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Next Generation and what it holds for developers


Romier S
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Interesting article by Cnet news. Helps shed some light on the problems smaller developers/publishers will face in the next generation of game development. The cost of developing a game have been getting higher and higher as the years go on and the article paints a somewhat bleak picture of the future. It touches upon the use of middleware (ie. Renderware, XNA) and a few other alternatives that may make the transition easier. You can read it here:

 

Game developers sweating over next gen?

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XNA isn't middleware, common misconception. It's a common API & standards amongst a bunch of tools including middleware, as well as the next revision of DirectX, but it's not a replacement for Renderware etc. The idea is to provide an easier means of getting content from the creation tools (such as Maya & 3D Max) into game ready content. Right now, developers waste a good chunk of time on building exporters, converters etc to get the models & data in the "right" format for their engine.

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It's a common misconception by the press - they lump XNA together with Renderware etc.

 

The transition to the next-gen is going to get ugly for small to midlevel developers & publishers. They're already often spending over $5million on games that barely break even. Spending two to three times that on software for the new platforms that aren't going to sell enough hardware (initially) to allow enough software sales to justify that dollar cost just doesn't make sense to me, but the industry is plowing down that road.

 

It's almost as if they haven't learned anything from the weaker than expected software sales for the initial wave of titles on the current gens.

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's a common misconception by the press - they lump XNA together with Renderware etc.

 

That is exactly why I am glad that you posted what exactly XNA is Brian. I think a great many folks that read all about XNA and what it is all about still have a hard time understanding exactly what it's meant to accomplish (myself included!). You're post makes this quite a bit clearer.

 

What does concern me about the coming generation of consoles is the speed at which the industry is barreling into the future. I'm not comfortable with a new console at the end of 2005. In the past the expected life span of a console was indeed 4-5 years but I can't help but feel as though the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube still have alot of life left in them. I'm in no hurry really to throw myself into yet another round of hardware.

 

Another concern is the possible lack of original concepts in next generation games. I think thats definitely an overgeneralization. I think there will always be developers out there that push the envelope and release those smaller games that really hit the button of a particular niche. I just hope the number of those developers grow, not shrink, in the future. I'd lke to remain optimistic in that regard, despite the reality of the situation.

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Another concern is the possible lack of original concepts in next generation games. I think thats definitely an overgeneralization. I think there will always be developers out there that push the envelope and release those smaller games that really hit the button of a particular niche. I just hope the number of those developers grow, not shrink, in the future. I'd lke to remain optimistic in that regard, despite the reality of the situation.

 

The hope, AFAICT, is that the tools for game development will become so advanced that anyone can use them. That sounds a little oxymoronic, but when I say "advanced" I mean that they will take care of the complexities for the game designer.

 

A useful parallel is movie-making, with tools like FinalCut Pro, or Premier on the market, making a movie is more accessible to more individuals than ever. The tools are getting to the point where they make the complexity more manageable. More can be done by one person on their computer now than a team of people 20 years ago.

 

Music production is an even more extreme example, where an entire recording studio is not only replaced by a single computer, but far surpassed by it.

 

Essentially what happens is that the tools allow those with ideas to actually realize their ideas themselves, whereas in the past they needed specialized technicians and teams of people. The software has advanced to the point where it takes care of the technicalities and lets people work at the level of ideas and creativity.

 

The fruits of this shift are just beginning to be borne out in the movie industry, and are well underway in the music industry. Logically, I don't think the game industry is any different.

 

I don't doubt that this will take a while, and rough(er) times may be ahead in the immediate future.

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I can't help but feel as though the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube still have alot of life left in them.

 

I agree totally, Romier, and this is part of my problem with the supposed 2005 deadline for any new console.

 

Essentially, I don't plan on buying in until much later, because frankly I have no need. The games I've played on all three systems have been very good this generation. Halo's great, SSX was fantastic, Zelda was amazing. There's still room for improvement and there's still a lot that can be done with gameplay, especially at this level of hardware.

 

I just don't see it personally, but that's probably not shocking given my own tastes in games and my lack of a rat's ass in the graphics department. :green:

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You're quite correct, Brian.

 

That was mostly random quotage. I've played many more games for the Cube and I could list some cross-platform titles (BG&E is fantastic no matter how it's sliced), but they are ones that came to mind so I imagine they've left some impact on me :P.

 

Also, Halo is the only X-Box game I've played, but it was definitely fun. :tu:

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I can't wait for the next generation. This one has been great, but it's still easy to notice graphical flaws and technical limitations in even the best looking and most ambitious games. I think that this next time around, developers will finally be able to work without having to worry so much about maximizing the output of the console. I think the shift will be from "CAN we get this system to render every blade of grass" to "Do we have TIME to go in and render every blade of grass".

 

I think in addition to increased 3D engine licensing, we may start to see 3D object libraries licensed as well. IE: we may start seeing the same lawn chair in different games. It will be hard for the smaller companies at first, but I personally think they'll stay on the current consoles until the newer ones get an acceptable install base. They may actually do better once the big boys move on. Remember, PS1 games are still being made.

 

The pics of Elder Scrolls 4, one of which is captioned with "This shot shows off the incredible forests the Xbox 2 is capable of producing" really have me sold on the next gen. To be honest, Elder Scrolls 4 makes Fable look like Pitfall. I'd drop a 3DO-ish $600 to have that game and an Xbox 2 today.

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