Thursday, 19 November 2009

Postulations

As a "small" aside whilst you are working eagerly away on your entry for our swag(-errr)-bag giveaway here is some food for thought.

It has long been speculated that Valve is working away at porting its Source engine to the linux platform, and before the nay-sayers post anything, if they were not doing so why would they post a job advertisement for a senior developer to port games and applications to linux? The dedicated server is already there and doesn't need to be tweaked.

A cry of "Why would they do this?" is what most Windows users (cf. fanboys) will spit out, and the answer is money. Out of the ~2million steam installs in the last fiscal year 0.25% of those were on linux via some kind of emulation, and this number hides those that have linux but can't abide the emulation so dual boot windows purely to play games and those who refuse to install windows (at a cost of roughly 100GBP) to play a game made by a different company again (read: me). With the Steam client available for linux Valve can certainly expect their annual installs to increase and that percentage to greatly improve.

There is also a performance boost with using linux, provided that Valve, Epic et al. can optimise X11 (the thing that draws the graphical interface on the screen) and openGL to somewhere close to DirectX. Currently it is a much faster operating system but the 3D acceleration isn't quite as good as that of MS (but is still better than the Cocoa currently used in MacOS).
Linux is also a community led, open source (and free, as in beer) product which no doubt would lead to people writing their own optimisations for the engine and generally improving it (Valve would need to hire some kind of operative to read through all the proposed mods and to try to implement those decided to be of worth). It is a LOT of work to do these things.


Okay, enough of me gushing about my OS, what does this all mean for you? Those of you who have Windows PCs, are happy with them and play games mainly on their consoles - well it runs like this.
If Sony were to give Valve a free license to their developer tools, the PS3 has a unix (linux is the kernel - unix just has a different way of managing the hardware and the hardware calls, but they are very similar and the software available for both is nigh-on identical) backend with (no doubt) a proprietary openGL, the APIs for which would be in the developer tools, and so Valve releases could become available as ports to PS3 instead of eulations. The PS3 development licenses are generally very expensive but for Sony to have games made by Valve would be a big fingers up to MS and its rival console, and this would make an excellent free gift to Valve provided the linux client's existence can be substantiated.

Would being able to play Gabe Newell's latest and greatest provide you with more impetus to purchase a Sony product in the next iteration (or when you RRoD)? For me, I think the answer to this is yes. Despite most of my friends being on XBL and not wanting a PS3 currently, I think that having my favourite software house (from whom I am yet to see a single duff game and who proactively support their mod community) release games on it, as well as the bluray player (I do love jRPGs but I do not love a lack of japanese language/subtitles track and having to change discs - read Final Fantasy XIII [in figuring out which release number it actually was I found out that XIV has its own website!]) would be too much to pass up. I would however have to sell my X360 arcade stick and get a PS3 equivalent, but that is not such a problem.

Where Valve lead others will follow and the Xbox exclusives could be a thing of the past, but PS3 ones would continue to grow as the hardware differences begin to become known. We shall see where this takes us, if the PS3 would become the gamer's console and the 360 the casual option (project natal = not for me, I'll stick with a pad or stick thanks), despite MS offering a better Indie game package (the XNA is excellent) for those interested in homebrew. Although Sony could counter by offering 'homebrew' editions of their tools with a legally binding contract (i.e. not a EULA) that the software will not be passed on or used to steal information etc.

If I had the money to sway Sony and Valve into doing these things I would be a very content person and would happily give all of it up for this to happen.

So, what Valve developing its client for what some still see to be a hobbyist OS (those who clearly have not used it in the last two years) means is that the whole future of gaming is in the balance. Please Valve, don't let me down.


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A quick addendum: the PS3 version of The Orange Box was put out by EA and I would bet a fair sum of money that it has the aforementioned emulation libraries combined with the original MS compatible games on the disc.

9 comments:

cr0nt said...

Sorry it was so long, I got excited after getting an email that my L4D2 has been dispatched -_-

The Faux Bot said...

Man, you have a fascinating mind. And you've broken mine.

Seriously though, sounds like an interesting development; do you envision some sort of homebrew pc/console crossover in the future. As in, could this mean we get to easily access decent user mods from a console?

vandalworks said...

its a shame a game cannot be brought out that is multiplatform that can be played on all consoles or pc, that is on the same disc. therefore mac users need never feel left out, and perhaps there would be less shoddy ports between the ps3 and xbox.

cr0nt said...

