Our phone meeting has been and gone, and I'm sorry I didn't update immediately after it. I haven't been crying alone for the last 72 hours or anything.
The meeting was actually fine, but since we're under NDA, I can't really say too much about it, unless it's in the form of a commentary on an interpretive dance:
Tommy and I appear stage right, while a troupe of chimps, lead by an ominous looking bald man in a wheel chair appear stage left. In the middle is our Biz manager, trying to tell the difference.
On second thoughts, no. This... this is beyond my ability. I'll simply recount a bit of what happened without breaking the NDA, though to be honest, I don't think we talked about all that much which could be a breach of NDA (unless taling about an NDA is breach of NDA, in which case, I've already screwed us): we're free to tell you about our game, just not about MS's life and workings. So, if I'm vague, it's not because there's anything to hide: it's because I'm vague.
It was fine, really. Tommy and I were a bit nervous, this being our first phone contact and all. We were trying hard not to sound like try-hards, explaining our situation and experience, and pitching the game a bit (even though this really wasn't a pitch session), and our current situation - self funded, earning a bit on small commissions etc.
I talked about the inspirations for the game, and how the focus was on making a painfully obvious and simple game which still had a great deal of depth, but which hadn't been done before. Almost in the next breath, I said "well, it HAS been done before..." and I mentioned the only other similar game which existed, how I didn't know it existed when I came up with the idea, and explained how our game was different. And Bettar! The Freedom of GTA with the storytelling of Tarrantino and the colors of Katamari Damacy with the rendering capabilities of a Hitachi Camcorder! Different! Wikkid Graphix! With bells on!
On a few occasions during this flood of stumbling words (which must have been the most incoherent free associative ranting I've ever mustered [since my first ever pitch, which I can never do worse than]), my throat felt like sand paper, and I had to stop to actually gulp some saliva. Rather politely, this was interpreted as "obvious passion". So there you go. Dry-mouth and passion: excellent bedfellows.
Pretty soon, the cheap cordless phone reciever I was using ran out of Goddamn battery power, so Tommy finished up the meeting alone. Fortunately, I had finished the little pitch bit, and we were told that we had "a great game concept". \o/
There's still a long way to go, mind you. Just because one guy at MS likes our concept doesn't mean we're a shoe in. We have our work cut out, and still have to make a convincing demo to show the sort of experience you get with the game. And even with the best demo in the world, there are hundreds of other reasons beyond our control which could mean we don't see the game on XBLA at all - nuclear war not least of them. Pretty close to least. But not quite. Less likely (but still plausible) would be getting attacked by a wolverine. I know there aren't typically wolverines on Exmoor, but there's that beast of bodmin. That's not far away. I think it's just a panther which Rik Mayall let loose after a drugs binge.
^That is a pretty good example of how I was pitching, actually.
Still, the fact that we are getting actual phone time with someone who seems interested has put a real wind in my sails. Yesterday I worked my arse off re-doing our beat detection (which is never going to be perfect, but might be good enough for triggering visualization stuff). I worked really solidly on it, and it's almost working, however, I'm going to look up some winamp viz coders to see what sort of tricks they use which might be a bit better than my adhoc approach.
Speaking of sound, we've had Justin Bell offering to help us out with sound and music. I'm normally pretty careful about accepting charity work because of all the bad blood you create if you reject someone's free input, or even if you ask for revisions: They tend to come back with that "Beggars can't be choosers" attitude, or "Are you throwing kindness back in my face?". However, Justin is a pro, and understands our position.
We've already had a cool talk about a few technical issues to do with sound effects. For instance, our controls are indiscrete - it's not like you Press Y and Z happens, spawning a sound event. It's more like you're always doing Y, but to different degrees. So we're going to have a constantly looping sound for these indiscrete verbs, and simply use the degree-of-use as a way to fade in the volume of those sounds. It doesn't even have to be just one sound, or a linear relationship - one gameplay value can affect how several sounds are faded in and out at different rates and offsets. This should create interesting composite sounds, different every time, highly attuned to the gameplay - parametric composition, if not parametric sound generation. XACT makes this stuff pretty easy with its Runtime Parameter Controls linking up gameplay variables to a sound's properties, via a graph. Well worth a look if you're not already using it.
I hope this gives Justin what he craves in a side project: a novel problem to stretch his creative muscles on.