Our last event before this issue was GDC 2008 in San Francisco. These gatherings are useful for meeting business partners and making new contacts. One topic that came up at one breakfast table was XBLA (breakfast is hosted by the conference and starts at 8.00am, so early mornings!). A developer of PC games was asking about XBLA development and equating this to PC game development. A few faces picked up on this and reminded the developer that all console development adds a very substantial overhead to any developed game! For a start you have to get it right first time as follow-on patches are not so easy and not really approved. In XBLA you may be exposed simultaneously to many many users, so a defect will instantly hit hard!
The overhead is the need for a thorough requirement specification and exhaustive Pre-Cert and Certification testing. Having just been through this with Rubicon Development, we are well aware that this is a big deal and in costing any project it needs to be assessed as a major part of the overall cost. Happily we are nearing the final hurdle and so this will soon be history (until we immediately embark on the next follow-on XBLA product!).
Right now we are also pre-occupied with a PC Shogi game destined for release in Japan. Creating products outside your native language adds its own problems, but we are again close to completion. Of course this also ties in with our annual entry into the World Computer Shogi Championship in May in Japan (see our quarterly article from last year's event The 17th World Computer Shogi Championship 2007). We will have two new Shogi products for Japan, with others also appearing at around that time, so this event is a useful advertisement for our activities. The competition is very tough and we have not devoted much time over the last 5 years to improving our product, so have slipped from a world ranking of 3rd down to 14th. Our goal is to try and claw our way back into the top 8, which also offers automatic entry into the triennial ISF event (International Shogi Forum) in Japan. We have been fortunate to have been invited to 2 of the 3 of these lavish ISF events so far, but these places are becoming increasingly precious!
Such competitions invite new creative thinking, so we will be trying out new ideas to improve our program. If we had the luxury of being able to develop this full time, there would be plenty we would try. Where this succeeds we can feed this back into our generic AI libraries so that other products can also benefit from any new developments.
Finally this issue has an article on Puzzle games. Casual games are a big growth area so we expect small games and puzzles will be an important part of our future business.