« The answer to "Why?" | Main | The story with ludology »

Monday, June 13, 2005

Comments

Mark

I don't get how this works... I mean, surely you have to "install" a game for it to work? How can it stream content when it doesn't gather info about what card your using, cpu, etc.

Ben Harris

I've checked out Game Xstream again in it's current incarnation and, since my comment is much too lengthy to post here, I've posted it on my personal blog. The post can be found at http://harrisben.blogspot.com/2005/06/streaming-games.html

Manofgod

Ben,

Read your blog. The Game xStream service is in Beta mode, therefore every aspect of the service is in beta mode including the UI. Game xStream has stated several times that they are looking for User input to help define what users would like to see, if no one comments on it, no one has room to complain when it comes out. Also, you can't fault them for internet issues with every other country around the world and the limitations of the internet in those countries coming to the US. So you cannot bash them for doing only a US launch. Other companies do territory launches with no customer complaints. Game xStream has had a semi open beta going since late Oct. and has been looking for comments the whole time to help improve on it's service. Have you joined their forums and brought these issues up?

Kristian Joensen

Also, Ben noone is forced to use Game XStream as a streaming service, if streaming doesn't work for them, then they can still use it as a regular content delivery system.

Ben Harris

Thanks for your comments. I understand that the service is in Beta and like I said, if they're targeting a US audience only then ignore my comments about the network. I noted my failed attempts to log into their community site using my Game Xstream login, I guess I could create another account and let them know about some of the problems (ie I will be sure to do it).

As for not using the streaming aspect of Game Xstream, my whole point was that if you remove that aspect from the service, it's just another download service with nothing to distinguish itself from services that are already up and running.

Also, thanks for correcting me on the time-frame of the beta, I'll update my post to reflect it.

Manofgod

Ben,

>> As for not using the streaming aspect of Game Xstream, my whole point was that if you remove that aspect from the service, it's just another download service with nothing to distinguish itself from services that are already up and running. <<


How many other download systems allow you to switch from download to streaming and play the game. If during the game play the slower user does catch up with the streamer, they can simply go back into download mode. This still is an attract feature for those who cannot maintain a 1 megabit speed.


Ben Harris

Don't get me wrong, I think the streaming aspect is very exciting and would love to be able to have it in action myself. I just don't know if anyone has sat down and thought about the practical usage it will receive from real users. I guess through testing it will become clearer.

I think you'll find that people who know or suspect that their streaming experience will be interrupted , thus interrupting whatever they are doing, won't stream anything because they don't want the possibility of a disjointed experience - especially since they don't know if such an interruption will occur at the most inopportune of times (if at all). How many software developers would want their users to have a disjointed experience of their software? is this what is on offer for users who can't always maintain 1Mb/s but want to stream?

The ability to switch between modes is an excellent one too. Even if it would only be useful in certain circumstances, it's still a great idea and is very flexible. I think this function will be used only by people who have a connection that can guarantee 1Mb/s, as you said this is required for streaming.

I'm just trying to show that while the idea of streaming is very exciting, reality paints a different picture of how it will be used. The variability of being able to change between streaming and downloading really adds a lot to the service though.

Manofgod

This feature is great. Not looking at it from just one direction you will see that it will be seen in a positive way. How many times have you played a game, and the phone rings, or someone is at the door or something of a daily nature happens ;) This kind of feature will be viewed very positively. At this point, the gaming experience of the game isn't lost, but simply put on hold, all the while the game keeps on streaming or downloading. The delivery still happens, but it is no different than when a player has the game installed, and puts it in a paused mode. Not to mention, my point from before: how many users of download only systems have the opportunity to stream as well?

