April 10, 2007

The Party 360?

by Andrew Stern · , 4:47 pm

This just in: Microsoft is releasing a controller with a keyboard for the XBox 360. (Further, I didn’t know this — you can also just simply plug in a regular USB keyboard into the 360.)

Till now, we have been assuming that market for language-based interactive drama would necessarily be limited to PC and Mac users, because of the keyboard requirement.

So, we hadn’t seriously considered developing interactive drama for consoles, because of the keyboard issue. But now… hmm.

(~90% of all game purchases these days are for console, ~10% for PC, from my understanding.)

This would make a good lead-in to the promised Part 3 of my developing-interactive-drama posts, about natural language understanding (NLU) interfaces. I do hope to find the time to write that post soon.

11 Responses to “The Party 360?”

  1. andrew Says:

    Jane at gamegirladvance is a little skeptical of the controller.

  2. nick Says:

    The video game console keyboard I have went on the market many years ago, and it works very well. Also, I bet you wouldn’t have to pay any licensing fees, or for a devkit, if you choose to do a version of The Party for my favorite console!

  3. Patrick Says:

    90% of games are sold for consoles, sure, but 90% of players are on the PC. Did you miss Welch’s talk at GDC? The disproportion is correcting itself as console and PC merges. Your audience is on the PC for now, or at least, the audience you can possibly develop is on the PC. Do you really think a console with a ~9.7 attach rate is where the audience for interactive drama lies. Wii is another story, if you could get your architechture to run on it.

  4. andrew Says:

    What do you mean by ~9.7 attach rate?

    I did want to see Welch’s talk, but it was opposite both Robin’s MySims talk as well as a talk on casual games used to bootstrap your new studio. But I was pretty skeptical of the premise of his talk anyhow, what’s the gist of his argument?

    Anyhow, on the surface, I’d imagine some 360 players would pay money for a good interactive comedy/drama. Even Xbox Live Arcade — assuming Microsoft relaxes some of its requirements, like the smallish 150MB max download size, “achievements”, etc.

  5. Patrick Says:

    I mean the average number of games owned by 360 owners is around 9.7. Not sure specifically, but its high.

    Daniel James said it best “fuck Xbox Live Aracade, as a developer I’d rather go with the 300 million people with broadband than the 3 million people on Live Arcade.

    Now, I’m not saying you should do a 500k project with four characters plus a PC and let it disseminate through an already developed audience that would eat it up (though it wouldn’t be a bad idea) but your best bet is on the web. Plus, that keyboard design is really unweildy. You’d might sell 50k on XBL, but you could sell 500k on the net.

  6. andrew Says:

    Oh, I never imagined abandoning the PC/Mac platforms. I was thinking of adding on the 360.

    If the game is good, it should sell plenty on the Xbox, I’d wager. (Also it won’t be done for years from now, so there could well be more XBox Live users by then.)

    The point is, I’d never considered consoles before, now they’re a possibility. We’ll see how well the controller catches on over the next year or so. Also, the fact that you can simply grab your computer’s keyboard and plug it into the 360 makes this idea even more viable.

  7. Luke Says:

    I have to agree with Patrick on this one. Firstly, Xbox isn’t exactly characterised by it’s alternative, experimental games. There’s a few exceptions, and that’s not to say that this shouldn’t be corrected in the future, but an uphill battle to be sure. Definitely in contrast to something like the DS, which somehow seems to encourage a more experimental, dare say thoughtful approach to games (stylus, lack of graphical power, stronger japanese connection?). Think Electroplankton, Elite Beat Agents, Cooking Mama, etc.

    Another quick point is that language based doesn’t necessarily mean keyboard input is needed, as is the case in Facade or other narrative interactives. Obviously it’s more difficult and limiting to use multiple choice or drag n drop word type interfaces, but not impossible.

    Not to be discouraging. Designing for consoles as well is very democratic. ;-) In the future I can see a shift away from the traditional gamer as player, to a wider audience (already happening with Wii) as well as a greater connectivity to online libraries of games with wider genres and a range of price points. All this means that your new user, that older film buff or stay-at-home mum can make an impulse purchase on a short, inexpensive, experimental title. To me this is less of a marketing strategy than a welcome opportunity to get work/art/projects out to a greater, more diverse audience.

  8. andrew Says:

    We’d be developing for PC and Mac first; at some point into development, perhaps as much as 2 years from now, when we understand the 360 market better (and see how it develops over time), we can decide to port or not. At least it’s an option! Which what I’m excited about.

    The DS is too CPU weak to run AI-based interactive drama, I fear.

    language based doesn’t necessarily mean keyboard input is needed

    Our default position is, we disagree with that; that’s part of the discussion to be had in Part 3 of those posts.

  9. Borut Says:

    The cool thing about XBLA is sort of the opposite of Daniel James’ point.

    Yeah, there’s a bigger audience on the PC, but given that most 360 owners are at least open to trying downloaded games (especially because the more traditional retail titles are just that, more traditional), the small number of games available on XBLA, and a clear and easy access point/gateway to find them (finding indie pc games is so not user-friendly to any but the most determined), means the percentage of people who actually pay for the games they’ve downloaded trials for is much higher. (I’m somewhat confident it was 10%, but I can’t remember where I’m getting that from – might have to sift through some microsoft interviews/GDC slides for that one).

    So even with fewer people developers can make good money – of course, there’s been a rush of developers trying to get into it, so in two years maybe it’s overflooded and not worth it… But it’s definitely still the sort of thing to keep open as a significant option. Microsoft has been pushing the retro angle (and now board game conversions), but they’ll slowly, inevitably swap to more experimental titles as they realize, hey, people that shell out the price of an XBox (or PS3, gagh) want to see something new for those dollars.

    Especially considering one of the few wise things Sony is doing (if not the only one) is pushing for more interesting titles for download (flOw, LittleBigPlanet). Plus the fact that the PS3 software keyboard is so horrible (it’s cellphone-style T9 keyboard), I can’t help but wonder if Sony won’t release the same type of controller… So just how multithreaded is the Facade codebase? ;)

  10. andrew Says:

    Facade is actually pretty multithreaded already — but by way of Java. Which probably doesn’t mix well with consoles. To seriously consider consoles, I think we’ll have to port our Java code to C++ or C# or something — a complex but feasible engineering task that can be theoretically be farmed out, given resources to do so.

  11. scott amundson Says:

    Very cool!

    The first of these interactive dramas should be BATTLE BOY! For BB’s story, go to http://www.TNAOBB.blogspot.com

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