Unreal Tournament III was announced for the 360 back at the beginning of last year. However what makes the game so popular on the PC is the possibility of mods which allow for new weapons, character models, maps and so on. It was said early on that mods for the 360 would prove troublesome thanks to Microsoft’s concerns over the potential threat mods bring to system security. The PS3 then got a release in November of last year (in North America), yet still the 360 version was no-where to be seen, nor have Epic announced much other than “the game is coming along nicely”. Now Microsoft XNA general manager Chris Satchell has come out and spoken about exactly why mods on the 360 aren’t appearing.
Speaking to Eurogamer:
Eurogamer: The peer-review system seems like it has the potential to be used outside XNA. One of the things that’s in the headlines a lot is Epic’s problem of wanting to do modifications for Unreal Tournament 3. Is the peer-review system something that could be reused to allow modified content of that nature?
Chris Satchell: […]
Now the modding’s a little different. Yes it could help rate mods, but the core issue of modding is what we talked about earlier - if you’re not running in that sandbox, how do you guarantee security?
That’s really where we’ve got stuck - making sure that nothing will hurt the user’s system, and I’m a little disturbed when I think about other systems and people using what we call native code - code that goes right down to the metal - and then allowing people to run script mods on top of that without the right security measures. It could be really dangerous.
We’ve drawn a hard line because we very much care about security, and it seems like some other platforms don’t seem to care quite as much. That kind of worries me for consumers. But all I can control is what we do on our platform, so that’s where I’m going to focus - we’re going to keep you safe because that’s really important to us.
Eurogamer: So not even needing to read between the lines, you’re saying that there’s a potential risk to consumers of PS3?
Chris Satchell: I think there’s a potential risk on any platform where you’re allowing…where you’re running in what we call native mode, where you’re writing straight to the metal, not a sandbox layer like XNA, and then that runs a script engine and you let people do that in that script engine.
I think there’s very mature, sensible hackers who just want to prove how good they are, and they don’t cause harm, and there’s malicious hackers, and any platform that let’s you do that, and doesn’t have the right security measures in place - whether it’s Sony, whether it’s Nintendo, whether it’s Apple, whether it’s anyone - you’re inviting trouble, because sooner or later someone will want to prove they can do it.
It’s an interesting point and certainly a good enough reason to be concerned, however the PS3 has done a great job so far of controlling the mods and there haven’t been any stories just yet about someone’s system breaking down as a result of a particular mod. There are ways around the issue: submit your content to Epic or Microsoft for approval, then Microsoft put it on the Xbox Live Marketplace, or fully ban a user for inappropriate content. Whether anything will be done about it remains to be seen though, as there’s little commercial gain for Microsoft who are well known for wanting to charge for content. Hosting thousands of mods will come at a cost to them; is it a cost that they want to suffer?