The Innovators of Appsworld

Appsworld, the leading multi platform developer’s event, is now in it’s fourth year. On the 22nd and 23rd of October, the event will host luminaries of the industry, such as Steve Wozniak, the co founder of Apple, and Trip Hawkins, the founder of EA. It promises to be an essential gathering for experienced and new developers alike, where knowledge can be shared and new software demonstrated.

It would be expected that most of the attendees would be games developers, looking to make the next big smartphone game. However, reading through the speakers list brings up some surprising companies. Why are asos, the clothing website, there? Or McDonalds? Or Tesco? This shows that these are companies who are using app technology in new and exciting ways. Just how is the technology being used now by this year’s speakers? (All apps mentioned are linked by company name).

Food apps

Several fast food companies, such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and Subway, are increasingly using app technology to interact with their customers. McDonald’s use the app to deliver nutritional information about their menu and information about their locations, but also for more direct communication with the user. They are currently running a competition via the app for users to win a free iced frappe when they upload their very own advert.

The Starbucks app, on the other hand, actually acts as a digital stand in for the Starbucks Card. Using this, customers can transfer funds to the card, pay for their goods and automatically log ‘Stars’ in their rewards system. Doing so creates a ‘one stop shop’ for Starbucks customers.

TV apps

The TV apps represented at Appsworld all offer services allowing users to watch their programming on demand, which is a huge step forward in the technology and the way we watch TV. The BBC iPlayer app is one of several services the BBC offer, alongside their News and Weather apps.

However, other players are taking the technology one step further. Sky offer a Sky+ app, allowing Sky users to remotely manage their recorded shows on their phone, as well as wifi app that allows users to use their service on the go, and their own betting app. ITV offer a unique service, where several of their own shows, such as Britain’s Got Talent, The Cube, and The Only Way is Essex have their own dedicated apps. These are a new way of getting viewers involved with their shows, and an interesting use of the technology.

Shopping apps

There are a plethora of stores that are now embracing app technology as another marketplace for their wares. asos, Argos and Tesco all have apps allowing their customers to shop their phone, with Tesco also developing the technology to allow customers to use the phone as a Clubcard, in much the same way as Starbucks are doing. However, The North Face have taken advantage of the technology to create Snow Report. This app is designed with ski enthusiasts in mind, telling them where the best ‘powder’ is, and updating them on the resorts with the best current conditions.

Entertainment apps

The advances in entertainment that have been made in app technology are simply too numerous to describe, but there are two interesting examples on the Appsworld speakers list. The first is Shazam, an app that ‘listens’ to any music that the user holds their phone up to, telling the track name and artist. It also allows them to buy the track directly from the app. This is a prime example of the technology solving a problem we didn’t even know we had.

The second is Disney. They have several apps and games, mostly related to their cinema releases (although they were the company behind the hit game Where’s My Water?). They are now experimenting with the technology to create ‘Second Screen’ screenings of their classic films, allowing viewers to interact with each other and play games and quizzes as they watch.

There’s plenty of exciting things happening in the app development field, as this by no means exhaustive list proves. Anyone attending Appsworld will surely come away with hundreds of ideas as to where to take the technology next,.

Dojit Games will be in attendance at Appsworld this year, so if you see us please come and say hi! We’ve been working on our own technology, Dojit Notify, which will help developers use push notification technology more effectively to really connect with their users. See you there!

Gamescom

This years Gamescom will kick off on 21st of August. Europe has got its games conference we’ve always wanted, yet not as glamorous and or has media frenzy as E3 in LA, it still will see the big three in industry show up.

Gamescom opens open to trade and the general public, which E3 has been restricted to developers and press only. This gives the public access to demos and coming soon games on the show floor.

What should you expect on the show floor? There will be playable versions of PS4, Xbox One and the Wii U. Rockstar could have a playable version of their much anticipated GTA 5 game that is due to be launched September 17.

Microsoft have announced they will be looking to hold a press conference, maybe to fix their shambolic showing at E3 and their Xbox One announcement. After the 180 on their DRM policy Microsoft will be looking to win over the gaming industry with you would hope some features and unannounced first party titles which Microsoft have been working.

Sony has promised Gamescom to be the Sony Vita show. There was a lack of focus on the Vita at E3 that left the adopters of the handheld a little disappointed. There was a mention of Walking Dead: 400 Days coming to the system, along with a new bundle but that was about it. Sony will look to announce titles for the Vita as the library of games is looking bleak. But the indie presence on the system is ever growing with more and more developers opting to develop for Sony system, games like Limbo and Hotline Miami being released.

