Another Day, Another Xbone 180!
Another week, another flip-flop from a Microsoft intent on aping the success of Sony’s highly regarded PS4. Does this sound like old news? It bloody well should! Microsoft has this week elected to ape Sony and Nintendo’s* next generation policy of allowing indy developers to freely self-publish games on their digital storefronts. Funnily enough, Microsoft also elected this week to reaffirm their commitment to Kinect, which probably means that they will backflip on that feature next week – and they may as well, seeing as their one Kinect launch exclusive, Kinect Sports Rivals, has been pushed back into 2014 on account of being too shit.
“We have no plans to introduce an Xbox One without Kinect. We believe in Kinect and the value it brings to both games and entertainment, and believe $499 is a great value for what consumers receive with their Xbox One.”
In addition Microsoft have absurdly trotted out some half-baked assertion that Xbone owners will be able to program games on their new system, making a [presumed] pitch to the same market as the Ouya, along with all those odd British home computers of the 1980s.
“Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development, that every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox Live. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox Live. We’ll have more details on the program and the timeline at Gamescom in August.
Opportunities for more kids/students to learn to program and build games is a great outcome of this policy.”
One must call bullshit right here. If Sony had to remove highly restricted access to Linux on the PS3 to maintain their system’s security, then there is no way that Microsoft intend to expose the Xbone’s innards to curious programmers over the long-haul – especially not when this plan has seemingly been in development for all of a week! This is yet another instance of a desperate Microsoft telling everyone what they assume they would like to hear, while charting no committed direction for their indecisive console.
Additionally, Retro City Rampage‘s Brian Provinciano has stated that he is under the impression that self-publishing on the Xbone will not actually allow developers access the the Xbone hardware, but rather is a cynical attempt to manipulate indy developers into developing apps for the Windows 8 storefront:
“This is yet another example of them changing policy, but it sounding better than it is when the whole story is revealed, make no mistake; while this is a great thing, it’s again not the equivalent to what other platforms offer.
On PS4, for example, developers can tap right into the system; use every bit of RAM and all of its power. Indies have access to everything that the AAA studios do, from platform support to development and release. The indication on Xbox One is that it’s essentially XBLIG 2.0. Instead of XNA, it’s Windows 8. Windows 8, which is already struggling to gain developer interest, will gain a boost from developers wishing to target the console. However, it won’t be as full-fledged as published games on the system.”
Is there a point at which an intense combination of greed, laziness, dishonesty, and incompetence can truly be said to be evil? If there is, then Microsoft has surely passed it several miles down the road.
*Interestingly, Japanese indy developers cannot freely self-publish on Nintendo's regionally schizophrenic console.
[RUMOUR]: Sony’s PS4 May Have Significantly Less Available RAM than Initially Thought
Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter last night made the proclamation that of the PS4’s 8GB of RAM, a mere 4.5GB would be available to developers as a fixed memory pool, while 2.5GB would be reserved by the OS, and 1GB of flexible RAM would be available to developers provided that the OS did not require it – which would make for a very odd and nonsensical design choice indeed. Leadbetter claimed to speak from a position of authority after gaining access to this information by way of “current PlayStation 4 documentation shown to Digital Foundry by a well-placed development source“, yet part of this information was disproved by a Sony statement, while other aspects of the information were later contradicted by Leadbetter himself.
Sony did indeed confirm that the PS4 will contain one fixed and pool of RAM and one flexible pool of RAM, yet, contrary to Leadbetter’s claims, both pools will be under the full control of the developer. Sony would not be drawn on the numeric figure of both pools of RAM.
“We would like to clear up a misunderstanding regarding our “direct” and “flexible” memory systems. The article states that “flexible” memory is borrowed from the OS, and must be returned when requested – that’s not actually the case.
The actual true distinction is that:
-Direct Memory” is memory allocated under the traditional video game model, so the game controls all aspects of its allocation
-Flexible Memory” is memory managed by the PS4 OS on the game’s behalf, and allows games to use some very nice FreeBSD virtual memory functionality. However this memory is 100 per cent the game’s memory, and is never used by the OS, and as it is the game’s memory it should be easy for every developer to use it.
We have no comment to make on the amount of memory reserved by the system or what it is used for.”
