The GP2X Wiz, successor to the Korean GP32 and GP2X consoles, is due for release in October, and is currently being promoted by developer Game Park Holdings as having a far more commercial approach than its predecessor.
TechRadar spoke to Canadian software developer Jeff Mitchell, developer of launch title BattleJewels, to learn more about the development scene, and GPH's part in it.
A recent press release stated that Game Park Holdings will be releasing new software for the Wiz every month. Can you elaborate on this promise, and explain how it might work?
I've a limited view into that world, but I can offer up that the titles seem to include a mix of pure commercial (such as GP2X titles and it looks like titles from the original GP32 modernized as well) and commercialized versions of GP2X homebrew - ie: as a small company, getting new content attracted to a platform is very difficult so they're trying to at least leverage what they do have access to - prior assets and the very strong homebrew community that has built up on their devices.
Let's be frank - the GPH machines pretty much make it on homebrew, so they know the value we developers add into the ecosystem, and this time they're trying to work more with all of us.
More to point, GPH have made the effort to appoint one or more people as liaison to developers of popular homebrew titles in hopes of getting their influential cooperation, and going so far as to offer assistance in commercializing applications.
GPH is offering some expertise in game assets (such as artwork), localization (to Korea, for instance) and offering suggestions (application ideas, interface design and so forth) to help differentiate for-sale games against their previous homebrew incarnations.
Can you explain how developers are approached by GPH to contribute to their in-house software library?
I think some applications have been 'bought up', but expect most are in cooperation with the developers instead. Certainly for my game, they've been wanting to cooperate on changes (they're a small organization, no way they could manage code on dozens of games at once).
Locating the popular homebrew is not difficult... a night of trolling some of the fan sites will yield all that is needed, and there are a few recurrent homebrew competitions whose posted results pages will provide handy bookmarks. BattleJewels ranked pretty high in last year's GBAX competition, as did some of the other titles I believe are being farmed for the Wiz.
Naturally I can only speak for myself though. GPH emailed me some time ago around the beginning of the year - informing me of a few in-progress details of an upcoming device, asking for source for the BattleJewels game (code, artwork, etc) so they could do some rework to ensure it would operate on the new device and possibly do some upgrades along the way.
BJ is not an open source work so the request was curious, but I figured they meant to just bring top homebrew onboard but in the more or less same state it was in on the GP2X. I wrote back with some options - that we could make a build for the new device, that we didn't mind being included in the device ROM as long as game assets were untouched (credits and so on).
I suspect over time they realized that some of the people they were approaching were professional software developers and started working towards more commercial games in the traditional sense - delivered on SD, rather than UMD on a PSP for instance.
Are you being paid by GPH for your continued development contribution, or are you expecting a one-time purchase of your title by the company?
It seems to be essentially a commissions-style system though I've not yet gone so far as to bang out details. Getting into the legals with a Korean corporation could get complex so I've got some research to do yet but they've offered up very favourable terms. I've got applications and games up on a few platforms and over the years the publishers have been getting greedier and greedier and making it very hard on those of us at the end of the pipe; GPH made a very fair set of terms, which is refreshing to see in this day.
It's clear from the active developer forums that the games development side of GP2X/GP2X:Wiz is very much a hobbyist's field. How would you describe the developer scene? Is it friendly? Close? Are there any rivalries or unpleasantries between developers?
The scene in general is one of the best around; the public at large is smaller than with your mainstream devices and so attracts people who are more interested in the devices and are a little willing to tinker - like your aftermarket car folks would be. The development scene itself has often been compared in spirit to the roaring days of the early 90s (Atari ST and and Amiga and whatnot); suffice to say I think it's one of the best communities of homebrewers and retro-developers around, though not limited to the GP-related devices.
There is a blur of developers who dabble in these machines and other consoles (Dreamcast has always been a dev's favourite), PDAs/phones or embedded devices, in emulation development, shareware and commercial gaming, and more conventional systems and you'll frequently find the same names popping up in many places.
People are forever bumping into me in this forum or that website and asking if I'm "that" skeezix from Codejedi, from gp32x.com, or from emuboards. The GPH crowd gets around, and if you need some help there's a hand usually around to assist.
There are numerous scenes as well - you can't miss the Spaniards or the Germans and the GPH fans are spread across the world.
There are the usual short term spats but few will notice such things. In general, it has always been great fun to loiter at gp32x.com. myself, I really enjoy having a tight knit community, people who are not only willing but dying to help out, to beta test, to help with artwork for your emulator frontend or whatever. The PSP scene, the DS scene and so on. They're lively as well, but larger and less pulled together I always
thought. (Though there are some very good sub-communities there, of
Some might suggest that the GP2X:Wiz will once again be a console very popular with those who use emulators or pirate games, and won't actually be interested in a dedicated software base. How would you respond to such a statement?
The Wiz will be enormously popular for emulation and homebrew fans, and I expect people will buy a title or two of commercialware if it is priced well, and is priced to the quality. Prices have been climbing in gaming arenas, but as we can see with Apple's iTunes app store, keeping prices modest can really boost the numbers. Now, remember there are multiple sides to economics - on the one, you want to make people smile, and enjoy your title, and keeping prices low does that, and gets the title out to more hands for more smiles. But accountants will be quick to point out that if you half the price and sell 2.5 the quantity, you're still ahead - so karma, and profits. The trick is finding the balance.
So I do believe there is a market, but I don't expect it's a huge one.
I've never seen statistics for sales for the previous GPH machines, but from the forums we do see people buying the games; and if no-one bought any, Play Asia and so on wouldn't have kept stocking them, right?
Do you think the work you and other developers are doing on the games front will help to give the new GP2X any kind of foothold in the modern handheld market, next to the success of the DS and the PSP?
No; just like SanDisk selling mp3 players doesn't dent the iPod market - but it keeps SanDisk going. It helps legitimize the device to those who think emulation is bad and that its 'just for emulation', or 'just another Chinese mp4 device.' And it helps pay a few bills here or there for a few people, hopefully. But mostly it's a lot of fun.
This is how Quake mod teams suddenly end up being game developers themselves; ten years of bottom feeding and finally getting their break.
GPH was a nobody with the GP32, and they're getting more known with their increased Linux support on the GP2X series; they're still a nobody, but they're less a nobody. Slashdot posts about them now, but that's a long way from pretending Sony will take notice. Though, I don't know how big a name they are in Korea. Perhaps I am woefully unaware!