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01/14/2007 - 01/20/2007

The Great Divide

January 19, 2007

It's how you become awesome. One of my many hobbies (ranking up there with hitting the 'random' button on Wikipedia for hours on end) is checking out what's hot in gaming just by walking around the GameSpy headquarters after hours to see what people are up to. In theory these guys have access to tons of games (although most of us still can't find a Wii), so it's cool to see what people play in their spare time. And while some titles are popular with everyone across the board (Guitar Hero is constantly raging in the break room), there's been a big split among the MMO players.

The crew here at FilePlanet is taking the Vanguard beta by storm. (You can still get in the Vanguard Beta by pre-ordering the game on Direct2Drive -- players in the beta get a three-day head-start when the servers go live). I think Vanguard appeals to that gang for a number of reasons. All hardcore World of Warcraft junkies, they really hunger for something new. More importantly, a couple of these guys were serious EverQuest players and missed the challenge and teamwork those old MMOs fostered with the harsher, more unforgiving gameplay.

Meanwhile, down the hall, the GameSpy.com Editorial team has been tackling the World of Warcraft expansion with heart, mind, body, and soul. You may have been reading the running commentary blog. The expansion is a quality product! Burning Crusade shows a kind of mastery of the craft -- Blizzard's designers are clearly comfortable with balancing out Quest design and the new content is in many ways even better than the original.

I count myself among the Warcraft players for the time being. Speaking of which, I know that the Blood Elves are supposed to be an egotistical, self-centered, downright evil race... but don't the quests sometimes seem a little heavy-handed?

Digg This!


Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 10:44 AM PST
Edited on: January 19, 2007 11:24 AM PST

Readers Respond to Vista and Indie Games

January 18, 2007

It's how you become awesome. Earlier this week I posted some notes about Windows Vista and the ramifications it might have to the indie and casual game community. In short, some industry insiders were worried about the heavy-handed security features in Vista that would make it hard to download and install lots of small "free-trial" style indie games. But what do YOU think?

I was lucky enough to get responses from lots of readers who've been using Vista during the testing cycle. And a majority of you who wrote in had a similar message: At first, the constant security reminders and pop-ups from Vista are irritating, but you get a great feel for what's being installed and run on your computer, and most readers started to appreciate it. So are game developers are overreacting?

"Windows Vista is the next best thing to come for PC gamers. How hard is it to type in a password? You already do that to check your email, login to your PC, ETC. Whats one more?" -Thunder

"I've been running Vista for a bit now... The only time you need to have the Admin password or run the install as an admin is if the program itself requires that you be an admin to do the install (the way it writes data or modifies dlls or something)... Now, whenever you want to install something it'll give you a pop-up saying 'so and so wants to do X, do you want to allow it?' It really bugged the hell out of me at first until I went to a web page and all of a sudden it pops up when I never clicked on anything to download. My irritation turned to a "thank God" and then I wondered how many web pages actually do that. I've started to like the security model in Vista... The more I think of it the more I see adherence to a security model a good thing. Does it mean it's easier on Devs? No, makes it harder. But, it does mean it's easier on folks like me and the greater number of folks that know a hell of a lot less than I do." -Tim Manley

Naturally, anyone who works in IT or manages lots of machines loves the Vista model:

"I worked for several years in college sites (faculty) where we had to GHOST all machines in the labs weekly because of student installation of such things. Microsoft is just responding to a demand from large net administrators. It is not funny to have to reload 1500 stations while trying to keep your stations available... So I say, 'Thank you, Microsoft, for solving a real headache.'" -John Winterton

Similarly, moms and dads wrote in relieved that Vista errs on the side of being too secure:

"IMHO, indie games are indirectly responsible for much of the (sometimes overblown) security in Vista. Most of the attacks that I've experienced over the years have been from me or my kids installing something that purported to be a cool little game installer. I'm not saying that the game industry itself is in any way responsible; however, this kind of download has historically been a vector for viruses and spyware... yes, [extra security] is annoying, but it's a lot less annoying than the hours it takes to get rid of an infestation." - R.Brian Lindahl

Indie game developer Philip Saltzman has been using Vista, and noted that his demos ran fine on the system without asking for admin privileges. "My games work, XNA will work, and hundreds of other casual games will work," he tells us. He goes on to point out that WildTangent (whose CEO kicked off the debate with this essay in GamaSutra) might have his own motives:

"Now WildTangent is in a different position. Most people who have the WildTangent driver never knew they were installing it. Many people think it's spyware. If your brand and games have so little value and credibility to your customers that they won't click 'yes' to installing it so you instead need to sneak your software on a computer then yeah, you'll have a problem with Vista. As a computer user I prefer knowing when something I didn't intend is installing itself. But Vista will certainly not kill the casual games business." -Phil Saltzman

Of course, before I sign off, I should point out that some readers agreed that Vista might put the squeeze on the gaming scene. GameSpy reader Jeero pointed out that he eventually found most of the Vista warnings comforting, but then some boxed retail games started to give him problems. Case in point: Guild Wars. Guild Wars quietly installs game patches and updates to your system in the background while you play, which is one of the game's biggest strengths -- it's a seamless experience. Unfortunately Vista doesn't like that -- in Jeero's words "another windows warning popped up, saying that it Could not Allow the connection to the server (and really wasn't planning on changing its mind)." Of course, that was with a late beta version of Vista, and may change once it ships.

