I'm in London right now, staying with friends, and making good use of the internet to get some proper work done.
The games coming along very nicely: you often find that your game concepts (especially those experimental ideas) end up needing massive re-designs because you've not thought them through properly. But so far, so good. The concept is so simple that so far, there have been no design tears shed, and stumbling blocks have, on the whole, been foreseen.
In particular, this week a big risk area has been met and tackled completely successfully*. It did require a couple of failed tries, but Tommy nailed a solution which barely affects CPU (while my first stab killed a good 50% of frame rate at its peak). It's by no means plain sailing from now on, but our core gameplay works, and is great fun. We have a foundation to build on!
We've heard back from MS. It took a while, so as we expected, they're obviously inundated with requests for Live Arcade titles. Interestingly, we have a British guy dealing with our inquiry, so it looks like the XBLA team has expanded to cope with demand, which is nice.
Standard procedure for applying involves getting NDAs signed and giving the XBLA team some background about our company. Our heritage spans back a massive 3 months, which probably isn't going to sound very impressive.
Rather than talk about the company, it makes more sense to talk about its people: we're writing up our resumes, (full of linkage to previous work), and asking a few industry friends for letters of recommendation. Hopefully we won't be passed over when they see our previous work, learn of our experience with the 360, and read some rather glowing letters from experienced people willing to vouch for us.
I do hope it's enough, because it's keeping me up at night; that nagging thought that our submission will be tossed because we don't have a famous name, major titles, or publisher backing. Still, I shouldn't think this way - paranoia breeds empty victories i.e. if I'm right, and my fears are embodied, we will have failed at the first hurdle, and I'll have to go get a job in starburger in hammersmith.
There's no such thing as a free pass into XBLA. As you'd imagine, most submissions are thrown out pretty quickly for a variety of reasons: perhaps the game concept is too similar to other things on the arcade, or the team behind it doesn't seem to have the pedigree to pull it off**. It can seem unfair to those on the receiving end of a rejection letter (especially those who would have had the stones to make it happen), but any Gold Rush naturally sees a hundred cast to the wayside for every single person who succeeds. That's just the Video Games game, sadly.
The best bet is to make your first impression count. For us, that means recognizing and acknowledging our limitations while being honest about our positive conviction to make the game worth Microsoft's attention - we've got the talent and drive to pull it off, and all we need is their blessing.
I know we can make this game, and I know that it will be a sorry shame, not only for us, but for the playing public, if we don't.
*Once again, sorry about being so vague. It'd be imprudent to reveal anything too soon.
**I'm reminded of trying to get my first industry job. Sometimes it felt like getting an entry level position required at least two years' industry experience, and at least one shipped title. Interviews were a thoroughly painful experience, to be sure. When you're being interviewed by someone much more experience than yourself, you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass - aware that you're getting hot under the collar, but ignorant of how dwarfing your interrogator's knowledge is. At least in this case, I know roughly how difficult it is to get approved, and can go into the situation with adolescent arrogance a distant memory, and realism guiding my step. We're just looking for the chance to make this game, and then the onus is on us... but that's never an easy decision for MS to make as there are many others like us, looking for a shot.