|Larry Hryb, Xbox's Major Nelson||Host||Xbox Live|
|Jeff Rubenstein||Co-Host||Xbox Live|
|Harold Goldberg||The New York Videogame Critics Circle||24:38|
|Kareem Choudhry & Peggy Lo||Xbox Back Compat and Cloud Gaming||47:31|
|Backward Compatibility Reaches the Clouds for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Members|
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Larry Hryb: Hi, it's Larry Hryb, Xbox's Major Nelson. Welcome to the show. It's another show, it's another podcast, it's another week of, wipe him in, Jeff.
Jeff: Wow, that was 1970s TV right there. Maybe '80s.
Larry Hryb: That was some public access quality wiping.
Jeff: That was public access.
Larry Hryb: That's what that was.
Jeff: This is a public-access-level show, Larry. We got to get the production crew back into it.
Larry Hryb: Do we, though? Do we? I don't know, it just feels like-
Jeff: We're doing the best we can doing this from home.
Larry Hryb: What another week? Another week of great gaming news. We got a lot of stuff to talk about. I've got a couple of great interviews. I don't know if you saw... If you're joining us via YouTube, thank you for the comments. You probably saw on some of the chapter markers we got two interviews this week. Harold Goldberg from The New York Video Game Critics Association, who does a podcast. You know who he does a podcast with, Jeffrey?
Jeff: Not me, who?
Larry Hryb: Reggie.
Jeff: Reggie Fils-Aimé?
Larry Hryb: He sure does, so you'll hear about that, and then later on we're going to hear about... We had some back-compat news this week, which we'll talk about a little bit later on and I'm really excited to talk to some of the folks from the back-compat and cloud team. So, good stuff coming, Jeffrey. Good stuff coming.
Jeff: We really don't take a week off when it comes to good things. It just seems like one week after... Every other week we get big Game Pass reveals or news or they drop or new controllers, new features, new stuff to play.
Larry Hryb: I'm laughing because you just said we don't take a week off, and then next week we're taking a week off.
Jeff: [inaudible 00:01:32]. The company's not taking a week off. I'm sure they'll be doing things, shipping things. You will not be around until the week after.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, we have no show next week. We got some scheduling issues, and then you're gone the following week, but I'm bringing in a special guest and it's not Jason Ronald. That's all I'm going to say.
Jeff: Does Jason know this?
Larry Hryb: He has not-
Jeff: Has Jason approved this?
Larry Hryb: He has not, but he also hasn't reached out to me and said, "When can I come on the show again?" It's funny because the engineers, they kind of shy away from this stuff. You and I are perfectly comfortable doing this, but they find this highly uncomfortable. Whereas you and I sitting down in front of Visual Studio makes us highly comfortable, so there we go.
Jeff: That being said, Jason, he's constantly emailing me. He's like, "Hey, Lords of Gaming wants to be on the show. Is that cool?" I'm like, "You've already done it, haven't you? It's fine." So, Jason has no problem. He's honing his chops-
Larry Hryb: He is.
Jeff: ... and one day I'm going to be like, "Larry, what time are we recording?" And you'll be like, "Why don't you sit this one out, champ?"
Larry Hryb: Take the day off.
Jeff: I'm waiting for that.
Larry Hryb: Take the afternoon off, Jeff, we don't need you.
Jeff: I'm waiting for that. It's going to happen.
Larry Hryb: We don't need you. Hey, let's jump into the news, and then we'll get right into these interviews. We've got a lot of stuff to talk about, so I know you've got the news. I mean, I don't even want-
Jeff: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Larry, Larry.
Larry Hryb: I know, I forgot the most important part.
Jeff: This is video games. We work hard and we play hard. So, what have you been playing because I see? Is that Octopath Traveler because you should be playing that?
Larry Hryb: I have it here, I just haven't been playing it.
Jeff: Okay. Well, I think that's the Game Pass ad right there is what that is.
Larry Hryb: Yeah. No, I'm actually downloading it right now. So, I'm going to-
Jeff: Oh, good. That's a good choice. Only 3.8 gigs, so you've plenty of room for it. Plenty of room.
Larry Hryb: 3.4
Jeff: I'm rounding down.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, in fact, it's almost downloaded, so yes, I'm playing Octopath Traveler on Game Pass. Thank you for setting me up for that one. But yeah, just doing my Sea of Thieves run. They've had a lot of special events going on in Sea of Thieves. Still chipping away at Doom. I'm at an end boss in Doom and it's proving to be very challenging, I'll just say that. Very challenging.
Jeff: You must be very into it because I've been inviting you into Apex when I've been playing, and it's completely ignored. That invitation it's like it's just going into the wind. Do I need to send a-
Larry Hryb: Let me just tell you something. I apologize.
Larry Hryb: I should have texted you last night because I was sitting here. I was actually sitting at my desk because I was preparing. I have to do all the preparation for the interviews and the show that we do. So, we usually do the interviews before the show in the morning and I had a bunch of interviews. I was building all of the lower thirds and I do all that stuff myself. That's kind of what I was working on, so I apologize. I saw that invite come in on my phone, I'm like, "I should turn around and tell Jeff I'm not going to play," and then I just got... So, I never actually even played it last-
Jeff: No, you said, "Nah. Nah."
Larry Hryb: It was just booted up, so I didn't even-
Jeff: "Let him sit."
Larry Hryb: Let him twist in the wind.
Jeff: Yeah, and we did. We could have used you, Larry.
Larry Hryb: So, yeah, I've got Octopath Traveler here that I'm loading in because you told me to and it's on Game Pass. So, I'm going to press any button and continue there. Tell me what you're playing though.
Jeff: I mean, it's one of the best RPGs.
Larry Hryb: I want to hear all about you and what you're playing.
Jeff: Well, thank you. You can't play two JRPGs at the same time. I mean, you could-
Larry Hryb: Can you?
Jeff: ... but it is not advisable. It's not advisable. So, you need to focus otherwise you're not going to finish either of them, and I know this because that's been my life. So, I'm jamming away at Dragon Quest XI, which is fantastic, and then Octopath will be next after that. But also, sort of my... You sort of like-
Larry Hryb: Did you say Actopath?
Jeff: Acto, Octo.
Larry Hryb: Octo.
Jeff: Look, don't make fun of my Philly accent.
Larry Hryb: Octo.
Jeff: Actopath Tra... I can't even. Octo, Octo. I get made fun of in this house for the way I talk. Whoa, that is extreme zoom.
Larry Hryb: Octopath Traveler.
Jeff: Extreme zoom, Larry. I can see your pores.
Larry Hryb: Octopath Traveler. Yes, as you were saying.
Jeff: Nothing like the New England guy who literally calls it a pizza, telling me how to pronounce a JRPG.
Larry Hryb: Octopath Traveler.
Jeff: I want to roll back the tape and see did I really say Actopath? If I did, it was because of excitement.
Larry Hryb: That's fair. That's fair.
Jeff: So, anyway, it's true, I'll be getting to that. By the time you're hearing this, you'll be able to play one of the biggest day one available Xbox Game Pass games, that's Outriders.
Larry Hryb: Outriders, yeah.
Jeff: Not Atriders, Outriders. So, I'll be streaming this actually after we're done recording this, so by now I should be-
Larry Hryb: I didn't know that.
