[casual_games] A Response from Microsoft
tuna at tunatech.com
Thu Dec 21 05:30:01 EST 2006
I think I speak for all of us when I thank Alex and others for their
efforts on the indie/casual community's behalf.
I find the situation bizarre to be honest. Whilst I understand having a
parental control system of some kind, it will always be very difficult
to do for 3rd party independent content downloaded from the web. The
brutal truth is that parental controls are meaningless on the context of
web games because anyone, aged 4 to 40, could go on to the same unrated
website with adult styled games content.
At retail there is a significantly bigger level of control, partly
because there is a certain level of expenditure required before software
can hit the shelves, and that means there is a scope for a proper
It's not a great solution, but can we install games in both the Games
Explorer and outside it? It may be messy, but it's the only thing that
would cover consumer expectations yet also protect the title from
Also, I'd like people to bare in mind that this doesn't just affect
casual games off the big portals, but also endless independent games
done commercially or by "back bedroom" developers. Some of these are
designed for children, and the profits are low. Parental controls would
become a major problem.
The rating system should allow parents to block games of a higher rating
than they allow, not block unrated games. I doubt any major publisher
would unrate their game just to get around this due to potential PR and
As for the general download and installation problems, I just see it
confusing users and lowering download rates for all types of software,
at least for a period of time. It's all very well saying users will get
used to it, but I disagree. Actually, users like quick and easy, so if
you hand out security or unsigned application warnings many users simply
won't take the risk in case they break something.
Alex St. John wrote:
> First, let me say that it's absolutely great that somebody from MS is
> reading this forum and responding. Please don't feel that anything I
> have to say here is leveled at anybody at MS personally, however we've
> struggled with Vista issues a long time, and the information in your
> response doesn't contain the whole story. We know nobody in the MS OS
> group is really in the casual game business or was in a position to
> understand the "unintended" consequences of some choices that were
> made, but it appears that we have to live with the consequences of
> some of that naivety now.
> It's true that parental controls are "optional" and are "buried" but
> once used are also "broken" and if even a small % of consumers adopt
> them create a sweeping support issue for small developers who can't
> afford MS sized call centers to deal with them. Had MS not jammed a
> highly prominent Games Explorer menu in the top level start button, it
> might not be an issue, but now that it's there with prominent
> promotion of its parental control feature, we have every reason to
> expect that it will be widely used, and expected to index all games by
> consumers. Ergo, there is no "choice" for game developers, they're
> forced to support the thing.
> Our developers attempted to support Vista parental controls, but
> Microsoft provides no API's for a game or game manager to provide
> their own UI access to parental controls or provide alternative UI to
> the game explorer, so a game cannot "adopt" the system and interpret
> parental controls intelligently. Thus parental controls are imposed
> unilaterally by Vista, even on good citizen games that have played by
> the rules and gotten ESRB ratings. This is not an issue between game
> developers and the ESRB, it was never a problem for casual games
> until Microsoft arbitrarily mandated them instead of providing a
> solution developers could choose to adopt. The BEST thing Microsoft
> could do to make Vista a better gaming environment would be to simply
> delete the Game Explorer before shipping Vista, thereby making the
> parental control issue irrelevant.
> As for LUA problems in Vista, why would Microsoft imply that the
> developers are at fault for not adopting a security mode of the
> Windows OS that was so widely reviled by consumers that nobody adopted
> it in XP? Furthermore there is simply no way to fix many problems
> created by LUA for casual games which is one of the major reasons
> consumers never used that mode. Consumers (especially kids) consume
> casual games like music lovers consume songs. There is no simple way
> in Vista to make frequent downloading and installation of many games
> from the web, often by kids, friendly or easy. It's just busted by
> security warning after security warning and security elevation
> dialogs. If a kid wants to download and try 5 casual games, they'll
> drive their par tents crazy asking them to type in elevation passwords.
> The net impact on the downloadable game business will be chilling and
> there is very little anybody can do to fix it except Microsoft.
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Tuna Technologies Ltd (Sheffield, UK)
Cross Platform Game Development
Tel: +44 (0)114 266 2211 Mob: +44(0)7771 524 632
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