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Microsoft Entertainment Games

Interview With Initiator of DirectX 58

Posted by Zonk
from the fighting-the-man dept.
Miguel de Icaza writes "There's a great interview from Shacknews with Alex St. John, one of the earlier DirectX / gaming guys. He talks about almost losing his job going against Bill Gates, and talks a bit about the MS development & political process. 'You know why the X on the Xbox is a glowing green X? The original codename for Direct X was the Manhattan Project, because strategically it was an effort to displace Japanese game consoles with PCs and ultimately the Xbox. We called it the Manhattan Project because that was the codename for the program developing the nuclear bomb. We had a glowing radiation logo for the prototype for Direct X, and of course as soon as that got out and the press covered it, it caused a scandal.'"
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Interview With Initiator of DirectX

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  • WildTangent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zehnra (1076641) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @02:31PM (#18609363)
    He's also the father of WildTangent...ugh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kinglink (195330)
      Something they tend to avoid mentioning. The interview is interesting but it's a first hand account. If I was telling my story to a reporter I'd always wear a cape and fight supervillians in my off time, wait, in fact I already do that!

      I'm glad he's calling vista's feature set stupid, but the thing is it's too fucking late, the system shipped Microsoft's not going to pull these features out because it's a problem and we're going to be stuck with them for 4-5 years.

      And yeah he ran wildtangent a gaming com
    • ... a very aggressive, pushy, and offensive person who will try to take maximum advantage of his trade partners in his business dealings. A company I was once affiliated with threatened to cancel a contract with Microsoft because of his behavior. Microsoft caved and cleaned up their act. But if the rumors are true, he was only acting in the way his boss Gates taught him to.
    • by RedElf (249078)
      If he's the father of WildTangent, I'd hate to see what that mother looks like.
  • Codenames (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ESOB (980346) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @02:41PM (#18609573)
    The original XBox had the codename of Midway. Midway was the battle in the Pacific that essentially guaranteed that Japan could not invade the US. The US sunk all of Japan's main carriers and then started pushing back the Japanese all other fronts. So I guess naming things after the defeat of Japan in WWII is common practice within Microsoft HQ.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have it on good authority that the codename for the PS3 was Nan-King.

      Them japs sure love rapin the commoners!
    • Their intention has been clear for a long time now: take down the Japanese-dominated gaming market and make it their own. Whether you like it or not, they seem to be doing a great job at it right now.
      • by Talgrath (1061686)
        How so? The X-Box and 360 have only had a handful of hit games, and some of them were done by Japanese publishers (Ninja Gaiden, for example). The PC is still dominated by American and European developers, of course, but that's always been the case; Japanese developers are still dominating in the console gaming industry.
        • Last I checked, actually selling a top performing game was good for a boat load of cash. Selling a game console on the other hand, well, in Microsoft's case at least, is a great way to lose cash.

          Japan - 1
          USA - 0

          No offense to Americans or anything (I'm Canadian personally) but hemorrhaging cash to keep the XBox project alive is probably not scaring many Japanese console workers when you consider how profitable the Nintendo projects and even the PS2 are.
      • by 91degrees (207121)
        And fair play to them, I say. It's not like Sony are a small player easily cowed by Microsoft's market dominance.
      • by LKM (227954)
        Doing a great job? The 360 isn't doing better than the original Xbox (which was hardly able to beat even the Cube), and that's with a whole year of no competition. They cornered the market on people who want to play Halo, but other than that, they are not making any inroads.

        The funny thing is that Sony is fucking it up big time right now, but even so, Microsoft seems unable to capitalize on it. This is quite astonishing, seeing how much money Microsoft has spent on their console business.

        I'm actually not qu
    • by OK PC (857190)
      I am both shocked and awed!
    • by tepples (727027)

      The original XBox had the codename of Midway. Midway was
      ...a video game publisher [wikipedia.org] that purchased Tradewest and Atari Games.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @03:00PM (#18609843) Homepage Journal

    FTFA:

    The biggest foolishness is Vista's security architecture. Any time someone questions Vista's security, Microsoft accuses that person of being anti-security, or is just bummed because they can't do naughty things that they otherwise wanted to do. Vista's security is weird, it's like a house made out of concrete walls but has screen doors. It's an enormously overbuilt security system with huge, gaping holes. It's extremely intrusive, and it gets in the way of the user's experience without actually being secure. It makes it even harder for consumers to download things and play games, without actually gaining any security benefits. It basically fucks up legitimate applications while leaving holes for the bad ones to just climb on through.

    Holy shit, Batman! That's the strongest anti-endorsement of Vista I've yet seen. It's not news, but it's the first time an insider who is really in a position to know what's going on behind the scenes (assuming he still has friends inside Microsoft, which is probably a safe assumption) has said anything this negative.

