May 28, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless
[This interview, conducted by Brandon Sheffield, ran on big sis site Gamasutra earlier today, and I'm bonus posting it over here because the Xbox 360 Community Games concept is intriguingly 'open' for Microsoft - especially the peer review concept for ratings - so it'll be fascinating to see how it plays out, both in game quality and submission reality.]
At GDC, Microsoft revealed the Xbox Live Community Games project, using the XNA platform and its Game Studio Express software to allow the publishing of Xbox 360 games from the amateur community.
The company has been seeking to create what is often hopefully (and elusively) painted as a "YouTube of gaming" - an environment where amateur and independent developers can freely share their creations in an accessible way.
In the longer term, Microsoft is looking to familiarize the next generation of game developers with knowledge of its own development environments, which has obvious benefits for the company down the line if they can pull it off.
According to the firm, Microsoft plans to announce more regarding its XNA initiatives and the Creators Club Online/Community Games project (which is a peer-based publishing system and currently in Beta) at its annual Gamefest technology conference in July.
In the meantime, XNA game platform general manager Boyd Multerer sat down with Gamasutra to discuss the specifics of the complex system, how it's intended to work, and some of the possible issues and solutions inherent in the new system.
The YouTube Of Gaming
Many people are looking for the whole "YouTube of gaming" thing - how exactly is the process going to be working now, in terms of differentiating content that a consumer would pay for, and free content?
BM: Well that's a good question, and it's an area that is specifically an area that we're still trying to close the details on. And the plan is that we'll have a completed story around "What is the difference between those kinds of content and how do you differentiate between them?" at Gamefest this summer.
So that's just specifically an area that I can't talk about at the moment, just because we haven't closed on it yet. We haven't finished figuring that part out yet.
OK. You're still going to have Xbox Live Arcade, correct? And so Community Games will be differentiated, right?
BM: That is right. Well, the first differentiator to think about, right now - that's a different differentiator - there's a differentiator of professional content versus community content. That one I can talk better about.
In the professional world - and when you think about XBLA in particular - that is content that has had serious budgets put into it. I mean, to make those games, and to make a high quality game that's worthy of getting big marketing money behind it, and all that, it costs money. Budgets for those games, with multiple people involved, about three hundred thousand dollars, half-million dollars, even a million dollars these days is not unheard of to develop these kinds of games.
The people I'm targeting with the community side of XNA, their budget is... can they eat? Right? Some of these people are in college, some of these people are not even in the software industry, this is what they do for hobby, and it's about giving them a channel where they can still be creative.
No one's expecting that - and of course there will be exceptions to this, but overall - no one's expecting that their games are going to compete with the professional titles, simply because they don't have the art budget for it. There will occasionally be someone who's really, really good at it, and is going to stand out, but for the vast majority of the content, you'll be able to tell the difference as soon as you see it, simply because it just takes a lot to make a professional game.