Developers Roundtable: The Future of Simulations – Part 4 Page 2

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SimHQ: At the same time is there active interest from developers in producing an accurate flight sim for the console market? Would you yourself be interested in creating a realistic simulation (flight, ground, naval) that would run on a modern console system?

Steve (Battlefront): We aren’t even looking to move over to the console for Combat Mission 2, and the market for that on the console is far more plausible. Again, the economics of console… well… if you read the above answers, you know the rest.

Rick (XSI): I certainly think the interest is there… I am not sure what the degree of curiosity is, unless of course you happen to be MS. The larger high fidelity game producing companies are certainly taking a hard look at this, but most of us will have to play the wait and see game.

Julian (XSI): I think certainly the market is too big to ignore.

David (Matrix Games): We have been looking into it and we have talked with some development houses but nothing that has made us considered moving in the direction just yet.

SimHQ: How difficult would it be to develop a high-fidelity flight or driving simulation on a console? What do you think are the major limitations in place preventing the development of a Falcon 4.0 on a console type system?

Chris (Lead Pursuit): It would be very challenging to produce something of the complexity of Falcon for the console — narrowing down the key commands alone would be tricky, let alone the coding.

Rick (XSI): I think the dilemma could be in generating enough sales volume, etc…just because you have a console flight sim, doesn’t guaranty huge sales. There will always be a small market for high fidelity flight games, but I doubt they will ever flood the market. At any rate, it should be interesting to see.

Julian (XSI): I think basically the only limitations in the next generation of consoles are input devices.

Steve (Battlefront): Driving games have a chance on consoles since there is an established market. The big publishers haven’t totally lost their interest in this market, though last year one of the founders of modern racing games, Papyrus, was consolidated out of existence. That can’t be a good sign.

David (Matrix Games): I am unsure how difficult it would be, but I believe the largest limitation is finding a game that would fit the console market and a publisher to back it up.

SimHQ: Gamers consider the biggest sticking point in playing simulations (especially flight) on the console to be the poor controls currently fielded with these systems. Do you foresee companies like NaturalPoint, CH Products, Saitek and Thrustmaster developing drivers or systems that will work on these systems, or will it take a whole new type of controller to bring simulations to life on a console?

Julian (XSI): Definitely, I think it’s only a matter of time, it may take a simulation developer teaming with one of these companies before it will happen, but I certainly believe it will happen sooner or later.

Rick (XSI): I would imagine concrete plans are already in place with participating hardware companies.

Chris (Lead Pursuit): Only if they can see that there is a demand. That will be determined by software titles using those controllers.

David (Matrix Games): I believe we’ll reenter the glory days of complex joysticks to make the console fly. (Get it? Fly?) These will have to be specifically tailored to consoles with the ability to cross over to other game types (to help them gain sales).

Steve (Battlefront): This could be a chicken and egg sort of thing. No need for the controls if there aren’t games that have the sales volume to get hardware developers interested. Bad controls means less interest from software developers to port their products. What needs to happen is for a BIG publisher to have a BIG product and a strategic alliance with a hardware company to market something that caters to it. This could, in theory, happen any day now. But will it? Not unless the market appears to be rather substantial. Otherwise you’ll see more of the same old same old.

SimHQ: Software piracy is a problem that will never really go away, despite the efforts of many to curb it. As developers how do you view the latest copy protection programs? Do you find that they actually have curbed software piracy or has the outcry over some of the copy protection programs turned the idea into a double edged sword?

Julian (XSI): Exactly correct, software piracy will never go away, or even be controlled no matter how much money is thrown at it. My personal belief is that many of the protection programs and schemes only end up inconveniencing the legitimate end user. It’s important that consumers, particularly in this genre realize that piracy is counterproductive, and the end result will be that they will be less likely to see further flight simulation development, but at the same time I feel developers have a responsibility to not introduce protection methods that inconvenience paying users, and ironically in extreme cases actually encourage piracy due to the fact that the pirated version with protection removed is superior to the original.

Rick (XSI): I definitely feel that it is a double edged sword; Piracy costs the entertainment software industry billions of dollars each year, but I really don’t believe that it will ever completely disappear. Targeting the appropriate illegal software sites, warez, etc… this could be the tip of the iceberg in stumping the growth of game piracy. Law enforcement continues to find and prosecute many of these people, but we all need to help before piracy networks go beyond the reach of law enforcement and slowly eradicate the profits developers need to stay in business. I think that many of the current protection methods being used help a bit, but in most cases become more of an annoyance and frustration to gamers and don’t do enough in curving piracy. They tend to add more of a psychological boost to the developers, but the piracy setbacks still persist. Keep in mind… this is our community and it is our duty as devoted customers to protect it as well.

Nils (eSim Games): To what extent self-publishing developers will rely on copy protection is a question that will probably vary with the individual situation of each company. But software piracy is a serious threat, let there be no mistake. And nobody is really happy about copy protection since it makes things more difficult for everybody — the legitimate customers, and the tech support if the copy protection is too aggressive. But what choice do we actually have?

Martin (Battlefront): So far, every anti-piracy scheme has been cracked sooner or later. Like you say it’s a problem that will never go away. So the main purpose of such programs is to buy time for the publisher to keep his “first to market” advantage. Important for shelf distribution (otherwise retail will be reluctant to buy games from you to put on their shelf), but far less important for our distribution method. Which is why we have never used such programs.

Let’s also not forget that it is questionable how many people who play the pirated version of your game would turn into paying customers if you try to force them to. This isn’t to mean that we condone piracy, but we try to counter it by making darn good games and hoping for support because people will want more of the good stuff, rather than wasting thousands of dollars on the attempt to force them against their will.

David (Matrix Games): Software Piracy, in our eyes, is something that will never go away and the most determined people are unstoppable. We pursue to course of action that says we should make our games hard enough to crack that the average person who is considering purchase won’t be bothered. We do not subscribe to the invasive methods some companies are employing due to the risk they impose in both reputation and litigation.

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