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Vista To Be An Indie Games Killer?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the argh-my-toblo dept.

Windows 113

Via GigaGamez (which has a breakdown of the problem), a GameDaily article about the unfriendliness of Vista towards Indie games. The problem is this: Vista has a setting which allows parents to restrict user profiles from accessing ESRB games 'above' a certain rating. IE: Timmy can't play F.E.A.R., or any other 'M' rated game. The problem is that getting ESRB rated is expensive: '$2000-3000 for the privilege', according to GigaGamez. Shoestring budget Indie games just may not have the money for that kind of expenditure. From the GameDaily article: "'It's unfortunately a mercenary way of doing things,' [GFW Group Manager Chris Donahue] explains, 'but, even though we're Microsoft, we do have limited resources. And we do look at the sales charts to determine where our help will have the most impact. Certainly we want Blizzard's 'World Of Warcraft' [currently the most popular massive multiplayer online game] to work flawlessly on day one of Vista because 8 million tech support calls would be a very bad thing. The casual developers don't sell quite as many.'"

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Wait a minute... (2, Insightful)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667196)

I thought any game could be installed on the system, just the ones that do not implement Vista's programming interface for their "game browser thingy" just gets installed like a normal app? Still can run it like a regular program, and play it like any other game.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

tha_mink (518151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667314)

Yeah...plus, from what I understand, you could still install the game into the game explorer, and the parent would have to tell the game explorer to "ignore unrated titles" in which case the game would only disappear from the game explorer. You could still access the game though. To me, it's no big deal and only another way to point out another useless "feature" of Vista and shoot it down as being unfair to the little guy.

Re:Wait a minute... (4, Informative)

Babillon (928171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667392)

This is absolutely true. Currently I have FlyFF, and Ragnarok Online both installed on my Vista system and there's no problem running them whatsoever. In fact, you don't even need to use the Games Explorer (I can't even find it in my start menu currently, or where it's located in Windows Explorer).

Vista is supposed to be the most indie developer friendly Windows yet, what with the new free tools Microsoft is providing (Visual Studio Express, XNA, DirectX, all of those free). And with XNA game development is supposed to be a good deal easier*.

Also... Isn't this story a dupe anyway? Weren't the guys at WildTangent whining about how their launcher wouldn't work in Vista because of this?

*I can't vouch for this, as I haven't used XNA, but Managed DirectX9 with C# wasn't particularly difficult to get the hang of, so here's hoping XNA is even easier.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

alnjmshntr (625401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668358)

Thanks for clearing that up - I was almost ready to switch to linux there. I agree that MS have provided some fantastic tools for development, currently I am developing with VS Express, it's very very good.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671960)

Then why don't you code games for linux then??? There is an untapped market there.

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Insightful)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672212)

There is _no_ market there. Games for linux would have to be free in order to achieve any popularity, and free just doesn't work as a good business model for games.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17674708)

I guess I'll ask for my money back from Id Software.
Oh, and those guys that made Tux Racer.
And those folks that did the Sims port.

Oh, and all my money over the past few years that's gone
to TransGaming.

But i'm probably not your typical gamer, since I don't play that often.

Just goes to prove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672162)

Just goes to prove that it doesn't take much for Slashdot to start whining about Vista. Not even true accusations are necessary.

Vista has Lunix and Apple fans yellowing their underwear. Now that they will be completely and totally losing the gamer brainshare... there is simply no reason to care about either OS X or Lunix.

Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668734)

just the ones that do not implement Vista's programming interface for their "game browser thingy" just gets installed like a normal app?

Or it could recognize the presence of "game engine" libraries, such as SDL, Allegro, ClanLib, and the DirectX import libraries, and use heuristics to mark some executables as "games".

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669010)

that's kinda iffy, at best, indie developers could easily spoof certain aspects of the libraries to make it NOT show up that way, without ever really hiding the fact the software is INDEED using such libs.

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17678628)

Or it could recognize the presence of "game engine" libraries, such as SDL, Allegro, ClanLib, and the DirectX import libraries, and use heuristics to mark some executables as "games".

Sounds extremely far-fetched to me.

Besides, just because it uses SDL or DirectX doesn't mean an application is automatically a game. 3DMark [futuremark.com] uses the very latest in game development technologies, yet it's not interactive. Or how about all apps that use OpenGL? Yes, used by quite a few games, but it's mostly used by just about all serious 3D modelling apps, last I checked...

Which is more likely if they ban Blender [blender.org] : a) "This is an open source application and therefore the very manifestation of evil," or b) "It's entirely, if remotely, possible that someone uses GameBlender to play one of those evil 'game' thingies and possibly circumvent the ESRB limits. It's an European program, for crying out loud."

(Speaking of which, I really hope Vista doesn't subjugate us to the ESRB system. We have PEGI and some countries also have their regional systems. Gee, I wouldn't want the headache to implement this thing in games themselves, let alone at the OS level =)

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17679578)

Besides, just because it uses SDL or DirectX doesn't mean an application is automatically a game. 3DMark uses the very latest in game development technologies, yet it's not interactive.

And thus does not use DirectInput, and thus does not trigger the heuristic. Besides, Microsoft could toss in another heuristic ("executable named 3dmark.exe").

Or how about all apps that use OpenGL? Yes, used by quite a few games, but it's mostly used by just about all serious 3D modelling apps

Do they also use DirectSound and DirectInput?

On the other hand... (2, Interesting)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667208)

Developing games for Vista/Xbox is considerably easier than any other platform in history. And honestly, how many parents are actually going to use this feature to restrict content based on ESRB rating? Probably close to zero.

