1) how much homework have you done?
In your interview with womengamers.com you mention that your marketing strategy will not be to go head to head with the big console makers (sony/nintendo/sega/xbox) but rather to focus on the Linux power gamer. Given that commercial Linux game sales seem to be somewhat lackluster, what market research have you done (if any) to point that points to the Linux power gamer market being large enough and lucrative enough to be worth developing a product like the Indrema?
 This may be due to many Linux gamers buying the Windows version which often includes a license for the Linux version and/or Linux titles typically coming to market weeks or months after the Windows version and/or the release of multi-platform disks that get counted as "Windows" sales. AFAIK, no one has yet sought to do a serious enough analysis of the situation to say one way or the other.
John Gildred: Good question. You're right, there have been significant problems with the sales of desktop Linux games. But I think you'll agree with me that these problems do not indicate a lack of interest in games by Linux enthusiasts, but rather problems with the porting, distribution and support of games for the PC, which you mentioned. Additionally, we are targeting hard core console gamers as well as Linux enthusiasts. That is a larger market, and one that has indicated very strong interest in the IES. Our product value to the consumer is based on three things (in order of importance): the hottest games, the best graphics, the most features (DVD, music, personal TV, broadband, etc.). We intend to deliver those three value points to our customers as much and as often as humanly possible.
Here are the problems with Linux gaming titles for the PC, as I see it: 1) The games released for Linux are generally ported Windows titles or games modeled on existing titles for other platforms; there are few truly originally games produced for Linux systems. 2) The ported games are released much later than the Windows title (and, since many people run both Lin & Win on their boxes out of necessity, the ones who are interested in buying the game probably already have it on Windows by the time the Linux port comes out.) 3) The PC in general is not an ideal game machine. The driver issues, and ongoing configuration difficulties are a big part of why PC gaming is only roughly 15% of the entire video game market. If you add Linux to that configuration requirement, the market opportunity gets even smaller, much smaller.
I don't mean to go off on a tangent here, but my point is that the fact that the Linux game market has been "lackluster" has not necessarily had anything to do with Linux, but rather has had to do with Linux on the desktop. These desktop gaming issues, I think, will not go away anytime soon.
To answer your question more directly, there is not, unfortunately, a whole lot of research available about the collusion of Linux interests and gaming interests. But one can look at other information available (for example the fact that the Linux and gaming demographics -- young adult males for the most part -- are largely the same) which strongly suggests that people who are into Linux are also into gaming. That describes me, as well as many of my friends, and I think is a pretty logical conclusion.
Of course, this is only part of the answer. The reason we are primarily targeting Linux enthusiasts (in addition to hard-core gamers, of course), actually doesn't have much to do with Linux: it has to do with Open Source. Linux, as an OS, is important to us of course-- it is a perfect platform for embedded devices, and it is a lean, stable, and fast platform for gaming. But the real beauty of Indrema is not that it runs on Linux, but that it is Open Source.
This is what means the most to me. It means that game develops who develop for Indrema, because they have access to the source code, will know exactly what they're developing for, and so will know how to best optimize the software for the system. (Which means better games.) Also, because our SDK and many vital development tools are all FREE, small and independent developers (who would never have been able to afford to develop for a proprietary console) will be able to develop for Indrema, and will have great opportunity for creative exposure and, if they choose not to open source their game, for profits. (This means more-- and more varied, eclectic and original-- games.) Furthermore, because these development tools are Open Source, developers will be able to tweak them to serve their purposes. If they think there's a problem with the SDK, or just something which could be done better or leaner, they're not forced to work around it-- they can just fix it. (This, again, means better games.)
