Monday, March 23, 2009

Proprietary Games

If you were following on the PPUG @ CubeSpace list, you might have seen where I suggested the games might be delivered by armored car direct from skunkworks, and loaded to DVD juke boxes, no copies made, binaries only, bootable on shop VMs (customers don't wait for bootup, if the game is already cached in the queue someplace, as more popular games will be).

This isn't to say all the CSN flagships even have a DVD juke box, nor have I anything against open source games (on the contrary). It's just that if a shop such as Valve, of HalfLife 2 fame, wants to bootstrap as closed source, you won't hear me grumping in the background.

In the ideal shop, every game could work with every bonus packet from every vendor, and for any worthy cause on the menu. Every permutation of vendor, game, cause would be equally accessible.

At least that's ideal in a simplistic sense.

In practice, some games will exploit a vendor's mythos (namespace), trademarked characters or whatever (e.g. Keebler Elves... Tony the Tiger), and you'll get to play if you buy the right mechandise to get started.

Check current vendor websites for more examples (usually minus the socially responsible piece, CSN still in the early stages).

Even with the bonus packet coming from the vendor through the point of sale, the donation to worthy causes is by the individual, the customer player, not the vendor, at least up to a point where you're considered a branded hero for that vendor, going the last mile for Mars, General Mills, Starbucks or whatever -- get a trophy for your collection? Some of those games are pretty hard to beat at the hardest levels [I suck at a lot of 'em -- CMO].

In practice, fine tuning the alchemy will be an ongoing challenge, as vendors map their stipulations, and game authors mandate their choice of outlet (much as artists might choose an exhibiting venue).

In terms of providing a trademark level of transparency, we think getting to view the circuits, how packets are switching and by what rules, should be somewhat open to customer inspection. The shop itself is a game engine of sorts, with a public API in addition to the more private ones available to authorized personnel.

Aggregate views need not be in real time, nor is anonymity at risk where promised in any well designed social networking framework.

Coffee shops needn't pander to every paranoia, but security and confidentiality remain legitimate concerns, worthy of ongoing focus and open source solutions.

The GNU environment wisely provides a lot of security-minded features, does not rely entirely on some "honor system" among hackers with skills, although ethics certainly matter.

Proprietary games may run in this context, but the plan is to keep such "black boxes" embedded within a more public commons, a shared space. Hiding all the internal workings simply "because we can" is not in and of itself a good reason for doing so. Customer loyalty stems from trust in the model, seeing it working.