Jeff: By the time you hear this, I should be pretty far along.
Larry Hryb: You and I streamed last week. That was fun.
Jeff: We did, and we need to go back to... It takes two. We haven't played since then, but everyone's really into it and we enjoyed it.
Larry Hryb: I have to apologize because we streamed it and I was having some difficulty which I normally don't have, and the reason why is because we were using my software here and the size... I've got all the different inputs; I've got your screen and the audio levels. Seriously, the window that I was playing on was about that big across my entire 36-inch screen and I couldn't make it larger.
Jeff: So, you don't use a second monitor to play on when you're streaming?
Larry Hryb: I've got the ultrawide over here and I didn't want to have things stretched out. So, the answer is no. I didn't set it up properly.
Larry Hryb: I enjoyed it nonetheless. It has nothing to do with the game. Why? What are you [crosstalk 00:06:57]?
Jeff: It's funny because, Larry, you were really bad. I was like, "You were really bad."
Larry Hryb: Oh, I was epically bad. Epically bad.
Jeff: It was funny. It was entertaining, but now I know why. Yeah, I tried playing when you're streaming. If you want to get into streaming and using something like OBS, you can see what's out there. You can see the game coming through your computer, but there's just enough of a delay that it's not the ideal way to do it. So, if you have an Elgato stream card, it actually has an input and an output. And so, you input into the computer and that's what you use to broadcast out, but then you can output into a monitor and just play off the monitor the way you normally do. Definitely the way to do it.
Larry Hryb: Yeah. In this particular setup... I mean, normally I don't have any problems, but for some reason... Anyway, whatever. It doesn't matter. Go back and watch the tape if you want. We'll do it again and we'll make it better.
Jeff: We'll practice. I would love to. We should-
Larry Hryb: No, you were great. You were great. I was not. You were great.
Jeff: We had a good time. We had a good time. So, I would love to continue playing that game with you because we had finished It Takes... A Way Out right before we started that stream, and I really like the way that ended. I mean, I would say let's not talk spoilers, but the game's four years old. It had a twist at the end.
Larry Hryb: Here's the spoiler, I didn't walk away from it.
Jeff: I'll say this, it was co-op until it wasn't. So, I definitely enjoyed that game. And people are saying It Takes Two is even better, we played our first level, but I would like, Larry, if we could continue that this week.
Larry Hryb: I would love to. Well, I've got some things I have to do, but I would absolutely love to play that with you, sure.
Jeff: You let me know. You can text me anytime instead of me sending an invite and just waiting by the phone. Is my guilt-tripping working? I feel like it's working.
Larry Hryb: You're doing-
Jeff: It's fine, Larry, I totally understand. I totally understand.
Larry Hryb: You're refining your guilt-tripping and I appreciate that. I appreciate that.
Jeff: Here we go because you're good at it too, but yeah, Outriders, so I'm enjoying that. I hope a lot of you are out there playing it. It's pretty awesome that, one, it's just there for all of us on Xbox Game Pass.
Larry Hryb: And your progress from the demo comes over with you, which is really kind of cool.
Jeff: Not only does it come over because I was a little worried about this. As I was playing the demo and I was enjoying the demo, I was like, "Oh man, but I bet there's achievements that could be happening during this time. What if I don't get that and I have to play these again?" And so, I was sort of balancing that... Well, I was very relieved when I first loaded up the game that as soon as I signed in, boom, boom, boom. I want to say I got three achievements right off the bat for things that happened in the story.
So, it's a good time to invest. If you somehow are listening to the show and don't have Xbox Game Pass, but you want to try it out, download that demo. If you like what you've played, get a hold of Xbox Game Pass. There's many good ways to do it. If you're a new subscriber there's usually some sort of deal where it's a dollar for a month or two or sometimes more. So, I highly recommend that.
Larry Hryb: Try to get [crosstalk 00:09:47]. Yeah.
Jeff: Yep. And then your progress will come through, your achievements will pop, and then you can just play and have fun. It even matchmakes you, so it would be-
Larry Hryb: Yes, it's kind of awesome so you should check that... We should also play that one too, but we've got a lot of stuff to play Jeffrey.
Jeff: We do. So, when we have the time. It might take a while, but we'll get there. You know what I was to be playing on?
Larry Hryb: Yes.
Jeff: I want to be playing on one of the new Electric Volt and/or Daystrike Camo Special Edition controllers. Fire up the news, Larry. There it is in Russian. You brought up the Russian blog. This is a good time to remind people that we do have a Russian blog, and we have a really great editor over there. I think the blog's been going for over six months. It's a former journalist working over there who's really good, and it's kind of awesome to see that, that it just happens. But that is the Electric Volt controller and the Daystrike Camo there on the right.
Larry Hryb: I'll switch back to English.
Jeff: You don't have to. You can go to French, you can go to Brazilian Portuguese, you can go to Latin American Spanish. We've got you taken care of Larry.
Larry Hryb: There it is.
Jeff: If you're ever interested, if you look in the upper-right there where it says Xbox Wire Sites, that's where you can switch to other countries. Oh, German. Of course, we have German. So, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.
Larry Hryb: Yeah.
Jeff: And maybe we'll expand that out for the ones that would love to see that.
Larry Hryb: Little world tour there.
Jeff: Yeah, good times. Well, anyway, so I love that. The Volt controller, it's sort of how the Electric Blue and the Pulse Red controller where they're white on the back. It really looks a lot... I have a pair of Air Max 90s that I could show you.
Larry Hryb: Those are shoes.
Jeff: They match perfectly. Yes. Oh, sorry. Yes, those are my favorite classic shoes.
Larry Hryb: Do they have one cc of blood in them or that was a different set of shoes?
Jeff: I do not want to get sued by any large shoemaking corporation, so I will not have my blood on anyone's shoes.
Larry Hryb: Good to know. Or on your controller either.
Jeff: Yeah. No, no. No blood was used in the making of the Daystrike Camo Special Edition controller.
Larry Hryb: Should we talk about one of the big pieces of news this week, Jeff, or do you want to keep going?
Jeff: I'm assuming that... Well, you tell me. You tell me, Larry, because I'm actually not sure. I thought it would be that. So, introducing the Designed for Xbox Limited Series Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphones.
Larry Hryb: That's the box. These are the headphones.
Jeff: All right, so the Xbox Wireless Headset that we've been talking about for the last month or so and the reviews are out, the best gaming headset you can get for $99.
Larry Hryb: Easily.
Jeff: A lot of people agree with that. Now, if you want to go all out and you want to spend much more than that, you can get really the highest-end gaming headsets I've ever seen, which is the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphones. Tell us all about it, Larry.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, so these headphones are the highly limited edition. They're part of this Designed for Xbox Limited Series. Anybody who knows audio, Bang & Olufsen, B&O, you've probably seen that name or that logo before, Bang & Olufsen, which I believe it's a Danish firm. Anyway, they usually make beautiful speakers and things that look good and sound good.
These are... Yeah, they're designed in Denmark. These work for Xbox and PC. They have Bluetooth in them. I want to show this to you because it's really interesting, Jeff. Let me just bring this over here because I don't know if this will cut it over. This is the app that you can download.