Now, right now, many of you may be thinking that you already know that Open Source is a good thing for software development, but that there hasn't been a whole lot of luck producing games in this way. And I would agree with you. That's why Indrema has put so much effort in to creating a system which will foster and facilitate collaboration on huge, complicated projects (in other words, games). We call it the Indrema Developer Network (IDN), and I think it's a vital part of what Indrema's all about. IDN is a place where developers can download the tools they need to develop with-- the SDK, Open GL, OpenStream, etc. More importantly, however, it's also a resource, a forum, and a community-- where developerss will be able to discuss projects, form teams, and create projects in an organized way (as opposed to a Mozilla way). To make sure that this works for developers, that they're able to get the most out of Open Source game development, we've partnered with CollabNet, a company which has a lot of experience in managing Open Source projects. CollabNet shares the development and maintenance of IDN with us. (BTW, IDN will be going live in early November, and we?ll have some really important news to go along with it, so stay tuned.)
I know this is probably a longer answer than what you expected, so here's the short answer: I know what a phenomenal concept Open Source is. And I think that people who dig Open Source-- the people who really get it-- will also get Indrema. That's why we consider Linux gamers to be an important target audience for Indrema.
2) Is Linux the primary angle?
by Junks Jerzey
Is Linux really your primary angle or is that simply what Linux zealots are reading into it? I ask because OS choice is not even in the top ten reasons why someone would pick one game console over another, yet every article about Indrema fixates on Linux being the focus of the console.
JG: You're right. The average user won't care that the Indrema box runs on Linux, any more than the average Dreamcast user cares that that box runs on Windows-- the game console OS is transparent.
But this is not to say that it's not important. The user may not know that the OS that the L600 box is running on is more efficient, more stable, leaner, faster, and more optimized to run perfectly and precisely with the hardware components.* They may not know these facts-- but they will see the difference when they play the games.
(*I could give all the reasons why Linux is more of all these things than Windows or another platform, but I won't bother preaching to the converted :) You all know all that already, right?)
These are all performance criterion for the importance of Linux, but there's also the issue of the importance of Open Source for the console-- see question #1.
3) How are you going to stay alive
by UnknownSoldier (mpohores@NOBLOODYSPAMsfu.ca)
With PS2 (Sony), X-BOX (MS), and the GameCube (Nintendo) out or coming out next year, how are you going to compete againt the "big boys"?
It's a known fact that consoles (hardware) sells for a loss, and make it up on licensing the games (software). What game developers do you have lined up?
As a game programmer I'd be interested in getting a dev kit. The registration page doesn't have any info on price, or hardware specs. Could you give us any of those?
JG: The development kit (which we call the IESDK) will be available absolutely free from the web. (As some of you may already know, the SDK for other console systems generally costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.) It will be a portion of the resources available on IDN (Indrema Developer Network, see q#1), so you'll be able to get a hold of it on November 8, when the site goes live. On that day, I'll also be giving a webcast in which I'll be explaining the features of IDN, giving a walk-through of the site, and holding a short Q&A chat. As I mentioned, I believe the concept of IDN is central to Indrema and I encourage anyone who's interested in developing for Indrema (or anyone who's just plain interested) to attend. Those who have registered as interested developers on our site will be receiving an invitation to the event, and we'll also be issuing a press alert, so you'll be able to get all the info then. Again, we'll also be announcing some very important news at the IDN launch.
Developer support, obviously a very important question. As you all have probably read me say before, we've made a strategy decision not to announce developer support piecemeal, but wait until closer to launch and announce most of them in large chunks.
To answer the first part of your question: yes, this definitely is a very competitive market share. All of the companies you've mentioned have strong products, as well as existing brand recognition and market share. Some people have automatically counted us out of the game for this reason--i.e. David and the four Goliaths.
But you shouldn't be so hasty. The truth is that Nintendo was a virtual unknown in the US before they launched the NES (everyone had their money on Atari, remember?). It was because they had such an innovative product, and such great games, that they became the giant that they are today. I believe that there's no question that the IES is an innovative and technologically superior product. I also believe that, because of the extensive efforts we've made to accommodate developers of all sizes, there will be an explosion of innovative, creative, funky, original games for the IES- (in addition of course to your standard sports and first-person shooters), the likes of which we've never seen in the console space.