Time to get my nerd on 0-0

Sorry -- it seems my actual response exceeded some made up character count for the post - so it'll be chopped up, I didn't intend to flood


@The Faux Bot

I think Valve are already leading the way - in a press release that I have managed to lose the location of we were told that some hand picked mods for L4D2 on the PC would be made available for free for the X360 version, clearly its harder to make a programming environment on a console, but the Met Police have been buying up PS3s in order to install a full linux distribution on them in order to use them to crunch data to tackle paedophiles. I think that is Sony/Linux 1 Microsoft 0! I think this means that it may be possible in the future to have an equivalent of the old 'black' PS1 where you could program on it, which with the PS3 capabilities would probably require little more than a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and a download of the development tools - but I'm not sure how big the hard drives are - to get all the APIs etc. would probably be about 4GB, and then you would need some kind of bluray writer to put it on after you finished so you could move on to the next project, but I can believe that such a thing SHOULD (I was going to write 'would' but I think it needs some reinforcement) be quite easily possible for Sony to produce. Then they could offer a cheap license for those who must then distribute the software under the GNU lesser license (i.e. free and open source) or a proper license for those who intend to develop games for profit.
I believe that if the Source SDK was ported to linux then that could also be listed in an 'add-ons' type section of the program for a one off fee you get the license to use it, the help files etc. Implementing graphics would be a bit harder, but if you designed the models, be it 2D or 3D and then have the option to render in the idle times whilst the machine is active (read: you're playing) and then render the remaining in the 'sleep' mode of the machine (like MS's downloads before turning off). Depending on the texture quality etc. it could take a long time, but on the Cell 8 core IBM processor this is a much more optimised process.
I think the only issue is sound, but if Sony could implement their own form of the CIFS (that's Common Internet File System) for the PS3 and provided a client (or allowed named computers to use their CIFS clients to access it) then there are so so many sound recording programs across all platforms that is it unreal. I'm not suggesting Cubase but I like it. If it is possible to replace the HDD on it (in a similar way to the 360) then I'd like to see Sony produce a clip on HDD that is roughly 500GB (1TB is cheap as hell now so what's the problem? But that is 500x1024MB, not the stupid decimal version they use to make it seem like you are getting more than you actually are) which includes ample space for whatever it is you currently put on your Sony HDDs (probably just Little Big Planet mods and music no?) and this separate programming environment. That would make my pants wet.

It would be much harder to do this on the 360 though, the hard drives are small, especially when you have a couple of games installed, and I don't see you ever being able to multitask on the processor, at least it would hurt to render 3D graphics etc.

It would probably be possible on the 360 but certainly in no way would it be a VIABLE solution.

cr0nt said...

The point is that if the Source engine can be made to be multiplatform, and it is widely considered the most advanced engine then it could be possible to include all the runtime bits for each platform on one disc and to calculate at load which to use then it MIGHT be possible to have a single unified game disc - however, the platforms won't like that - lets just say that there are so many arguments each will use against it that it will never happen. But I am all for every Valve game being made (properly) available on every platform. To have it all on one disc we will probably need to wait two generations or so and have MS and Sony agree to have it such, but then whose name goes first on the list of platforms? None? Just 'Multiplatform' - if that then surely it should be none because only archaic games would not be.



@vandalworks

kind of the same as the end, the problem is that to fit all of the runtime bits for the graphics, for all of the different versions of DirectX and openGL (and the pixelshader version for the graphics card) means that the PC version alone would probably fill a DVD, and then you need to include all the separate parts for the X360, PS3 and Ben's Dream Machine (or whatever we ended up calling it - the one with the fleshlight and the teasmade) and Wii you're probably looking at at least a BluRay, which only the PS3 has.

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When my xbox finally gives up the ghost - either in terms of not being able to play the newest games because it becomes more and more like the Wii is currently or when it RRoDs I will be buying a PS3 to replace it. And then replacing Street Fighter IV (and its derivatives with the PS3 equivalents). Hopefully that won't happen until way after BioWare make the third Mass Effect multiplatform...


/NERD

cr0nt said...

/epic response

I'm clearly trying to get one longer than the 'chat' I had with vandalworks on whether Modern Warfare was 'stoopid enough for the everyman'

cr0nt said...

/unend epic comment

The point about the development tools was that you could write it for the Source SDK on the 'black' PS3, and because it is the SDK which sends all of the commands to hardware calls then because there is an equivalent on other platforms it would be possible to just recompile it for the platform you intend to have it on.

And for the 'all on one disc' bit you would actually need to have all of the different platforms on the same disc, I forget that the Sony's processor is a different architecture to the i386 that the x360, most PCs and new intel Mac products have. But you would still be leaving some people out, if your game was possible to run on some of the more exotic processor types (SPARC, ARM etc)

/re-end epic comment

vandalworks said...

yeah its a difficult thing really, its a pity it cant be more standised like dvds for example. its a pipe dream and one that'll never happen, but it woulda bin good.

oh and speaking about modern warfare.... thanks for spoiling the return of price! damn you! *shakes fist* =]

cr0nt said...

Price is in the new Modern Warfare??????
^_^


Sorry, I figured when everyone saw the achievement Prisoner #whatever and the other clues, not that I can remember exactly what they are at 0700hrs they would have known - still, everyone loves Price - he was reason enough to play the single player on the first for most people. I just think its lazy that they needed to bring him back instead of developing the other characters to fill the role.

You may also need to apologise for ruining it for anyone else that hasn't played sufficiently through the single player ;)

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