Jeff: Oh, nice.
Larry Hryb: What's really interesting with this app, Jeff, is that you can... Obviously, this is the iOS version. It's available on Android as well. You can do the configuration in here and I'm going to press play and you're going to see me go through it. What's interesting is at the top, right below the headset, you'll see a Bluetooth icon and an Xbox icon. Do you see that?
Jeff: Yes, I do actually. Yeah, up there right under the picture.
Larry Hryb: So, I'm going to play this... I did the screen capture last night, and so you can see there's the different options and you can change noise cancellation and you want to be transparent or not to open it up. But here's what's interesting. When you go to the... You can decide how you want to customize, and there's a ton of ways to customize. But here's what I found very, very interesting. I'm going to scroll back to the top and I'm going to touch the Xbox logo. See it?
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Larry Hryb: Now, this disconnects, and then right now it's reconnecting. Notice how everything changes. It's connecting to the console, everything changes.
Jeff: Oh, all right.
Larry Hryb: So, now you've got volume, you've got party chat, you've got some profiles there, your whole EQ. So, it's the same app, but it depends what mode it's in. So, you can really dial in the customization on this particular headset in ways frankly, that I've never seen before. So, this was interesting and the app just got updated. So, I was like, "Wow, this is real interesting." It's kind of a nifty app that you can use to configure this for both Bluetooth and for Xbox Wireless because again, this is Xbox Wireless, so it just connects right to the console using our-
Jeff: No dongle.
Larry Hryb: No dongle, our wireless technology. And again, you can change the mode in the app to say, "Okay, now I want to connect to the console." The console turned on and then you can just start checking everything around. So, it's pretty cool. I wanted to save that because I was really excited to share that with you.
Jeff: Yeah, so this is a $499 retail value headset. I think that's the black anthracite.
Larry Hryb: These are not inexpensive. These are not inexpensive.
Jeff: No, and I was wondering where does that money go? And I'm reading the... It's like aluminum ear cups with lambskin ear cushions with built-in jaw support. Let's see the portal features calfskin leather on the exterior headband with a bamboo fiber textile on the inside of the band. So, you're getting top quality-
Larry Hryb: Very comfortable.
Jeff: ... materials that are going into this in addition to that app is... I mean, that's beautiful, Larry.
Larry Hryb: And of course, it's got the-
Jeff: Have you been enjoying it so far?
Larry Hryb: Yeah, it's got the buttons on here so you can see they're touch-sensitive on the side there on both sides. You can control the volume and the party chat. You see that, it's USB-C charging. It's got all the stuff. It's got what they call a Virtual Boom Mic, which I need to check out. So, instead of having the boom in front of you, it creates one using all the different microphones and all the sensors and all the other stuff that's expensive to make, so there you go.
Jeff: So, that's the black one. There's going to be gray and then navy shipping in May.
Larry Hryb: I love the blue. I love the navy. I love the navy.
Jeff: Well, if they send that to you then you're going to have the black anthracite ones just hanging out and I'll make sure they find a good home.
Larry Hryb: I know you will.
Jeff: The best home.
Larry Hryb: We'll see if we can get some of those to give away. I want to give away on my Twitter as well @majornelson. Anyway, Bang & Olufsen high-quality Danish audio gear coming to Xbox. And those are available as Jeff said in most areas. Preorder it now. Part of the Designed for Xbox Limited Series. You can see that new logo right there.
Jeff: That's very cool.
Larry Hryb: Anyway, what else?
Jeff: What else? So, I saw our backwards compatibility team, they don't take a break. And so, one of the coolest things that you can do now is you can play some classic OG Xbox and Xbox 360 games through the cloud on your Android device and through the Xbox Game Pass app. Thanks for bringing it up. I love the example that's given there, which is you can load up Cameo. It'll bring in your save game from 10 years ago or more and you can pick up right where you left off, and it's pretty awesome.
Larry Hryb: We actually have an interview later on in the show, and we're going to show the exact screen that our CVP of xCloud Kareem Choudhry who's going to share that story. It's a fascinating story, so stay tuned for that. Awesome stuff.
Jeff: Cool. So, we'll get to that. Real quickly, want to talk about Games with Gold.
Larry Hryb: Yes.
Jeff: So, it's a new month, we're in April and-
Larry Hryb: Hello, April.
Jeff: ... four new Games with Gold to talk about. So, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard and Dark Void, I believe that was Nolan North was the protagonist who voiced over that. So, those are both available now.
Larry Hryb: It's a pretty good guess.
Jeff: And then I'm pretty sure... Well, in that era, every other game had Nolan North, but I'm pretty confident he was the voice actor in Dark Void. Second half of the month you'll be able to get Truck Racing Championship and Hard Corps: Uprising. Two of those are Xbox One games, two of them through Xbox 360. More backwards compatibility at work. So, last week did you end up watching the [email protected] Twitch stream on Twitch Gaming?
Larry Hryb: That stream, I watched some of it. Yeah, it was awesome. They had some great announcements.
Jeff: Yeah, there were some really good games. I know we talked about a few of them. Well, some of those games are out now, and the one that I'm hearing the most about this week is Narita Boy, which has a very cool... I don't think it takes place in the international airport outside of Tokyo, but maybe. I don't know. I haven't played it yet.
Larry Hryb: Which we are familiar with.
Jeff: I've been to Narita a number of times. More of a Haneda fan if I had to choose. So, anyway, it is a very... It kind of looks like... Did you ever play Out of this World back in the day? It was out on... I think I played it on Genesis. It was one of the first polygonal games. It has an aesthetic that looks like that. Also, like Tron. There's definitely elements of Tron involved. It takes place in something called the digital kingdom. It does look really cool. Hearing good things from reputable sources, aka our friends here at work.
Larry Hryb: Reputable. Reputable.
Jeff: So, you want to definitely check out Narita or Narita Boy.
Larry Hryb: Narita.
Jeff: I want to pronounce it correctly. No Man's Sky-
Larry Hryb: I always liked that airport. You didn't like Narita.
Jeff: I mean, there's nothing wrong with the airport, but the airport is so far from... It's like, "Hey, welcome to Japan. You're going to be on a train or on a bus for an hour just to get into Central Tokyo. And then from there, you're going to have to find where you're going."
Larry Hryb: It's a schlep. It is a schlep.
Jeff: After you've been on a plane for 12 hours or more to get there, I just want to lay down. And so, anyway, that's my beef with Narita and why I'd rather land at Haneda because you get there faster. Anyway, I would go anywhere just to be in Japan right now, it doesn't matter.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, fair point.
Jeff: You could drop me off on the coast and I will paddle my way in, and that would be sufficient. All right, No Man's Sky, the team behind that, they're celebrating their five-year anniversary and Hello Games just keeps adding more and more. So, now there is Expeditions. It's launched now or it launched this week, and it's a new way to explore together. You start at a fixed point in the universe, and so everyone, instead of being in a random place, you all start in one place and you get to progress on a shared journey.
They've added a lot of other stuff here. We have a blog post from Sean Murray on Xbox Wire. They've updated this game. I believe it is Xbox S and X enhanced or optimized. They've continued to really turn this game into a platform where more and more good things happen, and so, there's just a lot. Even just scrolling through the features there's so much. So, definitely make sure you check out. If you haven't played in a while, it seems like this is a good time to go back to No Man's Sky.
