I've been quite disappointed by the big stink being raised over the offline pass for Kingdoms of Amalur. (Disclaimer: I have no inside knowledge of the providence or politics of the online pass from my time at EA - I just made the games.)
I'm a firm believer that if I buy something, I should be able to do whatever I want with it, so I'm firmly behind the people who want to be able to buy and sell their used games. There's a little irony there considering that I also sell software with online activation. (In my defense, I've always been very generous with activations and transfers for paying customers.) But as a customer I've become very selective about the games I buy, making myself aware of any restrictions imposed by the publishers before buying. And some of those restrictions have made me miss out on some really good games. But it has also caused me to buy a whole lot of great DRM-Free indie games so I guess that actually nets out as a plus!
I've been critical of the "online pass" since I first heard of it because it is publishers using a stick on used game players. Pay us or we'll break your game. Publishers attempted to justify the charge by claiming that because it costs money to run the online servers, they need to recoup that through single-use game codes at $10/per. Sure servers cost money, but they cost so little money for most games (there are some exceptions) that this argument is spurious to say the least. A single game server supports at least 1000, and as many as 10,000 simultaneous users. Multiply that by 24 hours for round-the-world players, and there's some serious capacity in just one server machine. Once the servers are installed, the ongoing costs are relatively minimal for a game selling millions of copies.
Now with Kingdoms of Amalur introducing an online pass for an offline game, EA is finally being honest about what it really is - a shot at Gamestop and the used game market.
Getting Audio into the game is a huge leap forward. You don't realize how much sound adds until the first time your game boots with its theme music playing. There's a physical reaction to sound that is hard to ignore.
After a bit of research I came to the conclusion that the only free option for an audio middleware layer is OpenAL. If you have some money you might want to consider Miles or FMOD - they have a ton of functionality you won't need to build yourself.
I was kind of uneasy initially when I discovered that the OpenAL 1.1 Core SDK and the OpenAL Installer haven't been updated since 2009. Hello? Anybody home? As it turns out, OpenAL has continued to develop, but it is within the drivers and with the extensions. Like OpenGL, the core OpenAL API has an extension mechanism to add new stuff while the core API doesn't change. If you're at all uneasy with OpenAL, go check out the list of games that have shipped using OpenAL - there are a lot of big names there.
OpenAL gives you 3D sound positioning (with distance volume attenuation) with hardware mixing support on some audio cards and the ability to play many sound sources (with different sample rates) at once. If you have a Creative Labs sound card, apparently you get other fancy EAX features through extensions. I haven't looked into that at all.
My first thought for the game's audio file format was MP3 to save space, but MP3 is covered by patent and requires per-copy royalties. Instead I went with Ogg Vorbis. Here's a handy link to a page with all the developer downloads. LibOgg is the container file library and is used by LibVorbis which is the audio codec.
I've been playing Guild Wars quite a bit over the Christmas vacation. I have to admire their business model. The simplicity of it is wonderful. Sell the game, sell some account-wide addons in a secure, off-the-shelf online store, and you're done. It's a shame it's an impossible business model for an indie. The cost of selling that first package is simply too high a barrier without a huge advertising budget.
With my requirement for in-game microtransactions I spent a lot of time over Christmas thinking about how to manage and record those transactions.
My design criteria ended up being:
I've done a fair amount of accounting over the years for my various small businesses, so my first thought was to look into how commercial accounting software systems operate. I spent a bit of time googling around and with the help of Stack Overflow I was able to find a specification document for a General Ledger which gave me the basic table design for a double-entry accounting system.
I never could have predicted in a million years that my little indie game would need me to develop a double-entry accounting system.
I keep a log of everything I do each week. With the year coming to a close I thought it a good time to look back through it and see what I've accomplished. It turns out there have been a lot of accomplishments this year. I thought it would be nice to pick out a few of them to share.
I like to do little features in the evening, separate from the bigger stuff I work on during the day. Sunday evening I thought a Terms of Service (TOS) screen would be a nice easy feature.
Little did I suspect I would encounter an international cascade of fail trying to get the TOS to actually work.