Today's morning keynote at Game Developers Conference Europe saw Chris Satchell, the General Manager of the Xbox Game Developer Group at Microsoft, discussing what he and his company envisages regarding consumer and content trends. More of an overall look at how society is changing and information on the XNA development tools than specific revelations on Xbox 360, a full write-up of this talk will be available on Gamasutra in the near future. However, some of the highlights of the lecture were contained in the short Q&A session at the end, and included:
- When asked about the possibility of Xbox 360 community creating their own customizable content and even complete new game modes for next-gen console titles, Satchell commented that Microsoft had "built protection at the silicon level" for game protection this time, meaning that Microsoft doesn't necessarily have to certify all executables running on the console. Although he admitted: "I'm amazed at the genius of the hackers out there", Satchell commented that Microsoft is looking, in version 2 of the XNA development tools, at people creating game mods on the Xbox 360. In addition, he acknowledged that the Xbox 360 Live Marketplace is starting as publishers selling to consumers, but suggested: "Our vision is for consumers selling to consumers."
- Quizzed about the two options for the Xbox 360, one including hard disc, and one without, Satchell simply commented: "Both of them are gaming devices", suggesting that Xbox 360 users with a hard drive are going to be downloading and customizing their experience a great more through Xbox 360 Live, but that would be the main difference. As for the naysayers regarding lack of hard drive support for Xbox 360 titles, Satchell simply stated: "The games look great, they don't need a hard drive, they're working great off DVD."
- Finally, asked whether Microsoft's new XNA Studio and XNA Build tools are truly cross-platform, even beyond Windows, the Xbox, and Xbox 360, Satchell posited: "We mean [totally] cross-platform, like Visual Studio", but noted that, obviously, there are things these XNA tools can do on Microsoft platforms that provide extra features, such as intelligent connections to run-time XNA tools.
As for the rest of the lecture, Satchell started by noting: "Our customers are influenced by other media choices, much more, perhaps, than in the past." He also noted that the average age of gamer in U.S. and Europe is 30, and still trending up. He also referenced digital community, customizability, user-based content creation, and the rise of 'time-constraint gaming' - Satchell pointed out that "it's hard to spend 20 hours to finish a title" for many mature game-players.
He particularly focused on why great developers thrive through trend and hardware transitions, and suggested that they had a "core set of values", looking at sets of developers such as 'listeners' (who communicate and implement fan-based feedback), 'visionaries' (charismatic leaders of focused content), 'planners' (who hate chaos, and love organization), 'iterators' (making great games through multiple versions), 'collaborators' (seeing games as cross-functional problems), and 'perfectionists' (a close relative of the iterator, and very willing to slip a product if it's not good enough.)
In discussing Microsoft's approach, he admitted that, as of Microsoft's original launch of XNA at Game Developers Conference 2004: "We didn't know what the hell it was." In evolving it, he noted: "Why did we say we were going to go off and do run-time tech?", and explained that XNA's flagship tools now are XNA Studio, basically Visual Studio for game development with further asset management, and XNA Build, helping with the build process for games, as well as the broader XNA Runtimes. A full write-up of the keynote will be available on Gamasutra in the near future.