I love this thread on Slashdot which pretty much sums up my thoughts on games and gaming in general. The thread is inspired by this article which takes a view on the current state of the nation in gaming. We all know what a huge business gaming has become in all aspects: in browser, on mobile, on console, on computer, on handheld. The argument has always been that the more money comes into the business the more that gameplay and game longevity suffers. This argument has been around as long as video games have.
My take is that big games companies are lazy, risk averse and profit-driven and that independents are so confused by the panoply of platforms they can target that they become paralysed by anxiety. Additionally the third-party tools that aim to ease the confusion are the only true winners at the moment. Either you need to be a focussed independent or a major label looking to try something new.
Now, this doesn’t always work. Remember Mirror’s Edge? And check out The Unfinished Swan. Great looking games with great feel don’t always succeed at the box office. Innovativation hardly ever assures success, gameplay is golden, and gold as we know is impossible to synthesise. To make a great game today you must combine graphics, environment, interaction – find a balance – sprinkle on that fairy dust.
The last few days have involved all sorts of user interface ridiculousness. WPF, .NET, Java, Swing and Eclipse and then back to .NET and then on to C++ and then back to .NET again. It’s nice getting on top, underneath, beyond, behind and inside of things sometimes and then it’s also nice to hear something like this announcement and just think – Ok perhaps this is where I should be going now. Stop running around like a headless Christmas Chicken.
MonoGame is doing what Unity and GameMaker Studio and and Xamarin and all those other platforms are doing – they’re allowing you to target multiple systems (iOS, Android, WP7, XBox etc) with one codebase utilising a clever framework. What MonoGame does differently though is that it builds on something that is already there and established (i.e. XNA) and it targets all those platforms from pretty much the same codebase (they say) and it’s open source and it intends to stay that way. The others are going to charge you money to do this – a lot of money. The paid-for ones have fancier tools but they all essentially do the same thing.
So I now have something new to look at. After a year of XNA fiddling with Friendlier and having made progress with Android and OpenGL development I feel I can have an objective look at something like MonoGame without feeling that I’m taking the easy way out. I’m already writing a framework, I should understand their framework. And this might be a good opportunity for a little decluttering of the projects that have built up over the last year…