Well, you see that often much more on the tech side with Google and 20 percent time and other companies who are following that lead where you give people some time of their own.
PM: Yeah. Interestingly, I don't actually think that Google's 20 percent time is a reality. I was fascinated in that, and I tried to talk to a few people who'd been in that machine; they said, "Well, actually, it's 20 percent of your time if you've got 20 percent of your time to spare, and not many people have got 20 percent of their time to spare."
What we do, when we thought about that approach, is saying, "Well, just schedule people into it." What we chose to do is say, "Right, this is the defined period of time that you've got. You can ask for more time, but that's going to be the entire focus, rather than saying I've got my day job and this is my night job."
I've already seen some glimpses of what's coming up, and there's some really impressive stuff. Some of it is really cool. I think it'd be lovely to have some people from the press there -- not to do press, so much, although if you did do press it'd be fine; but more to give a press person's perspective on what they're seeing. I think it works best when it's more than just internal people coming.
That was a very clever way of avoiding your very clever question about research!
There's a few things that I think are big-picture questions that you could very much speak to since you've been at Microsoft in the role you've taken on for awhile. I've spoken to different Microsoft people about this, but it very much seems that the 360, particularly -- we're about to enter its sixth holiday season, which would be where we start to say "This is the lifespan of the console," but I don't think that we're even close to that, probably.
PM: I don't think that we're an old enough or mature enough industry to have a regular cycle just yet. This is the second iteration of Xbox. You could look back at the last Xbox and say, "Well, that one lasted five years, so this one must last five years." This is not talking particularly about Microsoft, but I do know, from a developer aspect, it's quite a disturbing thing when you go through a hardware refresh. Part of you is intrinsically excited about it because it's something new to play around with, but you have to take a huge breath; there's an enormous amount of hard work ahead of you.
There's always this bizarre fight around the industry: "Are you going to be a launch title? Oh, you poor soul; you're a launch title," versus "Oh, I'm a launch title; I'm really proud to be a launch title." It's a very upsetting time.
This is me, personally: I don't think we've quite squeezed enough out of our existing tech. I saw Battlefield 3, and it just goes to show that there are still surprises on the visual side; so I don't think there's that pressure yet. It is a big game of bluff, of course: who's going to come first out of the gate will probably be the forcing function for everybody else. The 360 was, of course, the first out of the gate before. It's an exciting time. I agree; five years is quite a long time, but you can see things like Kinect and Move extending the console cycle, just as EyeToy did back in the PlayStation 2 days.
Fable: The Journey
And the teams, as you say, are in the process of refactoring some process-oriented things, and I think very much so, if you look at where people are working. It's still very much a process of learning to work efficiently at the scale.
PM: Yeah! It is, because now the bar you have to reach is so extremely high. It is thousands of pounds a minute, if you think of it that way; if you waste a minute, you've wasted a thousand pounds and wasted an opportunity.
I look at Fable III, and it's hard to be completely honest without offending people; but I know, when I read in the middle of a review that said the quality just wasn't good enough, I actually agree with those reviews.
I think Lionhead can't afford to rest on its laurels of its fans and produce low-quality stuff. We have lots of excuses, as you always do have excuses; but I don't think that's good enough. For consumers, it's very simple: there's a bright light here, and there's an even brighter light there. They're going to go towards the even brighter light -- and why shouldn't they? You just can't sit on your hands and say, "Well, we know how to do it. It's Fable, so that's the way we do it." You just can't do that.