Should Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony open their platforms?

Apple has clearly shown that an effectively open market (*) can be hugely successful. Games on iOS are reaching more people than they did on any other platform. On top of that they make lots of money for both Apple and game developers. You might be thinking that RockStar gets $60 for every copy of GTA4 but more likely they get 10-15% of wholesale. For a $60 game wholesale is around $28. So they make at best $2.80 to $4.20 a unit. If they sold GTA4 on iPhone for $5 Apple would take 30% leaving them $3.50 right in the middle of that range. EA has been successful with the Sims 3 on iOS priced at $10 showing that games will sell at $10 on iOS.
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GDC 2011 Report

Here are some notes from attending GDC 2011.
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The Problem with RAGE

Yea, yea, I know I’ll be inviting ridicule about this post because who am I to say this. Fan boys will come and leave nasty posts because they feel I’m attacking their idol. That can’t be helped.

RAGE came out for iPhone and iPad recently which shows off the latest tech from Id Software. Id has done a great job of hyping it up and it looks great. Unfortunately it seems to me like the tech is a dead end.
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The WebGL Aquarium running on the Google Liquid Galaxy

Microtransactions: Good or Evil?

This is just a random brain fart but I was thinking this morning, aren’t micro-transactions in games kind of scammy?

You could argue if people are willing to pay it’s not scammy since no one is forcing them to pay. It’s more the issue of value for money. If I buy GTAIV for $60 I’m getting the results of 200 people who worked 2-3 years to make that game. When I pay $1 for some seeds in a game I’m paying effectively for some designer to spend no more than a few minutes. Sure, every thing costs money but feels like charging someone $6 for a burger at McDonalds and then charging them $1 for each napkin, $1 for a straw and 50¢ for a toothpick. Those things cost money too but their costs are so small that no one would go to a restaurant that charged for them.

So why then do people buy micro-transaction virtual items? I guess to some degree it just feels like selling snake oil to me. I suppose that’s unfair as there is no deception involved. At the same time if some kid at school managed to sell single sheets of plain white school paper to an 8yr boy for a $1 a piece I’d expect his mom or dad would give him a strict talking to that sheets of a paper are not worth a dollar each. The kid selling the paper for a $1 a sheet would looked at as scamming the other kids. So how is it different with in game micro-transaction items? How are the designers of those games not being scammy?

I can already see the counter argument to the paper example. People ready buy pieces of paper for $$$. Greeting cards, Baseball Cards, Pokemon Cards, Wrapping Paper. I guess my counter argument would be what I’m getting in each transaction. A Greeting Card, I’m paying for the convenience. It’s much easier to buy some card for $3-$4 than make my own and trying to think of something witty or funny to write on it. Wrapping Paper? I’m paying to make something pretty for a friend and again for convenience. I’ve made my own wrapping paper for special occasions but it’s a lot of work. Baseball cards and Pokemon cards are generally pretty cheap. Average 10¢ or less per card? It’s only the rare ones where the market goes up. I personally find it silly but still, that’s different than the types of virtual items sold with micro-transactions. A few bytes enabled in an app that appears as some seeds to plant flowers in a game seems on the surface to be about worth as much as the pencil lead it takes to draw a simple flower. Not the sketch itself, just the lead. Ie, not much.

Note, I’m not talking about DLC. Paying $5-$10 for a new Left 4 Dead campaign seems worth it because I’m getting several hundred man hours of work for my $5-$10. Paying $1 for a virtual sofa to decorate my virtual house though seems like a rip off, especially when I get say 5000 items in the main game I paid $50 for. That’s 1¢ an item. Less if you put a value on the game itself and everything that’s not items.

It’s as if the music industry started charging $10 per single music track after CDs had already set the price at about a $1 a track in bulk.

I’ve heard some people claim that the whole microtransaction market is about to collapse. That the novelty is wearing off. We’ll see I guess.

My First Game Jam

A co-worker of mine used to work in the Research Triangle area where he used to participate in some of their local game jams. Even though he’s on the other side of the country now at Google he still wanted to participate so he put out the call and 6 of us jammed for a weekend.
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WebGL Samples

So for the last month or so I’ve been working on some WebGL samples. Today they finally went public. Here they are:

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Using a Mock Library to make Unit Testing Easier in C++

Unit testing is the process of writing tests that test a single *unit* of code. This is as opposed to integration tests which test multiple pieces of code together. The problem often comes up in which you want to write unit tests for some code A, but that code calls into some other code B, and you don’t want to be testing B in your unit tests. B should have it’s own unit tests or B is out of your control like an OS API. A’s unit tests should only test that A does what you expect it to do given that the code it calls does what it’s expected to do.
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How I Learned to Like Code Review

Code review is a development process where each time you write some code someone else is supposed to review the code before you check it in. As far as I know, most teams do not practice code review. Certainly most game development teams? I know that until I came to Google I had zero experience with code review. I had read about it and I mostly thought about how annoying it sounded to have someone have to review at my code. Now that I’ve experienced it at Google though I’m a fan.

I think I was really lucky to experience code review the “Google” way because I suspect it’s a better experience than most other places. I’ll point out why as I go over the 5 things I think it took to start liking code review.
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