is sometime buggy). I mean, I bought them, but I can not play them because there is no hardware to run it. If the engine was free, I would write a port for some of them and rip the data from the roms.

Another way is to make the game engine Free but to charge for the data files, much like Doom and Quake after their GPL release. But are there any success stories of shipping a retail or pay-per-download game whose engine is free software from day one?

I am sure you already know idsoftware release a version of doom for the iphone whose engine is under GPL (it was on /. a few month ago) ( http://www.idsoftware.com/iphone-doom-classic-progress/ [idsoftware.com] ). Selling open source game is difficult I belive. For instance, Nintendo forbids it (on /. a few weeks ago, I can find the link). But I am not really sure what the developpers are afraid of ? Piracy by the consumer ? (they are going to pirate it anyway) or the engine being used by other game developpers ?

Re:A few comments (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28802897)

Otherwise, you can use the wii controllers as a controler on the computer by booting a software on the wii that transmit the control through the network (or perhaps USB if both machines are closeby). If the network is not heavily used, the latency would be less than a frame.

You don't need a proxy for this. The wiiuse library can read Wii Remotes directly through a USB Bluetooth adapter.

Displaying on SDTV is another problem, but can be workaround I believe. It should be possible to do display on the wii

If you just want to use the Wii's TV output, it would be cheaper to buy the PC-to-TV scan converter that I linked. The only trouble is that scan converters aren't sold in Walmart* and Best Buy, and there isn't a good selection of gamepads either. So the real solution might be to become a reseller of gamepads, USB hubs, Bluetooth adapters, and scan converters, and have those available to "add to cart" along with copies of a party-style game for PCs running Windows. But one would still run into problems with players not having a spare PC to put in the living room.

And free games could be difficult to sell.

Which is part of my point. This page about free software business models [stromian.com] , written from a perspective other than games, suggests selling services such as support or developing mods. But game users typically won't pre-order a mod in large enough numbers, and they don't need support beyond the kind of instructions they can get from a wiki.

I do not think free games get lost with time.

A lot of people don't play free games. Instead, they play non-free games with free engines, such as Doom and Quake. These may get lost in time once lawfully made copies of the non-free data files are no longer available.

There are old awesome games I used to play on my amstrad CPC. But I can't play them anymore (Emulation is sometime buggy).

If emulators don't mimic your preferred classic platform as accurately as (say) Nestopia does the NES, then file a bug. Describe in detail the differences between behavior on the CPC and behavior on the emulator.

I am sure you already know idsoftware release a version of doom for the iphone whose engine is under GPL

The iPhone SDK license isn't all that compatible with the GNU GPL's requirement of Installation Information (GPLv3) or "scripts used to control compilation and installation" (GPLv2). But because Id Software is the owner of copyright, it has the authority to dual license a non-free version for distribution through the App Store.

But I am not really sure what the developpers are afraid of ? Piracy by the consumer ? (they are going to pirate it anyway)

Having the DRM on the game's data spelled out in the game's source code just makes the crackers' job that much easier. The game can't even rely on the most basic serial number verification at install, and pirates can redirect online matchmaking to a third-party server.

or the engine being used by other game developpers ?

That too. Engine programmers need to eat, and some video games are lots of engine and little art. You might recognize one such game from the mid to late 1980s: Tetris by Alexey Pajitnov.

Re:A few comments (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28806529)

Otherwise, you can use the wii controllers as a controler on the computer by booting a software on the wii that transmit the control through the network (or perhaps USB if both machines are closeby). If the network is not heavily used, the latency would be less than a frame.

You don't need a proxy for this. The wiiuse library can read Wii Remotes directly through a USB Bluetooth adapter.

Last time I check wiiuse, you could not access the pointing feature. (I checked just now, and it is available now). Moreover, it does not work for controller using the gamecube ports (which is only a slight problem).

Asus presented the EEE stick which is kind of a wiimote/nunchuk. I do not know if they are already available http://www.engadget.com/tag/EeeStick/ [engadget.com]

There are old awesome games I used to play on my amstrad CPC. But I can't play them anymore (Emulation is sometime buggy).

If emulators don't mimic your preferred classic platform as accurately as (say) Nestopia does the NES, then file a bug. Describe in detail the differences between behavior on the CPC and behavior on the emulator.

For most platform there is no good emulator. Even the SNES emulators are buggy despite people are working on them for 10 years (more perhaps). There is a famous bug that makes the sound of chrono trigger play differentely than on the original machine. And Playstation1 emulation also has a lot of issues. Those machines are dead for 10 years. My guess is that there will never be a good emulation for those.

I am sure you already know idsoftware release a version of doom for the iphone whose engine is under GPL

The iPhone SDK license isn't all that compatible with the GNU GPL's requirement of Installation Information (GPLv3) or "scripts used to control compilation and installation" (GPLv2). But because Id Software is the owner of copyright, it has the authority to dual license a non-free version for distribution through the App Store.

I made a mistake, it is not doom but wolf3d which engine is under the GPL license since they did not started from their own version of the code but one of the fork the community made ( http://www.idsoftware.com/wolfenstein3dclassic/wolfdevelopment.htm [idsoftware.com] ). So I believe it is released under GPL since idsofware is no longer the only copyright holder of the code.

Re:A few comments (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28806843)

Last time I check wiiuse, you could not access the pointing feature. (I checked just now, and it is available now). Moreover, it does not work for controller using the gamecube ports (which is only a slight problem).

You're right that it is a slight problem because Logitech makes acceptable USB game controllers and Microsoft put a driver for its wired Xbox 360 controllers into Windows XP Service Pack 1 and later.

I thought the S-DSP quirks had already been fixed once someone reversed the bit-perfect operation of the Super NES's BRR sample decoder.

Which brings me to the bottom line: Would a quality party game designed to run on a home theater PC be viable? If not, what could an independent developer do to make it viable?

Re:A few comments (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28807569)

I thought the S-DSP quirks had already been fixed once someone reversed the bit-perfect operation of the Super NES's BRR sample decoder.

The are DSP fixes in the code of snes9x in 2006, but I am not able to tell if they correct the problem or not. I will have to try.

Which brings me to the bottom line: Would a quality party game designed to run on a home theater PC be viable? If not, what could an independent developer do to make it viable?

I am afraid there are not enough people running gaming htpc to make it viable. I believe that in general the economic model behind the gaming (and in general the IP industry) is very bad for independent producers. The official running platforms sometimes have over-expensive cost of development and the non-mainstream platforms are too numerous. Covering a significant portions of the platform will be too difficult. Development on mobile phones are a good exemple of write-once-run-once development.

I believe the economic behind it should be changed. The developer does the game and sales it to the public domain. Of course it is much more difficult to sell it this way since a single player will not be able to buy it on its own, you will have to wait for enough players to be interested. However, it could allow both the developer to be paid for its work and the game to be widely available.

There is a website that produces music that works with people paying for the CD to be produced : http://en.akamusic.com/home/index [akamusic.com] but I am not sure it is a viable model for professional developers.

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