One of the recurring features to appear at E3 2011 was the idea of cross-platform gameplay, which Sony seemed to have misguidedly refer to as ‘Cross-play‘. The basic notion is that players should be free to play their game on any device, and when playing online they should have access to all players.
Sony are using this to describe the directly linked gameplay between PS Vita editions of Ruin, Modnation Racers, Little Big Planet and Wipeout 2048, as well as sharing of content between the devices.
Games such as Quake 3 Arena and Shadowrun tried this on Dreamcast and Xbox 360, with both of them linking to their PC counterpart. Final Fantasy XI also allows players from PS2 to link with PC players, and has been maintained for over ten years. Nintendo have announced that players will be able to play between 3DS and Wii U versions of Smash Bros.
Transferring save-game data is another aspect of cross-play, so that players can take their progress and unique game from one machine to another, especially in single player games. Sega experimented with this in arcades with Dreamcast memory cards, and Love and Berry on Nintendo DS comes with a scanner for adding new dresses and jewelery from your arcade obtained cards. You’re also able to transfer save data (clumsily) between PSP and PS3 when playing emulated games such as Final Fantasy 7.
Copying save files is something that Konami have latched onto, calling it “Transfarring” (sic) with a very arkward attempt to invent new brands. It worked for Shenmue’s QTE, after all. PSP to PS3 save data transfer is also part of the Monster Hunter remake for PS3.
‘Cloud saves’ are the other method of transferring save data. You basically upload it to a server, and the OS downloads the newest version of the file from the server before gameplay. This works well on Steam, and allows save games to be passed easily between PC and Mac. Apple’s new iCloud feature may offer a solution for developers with Mac and iOS versions of their games.
Best of all, most of these options are still open to indies. It’s possible to transfer saves between iPhone and Android, to do multiplayer gaming using whichever hardware and servers we wish, and Flash in particular makes it easy for games to run between platforms, but can be more tricky for transferring game progress.
Do you care about being able to play your game in multiple locations? If you’re a developer, is this something you invest effort into supporting? Do you think we should all be participating in Cross-play?