XBLA Head quits for Popcap

http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4711&Itemid=2

It’s really hard to tell if this is bad news or not but…I’m hoping that this is a sign of good things to come for the platform.

ENOUGH WITH THE RETRO REMAKES ALREADY.

I don’t know, I’ve enjoyed the retro remakes more than most of the originals.

Not sure if all can be laid on this man’s shoulders but extrapolating from without, XBLA has seemed sluggish and uninspired. With few exceptions, there haven’ beent many decent games and to add insult to injury, the pace at which new games are released is set to “trickle.”

In a nutshell, I’ve always thought of XBLA as long waits for games you mostly don’t want.

And given that… any change in that division is welcomed news.

More Popcap games on XBLA is never a bad thing. However that’s a loss of an employee at Microsoft and I hope the next guy changes the release setting to higher than “trickle.”

Yeah, Microsoft, let’s check that prostate already.

Interesting that he went to PopCap instead of transferring to MS Casual Games division.

Yeah yeah, we all want new games each week, and we’d all rather have new games than ports.

But this is not particularly realistic, even though most people seem to think it is. And it’s certainly nothing to hold against MS. Here is my rather lengthy, against-the-consensus rant I wrote on the topic.

I figured it was more polite to just link it here, rather than copy/paste it, given that it’s quite long.

Completely agree. Here’s hoping that changes.

How is it not realistic?

Make emulators for common arcade platforms. Everything you have licensing sorted out for? release it, 10 games per week. Everything else? get on the fucking phone.

Nintendo can drop 5 classics per week. And dont give me that HD-remastering shit, most of these games arent spiffed up much at all, and none of these classics really need the touchup.

The new stuff? The frequency of release is decent for the new stuff, really.

Well, my rant was specifically meant to address people who say they simply can’t understand why MS can’t release a new (i.e. non-old-arcade-port) game each week.

That said, 360 ports of arcade games do take a longer than Nintendo VC games to port, so the comparison isn’t entirely fair:
-Nintendo VC games were made for consoles. Running in an emulator on a console is far more straight-forward.
-Nintendo VC games don’t have any added features, and run basically as-is. 360 games have achievements, online multiplayer, online leaderboards, etc. Some also have hi-rez modes, but like you, I’m fine leaving those. But like it or not, the 360 games are feature-added ports of a more awkard platform port.

What Hiro said about the 360 retro games. Like it or not, adding that stuff to those games takes a LOT longer than simply qualifying and bug-fixing a ROM running on an emulator like the Nintendo VC.

I love that the #1 and #2 complaints about XLBA are “the games aren’t good enough / original enough” and “they’re not released fast enough.” It’s like that joke where one old jewish lady says “The food at this restaurant is terrible!” and the other says “and the portions are so small!” ;)

More to the point, those things are on opposite sides of a lever. You want more original games? Well those take more time and money. You want higher quality, more polished games? More time and money. You want games to be released more frequently? That requires that the games take less time and cost less money.

I think they’re doing a pretty good job for a service that is actually rather unique. There are plenty of games worth the price of entry: Assault Heroes, Geo Wars, Marble Blast Ultra, RoboBlitz, Uno, Lumines, Zuma, and Outpost Koloki X are all games I shelled out for and, while they’re not all “OMG amazing” or anything, I certainly got my money worth.

The “upcoming releases” list over at Wikipedia has like 50 games and many of them seem quite promising.

It just takes a year, sometimes more, to make an XBLA arcade (with a smaller team). A big huge publishing company can maybe put more people and money on one for 6-9 months and come out with a good product. Given that XBLA became a bigger hit than expected when the 360 launched, developers have been struggling to catch up.

As much as I’d like more Live Arcade games, particularly in the “retro home console” category (the retro arcade stuff is covered well), I think it’s a bit early to start giving them crap about it. Especially when nobody else is doing even half as good a job.

What?

I dont see how the vc shit is any easier for nitnendo, they are releasing things from multiple platofrms. Arcade games run on specific HW platforms just like console games, there are just more of them.

It’s MS’s choice to go with crappy arcade stuff instead of picking a couple platforms with high quality titles (cps1/2 hardware, neogeo hardware, naomi, etc…) A developer could make one emulator per platform that would run a ton of games, build in something in the emu to look for hish score thresholds and add achievements based on that or level/game completion vs. # of ‘quarters’ used.

I dunno, it isnt super simple but they seem to be making it harder than they should be.

It’s months of work to get ms.pacman working after pacman was released? yeah…

I dunno, there are a ton of emulators for Nintendo’s consoles, all they are doing is shitting out ROMs. At least with MS they are adding some value to a lot of the old classics like multiplayer. I can fire up emulators to play untouched ROMs I want something additional added for my money. Tournament Cyberball is great on MAME but if they add multiplayer for XBL? That is real value.

