The quest to save a Stadia exclusive

Earlier this year, Google has announced that it is shutting down its Stadia game streaming servicethree years after its launch in 2018. While it is especially the fans of the service who feel the impact of closing, there is a handful of developers with Stadia exclusives who will unfortunately lose their games when the service shuts down for good in January. One of them is Q-Gamesmanufacturers of Pixel Junk Raiders. The edge spoke with Q-Games Founder and CEO Dylan Cuthbert, who explained the unique situation Q-Games finds itself in, trying to secure their exclusivity on Stadia’s sinking ship and a safe place where people can play it.

Pixel Junk Raiders is a space exploration roguelike that takes advantage of Stadia’s unique “state sharing” feature that allows users to share instances of their game that other players can jump into and experience for themselves.

Before Raiders was in development, Cuthbert said Google was showing Stadia to developers, and he immediately latched onto the idea of ​​players being able to share their in-game experience with others. “We built a game around those basic ideas, and it was a fun design challenge,” Cuthbert said.

As development progresses on Raiders continued, Cuthbert wanted to flesh out more ideas his team had for the game, extending his development time. But about six months before Raiders released, he began to have the idea that Stadia might be in trouble.

“Even though we wanted to develop the game further, [our Stadia representative] was like, ‘No, you really should ship it, or maybe it won’t ship,'” Cuthbert said.

Raiders launched in March 2021 to less than stellar reviews. Until then, Google had already closed the studio it openedled by Jade Raymond, to create proprietary games for the service.

“I think the writing was on the wall,” Cuthbert said.

Curiously, this isn’t the first time Cuthbert has faced trying to save one of his matches. In 2017, Q-Games came out The children of tomorrow, an adventure game with a unique voxel-based art style. The free game was unable to generate enough money to cover its server costs, so Sony turned it off six months after its release.

“Even though we had a strong fan base and strong user base, we didn’t want to milk them for more money,” Cuthbert recalled. “We struggled to build our basic income, and so, [Sony] close it.”

The children of tomorrowThe abrupt shutdown upset Cuthbert, Q-Games, and the game’s strong fan base.

“We closed it [in 2017]but the fans kept posting about the game and talking about it,” Cuthbert said.

Screenshot from The Tomorrow Children showing a small child holding what appears to be a shovel.

Image: Q-Games

“Every day screenshots were posted on Twitter, even though the game was no longer live and they couldn’t play it.”

This ardent love inspired Cuthbert to try to revive the game, which meant a messy legal dance with Sony’s licensing department.

“So I said, ‘Well, if you give me back the IP, I’ll rework the game so there’s no running cost,'” Cuthbert said, describing his negotiations with Sony to get the game back. ‘it releases the intellectual property rights of The children of tomorrow at Q-Games. “I will deliver the game to the fans, and even improve it for the PlayStation 5.”

But before Sony could say yes, Cuthbert also had to research the various licensors of the tools used in The children of tomorrowas well as its voice actors and musical directors for their permission to re-release the game.

“It took about a year to get the permissions. Some people were simply hard to track down because companies had gone out of business. »

But after gathering information about the leather in Cuthbert’s shoe, he finally had all the pieces in place to reissue The children of tomorrow what Q-Games did earlier this year. And the fanbase is proving just as enamored now as it was in 2017. “The support has been incredibly positive. They are all crazy. I mean, in a good way,” laughs Cuthbert.

Cuthbert hopes he can arrange a similar fate for Pixel Junk Raiders. When asked how Q-Games intended to port a game seemingly reliant on a Stadia-exclusive feature, Cuthbert seemed confident it would be an easy technical fix.

“So the state sharing system is copyable, I think,” he said. “Jumping from videos and stuff obviously couldn’t be done, but it wasn’t as important in the end [of development]so I think that’s really good.

Screenshot from PixelJunk Raiders where a human player dodges a laser bolt fired from a jellyfish-like creature against a sandy landscape

Image: Q-Games

Where Cuthbert thinks he might find friction is with Google itself. After the challenge to reissue The children of tomorrow, one of the lessons Cuthbert said he learned was to retain the intellectual property rights to the games he creates as much as possible. And although he has the right to Pixel Junk Raidershe says the contract he signed with Google makes it economically impossible to release the game elsewhere.

“I think the writing was on the wall.”

“The main idea internally is that if we can find funding, what we would do is take the game and rework it into the fuller vision we had and then relaunch it,” he said. -he declares. “We managed to get as an addendum added to our contract to allow us to maybe post on other platforms, but the royalty on that addendum was just too high to make it workable.”

Cuthbert’s idea is to get a publishing partner who can help with development costs and marketing to re-release the game. But before that happens, he needs someone, anybody, at Stadia to help him renegotiate his contract. Publishers won’t want to get involved if Q-Games will have to pay a hefty royalty to Google to have this game released elsewhere despite the fact that in T-minus 28+ days the platform the game is currently live on will no longer exist.

So for now, Raiders is in limbo.

“There’s a guy there who seems to be trying to get things done,” Cuthbert said. “He just texted me saying he’s working on it. So be patient. But I don’t know how long we have to be patient.

“I don’t know how long we have to be patient.”

Despite the fact that it seems Raiders is about to step out of the universe, like Thanos, Cuthbert is proud of what he’s achieved with Stadia. And that, if Stadia had taken advantage of its full potential, it could have potentially solved the preservation problem that older games face.

“You could have a system where you could just go watch an 80s game on YouTube, and your mom could play. And it would be right there, like no hassle for any browser. So whatever I was interested in with Stadia, why I was so excited was its potential to lower the barrier to entry.

One of the problems with video game preservation is the degradation of hardware and the rapid leaps in technology that the industry goes through every seven to eight years. With Stadia, Cuthbert envisions an ecosystem where all the gaming technologies of the past are preserved and stored in the cloud as emulators that people could play with the click of a button.

“I think if we want to be serious about preserving games from the 70s or 80s or, you know, from the beginning. This is the kind of system we need. He said. “We can’t rely on people buying cheap plastic emulators in a box.” (Ironically, one of Cuthbert’s own games was revived as a release on a “cheap plastic emulator in a box” while he was working on Star Fox 2 which was scrapped for 20 years before Nintendo has officially launched it on the SNES Classic.)

But before Cuthbert could fulfill his dream of an online emulation service where he could play the smugglers’ race, he needs to see a google on Pixel Junk Raiders.

“I just wait and see what happens,” Cuthbert said. “I kind of trust them to come back and say, ‘Okay, there you go. You can run with it now.

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