Nintendo bailed on Gamescom last year’s show but this year they return, to show off no doubt its first party titles.

Other publishers attending this year include Bethesda, EA, Konami and others.

Be sure to check back on blogs about us talking about what went on at Gamescom.

Next Generation of Developers.

We here at Dojit had the pleasure of having Joss Harris, 22, a young and upcoming developer from Worcester, working for us for two months

He has worked on Totally Milkshake, Home Bear and our new game coming soon, Chicken Strike.

We interviewed Joss on his experience’s working with dojit and asked about him about his ambitions, oh and some geeky questions some of you would like!

Where did you first hear about the Dojit games?

I first heard about the company when looking for game jobs online. I saw a Unity game developer internship advertised on Internwise, so I sent an application and was lucky enough to be invited to work at Dojit for 2 months!

Was working as a game developer always something you wanted to do?

I think I knew that I wanted to work in video games ever since I got the original playstation with crash bandicoot 3 when I was about 10 years old.

Has working with dojit helped you further your knowledge of game development? If so in what way?

Working at Dojit has definitely helped me further my knowledge, I feel like I’m a much more competent programmer now. It was great to be able to work full time in game development, doing it everyday really improved skills.

Did you play mobile games before joining dojit? If so which ones?

To be honest I haven’t played any mobile games recently as I still haven’t made the move to a smart phone! However I’m a big fan of plants vs zombies and spent a lot of time playing it on my iPod touch in the past.

Which game studio would you love to work for and why?

I’m a bit of a Nintendo fan boy so I’d love to work for their first party development team Intelligent Systems, as they’ve made some of my favourite games like paper mario and fire emblem. It would also mean living in Japan which would be very interesting.

What game are you playing at the moment?

Currently I’m spending a lot of time digging up fossils and selling turnips in Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS, it’s brilliant!

Mario or Sonic?

It has to be Mario!

PC or Consoles?

I prefer playing most games on my PC as I like to be able to push the graphics further than the current consoles can. That will probably change as soon as the next gen consoles are out and the graphics card in my PC is out classed.

iOS or Android?

After working on Chicken Strike I have found Android to be much easier to develop for than IOS, so for that reason I would have to say Android

David Bozward, Dojit’s CEO  “Chicken Strike has been an opportunity to get together students from Hertfordshire University who have created the graphics, Joss Harris and up and coming developer, to provide a learning environment for them to create a new title. Joss has done a fantastic job in getting the title ready in less than two months. “

We like to work with the next generation of developers, the industries future.

Developer Survey

At dojit we are always looking to see how we work and cooperate with other developers, so please take three minutes to complete this to help us move forward.

Thanks

Social Media in Gaming Industry

Questions is, does Social Media in Gaming Industry have any influence ? We earlier reported on DRM and its positives and negatives for the industry. Looks like the hashtag campaigned worked…

A few days ago, Microsoft announced that they are changes its DRM policies. In other words, doing a complete 180 on what they told us is the future of entertainment.

Don Mattrick the President of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft took to their website to announce that they listened to you, us, about used games and how important it is to lend, share and resell games. They are also doing away with the Xbox One always needing to be online, enabling you to play your games offline in a remote location where there is no Internet connection. It will only require one time system setup when you first get your console. There was much rejoicing on the internet! Giantbomb.com got three time the more traffic then they did during the E3 press conferences, they were one of the first to break the news.

Something like his has never happened in the Video Game industry. Sony in 2005 had a massive backlash from the gaming community about the price of the PlayStation 3 being too high and questioning the importance of Blu Ray, but Sony stuck to its guns and slowly gained a loyal following, especially in Europe with PlayStation 3 outselling the Xbox 360.  But also Social media was not the beast it is at the moment at that time, Facebook was used in colleges and Twitter was not launched.

Do places like Twitter, Facebook and websites like NeoGaf and Reddit have a major influence on the gaming industry? Soon after Microsoft announced its strict DRM policy, a thread on on NeoGaf was created, urging people to tweet and retweet the ‘hash tag’ #PS4NoDRM urging Sony to not adopt the same polices. Come Sony E3 keynote, they announced they will not be supporting the same policies and the audience erupted with cheers.