cliffski

hmmmm. My favourite topic. Firstly, why all PC games arent already distributed digitally is beyond me. Cutting out a middle man (and the hassle of a trip to the store) is always a good thing. Secondly I agree with tadgh (scandal!) that steam just looks like a front end for HL2, the website and GUI are to blame here. compare it with RealArcade or Yahoo Games.
When it comes to the streaming content thing, I don't see it as a big deal, because I consider the file footprint of new games to be a joke. The worms 4 demo is 216MB, thats insane. People seem convinced that unless they can fill 2 CDs or a DVD that the game won't be any good. At some point we will have terrabyte disks and people will have to calm down and stop trying to fill them. Front end menus do not 'need' video behind them. You don't 'need' 32 different ricochet wavs. Game developers are lazy SOBs these days when it comes to generating procedural content and keeping filesizes down. People don't reuse textures, they don't use ogg files for sound. They pad games wih tedious fmv thats deleted after one viewing.
My own games are under 20MB, no frustration for downloaders there, and no need for gigabytes of bandwidth (well not lots of gigabytes anyway), I still managed better magazine reviews than some big budget million dollar titles. Digitial distribution is great stuff, its been around a while for indies like me, but its going to be a sudden wakeup call for lazy artists coders and sound guys when they see the bandwidth bills.
Lastly, I agree about epsidoc content. forget the new engine, who gives a damn. I'd rather have regular episodic gameplay than waiting 3 years for yet another new engine because we have polygonal armpit hair now. Nobody who bought sims expansions bitched about the engine.

Robert Howarth

The only way I'd download a game is if it was made available BEFORE it hit stores.

Mark

I'd buy the game online if it where cheaper or had extra features that the retail version never had. One thing I have to disagree over was how Valve handled HL2's pricing. Why charge the EXACT same price for a game that you download when at retail you get a game that has original disc's with manual and a nice box. Personally I like the feeling of walking into a shop and buying a game and having it sit in my cupboard along with my other "collections".

Robert Howarth

I believe they had a lot of legal issues with VUG that restricted their pricing.

Ben Harris

I'm sure they weren't complaining about the extra money either :)

Tom Edwards

"When it comes to the streaming content thing, I don't see it as a big deal, because I consider the file footprint of new games to be a joke. The worms 4 demo is 216MB, thats insane."

Are you joking? The filesizes of modern AAA titles are the exact reason why steaming is so important! ;-) Looking aroung the Worms folder, you could probably get it running with only 30-40MB downloaded if it was streamed.

"I think you'll find that people who know or suspect that their streaming experience will be interrupted , thus interrupting whatever they are doing, won't stream anything because they don't want the possibility of a disjointed experience - especially since they don't know if such an interruption will occur at the most inopportune of times (if at all). How many software developers would want their users to have a disjointed experience of their software? is this what is on offer for users who can't always maintain 1Mb/s but want to stream?"

Are you Mason from EvilAvatar? He was saying exactly the same thing. Streaming isn't the perfect solution to everything that will cure AIDS and feed your kittens, but that doesn't mean it isn't an incredibly useful tool. So perhaps your connection can't keep all the way up, all that means is that you are buffering for a little longer before the map loads.

"How many other download systems allow you to switch from download to streaming and play the game."

So what exactly is the difference between streaming and downloading, other than that you aren't playing the game?

Ben Harris

I already agreed that streaming, although not useful in all circumstances (the examples provided by Manofgod are quite good ones), is great. Your point though makes a distinction between games that have their assets loaded at the beginning of each level, which I agree should be just fine (although taking a little longer to load), and games that don't (which won't be fine without perfect, sustained networking conditions).

The kind of internet you're talking about is one that I'm sure Microsoft were dreaming of when writing up their 'Avalanche'. If the internet were perfect I'd not have said a word.

Anyway, I've pledged to spend time testing Game Xstream to try to improve it, even though I can't enjoy the streaming aspect of the service (which makes it simple content delivery for me, kinda like the web and ftp).

Oh, and I don't know this Mason person you speak of, or EvilAvatar for that matter.

Ulf Jälmbrant

With steam I didn't see any streaming at works. they preloaded cs:s during the beta and hl2 while I was happy playing cs:s. I just don't see how they are planning to stream non-linearly (single or multiplayer). Take cs:s you load common files and loads the first map. swich server and gets another long loading screen. Don't even ask me how riven would be streamed.

Charles E. Hardwidge

Charles, I'm not so sure where your hollywood point fits in.

You're right, it was obscure. I'd squeezed myself between a clutch of frustrations, and that's what popped out. I think it's best to leave it at that, as I neither want to impress or annoy anyone for doubtful motives.

On a more whimsical note, does anyone else think the EXTREME name is kinda silly?

From the first time I heard it. It struck me as being a bit 'forced cool', like a favourite uncle on the dance floor, or edgy, like some kid in a leather jacket who thinks they're hard.

Managing, marketing, and game development can all suffer from shoal like behaviour. This can be useful but you've got to be alert to the downsides and know when to break free.

