Ouya: A completely open console

<***** DRAFT *****>

Ref: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/173624/Open_and_inexpensive_Android_home_console_Ouya_detailed__report.php

Here are a few thoughts I have about this new idea coming to the fore. Please note that I am putting them on the page and have not yet organised them in a structured format.

Ouya is based off of Android and is targeted toward the gaming market. What sets it apart are two things – It is completely open and it is very low cost. The latter will become a differentiate Ouya if it is competing against pricier products. Otherwise price is NOT the biggest selling point and it should not be touted as such.

What should make it to the display boards is it’s openness. One should build an ecosystem around this core idea. Customers do not matter till the product is complete. Customers will hoard this system if it has enough appeal. For this I strongly believe that the following points will make it a success:

1) Developer support: Start off with only 1 hardware configuration and 1 software configuration. Let the hackers hack it to pieces but those will be the folks who will make it a famous piece of hardware on reddit and 4chan. It is a good thing since it will make the console famous in the most important circles for spreading new technology. Restricting the hardware configurations for 1 yr cycles ensures that the hardware gets maxed out in terms of developer exploitation.

For developer support base everything off of 6 month upgrade cycles and security issues should be fixed as and when they occur. The more frequent the patches the worse the experience for the end user. All the binaries including drivers should be bundled with the apps. This does not mean that every app carries a copy of the OpenGL drivers. Each app should have a reference to the OS patch version. This ensures that developers don’t have to test their game for compatibility issues after 2 yrs of running.

All hardware upgrades should have a profile set and apps have to be bound to this hardware version. This ensures that developers have a say in when and what hardware configuration(s) gets deprecated for their application.

2) Game/App sales support: I would suggest introducing a 24 hr full game trial period. Of course since this cannot be enforced in an open system, I would suggest a mandatory internet connection with key exchange happening between the application and the developer chosen server. This would require a sandboxed application (good in many ways) that the developer can pick as a profile for their application. This is very similar to how a PC works. Nothing new here. Infact I would suggest having companies spring that only handle game sales. Just like Valve did with Steam let specialised companies host these games in game repositories. These repositories can be cataloged on a single server. Again let me clarify this – end users hate choosing between products especially when the decision has no immediate impact. Hence I would suggest an in your face top 5 repositories. Everything else gets tucked into the “More repos” list.

Please note that the encryption standard has to be unique for getting repositories but each repository should be free to implement their own encryption/key exchange scheme. Statistics as to which repository has the least issues with their catalog should be collated by the Ouya central repository and this should be used to rank the various repositories.

Think of this as a reputation based git repository listing for the Linux kernel.

3) Platform not just hardware: Ouya HAS to be a platform and not just a hardware + software blob. Let me explain. Ouya needs to have a clear API for server side communication, e-commerce/virtual goods integration, social networking integration and choice of language. All these need to be rolled into the SDK and distributed along. This will ensure that the multiple combinations that occur with PCs (and other Android app stores) are ruled out and as such will help with a reduction of the combinations that a developer has to deal with. This is extremely important because the developers who will help Ouya are indies and they barely get along with developing the game. QA for their own game must be the developer’s responsibility but ensuring that they have a manageable number of configurations is Ouya’s responsibility.

4) Git based repository: Git by nature is complicated for anyone who has no understanding of version control. Game repositories will be the same and that is exactly why I believe that end  users will stand no chance of reasonably using this console if they are exposed to the repositories as they are presented. every repository might have it’s own policies. However the presentation has to be a unified experience. By this I mean, repositories should not be allowed to skin their UI. Of course, this will be hacked but as I said earlier, what should matter is the majority of the populace.

Every app repository will be distributed and I suggest using Bittorrent as the default protocol for delivery. In some cases BT might be blocked so a fallback to HTTPS/HTTP is an option. In addition when end users switch repositories, apps launched from these repositories must have the repository’s encryption (if needed) applied to them.

5) How do developers make money? If the games are free to play then devs can use virtual goods, adverts as revenue channels. However I would suggest another revenue stream too – people should be able to donate money IN the game, ON the console to any developer they believe is good. For this, it should be rather easy to add a button/screen that can be accessed with just 1 click. It is important to also note that this should be a source of pride for developers and even for college students.

Unknown:

– Can the console handle encryption?

– Does the console have the capability to launch multiple apps? Android supports this btw.

– Free to play games: Are games not allowed to make any money at all? *Edit* Updates indicate that there has to be some portion of the game that needs to be free to play. So I am guessing advertising, freemium and possibly upgrade to full version kind of monetisation model.

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One response to “Ouya: A completely open console

  1. Pingback: Today's Linux Server LinksNine OM

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