Some people in the industry rejected that the hashtag campaign and the outrage on forums had influenced Microsoft back track, more blaming the lack of pre order’s compared to the PlayStation 4. But Adam Boyes the Head of Publisher Relations at Sony had said on the Giant Bomb’s E3 coverage that they had listen to the hashtag campaign and the forum thread on Neogaf.

We think at the end of the day consumer’s won. Microsoft’s Xbox One’s policy was very anti consumer, and would have hurt them in the long run as bulk of their player base would choose its competitor in PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Wii U which also does not adopt these policy.

Long live Social Media in Gaming Industry

 

Indie Games

First of all, what are ‘Indie Games’?  They are small groups or individual game developers without the financial support of a video game publisher to create independent games. They work from home, basement, rent rooms or if lucky rented office space.

Indie games started on PC back in the 1990’s, known as shareware. Which had small independent companies become huge leading game development studios such as Epic Games and id Software. Gamers were given the chance to try games like Demonsgate, before investing money in them and in return gave those companies exposure.

Fast forward to mid 2000’s with the launch of Steam and Xbox 360 we saw the number of indie games rise.  Games like Fez, Braid and many other games were released and were critically acclaimed, some even the best game’s in their genre. Thanks to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade development tools and Adobe flash let developers create and sell their games on their desired platforms.

We will continue to see the rise of indie games in the next generation console’s, especially on the PlayStation 4. Sony took to the stage at E3 in Los Angeles and showcased a myriad of indie games. Games like Transistor from the makers of smash hit Bastion was shown off. They gave the developers time to be on stage and talk about their games and vision. This is rare publicity on the big stage at E3 been given to indie publishers, you would normally see a larger presence of indie developers at Penny Arcade Expo. This shows where the industry is going and the support companies like Sony, Valve and in the past Microsoft is giving to these up and coming developers.

Power to the Indies!

DRM – Is This the Next Generation?

If you’ve been on Twitter recently or any number of gaming related forums you will most likely of heard of, looked into or at least seen the recently started #PS4noDRM campaign, which uses #Ps4noDRM and #PS4UsedGames to let Sony know, and other gamers know that they don’t want used DRM (Digital Rights Management) to be used on the games they purchase, and that they want the used game market to still allow them to pass on, or sell their games when they are finished with them. This all began after Microsoft announced it will be using features to control the used games market in an attempt to allow themselves, and the Developers of a game to pocket some money from the sale of a used game, and that they have been trying desperately to avoid the topic which has resulted in conflicting reports on how used games will be handled from several people within Microsoft itself. After rumours began circulating that Sony were looking to do something similar, consumers reacted with the above campaign. If you would like to learn more about the campaign please check out this link. There is also a thread on the large gaming site NeoGAF which has information on the campaign, and discussion about it within that thread.

Here at dojit we have been watching this trend carefully, looking at the positives and negatives of used game DRM for us, and what an always online console could mean in terms of combating Piracy, the illegal downloading of games. We have also done a little research into why always online gaming, and used DRM has been thrust into the spotlight recently within the gaming realm.

As a developer, used game DRM would ensure that we still pocket some cash, at least with Microsofts proposed system, and make money from the sale of a game we created. This means we don’t lose out on as much money as we did with the old method of trading in a game, and that we wouldn’t have to use things such as Online Passes (as seen in use by EA in games like FIFA) or charge a fee because the player doesn’t have an activation code. This could possibly mean the original owner makes less money from the games sale itself.

This does also raise a few issues. There have been reports that Microsoft are looking to bump the used game price up drastically, taking them to 90% of the original release price, which would pretty much kill the used game market. Also with Microsofts proposed method, we as consumers, would not be able to lend a game to a friend or family member, and possibly not be able to share games within a household. We have yet to hear about anything that would combat simple, friendly household/friend sharing. Something that has helped guarantee sales for the past 2 decades at least. A little demonstration of what I mean might make things clearer if you don’t understand what I mean.

I purchase a game brand new and think it’s fantastic. I have a friend who is looking for a new game to play, but isn’t sure what he should pick up yet. He sees me, or hears me talking about this great new game I have and asks me to lend it for a few days. He enjoys the game and now knows that the game is a good game which can lead to 2 potential situations.

– He buys the game from a retailer, either new or used depending on how long it has been out, and is able to repeat the above process with any of his friends into gaming.

– He doesn’t have any money yet, but now knows that the game is a quality game and is interested in the series, if it happens to be a part of one. He eventually gets some money to spare and purchases that game, or possibly it’s been a while and the sequel has released. He knows the previous title was good so he buys it new.