How about, for once, something related to gaming gets given a nice name, huh? Maybe a little bit more harmony might stimulate a few unused braincells in developers and customers.

I was thinking that 'rainbow' would be a nice and descriptive name, but your mentioning Daoism, or 'the way', which may be a considered a stream, made me wonder if harmony would be a better suggestion. Don't know, but it's a step away from the woo woo scary slap an x on every generic name policy that the cool and edgy brigade seem to favour.

LM

Hey Scott, not sure if you'll actually see this comment, as you've been hitting the updates pretty hard lately and this is probably buried too deep to garner your attention now, but I'll bring it up anyway.

Among other things, one of the ideas that kept popping up when Steam was being fully pimped for the release of HL2 was that of the actual Development houses being able to retain more of their profit by cutting out the publisher/distribution house, and seemingly being able to pass those savings (at least in part) on to the consumer. The reason stated (or at least as I understood it at the time) for Valve releasing HL2 at a price higher than the the market standard instead of a Steam-reflective decrease was due to contractual obligations to Vivendi that prevented Valve from hawking their same goods online at a reduced price.

That seemed reasonable enough, and with thoughts of looking to the future for the revolution to take place, a lot of people seemed to eat it up and bask in the glory of this new method of fostering growth in independent developers and giving some power back to the little guy. But with the recent signing of Valve and EA for publishing rights, I have to seriously question the validity of that idea. While I don't know the specifics of the contract (I am going by what I read on Gamespot, IGN, and a few other sites), I can't imagine EA would sign anything expressly giving their "partner" the right to undercut them with not only a lower price, but a lower price on a product with nearly-instant-gratification. That leads me to believe, and yes, it's 100% assumption, that we won't be seeing a reduction in prices of games any time soon, or any sort of increase in the profits of developers or Indy houses.

More directly, it leads me to the conclusion that even one of the premier developers in the industry sees a definite need and call for hard copies of the game on store shelves. I don't know if any HL2 Steam sales numbers have been released, or even a comparison of online vs. in-store purchases, so I am certainly not privy to them, but this contract leads to believe that the disparity is either not nearly as large as some online personalities seem to believe, but might actually lean towards favoring hardcopies over online distribution. I understand that Online Distribution is still in its relative infancy, but if one of the current kings of the industry is unwilling to depend on a system that they created themselves, how can anyone else?

Again, that is all purely speculation, but to me it's still more than a little disheartening. I have my fair share of problems with Steam, but I thought it was a step in the right direction of distribution, if nothing else. Now I'm not sure it's the right solution at all.

Scott Miller

Retail sales will be around for decades. My slightly informed guess is that retail sales of HL2 were by far the majority of the sales.

And because retail is so important, they have a lot of say in how developers and publishers price their games for online sales. The short story is that retailers will tell you that they will not carry your game if you undercut their price by selling it online. So, I do not expect the cost advantage of selling a game online to be passed along to consumers anytime soon.

Now then, for games that will not be sold in retail stores, I fully expect that they will cost about $10 less when sold online. I just do not think any top-tier games will be sold only in this way in the foreseeable future. Retail is just too important to overall sales.

Tom Edwards

Funnily enough, I came here researching an article into the upcoming effects of the Steam price cuts. Both EA and Valve have made it clear that their deal does not extend past distribution. EA are making the boxes, nothing more, and as such have no influence over Steam.

As Scott points out retail sales will be around for a lot longer because that is the way the market is structured. There will be large online-only games eventually, and Sin Episodes is beginning that, but Half-Life will not be one of them.
I don't know if I agree that retailers will refuse to sell the game if they are undercut though. Steam is a relative unknown against the retail system especially given their audience, and on top of that HL2 is a huge seller. If a competitor has it and you don't you are missing out on a whole lot of moolah both directly and through follow-on purchases. Other games, sure, but HL2 is too big.

And one for you Scott, which is why I came here. Nobody but nobody seems to know how much money a developer typically sees from a retail sale. Can you help me out?

Scott Miller

Tom, it can be as high as $20 fixed revenue per box (for PC games) for the elite developers who own their own IP and substantially cover development costs. Most deals are done with the studio getting a percentage of wholesale, and 10% to 20% is the typical range, unless you own the IP, then it can go twice as high. There are simply too many factors and so it's not fair to come up with an overall average percentage.

