Monday, March 8, 2010

Let's Hear It! For Cross-Platform Compatibility

A couple of interesting things have been announced recently. Two separate announcements, both pretty cool. Steam is coming out for the Mac, and Crysis 2 is coming out in Q4 2010.

These things in and of themselves aren't big deals, and in fact have been known or at least suspected for some time. The news riding along is what holds the greatness.

First, and most recently, the Steam announcement. Steam, as you may know, is a digital game distribution platform for PC. It was developed and is ran by Valve, the game company behind the Half Life, Team Fortress, and Portal games.

The great news that tags along with this announcement is that the Valve engine, which all their most recent games run on, has been ported from Microsoft's proprietary Direct X to the cross-platform OpenGL. This is good news. This such a great step in the right direction. Although I have no reason to hope a Linux version is on the way, it's a lot more possible now.

Bonus info--PC and Mac users will be able to play together cooperatively on Portal 2. I'm sure we can all agree that's a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Crysis 2 was announced a while ago. We've known it was coming. We knew it was supposed to be on the PC, PS3, and 360. It's finally nailed down to Q4 2010. That means anywhere between October and December.

The cool news tacked onto this announcement--apparently it was announced nearly a year ago, but it's news to me--involves the CryEngine 3 it's built on.

According to Crytek, it's creators, this engine runs on all three major platforms (PC, PS3, and XBOX 360). That means if you develop games with their engine you don't have to worry about porting the game to other platforms. They also claim the engine will be able to run on future consoles, only requiring minor tweaking of the engine itself, so games already written on the engine should work fine.

I'm very curious to see what impact this has on game design in the future. Of course, people are skeptical about this as Crysis, which was released for the PC only, is notorious even today for requiring a lot of processing power to run smoothly. In it's defense the game was beautiful, and their later game 'Crysis: Warhead' used an updated version of the engine that required a lot less resources.

Only a handful of games used the CryEngine 2, but perhaps this cross-platform compatibility and claimed future-proofing will entice more developers to give the 3rd version a look.

I, for one, would very much like to see the end of console and platform exclusivity. That won't happen so long as Sony and Microsoft are there to pressure and entice game companies, but this is a big step in the right direction.


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