More content, less whining please.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

ggambett (611421) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667670)

Developing games for Vista/Xbox is considerably easier than any other platform in history

Nice blanket statement. Can you elaborate?

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667864)

XNA is considered by many to be a very powerful and versatile tool set. Ease of use is a relative term however.It give the dev a lot to work with. Its been discussed on slashdot many times.

Re:On the other hand... (4, Insightful)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667828)

Developing games for Vista/Xbox is considerably easier than any other platform in history.
Back in the day, I developed state-of-the-art games for the Nascom Computer [wikipedia.org] in under a week. You would need a team of a hundred to do that on Vista/Xbox. Developing games gets harder with every new platform.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

MSZ (26307) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668736)

Back then "state of the art" was much less demanding. You didn't need CD quality music (anyway, there was no CD yet ;-)), hundreds of textures, 10000-poly models, etc etc.

Nowadays, try releasing without that...

Re:On the other hand... (1)

ghostcorps (975146) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675998)

So true...
You only needed to know assembly, thats as easy as it gets.

This is not insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17669908)

You could probably write that same game in a day for Windows (or using any other of the many APIs out there.) It only gets harder if you decide to develop more complicated games (which newer platforms allow you to do.)

Re:On the other hand... (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17672398)

Developing games for Vista/Xbox is considerably easier than any other platform in history.

Back in the day, I developed state-of-the-art games for the Nascom Computer in under a week. You would need a team of a hundred to do that on Vista/Xbox. Developing games gets harder with every new platform.

Of course the fact that the bar is steadily being raised in terms of graphics, physics, sounds, artwork, etc... has nothing to with development getting harder?

Re:On the other hand... (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17674452)

Developing games for Vista/Xbox is considerably easier than any other platform in history.


Back in the day, I developed state-of-the-art games for the Nascom Computer in under a week. You would need a team of a hundred to do that on Vista/Xbox. Developing games gets harder with every new platform.


And today, you can develop a game that would have been state of the art for the Nascom in a day (Flash is an amazing tool for writing applications of that level of complexity). Development has gotten easier. It's the "state of the art" that's changed so drastically.

It gets easier ... and harder at the same time (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675476)

Please do also mention what was "state of the art" back then. You could actually land a success with a text based game in those days. Text adventures (I've written quite a few of them) are rather easy to do, from a code level, the "work" is to create the game world. Zork was a huge hit, and it had zero graphics.

Today, you couldn't even create a web game with that content that interests more than a few die-hard text adventure devotees. No matter how good the story or how tough the puzzles.

That's what you need the team for. You need eye candy, you need good sound, you need realistic physics (or, if you do it comic style, a good artist) and so on. That's where you sink so many manhours in today's games.

On the other hand, if you did "graphics oriented" games in the days of yore, you pretty much had to get down to Assembler to get anything sensible done. And I doubt that you want to argue that writing Assembler is easier than writing it in some language like C#, no matter how bad the architecture may be (let's be honest here, the x86 arch is maybe the most illogical way you could organize it).

So it does get easier, from a language level. We have a lot of very good tools at our hands today. On the other hand, the expectations from the client are considerably higher today, even a shareware game pretty much has to offer at least decent graphics to be played for more than a minute.

However Microsoft is forgetting it's strengths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17668008)

Vista, as the parent wrote may be "easier" to develop for than any other platform in history -- but just like a paint-by-numbers book is easier to use than a set of oil paints and a canvas - that doesn't mean it's a better platform for games.

Windows got it's strengths back in 3.1 and 95 and 98 *BECAUSE* it gave developers direct access to the capabilities of the underlying machines (including full kernel mode privileges and direct hardware access). Other OS's around at the time (Mac, BSD, Linux) were burdened by anoying things like security and abstraction layers protecting the hardware and kernel from the software.

Seems that now Vista's left with the worst of both worlds - rigidly enforced APIs that destroy their old strenghts; but years to go on the learning curve to making a secure stable OS.

So yes, it's easy to make the exact game that Visual Studio's demo program makes. But no, that doesn't make it a good platform for more serious developers.

My prediction is that the further Windows tries to get into the business server space, the worse and worse they'll be at gaming until finally game developers will say "screw the OS, we'll ship liveCDs" and the future gaming development environment will be libraries targeting Wintel architecture directly and not some OS layer at all.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

lewp (95638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668568)

I don't necessarily agree with you about the "ease" of developing for Vista. I do, however, agree that this is a stupid argument against Vista. The whole system of the ESRB might be flawed, sure. Parents really should be the ones to determine whether a game is appropriate for their children or not. That's not reality. People want "parental controls" that don't require them to actually pay attention to their kids. There's a demand for that feature, even if most parents won't actually use it. Microsoft gives it to them, because it actually is a potentially useful new feature that they can tack onto their aging and unexciting product. There's no other way to accomplish the same thing without setting up a pseudo-ESRB of their own, which is equally pointless.

Besides, as you say, most parents won't use it. Those that do, well, their kids can complain that the game won't install/run, and if Microsoft did a good job (wishful thinking?) the parents will notice it's because there's no ESRB rating. Maybe the parents will take a look at the game and decide whether their kids should be allowed to play it or not. That can't be anything other than a very good thing.

Remember PICS? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668918)

Microsoft gives it to them, because it actually is a potentially useful new feature that they can tack onto their aging and unexciting product. There's no other way to accomplish the same thing without setting up a pseudo-ESRB of their own, which is equally pointless.