Tom Edwards

Thanks, that's all in information I needed! The article is up on my site if anyone is interested.

Anonymous

Does it(streaming thing) send a list of files on their server over and when the application tries to read a file, is there something that will check if the file is in the list and read from the file on the server if it is, unless it's already on the user's computer(and it would download what it doesn't have from the server when idle)?

Or they could play the game themselves and keep a log of reading from the harddrive to determine what order to download things in.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Recent reads

  • : The Little Book That Beats the Market

    The Little Book That Beats the Market
    I've totally revised my investment strategy on this once-in-a-lifetime investment book. Very quick read, as it gets right to the point. (*****)

  • : The One Percent Doctrine

    The One Percent Doctrine
    Superb book on the policies that lead us to the current Iraq war. Two words: Blame Cheney! (Well, and Bush too, but he's not the linchpin.) (*****)

  • : Brands & Gaming

    Brands & Gaming
    Mostly inconsequential book that doesn't really explain HOW to make a successful game brand. Instead, it focuses on marketing for game brands. (***)

  • : Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected

    Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected
    Truly wonderful book, mostly dealing with history, by one of my all-time favorite writers. The final chapters, written in 1995, give a clear reason why America should not be in Iraq, if you read the underlying message. (*****)

  • : Myth & the Movies

    Myth & the Movies
    Great study of a wide range of hit movies, using The Hero's Journey as a measuring stick. Very useful for game developers. (****)

  • : Kitchen Confidential

    Kitchen Confidential
    This chef is clearly in love with his writing, but the fact that he's a non-innovative, hack chef makes this book less insightful than I was hoping. Still, a fun read. (***)

  • : See No Evil

    See No Evil
    I do not list 2-star or lower books here, and this book almost didn't make the cut. A somewhat unexciting behind-the-scenes look at the life of a CIA field agent working against terrorism. The book's title is spot on. (***)

  • : The Discoverers

    The Discoverers
    Love books like this, that offer deep insights into the growth of science throughout history, and giving a foundation of context that makes it all the more incredible that certain people were able to rise above their time. (*****)

  • : Disney War

    Disney War
    I started reading this and simply could not stop. A brilliant behind-the-scenes account of the mistakes even renowned CEOs make, and the steps they'll take to control their empire, even against the good of shareholders. (*****)

  • : The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health

    The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health
    Do not read this book if you prefer to believe that the government actually gives a poop about your well being. (*****)

  • : From Reel to Deal

    From Reel to Deal
    Subtitled, "Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film." And much of it applied to the game industry. A revealing look at the true machinery of movie making. (****)

  • : The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

    The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
    The building of world's most technological structure for its time, against pitfalls, deaths and political intrigue. An amazing tale, told amazingly well. (*****)

  • Richard Feynman: What Do You Care What Other People Think?

    Richard Feynman: What Do You Care What Other People Think?
    My first book by Feymann will not be my last. A champion of common sense and insightful thought, Feymann's story-telling about life's events is riveting. (*****)

  • : Marketing Warfare

    Marketing Warfare
    A revised re-release of one of the all-time best marketing books. Only bother reading this is you care about running a successful company. (*****)

  • : YOU: The Owner's Manual

    YOU: The Owner's Manual
    Another good overview of way to protect your health in the long run. It's all about prevention, rather than hoping medicine can fix us when we're broken (i.e. heart disease or cancer). (****)

  • : The Universe in a Single Atom

    The Universe in a Single Atom
    Perfectly subtitled, "The Convergence of Science and Spirituality." Buddhism meets relativity, and believe it or not, there's a lot of common ground. (****)

  • : See Spot Live Longer

    See Spot Live Longer
    Feeding your dog at least 65% protein? Most likely not, as all dry dog foods (and most canned, too) absolutely suck and have less than 30% protein. And that is seriously hurting your dog's health in the long run. (****)

  • : 17 Lies That Are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free

    17 Lies That Are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free
    Anyone who needs motivation to make something of their life -- we only get one chance, after all! -- MUST read this book. (*****)

  • : Ultrametabolism

    Ultrametabolism
    Perfect follow up to Ultraprevention. Health is at least 80% diet related--nearly all of us have the potential to live to at least 90, if we just eat better. (****)

  • : How to Tell a Story

    How to Tell a Story
    Great overview of story creation, especially from the point of view of making a compelling stories, with essential hooks. (****)

All-Time Best