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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is Vista Breaking Casual Games?

Short answer: no [Kotaku].

This is an update to the furor discussed previously that I initially started to bite on and then agreed with Thomas that it was mostly bunk.

It comes down to this: the Game Explorer ain't going to explore all your games. Don't like it? Get a Mac. Err, I mean - don't use it.

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Corvus said...

C'mon, Josh! As a designer and developer, you're aware of barrier-to-entry issues. If the average player can't easily find and run the game they downloaded, in the same spot as the other games they bought, it is a problem and they'll probably eventually stop downloading games. Sure, the more technically savvy among us wouldn't be slowed down by it (or buy a Mac, or use Linux), but we're not the whole future (or rather, I'd like to think we're not) of the indie game development movement.

This is an issue, even if it isn't a huge one. And I don't think for a moment that it wasn't a move to leverage a measure of control over the industry. Want your game to succeed? Can't afford to have it rated? Why not talk to a publisher? Now... who around here makes money publishing games...

Thomas said...

I'm not sure that's relevant to the complaints being raised here. Wildtangent is pissed because they had to cooperated with Vista's security requirements, which (based on their reputation as a spyware dealer) doesn't really seem like something that's a barrier to entry for most people. They're also stating that, and I quote the e-mail,

In addition to breaking existing games, the security restrictions of the new operating system will rely heavily on ESRB (Electronic Software Ratings Board) ratings to block children from accessing inappropriate games. St. John believes that this represents an additional hurdle for the smaller games developers since most of these games are family appropriate but lack expensive ESRB ratings. "Parents who choose to use Vista's parental controls are likely to accidentally block access to hundreds of very popular family friendly games that happen not to have ESRB ratings."

So is it really that games without ESRB ratings won't show up in the Games Explorer? Or is it just that they need an extra API hook that developers will need to add to the installer/program?

I really think this is being blown way out of proportion.

Corvus said...

Hrm. I guess I should have waited to comment. I don't visit Kotaku at work, as it's too obviously not a work site and I have a lot of foot traffic through my work space.

Still, I do think this is a bump in the road of indie developers. But then, I've become more and more anti-MS over the last couple of years. That, and I like playing Devil's Advocate!

Josh said...

And honestly, all of these barrier-to-entry problems exist in XP today. The Game Explorer is just the new Start Menu ... everyone will end up dumping on the desktop when they can anyway - since it's the only part of Windows they know people can use.

Josh said...

And for the record - as a developer - my most common barrier to entry is having an non-existent product :)

Corvus said...

Fair enough!

Clamatius said...

I happen to know that a bunch of the more popular "casual" games do not work or have compatibility issues on Vista. I would say that most do but there's a significant percentage that don't.

One of the more common Vista security features that breaks the games, IIRC, is that virtualization isn't activated if you're running with admin privileges. Since installers typically require admin privileges, any installers that run the game on finishing may well dork the game. It's an option on most game installers out there from the big providers and 99% of casual game users wouldn't realise that you have to turn it off in Vista. The game looks like it worked since the game will run the first time but after that it doesn't work properly. Clearly easily fixable but most of the casual game providers out there haven't begun to address these kinds of issues.

Graphics drivers are pretty shaky right now as well - the big 2 just released new versions and perhaps that will help with some of the crash issues.

The Game Explorer thing is a whole other can of worms.

Kotaku's sample size of 1 game per provider is pretty laughable in terms of making a real analysis.

Josh said...

Well, let's get specific here.

Let's define "break" - because I'm confused. If a game will load, but not work in Game Explorer - I'd consider it annoying but not broken. And not much more annoying than XP already was.

If it's an issue of rights and privs - that seems like a technical issue that again, annoying, but the game can be fixed even without a patch.

Graphics drivers crashing the game - that's clearly breaking but we're not talking about a Vista-specific problem here. I mean that happens all the time. Half-Life once caused me to wipe my system thanks to a DirectX problem.

Don't get me wrong - I love to rag on Microsoft, but nothing seems to be wildly broken here to justify some of the claims I keep hearing like "MS is destroying indie games".

But since WT is in the business of such things - feel free to lay down more knowledge. I don't even have Vista in front of me :)