Larry Hryb: It's in Game Pass, right?
Jeff: Dead by Daylight-
Larry Hryb: Is that in Game Pass?
Jeff: It was at one point. I don't know if it is right now. Bring up the app, Larry.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, you keep talking, I'll look.
Jeff: All right, so Dead by Daylight, which I do believe is in Game Pass has a new K-Pop themed chapter with All-Kill. All-Kill is basically the sort of... K-Pop idol Kevin Woo is the voice, and he basically is someone who is actually going to be streaming the game on Xbox. I actually sent him down an Xbox Series X recently.
Larry Hryb: Looks like it's out right now.
Jeff: Yeah, I think it was in there at one point.
Larry Hryb: Yeah.
Jeff: Anyway, the character is called the Trickster. It's sort of like a 4v1 situation named Ji-Woon Hak, who's a crazed idol. So, anyway, if you're a K-Pop stan, you may want to check out Dead by Daylight, which is in Game Pass, and then there is also a special edition available for 29.99. Always popular on [inaudible 00:22:28].
Last thing to talk about, Knockout City. It's a dodgeball-themed game made by EA, and they're having a beta as we speak. It's between April 2nd and 4th taking place on Xbox, both Series X and Xbox One. So, you can just head on over to... We have a post on Xbox Wire. You can head over to ea.com and you can check it out there, but the game is called Knockout City. Looks kind of cool. Looks family-friendly and try the beta.
Larry Hryb: It's like a mid-2000s artwork. I'm just looking at the artwork.
Jeff: It's family... Kind of looks like Arms or it looks like... Very colorful, Fortnite, something like that. Bleeding Edge maybe. Something that speaks to being family-friendly, and yeah. So, Knockout City, try it out, and just not in the face. Not in the face.
Larry Hryb: See, kind of-
Jeff: Is that the one... You could get just the small picture of the front? Anyway-
Larry Hryb: That's all I got. I found it quickly. I wasn't ready for it. It's the first one I found.
Jeff: Well, there you go. Try the beta.
Larry Hryb: We're going to do some interviews now. We've got Harold Goldberg from the New York Videogame Critics, which is great. And of course, Harold wrote a book. You're familiar with Harold. You've met him before, right?
Jeff: Yeah. Well, he used to write... Used to or maybe still does write for Boy's Life, which is the sort of boy scouts, cub scouts magazine. So, when I was a little kid, you'd get that. They certainly weren't talking about video games back then. They were talking about how to... I don't know, make fire out of toothpicks or something.
Larry Hryb: How to make a lean-to, right?
Jeff: Yeah. I'm like, "I'm living in Philly. There's no wilderness here." Some of the things I learned were maybe not immediately applicable to my life. I did have a collapsible cup though because I thought that was fun.
Larry Hryb: That was always cool with the collapsible little... You would just go like this with it and it would collapse. But anyway, Harold-
Jeff: Yeah, didn't need it, but yeah.
Larry Hryb: We're going to talk to Harold. And after Harold, we're going to talk to some of the wizards behind backwards compatibility and bringing backwards compatibility games to the cloud. How does that sound?
Jeff: I want to hear more about it.
Larry Hryb: I am very excited to be joined today by one of the founders of the New York Videogame Critics Circle, Mr. Harold Goldberg. Harold Great to see you.
Harold Goldberg: Great to see you, Larry. It's a pleasure, man.
Larry Hryb: I have to tell you, you and I have... This is the first time we've ever met formally. You and I have kind of run into each other in kind of E3, kind of waved at each other across the way whenever we're talking to... We have a huge intersection of friends and industry folks that we deal with that are kind of this Venn diagram. It's like a big circle, but you and I have never met. This is extraordinary.
Harold Goldberg: No, and exactly, I've seen you run by. Either you're talking to Geoff Keighley or I'm talking to Geoff Keighley or you're talking to some fancy Microsoft person and I don't want to interrupt, but yeah, now we get to meet.
Larry Hryb: Now we get to meet. We get to talk about video games. Let's talk a little bit about your history. Tell us about your journey and becoming this man about town in video games, and then, of course, the founder of the New York Videogames Critics Circle. Tell us about your journey in the industry.
Harold Goldberg: I mean, I began as a music critic and then a film critic, but at some point, Entertainment Weekly needed someone to write about video games and I had invested in the hardware. So, that person luckily, I was one of those people. About 10 years ago, I wrote a book called All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture.
Larry Hryb: There it is. This is what it looks like if you want to look for it on Amazon.
Harold Goldberg: Yeah, it's a good book. I mean, it's based on about 200 interviews and it's the only book that gets inside Rockstar Games with the founders of Rockstar like the Houser brothers. Those are some very interesting chapters in there. But around that time, I had been working at Sony Online Entertainment prior to writing that book, working at EverQuest, and when the book came out, some folks wanted me to come back to the industry.
I respectfully declined and there are some people who wanted to option the book. And then I thought what would be really cool is to have a group of critics in New York City that would advocate for ourselves. Evan Narcissee who wrote or co-wrote Spider-Man: Miles Morales was a co-founder of the group, and after just a few years we decided to share our knowledge with underserved folks.
So, I went up to the Bronx and talked to this kid at the Dreamyard Prep School and helped him write his college essay. That is a fairly impoverished area and full of people who are outsiders. He felt like he was an outsider amongst outsiders and asked me, "Should I go to college? If I go to college will people accept me?" And I said, "Yeah, man. You usually find your people in college."
But that was the spark of what became this nonprofit group that goes around New York City to underserved areas and the Lower East Side and in the Bronx, and we teach games journalism courses to kids in high school and now middle school. We go to homeless shelters and do that as well. We find interns there, we pay them. The best of them get scholarships to college. So, it's really been an exciting trip with the New York Videogame Critics Circle that I didn't expect when I first started the group.
Larry Hryb: I mean, that's interesting because you're right. There's a lot of underserved areas and people may want to write about something, but you focused on video games, which with the younger generation, everybody loves video games. Everyone would love having a controller in their hand. It's a lot of fun, so it's great to see how it brought together.
You've had such an amazing career of writing books, and of course, I was doing my research, you wrote a book about serial killers. What's the lineup between serial killers and video games? Tell us that shared world.
Harold Goldberg: Well, Rockstar did a game called Manhunt, so there are serial killers in video games. But I had been writing for all my career about entertainment, and I wanted to do something that was a little different. And so, I found this awesome person, Dr. Helen Morrison who was kind of like the real-life Clarice from Silence of the Lambs. She was a doctor and a lawyer, and she had interviewed all of these serial killers.
So, we wrote a book together, and I think it's sold about 400,000 copies now. It did really well. And then the video book came about through just... I had interviewed so many people through the decades and had gotten inside Rockstar Games, and I believed I had something that no one had and that fans would like and that maybe no one else would ever get inside Rockstar as I did.
So, there is a book, and I think it's still an interesting read. It's highly rated on the sites that sell these books like Amazon, et cetera. I think anyone who reads it would enjoy it.