Microsoft could have built in functionality for parents to allow use of TIGRS self-certification [tigrs.org] , just as it built support for PICS labels [w3.org] generated by ICRA's form [icra.org] into IE.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17677872)

And you don't smell the stink of licence fees for software to be able to run under windows. The thin edge of the wedge, and with each windows upgrade/patch disc, the wedge will be driven deeper.

Game companies will find themselves competing with microsoft games with out licence fees, whilst they are paying xbox styled licence fees. Not that this will be retricted to games, any software will end up having to pay M$ to access what originally was designed to be an open format computer design.

Does It Matter? (3, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667222)

Last time I checked, not all executables in Vista need to have an age-appropriateness rating. This means that participation in this whole ESRB-rating-encoded-thing is entirely voluntary, which I expect all the big players to follow. How does this impact Indies, who still don't need ESRB ratings and can still run fine on Vista?

If you're large enough that you're selling from the shelves of Wal Mart, then perhaps you *should* invest in an ESRB rating so you can be mainstreamed.

Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668998)

Last time I checked, not all executables in Vista need to have an age-appropriateness rating.

Unless Windows Vista uses some sort of heuristic to determine what is a game and what is not. If a program calls Direct3D, DirectSound, and DirectInput, then it's probably a game.

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670250)

autocad and other non game apps use 3d also there are alot of non 3d games out there.

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671446)

autocad and other non game apps use 3d
But they probably don't use DirectSound and DirectInput.

also there are alot of non 3d games out there.
Which would just call DirectDraw instead of Direct3D. There are other heuristics; I just wrote the first one that came to mind.

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671482)

autocad may use DirectInput for drawing pads and all windows apps now days have some sounds in them.

Re:Heuristics for what is and is not a game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671576)

autocad may use DirectInput for drawing pads
Heuristic #29: Do not put autocad.exe into the Game Explorer.

and all windows apps now days have some sounds in them.
Most Windows apps that are not games play sounds through waveOut, not DirectSound.

Burning Crusade VS. Vista (3, Insightful)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667250)

Personally, I suspect that 8 Million users will upgrade to Burning Crusade within weeks/months whereas few will move towards Windows Vista because Burning Crusade has added value.

In my personal experience, it seems like Windows lack of focus on gaming is largely in response to the videogame industry reducing emphasis on PC gaming; there are very few games that are released for the PC in a given year that will not find their way to a console. The (interesting) thing is that this could kill Windows as being the dominant platform (or at least being as dominant of a platform) as Vista is adopted because the main reason people choose Windows over Mac OSX or Linux is that Windows has way more games available.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667322)

I don't think that true. I can't think of a single game I've played on my PC in the past 5 years that ever had a console release.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668276)

what were the last 10 games you've played?

My guess is you either:
A. play a lot of MMOs
B. play a lot of less popular/indy titles or
C. haven't been paying enough attention to the console market to notice all the ports.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

jfodale (1032534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669206)

I dunno... The only PC game I've played in the last couple of years with a console port was Oblivion. There's still a very considerable amount of games that aren't ported.

Most of the porting I see is between different consoles, not between consoles and PCs. To port from the PC to a console, you basically need to originally design the game to go on a console - to be played with a controller... usually only the real big names do that, and when they do, the results usually suck (see atrocious Oblivion menu system). To port from a console to PC... well, console developers rarely even waste their time with that.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669798)

MMO, RTSes, strategy (think Rome:Total War or Civ). Not many FPSes or platformers. While I have seen a few strategy games for consoles (even good ones) they're far rarer.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667350)

I wonder how easy installing Linux on the PS3 is going to get?

I could see kids getting a console which also does web browsing and IM (because that's what computers are for), and not wanting a Windows box.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

PygmySurfer (442860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675642)

Isn't it already pretty easy?

I don't know about kids using their console for web browsing and IM though - it's kind of hard to hide your pr0n from mom and dad on the TV in the living room (this being the "HD Generation", I imagine most consoles will be in the living room/family room, and not in bedrooms).

Likewise, it'd also be difficult to chat with your friends with mom and dad reading over your shoulder.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669494)

Personally, I suspect that 8 Million users will upgrade to Burning Crusade within weeks/months whereas few will move towards Windows Vista because Burning Crusade has added value.

In two weeks, Windows Vista will become the default OEM install on about 95% of the PCs sold in the English-speaking world.

The Vista Ultimate Upgrade, retail boxed, is $250 at Amazon.com and #13 in software sales.

Microsoft will throw in two licenses for Vista Premium for another $100.

In September, we should be seeing the first products based on Windows Home Server.

You could spend years mining the backlist of MSDOS and Windows titles that will run and run well under Vista. (with a little persuasion, perhaps) The PC as a gaming platform isn't going away anytime soon.

Re:Burning Crusade VS. Vista (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 7 years ago | (#17677398)

On the PC, there are 3 core genres that don't sem to be going away:

First Person Shooters
Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs
Strategy games of all kinds

PCs remain at the cutting edge of graphics and these are the genres of games most dependant on that. Innovations in PC graphics, primarly because of games of these genres, essentially "trickle down" to the consoles and that dynamic seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Also, the keyboard and mouse control scheme is widely considered superior to console controllers for these kinds of games. With the great similarity of the XBOX 360 and PS3 controllers to their predecessors this also seems unlikely to change.

Make it costumizable (1)

stikves (127823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667398)


The solution is easy: Make options available to choose alternate rating systems and/or hand pick games.

With the (pending) inclusion XBox Live Marketplace to Vista, parental controls could be accepted as a necessary features (at least for those who want to control their children). Yet I'm not sure Microsoft will include those flexibility options.

