- Ahem - so I have to admit that Microsoft was nice enough to invite me to their GDC blogger breakfast (thanks Arne and friends!), and then I completely ran out of time to post about it here on GSW.

But I did have enough time to dash off a story for Gamasutra about the big news - that "Microsoft and Bungie Studios are currently planning two different episodic gaming series for Xbox 360 with Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson" - the first set in the Halo universe.

Now, we knew some of this already - just not the episodic bit - but I feel a bit cheeky in going ahead and posting it on Gamasutra when they recruited me for my GameSetWatch 'skillz'. But I did ask the question which resulted in this news, and I'm further making up for it now by posting some more highlights from the breakfast.

Well, firstly, over at Major Nelson's site, there's actually a full audio recording of the breakfast. Actually, I didn't realize it was being recorded, possibly because I came in late, so I'm glad I didn't swear too much - though I did complain about somebody hating Paperboy, I think. Destructoid has a link to the video, too, and Gamerscore Blog has a bunch of pictures of the whole thing.

Anyhow, here's some interesting bits:

- Here's the one I already wrote up, but hey, worth mentioning again - Shane Kim confirmed that Microsoft and Bungie Studios are currently planning two different episodic gaming series for Xbox 360 with Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson, commenting: "Our deal with Peter is not about a film guy who wants to make video games". He also revealed of the Jackson/Bungie collaboration: "We're in the design phase now", continuing: "The first series will be set in the Halo universe."

- I did ask Chris Satchell a question directly related to my 'Why Partnernet Is A PR Nightmare' post, and he indicated that "The best thing we can do is keep educating" on why journalists shouldn't be leaking Partnernet info. He also suggested that "there is a huge amount of [technical/financial] overhead" regarding my vague suggestion to set up a separate 'Pressnet' - which is probably true! It was also mentioned that Microsoft employees have been asked not to play their work-related XBL accounts at home - which is apparently how achievements get leaked sometimes when an unreleased game has been played on a public player profile?

- Probably the greatest amount of sour apples in the room were regarding the Xbox Live Arcade release schedule. Shane Kim fully agreed that Microsoft has "...created some expectations that we haven't been great on delivering on". But there was some slight fudging, I believe, on exactly why that was - and some vague finger-pointing at developers for underestimating the amount of time it would take to get through XBLA certification. All I can tell you from talking to XBLA teams at GDC is that certification is often taking at least twice as long as the 3 months that Microsoft originally estimated.

I believe these delays are due to two issues - firstly, the large amount of localization, which is time-consuming for small teams - many games ship simultaneously in up to 8 languages. Secondly, the significant amounts of network-specific testing needed end up taking large amounts of time, because there can be some significant bugs in there. This is something that the Small Arms team mentioned (in their IGS postmortem lecture) as particularly problematic for them, because you can have any combination of AI, same-machine, and online players jousting together in their game. So I'm gonna say it's both parties' 'faults' in some way - and it's a bit crazy that XBLA cert is taking time multiples of retail cert right now.

- Finally, talking about Microsoft's strategy going forward, Kim specifically cited "...the success of Nintendo with the Wii in a certain customer segment", citing that he needs to do better. It's good to see honesty when it comes to that type of thing, and Microsoft's candor that they need to do better at creating a family audience is good to see. They particularly talked about Viva Pinata in that context, of course - Kim confirmed: "You're going to see us do more with that franchise." And so they should!