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AusGamers Interview with Matt Booty, General Manager Redmond Game Studios for Microsoft
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 10:38am 25/06/14 | Comments
AusGamers was given an opportunity to chat with Matt Booty who serves in Phil Spencer's leadership group at Microsoft as the general manager of Redmond Game Studios in Seattle. He was also a former leader at now defunct Midway. Read on for what he had to say...

AusGamers: Hi Matt, thanks for talking with us today. Let's start with the ID@Xbox stuff, it’s sort of been a slow wind up to fruition with that system on Xbox One. The Xbox One is new and there’s a handful of games that came out earlier on and trickling down at the moment, but do you see that changing to a more steady cadence?

Matt Booty: Yeah I totally get where you’re coming from, but for me, ‘trickle’ is a hard word to use, because there are thousands of developers that have gotten involved with ID@Xbox -- literally thousands -- and there were hundreds of games that we’re in the process of bringing to launch. Then as you saw, a bunch of games that are going to be ready for this holiday.

So to me, I’m impressed, but also super excited about how quickly the program is gaining momentum. I think it’s just part of our commitment to fans to just bring the broadest range of games to the Xbox One as possible.

AusGamers: Continuing with the ID@Xbox stuff, what’s been the most important feedback for you guys, as a publisher, offering all of these services to indies? What has been the most critical thing that has come back from them for you? And how has that changed the way you approach indie in this generation?

Matt: ID@Xbox really is, at its core, about making all of the power and features of Xbox available to smaller developers. So the things that we’re doing in terms of listening to their feedback and improve, are really about making sure that all of those features and all of the power of the box is available to them. You heard Chris [Charla] talk about it, all of the things that are available for Xbox Live, all the way to the number of controllers that you can use with the box.

We just want to make sure that all of those things are available to developers. We’re also putting a lot of work and energy into just making sure that there is a really good, smooth pathway for them to bring their games to the box.

AusGamers: You mentioned that you worked at Midway many years ago. That was obviously a very arcade-heavy company with lots of heritage there. What’s the difference for you, working at a publisher like Xbox, versus the industry you were in long before?

Making it rain - Forza Horizon 2 pulls more grunt from Xbox One to introduce dynamic weather to the series

Matt: I’m really proud and excited to have been a part of Phil Spencer’s leadership team for several years now. We have a range of projects going on right now, some of which are published, but with Turn 10, today, you saw Forza Horizon 2. That’s an internal studio that we have, actually here in Redmond. What did you think about Forza Horizon 2, in terms of just the graphics and…

AusGamers: I really liked the dynamic weather, because I think that was something that was missing from Forza 5, and how that changes the physics of the game, and the approach for players. It’s just one of those games though, where I really need to see more and get my hands on it.

Matt: 1080p, 60FPS!

AusGamers: Yep. 1080p is a wonderful word here, this year.

Matt: I think the dramatic weather is amazing. The dynamic day and night, and just some of the lighting tech they’ve put together for the game. The drivatars, that’s another great example back to our cloud conversation.

AusGamers: That was really cool. I was impressed to hear that actually.

Matt: Yeah, so right now, all your drivatars are up there running Horizon 2 tracks before it even comes out, which is great.

We have a range of that, and we’ve got games from more publishing arrangements, to full internal development, it’s just great to be a part of the team.

AusGamers: There’s a lot of talk at the moment about you guys pulling Kinect away to allow more power to come out of the system. It’s part of the updating that’s going on as well. I’m not sure you can answer this, but will there be certain games down the track, where in order to get the grunt out of the machine, you will actually be required to have Kinect disconnected?

Matt: We are making available, to developers, more GPU power, and that is enabled from within the game, and it’s up to the developers, and independent of whether or not the Kinect is connected.

Ori and the Blind Forest is leading the indie charge in 2014 on Xbox One

AusGamers: With the ID@Xbox program, are you still actively seeking out young talent that might not come to Xbox?

Matt: Yes. There are hundreds of developers that we are engaged with -- and engaged means talking to every day -- and we’ve had thousands of developers express interest. I think what you saw today was a really big range of indie projects. Even within what we would call independent, there’s still a range in terms of funding. It could be a few people.

I think about Ska Studios in Seattle, it’s a husband and wife team. I love their games, I love what they do; it’s amazing that it’s two people. Then all the way up to something that we might still consider an independent studio with things like Double Fine, which has a lot more people in it. So we are actively looking for that whole spectrum.