With used DRM, we would not be able to do this, and then the potential sales loss would possibly lose developers like ourselves more money than they would have lost if used sales were as they are today. There is also the fact that not all used games sales are lost new sales. Many people who buy used only buy used because of the price. They wouldn’t have bought new unless the price was low enough for them in the first place.

There is also the topic of Piracy. With every disc in Microsofts preposed method having code on it linking it to a single console, it would be near impossible to pirate a game as it would need to be registered by Microsoft as a legitimate copy. This means people who may have been inclined to pirate the game may look into purchasing the game new or used. As a developer this is great news, but we also understand that people who pirate the game are very unlikely to have bought the game new in the first place.

The issue here is that a lot of this information is from a Microsoft that has been very ineffective at communicating and clearing the air about used DRM and the Always Online feature of the Xbox One. All we know is that the Xbox will have to be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours in order to function. There is a lot of speculation about the reasons for being an always online console, and some believe it’s just a form of DRM. However Microsoft have said this to Polygon about the Always Online Xbox One:

Don Mattrick, president of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, told me that the decision to require internet for the Xbox One was driven by a desire to create a console unleashed from the technical limitations of today’s not-entirely-connected society. Microsoft had a decision to make, he said; either create a console planted in the present or look to the future and create a device built on the concept that one day the internet will be as available as electricity or telephone service.

Gamers want the best experiences possible — and they want a future-proof system,” he told Polygon.

Now, with Xbox One, we’re stretching the canvas again so creators can design for the cloud with every game they make,” he said. “In the next decade, every great game will tap the power of the cloud to deliver richer, more immersive worlds. We have a great offline game system in Xbox 360 that gets better when it’s connected. We could have made another offline console, but then offline would have been the lowest common denominator design point for developers. We chose to take the progressive path.”

This pretty much states that the Xbox One is looking to be always connected to the cloud so it can offload computing processes to it which should deliver better games, and smoother gameplay because there will be more power available to Developers such as ourselves. This statement seems to have been delivered because of the recent issues with cloud based gaming such as the Sim City Fiasco and Diablo III. Both games that required you always be online, and Sim City supposedly offloaded processes to ease the power you system would need to run it. The issues were that both games would kick you out of them when you lost connection, so a random disconnect for 5 seconds would throw you into a menu and you would no longer be able to play, at least in Diablo III. Sim City gave you a 20 minute window to get reconnected or you would lost all progress since your last save, which is on the cloud as well. There was also the massive server issues with both games on release, where players couldn’t play the games they payed for because servers were down, or full.

People got severely annoyed by the always online requirement and server issues, so they decided to dig into why they were needed. People tore apart Sim City to discover that it never really needed to be online all the time. It offloaded fairly small processes and it could all be done on your own computer. They also found out that there was a code within the game that forced you to quit after 20 minutes, even though you could really keep on playing for as long as you wanted. The only issue with that is that you couldn’t save.

The thing that worries gamers is that if these servers go down for a period longer than 24 hours, they will not be able to play the console and the games they bought for it. They will also have to be connected to the internet to check the licenses for games on the consoles HDD to make sure they aren’t playing illegal copies/copies they have traded in the license for which isn’t always a possibility as not every has the Internet in their homes yet.

We here at dojit feel that these measures are very anti consumer, and do a lot of damage to sales in the long run. We don’t see Microsoft having lots of sales on Xbox Live to counter this huge hike up in price like Steam have done (very well might I add) and the consumer will end up paying the price for Microsofts campaign against retail stores such as GameStop.

Do you feel like Microsoft has taken good steps here, or have they gone a few steps too far?

 

An Indie Future. The Next Generation.

7 years. That’s how long the current console cycle has lasted. It ended with the release of the Wii U by Nintendo on 18th November, 2012. As far as current console releases go, November seems to be the month that will be locked down by Sony and Microsoft. Even Nintendo, with the Wii and the Wii U, have targeted and achieved a November release. This is great news for everyone, as we all get to experience the latest and greatest Game Developers such as ourselves have to offer the gamers of the world.

As an Indie Developer, we here at dojit haven’t just been discussing the games that we know are releasing and the features that come with them. We have also been discussing what console would be a top of the list if we ever decided to develop games for a console as an Indie Developer. We’ve been looking at the hardware, and the processes that we would have to tackle in order to push a game on either device and we have come across some great news not only for us, but for all Indie developers. We have discovered that Sony have been reaching out to many Indie developers, and offering them aid in developing for the PS3 and the PS4. Sony have been concentrating massively on making sure they have a great and simple process for you to get your game on to their store.

