Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indie dev Johnathan Blow: Microsoft has a habit of treating indie devs like sh**

Indie dev Johnathan Blow has fired another salvo at Microsoft, touching upon his personal experiences with the company and citing that he hopes that things have changed with ID@Xbox.

Johnathan Blow’s quiet and methodical nature in Indie Game: The Movie is quite different than his radical internet persona; many times he’s been seen lambasting Microsoft via social media networks, citing that the company treated reprehensibly during his contract.

As Blow has released his popular indie, Braid, on Microsoft’s digital Xbox LIVE Arcade marketplace and had to deal with the company’s infamously complicated red-tape, his opinion is viable.

Blow has made his distaste for the Redmond-based gaming giant quite well-known, and has been the center of a flurry of mixed emotional feelings across the net.*The way he has handled himself online has earned some vexation from the gaming community–but there are those who heed his words and respect his candor (even if it is explicit).

In a recent exchange on Twitter , Blow reflects on his experiences with Microsoft’s indie program–mind this was before the self-publishing ID@Xbox program–and revealed that the industry titan threatened to ruin his life, which is pretty serious for any indie developer:
@clanMOH They threatened to ruin my life, and I am not the only indie they treated this way. So I do not give them the benefit of the doubt.

— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) December 13, 2013

The dev went on to say that some indie teams, like Team Meat–the two-man dev group behind the immensely successful and iconic platformer Super Meat Boy–were “treated way worse” than he was.

Johnathan Blow’s atmospheric puzzle game (think a bit of Myst mixed with Flower), The Witness, is scheduled for a mid-2014 release exclusively on PS4.

Blow continued by exposing how Microsoft has handled indie teams in the past, stating that the company is quite biased in favor of big-name studios and developers:
“They have a cultural habit of treating small developers like shit. Hopefully they will manage to get away from this on the new console, but I have reason to be skeptical, as many of the people who treated devs badly still work there.”

Based on his past experiences, Blow has opted to release his upcoming atmospheric puzzler The Witness on Sony’s PlayStation 4, adding to the growing library of indie titles for the platform. Likewise Edmund McMillen of Team Meat is also passing over the Xbox One in favor of the PS4 for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, the sequel to his cult-hit predecessor.

Both developers were featured prominently in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie , which saw Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen highly stressed to finish Super Meat Boy in time to meet the stringent deadline set forth by Microsoft.

The movie chronicles each developer’s struggles and processes, and intimately showcased the rigors of indie development–and in Team Meat’s case, specifically revealed their ultimate dismay with Microsoft despite the fact that the game was a massive hit.

Team Meat’s Tommy Refenes (left) and Edmund McMillen (right) strike a comical pose that underlines their tendency for off-the-wall humor.

While Microsoft’s clandestine indie program has been refined quite a bit with its self-publishing program ID@Xbox, some devs have nonetheless been “punished” by an irksome policy.

Thanks to Microsoft’s parity policy clause, Witch Beam Games had to delay their cross-platform indie to ensure a launch on Xbox One. The clause states that developers can only release their game on the Xbox One if it hasn’t already been released on another platform. But if devs have the game release on multiple platforms–including the Xbox One–on the same day, all is well.

Santana Mishra of Witch Beam Games discusses how the clause affected the release of Assault Android Cactus , their upcoming twin-stick shooter:
“The simple answer is that our plans wouldn’t meet the launch day parity requirement of the ID@Xbox program.

“We started development on our other console versions long before self-publishing was an option for Xbox One, and the only way we could meet that requirement would be to delay the other versions of Assault Android Cactus.”

It’ll be interesting to see what other indie developers have to say about their experiences with ID@Xbox, especially those who find themselves spurned. Mishra praised the program in that it’s “very developer friendly” and “light years ahead” of Microsoft’s previous indie policies, but this policy may prove to be the program’s Achilles heel.

In contrast, ID@Xbox is a breakthrough for console indies and is a strong point for the Xbox One as a whole. The idea and core concepts are developer-focused, but it seems that the regulations inhibit progress at times. As of now the policies have potential to thwart developers, which can be seen as a motivator to rank up with Sony.

Plenty of indie devs have embraced Microsoft’s the Unity-powered self-publishing program, but Johnathan Blow and Edmund McMillen won’t be among their numbers for obvious reasons.

Via Gaming Bolt

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