Since the initial publishing of the article, Leadbetter has also satisfied himself in a subsequent reckon that the PS4 will actually have even less available RAM than initially reported, with only 512MB of RAM available from the pool of flexible RAM, as confirmed by “A new source familiar with the matter“. Leadbetter contends that this new mysterious source has confirmed that only 512MB of the flexible memory is physical, while the other 512MB is virtual memory space, the use of which will lead to paging issues. Unfortunately, Leadbetter’s second source proves to be just as unreliable as the first, confirming that “only 4.5GB of the PS4’s 8GB GDDR5 memory pool is guaranteed to game developers right now“, which was later debunked by Sony.
Richard Leadbetter claimed to have access to current PS4 documentation, yet his information proved to be about as accurate as Chinese whispers. This suggests that he was either lying, or that he and his anonymous sources were not knowledgeable enough to interpret the information accurately. The fact that his sources supplied information that contradicted one another is reason enough to suggest that neither should be believed, and that the figure of available RAM could just as easily be 2GB or 6GB &c.
Meanwhile, Sony’s refusal to supply clear numbers could be an indication that doing so would be to confirm people’s worst fears, or it could simply be due to the fact that they are uncertain as to how much RAM they ultimately wish to free up for developers. The PS4’s OS is still in active development, and Sony may want to hold on to a bit of RAM in case they wish to add additional features down the line. At any rate, One should not be terribly surprised to see a memory split similar in volume to Leadbetter’s description be confirmed anon, yet his article clearly does not hold up to scrutiny, and thus cannot be taken at face value.
It would not actually be terribly silly of Sony to reserve a large chunk of the memory for the OS, given that there is only a finite quantity of memory that can be used for a 1080p30 screen buffer – though developers could certainly use the excess RAM for caching information. The full [and heavily edited] article can be located here.
Disgraced Studio Launches Another Doomed Kickstarter
If there is one thing to be said for Precursor Games [other than they are a haven for rock spiders], it is that they are possessed of an optimism that is not entirely keeping with reality. The launch of Precursor’s prior two concurrent crowdsourcing initiatives for Shadow of the Eternals did not get off to a good start. The team responsible first defrauded Activision in order to produce their Shadow of the Eternals vertical slice, they then drove Silicon Knights into the ground, established Precursor to dodge their debts to Epic Games, set-up a Kickstarter asking for 1.5 million dollars in order to produce a two hour game episode, and then filmed a twenty minute video disputing a Kotaku article written about their misdeeds in the most unconvincing way possible.
Since Precursor were forced to pull their previous funding drives even more disaster has struck, with the company’s founder being arrested for distributing child pornography. Now they have once again resurfaced on Kickstarter, and are asking for $750,000 in order to produce an eight-to-ten hour game for PC, Wii U, and PS4. What in all of fuck possesses them to think that gamers would trust them to make good on delivering a full length game while supporting an extra platform for half of the cost that they initially allotted for their production of a two hour episode?
Things become even more amusing when this deeply unrealistic team begins to try and explain away why they had to pull their initial campaign:
“And that’s also one of the reasons why we wanted to restart the Kickstarter, because we had a lot of opportunities come up [like becoming official PS4 developers during the break, specifically for Shadow], and the only way to integrate those opportunities was to relaunch our Kickstarter. Once you’re locked in, you’re locked in on that campaign. It was the best option for us.”
That is right – they could not have supported PS4 without completely scuppering their first failing Kickstarter, and launching another! One supposes that is actually true enough, since they would be developing precisely nothing elsewise.
Precursor Games scarcely raised over three-hundred thousand dollars last time around from both of their funding pages combined, so one should think it unthinkable that they would raise over twice that amount with the current pedophilia scandal hanging over their collective heads. Indeed, their Kickstarter quickly grossed over $114,000 yesterday, yet has slowed quite considerably today, adding just twenty-five thousand. At any rate, [despite its great unlikelihood] one is in two minds about the game getting funded – is it better to see Dyack’s Kickstarter fail abysmally? Or would it perhaps be preferable to see the project funded so as to enjoy watching as the studio fails on a grander scale?
On a final note, a word of warning. The police may well think that they have their man, but pedophiles tend to hunt in packs, and Denis Dyack has never confirmed for a fact that he is not a pedophile. Think about it…