Free Jaguar Project

Atari Jaguar Discussions => Jaguar Development => Topic started by: sh3-rg on August 14, 2009, 05:08:18 pm



Title: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: sh3-rg on August 14, 2009, 05:08:18 pm
The Future of Jaguar Game Production

I'm taking the time away from running my business (& the usual sneaky working on P1 ;) this afternoon to try to bring together the beginnings of some ideas regarding the future of game production on Jaguar. As things stand there are quite some hurdles to leap for any team that wants to recapture that time in 90s when the Jaguar was still an active system with active licensed devs, by producing a physical product to keep for themselves & also to sell to collectors & gamers. But firstly let's not get overly grand of ourselves, what's around now is not a commercially viable market for games production with teams of real software houses, this is hobbyist game production for an open platform by teams of real enthusiasts who do it because it's something they really like doing. Something to be a part of & something to be proud of in a way that most real commercial game studios can't possibly make work in 2009 & haven't been able to do so for many years. The community on Jaguar is very special in it's own ways & nobody can dispute that.

I'd like to take a fresh look at as many possibilities I can come up with for devs making games, for those games ending up in the hands of gamers & collectors & hopefully everything in between. I'm not going to claim to have come up with anything unique, special or revolutionary, I just want to bring about a discussion to try to find the best way of doing things in 2009 and beyond.

Firstly I'd like to examine the end user. There seems to be two major labels one could place here, but they are not mutually exclusive. There are collectors at one end of the spectrum - they want boxes for their shelves as much as they want software to play the games. There are gamers at the other, they don't care about boxes or printed manuals, they want to play new games.

Of course, hardly anyone fits into either group, most people are at a point somewhere along the line. So that's the basis for the Jaguar end-user community as I'm looking at it, and the requirements of every individual along that line should be considered when a dev produces a game.

So on to business... I'll mention different ways of going about things, some of which are compatible with each other or can overlap. Pros, cons & other notes included.

      
Possible directions to take:

Do nothing.

Continue to produce games & put them on cartridges & produce all the paraphenalia that comes along with a release such as printed boxes & manuals, overlays, inserts, physical carts & chips, etc.
      pros:
            No cost to developer other than drain on resources in making, printing, managing, posting, money handling, tax issues, etc.
      cons:
            Open to rom dumping
            Open to possible play in emulators (although it should not be too difficult to create code that will crash/hang any or all of the current emulators).
            Open to play on dev hardware such as skunkboards, flash carts & alpine boards. It should not be too difficult to prevent code running on these unless they offer precise & 100% timed cartridge emulation (Too technical for me to comment further).

            
Soft or limited release
            
The developer produces a manual, packaging, label & whatever else is required & sells those and only those physical items or virtual versions as downloads to be made up by the end user, adding in whatever level of extra compensation above the costs of those physical items he or she wishes to receive for their efforts, not only in producing these but also developing the software. Have someone with technical experience & hardware required produce the carts.
      pros:   less hassle for devs (less management of resources, money, etc)
            less outlay for devs (cart programming hardware, boards, chips, any other physical cart stuff)
            more of the work outsourced to someone who knows their stuff & could buy things in bulk for multiple releases & reduce costs to the end user. They could decide on the level of compensation for their efforts.
      
      cons:   not everyone would be interested in taking the DIY route. solution?: maybe another outside source could work similarly to the cart producer to do the non-carts stuff. There are many community members who would love to have more involvement in their hobby & this could be an outlet for their creative energies.
            maybe there aren't so many people interested in being the hardware guy, but I imagine there would be at least one person in the US & one in Europe.
   

Software only release

The developer produces a downloadable game file that can be played on which ever of the current dev solutions are compatible. Possibly allow play in emulators if required for people who no longer or never owned a Jaguar.  Manual, box art etc can be downloaded as in the above method & charged or given away as the dev sees fit. Payment can be required for download with the proceeds going to the devs or to charity or whatever the dev decides works for them. Optional payments with minimum but no maximum level would also possible - requiring trust placed in end user but also the opportunity for end users to pour praise on the dev or their chosen charity financially.

      pros:   no extra cost to devs
            little effort or management required to get a game out
            no dev time wasted on physical production except testing on various hardware
            any bugs in the software can easily be fixed
            easy & cheap to implement a simple watermarking of files compared to burning similar unique files to roms            
      cons:   open to abuse from sharing & illegal downloads
            collectors prefer physical products

Software only - registration

Similar to above, but only a demo version is available freely to being with. Registration brings a full version, a personal 'thank you' form the dev & a user who is happy to spend on a product they believe in. It could also involve some kind of packaging/printed manual/diy files being made available.