We did discover something a bit saddening about Microsofts stance on Indie developers. A lot of developers are reporting that Microsoft are not reaching out to them, and are actively declining places on the Xbox Live Arcade simply because they will not allow an Indie developer to have a game published on the Xbox Live Arcade without a Publisher (such as EA, Activision being the most recognisable examples of Publishers in the games industry.) I personally wanted to find out more and decided to dig further to see what Microsoft are doing within the Indie Dev scene, and what Sony are doing within the scene.

Sony have been praised, as far as I have dug at least, for their efforts in courting Indie Developers in the hopes of seeing those developers release games on devices like the PSP, PSVita, PS3 and in the near future, the PS4. Multiple Indie Devs have let the media know that Sony have treated them well, and made it easy for them to get the games they develop on the Playstation Store. It has even been likened to “a chat in a coffee shop” which shows that Sony have been nothing but friendly to Indie Developers. With such hits as Minecraft and Journey, we can see why Sony are looking to help Indie Developers grow. If they are able to get an incredible Indie title on their devices, and make it exclusive and see it rake in millions, we could see Sony become a shining beacon in the land of Indie Development. Just take a look at this bit of information from Brian Provinciano who is the creator of the old-school parody game Retro City Rampage.

Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well,” said Provinciano. “It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from advertisements on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America.” You would agree that this is fantastic news for Indie Developers.

Brian Provinciano also said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this to happen,” .

Now we travel into darker waters. Here the inhabitants aren’t all that friendly and are looking to make your Indie release a nightmare. Welcome to the Microsoft Publishing Process. It wasn’t always this way though. In fact it was Microsoft that brought Indie Developers to the front. They decided to create a playground for them, where they could publish games to us Xbox users and reap the rewards of a large user base  Microsoft helped by constantly advertising these great, fun, little games that cost a quarter or and eighth of the price of your average game sold at retail. It became so popular that Microsoft ran sales and even dedicated a season to the Xbox Live Arcade titles called Summer of Arcade.

Fast forward to the current day Microsoft. The Microsoft that, as told by Brian Provinciano, is a nightmare for Indie Devs to work with. He says that Microsoft cut his game off at the last hurdle after he voiced his opinion about the process and how inefficient it was. He was then forced to resubmit his game which involved going through a long approvals process and go through an extra six months of talks and negotiations which required him to have to submit the game through an outside publisher, or he wouldn’t see his game released. To top it all off, Microsoft then accidentally priced the game at $10 instead of the $15 Brian Provinciano had asked for. He lost out on 1/3rd of the money from the mistake, which we do not know if Microsoft reimbursed him.

You will notice that I have included two talks from Brian. Look at his opinion on Sony and its process, then look at his opinion on Microsofts process. We can see the clear winner here. As a small developer ourselves, we would be looking to see which console could provide us with the ease of development and the ability to publish a game without jumping through numerous hoops. Not only do Sony allow us both of these things, but they go the extra mile to bag themselves an Indie Developer.

There’s also Nintendo with the Wii U. We know that they have been struggling with sales, and to try and counter this they have been courting Indies in the same way Sony have. Nintendo, who were once very hard to work with, are now lessening the strictness of the rules they usually place down when working with Indie Developers. A well known one is that the Indie Developer had to have an office space, but now garage developers who work from the living room are finding their footing when developing for the Wii U. They also offer Indie developers freedom over pricing, release dates and content approval, just like Sony is. We may not see a hit like Minecraft or Journey, but we might definitely see a wave of Indie titles hit the shores of the Wii U very soon.

It would appear that Microsoft have yet to realise that they are no longer the easiest route, or the most illustrious place for Indies to publish. Sony have capitalised on Microsofts failure to keeps Indies happy and now look to be a dominant force when it comes to smaller titles in the next generation. It seems to be a role reversal between Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo now showing that the doors are open for Indies as well.

I think I can safely say that if we at dojit were ever looking to break into the console market and release games like Home Bear or Soccer Zillionaire, we would chose Sony as the console we would publish on. Nintendo still have some cover more ground to catch up to Sony. Microsoft need to step up their game, and try to recapture what they had only a few years ago. I leave you with a question.

Which console would you publish your game on and why?