A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

August, 2007

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Blogs Go Wild For WarPong


    The crew over at THEBBPS.com dropped me a mail to say that not only did they enjoy meeting David Hu and playing his XNA game WarPong, but that it seems that the blogosphere agrees.

    X07 - August 2007-15

    Check out the links:

    "In fact, after previewing WarPong to our readers the internet has exploded in anticipation of young David's work and we couldn't be happier to help propel the XNA platform as an easy to use game creation tool.
    Although I would be a little happier if our video of the game didn't showcase David making quick work of me, we loved spending time with David and playing WarPong.
    Here are some links of sites that have featured our story and video of David Hu's WarPong (and more are sure to come):
    http://www.chemicalpoet.com/?p=1182 "



  • A Canuck In The Machine



    Ok.  Here is the "other side" of the X07 story..... let's call it X07 "unplugged".  In 10 years at Microsoft, I have been a part of a lot of events.  There is one rule I have learned - things can go wrong.  The problem is, you can't always plan for every possibility and that is why when the hydro lines outside the venue failed X07 became "X07 Unplugged".

    First, I'd like to say congratulations to the Xbox Canada team and to our PR firm High Road Communications for how they handled this unforeseen "wrinkle" in the day.  Nobody panicked and I think all things considered X07 remained a success.

    Here is what happened:

    X07 145X07 119X07 - August 2007-4X07 140

    About mid-afternoon things were going really well.  The event looked great, all of the press were there and things were just rocking

    That's when "it" happened.  The reports vary - from a car hitting the utility pole to the power line simply burning out - but for whatever reason we were let down by the infrastructure of the area.  The power went down and in the process several dozen LCD TVs and Xbox 360s made a very weird noise as the power drained out of them all at once.  At first everyone thought we tripped a breaker, but it became clear quickly that we were not the source of the trouble.

    X07 - August 2007-19X07 076

    Toronto Hydro sprung into action:

    X07 - August 2007-20

    What started as an estimate of "less than 30 minutes" grew to be a "several hour" repair.  Now, running a video game event in the dark is difficult to say the least.  You can only pantomime the actions in Halo 3 for so long before people get bored. ("like, ok, so now you jump up and down...then there is an explosion.... it's wicked... trust me")

    The event team acted quickly and ordered up a diesel generator.  While this couldn't power the entire building, they were able to get at least 3/4 of the stations back up and running (albeit in the dark..... candles did the rest)

    X07 - August 2007-24

    X07 - August 2007-26

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    With the lights out, the staff put out candles....which made the mood much more "romantic".....


    (picture thanks to "thebruce0" on flickr)



    Some people still had wifi coverage and did some "live reporting" during the blackout......this is from This Week In Geek

    (From: http://thisweekingeek.net/node/79 )


    The moral of this story..... anything can happen when you hold a big event.  Always know the number of a good emergency generator company.  Never Panic.

    Great job dealing with the "worst case scenario" guys..... you will laugh at this story..... one day......

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    X07 Summary!


    Today was X07!  It was a blast as usual.  As in previous years we were on hand to talk about the developer side of things.  For the second year in a row we focused on XNA.  Unlike last year (when XNA was very new), we had some excellent examples and demos on hand that had been built by the community - including the winner of the Dream.Build.Play contest.  We did 18 media interviews over the course of the day - so hopefully you will see some XNA stories over the next few weeks.

    XNA is a very powerful set of technologies.  Not only is it unique in the gaming industry - unlocking the power of user created content and allowing anyone to build games and deploy to either Windows or the console - but it is a great way to excite young people about a career in software development (which is key to Canada's long-term competitiveness in Information Technology).  We already have 6 schools actively doing work with XNA and I would really like to see that number double or triple. 


    X07 - August 2007-14  X07 - August 2007-10

    Dave Flook - the winner of the contest - was on hand with me as we talked to the press about his XNA-built game Blazing Birds.  It's a really great little game - and rather addictive (which perfect for this kind of 'casual' game genre).  The game is polished, fun and looks great.  It really shows the power of XNA Game Studio and the platform.  Dave beat out 2500 other entries to be named top-dog of the contest.  It's a very cool Canadian success story! (and this is not even his full time job!).  His prize included:

      • An invitation to enter into an Xbox Live™ Arcade Publishing Contract
        on terms and conditions applicable to such offer
      • $10,000 USD
      • Alienware Aurora® 7500 desktop system with AMD Athlon™
        64 FX-62 Dual Core Processor, courtesy of Alienware PC and AMD
      • Retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate* operating system
      • Autographed Xbox 360 Premium SKU retail console**
      • 2-year subscription to the XNA Creators Club†
      • 25 four-month subscription tokens to the XNA Creators Club, to
        share your masterpiece with friends and family
      • Choice of Softimage®|XSI® Advanced 6.0, Autodesk® 3ds Max® 9,
        or Autodesk® Maya® Complete 8.5

    Here is a screenshot of Blazing Birds:

    In addition to Dave we had 2 other cool demos.  Frozen North (a startup based out of our Innovation Centre at the University of Waterloo) showed of some concept-demos they built to show how XNA can be used to develop educational games and David Hu, a high-school student, showed his game WarPong.


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    You can check out all the pictures here and here.

    Some other links I have found so far tonight.....

    Canada.com Article

    ars technica


    Interested in learning more about XNA?  Check out the developer centre and the DevelopMental site.  Also - keep your eyes open for the many Game Camps we run all around Canada.  If you are already doing something cool with XNA, let us know!!!!


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    X07: GameFest Summary and More XNA Resources




    Over on the Developer Connection Blog there is a great summary of Gamefest 2007, along with some good interviews.

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    New Look And Feel


    Check out the new look and feel!!  Thanks to our Co-Op Mark for helping to re-brand my blog.  It now shares the same look and feel as all of our Community Connection Blogs.  (The links are provided on the right-hand bar).


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Back To Blogging - Up Next X07!!


    It's been a GREAT summer and now I am back and ready to get back to updating the blog.  In fact, this site will be getting a facelift in the next week or so.

    This week is exciting for us because it is X07.  This is the annual Xbox marketing event for press and retailers.  We have had a chance to participate for the last 4 years - highlighting the developer side of the story.  Last year we focused on XNA and saw great interest:

    X06 Press Coverage

    Canadian Developers @ X06 in Toronto

    More X06 Soapbox Videos


    This year we will again focus on the opportunities for companies, startups and enthusiasts around the XNA platform and Microsoft's developer tools (including the Express products).  Extra cool is that the winner of the XNA contest will be joining us:  "Grocery clerk bags win in Microsoft game competition" (Globe and Mail)

    We will send along a debrief of the event - it's going to be interesting!

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