Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
14 August 2006
Microsoft enables "homebrew" -- who cares?
Oh boy, here we go again: Microsoft is making homebrew on the Xbox 360 a reality! In a year no one will remember, much less care, that this happened. Microsoft has bought some cool PR, but the long-term effects of this will be minimal.

As the Microsoft fanboys fire up their keyboards to respond, let me explain:

  • Finally, console homebrew! - But before we had Net Yaroze for the PSOne and PS2 Linux for the PlayStation 2. Neither one amounted to a hill of beans when it comes to homebrew games for the masses.

  • But this is easy homebrew on a console! - The tools have existed for homebrew on a Dreamcast for years. You know what they think is cool? A million different variations of Beats of Rage. Don't get me wrong: those Dreamcast guys are hardcore and dedicated. And while they did produce some excellent emulators, almost nothing original has come out of there.

  • But this enables homebrew authors everywhere! - Done already. It's called a "computer". Depending on your operating system, you've been able to make games for years with a cheap copy of Visual Studio or a free copy of XCode and maybe Torque. For the GNU/Linux hippies, try SDL and go cross-platform while you're at it. It's not like Microsoft suddenly released tools that had been tied up away from the dirty mob all this time.

  • But I could use Xbox Live! - And computers can use the whole of the internets. Big deal.

  • But now gamers can create what they've always wanted! - Which, as you'll soon learn, amounts to 100 different implementations of Tetris, Sudoku, and Sokoban. More importantly, most people who pick this up will be simply copying games someone else already made. Look at the GNU/Linux games section of Freshmeat.

  • You just hate Microsoft! - Yes, I do, but that doesn't figure into this.

This will seem even less important when Nintendo and Sony announce later this year that they've got similar programs. Then we can get down to the really important points like "Who has the best developer environment?" and "Which system has the best version of Freecell?"

Labels: , ,

--Matt Matthews at 22:50
Comment [ 8 ]

Comments on this post:

Console homebrew: Net Yaroze required the purchase of a very expensive kit, and made games that couldn't be played by Joe Gamer. Not attractive because of the limited audience.

Easy homebrew on a console: The Dreamcast tools were mostly made by the fan community, and are likely not nearly as easy to use as the professional tools Microsoft will be releasing.

Enabling homebrew authors: XBLA may make available a sorted, categorized, maybe even rated list of games, making it much easier to find something interesting. Of course there are websites that do this too, but it being official and built into the system (assuming this IS what Microsoft does) would be better.

Xbox Live: The whole appeal of Microsoft's system is its automation. (If that's not available to homebrew authors, then you have a point.)

Gamers creating what they wanted: I think you're mostly correct there: the shareware scene offers all the proof one could want. Drive to create and programming skill are not enough to make an interesting game. However, I observe that the more people to whom the option is available, the more original games will come out of it. In other words, without all the MoraffWares out there, Strange Adventures In Infinite Space would have been less likely.

Microsoft hating: I'm not fond of 'em either.

I wonder if the true motive behind this isn't the news that Nintendo was targeting independent developers with their virtual console dealie. You can't get more independent than homebrew, after all. I wonder if people will have to give away what they make, or if they'll be able to sell their stuff, though.

My least favorite part of all this is the price. A hundred bucks a year for the "right" to make games for your extra-expensive, bought-and-paid-for console _sucks_.

By Blogger JohnH, at 14 August, 2006 23:28  

XNA was announced a couple of years ago. It was part of Microsoft's push to unite both the console and PC game development and experience.

Which of course meant united under Microsoft's standard.

Which was the basis for some of the negative response at the time...

Xbox360 and Windows Vista were supposed to somewhat unite under XNA. Microsoft planned to make the Xbox controller the standard PC gaming controller. PC game developers would have an Xbox Live-ish libary for PC game networking. It would become more trivial to port Windows games to Xbox and Xbox games to Windows. Etc.

By Anonymous Baines, at 15 August, 2006 00:27  

People code for consoles because they want to do so. The actual motivations vary, including wanting to play on your TV, not wanting to deal with the crap that comes with coding for PCs and wanting to code directly to the hardware. The last will probably not be an option on the 360 (with Microsoft's kit, anyway), but easy access to a fixed spec machine is still an attractive option. A well-documented API and supported toolset is also a plus, even if it is DirectX. Even on a platform like the Dreamcast which is well supported by hobbyist standards, getting the tools and hardware up and running is still a big hurdle for many.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 August, 2006 00:43  

I'm definitely intrigued by the potential of seeing console games that are made by an entity unfettered by financial realities. But, as you point out, the PC has enabled this ability for years and the stream of highly original shareware content is still pretty marginal. Still, if it means I'm more likely to see the next Every Extend or Tumiki Fighters or Warning Forever on XBL, I think it's a good thing. I'd love to see the kinds of terms you have to agree to to get your stuff on Arcade, however. At the least, MS had better go to lengths to avoid putting up every breakout clone that comes along, or their carefully managed image of XBLA will just become "shovelware clone dumping ground".

By Blogger BruceC, at 15 August, 2006 16:34  

Wait. What?

Don't *you* care about officially endorsed homebrew:

Lets quote:
"My advice is to try going the other way. That is, don't tell people what they can't do, and open doors to what they can."

"If you offer an easy, official hacking option for the masses, they will follow. They might even pay extra for it."

"Microsoft could offer some reduced form of its Xbox 360 development tools for homebrew authors and a run-from-memory-card option in much the same way."

By Anonymous jmro, at 16 August, 2006 19:47  

jmro: Not familiar with "damned if you do, damned if you don't"?

By Blogger jvm, at 16 August, 2006 20:47  

I'm more interested in homebrew APPLICATIONS. You know, like a console-based version of Transcode that doesn't require me to be running Windows XP Media Center Edition and supports Divx and Xvid movies, or basically anything that can bring back the functionality offered by a modded Xbox 1.

Obviously, homebrew for the original Xbox was a LOT More than 50 versions of tetris.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 19 August, 2006 19:12  

You are just a blind ass linux fanboy.
in matter of fact linux sucks hard ass when it comes to gaming and you are dumb enough to say that this game work with linux yahoooooooooooooooooooooo , linux can emulate windows games yahooooooooooooooooooo.
wake up linux is just an OS who suits old motherfuckers like you who are intrested only in making nots and remindes....oh wait my cell phone can do's useless crappy OS

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 April, 2007 11:59  

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