Last week, WarCry featured an interview with PlayXpert's CEO Charles Manning. WarCry readers had much to say & many questions about the in-game communication software. As a result, WarCry editor Suzie Ford submitted a second batch of questions to zero in on what WarCry readers want to know.
Comparisons have been made between PlayXpert and Rogue, Decal (Asheron's Call only), Steam, and XFire. Can you outline the major differences between PlayXpert and these other programs?
You bet. The comparisons are understandable. In one example (Decal), the extensibility that is provided with Asheron's Call is a "plugin" to the game. This is not unlike the many games (like WoW) who use LUA as a third party scripting system for game extensibility.
Part of the vision of PlayXpert has been to be a "universal" plugin system for all PC games so that if you (as a developer) wanted to build a cool piece of functionality you could do it regardless of the plugin architecture that might be available for the game. So although Decal is great for Asheron's call - and LUA for WoW, neither of those approaches works across various games - PlayXpert is the only technology that does that.
In the case of Steam and Xfire, these two systems have overlay capabilities but there are two key differentiators with PlayXpert: 1.) Both of these systems use a "user-mode" approach to overlay; and 2.) Neither of these technologies is extensible via "widgets." On the first point, user-mode overlay means that the host program (Xfire or Steam) interrogates into the shared memory of the game executable and re-arranges memory segments in order to get their "overlay" to work. This causes performance impacts on the game, impacts frame-rates on the game, and almost always triggers anti-hack tools. In addition, both are "closed" systems in that they don't allow users to communicate out of their own walled garden (chat, voice, etc.). Lastly, Xfire doesn't have a web browser as part of its offering at all - and Steam only allows its web browser to point to their community web pages. With regard to Rogue, it was recently made available and is a re-branding of an older technology called gameoverlay.com. It, too, uses a user-mode approach (as mentioned above) and is only a web browser. The fundamental problem with a user-mode approach is that when the game changes or the underlying engine changes, there is a strong chance that those changes "break" the overlay systems ability to do what it is intended to do: overlay. This is because their approach relies on interrogating into the game executable. This is why there is so much attention to "what games work" with these other approaches. With PlayXpert, our lowest common denominator is DirectX. Provided that the game outputs DX 8 or above to the GPU, PlayXpert overlay just "works."
Lastly, unlike Rogue, we feel pretty strongly about making "anything" possible for the player and we believe that the only way to do that is via a widget architecture that works across any DX game - just like PlayXpert.
What do you feel are PlayXpert's major strengths in comparison to other programs?
The key points are our kernel-level approach. We have branded this our "TrueOverlay" system because it's one of a kind in the industry. No vendor is doing overlay the way we do (because it's hard!) but it's the best way to do it because of the reasons mentioned above. The second major strength is our widget architecture. Anyone can build a tool that works in-game now that PlayXpert exists. Before PlayXpert - that wasn't a possibility.
Some have said that PlayXpert is 'nothing new' or that it's not 'groundbreaking'. How do you respond to that and what features do you feel truly are groundbreaking and technologically innovative?
Not at all true. Technologically, we have done what Microsoft says "isn't possible." We are interlacing our UI into the real-time DirectX stream as it goes to the GPU - this has never been done before us and no one else is doing it to deliver overlay. Anyone doing overlay today delivers it as a user-mode approach and there are significant performance and security impacts to it.
What other plans do you have for PlayXpert that will further define the differences between it and other programs with similar features?
By being at the kernel level of the OS, PlayXpert is uniquely qualified to do things at the command-stream of DX that were never even conceptualized before. Stay tuned for 2009 for a variety of new IP that will be released as new "widgets" from us. :)
Beginning on Monday, December 8, 2008, WarCry will feature an ongoing series of developer journals about PlayXpert so be sure to tune in again tomorrow!
Also of note is that Mr. Manning has spent time on WarCry's forums talking with our readers. If you have further questions for Charles, be sure to swing by the forum thread and ask away!