Larry Hryb: I want to talk to you about... You talked about writing for Entertainment Weekly and you did music and movies, and you've written around television. You've looked and written about all the forms of media. How do you look at video games? Clearly, try dramatically different in terms of the narrative and how the user controls the narrative versus the producer, or the director, or the writer. So, how do you look at that and how do you think it's going to evolve moving forward in terms of do we just see a lot of the media coming together and it's all going to become interactive media? Put your wizard hat and look into your crystal ball for me if you would, Harold.
Harold Goldberg: I think games is the best medium in the world and that's why I moved from writing about music and film and television to just games because I think the games world combines all those things. So, if you just want to listen to music, I'm a big fan of the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack or all of the Legend of Zelda soundtracks. But if you just listen to them, that's your jam, man.
I did a piece for the Washington Post about Jon Batiste from the Colbert Show, and he started out in games music. He's from New Orleans, but it was games music that got him started in music. So, it's just so rife with awesome tunes and sounds, and the same thing with narrative now. I think the narrative took a long time to catch up to film, but I think that in 2005 with people like Amy Hennig, and Dan Houser, and Ken Levine they kicked narrative up a lot of notches. So, now 15, 16 years later indie games like The Medium or games like Last of Us Part II, they really do have some of the best narratives out there.
Larry Hryb: When you were working on creating the Videogame Critics Circle, which I have a logo of right here on the screen [inaudible 00:32:59]. Oh my, that's quite loud, isn't it? That's New York City for you.
Harold Goldberg: Sorry about that.
Larry Hryb: That's quite all right. When you were creating this, at the end of the day, I know where you fall on this, but you can finally put a nail on the coffin of are video games art, right? There's no question about it, right?
Harold Goldberg: No question at all in my mind. Books are art, film is art, music is art. Never had a question even going in. When I did the League of Legends Esports book, I didn't go in with a question: is this a sport? It's a sport, man. Let's not belabor the point. There are other things to talk about. In video games then is there art? Let's start from the point that this is art and talk about the artful elements in a game. But there's no need to really argue that point in my mind.
Larry Hryb: Now, you have your own podcast that you do, right?
Harold Goldberg: Yeah, it's an occasional podcast-
Larry Hryb: Tell us what you're playing.
Harold Goldberg: Yeah. I think we're going to... Folks, if you're a fan of the Talking Games with Reggie and Harold Podcast, we may be doing a few more of those this spring. I was just talking with Reggie Fils-Aimé who is part of Circle. He's on our board. The ex-president of Nintendo America. And so, we did this podcast. You can find it on all your favorite platforms.
We interview... Phil Spencer came on to have a conversation with me and Reggie. He and Reggie are good friends from way back, so it was just good for me to sit back and ask a couple of questions and then have them dive into their experiences in the world of video games. But lots of folks appeared on that seven-part podcast and we have some really interesting ideas for this next one coming up probably at the end of April or early May/
Larry Hryb: Yeah, I'm so excited to talk to you and I've got to tell you, I've been trying to get Reggie on for a while as well, and it just hasn't happened yet. But I'll get Reggie on soon. I don't know when, but he's such a mythical creature in the industry, isn't he because of course his work with Nintendo and whatnot. He's kind of a walking meme in some regards, isn't he?
Harold Goldberg: He is a walking meme. My name is Reggie is a meme in itself, right?
Larry Hryb: "My body is ready."
Harold Goldberg: His body is ready. Yeah, and he's also very giving of his time with the Circle. When he's in town he does come to mentor kids in person. He's done during the pandemic, a number of Zoom meetings with students and homeless shelters and beyond. So, he really does want to give back to his home borough. He was born in the Bronx.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, I didn't know that. I don't know if I've told you this. I spent a lot of time in the Bronx back in the day when I lived on the East Coast. I love it and it's always had a special place in my heart.
Getting back to gaming, you've written about a lot of games, you play a lot of games. You've written about movies and music. What are some of the narratives that you see in video games today that are really surprising to you? Talk about a few years ago the Untitled Goose Game. The pitch is you're a goose that just tries to be a pain in the neck, right? There's just so many creative things. What are some of the games that you look at and you're like, "This is actually really interesting narrative"?
Harold Goldberg: Well, Last of Us Part II was controversial, but I thought that was a very strong narrative that expanded on the world of Ellie in the right way, I thought. Beyond that, I thought The Medium started out slow, but once you meet this character called Sadness, man, you're in that world and the dialog is great.
I think that even the Zelda games have kicked up narrative a number of notches with Breath of the Wild, so I'm looking forward to Breath of the Wild 2. The Halo franchise has kicked up narrative over the years. So, it's just... What I'm looking for is to be surprised. I watch this fairly unknown series on Netflix called Shtisel, and it's just about this Jewish family, but I'm always surprised by it.
So, that's how I want to feel with games. I want to end a level or end an act and say, "Oh, man, I did not expect that to happen." I know sometimes that's hard with a AAA game, but they do find ways to do that. So, I'm always excited about that. And certainly, indie games have had awesome narratives like Hades, which won five awards at our New York Game Awards.
It was just an awesome ongoing narrative where even the non-playable characters seemed to have endless amounts of things to say to you as the player. So, that's what I'm looking for. Sorry to go on about that, but narrative is really important to me in games.
Larry Hryb: No, I completely agree with you. When you look back, I mean, you talked about the book that you wrote, All Your Base Are Belong to Us. When you look back in the 2000s, do you consider that to be the golden age of gaming or are we not there yet? Tell us about what you think in that department.
Harold Goldberg: It's going to sound nerdy, but it's always the golden age of video games, right? Because there's always good stuff coming out. But I do think once narrative kicked in, it was the golden age of narrative, let's put it that way. Microsoft is always on the cutting edge of new stuff, Sony is, Nintendo is, the indie crowd is. So, it's always interesting to me.
I have to say one of the reasons I left the music industry is that I saw the circle coming around again. What I mean is that the same kinds of music would have popularity and go in and out of style. But with games as we look at Esports now, which is a fairly new phenomenon, I know that League of Legends is fairly old now as far as Esports is concerned, but you do see innovation constantly. And that's whether it's technology-oriented or design-oriented or narrative-oriented, it just is always kind of a golden age for me.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, it's-
Harold Goldberg: That's not to say, Larry, as a critic that there aren't crappy games because there are a lot of crappy games.
Larry Hryb: Well, we've been there. Yeah, we've all played those games. And it's funny, I famously when I start playing a game that isn't good, I love to stay with it and finish it because I can usually meet the developer and tell them, "No, it doesn't get good at the end. I stuck with it. I finished it, so let's talk about that."
One of the things that we love about gaming is... It's funny because I worked in the music industry too. I worked on the broadcast side of the industry and I got out of it when it started collapsing and consolidating and it just wasn't fun anymore. But when you look at video games, one thing I loved about video games is how we see things that you and I and the viewers and listeners know that we take for granted and storytelling and narrative and technology. And we see that go to other parts of the industry. We've certainly seen with the superhero movies where they have more of a video game vibe, right? Because they want to keep the audience engaged. Have you seen that as well?
Harold Goldberg: Well, yeah, and that's a thread throughout All Your Base Are Belong to Us, right? Originally, games wanted to catch up to film and be filmic and be like television in a way, episodic. And now it's the other way around. So, I see that a lot... Even in non-tech-oriented, non-CGI-oriented TV shows like Riverdale, you'll see them do riffs on video games from time to time.
