Indie Haven August Developer Roundtable – Introductions, Steam Consoles and OS Laura Kate October 2, 2013 Features We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions. If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier. “Introductions” Laura Kate: Right, do you want to all just start by briefly introducing yourselves for those who don’t know you? Charlie Nash: Hey, my name is Charlie. I made a game called Weathered that no one cared about, and I’m working on another. 😉 Megan Fox: I’m Megan Fox, Programmer/Founder/Designer/blah at Glass Bottom Games. We’re working on Hot Tin Roof – http://hottinroofgame.com – which just met its funding goal on KS! YES! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meganfox/hot-tin-roof-the-cat-that-wore-a-fedora Stacy Smith: I escaped ‘industry’ game development as a career to make graphical demos for a GPU designer and I’m in the first stages of an indie game project. Alan Zucconi: Hello everyone! My name’s Alan Zucconi (@AlanZucconi on Twitter). I am an independent game developer and I’m about to start working full time on my latest title “Still Time”. I have a background in software architecture and an obsession for experimental gameplay mechanics. Matthew McDonald: I’m Matthew McDonald, I’ve been making games longer than I haven’t been. Working on many, many small projects. I recently left a games company where I worked for three solid years to pursue my own projects. Having not released anything in three years, I’m aiming to release 3 games in 1 year! Kyle Welsh: Haha apologies! Hey all, I’m Kyle from CCG, team of graduates working on our first title. Laura Kate: Let’s start off with the very much just breaking story. “What do you all think of Valve releasing their own Linux OS and Hardware? Do you think this will change your opinion on porting games to Linux?” Kyle Welsh: Definitely interesting! The real question for me at the moment is “what else will the steam machines do?” Stacy Smith: I’m a little confused with the current push by companies with a very specific market to make their own OS. Surely any set top PC would be able to run steam and a whole bunch of other things? Charlie Nash: Their string of announcements has added some excitement to my 6pm’s, but regardless; I will still just use my PC the way it is. Kyle Welsh: Valve seem very open to the idea of letting people get in and tinker. Having steam in my living room would be nice for Big Picture titles, too Megan Fox: I already port our games to Linux, as do most Indies on PC, so I’m not sure it’ll be a big shift there for us. Unity and other engines already support it, so most of us go “hey why not!” What it WILL do is make that much more appealing for the bigger studios that previously saw Linux as not too interesting a target. Basically, Valve didn’t have a ton of choice. They couldn’t pay a licensing fee to put either Windows or Mac on their boxes and neither is great to operate 100% with a gamepad anyways. Linux + an OS interface overhaul to make it gamepad-friendly were kind of their only real option from the beginning. I don’t see it as a particularly positive or negative choice. Gamers buy a game system to play games. They don’t care that PS3 runs a sort-of Linux, or that the XB One will run a Windows 8 variant, they just care that it plays games. So they won’t care that the Steambox runs Linux either, since it’ll just be “The Steambox.” Alan Zucconi: I think the situation is… complicated. Up until few years ago, porting a game on a different console was a nightmere. I mean… a big one! I really appreciate the effort that several companies (such as Unity3D) are making to simplify and “unify” the process of making games. However, this is completely transparent for the final gamers. I think that having ANOTHER console is probably the last thing we/they need. This of course, doesn’t mean that they product is not good; I am confident Valve will be able to produce good quality stuff, as they always do. Megan Fox: But in terms of what them releasing hardware will do… it’s a console, that sits in the living room, that has all the modding potential of PC games, all the back catalog of Steam, etc. That cannot be overstated. That is HUGE. I’m super excited to snag one, play with it, etc. I’ve already got a set-top box, but it’s clunky and I have to click through Windows using a gamepad tool, etc. A proper console would be way better, and something the average gamer would actually deal with. (My current solution works, but is hinky at best) Alan Zucconi: From my point of view, the game market shouldn’t be so fragmented. An analogy I can think of is the Apple store: it’s unique, and all the contents are there. On Android, the situation is much more fragmented and this is not always good for developers (who have to work more) and for gamers (who have to search more). Stacy Smith: The advantage of a console is that EVERYTHING runs on that one box, and there’s a clear platform differentiation between say, PS2 and PS3. Kyle Welsh: They are planning on releasing multiple machines though, each of which could run different hardware at different specs. Alan Zucconi: From my perspective, mainly