    This slightly earlier paragraph was almost as good:

    What you see with Microsoft is, without people at Microsoft who realize that the operating system does not add value to gaming, it gets in the way, they think they can add more value by adding in more shit that only gets in the way of making a good game. Unfortunately, Vista does that. Microsoft added more shit that impedes game development. It's certainly possible to make great games in Vista, it's just more of a pain in the ass than it needs to be. I think Vista is a missed opportunity for Microsoft to have done a better job in supporting PC gaming.

    If you still needed any evidence that Microsoft doesn't understand games or security... there it is.

    • by nuzak (959558)
      > If you still needed any evidence that Microsoft doesn't understand games or security... there it is.

      What makes you think that the DirectX people are the same as the Vista OS people? The former understand games very much (and there's not much to security in games, since even the most connected online games are walled gardens). At any one time, half of Microsoft is actively impeding or undermining the work of the other half.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        What makes you think that the DirectX people are the same as the Vista OS people?

        If the people who were developing DirectX were the only people with influence over DirectX, then you might have a point. But they aren't, so you don't. I said "Microsoft", not "developers of DirectX at Microsoft" for a reason.

        At any one time, half of Microsoft is actively impeding or undermining the work of the other half.

        Thank Jebus! That's probably the only thing preventing them from dominating the world and releasing Micr

    • by spyrochaete (707033) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @03:26PM (#18610277) Homepage Journal
      Alex St. John is a regular columnist for Computer Power User magazine and he is constantly bashing Microsoft. This interview was fascinating in that it revealed where he's coming from, but it doesn't really excuse his demeanour. Take his words with a grain of salt - all he writes about is Microsoft and he never has anything positive to say.
      • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:44PM (#18612417)
        "Take his words with a grain of salt - all he writes about is Microsoft and he never has anything positive to say."

        True but just by reading what he says you can tell he's smart as a whip. He knew that gaming was one of the primary reasons anyone stuck with windows.

      • Take his words with a grain of salt - all he writes about is Microsoft and he never has anything positive to say.


        Yes, but on the other hand, what positive stuff could possibly be said about Microsoft ?

        (Been there since MS-DOS 2.11, still haven't seen anything compliment-worthy)

        Oh, yeah, now I know : Thank you, Microsoft, for keeping the anti-virus makers in buisness !
      • What's funny is that his columns a few years ago were all about:

        1. How great Microsoft was
        2. How he was the father of DirectX and how awesome DirectX was.
        3. How Microsoft understood gaming better than Sony did and that the Xbox would rule!

        Back then I considered him nothing more than a Microsoft astroturfer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          How great Microsoft was

          From a certain point of view, they are great. They offer products which do just about everything important, although I agree that they don't necessarily do a great job of any of them (look at it this way though, Microsoft is to Computer Associates as Einstein is to Dubya.) Microsoft is the 800 pound gorilla and that engenders either fear or respect, either of which can be said to confer greatness.

          How he was the father of DirectX and how awesome DirectX was.

          And if we take a look at

    • by n0dna (939092)
      Well, you do have to take St. John with a grain of salt... and I sincerely doubt he has any friends left at Microsoft.

      He is (was?) a regular columnist for CPU magazine, and his articles fall cleanly into 2 categories:

      1) Why doesn't anyone ask me what's wrong with Microsoft? I'll tell you anyway...
      2) Why does everyone hate something as awesome as Wild Tangent, since it's clearly the superior delivery system for $10 games of amazing flash-based quality? It's a vast Antivirus-Wing Conspiracy!

      Then when people a
      • He's still a columnist at CPU, he's like CPU's John C. Dvorak, the guy everyone loves to hate.

        But as I stated elsewhere, a few years ago his columns were very pro-microsoft. I figured that would come back to bite him sooner or later.

        As for Wild Tangents games, Fate is fun little Diablo clone, It's not worth paying $20 for though, it's a $10 game. I suggested to "The Saint" back in 2005 that he contact SOE, borrow the Snowblind engine and port Fate to the PS2/PS3, since there's a pretty good sized market f
    • by c0d3h4x0r (604141)
      The biggest foolishness is the government's security architecture for the air travel industry. Any time someone questions airport or airplane security, the government accuses that person of being anti-security, or is just bummed because they can't do naughty things that they otherwise wanted to do. The government's security is weird, it's like a house made out of concrete walls but has screen doors. It's an enormously overbuilt security system with huge, gaping holes. It's extremely intrusive, and it gets i
      • by dintech (998802)
        That's pretty insightful. Summed up by saying almost all security can be circumvented eventually with enough presistence. A shame its such a pain in the ass before then.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        I don't understand if you're attempting to invalidate my point by comparing it to another system, or validate it. But what you say is the truth about the air travel industry - there is no security there. They don't even really do their jobs. Last flight out to Vegas I accidentally took a lighter with me through security. I actually had it in my pocket and threw it in the little bowl that goes through the scanner, but it was under my keys and wallet. I picked it up out of the bowl on the other side, and took
        • by c0d3h4x0r (604141)
          Not trying to invalidate your point. Just pointing out how everything you said is equally applicable to security in the air travel industry.

