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Monday, January 22, 2007

Will Vista Kill Off Indies?

The Guardian Gamesblog asks (by way of a few others including /.) if Vista's new Game Explorer will shut out the little guy. The theory is that the new Game Explorer allows for sorting out titles by ESRB rating ... a rating many small games simply don't have and therefore would vanish from the Explorer. A sound theory, although seems a little premature to kick the OS for something so severe when it hasn't launched - especially since Microsoft has shown recently, with movements like XNA studio, to be mindful of the plight of indies.

Either way, this sounds like the wrong solution for the problem at hand. If you want access to your DeathMatch 3000 without the risk of Little Tommy learning what a frag is - a properly locked down multi-user OS is the way to go (and not exactly a new idea). If you didn't know the ESRB rating of your game was before you bought - it either shouldn't matter to your situation or you're being an idiot. This seems like a needless framework designed for the sole purpose of giving Microsoft a talking point when it comes to charge that game companies aren't doing enough.

Update, OK - as debated below, not such a sound theory. Lots of holes. What about demos? Could the Game Explorer be so encompassing that it leaves no other avenue? Why couldn't an indie developer just use an installer which installed like any other non-game app?

I still firmly think it's a bad overall concept. I don't see how it could be a poison pill.

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Thomas said...

What, people won't be able to look elswhere in the start menu just because someone's shareware isn't rated? The Game Explorer suddenly became the end-all of the user experience?

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Vista (and, in my opinion, a lot of reasons to be excited, including an audio layer that's finally caught up with the out-of-box experience of other OSs), but this is really goddamn stupid. It's like complaining that because my copy of System Shock 2 didn't install into the c:\Program Files directory, Windows 95 was out to get Warren Spector.

Anonymous said...

Windows 95 wasn't out to get Warren Spector? Odd. My copy kept ranting about paying him a visit with an axe...

Josh said...

I'm guessing that it won't show up in the Start Menu in Vista and that they are trying to keep people from browsing down.

Course, this seems implausible for another reason - commercial demos. Demos often hit the net before their ESRB rating. So now Microsoft will kill all commercial demos?

Seems highly unlikely. It's possible that this will be problematic, but I don't agree with Aleks (who I generally respect) that "the days of bedroom coders are well and truly over".

Thomas said...

See, that's my point. Obviously it's going to show up in the Start Menu, because otherwise we'd be hearing from all the non-game programmers about how Microsoft is out to get them. It's probably not going to show up in the "Games" section of the start menu. But let's be honest--if the current state of affairs is any indication, games are going to put their icons all the hell over the Start Menu anyway. Nobody, including Microsoft, has ever enforced a consistent and useful Start Menu organization scheme (I hate browsing company names to get to my software. Capitalism abounds). And people are going to have to browse down anyway, because it's not like Microsoft is enforcing the creation of a "Word Processor Explorer" section, or a "Mail Program Explorer."

It's perfectly possible to create a locked-down multi-user experience with Windows now. Of course, due to legacy installers, most companies don't do it in a 1-step way. But there's nothing stopping parents from going in and changing the permissions on executables for violent games, or removing the shortcuts from child accounts.

Microsoft is attempting a kludge with the ESRB concept, no doubt. But I do appreciate that they're finally giving me a centralized location for game software, instead of entries in my Start menu for Sierra, Steam, Electronic Arts, and a bunch of other unintuitive names.

Thomas said...

otherwise we'd be hearing from all the non-game programmers about how Microsoft is out to get them

More than normal, I mean...

Josh said...

It gets me as another example of Vista over-engineering an non-existent problem ... potentially to a fault.

All of my Mac games are cleanly in an easy to get to folder. I can install most of them that, move the others. If I had a kid and was afraid of what they played - I'd force them into a user account and set permissions accordingly.

Microsoft has just tailored their operating system for that kid that can go and buy an ESRB rating not intended for them, install it on their PC without their parents - all so that once installed it won't show up and the kid will just go surf for porn anyway.