As I mentioned in the WomenGamers interview, we also have a more involved strategy. We don't plan to just appear on the scene, throw a bunch of money into advertisements and developer pay-offs, and expect to conquer (I'm not going to name any names, I'm not going to name any names . . . .) Rather, we're beginning with a limited launch this spring--a launch intended to build momentum, increase brand recognition, and basically spread the word about the quality of the system and its games. This is the launch in which we intend to reach out to hard-core gamers and Linux fans. These groups tend to be early adopters of the next big thing (like, say, Linux), and also tend to tell their friends about it. So, by the time that we have the mainstream, large-scale launch towards the end of next year, most people will already have heard from a friend (or a friend of a friend) how great the IES is.
Oh, and keep in mind -- David kicked Goliath's ass.
4) Betamax vs. VHS
by nezroy (spamme::email@example.com)
You're not really counting solely on superior hardware to make this thing work, are you? This kind of bet has failed so many times in the past it would be hard to ennumerate them all here. Obviously you're going to have to grab enough of a user-base that developers are going to jump at the chance to support your console.
So what is the killer feature that will be so irresistible to gamers and developers alike that we're going to take a chance on an unknown console instead of putting our money down on a tried-and-true PlayStation 2?
JG: No, we're not looking to become the next Jaguar. : ) I know that 'the best' isn't necessarily the most successful (in fact, the two often have very little relation at all.) So, we're well aware of the danger and don't expect to just ride on our superior technology (see strategy discussion in previous question). As for our "killer feature," I believe it's Open Source. Here's why: when you get down to it, the end user cares about the games. If the games are cool, if they look and play great on the system, and if there's lots of them-- that's what matters. That's what every console lives and dies on. And Open Source is our ace in the hole. Open Source will mean more numerous, better, and more original games developed for Indrema (see developer benefits in q#1 & 2).
At a recent Xbox technical presentation that was held at my school (Purdue), a Microsoft representative said their chief competition was Sony and to a lesser extent Nintendo. When asked about the Indrema he merely laughed, pointing out that he thought the project would never get off the ground without $2bil pumped into it (ie. Xbox..). Which raises the question: Your company is definitely the underdog in sheer resources how do you plan to compete commercially with the likes of Microsoft and Sony?
JG: Microsoft would think that, wouldn't they? Take a look at the strategy discussion in q#3.
6) Online Gaming
The X-Box, PS2, Dreamcast have all mentioned having a 56k Modem. The N-Cube claims to have an ethernet port for those with broadband. What kind of online capabilities will this machine have? Seeing as how quickly broadband is growing, I'd like to heavily encourage having an ethernet port :-) Keep in mind, that online gaming is the future ...
JG: For me, online gaming is the present! I've lost many a night's sleep playing Quake and Everquest-- or, at least I did before I decided to start my own company; that is, back when I had a life : )
I also think that broadband, specifically, is the future of gaming. Which is why every L600 will be equipped with an ethernet port.
However, I also recognize that narrowband is still the present (only minority of internet users currently have broadband internet access.) For this reason, an optional 56K modem will also be available for the L600.
7) How on earth will you get enough developer support?
Even though you seem to have some reasonably impressive technical specs for your machine, a console is nothing without a good lineup of games. How do you expect to be able to get enough developer support whne you've got competition from the likes of Nintendo, Sony, Sega and Microsoft? Microsoft alone will apparently be spending half a billion dollars on marketing XBox, and all the other companies have a record of making games consoles, and are well known by the public.
For a game devloper to be able to make their money back, they need to sell a large number of units of their game, which isn't going to happen unless you've got a large user base. I just can't see how you're going to out-market the giants ...
JG: See strategy discussion in q#3 and developer/Open Source discussion in q#1 & 2.
