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Column: 'Blogged Out: Psychographical Gardens'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging, with words of wisdom from the likes of Jeff Tunnell and Greg Costikyan.
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at walled gardens, XNA and Costik's psychographic. Rooms And Gardens Adam MacDonald has been writing about the idea of the “walled garden” in relation to gaming. “Right now, in whatever game I'm playing I have no means to organize myself and my friends between games from within the games we play. There's no interoperability between online games. I can't IM, mail, trade, group, meet as a guild, blog, or in any way personally create data, collect data, exchange data with others, which is the threefold hallmark of Web2.0. Every MMO game or virtual world is a walled garden. Only Second Life has open http access that I know of, but even it is still closed for messaging. And Eve has an in-game browser, but its severely limited and there's also no open messaging. There's no interoperability between games, since they're all competitors. But this limits revenue opportunities, and probably goes against the new gaming demographic models that are out there.” Initially I wondered whether MacDonald was barking up a non-existent tree, but then I began to examine my own gaming practices. Xfire has to be running if I am playing Battlefield 2 (which in turn cripples my system during its century-spanning loading times), even though is occasionally fails to work and never launches the game properly. Eve has to be played in a window so that I can access web-resources that are cut off from the aforementioned in-game browser or see who is talking in voice chat applications like Ventrilo and Teamspeak. World Of Warcraft is even worse because a recent patch killed the ALT-TAB on my machine, and now locks up if I flick over to desktop. Yes, perhaps all I’ve been doing is glossing over the very problem MacDonald is talking about with a heap of not-quite-there third-party applications. How long, I wonder, before a cross-game standard (perhaps with various built-in and shared elements of an app like Xfire) will start finding itself integrated into cross-publisher game releases? But before that, before we have crazy hyper-pollination of services between game worlds, perhaps developers could start by making sure that all games that contain chat text have a working copy and paste function? That would be nice. Make It Blog In Games Jeff Tunnell seems upset that people have been criticising the XNA launch. He’s right be upset, because despite any minor problems it might have at this stage, it is a profound and positive event in games development. Tunnell explains: “In spite of the rants, the combination of a managed code development environment that is free on the PC and $100 per year to access the XB360 is revolutionary. Add in the low cost of Torque X, a full C# game engine, and anybody that mows lawns or gets an allowance will be able buy one and make games for a next generation console. Having a unified development platform on managed code will allow many more people to learn game development methodologies. It is a nice step toward making game development easier. Personally, I am not threatened by having many more people making games. I welcome it and look forward to seeing the kind of vibrant and creative community we see from Flash developers.” The key reason to be cheerful seems to be, from my point of view of British gamer who grew up around folks who programmed things on 8-bit home computers and then played them, is that XNA offers a potential new wave of creative programming possibilities. If the tools are there, right there in the grasp of even the most borderline of creators, could we have another genuine wave of 'bedroom programmers'? I’ll look forward to working out how the hell to write about all this as it develops... Cash For Models Greb Costikyan has been explaining a bit about how he sees the Manifesto Games business model working. He has much to say that to me, as a PC Gamer, is both interesting and encouraging. I’ve written with similar sentiments for the last few years and it’s fascinating to see someone actually try and articulate these ideas both as a theoretical business plan and as an actual business. Anyway, this small slice of Costik’s yarn caught my eye: “In our materials, I used to say "the core gamer demographic (males 25-40)", but Johnny (quite rightly) took me to task on that. "Core gamer" is a psychographic, not a demographic--and we're seeing a surprising number of female users. “The point is this: Back in the 90s, CGW's surveys used to show that their typical subscriber purchased 12-18 PC game titles annually. That's our target. We want gamers who consider themselves gamers, who like to keep abreast of what's cool and new, and (unlike the casual game demographic) have a long and proven history of purchasing games, and lots of them.” The casual gamer, I begin suspect, isn’t really a kind of gamer at all. But more on that next week. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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