11th February 2010 - At Sydney University earlier this week, Robbie Bach, the President of Entertainment and technology for Microsoft was ‘launching’ the Surface computer to Australia.
In the middle of the 3D TVs and DJ Hero’s, there was a lone Xbox and on it, the new addition to Xbox LIVE, Microsoft’s Game Room. Developed in Australia by Krome Studios it marks a point of bringing Xbox content onto the PC and merging the two through communication and play. Lucky for us, we managed to grab some time with the only man there, Dan, who just happened to be the lead Designer of Games Room. So without further ado, the Q and A’s from our time Dan.
Ian: So the arcade rooms have themes? (The space has multiple floors with a lot of cabinets in them but each room is themed, horror, techno, 80s ect)
Dan: Yup. The different levels have themes and you download packs. So the spaces are customizable for you and your friends to see.
Ian: The props in the rooms, are they free, or do we pay for them like Avatar props?
Dan: Totally free with the packs and themes so you can make up your own space and we give you the pieces to put in there.
Ian: Your friends can come into the room like a party, how does that work?
Dan: You can see your friends avatar if they are in your room. It's currently not in real-time and they have no control over the avatar, but they can see your games, browse your selection and demo any games you have.
Ian: But not play the full version?
Dan: In the future we want real time control over the avatars but currently it's just so you know they are in your space. They can buy any game they see and if they have the full version you can issue challenges to each other and compete.
Ian: What’s the price point on using this?
Dan: It’s a free application through Windows live and Xbox which will have its own menu and you load. You then fill out the space with packs you purchase.
Ian: We pay for packs but once we buy packs do we have to pay to play?
Dan: Negative, if you buy the pack you can then pay for the full game(s) or not but your not paying for coins each time.
Ian: But you are buying to look at the demo and then buying the full version, though packs contain themes and multiple arcade machines?
Dan: There’s some neat retro customizing where you can collect different cabinets to display your games on. You can even get old TVs to play them through. For $1.00 you can expand this content onto a pc.
Ian: So to view my Xbox content on the internet on my computer it costs another $1.00? How does that work, is it browser based?
Dan: No, you download the client through Games for Windows and it runs on your desktop as a client connecting to the server.
Ian: So I can see my Xbox buddies online even if I’m only on the pc?
Dan: Indeed the Avatar will appear, your essentially connecting to the MS XBOX Live server similar to the current forums ect.
Ian: Cool. I noticed you’re playing Pitfall. A lot of kids these days wouldn't have even experienced that.
Dan: Nope. That's what I love. Pitfall is awesome. There's a bunch of different titles from Amiga to old arcade games. Oh and you can rewind the time like in Prince of Persia.
Ian: That’s cheating! (LOL) You were flying into the enemy and you stopped it rewound and repositioned yourself.
Dan: It's good for kids who just find some of them too hard. You can also issue challenges and there is leader boards, single player and you get to insert your own coins. Each arcade machine can showcase any game so you can switch it up and make the space your own.
Ian: It's all looking pretty neat but do I really need another menu system on live?. Australia just got XBOX Insider and I didn't even know I had it.
Dan: It's cool isn’t it; it’s got good videos on it.
Ian: Yes, but there’s too many menus now to navigate, it’s just a long list. Do you see this space as the start of some synergy, like PlayStation Home?
Dan: I know what you mean.
Ian: With Natal coming out XBOX Live is evolving and this thing has to evolve with it. Do you see a space where all the applications are in one place like a big shop and people just walk around and access the info and data in a more interactive place?
Dan: That's what I would like to see, I would love to head things in that direction for sure....
Ian: So, when’s it coming out??
Dan: I can't tell you that.
Ian: Can you tell me what the game plan is, what's shipping with it?
Dan: We are planning to roll out about 30 games at launch and around 1000 over the next 3 years.
Ian: So there’s a 3 year plan? Are you planning on keeping this around for 3+ years?
Dan: Definitely. We have built a lot into this and as Microsoft changes it's not going anywhere it's just getting better and bigger.
Ian: Well, I see you are needed for a picture with Robbie, thanks for your time.
Dan: No problems.
Well there you have it, some good insight into Microsoft’s new Games Room feature. Games Room certainly does look like a fun addition to the content already surfacing online, and as long as Microsoft is committed to keeping it updated and relevant while looking at new ways to integrate the whole shebang, only time will tell how it bodes for ‘hard-core’ gaming.
Interview Conducted By Ian Crane