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I've read Halley's tome about "women and truth" a few times, and it's one of those things that everyone in business should read. And act on.
We watched the Discovery Channel show on the Xbox and, boy was that weird. Most of the show was filmed in the labs where we were hanging out today. Total deja vue. Anyway, have a great weekend. The wine Maryam brought us back is pretty good...
Oh, I hear one thing that's awesome is the Dungeon Siege II trailer that was shown at the E3. I'm downloading it now.
By the way, the Xbox team I met with is on TV tonight (too late for East Coast, but it'll be on at 8 p.m. Pacific Time for the West Coast). Wolruf just told me he just got done seeing the Discovery special on TV on the East Coast and that he thought it was interesting. "It let you see how microsoft worked with developers and it put forth a message that MS is not trying to cram poor quality games out the door."
While Patrick and I were getting an inside look at Microsoft's game development labs, Maryam and my parents were getting a wine-tasting tour of Delille Cellars, and Betz Winery courtesy of Steve Broback (they were raving about the private tour given to them by one of the Delille co-founders, Greg Lill, and Betz Winery's founder, Bob Betz). Sounds like I missed a really great wine tour -- although Patrick and I wouldn't have turned down a great tour of Microsoft's game labs for that. They came home with lots of good wine. So, you can guess what I'm doing now. Hope your weekend is starting out as well!
"These guys have it made," nine-year-old Patrick Scoble, my son, said as he got a tour of Microsoft's game development and testing facilities this afternoon. "They get to play games all day long."
He thought it was cool that many of the workers there have tons of action figures in their offices. Though, they didn't have any Lord of the Rings figures.
"I got to play games before they were released," Patrick said. Indeed he did. Crimson Skies. Amped 2. And others that you won't see until this Christmas or beyond.
James McDaniel, program manager on Rise of Nations, gave us a tour around.
He introduced us to various managers of games, and let Patrick play for a few minutes in each one while I learned about the process of making a game.
I learned that Microsoft doesn't actually make most of its own games. Instead, it is a publishing house for folks who come up with interesting game titles. James told me that he evaluated dozens of developers last year since Microsoft is looking for the next big game.
Then, James took us to the play-testing lab. This is a room with dozens of computers. Each station has two Xbox'es, and a decently-tricked out PC. The methodology in this lab is to find out whether or not the game is fun. This room is also used for marketing events (I had visited a few years ago as part of a GameFest event). You can even sign up to playtest in this lab.
Next door there's the more serious lab, which tests for accessibility and usability. Here, a player is seated in one room, and the team that developed the game sits in another room. Separated, of course, by a one-way mirror.
As the player plays in these labs, they are recorded on videotape. Cameras watch the screen, the keyboard, and other input devices. Plus, as the player plays, he constantly talks about how he's thinking. And where he's having trouble.
When we were there, a player was running through a series of tests in a new version of Flight Simulator.
Some rooms we weren't allowed to go in. Even though I'm a Microsoft employee, there are some games and things they don't want anyone to talk about, or even to know about. Secrecy is a big part of making sure they can suprise competitors.
The cost to develop a single game? Five to seven million dollars. James says that console games can cost even more. Some a lot more.
We also talked about how they pick which game goes on the XBox, and which one goes on the PC. James says that some games just don't work well on XBox. Why? Because the screen is usually 10 feet, or more, away from the game player, and also because TV screens are lower resolution. Also, they realize that console gamers want an experience where other people can watch along and that have a minimum of text.
PC games, on the other hand, can have more text, more strategy, and more interaction, since almost all PCs have keyboards for entering commands.
Anyway, hope your weekend is great. Patrick and I had a great time. Thanks James and team for showing us around!