Gaar: Austin game developers hail the coming of Google Fiber [Austin American-Statesman]
(Austin American-Statesman (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 17--What will Google Fiber mean for the Austin video game industry?
Will the advent of ultra-high-speed Internet be another feather in Austin's cap as a game development town? Will it give studios a boost over their competitors?
Developers I spoke with were uniformly excited that Google is bringing its superfast Internet to Central Texas. (The company has said the service is expected to be up and running by mid 2014.) And everyone agreed on one thing: it will save them time.
"We're extremely excited about it," said John Watson, technical director for Austin indie developer Stoic Studio. "As soon as it was announced, there was definitely a big buzz among us, our friends and our developer friends."
The reason fast Internet will help developers, Watson and others said, is because lots of developers work with remote contractors around the world. That means lots of sending files back and forth across the Internet -- sometimes really large files. And every time a new version of the game is built, that has to be shared, which can lead to long wait times.
"You could be waiting dozens of minutes, or hours and that's a real serious problem," Watson said.
Plus, Internet speeds affect everyone in technical fields, he said.
"Everyone doing technical work is using the Internet," Watson said. "And everyone doing games is handling large chunks of data, gigabytes at a time."
Chris Chuter, president of Austin studio Retired Astronaut Collective, agreed.
"From the developer's standpoint, more bandwidth is always good," he said. "You've got a bigger pipe, you can do more stuff and send more data through the pipe."
But Austin having a superfast Internet connection could have even greater implications than saving time.
Jenna Wandres, a Google spokeswoman, said Austin's reputation as a tech town was a big reason why Google chose to come here. And Google hopes that faster Internet will spur innovation of the next generation of Internet applications.
As an example, Wandres pointed to the days of dialup Internet connections. Back then, you couldn't imagine streaming high definition video via services like Netflix. But now, it's commonplace with broadband Internet.
"We believe that the next 100-times increase in speed ... will lead to the same kind of new innovations that we can't necessarily even imagine now," Wandres said.
"We believe that (Google Fiber) will fuel innovation and it will fuel the next generation of killer Web apps," she said. "And we believe that Austinites will be able to be at the forefront of developing those."
Starr Long, an executive producer at Austin studio Portalarium, said his company is already pushing the "bleeding edge" of existing bandwidth.
Having faster Internet will allow Long's team to interact with fans online in different ways, he said. For example, developers could play a demo version of an upcoming game, stream it live and get fan reaction in real time.
"That's just absolutely not possible right now," Long said.
Neal Nellans, CEO of developer Tiny Utopia, said the larger bandwidth will allow smaller developers to make more ambitious projects that would have been too expensive previously. He pointed to massively multiplayer online games, which are played in real-time with thousands of players and require a large amount of bandwidth.
"To be able to have that (bandwidth) potentially in your own home will definitely interest a lot more indies to consider doing multiplayer games, having that advantage now," he said.
Some developers also said that Google Fiber will burnish Austin's reputation as a tech town -- even possibly attracting other businesses.
"It definitely gives us a lot of cachet, I think it makes the place more attractive to a tech company," Long said. " Like wow I have this giant pipe now, that at least for now isn't widely available.
And with a better Internet infrastructure, there will be business opportunities that wouldn't have been available before.
"Google is really, in a sense, partnering with Austin and partnering with our tech community," Chuter said. "So what it's doing is it's giving a really firm California-to-Austin handshake here but it's up to us as Austinites to start forming some of these businesses around it, to take advantage of it."
New businesses aside, Jeremy Strauser, chief operating officer of Bee Cave Games, said his employees are also excited about Google Fiber on a personal level.
"They just want to have Internet that flies," he said.
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