|Brian Provinciano of Retro City Rampage fame is one of the many suspicious of Microsoft's new plan.|
It seems Sony's still the only one out there getting it right in terms of Indies, though Microsoft recently announced that they're making strides in the right direction....if you believe spin at its face, that is. Essentially, what Microsoft has announced is that Self-Publishing will be possible for games on the XBone and on top of that, every single XBone console will eventually double as a dev kit. This would allow you to run down to the store, buy an XBone, take it home and work whatever voodoo that involves to turn it into a dev kit/debug unit. Because it's not going to be as simple as flipping a switch and 'woooo suddenly I'm a game developer'. Not to mention that allowing you to be able to mess with the innards of the XBone as you would anything with code and such with reckless abandon would open all sorts of unsavory doors, so there's obviously some bits that haven't been mentioned just yet. Apparently this was supposed to be big news at Gamescom, but it just so happened to leak out beforehand. Mysteriously.
"Suspicion" seems to be the operative word in terms of reactions among both consumers and Indie Developers alike, and it's not unwarranted, of course. Even without Microsoft's numerous foot-in-mouth moments subsequently followed by furious back-peddling in what comes off as a desperate display of "PLEASE LOVE US", their previous attempt at the Indie Scene with XBox Live Indie Games was less-than-stellar in concept and execution. An annual fee allowed you access to the development tools with which you could eventually create a working game for the service that was then checked by other XNA developers (I believe) for QA purposes (pretty much, I just heard Zeboyd asking/talking about "Peer Review" for the XBLIG versions of their games before release) before being unceremoniously placed into the roster next to the rest of the games similarly added without much regard to grouping or visibility. Of course, that is kind of how these things go, things like the App Store and such that allow 'self-publishing' in this way, which is akin to "Yeah, just kind of put it out there and make sure we get our cut for storage" which is...less than ideal.
Whether or not Microsoft's plan for the XBone will be like XBLIG but 'better' or something else entirely that might actually be good has yet to be seen and will likely remain under wraps even beyond Gamescom. It's highly doubtful this system will be able to go up and running by launch, of course, and first-hand experience is really where it's going to count, as well as how Microsoft handles the marketplace thereafter. It -does- sound like Microsoft is making strides in that area in a sense as they previously announced that all the games will be in the 'games' section of the store, thus no "XBLA goes -here-" and "XBLIG goes over -there-", but really that was never the biggest problem. The biggest problem with indies on the 360 was that you...basically never knew when the games went up because they went up 'whenever'. Sony has the right of it here, I think - Games go up Tuesday, Mobile games go up Wednesday. If you're even a little familiar with your Playstation devices and such, you know that, so you'll know to check new releases and you'll be able to find all the new games, indie or otherwise, held within. Then they also have an Indies Section that, well, actually has visibility as well.
Something else that's curious is that Microsoft seems to be promising full compatibility of the wide spectrum of extra essentials to Indies as well. Specifically, Mark Whitten, VP of the XBox Division had this to say:
"Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox LIVE. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox LIVE. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at gamescom in August."This is new in terms of Microsoft's treatment of indies for the most part. Even Kinect integration, something that obviously could have happened on the 360 seems new unless my googling has failed to inform me of a time when XNA developers were allowed to work with the device for 360 purposes. Additionally, add me to the list of people who believe that you don't just get to say "the cloud" and we fucking know what you're talking about. Does it mean cloud saves? Cloud storage? Cloud computation, as some XBone games are touting already even though that kind of requires internet which was something of a problem as we have discussed? Will you be able to have some sort of cross-compatibility with Windows 8 thanks to "THE CLOUD"? Any of this is something you could mention instead of just saying "THE CLOUD" as a thing of reverence. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see just how many Achievements you can add to your indie game and how updating it can or cannot change that, since that's something that has been played around with quite a lot by actual developers (in terms of adding DLC which adds Achievements/Trophies to the overall list). Actually, it'll just be interesting to see how it handles updates in general, considering some of Microsoft's difficulties with that.
Meanwhile, on the Nintendo side of the world, Nintendo has made a strange move in telling Japanese Indies to shove it. Or, more succinctly that they're just not accepting Japanese applications for development on the Wii U, despite Nintendo's moves to make the device friendly to Indies of all types. It's especially weird that they're not taking applications from Japan of all places, considering that's where they're based, but there are some reasons at play here that do sort of make it a little more understandable. I don't know a lot about the Japanese Indie Scene, but I have to imagine that a good portion of it is likely Visual Novel-based, since that's really big in Japan, and I have to also imagine that a good portion of -that- is...well...not what Nintendo is looking for, I'll say. I mean, maybe I'm wrong on that, and it's definitely possible that I -am-, and that the Japanese Indie Scene is just rife with platformers that blow Nintendo's own out of the water or something, but I'm just saying that that's possible. Still, it's just a weird move, especially amidst all the other drama surrounding Indies.
So yeah, it's just kind of amusing to see all this going on and Sony just kind standing off to the side with the bulk of Indie Developers just looking on going "Okay". I'm not sure what all moves they actually made in wooing the scene as heavily as they did, but it paid off with dividends and it's continuing to do so. If nothing else, this is all at least a good exercise in realizing the importance of goodwill. Sony's gained it massively, Microsoft pissed all theirs away and Nintendo is somewhere comfortably in the middle. Who knows how this'll all play out when plans are actually outlined and put in place, but I wouldn't expect something of a large-scale event occurring. It takes a lot of work to shift developers away from something, but most of the time it takes something negative to something else, so unless Sony screws the pooch at some point, they might just be around for a while. Still, with a little competence, a little humility and a little courting, Microsoft could endear themselves back eventually. I just don't see that happening, though.
well, something negative or truckloads of money, but