Restricted release to known good people

The developer only sells their game to people they know to be trustworthy.

      pros:   buyers should be trustworthy & the game should stay safe
            creates a special feeling for collectors to know they are trusted & deserving

      cons:   resale cannot realistically be restricted
            trust can be misplaced. You cannot truly know another person well enough, esp. over the 'net. Later disagreements could lead to vengeful actions such as giving the game to a rom dumper.
            very limited scope for potential buyers, possibly leading to low volume/high costs for production materials.

            
Other points:   
Hardware protection : Dongles or similar

The developer creates (or has made by a suitable techie) a hardware add-on such as a dongle. This could even be linked to a unique code in the game software making it for individual use only.
      pros:
            would help protect from casual rom dumping
      cons:
            cost of initial development & cost of physical hardware.
            still susceptible to attack from hackers.
            hardware can fail, it's one more thing that can go wrong.
            
Software protections: To stop emulators, dumping, dev hardware etc.
      pros:
            little cost to implement other that of time & effort.
      cons:
            protections can be cracked.
            could introduce the 'sport' of hacking/cracking to the jaguar community.
      
At the beginning I referred to the two ends of the Jaguar end user scale. Now I'd like to explore beyond those.

romzkiddiez - Are they even worth a mention? I believe so, just for completeness. Who are they? What do they do? I think the best way to look at them is this. They take stuff they have no right to take and they may even play it, but I'm not sure they always even bother - it could be a compulsion or something, but their aim is to collect something in a very different way to genuine collectors. They burn CDs & DVDs of romz & then file the discs away. So in a way they are a type of collector, yes, but the kind that doesn't serve the community in any way. Are they dangerous? Potentially, if they are the kinds of people who trade in such things - it happens, but they were never likely to be a genuine part of the community & put anything back in at all. They are so far outside the scope of the term community that they are only worth considering regarding their negative effects on the real community, they bring nothing back. They would never have been a lost sale as they do not buy games. Devs can consider them or ignore them in their decision making.


End bit (don't say phew! I know it's a long post ;)
      
So there's my initial thoughts. Of course, a jumbled up mix of many of those ideas is also possible, depending on how it suits any particular dev or team. I'd love some serious, flame-free discussion on the above thoughts & also like to hear of other solutions that anyone has. It would be a great achievement to pull resources together for the benefit of everyone in the whole community & also to get feedback not only from the devs but the end users and anyone else who has an idea or a view from their perspective.

Personally, I feel it basically boils down to devs having to have a reasonable level of trust in the community & balancing that with how much time they want to spend preventing those on the fringes or outside from having the game without any payback. If we take a step back & approach the problems with a fresh look and maybe the jaguar community ends up a better place for collectors, gamers, techies & devs alike. I'm not going to go into the details of how my group plan to do their game distribution yet as basically we've not decided 100%. It'll be based on much that I have written about above but nothing is set in concrete & I would like to learn more form the community before taking those kinds of decisions.

My 2p.

-kZa/reboot

ps feel free to pm me if you'd prefer not to put your ideas forward in person for whatever reason, I really do want to hear form everyone who believes they have something worth discussing/adding/pointing out - whatever it is :)


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Sauron on August 14, 2009, 08:04:24 pm
In my own very humble opinion, I think current Jag devs should take a page from what happens with releases for every other Atari console. Looking at the 2600 scene, you see new releases occurring there all of the time. It's very rare when a developer releases a game for the 2600 and only plans to produce carts with no intent on releasing the ROM for free. Almost all 2600 games are released, either immediately along with the ROM or are cart-only for a short time before the ROM is released. This hasn't seemed to hurt sales of 2600 games at all, since the vast majority of those who will shell out the money for a cart are primarily collectors.

I know that making games for the Jag is a bit more involved than making games for the 2600, but in reality it comes out evenly when looking at things on a "per developer" basis. The 2600 isn't easy to program, so much of development time is spent actually getting the damn thing to work the way you want it to. The Jag is certainly not easy in itself in a lot of ways, but typically games are worked on by more than one person. However, there's still something to be said in the fact that the 2600 now has more sophisticated development tools available for it, and even also has better cart technology. The Jag should be ahead of it, not behind it.

I'm not saying that every Jag developer should just freely distribute their ROMs. If you look at Songbird, they have spent a significant amount of money to license or acquire the rights to unfinished/unreleased Jag games and have made them available. Releasing the ROMs for many of those games may not simply be a matter of choice in those regards. However, I simply don't see why developers making a game from scratch are so worried about people getting their grubby little hands on a free game. It's not like the Jag community is large enough to make a significant amount of money from now. The majority of those who are purchasing games are collectors, plain and simple. Sure, there are some sales who go to people who just want to play the game, but I would imagine that the number of those who are purchasing it just to add to their collection are much, much greater.

