In part one of this series, I compared the mechanisms and challenges of developing cross-platform content to the children’s book “Why I Built the Boogle House” by Dr. Seuss’ wife Helen Marion Palmer Geisel.
The book is a strong comparable because like its creaking over-renovated Boogle House, our ecosystem is showing signs of being overburdened with important opportunities being missed by all. To help underscore this, I highlighted some of the challenges Epic Games had to overcome to make Fortnite a huge cross-platform success in the Boogle House.
According to public sources, Fortnite had a six-year development schedule for its first deployment on PC, XBOX One, Sony PlayStation 4, and Mac. Other platforms needed more time ranging from months to well over a year. To deliver a great franchise, Epic Games likely took care to nurture their audiences so they would stay until the future platform releases were ready. Are all developers able to do this?
Fortnite made billions and still makes money. As Fortnite is developed by Epic Games, makers of a leading game engine and toolset, does this franchise represent the gold standard for cross-platform development expectations? Are all developers equally capable of thriving in the creaking Boogle House?
Now, let’s talk about CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red is being criticized by the press, users, and ecosystem because they had a poor launch.
I understand why there is so much blame targeted at CD Projekt Red. The game generated huge revenues through presales, hype and expectations influenced the investment community, and Cyberpunk 2077 was destined to be a pinnacle of video game artistry. Yes, it would have been amazing if things worked out as planned, and now a lot of effort and resources are being invested to set things right. What if Cyberpunk 2077 is the tip of the iceberg for a growing and far-reaching concern?
When I read about the different ways that CD Projekt Red is being scrutinized for its poor launch, it got me thinking. Why is Cyberpunk 2077 so unique? Many products release with loads of bugs – even operating systems are regularly patching and closing security holes. Why is Cyberpunk 2077 so different? More importantly, what can the ecosystem do so that innovative projects like Cyberpunk 2077 launch as planned?
This question opened a debate in TIFCA. One of our game development experts theorized that the reason Cyberpunk 2077 had a difficult launch is because they tried to develop for all the platforms at once whereas Fortnite may have used the latter approach I detailed in part one. If true, what could have motivated this decision?
Including follow-up platforms, Fortnite took 6 – 7 years to release with a start-up staff of 50 people; a number that tripled as the game grew successful. Also beginning with a staff of about 50 people, Cyberpunk 2077 took over four years to develop. Acknowledging Cyberpunk’s first trailer reveal in 2012 and the additional pooling of resources and development planning, it's clear that a lot of effort was needed to get this title off the ground. How much longer would Cyberpunk 2077 have taken to see the light of day if it followed a process like Fortnite? Would schedules have permitted such a thing?
It's kind of like Icarus flying too close to the sun with his wax wings. CD Projekt Red wanted to enable their game in a bleeding edge cross-platform world and did not have enough time to do so in the aging Boogle House. They wanted (needed?) to achieve more than was feasible in their limited schedule. If we are living in the Boogle House where 4 to 7 years is considered a limited schedule, perhaps Cyberpunk 2077 should be commended instead of admonished.
Is it possible that everyone is equally challenged in their quest for reliable production, top quality assurance, and seamless deployment in the Boogle House? I say yes, and I think the ecosystem will be facing these challenges at an accelerated pace.
If there was a status quo, we could treat these Fortnite and Cyberpunk 2077 examples as aberrations. The catch is there is no such thing as a status quo in computing and computing media. The ecosystem’s complexity is increasing, and we are regularly seeing new platforms hungry for developer support.
The growing number of cloud gaming services alone could add unique software stacks, development paths, and quality assurance deliverables. What does this mean for the resource and time-strapped content-makers if we add cloud gaming services to the classic go-to platforms? Will user experience and quality assurance trade-offs continue to be necessary to achieve general compatibility on a reasonable schedule? At what cost? Who is held responsible if things go wrong?
I’m still talking about contemporary computing, by the way. What of the next era of computing? COVID work-at-home lifestyles required top brands to throttle back their streaming services and features to avoid bandwidth and resource overloads. Is the Boogle House equipped to rebuild the ecosystem and permit a new threshold of client-cloud computing? Will the house free up the bandwidth and cloud resources needed for wide-spread user experiences and more revenue for the whole ecosystem?
The Boogle House is real and its challenges are real, and it is time for our ecosystem to show answers. If answers are uncertain or unavailable, then we have an opportunity to pursue a concerted effort towards something better. The solutions are too big for any single member of the ecosystem to address. Collaboration is necessary for us to move to a more efficient home that is easier to live in and is based on a stronger foundation for current and future computing eras.
Since 2018, The International Future Computing Association (TIFCA) has been pursuing something we call the Client-to-Cloud Revolution. The idea is to create content once to work on multiple client devices according to their unique capabilities. It would also enable a threshold of compute models that include client, cloud, or a hybrid of the two so that the best user experience is enabled on as many client devices as possible.
Last December at the virtual International Future Computing Summit, we presented TIFCA’s vision paper for a proposal called Project CORA (Create Once Reach All) as part of a whole series about the future of cross-platform in client-cloud computing. Project CORA is a model that encompasses a wide range of client device platforms, cloud service providers, tools, standards, deployment infrastructures, and user experiences.
As proud as we are of Project CORA and that more people see the model's plausibility, it is just a beginning to what will be an arduous journey for all involved. The move out of the Boogle House will require new perspectives from across the ecosystem. While Project CORA is one of many ideas for this journey, I expect there will be countless twists and turns as the ecosystem learns more and does more together.
The feedback we received from the summit is that a “moral code” was on display by all the speakers and that there was general agreement on the ecosystem perspectives that were shared.
After the summit, attendees raised concerns about how to compete in the future ecosystem put forward by TIFCA. Would it be necessary to give up walled gardens and competitive advantages from one vendor to the next? Experience tells me the reverse would be true because the best standards are the ones that enable and enhance competition.
Others asked if all the game engines, development tools, and existing standards would continue to be necessary. The answer is OF COURSE THEY WOULD. The next era of computing requires a full ecosystem to work.
Watch this video about TIFCA's vision of the next era of computing, ecosystem analysis, and a first glance at what a Project CORA model could look like. Presenters include Dr. Jon Peddie, CEO of Jon Peddie Research, yours truly, and Marius Varga, Teaching and Research Associate at the University of Plymouth.
TIFCA is gathering the ecosystem again on February 5, 2021; please consider attending. Participants are getting a pre-release copy of the Project CORA Vision Paper so they can share their input and ideas on this direction and others. We will then make a ratified version of the Project CORA Vision Paper available.
The meetings are well suited for roadmap and standards development professionals. Feel free to read the executive summary and contact us if you think you are well suited for these discussions.
We believe that what is most important for TIFCA and the industry is to regularly gather ecosystem members to address these challenges; challenges that no one company can solve on their own.
So pack up your furniture, get on the truck, and be part of our journey to a much sturdier home than the creaking Boogle House. Hello, 2021!