But will parents customize it? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669074)

The solution is easy: Make options available to choose alternate rating systems and/or hand pick games.

Trouble is that if some alternate rating system isn't turned on at installation time, too many parents will just boycott games not rated by ESRB because they believe that any publisher that does not use the ESRB process has something to hide.

Re:Make it costumizable (1)

necro2607 (771790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17673888)

"Make it costumizable"

Little sweaters and shoes and clothing accessories for your PC?? Or maybe we're talking about Hallowe'en costumes here? That brings a real fresh perspective on the idea of case modding... I think you're on to something here!

Will games still need admin access? (5, Insightful)

dhalsim2 (626618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667432)

I just hope developers quit requiring admin access for games to run properly. I have admin access, but I don't want to give it to my wife and kids. It's always a hassle to configure a game so that it works for my wife and kids. The edutainment games are the worst!

Mod parent up (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17667634)

Not just for games, but for all applications. I can't believe how many poorly coded applications I have come across that require Admin access to run properly but have absolutely no need for administrative rights.

Re:Will games still need admin access? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17667694)

In order to qualify for the Windows logo [microsoft.com] , games need to allow being run from a limited user. It's 3.4 on that list.

So when buying games, CHECK FOR THE WINDOWS LOGO! It means that the game has to properly support limited user accounts, and generally has to meet certain quality requirements.

Developers have been required not to require admin rights at least since Windows XP came out. There's no excuse for any developer not to run without admin rights.

The only thing that might break with that is games that auto-update (like most MMORPGs). The update process might require admin privileges for obvious reasons. However the game should still run in a limited account.

Re:Will games still need admin access? (3, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667984)

It's not just devs requiring the access, it's publishers. Copy protection is one of those that requires the access.

Move to solutions like Steam (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#17674010)

Games that use Steam (such as half-life 2) dont require any funky CD based copy protections (I havent seen it myself but I would imagine that the retail boxed HL2 is just an offline copy of the protected data files steam would download to your local disk and then install)

Re:Will games still need admin access? (2, Interesting)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668340)

Good point, but to play devil's advocate, more or less, take this situation. Since Vista requires authentication to even view network/firewall properties, what is a limited user going to do when the game needs to open a port to play online? There needs to be a good way to handle this, better than the current approach. In XP, you get a dialog that something is trying to open a port, and asks if it should be opened. The problem is that most of the time, the game is full-screen and you don't see the message until you quit the game after trying to get online and thinking the game is broken or your network crapped out. In any case, to open the port, I assume you need some sort of elevated permissions, which some users may not be.

It's all about the copy protection (2, Interesting)

Myria (562655) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669144)

Every copy protection system these days requires a kernel driver - otherwise Daemon Tools would win every time. Installing a kernel driver requires administrator privileges for obvious reasons. Some retailers refuse to put unprotected games on the shelves.

Re:It's all about the copy protection (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17669286)

Yes, installing requires admin rights. But why should running a game require admin rights? Games don't install kernal drivers every time they run.

Re:It's all about the copy protection (2, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#17673968)

Terchnically yes they do. The copy protection drivers are loaded every time the game starts up and loading a kernel driver is one thing that (IIRC) requires administrator access.

Maybe microsoft can work with the copy protection companies and the games companies to come up with an answer so that copy proetction can continue to be secure but can function correctly in vista limited user mode without needing administrator access after the software has been installed.

Re:Will games still need admin access? (1)

JensenDied (1009293) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670468)

games could reasonably require admin if they need direct access to the hardware, but most games use some api wrapper now like DirectX, opengl. I wonder if raw sockets are usable in vista at all...

So, indie games -> Linux? (2, Interesting)

CompSci101 (706779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667466)

I can't see that as a bad thing, frankly. If indie games start showing up natively in Linux out of necessity, it might create an atmosphere where:

  1. The community puts more effort into supporting game developers on Linux (tools, APIs, etc.)
  2. Linux begins to gain a reputation as a viable target for games (which it currently lacks)
  3. Innovative games show up on Linux rather than Windows, possibly convincing people to convert

Granted, this doesn't mean that AAA titles will show up right away, but, given point #2, it might convince some developers apart from id and Epic to hit Linux with a native client for their games.

Plus, does anybody remember when Doom was an indie game and sold PCs? The bar has been raised, of course, but our tools have also become much more sophisticated in the interim.

C

Nope, not the indie games you are thinking about (1)

jchenx (267053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667870)

I can't see that as a bad thing, frankly. If indie games start showing up natively in Linux out of necessity, it might create an atmosphere where:

The community puts more effort into supporting game developers on Linux (tools, APIs, etc.)
Linux begins to gain a reputation as a viable target for games (which it currently lacks)
Innovative games show up on Linux rather than Windows, possibly convincing people to convert
Granted, this doesn't mean that AAA titles will show up right away, but, given point #2, it might convince some developers apart from id and Epic to hit Linux with a native client for their games.

Plus, does anybody remember when Doom was an indie game and sold PCs? The bar has been raised, of course, but our tools have also become much more sophisticated in the interim.
I think you have the wrong idea of "indie game". DOOM? No. The article is referring to casual games, found in places such as Yahoo Games [yahoo.com] and MSN Games [msn.com] . Think of games like Bejeweled, Diner Dash, Zuma, and Cake Mania.

The primary audience for these games, believe it or not, is something like 30+ year old women. It's not surprising, actually, when you consider what type of games these are. And yes, many of these small titles are created by small dev houses with very small budgets, especially if you compare them against your typical EA game.