Anyways, before this gets more long-winded than kZa's post.... :)  I think that any Jag dev who wants to release a physical cart will be able to do so while still releasing the ROM for free without losing sales. This has worked quite well for the 2600, 5200, 7800, 8-bit computers, and even the Lynx now for years. I see no reason at all why it would not work on the Jaguar.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Zerosquare on August 14, 2009, 10:23:09 pm
I tend to agree.

First, I'd say that all of this matters only if you intend to make a profit from your game. If it's going to be free (apart from the materials and shipping costs, in case of a physical release), you're not losing anything by offering to download the ROM for free. Even if everyone chose to download the ROM instead of buying the cartridge (which is very unlikely), you wouldn't have lost a penny. If you want to be sure not to lose money on the manufacturing, all you have to do is take preorders and set the price accordingly.

Second, I'm not in favor of any restricted distribution or any hardware or software protection. Besides being troublesome and not foolproof, I don't believe it's necessary. An unexpected side effect of the state of the Jaguar community is that it's probably the one where software piracy is the most frowned upon ; compared to almost all other machines, it's pretty much nonexistent.
Songbird games, for example, are not protected in any way, yet people don't pirate them out of respect.

Third, there will always be a few "leechers" that will try to pirate anything just for the heck of it. But they are a extremely small minority, and it wouldn't be fair to "punish" the legitimate customers because of them. To be blunt, if you want to control everything related to your game after it's been released and/or you expect to make real money (as opposed to a reasonable compensation for your efforts), I'd suggest finding another hobby.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: TheGrandPubaa on August 14, 2009, 10:26:35 pm
It's a little disconcerting how some developers act as if copies of games have never been downloaded until just recently, but I mean, game sharing has been around since the first personal computers. It's not a new thing by a long shot, and it's not necessarily a bad thing.

Cory Doctorow mentions the phenomenon as related to music piracy in his book, Little Brother:

Quote
People who study the habits of music-buyers have discovered something curious: the biggest pirates are also the biggest spenders. If you pirate music all night long, chances are you're one of the few people left who also goes to the record store (remember those?) during the day. You probably go to concerts on the weekend, and you probably check music out of the library too. If you're a member of the red-hot music-fan tribe, you do lots of *everything* that has to do with music, from singing in the shower to paying for black-market vinyl bootlegs of rare Eastern European covers of your favorite death-metal band.

As well as the following:

Quote
Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity (thanks to Tim O'Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy. Mega-hit best-sellers in science fiction sell half a million copies -- in a world where 175,000 attend the San Diego Comic Con alone, you've got to figure that most of the people who "like science fiction" (and related geeky stuff like comics, games, Linux, and so on) just don't really buy books. I'm more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who's in the tent bought a ticket to be there.

Ebooks are verbs, not nouns. You copy them, it's in their nature. And many of those copies have a destination, a person they're intended for, a hand-wrought transfer from one person to another, embodying a personal recommendation between two people who trust each other enough to share bits. That's the kind of thing that authors (should) dream of, the proverbial sealing of the deal. By making my books available for free pass-along, I make it easy for people who love them to help other people love them.

Games were made to be played, otherwise, what's the point? Some people seem offended to the point that if even one person plays a copy of their game one time for more than six seconds, that's it for game development. If it's about the money, well, it's the wrong market by far. Dreamcast has a much larger fanbase, and it's easier to develop for(as well as being vastly superior). If it's about the principle, uh, okay, I guess, but expecting 0 piracy in any market is bolstering a titanic amount of naivety and just swinging it around. Frankly, the only way the Jaguar market is ever, EVER, going to grow is through sharing, but that's probably not the idea in the first place.

I'm not advocating piracy of new homebrew games from Jaguar developers, mostly because they are so vehemently against it, and partly because I haven't seen any that are worth stealing to begin with.

I mentioned the future of jaguar development was no future over at JSII. I still think it's true. I could have said this over there, except I would have been hounded by people intent to prove me wrong(and not in a good way). Here's hoping this receives a slightly less hostile reaction over here at FreeJag.  :-\


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: overlord on August 14, 2009, 10:33:28 pm
I mentioned the future of jaguar development was no future over at JSII. I still think it's true. I could have said this over there, except I would have been hounded by people intent to prove me wrong(and not in a good way). Here's hoping this receives a slightly less hostile reaction over here at FreeJag.  :-\

I do not think you will receive a hostile reaction at all over here. The mission statement of this forum makes it clear what those of us who frequent here believe should be the future of Jaguar development, and of the community as a whole. In other words, it is safe to say that most of us agree. :)


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: TheGrandPubaa on August 14, 2009, 10:39:15 pm
How awesome would it be to have lots of free new(good?) games coming out with specific ways to show developer support(donations, buying boxed copies, etc.)? Like, if that were the norm? No complaints about piracy, developers shoulders thoroughly patted, new interest from outside the community, everybody wins!

