Monday, March 22, 2010

The Closed Loop System

In a recent press release, CEO Christopher Boothroyd of Aftercad Software described the current efforts under development for streaming video games by the likes of OnLive and Otoy this way: "I sincerely think these guys are going to replace the console, but it is one closed loop system replacing another closed loop system."

He has a point. Though games from these companies are intended to stream through web browsers, they do so without observing open web standards. Boothroyd uses the term "PC-over-IP", reminding us that there is a difference between IP-based and web-based delivery.

Aftercad is working on Project Immersion, a different approach for bringing 3D-gaming and interactive experiences to a web browser. With Immersion, the client shares some responsibility for game processing with the server, communicating through the use of AJAX client scripting. This builds on the same standards used by current web applications and supported by legions of developers proficient in JavaScript. With the client back to performing the 3D rendering, games can be still be delivered instantly with little opportunity for lag.

Under such a paradigm, games could be developed and delivered directly by publishers without the need for a console or closed platform. Companies like OnLive become obsolete before they ever get started. The approach of streaming based on open web standards also removes the need for a company like Gaikai, who's paradigm resembles this, but with a dependency on Gaikai's closed technology.

Aftercad's Immersion represents another useful approach toward streaming video games, and I hope they enjoy success. But is it fair to say that theirs ultimately isn't a "closed loop system"? The Immersion project is currently using the Unity 3D game engine. Unity already makes a small browser plug-in for deployment of games developed for its engine to web browsers. So while Aftercad is promoting open web standards, the acceptance of one company's game engine as the foundation of their approach is just another closed loop system.

Isn't it?

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