I agree that it may be more difficult to get an ESRB rating, and I think that's a requirement if you want to be in the "Games Browser" in Vista. I would hope that the ESRB comes up with a tiered plan so that smaller titles, which shouldn't take nearly as long to test as say, Grand Theft Auto, have a cheaper option.

That said, if I were an indie developer, I would much rather spend the $2,000 - 3,000 it takes to get an ESRB rating than to go Linux, since that demographic in no way matches my current audience (30+ year old women).

Re:Nope, not the indie games you are thinking abou (1)

alnjmshntr (625401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668428)

That is one side of indie game development, but there are hundreds of real, innovative indie games out there, that are just as valid as Doom or any other big budget game out there. Look around for them. You will suprised.

Re:Nope, not the indie games you are thinking abou (1)

jchenx (267053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670188)

Oh, I'm not doubting the fact that there are a lot of non-casual indie games and developers. But I don't think that's what the original article was referring to. It mentions "casual games" several times.

why would you need ESRB rating??? (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668642)

30+ years old women need ESRB approved games? WTF?

Re:why would you need ESRB rating??? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669134)

30+ years old women need ESRB approved games?

A 60-year-old woman in my family won't go to movies that have been rated R by MPAA because she does not prefer to watch gratuitous sex and violence on the big screen.

Re:why would you need ESRB rating??? (1)

jchenx (267053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670150)

ESRB rating is used in the Games Browser, which is expected to be your "one stop shop" for games on Vista. True, most casual games are going to be "E for Everyone", but as you know, there are plenty of Mature hardcore titles, which could be on the same machine.

Here's a good example: Dad likes having FPS games on the computer, so he has a couple of them installed (rated M). Mom likes her Bejeweled games (rated E). Since they have children, they've setup age restriction. That way, their 10-year old son, when he logs into the PC under his account, will only see Mom's casual games listed.

The problem is that getting a game ESRB rated takes money. If a game isn't rated, I believe it won't show up for the son at all.

Re:So, indie games - Linux? (1)

I'm Don Giovanni (598558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668024)

I notice that your item 1. "The community puts more effort into supporting game developers on Linux (tools, API, etc)", mentions nothing about actually *buying* the games! Your "support" goes for tools, but not buying games. The notion of paying for software is anathema to Linux users. Why in the hell would a game developer target a community that not only refuses to pay for software, but also condones piracy (see the constant rants against any and all attempts at copy protection of software), and demands not only the source code, but the right to compile the code (altered or not), and distribute the code and compiled programs to others for free?

AAA games take millions of dollars to produce. Can you guarantee that the Linux community will *buy* games in sufficient numbers to cover the cost?

Re:So, indie games - Mac OS X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17668534)

Mac OS X users pay for software, and in fact studies have shown that they (on the average per individual consumer) spend more on software than MS-Windows users. Plus, it already had decent (and free) development tools available for it. Wouldn't that make it the natural environment for indie games?

Re:So, indie games - Linux? (1)

CompSci101 (706779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669432)

Well, for starters, point #1 was really aimed at the lack of an analog to DirectX on the Linux front. Yes, there's OpenGL and OpenML and OpenAL, but they're not a combined effort the way DirectX has Direct3D and DirectSound (and DirectInput and DirectNetwork and DirectEtc, Etc). The lack of truly portable APIs that are easy to work with and that work well together is a big problem for games development under Linux. It doesn't look like a solution has even been started, or that the community believes that such a solution is even necessary.

Second, the millions you want to recoup are outside the realm of indie games. That's why they're indie games to begin with. I agree that Linux users expect more direct access to the software for free, but that doesn't mean that software isn't sold on Linux. Far from it, in fact. The problem is that, until now, Linux has not been a user desktop / OS, and that has hindered the sale of end-user apps. As another poster pointed out, Mac users are more than happy to pay for software. There's no reason to not have a Linux version of your app if you have a MacOS version (except for Cocoa, which Apple is stupidly withholding when it could open it up and grow the size of their market by letting Linux developers hit their APIs, but that's a different rant for a different day). Anyway, my point is that you won't necessarily convince Linux users to shell out $50+ for a game, but an indie game should probably go for less, anyway. I think you *could* sell software to Linux users if the price was right.

Hell, I paid for CrossoverOffice! Not everyone that uses Linux (or, as in my case, wishes they could use it more than they already do) is dead opposed to paying for software.

Your points, however, are well taken.

C

Re:So, indie games - Linux? (1)

Mr. Hankey (95668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17678574)

Well, for starters, point #1 was really aimed at the lack of an analog to DirectX on the Linux front. Yes, there's OpenGL and OpenML and OpenAL, but they're not a combined effort the way DirectX has Direct3D and DirectSound (and DirectInput and DirectNetwork and DirectEtc, Etc).

There is SDL, which is what most Linux games seem to get created under these days and is quite portable. It should be possible to create abstraction interfaces for OpenGL and the other libraries mentioned to avoid having to code directly to any external API, although this would likely cause a performance decrease. The Allegro library is also portable, handles more internally, and may even cover all the bases you mentioned these days. SDL is rather simpler to work with and install though, and it seems faster under X11 from my experience. Not to mention that SDL is more or less ubiquitous on Linux distributions.

In any case, there are certainly portable APIs under which one can write games. More work could go into it, but I have no doubt that it will.

Meaningless Complaint (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667478)

Little Johnny will just have to have his parent 'green-light' the game for his user account. No big deal.

Yeah, huge constitutional crisis and massive civil rights violation akin to asking Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus. Whatever. Oh, and M$ is evil, etc. etc.

