At GDC 2009, Stardock released GOO (Game Object Obfuscation) for developers to begin providing some intellectual property protection for their games that did so without annoying legitimate customers. The idea behind GOO was to put together a system that followed the Gamers Bill of Rights but still was acceptable to publishers looking to keep their games from being casually pirated. Since then, it has been adopted by several developers and publishers including Paradox and THQ.
At GDC 2010, Stardock debuted the full Impulse::Reactor. At the risk of hyperbole, Impulse::Reactor is revolutionary.
I realize it’ll be compared to other development tools released previously but the technology of Impulse::Reactor is something quite new. Let me show you why with these 5 reasons:
#1 Setup is automated
Again, if you’re not a game developer, you may not see the significance. But now, publishers and developers can set up their Impulse::Reactor accounts through an automated process. This includes defining achievements, using GOO, generating code, etc.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity will soon be updated to support achievements.
Adding achievements to your game is a matter of visiting the website and defining them. Then click on the “Generate Impulse Reactor code” and it will actually generate source code.
#2 Implementation is incredibly easy
I want to emphasize that this next screenshot indicates all the lines of code necessary to get basically set up. This is what makes Impulse::Reactor revolutionary.
The developer simply includes 2 files: ImpulseReactor.dll and ImpulseReactorOverlay.dll into their game along with a subdirectory which contains the skins.
The Overlay is the key because rather than developers having to call dozens of APIs to build their own UI, they simply call the proper Impulse::Reactor screen and then get the callback information as plain XML.
Because Impulse::Reactor does NOT require the user to bundle a third-party client, the screens are included as part of the overlay into the game itself. This is important because it makes it easy for developers to skin the overlay screens to match their game experience.
This screen capture includes all the setup code AND the code to add achievements. It gets generated from the website.
#3 It’s Vendor neutral
As game developers, we pour our hearts and souls and money into making games. We don’t want some third party to come in and take over that experience or take all our customers.
Impulse::Reactor doesn’t rely on an external client and is skinnable. In addition, users can logon with their Facebook, Twitter, and soon Windows LiveID, OpenID and other means if they want.
This way, users don’t have to keep track of yet another username and password if they don’t want to. The data is anonymzed. This way, their game should cause no issues to be released on all digital distributors and retailers.
Developers can skin the logon and let users logon with their Facebook or Twitter account
#4 Seamless integration into the game
Stardock’s “non game” business has included products like DirectSkin, DesktopX, WindowBlinds, ObjectDock, DeskScapes and countless other products and technologies. When Microsoft, Dell, HP, AMD, nVidia and so forth need technology to brand their programs, Stardock is the go-to company for this. That cool custom UI on GE’s medical equipment? That’s our tech. That app with the custom skin? Probably our tech behind the covers.
What makes this possible is that over the years, we’ve perfected the ability to integrate our code into the user’s process. This is important because the alter native way to do in-game “overlays” is for an external program to run and then for it to “blit” the screen into the game. The problem with that is that it is very obviously not part of the game and requires the game to distribute the external client.
Developers can choose to have screens come up as part of the game or if they don’t want to implement that, they can define a hot key to pop up the Impulse::Reactor control panel.
The advantage of Impulse::Reactor is that developers can customize their screen by changing the .PNG files and XML in the ImpulseReactor sub-directory to make these screens fit the game itself.
From a feature point of view, Impulse::Reactor provides features like GOO, friends lists, posting to Twitter/Facebook (if the gamer opts in), in-game DLC, achievements, chat, multiplayer matchmaking, rankings and ladders, server lists, virtual drives, and more.
#5 It’s FREE
The only string attached is that the game has to be available non-exclusively on Impulse at the same time as it is available elsewhere. The BETA for Impulse::Reactor began today with key internal partners with its general availability this Summer.
Here’s a video demo from GDC: