There aren’t many vowels that can carry more weight than those carried by Vanna White. But there’s one who might just come close…at least in the Xbox 360 community.
Gimme an ‘a’…gimme an ‘i’…gimme an ‘o’…I give you another Unscripted 360 Launch Team Showcase…I give you…
For those who may not know, can you share a little bit about who you are and what you do as it pertains to the Xbox 360.
My name’s Eric and I’m the Xbox Live Operations Manager. At work and to the community I’m known by my gamertag – e. The Operations team is responsible for building, managing, and monitoring the systems that make up Xbox Live and Xbox.com.
I’ve been at Microsoft for almost nine and a half years. The last five and half of those have been spent working on Xbox Live.
Precentor, a member of the Operations team working in the XOC, recently said in a Showcase that it’s really a nonstop job as there are team members monitoring it 24-7-365. How do you explain his, as well as your, dedication to Live’s reliability when it often calls for more than a ‘normal’ day at work?
In the end it comes down to finding and hiring great people. We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of smart, dedicated individuals working on Xbox Live. Assemble a group of people who really care about the work they do and you can accomplish almost anything.
In our case, the majority of people working here take great pride in their work and are hardcore gamers to boot. That equals a team of people for whom doing it right is the most important thing.
What is the process like for the team when Xbox Live has to be taken down for maintenance?
It’s all about the preparation. Before we make any changes to a production service we test them extensively in our labs. That way we make sure that we have the procedure nailed and understand all the steps and implications.
Any serious work is scheduled for 2AM Pacific, since that’s when there are the fewest number of people playing. If a significant portion of the team is here at 2AM, there’s an additional step involved regarding my supplying donuts, bagels, and the like.
I’m not sure who may not know by now, but for the one guy who doesn’t…what’s the story behind just ‘e’ as your Gamertag?
Those of us who were here in the summer of 2002 knew that we were going to get our gamertags very early on, so there were a lot of hallway conversations around “what is your gamertag going to be?”. I went back and forth on ‘e’ or ‘eric’ for a couple of days before settling on ‘e’. ‘Eric’ just seemed too boring for a gaming service. At the time I had no idea that people would think that single-letter gamertags were cool, but I hear it in game lobbies constantly.
How often do you find time to game?
I play about five nights a week. I’ll usually log in around 9PM or so and play for a few hours.
What title are you currently playing the most?
I still spend a lot of time playing Halo 2. The party system is really conducive to spending a few hours with your friends. Since a lot of my friends don’t live anywhere near me, Live is our virtual hangout.
If I’m in a single-player mood I’m playing Dead Rising.
On the Arcade front I’ve been locked in a battle with my girlfriend over our Cloning Clyde scores. We’ve probably passed each other on the leaderboards a half-dozen times in the last week.
I’ve been traveling a fair amount lately, so my DS Lite has been busy too. A lot of people think that if you work at Xbox you don’t play on other platforms, but that isn’t the case. In addition to the DS Lite I also have a PS/2, Gamecube, Dreamcast, PSP, and a couple of arcade cabinets.
Everyone has a game that they’d rather not have played. Do you have one?
No, of course not! I love every game every made equally… ok, seriously? Every developer and publisher is a partner of ours, and while I give feedback privately I’d never out one of them in public.
Roger that. Good man. Any one of the Xbox 360’s upcoming titles that you just can’t wait to play?
There’s a ton – the Fall lineup is looking great. Gears of War, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, and F.E.A.R are at the top of my list. I’m sure I’ll play a lot of Lego Star Wars II and Viva Pinata with my son as well.
What’s a typical gaming session like for you? What are you playing on?
I’ve built my living room around my TV, so it’s a pretty nice experience. My Xbox and 360 are both connected to a 65” TV with 5.1 surround sound, and I’ve got a comfy leather recliner to kick back in.
65 huh? Whoa. Is it hard to enjoy something you spend so much of your day ‘at work’ with?
Not at all. I’ve been a gamer for so long that it’s hard to imagine what it’d take for me to not enjoy gaming anymore.
What’s the one feature, as a fan, do you think best separates the Xbox 360 from any would-be competition?
I’m obviously a little biased since Live is like a second child to me – but it’s Xbox Live, no question. The friends I’ve made through Live are incredibly important to me. The “virtual couch” has turned out even better than I imagined it could.
A person’s Gamercard allows you to share with others the games you played. A lot of people have expressed their thoughts on hiding the games played from anyone beyond those on your friend’s list. What’s your take on not leaving your games played visible to the world?
Everyone’s entitled to their privacy. If it weren’t for the ability to control who can see your status, games played, etc. there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t be comfortable in a community as big as Xbox Live.
Do you play for Gamerscore or Achievements?
A little of both, but to me Achievements are more interesting. There are many times when I’ve kept playing “until I get that achievement”. Gamerscore is interesting to compare to coworkers and friends, but I don’t personally care where I am in the world rankings.
Are you looking forward to what the Vision Camera and other peripherals may bring to the Xbox 360 experience?
Absolutely. Playing a game like Uno is already a pretty cool way to relax with some friends and it’s even more fun with the Vision. Video chat’s pretty sweet too.
One game. One shot. You against J.Allard. Who wins and what are you playing?
That depends on who’s choosing the game.
If J gets to choose he’d probably pick PGR3. It wouldn’t be pretty – I much prefer driving games like Burnout because I suck at realistic driving games. I doubt if I’d ever see his tail lights after the first turn.
If it’s up to me we’re playing an FPS – any FPS. He wouldn’t stand a chance. J, you listening?
For the win, any last words?
I’m sorry that I can’t accept all of the friend’s requests.
I’m sorry that I can’t reply to all of the messages I get on my 360.
I’m sorry that I can’t reply to all of the forum posts and private messages.
If I see you on Live, though, you have my permission to snipe me and laugh evily.
Thanks for asking me to do this, Deacon – see you all on Live!
It was a pleasure! Even though I’m so going to steal that 65″ TV!