No ESRB? Publisher must have something to hide (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669214)

Little Johnny will just have to have his parent 'green-light' the game for his user account. No big deal.

Unless a significant fraction of parents look at the lack of an ESRB rating and imagine that the publisher has something to hide.

Re:No ESRB? Publisher must have something to hide (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675626)

Unless a significant fraction of parents look at the lack of an ESRB rating and imagine that the publisher has something to hide.


Not really - unrated means unrated.

Games such as Minesweeper (and it's infinite clones) will be unrated as there's no point in rating such games. All pre-ESRB games are unrated since they either use another official rating system, an "ad-hoc" rating system, or didn't bother with one.

The small shareware games that are unrated don't bother with ratings, since the demo is usually representative of the game itself. Likewise, demos of such games can easily be downloaded and examined. Failing that, those games probably aren't going to be easy to obtain (legally) after a few years and thus the child could easily download the speedrun onto his local computer for personal viewing.

Also, bonus features of movies are unrated. Can you really boycott such content when it's generally expected?

Re:No ESRB? Publisher must have something to hide (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17676804)

Not really - unrated means unrated.

In Wal-Mart or Best Buy, an "unrated" movie is the DVD release of a movie that restores scenes that were deleted because of objections from the rating board. Therefore, parents will think an "unrated" work is necessarily more explicit than a rated work.

All pre-ESRB games are unrated

But the official re-releases of these games are ESRB-rated. Only the last NES game published in the USA (Wario's Woods) carried an ESRB rating, yet all Classic NES Series games for GBA and all games in Wii's Virtual Console have one.

The small shareware games that are unrated don't bother with ratings, since the demo is usually representative of the game itself. Likewise, demos of such games can easily be downloaded and examined.

But how is the child going to talk the parent into evaluating and authorizing the ESRB-unrated demo of a small shareware game for him or her?

Also, bonus features of movies are unrated. Can you really boycott such content when it's generally expected?

Major movie studio DVDs sold in Best Buy contain at least some significant MPAA-rated content, except for the "unrated versions" that are placed next to the MPAA-rated versions.

Ha ha ha (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667538)

Does anyone really believe that Vista will be so secure that this "feature" cannot be circumvented by kids? Kids often figure out how to defeat most of these applications including things like Deep Freeze, let alone crap like Net Nanny.

8 million calls? (1)

AZScotsman (962881) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667702)

"...because 8 million tech support calls would be a very bad thing. " Only because over 80% of initial support calls are handled by Offshore Outsourcing partners, who rely on pre-scripted soutions on flashcards. Prior to 2001, the outsourcers were dilligently trained and were able to troubleshoot in a linear and logical fashion. Although not a perfect system (to misquote Orwell, "All techs are created equal, however some techs are more equal than others..."), this at least allowed Launch Day to proceed at a low level of panic. Been there, done that, outgrew the t-shirt they give you....

Devolping future IT talent (2, Insightful)

CharliePete (923290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667930)

This is just Microsoft's way of making sure there will be enough desktop support people available to support it's OSes in the furture. Could there be a better training ground for our future IT professionals than having to tweak Vista and work around its restrictions so they can make the games they want to play work?

Just turn it back off (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668260)

If Timmy's mommy knows how to turn the parental thing on, she knows how to turn it back off. If Timmy notices he can't play games he should well be able to play, he will bitch and complain as only children can, and this will get it turned off.

OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveCD (0, Flamebait)

OmniGeek (72743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668292)

Indie game designers, here's an idea: Write that hot new game for Linux and release it as a bootable LiveCD using the Linux distro of your choice. Runs on allkinda hardware (even that crufty old pre-Vista stuff still choking the basements and game rooms of the world), avoids the performance penalty of running Vista (Hoo-boy! More system resources for the game to use!), and allows you to know EXACTLY what the operating system is and what video drivers and other critical system resources are running, so you can concentrate on the game. No worries about "Did MS break our game with the last patch?" or the like. OS compatibility gets very simple. Hardware compatibility is simplified, too: games normally only need CPU, video, network, some disk, and keyboard/mouse/game controller.

True, there are complications to this strategy, notably in terms of network setups, video settings, custom or updated drivers, savegames, and other persistent data that users will want to have on hand, but these are all resolvable in relatively simple ways. Build a Windows "setup" utility that sets up a directory on the user's existing disk partitions for use by the LiveCD, and/or provide a USB flash drive for persistent data storage. The USB key can even be used as a physical license key, as some of them have built-in crypto.

This obviously isn't THE solution for game designers who don't want to kowtow to Microsoft, but it IS a WORKABLE and PRACTICAL solution, and it does have advantages that make it attractive.

Re:OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveC (1)

Lordpidey (942444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668732)

Not a good idea, a live CD uses a fairly high amount of ram. Even if we somehow got around that somehow, many computers aren't set to boot from the CD drive, so what is joe sixpack going to think when he needs to go to BIOS to play a game?

Re:OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveC (1)

Nappa48 (1041188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669188)

Just what i was going to bring up there.
Biggest problem is simply not knowing how a persons computer will work at boot
The driver problems will be big as well, i've certainly seen some problems with people getting networking working well with some routers and modems, modems especially, i mean there must be well over a 1000 modems (models included) all around the world.
Drivers are probably one of the biggest problems with this idea. If a GROUP of people were to get together to make pre-formatted images, then that could be good (i've seen this being discussed before with some developers), but theres just been no "push" towards it (who knows, maybe Vista will be that push)

As for liveCDs using alot of RAM, not all of them do, plus we can treat it in the same sense as any game, you install some of it on the drive and/or cache.
Just because we are using Windows, doesn't mean we can't use the drive. Most gamers purchasing indie developed games would be pretty computer literate with things like installing and hard drive management, enough to know what caching is at least (and if not, explain!)