as a developer, I am scared that now I’ll have to buy the umpteenth dev kit and test my games for the umpteenth time. Stacy Smith: Different specs will confuse consumers who would choose console games over a PC. The ‘audience’ for console games would have a tough time understanding why their current steambox only runs half the titles. Laura Kate: Alan, set up a separate SteamOS partition on your existing PC for testing as it’s a free Linux Distro? Matthew McDonald: Steam isn’t -currently- a distribution platform I was considering. It’s a lot of work to get through greenlight, from what I’ve read. I don’t have the resources to really funnel into that as an option for me. That said, Unity3D is what I’m using to develop with right now, and it’s effortless for me to push my games to Linux, so Steam entering a more mainstream focus within the living room creates no more extra effort for me. The SteamOS and Steam Machines sound an interesting concept, but there are two aspects of their announcements that really whet my appetite: * A new controller. New ways of interacting always fascinate me. * Streaming over the home network from my desktop. Currently I’m banished with my desktop to the spare room, as my rig is rather… garish. Being able to bring my games into the living room without a large PC would be fantastic! I do have concerns over cost and how the concept will be sold to regular consumers. Alan Zucconi: I appreciate the fact that different console, having different hardware specifications, are aiming to different price ranges. But so far, price and performance of (let’s say) XBox One and PS4 are more or less in the same range. So, unless it’s a *truly* low cost console, I don’t see its need. Megan Fox: Different specs will confuse customers, but I don’t think Valve will sell it that way. They’ll just sell “SteamBox 2007, which is better than SteamBox 2006, and SteamBox 2007 ULTRA which is better than SteamBox 2007 Lite” They have the advantage of forcing branding and performance profiles for each “SKU”. Megan Fox: Then we, the harder core folks, can customize our own and do exactly what we’ve always done with PC gaming. Stacy Smith: Which is fine BUT there are games released now which would run on a 4 year old PC. The steambox will have to be literally bleeding edge technology, or it’ll be playing catchup to the next gen of games. Alan Zucconi: Yes, I totally agree on that point Stacy. If I have a child, why should I buy ANOTHER console, when I already bought him two last months AND an iPhone?! Stacy Smith: That’s the real disadvantage, on a console; people aim to make their game for the given hardware. On steam they will aim for current spec PCs, which will outstrip the console in short order. Megan Fox: They can release current-gen hardware now and improve it every year. Next-gen consoles are fixed. They’d have slow adoption at first, maybe, but their hardware would very quickly outstrip console hardware. Their adoption curve is the inversion of the traditional console cycle’s adoption curve. They’re not comparing with PC hardware. This is a console. It’s a set-top box. Nobody is saying that a hard-core PC gamer is going to buy a Steambox instead of a PC. Why would they? Matthew McDonald: I personally would be interested to hear more on this streaming feature. If I could have a low-spec “streaming” box that would stream from my desktop PC to my living room, then I could upgrade my PC without needing to purchase a new console as well when more demanding games are released. It also means, I don’t need a high-spec laptop to plug into my TV to play demanding games. If that’s how it works (and I’m awaiting details), it’s a real option for me. Stacy Smith: You do have a point, Steam doesn’t have to beat PC gaming, it is going against consoles. So yeah chances are if this works, steam might replace… everything. Kyle Welsh: Exactly, this is all about Steam in the living room. Stacy Smith: Which would be awesome because ‘legacy’ content will never go out of date. Megan Fox: Also: while PC games aim for high-end hardware, they always scale down, because they’re always pegged to whatever current consoles are. So yeah, it might not run maxed out on a Steambox, but will it run? Almost certainly. Laura Kate: Very good point, get your game on the Steambox and it’ll always be on the Steambox forever, as long as steam exists. Kyle Welsh: So forever, don’t scare me like that. Megan Fox: Yep, that too. You’d think Steam could sell that. “Hey mom, that box you just picked up, see how it has 50 games? This one has 50,000”. Stacy Smith: It’s got an AMAZING back catalogue already, always will and will keep getting bigger. Megan Fox: Only it would be a real 50,000, instead of a shovelware 50,000, heh. Stacy Smith: Steam could achieve what Sony hoped to do with the PSP Go, a truly 100% digital media console. Alan Zucconi: If you have 50,000 games… how many of them will you actually play? I think this is very tricky and, psychologically, can be deceiving. It doesn’t really matter how many games you have, especially when numbers are big. Between having 5,000 games or 50,000 or 5,000,000, the difference is really low.