AusGamers: I saw Techland had a demo in there as well. Those guys do Triple-A and a bunch of indie as well.

Matt: Right. It’s a great example. So we want to be inclusive of all of those different kinds of developers.

AusGamers: I think you guys have a pretty unique approach as to how the company as a publisher is building out its internal development. I’m kind of reminded of Nintendo way back in the day, when they had all of their first party R&D divisions, then their second parties like Rare and Retro Studios and stuff.

Is that part of [the Xbox] philosophy moving forward for you guys, to effectively build a family of development, that’s all internal so that there’s more exclusive stuff? Because a lot of games in this gen, and the last gen, it’s all about third-parties and multiplatform parity. But I feel like the rival systems do have unique things to offer.

Matt: I think for us, that is going to be driven mostly by: ‘what is good for gamers?’ and ‘what is good for fans?’ and what is good for gamers is making sure that all of the blockbusters that they want are on our system, and also what is good for gamers is making sure that fans of a particular system, that we give them exclusives; that we give them things that you can only do on Xbox One. So I think it’s both.

AusGamers: That Master Chief Collection is value for money right there.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection will deliver hundreds of hours of gameplay with every multiplayer map on offer

Matt: It is, right? [laughs] It really almost turns into the Ginsu Knife thing. You’ve got all four versions, the remastered, reimagined parts of Halo 2, then you’ve got the digital series. As a big sci-fi nerd… the director of Nightfall is actually Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who has directed episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Heroes, so that is a great combination with Ridley Scott, to move that thing forward.

Then you’ve got the Guardians multiplayer beta, which is going to be awesome too. So yeah, for USD$59.99 you are hard pressed to find a better deal to get on board with Xbox One.

AusGamers: From a quantifiable level, that’s… if you took away multiplayer, that’s still roughly like 60-70 hours of gameplay right there, just in…

Matt: One of the things I’m a big fan of is going to be the ability to playlist levels. So you can pick your best, favourite levels out of there, and make these playlists you can play and skip around; it’s awesome.

AusGamers: That’s cool. And 4000 gamer points is always good.

Matt: That got the big applause right? [laughs]

AusGamers: Is there any ideas to kind of shift up the Xbox Achievement system at all with the incremental updates that you’re doing. I love the dynamic Achievements and the weekly Achievements that people need to do, and I was really surprised when I fired up an app and got an ‘Achievement Unlocked’ for doing that.

Matt: There’s nothing specific that we’re prepared to talk about today, other than that we’re going to continue listening to what the fans want, and making sure we give that to them. There will be a cadence of continued improvements going forward.

AusGamers: Has there ever been a discussion about upping the cap per game, from 1000 to a bigger number?

Matt: I don’t have anything to share on that today.

AusGamers: A lot of the focus today was on what’s coming this year, then a little bit of focus was on next year, with Halo [5] that we talked about. There’s a lot of third-party games that weren’t even mentioned, that are coming.

Matt: Well next year, there’s first of all Crackdown. I love that asset, I’m excited for it.

AusGamers: If you can actually, in-game, do what they did in that trailer...

Crackdown returns to consoles in what looks like a reboot of sorts, leveraging the power of next-gen for a huge open-world

Matt: I think Crackdown is a game to pay a lot of attention to. You heard Dave Jones talk about it. That game is going to heavily leverage the power of the cloud that Xbox Live has to offer, so I’m excited about it.

AusGamers: I’m a big fan of superhero games, and I’m a big fan of open-world games, and if those two can…

Matt: Then you’re a big fan of Crackdown! [laughs]

AusGamers: Exactly, and it’s really good to see that series return.

Matt: What did you think of Scalebound?

AusGamers: I’m so excited that Platinum Games is working with you guys. But I need to see more. I need to see what the gameplay is actually like.

Matt: I just think about his previous games, and every time I think of one of his games, it’s always like swirling, and jumping up in the air, and spinning, then you combine that with the dragons and I just think it’s going to be an awesome combination.

AusGamers: Have you actually seen any of the game in action?

Matt: I can’t share anything about that today, but let’s just say I’m pretty excited about it and I know it’s going to be cool.

AusGamers: Did Platinum approach you guys, or did you approach them? Because it’s a pretty big exclusive.

Matt: Yeah, it is. I think it’s just a big part of making sure we have great exclusives for the box. I can’t really share any more about it than that though.

AusGamers: Ok, I’ll wait to see more. Thanks heaps, it was great meeting you.

Matt: Yeah, enjoy the rest of the show. It was great to meet you.

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