Actually, one other problem would also be distribution. Not alot of indie developers would like that.
A compressed download is usually better than discs in most indie developers eyes, but its kind of a good/bad situation both ways.
Its always best to offer both, if you can afford to.

Eh who knows, we'll see if Vista is a bitch for all us indie developers out there.

Re:OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveC (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669366)

Write that hot new game for Linux and release it as a bootable LiveCD using the Linux distro of your choice.

This worked back in the early PC days when everyone had a CGA, but nowadays, everyone has a different 3D video card and a different wireless network card. Including the drivers on the disc has a problem: a lot of the peripheral makers aren't very conducive to including the drivers on the setup disc without a hefty royalty. Requiring the user to reboot has a problem: many gamers have developed the expectation that they can play in a window and run things in the background such as instant messaging software or TeamSpeak IP conference calling software.

Build a Windows "setup" utility that sets up a directory on the user's existing disk partitions for use by the LiveCD

Windows Vista has heuristics to detect "setup" programs and require the user to run them with an administrator password. And how would this work on a file system using a variant of NTFS that the latest version of Linux does not understand?

and/or provide a USB flash drive for persistent data storage. The USB key can even be used as a physical license key, as some of them have built-in crypto.

That would work for a boxed game, but what about the gratis downloadable demo? Besides, by the time you are big enough to sell boxed games, you are big enough to afford the $3,000 for an ESRB rating.

Re:OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveC (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670484)

Indie game designers, here's an idea: Write that hot new game for Linux and release it as a bootable LiveCD

tell me why as a gamer I want to turn my dual core PC into an XBox Live arcade console.

tell me why as an indie developer I shouldn't be programming in XNA for both the XBox 360 and Windows platforms.

tell me why I want to spend my hard earned money stamping out disks, programming flash ROM and packaging a product that will be buried at retail beneath Madden and The Sims.

tell me how I sell the LiveCD in a market that is moving to online distribution. the hard disk install that launches from a desktop icon.

Re:OK, Here's A Solution: Release As A Linux LiveC (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17681474)

Write that hot new game for Linux and release it as a bootable LiveCD using the Linux distro of your choice.

Great idea. Except that distributing binary-only drivers along with the kernel may be a violation of the kernel author's copyright, so the entire scheme is probably illegal. Unlike just filling in the ESRB rating field in your game's info structure with incorrect information, which would be perfectly legal (as long as you include text along with it to point out that the rating is unofficial).

lol wut? (1)

Nappa48 (1041188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668714)

"Certainly we want Blizzard's 'World Of Warcraft' [currently the most popular massive multiplayer online game] to work flawlessly on day one of Vista because 8 million tech support calls would be a very bad thing. The casual developers don't sell quite as many.'"
Did he just say that?
Oh wow... new low, thats like a big "SCREW YOU INDIE!" in the face of every indie developer.

Anyway, i'm sure this won't be a problem anyway, unless they HAVE to be rated (and its turned on by default), yeh that'll mean even more than 8 milli..wait, no, vista won't even sell that in a year or 2.. what am i thinking??

Re:lol wut? (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670664)

I like the way they equate 'indie' with 'casual'. In what way is my political simulation game 'casual'? but it's still a popular indie game. No suprise to see that misconception, but it still bugs me.

Not that big of a deal. (1)

ravyne (858869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668806)

As an independant games developer, I'm honestly not all that concerned. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Most people probably won't even turn the protection system on.
2) You can make specified games exempt, or enable them per user.
3) If it becomes that big of an issue, the system is able to support other ratings boards. An Indie-focused organization could be set up to rate games using volunteers and accept donations from indie devs and individuals.

Yes, its a minor hassle. So is the migration to the LUA model. I think we can all agree that both moves are good.

Conspiracy (1)

WindowsIsEvil (1052864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668816)

It is obviously a Microsoft conspiracy to perpetuate their monopoly and keep Linux down.

$2000-3000, So What? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669448)

According to the article summary the cost of ESRB certification is three thousand dollars. If you can't come up with three grand are you really all that serious about making money developing computer games?

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670448)

Thats $2000-3000 on top of your other costs

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670564)

Again I say, so what. If your game has any chance of success, you should be able to attract venture capital. A client of mine has a fund that invests in Korea game companies that turn out some pretty serious crap. If those guys can get funding, any "indie" game targetted at a viable market should be able to come up with $3000. Hell, if $3000 is the only thing standing in the way of the "next great thing" in "indie" video games, I'll give them the freakin three grand in exchange for ten percent of the profit.

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671670)

I guess my idea of "indie" developer isn't yours. Most of the indie developers I deal with are either self-supported or have very limited funding (hard to negotiate a big budget for your first title).

Depending on the scope of the game, team size, and location (Los Angles vs. China), $3000 can fund an extra week of development or the entire project. I have one developer who produces 3-7 games a year, almost all of them under $3,000.

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675774)

Having read your comment I agree that we are talking about different scopes here. When you talk about someone turning out 3-7 games a year I picture someone writing Flash games for websites. When I think of "Indie" developer, I think of the guys at www.shadowrun-online.com.

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17670736)

According to the article summary the cost of ESRB certification is three thousand dollars. If you can't come up with three grand are you really all that serious about making money developing computer games?