8) The question is: Are you insane?
Okay, so maybe that's a bit harsh, but it seems like you're risking a lot of money on a product which will give only minimal returns. Linux is simply not viable as a gaming platform at the moment, and indeed for the forseeable future. Like it or loathe it, DirectX support would go a long way to making Linux more popular with the kind of trigger-happy moron who enjoys playing Quake.
And then there's the fact that within a week of launch some hacker spouting Stallmanist rhetoric will have hacked into the box and posted instructions on how to do so onto the net for all and sundry to read. Hell, Taco'll probably help them out by posting a story on /. about it.
So my question is, where exactly is the market for this box and how will you generate a profit? It all seems like a pipe-dream to me.
JG: Hey, take it easy with the "trigger-happy moron" remarks; I happen to like Quake! :-)
As I mentioned above (q#1), problems with Linux games have been problems with Linux on the desktop. Linux is an ideal platform for embedded devices, which makes it an ideal platform gaming consoles. Look at what?s in DV Linux: we have the OpenGL API, a very solid hardware accelerated 3D programming interface; OpenAL, a true 3D audio API (PS2 doesn?t have true 3D audio); and OpenStream, a new scalable video API for Linux supporting hardware CODECS. That is a very complete set of interfaces, which all have open source implementations running in the IES game engine. So I wouldn?t say that Linux is behind the gaming technology curve at all, in fact, it is pioneering much of what games will offer down the road, by establishing a platform which is controlled by the developers who use it, not by the marketing direction of one company. Unless Microsoft wants to open source DirectX, it offers little to Linux for gaming. And I wouldn?t hold your breath for that to happen.
The survival/profit issue is discussed above, but I would like to add that a lot of great things have been done by "insane" people. When the personal computer was first developed, all the industry big shots thought that was a pipe dream ("A computer for ordinary people? Why would ordinary people want a computer?). Crazy ideas are generally the ones that have the biggest impact.
Okay, we've got PS2, X-Box, and Nintendo Game Cube coming along. Why do we need another game console, even though it does run Linux? What advantage will this game console actually have over the others? As far as game consoles go, I'm not going to go buy one because it "runs linux" ...
JG: No, if you're like me, you're going to buy it because it has the best games. Which is where Linux and Open Source come in. (See above.)
10) Why Linux?
Linux is great for server, development and even many desktops and I use it both at work and at home exclusively. HOWEVER, Linux is missing (or semi-missing) several pieces to make it an excellent gaming platform: easy to install/configure high-end graphics and, of course, DVD. From the Linux community's point of view, it's great that Indrema will be pushing to better these -- but what is the advantage from the Indrema point of view? What possible advantages could Linux have that would make you overlook the glaring flaws that Linux has as a gaming platform?
JG: Again, I believe that it's Linux on the desktop which has limitations as a gaming platform. One of the main reasons we selected Linux for use in the IES is because of its incredible flexibility and customization. We took advantage of this by stripping it down and making it our own in a distribution that we call DV Linux. DV Linux (which we're co-managing with Red Hat) was designed specifically for digital multimedia and gaming, and so is best suited towards these purposes. In addition, Open Source technologies like Mesa3D, OpenAL and OpenStream will be included with the DV Linux distribution and will further strengthen it.
Part of what makes the IES platform so compelling, is that the developers own the engine. They can scratch their own itch when they find something in the engine that should be improved or added. You can't do that with the other boxes. The fact that we offer developers a software layer to write to, which is not proprietary, and is totally open, allows games to get to market faster, and the game engine to evolve at the hands of the developer community and Indrema together.
11) Developers lined up?
by AugstWest (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Probably the main thing that has kept the current crop of video game manufacturers alive over the years has been their ability to sign key game developers along the way.
What kinds of alliances have you been striking with game development companies, or are you planning on relying on the normal development of PC games for Linux?