So the final verdict? Sure, there may be some bugs to work out, but most gamers will appreciate the extra security at the end of the day. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Digg This!


Today's Geek Stuff:
Mod News:
Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

Posted by at 12:02 PM PST
Edited on: January 18, 2007 2:02 PM PST

A New Year, a New FilePlanet...

January 17, 2007

This is the year of tiny things. When I accepted the position as Editor-in-Chief of FilePlanet.com last year, I made a steadfast resolution for 2007: to make the site extra more better. That's a tall order. Lesser men would settle for "more better." Not me.

But what does that mean? How do you make a download site worth visiting every day? I've rolled out a number of changes already, with more on the way, to keep you hooked to one of the cornerstones of the GameSpy/IGN network.

  • Daily Game Commentary and News: Right here! On top of new files every day, I want the new FilePlanet to give you some context as to what's happening in the gaming scene. Along with some personal observations from yours truly, the editorial team here will also collect the most interesting links to what's happening in the gaming community, from big business right down to the mod scene. Over to the right you'll see the best editorial content from around the network.

  • Renewed Focus on the Indie Gaming Scene: In an era where the costs of making premiere games are soaring through the roof, the established game industry doesn't take chances with wild or crazy game designs. Fortunately, there's a community who does. Independent game developers are constantly exploring new gameplay mechanics and fresh ideas. I'm making it my mission to make sure that the best of the indie scene is posted here on FilePlanet. Check out our commitment to the indie developers, or visit the new Indie Spotlight on the front page of FilePlanet every day.

  • In-Depth Weekly Features: The new FilePlanet Spotlight kicks off this week with The Freestyle Street Basketball Playa's Guide. Starting next week, we'll post a new spotlight every Friday with in-depth looks at what's in the FilePlanet catalog. Freestyle is a great place to start -- a lot of people seem to be missing out on a great online title. It's deceptively deep, and actually kinda addictive, even if you're not into sports games. My goal with this site is to make sure that our readers never miss out on the good stuff.

  • ...More of What You Came Here For: Naturally, everything that brought you to FilePlanet in the first place is still going to be here. We'll continue to feature new beta tests of upcoming games and loads of game demos. Plus, we'll always be your source for the biggest and best mods. Stick around for more announcements on that front in the months to come.

    I want to hear YOUR feedback. How is the design working for you?
    Talk to me!       -Fargo

    Today's Geek Stuff:
    Mod News:
    Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

    Posted by at 9:16 AM PST
    Edited on: January 17, 2007 9:33 AM PST
  • Will Vista Crush the Indie Gaming Scene?

    January 16, 2007

    This is the year of tiny things. After a series of delays, it's almost here: Windows Vista. While the release of a new Windows operating system is pretty exciting stuff for most people, a core group of casual and indie game developers are worried about what the new OS will mean for their business. Specifically, Microsoft's heavy-handed approach to installing and managing games. The outlook isn't too bad for large boxed retail products, which will be neatly categorized and organized by Vista in a special gaming area. But for small games, especially "Try-before-you-buy" shareware and demos, the new OS sets up plenty of roadblocks to make the experience as rough as possible.

    Alex St. John, one of the architects of DirectX and now the CEO of casual gaming powerhouse WildTangent, published an essay about Vista in GamaSutra:

    "We [WildTangent] have found many of the security changes planned for Vista alarming and likely to present sweeping challenges for PC gaming, especially for online distributed games. The central change that impacts all downloadable applications in Vista is the introduction of Limited User Accounts... In Vista, LUA's are mandatory and inescapable... The principal user experience problem with LUA's is that when a consumer wants to download and install a game demo off the Internet, they must first click past the IE warning dialogs, and then respond to the security elevation dialog Vista pops up requiring an admin account name and password to enable the software installation." - Alex St. John

    Additional problems include a built-in ratings system using ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) standards that treats "unrated" games as dangerous and may block them with parental controls. Since most indie or casual games can't afford to have their product rated by the ESRB, this places them into a software ghetto within the new operating system.

    Microsoft thinks that small developers are overreacting, and that the impact on the industry will be minimal. Chris Donahu, the Group Manager for Games for Windows, points out that the goal of Vista's game integration is to make the game experience more seamless and user-friendly, like the kind of experience people get on consoles. He defends the OS in this Hollywood Reporter story reprinted in GameDaily.

    Here at GameSpy, we're in the midst of verifying Vista compatibility with all of our software. It's a hard row to hoe -- you want to make your software as easy to use as possible, but requiring an administrator password with every install is a nightmare. On the flipside, I've applauded Microsoft for supporting indie gaming with Microsoft XNA. While it's not the first time that branches of the company appear to be at cross-purposes, hopefully the Microsoft gaming group as a whole can come to some sort of consensus that will help small game developers to get their products out there to people. Thoughts? Mail me!


    Today's Geek Stuff:
    Mod News:
    Hardware Links Courtesy of Voodoo Extreme:

    Posted by at 10:47 AM PST
    Edited on: January 16, 2007 4:55 PM PST

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