So the Xbox One has finally been revealed. And my god is it ugly…
I half-watched the unveiling of it on my laptop because I sort of felt like it was the right thing to with being a games developer and everything. I was actually liking it at first despite all the talk of TV and non-games related stuff because I figured it would probably be quite nice to ditch my standard definition PVR and Xbox 360 to replace them with a single unified unit. I’ve had many awkward Skype conversations with my parents while trying to aim a tablet at my son as he just wants to grab it and push all the buttons so Skype calls from the XBone are appealing. Of course now I realise everything is based around North America and it’s unclear how the TV functionality will work in the UK. Oh and the XBone won’t be backwards compatible with the 360 either so I might have to keep that around for a while.
The games that were eventually wheeled out didn’t really appeal to me particularly. We all knew the latest round of EA sports stuff would be on there and a new Call of Duty was a given. I will be interested to hear about the exclusive titles they seem to have lined up but were reluctant to tell us about. I imagine there will be at least one of those which will seem appealing and won’t involve men with guns.
The more interesting news has actually come in the time since the reveal. For example, the complete lack of support for indie devs which is disappointing but hardly surprising after the disaster of XBLIG. Having the Kinect on at all times is worrying; quietly listening to household conversations in case someone demands the console comes on. If I get one I’ll be switching it off at the wall as I do for the 360. And of course the most recently revealed treat, that we’ll have to pay to use a second hand game. Wasn’t there some European law that got passed stating that consumers had the right to sell on games they were finished with? Maybe I’m misremembering.
All-in-all I’d say it hasn’t been the best launch for Microsoft but we all knew no matter what they said we would be duty bound to declare everything crap or we wouldn’t look cool. Lets face it, we’re all going to end up buying one at some point anyway!
With the work I’ve doing recently porting Gateways to Linux and Mac I’ve been getting back into the Gateways code. It made me wonder about the possibility of tidying up the editor I used to make the world for the game and releasing it. I’ve decided it seems like a good idea so I’m happy to announce that the Gateways Editor will be coming along sometime soon, hopefully released next month.
The editor will be available for free from the Smudged Cat Games website and I’ll be adding the ability to load user generated maps into the next update of the game. I’m currently working out how I’ll let people record solutions to puzzles for the help points as that will need to happen in the game rather than the editor but I’m confident I’ll come up with a solution. Hopefully it will breathe more life into Gateways for those that have completed the game (or given up!) and I look forward to seeing the kind of levels that people come up with. I may even add my own little map as an example of what you can do in the editor.
Although I’m not setting a firm date yet the ports of Gateways to Mac and Linux are nearly completed. It’s exciting to see the game running on different platforms and I hope Gateways finds a receptive new audience on both Mac and Linux.
I’ve finally got round to the task of porting Gateways to Mac and Linux recently and I can say that it’s going pretty well. Both versions are now up and running and there are just a few issues to iron out. I don’t think I can really commit to a release date for them yet but I’m hopeful that it shouldn’t take too long.
All this has been thanks to MonoGame, the open source replacement for XNA. I was anxious when setting out to do the ports that there would be a lot of work involved in converting them over but I’m pleased to say that really hasn’t been the case. It’s started making me think about porting Shuggy over as well and possibly targeting other platforms. Porting to mobile platforms has never been a priority for me as I worry my games wouldn’t work that well on a touch screen. However, if it would be easy to try it out then I may reconsider and Shuggy might make it to iOS and Android after all.
I’m taking this opportunity to make a few changes to Gateways and fix a few things that have been bothering me for a while. One of the main things has been allowing the torch to shine through gateways. I’ve seen a few videos where people try and do this and it always makes me want to add the feature. It doesn’t change the functionality of the game in any way but I certainly think it looks pretty cool!
Here’s a video of it in action:
Now I just need to think if I want to change the name of the torch to the more American-friendly ‘flashlight’! Thoughts?
No-one is particularly surprised, the last update to the framework (the 4.0 refresh) was released at the end of 2011 and there has never been any news of anything new coming up. For me I started worrying when it was announced that Shawn Hargreaves, the lead XNA developer, would no longer be working on XNA.
So where does that leave everyone? Will there be an indie channel in the next Xbox? If there is then it certainly won’t be built on XNA so there might be some new framework in the pipeline. Given the graveyard of Microsoft technology (Managed C++, XNA, Silverlight, J#, WPF) I don’t think I’ll be bothering learning something new again only to find it scrapped in a few years. I’m not sure how other developers would feel about another new technology especially given the regularly pitiful sales of games on the Xbox Indie Games channel?
Thankfully, there’s always MonoGame! Having recently started the port of Gateways to MacOS I can say that it works rather well. Things are still a bit rough round the edges, sound effects don’t work yet and my shader files needed a bit of fiddling but within 2 days I had a version of Gateways running on the Mac that you could actually play. The main issue is having to compile your assets on Windows before copying them over to your target platform. But once that’s in place we’ll have the perfect replacement for XNA. In fact, as it’s open and cross-platform there’s certainly an argument for saying it’ll be better than XNA.
So XNA isn’t quite as dead as you might think. I may not have ruled it out completely as a possibility for my next game but if Microsoft think I’m going to be welcoming whatever new technology they’ve got planned with open arms they can think again.
I’ve been messing around with a little app called Infinite Doodle for a while now while I really should be working on porting Gateways to Mac and Linux. I reckon it’s pretty much done now though so I’ve uploaded the Windows version to the website for all to try. I started working on it as an XBLIG title but I figured I might as well release a freeware version of it for PC.
It’s basically a very simple drawing application that lets you scribble freehand, draw shapes like circles and squares, write text and stamp colorful clipart. The twist is that it lets you zoom in and out an infinite amount so you can keep adding detail at infinitely smaller levels. Here’s a video that explains it better than words can:
I’d love to see any doodles that people come up with!