It’s easier because once they make a Genesis emulator for the Wii, they can release Genesis games until the cow comes home at the drop of a hat.

XBLA games are not just straight emulation. Take Defender. You put it on XBLA, can you just make an emulator for the hardware of that arcade game and run the ROM? Nope. You gotta include live leaderboards. Well, Defender didn’t run code that had a network stack…didn’t even have any concept of a network or any I/O outside of the coin slot and controller/button switches. So now you gotta write NEW code that takes the defender score and uploads it to Xbox Live for the leaderboards. You have to write new code that looks for certain triggers in the game to unlock achievements. You gotta write new code to do things like mute out the audio when you’re playing music through the Xbox dash instead. I could go on and on.

And in many XBLA games, they update the graphics, too (though as others have said, I can take it or leave it, and most companies give you the option to play original graphics).

A developer could make one emulator per platform that would run a ton of games, build in something in the emu to look for hish score thresholds and add achievements based on that or level/game completion vs. # of ‘quarters’ used.

You say that like it’s simple, but it’s really quite complicated. The code of those original games was written to run on processors and I/O systems that didn’t have the faintest concept of networking, and digging through original '80s game code to insert triggers for achievements and stuff, without breaking the game or the amount of memory it ran in or whatever, isn’t just a one-day project.

Sure, arcade and console ports are easier jobs than new games, but it’s WAY WAY harder than Nintendo’s VC.

I agree that the XBLA ports are harder than the Nintendo VC stuff, but the hooks for achivements could, in most cases, be implemented easier than you are suggesting. Most achivements are tied to a variable like score, level, number of lives, whatever. On older arcade systems these are generally implemented as fixed memory addresses. It wouldn’t be that hard to have your emulator periodically (even every frame) poll these addresses and see if any of them have values that trigger achivements. You don’t really have to go in there and insert new code in the old assembly or anything fancy like that.

Jason preaches the Word of Truth.

The claim that putting games on the VC is easier is pure nonsense. It is, in many cases, much harder, because the Virtual Console is the only platform out of the three to offer perfect emulation of the originals, and believe it or not, especially in the case of the Famicom and the PC Engine, this is monumentally tricky to do and why it takes outfits like Sega and Hudson quite a bit of time to work out all the kinks in their retro collections in Japan. Without perfect emulation of the originals, they tend to be worth a lot less because the timing is of paramount importance for the arcadish nature of a lot of games. There is not a single “one-glove-fits-all” emulator Nintendo uses for each title. Each one is optimized for each game when you download and the Nintendo VC people have commented that this was necessary in many game’s cases because of the bizarre programming tricks used back then to work around hardware back then.

For instance, in the case of the SFC/SNES, for instance, they have to be rather careful to present the game’s with the version of Mode 7’s features that was present in the original machine and an emulator tends to get slightly off, throwing games like Mario Kart, Pilotwings and F-Zero and the airship, flying sequences in games like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy off.

There’s also the problem of emulating the special chips in the cartridges and the response time in the new controllers vs. the old ones, and trying to get the same button response correct, which is something you really tend to notice if you play lots of fighters and shmups. Also emulating so that the old graphical inconsistencies stay in can be tough too, as in when the Famicom was rendering too many sprites in a line.

-Kitsune

Which, ya know, is why it’s been done with emulators for years and years just fine. Obviously, Nintendo can’t do the same, and doesn’t have the ability, so they lovingly hand-code an emulator for each and every one of their VC titles. Remember, America: We’re keeping Japan employed, merely for our entertainment!

What other bullshit do ya have for us, Kitsune?

You really think those emulators have gotten it perfect? They’re nice, but they haven’t, sorry, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, shit for brains.

-Kitsune

Wow, you sure told me. I’ve been schooled, ohnoes! Ya know, you try to play it off as if you’re The Inside Guy, Mr. Man From Japan™. If you seriously believe they go to all the effort of essentially creating very specific emulators for each and every game, you’re seriously over-estimating Nintendo. While I do not doubt that they place a premium on the quality control of their products, it’s not an effective use of the manpower they have to do what you’ve suggested while also testing everything to the extent that they’re likely to. Placing them on the pedestal is great and all, but they’re no gods. They still run with the constraints of time & money to throw at something, and that time & money has likely been spent in perfecting their emulator to the point where it’s not neccesary to roll a new one for every funky-ass weird game that came out- It’s not new tech, and they DO kinda have the resources to do make an emulator like that- after all, it’s been done elsewhere, and who better to perfect it than themselves for their own product?

Now, go crawl back under whatever fake rock you came from.