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tepples's Journal: Nintendo. Wheee. 7

Journal by tepples

In this discussion, godrik and I were discussing the relative merits of web applications that use AJAX techniques compared to local applications. I brought up the advantage that web apps can run even on machines where the user isn't allowed to install new software, such as someone else's PC, a set-top web terminal, or a video game console.

Godrik countered that he'd never buy a machine that didn't let its owner install software, and that when he wanted a console to play games on, he bought a Wii and jailbroke it using Bannerbomb. He mentioned plenty of established PC titles that have been ported to libogc, the library used by Wii homebrew: source ports of Id Software's Doom and Quake, emulators such as FCE Ultra, ScummVM, and VisualBoyAdvance, and various Linux-original games that had been ported to about everything, such as SuperTux. These games had presumably recouped their costs of production entirely on the PC.

In general, there are four routes to being able to run code on a closed platform:

  1. Make a web application that runs in the console's web browser. These browsers are usually severely limited in performance and in how much of the system's capability the browser exposes through the DOM. Some can't even read more than one gamepad at once, and they're impractical for playing handheld games away from Wi-Fi coverage.
  2. Make a pay-per-download game and sell it through the console maker's online store. This is cost prohibitive due to various artificial overheads imposed by console makers such as Nintendo, such as the requirements of a separate office and a prior commercial title on another platform.
  3. Make a native game that ships on a retail game disc. This is even more cost prohibitive than download.
  4. Make a "homebrew" game that relies on a jailbreak. This is the solution that godrik appears to prefer, but it has problems.

First, jailbreaks break the console's warranty or worse. There are anecdotal reports that Nintendo charges more for out-of-warranty service, such as disc drive replacement after the first 12 months, if a jailbreak is detected than if not.

Second, Nintendo can break Bannerbomb at any time by fixing the defect in a new version of the Wii Menu and IOS. Nintendo would install the fix on newly manufactured consoles and require an update before people can connect to Wii Shop Channel (workaround: WiiSCU) or start newly manufactured Game Discs normally (workaround: Gecko 1.8+). It could take weeks for a new sploit to be developed and released on sites such as WiiBrew, just as it took weeks from Wii Menu 4.0 to Bannerbomb.

But finally, the homebrew community frowns on charging for anything, especially the jailbreaks (Twilight Hack, Bannerbomb) and the launchers (BootMii, Homebrew Channel). That doesn't look good for somebody who wants to feed his family but isn't rich enough to afford the overhead of a license to develop on a closed platform, or even someone who just wants a little economic incentive not to abandon his projects.

One could develop for an open platform such as the PC, but as I mentioned in my last journal entry, not all genres fit well on such a personal computer. For example, a developer might want to make a social game designed to be played with gamepads, a big screen, a sofa, and three friends, such as Nintendo's Mario Party series or Super Smash Bros. series. But four adults can't easily fit around a PC's comparatively small monitor, and a lot of PC gamers seem to be keyboard-and-mouse fanboys who would make other players take turns if they're not old enough to work and buy their own PCs and their own copies of the game. One could go the "home theater PC" route, running gamepads through a USB hub and a VGA or DVI-to-HDMI cable to an HDTV, but two-thirds of U.S. households still have an SDTV in the living room, most PCs don't come with an S-Video output, and the PC to TV adapter isn't sold in stores. Likewise, music games with key sounds, such as Beatmania and Guitar Hero, can feel unresponsive on PC sound cards with their much higher audio latency.

But then, godrik wasn't referring to free as in free beer but instead to Free as in free speech. One way an author can rely on Free is to make the game a massively multiplayer online game based on subscriptions or micropayments. This has its drawbacks: more complexity, requirement for lag-tolerant game play design, cost of administering the game server, need for a separate PC per player, generally no opportunity for children to play due to COPPA and foreign counterparts, failure to reach people who regularly game away from a reliable Internet connection (such as laptop users or people living in the country), and the fact that a lot of people prefer to buy rather than effectively rent their games.

Another way is to make the game engine Free but to charge for the data files, much like Doom and Quake after their GPL release. But are there any success stories of shipping a retail or pay-per-download game whose engine is free software from day one?

