My Transgaming subscription was never able to provide gameplay for any of the games I enjoy on Linux. While the list of games is rather short and for the most part they aren’t too demanding, they simply won’t install or play correctly under Cedega. It’s frustrating and it means a Windows 98 partition is needed to play many of my favorite games. There probably isn’t a good fix for any of these legacy games, but going forward there is a lot that vendors could do.

Game manufacturers should agree on a platform using an application virtual machine implementation similar to Java or the Microsoft CLR. Examples of this include things like ScummVM or MAME but in fact a true gaming system would require 3D capability. For this kind of virtual platform to work, major game publishers need to band together and garner support from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Imagine the benefit! We could play a game in our Windows PC, Macintosh, XBox or even portable GameBoy. The same game. Console vendors could choose to implement features of the game machine in hardware or software, and it might even create a third party console market. Game publishers could cut expenses by developing to a single virtual platform as they would not need to recode popular titles to multiple platforms.

Console vendors would need to provide other value to increase sales, something that has already become a reality for the XBox with Windows Media Center (WMC). Users with PC’s could purchase third-party emulators or download open source implementations when the become available. There should be a reference implementation suitable for running under Windows, and other platforms can follow from that.

As it turns out, Microsoft is offering the XNA architecture as a possible solution to this. By leveraging the Microsoft CLR and .NET, the XNA platform will run on XBox 360, Windows, and hopefully Mac OS X very soon. With a little hope, the Mono project can reverse-engineer the game functions in the CLR and we will then be able to play on Linux, Solaris, BSD, and many other UNIX variants.

While XNA is being touted as a hobbiest solution to game building, the real strength lies in its ability to provide portability to many platforms. Game publishers can immediately enjoy the benefits of XNA by using it to develop for XBox 360. Consumers would likely be willing to purchase multiple copies of the same game for different platforms, so there is immediate profitability for the game publishers despite the XNA learning curve.

Let’s hope other console manufacturers choose to embrace XNA, this is ultimately a benefit for everyone and it can only get better as it becomes pervasive.

Categories: Software