Phil Fish. If not for alliteration alone, one might remember him for more stellar reason: He’s the main developer powerhouse behind the indie smash-hit ‘Fez’ that graced the Xbox 360 and PC last year. The puzzle-platformer gained critical acclaim, applauded for it’s innovative use of level design and 8-bit charm to win over gamers as they played as the small, alabaster antagonist, Gomez, with the notable headgear for which the game derives its name. The game is most known for its meshing two-dimensional and three-dimensional level design, allowing the player to manipulate said dimensions to help piece the protagonist’s world back together.
Unfortunately, it seems like that sort of charm will be coldly absent from a Microsoft console this time around. In a talk over at Polygon, Phil elaborated on the topic:
‘PS4 seems to be doing everything right. It’s too early to tell how everything is going to unfold but their heart definitely seems to be in the right place. Which is a weird thing to say when talking about giant monolithic corporation, but there’s a handful of people working at Sony today who are really trying to do some good. And whether or not I would develop for it comes down to how the platform holder treats me. With Microsoft they’ve made it painfully clear they don’t want my ilk on their platform. I can’t even self-publish there. Whereas on PS4, I can. It’s that simple. Microsoft won’t let me develop for their console. But Sony will.’
To shed a little light on the matter at hand, one would have to understand the intricacies of the touchy subject. Fez debuted on April 13th or 2012, with the Microsoft Windows release coming a few weeks later, meaning that Microsoft had the exclusivity to the game for that time before it launched elsewhere. Not the biggest window of time to hold that right, but it was something. However, the way that Microsoft wields their independent gaming policies on their current console, the Xbox 360, and perhaps to a degree of yet to be seen, the Xbox One, it makes it hard for some independent games to see the light of day.
When a company wants to put a patch out for a particular game on a Microsoft console, they have to pay a certain fee for certification, which can prove costly for independent developers if they seek small, continuous iterations of said patches over giant bricks of data. After Fish helped put out a patch for ‘Fez’ to correct some in-game issues and bugs, it soon was noticed that it was in fact ALSO corrupting save files and sometimes making the game unplayable. That’s a red flag for any developer, independent or not.
In an effort to fix this, Fish pushed through another patch as soon as possible that would remedy this error, but Microsoft seemingly wanted another installment on their payment plan for more certification., or put the game back into its released state before the first patch was launched and leave it at that. In the end, Fish refused to pay another fee, and let the game roll back to its previous state, citing the charge for certification ‘too expensive.’
It is a sad thing to witness, not only for gamers, but in the industry when helping mend games and polishing the product to further the happiness gamers derive from the product falls to the wayside in the light of charges and fees. Many believe that the independent game market is just as important as the corporate level, pushing new, innovative ideas up to be noticed in ways that they couldn’t before, offering new views and experiences that break the bold of the usual fare. Time will tell if Microsoft will change its independent game policies, and if Fish will open up his receptiveness to the company.