You know how in a fairytale if someone is generously feeding a child it's inevitably because they plan to eat them later? I'm suspicious someone's planning to eat all the indie developers. We've now got the Unreal 3 engine freely available for non-profit development, and surprisingly fairly offered for those planning to sell their game. We've got Unity available to the masses. And now Havok - the pioneers of gaming physics - introducing a licensing plan for independent game makers. Although there's a slight confusion over how "indie" this is.
The press release detailing this is, as you might expect, written in press-release-speak, beginning like this:
"Designed to enable independent game studios to execute their creative visions using Havok’s premium, developer-preferred middleware technology, the Independent Developer Program helps studios minimize the overall risk and high cost associated with internal creation of the tools and technologies required to power today’s sophisticated video and PC games. Havok’s Independent Developer Program will give developers access to the company’s full suite of cutting-edge, award-winning products and technologies including: Havok Animation™, Havok AI™, Havok Behavior™, Havok Cloth™, Havok Destruction™ and Havok Physics™. Havok's modular suite of tools puts power in the hands of creators, empowering them to reach new standards of believability and interactivity in video games. All of Havok’s software tools are fully multithreaded and cross-platform optimized."
They don't detail how much this will cost, rather referring to an "annual agreement". However, it seems to offer flexible access to all the technology, and also the use of Havok's customer support. But it's a little ambiguous, especially in light of the first company to try this. Krome Studios CEO Robert Walsh explains,
"Krome has the unique opportunity to develop multiple prototypes using Havok’s world class products and then, if required, to license those technologies from Havok. Havok has ascended from being just a middleware provider to becoming an instrumental business partner. Havok enables Krome to manage its risk during development and allows it the freedom to explore fresh possibilities with Havok’s technology."
But Krome employs 400 people, recently made LucasArts game Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, and is the largest developer in Australia. Which isn't, perhaps, the "indie" that would spring to most people's minds.
You can, however, get at much of the Havok tech for free using the "Intel-funded, binary-only versions of Havok Physics, Havok Animation and Havok’s Content Tools for the PC." They can be found here, and there's no charge for these so long as you're giving your game away for free.
We've contacted Havok to find out more - our question being: is this new plan affordable for the sort of indie developer most people would think of - three or four people working out of bedrooms? Or is this simply for those who aren't tied to a major publisher who would otherwise fund major software/middleware licenses? We'll update with any replies.
Let's hope it's the former, because just imagine the potential power at an indie team's fingertips. The Unreal 3 engine, Havok middleware, online distribution... Cor.