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Nintendo. Wheee.

Comments Filter:
  • Odeon Party Time Nipple Rally.

  • In this comment, free is always as in speech.

    First, you probably know that but it is unclear from the article: you can actually boot linux on the wii. It means you a full OS with an Xserver. Unfortunately, it currently doesnot have a driver for the wifi chip and X runs over framebuffer. However, it can still be helpful (see the following).

    jailbreaks break the console's warranty or worse. There are anecdotal reports that Nintendo charges more for out-of-warranty service, such as disc drive replacement after the first 12 months, if a jailbreak is detected than if not.

    I believe (but IANAL) that in most european country (and also in the US), jailbreaking should not void the warranty unless your device is out of order due to the jailbreak

    • by godrik (1287354)

      it was not doom but wolfenstein. http://www.idsoftware.com/wolfenstein3dclassic/wolfdevelopment.htm [idsoftware.com]

      (I should have read it instead of trusting my memory)

    • by tepples (727027)

      Otherwise, you can use the wii controllers as a controler on the computer by booting a software on the wii that transmit the control through the network (or perhaps USB if both machines are closeby). If the network is not heavily used, the latency would be less than a frame.

      You don't need a proxy for this. The wiiuse library can read Wii Remotes directly through a USB Bluetooth adapter.

      Displaying on SDTV is another problem, but can be workaround I believe. It should be possible to do display on the wii

      If you just want to use the Wii's TV output, it would be cheaper to buy the PC-to-TV scan converter that I linked. The only trouble is that scan converters aren't sold in Walmart* and Best Buy, and there isn't a good selection of gamepads either. So the real solution might be to become a reseller of gamepads, USB hubs, Bluetooth adapters, and scan converters, and have those available to "add to

      • by godrik (1287354)

        Otherwise, you can use the wii controllers as a controler on the computer by booting a software on the wii that transmit the control through the network (or perhaps USB if both machines are closeby). If the network is not heavily used, the latency would be less than a frame.

        You don't need a proxy for this. The wiiuse library can read Wii Remotes directly through a USB Bluetooth adapter.

        Last time I check wiiuse, you could not access the pointing feature. (I checked just now, and it is available now). Moreover, it does not work for controller using the gamecube ports (which is only a slight problem).

        Asus presented the EEE stick which is kind of a wiimote/nunchuk. I do not know if they are already available http://www.engadget.com/tag/EeeStick/ [engadget.com]

        There are old awesome games I used to play on my amstrad CPC. But I can't play them anymore (Emulation is sometime buggy).

        If emulators don't mimic your preferred classic platform as accurately as (say) Nestopia does the NES, then file a bug. Describe in detail the differences between behavior on the CPC and behavior on the emulator.

        For most platform there is no good emulator. Even the SNES emulators are buggy despite people are working on them for 10 years (more perhaps). There

        • by tepples (727027)

          Last time I check wiiuse, you could not access the pointing feature. (I checked just now, and it is available now). Moreover, it does not work for controller using the gamecube ports (which is only a slight problem).

          You're right that it is a slight problem because Logitech makes acceptable USB game controllers and Microsoft put a driver for its wired Xbox 360 controllers into Windows XP Service Pack 1 and later.

          I thought the S-DSP quirks had already been fixed once someone reversed the bit-perfect operation of the Super NES's BRR sample decoder.

          Which brings me to the bottom line: Would a quality party game designed to run on a home theater PC be viable? If not, what could an independent developer do to make it via

          • by godrik (1287354)

            I thought the S-DSP quirks had already been fixed once someone reversed the bit-perfect operation of the Super NES's BRR sample decoder.

            The are DSP fixes in the code of snes9x in 2006, but I am not able to tell if they correct the problem or not. I will have to try.

            Which brings me to the bottom line: Would a quality party game designed to run on a home theater PC be viable? If not, what could an independent developer do to make it viable?

            I am afraid there are not enough people running gaming htpc to make it viable. I believe that in general the economic model behind the gaming (and in general the IP industry) is very bad for independent producers. The official running platforms sometimes have over-expensive cost of development and the non-mainstream platforms are too numerous. Covering a significant portions of t

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