So, the industry makes so much money and is so influential across the world that it's not surprising at all that it would be influential in other forms of media.
Larry Hryb: You've reviewed music, you reviewed TV, and movies, and video games. What is the difference when you're reviewing each of those? And certainly, music is... They've all got your fan bases and they all like to, "You're wrong. Critics don't know what's going on," or anything like that. Is there a commonality you see when you're writing it or certain things you look for in similar mediums?
Harold Goldberg: I do, but I have to say it takes a lot longer to review a game because a game is generally longer than a film or music, right?
Larry Hryb: Sure.
Harold Goldberg: So, game critics are, I think, the most underappreciated of all the critics. I remember talking to... I won't mention his name, but a well-known music critic, about writing for games, and I said, "I think this is the future." And he said, "Yeah, but it takes so long to review a game, I would never do that." I listened 10 times to an album, and that's it for me.
With games, you really do have to be aware, have your notepad beside you. I try not to take gigs where I'm too pressured to write a review like in a couple of days. I want to take my time at it. I know that that's not everyone's style, but it is mine. Some people run through the game to get to the end because they have a deadline. I prefer not to do that. I prefer to have some time to think about what I'm writing.
But you do see evidence of film, not just in cutscenes throughout games, but you see interactivity that brings you inside, and that's what film and TV and music really don't have. That you are in control and you are that character.
Larry Hryb: We talked about your book All Your Base are Belong to Us. Have you considered like, "Hey, now we need to add a bunch of chapters"? Because the past decade has been pretty significant in terms of the advancements of storytelling, interactivity, you talk about Esports, streaming. There's all these things that have happened. Have you considered going in and adding a couple more chapters or maybe volume two?
Harold Goldberg: I have thought about it, Larry, and there may be something in gestation right now. I can't really talk about it, but it is a riff on what has been going on in say the last 10 or 15 years in games. But it's a niche, and it's not Esports. So, we'll see if that can be pulled off, but I'll let you know more if/when it happens.
Larry Hryb: Well, we'll get you back on the show. It's as simple as that. We've got to have you back on whenever that happens. It's been so long already, we'll get you back on again.
Harold Goldberg: Yeah, that'd be cool.
Larry Hryb: I know you've got a lot to do and you've got your Videogame Critics work that you do and you talked about your podcast earlier. Any final words before I let you go? Because I love chatting with you and it's so good to finally properly meet you.
Harold Goldberg: Oh, it's great to meet you, man, and after the pandemic, we have to hang whether it's here or on the West Coast. But no, I mean, the one thing I do want to say about the Critics Circle is that we do work really hard behind the scenes. One of the most recent partnerships we have is with Rockstar Games. So, our senior interns who've been with us for a couple of years are now becoming interns at Rockstar Games.
This is a first for Rockstar, and I worked really hard to get together... Ronald Gordon is kind of our test case there, but I think he's doing really well. He's excited about it, and I think he could be, if it all goes well, template for other companies to do this exact sort of thing.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, I mean, that's great.
Harold Goldberg: Not just with Harvard grads, but with deserving underserved students.
Larry Hryb: I want to hear more about that. That sounds fascinating. Well, listen, Harold, unfortunately, we've got to wrap it up here. It's always great to talk to you. I mean, why such an industry icon in so many ways. I feel like you and I are the same age even though I have a little bit more hair than you do.
Harold Goldberg: Yeah. No, it's all the thinking about games that made me lose that hair.
Larry Hryb: It turned mine gray. Anyway, thank you for coming on the show. It's great to chat with you. How do people find you online?
Harold Goldberg: I'm @haroldgoldberg on Twitter and you can go to our website nygamecritics.com to see more about what we do.
Larry Hryb: That sounds fantastic. Harold, thanks so much, and have a great day in New York City.
Harold Goldberg: Have a great day out on the West Coast, Larry. Thank you so much.
Larry Hryb: Big week for back-compat news. Backward compatibility reaches the cloud for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members, and joining me today, Kareem Choudhry. Kareem, great to see you. I've had you on the show before. Thanks for coming back.
Kareem Choudhry: Awesome to be here, Larry. Always a pleasure.
Larry Hryb: And then sitting to your left, our right, ladies and gentlemen, Peggy Lo who I am so excited to have on the podcast. Peggy, welcome to the show.
Peggy Lo: Great to be here.
Larry Hryb: Now, for those of you that don't know, I mean, I've talked to Kareem many, many times in the past and I love chatting with you, Kareem. But Peggy is somebody I've been trying to get on the show for years. She is one of the back-compatibility wizardresses. She's kind of the smarts behind everything that happens and bringing backwards compatibility for Xbox One and obviously forward. Peggy, I'm so excited to talk to you today.
Peggy Lo: Well, let's just see how this goes okay.
Larry Hryb: I love your attitude. I know, Kareem, you were running the back-compat team prior to moving over to xCloud. You're the senior VP of xCloud, the CVP of xCloud. Tell us about that journey and some of the biggest challenges for the team.
Kareem Choudhry: It's been years and years and years in the making. Just the fact of how backwards compatibility started. I'd love to tell you some of the early-day stories.
Larry Hryb: Please.
Kareem Choudhry: It was right after the Xbox One launched. Phil had just taken leadership role over all of Xbox. He asked me to be the director of engineering. Phil and I, we didn't really know each other than we had worked together. He was leading studio, I was on the platform side, and we're always trying to put customers in the center.
So, when it comes to, "Hey, should you be able to play games from a previous generation?" It's kind of a no-brainer and I didn't like the fact that we didn't have it. I believed in the team that we had and our capability to actually light it up. So, I went to Phil. One of the very first conversations he and I even had, and I said, "Phil, I believe we can deliver a software-emulated compatibility layer to enable 360 titles on Xbox One. What I would like to do is take 25 of our smartest and brightest engineers and go dark and work on it for a year. At the end of the year, I will then let you know whether or not it will work."
That was my pitch to Phil, and to Phil's credit, he said, "Okay. Please go and do it. Keep me posted on how things are going." That was huge credit to Phil and his leadership on taking a chance and really putting customers in the center. So, we brought the team together. Peggy was there in those early days. We worked and we worked and we worked. We started to see proof of life and then it turned into the program that we all know and love.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, I got to tell you something because Kareem you and I... I mean, I've talked about this on the podcast before. You and I were sharing... We were three offices apart when we were down in Millennium. Remember those days?
Kareem Choudhry: Yes.
Larry Hryb: It reminds me of the days when Xbox 360... Because if you remember correctly, we did a little bit of back-compat with Xbox 360, and it reminds me of the days when I would go see that team and they were like... Remember they used to have a number on the whiteboard because that's what they were trying to get, frames per second. They were trying to get their frames up, and every day you'd come in and the number would go up because they were just crunching and crunching. This is a tremendous feat, and certainly, the architecture of Xbox one and forward into Xbox Series X and S enables you to do that. So, that's really impressive.
Peggy, I want to turn my attention to you because as I said, I've been trying to get you on for years and you and your team have been slaving away. You and I have been talking in the background. When your team was releasing titles, I'd tweet them out and everything was cool and everything was great. Tell us about why back-compat is important to you.