...*sigh*...


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Sauron on August 14, 2009, 10:46:47 pm
I think the tide is turning for the better in this aspect. Jagware's release of Do the Same proves that a commercial-quality game can be done. It's been released for free (in several formats for BJL, Skunkboard, etc.), yet people are still wanting physical copies of the game. The demand for boxed games will always be there, regardless of the availability of the ROM image.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Zerosquare on August 14, 2009, 10:48:08 pm
You may want to wait a bit -- it could happen sooner than you think ;)

EDIT : that was a reply to TheGrandPubaa


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: TheGrandPubaa on August 14, 2009, 10:54:36 pm
I think the only way I will ever play anything Jaguar at this point is through emulation, and only if it becomes a viable alternative, but the whole clique thing still bugs me.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: sh3-rg on August 14, 2009, 11:12:14 pm
I'd just like to say a warm thanks to the people here that have taken my post in the spirit it was intended & offered their valuable & considered opinions. Those sentiments were unfortunately not mirrored elsewhere.

I think the only way I will ever play anything Jaguar at this point is through emulation, and only if it becomes a viable alternative, but the whole clique thing still bugs me.

We're actively supporting Project Tempest as a target platform for our first game because we want as wide an audience as possible to play our stuff. As previously mentioned, having people play your games isn't a bad thing at all ;)


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Mr Morden on August 15, 2009, 06:20:51 am
If people love retro consoles enough to invest time and effort into a product they believe in then it should be done for the game, and not for the cash.

Making money from a production you love is fine, if that's what you wish, but to set out to make a game to sell to make money is not because invariably the game will be crap, because it was never the primary focus of the developer.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: SpiderJerusalem on August 15, 2009, 08:29:15 am
If people love retro consoles enough to invest time and effort into a product they believe in then it should be done for the game, and not for the cash.

Making money from a production you love is fine, if that's what you wish, but to set out to make a game to sell to make money is not because invariably the game will be crap, because it was never the primary focus of the developer.

I agree, when a developer starts thinking that he needs to ship a game before a target date or he'll starve makes him lose focus, cut corners, kludge stuff... In general, deliver a sub-standard product which neither he(she) likes, and the end users too.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: doctorclu on August 22, 2009, 07:49:32 pm
I think the tide is turning for the better in this aspect. Jagware's release of Do the Same proves that a commercial-quality game can be done. It's been released for free (in several formats for BJL, Skunkboard, etc.), yet people are still wanting physical copies of the game. The demand for boxed games will always be there, regardless of the availability of the ROM image.

You know I am not crazy about $60 games.  Or $80 games.

What I would not mind is if there were some way we could have a multi-boot CD.

On the PC boot, game images, text files about the game, etc.  Something to be loaded on multiple loaders (multiple versions featured) for JUGS, BJL, or Skunkboard.
On the Jaguar boot, the game itself for CD load (for those with just CD players).

Sell game in a CD case or DVD case for $20-$30.   $20 to me is "Sure right away", and $30 to me is "Welll... ok."

$50 "Probably in two weeks"
$60 + "Well, maybe in near future should nothing else come up."

But yeh, how much would it cost to make a Jaguar CD and DVD case?  $5 maybe?

Sell for $20-$25.. people get their physical representation, and you get $15-$20 in profit.

Cartridges are nice, but has to be a really special game for me to fork out over $40 for it.


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: GT Turbo on August 22, 2009, 08:38:27 pm
Using Compact Flash card, a game's price can be very cheap !!  :) That's why the JagCF has been designed at the beginning.

In less than  2 weeks, some DTS full set (CD+manual) will be available !!

Futur of Jagar game ?

Only one work, QUALITY !! I want some real shooters, i have never got the same feeling than playing a shooter on Atari ST (Wings of Death love !!!) than on Jaguar. I hope Project One will be the first new real shooter on Jaguar, and after P1, Matmook, Bear and me will prepare a great shooter !!


GT :)


Title: Re: The Future of Jaguar Game Production
Post by: Zerosquare on August 22, 2009, 09:09:41 pm
What I would not mind is if there were some way we could have a multi-boot CD.
Although this is a great idea, I'm not sure it is technically possible. Orion_ tried something similar some time ago (it wasn't a JagCD/PC CD hybrid, but a JagCD/PlayStation CD one), and it didn't work.