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Microsoft's Early Talks XBLA Competitors, Lag Fixes

As part of today's in-depth Gamasutra interview, Microsoft exec Chris Early has discussed the swift rise of the company's Xbox Live Arcade, discussing 'appr
As part of today's in-depth Gamasutra interview, Microsoft exec Chris Early has discussed the swift rise of the company's Xbox Live Arcade, discussing 'appropriation' tactics by competing console download services, and commenting on multiplayer lag issues on XBLA. Firstly, when asked by Gamasutra whether there are "...things within the PlayStation Network and the Wii’s Virtual Console that have alerted you to gaps within the service", Early was understated in his comment on competing digital download services, explaining: "Well, I know that we do our best to keep track of what’s going on, though I think we’re operating on a slightly different road-map – we know where we’re heading with the Live service, and we have a vision for what we’re delivering to customers and so far we’re staying pretty true to that. I think in some areas, we’re actually seeing reinforcement from some of what’s happening on the other services." Though he refused to be drawn into specific comment on what Xbox Live Arcade or Xbox Live features have been carefully studied by the competition, when pressed further, and asked: "So you don’t believe that they’re heading along a road-map in the same way that you are?", Early added: "I don’t think we’re on the same road-map, no. I think every service will be slightly different, and that’s the beauty of competition. Over time I hope they do discover things that are great that we can appropriate as well." In another part of the interview, the issue of lag in multiplayer XBLA games such as Contra was raised, and Early commented in detail on what Microsoft was doing about this particular issue: "Lag occurs in many cases and in many games, whether it be an Arcade game or a retail game because of the way the game is developed and so forth. We do test fairly extensively and that’s why we’re not happy when something like that does happen. In Contra’s case, we’re actually working on a fix, and there’s other games that have had lag problems at one stage or another that we’re working on fixes for." He continued: "We try to find as many of those as possible before they get out to the consumer, but developers aren’t always happy when we pull the game out of cert on something because, in many cases, looking to launch as quickly as possible. Still, we want to deliver the best quality games that we can." Early's conclusion? "At the end of the day, it is a function of how the developers code the game and I’ve seen – over the last 10 or 12 years I’ve been in the games industry – games that are written and have no lag on dial-up modems because they’re architected well for communication. I’ve seen games bring a LAN to a standstill because it’s sending out one packet for every bullet that’s coming out of a chain gun... It’s partly the experience of writing multiplayer, and peer to peer and optimizing for communication, and some of it is how extensively it’s been tested ahead of time. there are some great teams that get to a point where they’re like, ‘Ahh, if we’d switched this slightly, it would have been a much higher performing game’. Multiplayer, as you probably well know, is something of an arcane art." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including plenty more insight on the history, present, and future of the Xbox Live Arcade service, as well as commentary on the Windows Live and MSN Games services.

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