JG: Since there's a 90% overlap between the DV Linux and desktop Linux, it's natural that many games which have been developed for Linux on the PC will be ported for Indrema. These games can be ported very quickly, and other PC or console games can also be ported fairly quickly (three to six months, depending on whether the game has a great deal of video, audio and images which must be re-mastered for the higher resolution of the IES.) So it's natural that you will see many of these games.
These will not be the only games, however. There will also be big-name third party games developed for IES, original first party games, and a plethora of independently-developed titles (even shareware!). Because Indrema gives developers more ways to develop (and at significantly reduced cost), the quality and number of games available for the IES will definitely be one of Indrema's strengths.
12) So, how "hackable" is it?
by David E. Smith
Recently, TiVo (they make one of those nifty set-top, hard-disk based recorders) announced that they don't really care if end-users crack open their units and play around (installing new hard drives, etc.)
Give the size constraints of the Indrema, you might not be able to leave lots of empty space for future expansion. But how much hardware modification will be possible, for those inclined toward such things? Will it be possible to buy a unit with a smaller hard drive, then upgrade later with an off-the-shelf unit? (Corollary: We will be able to download OS patches, right? :)
JG: Modifying the console is really not something we're very concerned about. If you're so inclined and you think you know of a way to make the IES better for your purposes ... have fun. But one thing we will protect is the right of any artist and developer to enforce copy protection of their works. This is just as important as the right of the developer community to a free and open game development platform. Our digital rights management system will ensure that any copy protected content will be protected. For example, any MP3s which are loaded onto the box without copy protection will be considered public domain content, but any SDMI or other copy protected music downloaded to the IES will be properly protected. We use very strong encryption and digital signatures to protect that data. Hacking that would be extremely non-trivial.
As for OS patches, definitely. One of the beauties of Linux is that fact that it is constantly improving and constantly improvable. The console is basically self-tuning; here's how it works: Tuning packs (including kernel enhancements, ATI level enhancements, etc.) will be issued every few months. When you get online with the IES, you will be given the option to download the tuning pack, and if one is issued while you are already online, it will be downloaded automatically. So people aren't interested in the technical aspects of the system don't have to know anything about them. They can just play.
13) Two questions....
by shutdown -h now
My first question is about possible connectivity of the indrema to an existing Linux box. Will there be a way to interface to the box to an existing Linux box to increase the storage capacity, ala exporting a drive off to the indrema using kerberos or nfs? How about firing up a terminal on the indrema?
The second question is obvious...the web site made no mention of an existing linux box being capable of running the indrema software. Will existing linux boxen with proper hardware reqs be able to play these games?
JG: Connectivity to a desktop PC or command line interface will not be included with the shipping product. However anyone can create an application for the IES and submit it for certification, and a PC connectivity product would be very interesting.
As for your second question, our distribution of DV Linux is very similar to the Linux you have on your desktop-- but it's not exactly the same. So, no, you won't be able to play the IES games on your existing Linux PC. Correspondingly, you won't be able to play your Linux PC games on the IES-- although they will be easily portable.
14) open code?
Being that Linux is primarily an open source OS, are there any plans to release the code for the console and games?
JG: The IES is composed of a combination of Open Source and proprietary elements. Here's how it breaks down: All driver level code, API implementations, and kernel code is Open Source and freely available. The only exceptions to this are the components of drivers (which are preserved in a binary library file for security or copy protection integrity), and the Xtrema (our UI) API implementation. Some application components, such as Gecko HTML rendering engine and Necko transport engine, are also Open Source.
Of course, we want developers to be able to profit from the games they design for Indrema, so the software will not be Open Source. However, we have a not-for-profit certification program through which developers can release their games as officially IES certified shareware, and not have to pay money to Indrema for the privilege. I know that this sounds self-evident (not charging people to distribute games for free), but the fact is that it is not possible with any other gaming console system. This is one of the reasons that Indrema will have a greater variety of games than are available for other console platforms.