Sure. Much of the attraction of indie games development is that you can develop games for next to nothing, with the potential of earning a living and (possibly) hitting it big. It also means (again, possibly) that games that big publishers find unappealing will be made.

Most of the money required to create a game goes towards manpower, so if a group of like-minded developers gets together, you can create a studio [idsoftware.com] without much seed money.

Re:$2000-3000, So What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17672882)

Yeah, if you are an independent developer, why don't you just curl up and die? We all know that you can't be "serious" unless you're dependent on funding from other people, and if you don't get in bed with the corporations you shouldn't be allowed to make games, period. Right?

Well, fuck you too. I've worked on six independent game titles, and only two of them have made more than $3000 in sales. This I consider successful as normally, 90% (or more) of indie games fail to make that much. If we'd had to pay $3000 to get each game rated by ESRB it would've eaten up much of the profits from the two games that did "make it".

Mind you, these aren't totally unknown games, they've gotten good reviews all around, IGF awards, been featured in mainstream newspapers/magazines in addition to gaming press and so on. It's just a fact of life that there's only one or two runaway success stories per year in the whole indie games market, and the rest measure their sales in the hundreds. You can NOT predict whether a game is a success until it becomes one, so you can't afford to spend thousands of bucks for stuff like ESRB until well after the release (assuming it "takes off"). If unrated games become less accessible, this will prevent them from becoming successful enough to warrant having them rated...

What else we need... (2, Funny)

Maximegalon (1003655) | more than 7 years ago | (#17669890)

Too bad Vista doesn't offer other built-in features: Web-filtering for always-on internet connections, the porn collection on the hard drive, R rated movies going in the DVD drive, etc. etc.

Then finally parents will have a computerized baby sitter to replace the TV.

Probably not compulsory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17669964)

This is probably an optional check just like Administrator rights. If you don't have an ESRB rating -- or even if you do -- just don't ask Windows what the filter is set to, and you can install/run on any machine you please.

DOOM (1)

Rethcir (680121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670796)

I did a quick google and it looks like nobody has tried to play Doom 1 or 2 on Vista yet. Kinda depressing from a "state of kids today" standpoint. Hopefully the newer source ports with opengl work fine.

Don't worry Microsoft (1)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 7 years ago | (#17670974)

Certainly we want Blizzard's 'World Of Warcraft' [currently the most popular massive multiplayer online game] to work flawlessly on day one of Vista because 8 million tech support calls would be a very bad thing.

You'd only have at the most, 7,999,999 tech support calls. I'll never upgrade to Vista, and I'm a WoW player. I don't see the need to upgrade something when it's finally relatively stable, especially when it comes with a hefty pricetag. "New features and security" doesn't interest me at all when it already took several years for the appropriate patches/updates to surface to fix the XP vulnerabilities. Now all of the script kiddies will be exploiting the Vista holes, so maybe they'll leave XP alone for a while (but I doubt it.)

Complete FUD (1)

The Mysterious X (903554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671400)

First, the restriction system is opt in.

Second, I'm pretty sure that if little Timmy is bought FEAR by his parents (after all, he won't be able to buy it himself), then all mom and pop have to do is either approve the game (probably enter their user name + password), or set the bar a little lower. And how hard is it going to be to have a note in with the game that details for people intalling it what to do if windows complains about running an unrated game.

Hell, the game browser system is opt in anyway, if a program does not register itself (or is detected as, the game browser can identify games), then the rating will not be checked at all, as windows wll just think it is a regular program.

Personally, I feel that this "feature" should not be needed at all. This sort of protection should be done 1) at the videogame counter and 2) by the parents not buying these games on their behalf. However, as election time in America approaches, I can see more and more of your Senators heading down the "GAMEZ ARE EVIL LOL AND MUST BE BANZORED ON THE BEHALFS OF THE PARENTS".

Re:Complete FUD (1)

The Mysterious X (903554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17671558)

I should elaborate on my first point, you have to enable the restrictions on a per-account basis.

People use these features? (2, Interesting)

hellboy1975 (1000370) | more than 7 years ago | (#17673508)

Does this feature need to be turned on in Vista? Maybe all of my friends with kids are bad parents or something, but most prefer to be involved with their childs playing rather than relying on some kind of restrictive mechanism such as this to stop them playing certain games. Nor would many kids that age go out of their way to find Indie games. This is all a bit overrated I feel.

In other news.. (1)

Peter Cooper (660482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17675944)

In other news, PICS support in Internet Explorer has killed the online pornography industry, and DRM has succeeded in eradicating piracy.

Give the ESRB crap about this (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 7 years ago | (#17678392)

The whole concept of "ratings" is basically an anti-competitive move against "independents" in any industry. This is merely an extension of that problem. Fees have always been used to lockout shoestring independent films (for example) from MPAA ratings. This is no different. The fees are meant to help alleviate the cost of the ESRB, which is presumably funded by other means. The fees should be waived for "small" games (games that sell less thatn 50,000 copies). As for free games the ESRB should, on it's own initative, obtain and review these games posting reviews on the websites allowing free vendors to easily attach ratings. Sure it will be an expense, but isn't the ESRB supposed to be about customer service anyway?

Storm in a tea cup (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17678894)

By all accounts this is an "opt-in" feature in MS Windows, which means that a very low number of parents will actually know about the feature and an even lower number will use it. Also, Windows must obviously have a way of setting which executables can be run, regular applications which presumably do not have any rating, won't be able to run. Thus parents can enable indie games on an individual basis in the few cases where this affects them.

I predict that the impact on indie games will be minimal.
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