Peggy Lo: So, when I started the team, I think I might have been a little bit naïve about what back-compat was and I thought, "Well, this is cool. We can bring games that people own already and let them play them again." And I thought, "Oh, that's great. Customer value." But as we got to working on the program, I realized it was much more than that. That these games didn't just represent a dollar amount to somebody. They became a lot about the history of what gaming is to the fans, to the people that developed those games, to the industry itself.
These are games that influenced the way games play today. Preserving that history has become so important to the team just so that people can continue to play these games, share them with new people and celebrate that legacy there. Those are my favorite stories of when people say, "Oh, I used to play this game when I was younger, and now I can finally share this with my daughter." Or a developer said, "I'm so proud of the work I did. I'm so glad I can finally share this with more people."
Larry Hryb: Yeah, we've seen that all the time. We've seen all these stories on Reddit on social media of people like, "Hey, I dusted off my Xbox 360 to play Halo with my dad like it was 2005 or 2006." You're absolutely right, it's preserving. And your team, and obviously with xCloud and we'll talk about that in just a minute with cloud streaming. That really helps bring it even broader.
In the announcements we made earlier this week, we are bringing, and I was to bring this up here. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can tap into a collection of favorites from the past in a whole new way. Basically, we're going to be streaming them. So, we've got 16 original Xbox and Xbox 360 titles now available on Android phones and tablets.
So, now, Kareem, over to you. We're now taking the program you were working on, back-compat, the program you are working on now cloud streaming. You're kind of taking the peanut butter and chocolate and you're putting them together. That's got to be great. That's amazing. Tell us about that and that transition from leading the back-compat team to now xCloud.
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah, I love to talk about technology and have been working in technology for a long time, but there is this kernel of truth that we're working in gaming and it's about the games. How can we enable people to play the games who enjoy the games or preserve the games? And that's really where back-compat started and that's what we're doing in the cloud too. We're providing another way people play the games that they know and love. To experience the stories and the characters.
So, what better way than to take all the content that we have that can run on Xbox and bring it to the cloud. I wish that we were able to have 360 and original Xbox titles from the beginning of our cloud journey, but the truth, Larry, it's really hard. What I often say to the team is, "Emulating titles on a console is very hard. Streaming titles from a console on a data center, also very hard. Let's take the two of those and multiply them together." And so, the team just needed a little bit more time to solve engineering challenges of just combining both of those together.
But at the end of the day, we've got a system up and running and Game Pass Ultimate members, they get to play the games they love just like I've been able to do as a fan and as a member working on the team.
Larry Hryb: Now, you talked about challenges of emulating on the cloud, and you're absolutely right. It's not just like your team can just say, "Oh, well, it works on a console. Why would it not work from the cloud?" There are so many variables and things, some of the secret sauce that your team has put into this. So, it's not just, as I like to say, flip a switch and make it happen, right? There's a lot of engineering that you guys have done to really streamline and optimize it, right?
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah, absolutely. When we are emulating a title on our consoles, we are pushing that box to the limit in ways that we really haven't articulated. Peggy and her team and her engineers are pushing every ounce of performance out of that box. When we're streaming from the cloud on our consoles, we're doing the same thing. So, you got these two efforts that are just bringing every last cycle of performance out of a console and never trying to combine them both onto the same one.
So, just tons and tons of just wizardry and magic and micro-optimization because we want it to be a phenomenal experience. Again, this is art that was created by creators years and years ago, and one of our mantras is do no harm. We have to preserve the sanctity of the experience and improve it where we can, but we cannot degrade it.
Kareem, I want to talk to you a little bit. You have a great story about this moment of clarity where you saw everything coming together. I wonder if you could share that story with the listeners and the viewers today.
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah. I love working at Xbox, but at times, I can get down into the weeds. I get so focused on the technology, the experience, and every once in a while, I have these moments that just remind me of, "Hey, why are we here, and why are we doing this?" I'll just share that story. The team was in the early days like everything that we release, we test it all internally first within the Xbox team. Then we roll it out to Microsoft, and then eventually it comes out to the whole world just like these 16 titles are today.
So, the mails went around to the internal team, "Hey, please help us test backwards compatibility via the cloud." I'm like, "Okay, I got to go and test this." So, I saw the list of titles that were there and I was a huge fan of Kameo when it came out. 360 launch title, beautiful title. Holds up so well today.
Larry Hryb: From our friends at Rare, yeah.
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah, absolutely. It's great story, great characters, fantastic. So, I fire up Kameo via the cloud and my profile was there because I saved my 360 profile to the cloud.
Larry Hryb: Here it is. This is the-
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah, this is what I was staring at and I was just blown away and overtaken with emotions because via the cloud, I picked up on a saved game that I had last touched almost 15 years prior to the day. And I was like, "Wow." If 15 years ago someone had told me, "Hey, Kareem by the way, in 2021, in the midst of a pandemic, you're going to next play this title from a data center 100 miles away," I would have said, "Yeah, you're crazy." But that world we live in and that's the magic that the team has been able to put together.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, that alone right there, and it's funny because when you shared that screenshot for me to get ready for this interview, I was like, "I wonder if I have any." Sure enough, I went back in and they weren't as old as this one. I think the oldest one I found was 2008 or nine. But you're right, it's interesting and I haven't done anything. We don't have to...
Back on 360, we supported game saves to the cloud, and just having those go forward with me without me doing anything, that's amazing. That's what I want to also thank you for with cloud streaming and Peggy your team because I know that there's a lot of other businesses, let's just say. A lot of other folks that have tried back-compat and it's hard. But you guys have kind of... You've taken a lot of the difficulty for me as an end-user and our viewers and listeners and dropped it down so they can just play the game and it pulls the save down. You don't have to go through any shenanigans of downloading a utility and... None of that.
You guys just make it easy, so I want to thank you for that on behalf of the millions of gamers around the world. And preserving my games and just making it easy for me. So, thank you.
Peggy Lo: It's been-
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah, and I can't wait to hear more stories of people finding their saved games in the cloud and picking up where they left off.
Larry Hryb: One thing I want to talk about, Peggy, is what drives you and your team to keep refining and improving the back-compat tech on Xbox? Because that's a tall order as I said earlier. With the things you've added over the past few years, it just keeps getting better. I don't know where you're going, but it's amazing.
Peggy Lo: Yeah, we take inspiration from all sorts of places. From within the team. The team is very familiar with these games and knowing where certain games push boundaries on older hardware and things like that. We're always looking for opportunities of what's the next thing that can unlock and remove those boundaries. We listen to our fans. Those are the great ideas, right? And it just reflects the passion of what people have out there.
Also, the really nice thing that we have here is that we can access a lot of great ideas within the rest of Microsoft as well. So, in groups that typically haven't looked at gaming per se, we can work with them to explore really cool projects and research items that people have been doing and ask the question, "Hey, can this apply to gaming too?" And we can branch out into directions that we never thought we could before.
Larry Hryb: One thing I want to point out is that you all, the team has to work... The game code is not touched, right? That's something that's really important is the original game, whether it was on a disc or download for original Xbox or 360, that code is there. You don't crack the code. You put a wrapper for lack of a better term in my simpleton terms. You put a wrapper around it and it just... That's what makes it work. So, you have to tweak that wrapper.