          Bottom line -- good security isn't about bug-free implementation. It's about having a sensible design that actually plugs all possible problems. It's about accurately identifying the holes and then taking the right steps to plug them.
  • The Microsoft way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mzs (595629) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @03:06PM (#18609945)
    Shack: When did you realize what you were getting yourself into, as you say?

    Alex St John: A month or so in, I still didn't know exactly what my job was until one of the guys who hired me said, "Write a strategy for how you would persuade the publishing industry to move to Windows." I spent a lot of time writing documents saying here's what our strategy should be, here's how we could convince companies to sign on, all that. I came in to do my presentation, and I got about three slides into it before I was interrupted by one of the executives saying, "This is all great stuff, you have a perfect plan. Developers who are reasonable should all support it, but what do you do if none of this works." "What do you mean?" "What if in spite of your best efforts, your best arguments, you best relationships, you can't get them to support them. How do you force the industry to support Microsoft anyway?" "Force them? Well, I don't know." "Come back when you have a plan that answers that question."

    That perplexed me for a long time. I'm thinking, "What the hell does he mean, force them? I can't hold a gun to their head, so how do I put all these companies in a position where, regardless of what they see is in their best interest, they have to adopt your technology?" That experience had a major impact on my thinking. I realized that a major part of my job was to figure out how to use technology control to create economic force, or leverage, such that money and business flowed in Microsoft's direction, and people had to go [to them]. That, ultimately, is when I became a "Microsoft guy," when I got that concept.

  • Racism (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by king-manic (409855)
    With such openly racist project names I sincerly hope the Xbox fails as an asian Canadian I find the references offensive. perhaps it's no wonder the xbox falls on it's face in japan. The people behind it seem to openly hate them and have bad taste in their choice of project names.

    / vitriol
    • by BenJeremy (181303)
      If I had meta-mod points, I'd mod you down as flamebait or up as funny.

      Most Canadians I know have pretty thick skins, and I hope you are no different. If Sony wants to code-name the PS4 "Pearl Harbor", why not? I'll take it in the spirit it was intended, and not immediately get offended and spaz out enough to "take a stand".

      Now, if the Japanese were planning a "mod-proof" console targeting the Chinese with a code name of "Nanking" - well, that's a little different. Midway, on the other hand, was a decisive
    • Microsoft is a lot of things but calling a company racist just because it uses the same operation names as to do the same thing to the japanese not trough war but through free market is plain stupid. I'd mod you down flamebait if i had points.
  • Wasting millions on the two Xbox projects (so far), but mostly, they all but killed Open GL for most game companies.

    • by BenJeremy (181303)
      Actually, I don't think Xbox1 has lost them all that much money, and they intended on losing a ton of money to get their foot in the door.

      Xbox 360, on the other hand, has been a success, by any measure. Except in the Japanese market, it's got respect and market share... and the Japanese market is a special case.

      What Microsoft has done wrong, however, is pull a "Sony-like" attempt to force Vista down our throats with DX10. I'm not terribly happy that Halo 2 will not run without Vista, nor that games like Cry
      • You can always hope that the WINE guys get their DX9/DX10 interface done quickly enough. It will eventually be fashioned such that you can use OpenGL/WGL on Windows XP to run DirectX 10 games. Might not be QUITE as fast as it potentially could be with DX10, but after having seen the...performance...or rather, the lack thereof, on Vista, even with DX10 titles... It might not be any different, after all. >:-)

        Me, I'm going to keep using Linux, trying to get Linux titles going, and playing something OTHE
      • by chrish (4714)

        I'm not terribly happy that Halo 2 will not run without Vista

        Can't you pick up a used XBox and a copy of Halo 2 (it's been out since 2004, remember) for way less than a copy of Vista, even an upgrade?

        Sure you'll be left without Crysis, but there are things like BioShock that won't have a (possibly artificial) requirement for DX10.
    • Want to be targeting games for the new high-end mobile phones about to come out? You'd better use OpenGL/OpenGL ES- DirectX doesn't work there.

      Want to target Wii? OpenGL ES will make your life a LOT easier. DirectX doesn't work there.

      Want to target PS3? Better use OpenGL. DirectX definitely doesn't work there.

      Want to target MacOS? Better use OpenGL. DirectX definitely doesn't work there.

      In reality, about only half of the total potential customer base for a title would benefit from a DirectX only titl
    • they all but killed Open GL for most game companies

      Strange.. Just last night I ran 3Dmark 2000, 2001SE, and 2003. All were rendered in OGL. Pretty soon, 05/6/7 will be working. All in OpenGL. I played some Guild Wars, Eve Online, and other direct3D games. Most of the rendered fine using OpenGL. Here's a Guild Wars OpenGL screenshot I took (using glsl as well for shaders)

      http://appdb.winehq.org/appimage.php?iId=8219

      BBH

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