By Grant Gross
Game developers, both those working with established projects and independent hobbyists, say they can't wait to start developing for the Indrema Entertainment System, a game box/Internet device running on Linux.
Despite some questions developers have about the yet-to-be released Indrema Entertainment System, most are willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt for now.
"I became interested in Indrema because it seems more developer-friendly than anything else. Who else posts their [development kit] on their
Web site?" says Steve Mosher, with a development team centered in Prince Edward Island, Canada. "The fact that it's Linux-based is a real help, since I'm very familiar with writing code for Linux systems."
Announced this week
Early this week, Indrema announced the Indrema Developer Network (IDN), a Web site where anyone who wants to create Indrema-compatible games can get the tools to bring their visions to life. Indrema CEO John Gildred and Brian Behlendorf, founder of Open Source project hosting site Collab.net, touted the IDN as a "new age" of democratic gaming development, instead of the current model of proven gaming companies pitching titles to the big console manufacturers.
"Right now, going from being a gamer to being a game developer is a very large leap," said Behlendorf, whose company is teaming with Indrema to create the IDN. "[The IDN tool suite] allows Indrema to form a community around the console."
The Indrema team is marketing its console, due on store shelves in early 2001, as a multipurpose machine that will have the coolest of the cool games. Gildred isn't naming game titles at the moment, because he doesn't want to promise vaporware, but Indrema plans to offer the most popular games already on the market and Indrema-original games created by its community of developers. The IDN's developer discussion list is already generating dozens of messages a day, from questions about how to download the Indrema Development Kit to concerns about Indrema's software certification program.
Hobbyists attracted to open platform
Arturo Cisneros Jr., a self-described game-developing "hobbyist" from Houston, says Indrema's open platform based on Linux and the x86 architecture is what first attracted him to the company. He also likes that Indrema has a certification program for not only gaming companies, but also for freeware games, but hopes the cost will be low.
"This is very cool for the hobbyist game developer like me," Cisneros says. "There is no real chance of a guy like me ever getting one of my games on the PSX or N64 without working for a big development house ... I like the fact that anyone can get their game certified and distributed through the online channels directly to the system."
Cisneros is working on a clone of an old game that he used to play on the Apple IIe. He thinks some of the newer 3D games have lost the "replayability" of some of the old 2D titles, and he'd like to create an overhead shoot-em-up game.
Cisneros and Miguel A. Cortes Sosa, an electrical design engineer from Pharr, Texas, both are excited that IDN will bring together gaming developers from around the world to help each other. Some of the more "mundane parts" of developing a game will be shared, says Indrema's Gildred, while developers can keep unique pieces of their games proprietary.
"It's hard to enter professionally on the video game design market," says Cortes Sosa, whose childhood dream was to be the Spielberg of gaming. "But Indrema makes it easy, since you can gain experience working for a real game console, there are no license fees, and you can have professional help from all around the world with the IDN ... "
On the other end of the developer spectrum from the hobbyists, the group of developers working on the WorldForge Project is also considering porting its Acorn pig-farming game to the Indrema console. "I personally am attracted to the Indrema by its Open nature," says Alistair Riddoch with WorldForge. "I find the excessively proprietary nature of most consoles highly objectionable, and will not buy a machine that I cannot write code for."
Riddoch, from Great Britain, says one concern that's unanswered is whether developers can get games certified by Indrema without compromising the terms of the GNU General Public License.
Guillaume Plante, a server-side software developer at GameLoft.com, says his major question concerns the availability of the console. Indrema will have to make consoles available before the spring 2001 launch date to allow developers to test their games, Plante says. Gildred says his company is already working with a handful of key developers.
But Plante is still psyched about being a part of a Linux-based gaming console. "I wasn't even a junior developer when the Linux revolution began, now this is something I want to be part of ... When a platform is Open Source, there is always a place for customizing and upgrading at low cost. The Indrema system has, for me, a promising future and a lot of potential."
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