Sometimes I remember when I was testing some of those games like Kareem maybe the frame rate was too high or it was too low or this level didn't appear or whatever because game developers always using different things to create their games. So, you guys have to go through and test it. What's it like testing the back-compat games?
Peggy Lo: It's a lot of work. It is a lot of time. It is very detailed work and we have learned a lot over the last six years of doing this. Testing, in the beginning, was one thing, but then we learned a lot that we weren't getting the quality levels that we needed. And so, we had to revamp that over again. But it is very thorough. We have incredible testers who are very patient, who are willing to go through every single game. I think just in-
Larry Hryb: Every single level of every single game.
Peggy Lo: Yeah. Every DLC, every... They go through every single menu item. They try everything that they can to ensure that everything is exactly the way we'd expect it to be.
Larry Hryb: Now, one of the things we talked about was the advancements you've been doing in the back-compat space with frame rate boost and Auto-HDR, and so forth. But with this news that we had this week about the backwards compatible games coming to Xbox to Cloud Gaming, I was noticing Jetpac Refueled and Viva Piñata and so forth. You've got touch controls. So, explain that to us. I don't know, Peggy, if that's you. Is it a back-compat thing? Or Kareem, is that you with xCloud? Tell us where that fits into the stack and how you work on that because that's really great news.
Kareem Choudhry: Well, it's all of us, Larry, really. What we've been doing with touch controls is just making sure that we can adapt what was originally designed a controller-based input into touch on the screen. And we work with the title owners to make sure it's a great experience. It's not something that we've yet turned on generically for everything.
So, we do have three titles with touch. Again, going back to that kernel of motivation of how do we just enable more people to play? So, we're happy we're able to bring that backwards compatibility as well. I love what Peggy said about all the diligence that the team puts into validating the titles. That capability, it's what enabled us to make the jump to the cloud at the same time.
If you think about it, the whole backwards compatibility effort was, "Hey, team. Go and take these titles that were designed to run in one environment and get them to run in a completely different environment and preserve the experience." And so, all that know-how, that knowledge, that ability to validate, to make sure that the experience was quality. The interaction with the IP owners to make sure that they were pleased with it. We just immediately transferred all that to lifting and shifting this content into the cloud at the same time. So, in a way, our early days of backwards compatibility was part of what enabled us to make the jump to the cloud.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, and it's interesting because Peggy was talking about leaning across the company to the different folks that maybe not working on game, but leaning on the technology and the smarts that we have. And I know that, Kareem, your team has done also the same thing with Azure and all of the things that are making Cloud Gaming great, right?
Kareem Choudhry: Yeah. I mean, Microsoft is a huge company with so much resources. All three of us, we've been in Xbox for a long, long time. The attitude within Microsoft really right now is what can Microsoft do for gaming? So, we recently held a public summit with Microsoft research and gaming, inviting members of the community to come in and learn about the space of gaming and where the latest and greatest of research can be applied. So, we're pulling from all over the company trying to make the best experience we can.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, to your point, we all have been at Xbox for a while and it's a far cry from when we used to be in offices at the end of the highway next to a gravel pit, to where Phil is sitting at the table of the senior leadership team for the company, right? It's drastically different. It's been amazing. Great news this week. Backwards compatibility reaches the cloud for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. I'll put below in the show notes about this.
Peggy, again before I let you go, and Kareem. Peggy, I want to thank you on behalf of the gamers around the world for helping preserve our collection and not only carry our memories forward like you did with Kareem but also bring our memories back to our younger family members and other folks that maybe have not had a chance to experience these games.
So, thank you for preserving that, and then, Kareem, thank you again for now extending it so we can use and play those titles wherever you are with Cloud Gaming. So, thanks again, guys.
Jeff: Thank you, Peggy Lo, Kareem Choudhry. I love that they are safeguarding our saved games, sometimes 15 years old, and it's just waiting for you to come back into it.
Larry Hryb: It's this shot right here that we showed during the interview. I mean, that's it right there, right? That's it.
Jeff: I just love that there's a dedication to preserving the history of Xbox and the games that have been out. If you invested in those games over a decade ago, they're following you and they're coming with you, and I think that's just awesome.
Larry Hryb: And in some cases, they're getting better, and more importantly, we're not pushing the onus of doing any work onto gamers, right? The team's doing all the work. I said it during the interview, you don't have to download a utility to download the old game, save it, load it up, save it, and then transfer it. This just happens [crosstalk 01:07:12].
Jeff: Go to the store-
Larry Hryb: Go to the store.
Jeff: ... and it's just there.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, it's just there.
Jeff: It does all the work for you.
Larry Hryb: It does all the work. Yeah, thank you, Jeff. So, yeah, thank you to Harold for joining us and Peggy who I've been trying to get on forever and I'm so excited. She runs such a great team, they're so smart over there, and it's so great that I was finally able to chat with her and you guys got to meet Peggy who is part of the genius wizards. The back-compat wizards, so thank you.
Jeff: Yeah, and it's folks like them that are allowing us to go back and play Dishonored or play so many of the games that came in from Bethesda over the course of the last generation or beyond. All the way back to Morrowind. The fact that you can play Morrowind off your phone and stream that. It's mind-boggling.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. It's mind-boggling. All right, Jeffrey. I know you and I have a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of meetings we've got to run to so we're going to move along and shuffle off and fade to black in just a minute. We have next week, just programming note-
Jeff: Wow, that's very grim. Very grim, Larry. We're going to shuffle off this mortal coil, second star to the left and on until morning captain.
Larry Hryb: Well, then fade to black is a true TV term, you know that.
Jeff: I know.
Larry Hryb: But as I said, Jeff mentioned at the top of the show and I mentioned at the top of the show, we'll remind you no show next week, but we will be available. You can always, always, always find us on social media right there. But we'll be back the week after. I'll but be back the week after, Jeff will not. So, Jeff, we'll talk to you in three weeks. Oh, and I have a surprise for when you come back. I got something really cool, so I know you [crosstalk 01:08:45]-
Jeff: You can't say that. I'm not going to be back for three weeks and you're going to just leave that hanging out there?
Larry Hryb: You're not a toddler. You can deal with it.
Jeff: No, I am a toddler. I mean, when it comes to... It's fine. It's fine.
Larry Hryb: Anyway, a lot going on, so thank you, guys, for downloading us. Remember Jeff, go ahead and do your pitch about comments and banging the subscribe.
Jeff: No. Well, obviously, the comments we're able to see the best are on YouTube, so even if you're listening to us and there's something you want to say, you'll be able to catch our attention. Going over to YouTube.com/hryb, Larry Hryb or you can just search for Major Nelson and it'll show up. We look at the comments there. We really appreciate them, so thank you so much.
Larry Hryb: And we're available on Spotify and Google and iTunes and whatever the Apple Podcast [crosstalk 01:09:30].
Jeff: Anywhere finer or less fine podcasts are found.
Larry Hryb: Yeah, wherever they let us in, so thanks, gang. We'll see in a couple of weeks. Stay safe out there. Hit us up on social media if you need anything and have fun, play fair, file feedback, and remember, we'll be here for it in a couple of weeks. Bye-bye, everybody.