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David Perry - Part Two

Tue 28 Jul 2009 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT
OnlinePublishing

The Gaikai co-founder reveals more details on just how the streaming games service will work

In part one of this interview, David Perry talked about his latest project, Gaikai, and how the streaming games service was planned to scale.

Here he sheds more light on just how the server infrastructure will work, how quickly the company will move to satisfy demand, and why he gets involved in so many projects...

Q: You talked about your model for Gaikai as ordering more servers whenever you hit maximum capacity - surely the key for that is how quickly you can move to get them in place? What happens if you're inundated?

David Perry: Then our price goes up. I've already been in discussions with companies that can build our hardware for us and scale almost immediately. They'll have servers ready to go. We have two choices - either they build everything, or we build everything, and I kinda like that they build everything

We're just trying to work out what that cost will be, but because it's a service to me I can then say I need another thousand servers and they can take care of that problem.

But put it this way - it's like a wet dream for investors. To come to them with a problem like that - we can't scale fast enough - trust me, I can line them up. If I go to an investor with that problem, they'll help me solve it.

Q: In terms of geographic location, how will you approach that to begin with?

David Perry: Well, it varies. I can go from my house to Las Vegas in 17ms, but doing that distance again is 93ms. That means that there's no connection between Las Vegas and the point further on, so it must go around in a circle - it's the only way you could cause such a huge spike.

So that's the real internet - it's a messy beast. What we did was look at a map of the internet and saw all of the hotspots, where the numbers were getting too big, and just filled those in. In the UK we'll effectively reverse engineer.

The second part is that we don't actually know which server will be the best for you - if we have a server in Brighton and you're on the other side of Brighton, that might not be the best server for you because it might be going in a loop to get to you.

So we take, geographically, all the servers around you that we have and you ping them all. That's what the load time is, if you saw the Gaikai demonstration, the text coming up in the corner is it pinging all the servers around to see what the best one is. It then logs on to that one, creates an instance, and the game starts to play. That means that you're guaranteed, whatever your situation is, to get the best server.

Secondly, we choose the compression based on how fast your processor is and how much bandwidth you have.

Q: So in theory, depending on your location, you could have a slightly different visual representation of a game to others - but not materially worse, because the option won't exist if so?

David Perry: Well if it was no good people are just going to keep bailing on it, and we wouldn't let that happen. If we saw people bailing we'd ask what was going on, and see that they're getting a 250ms ping time and stop it.

Q: You're also working on GameInvestors.com - it's a big database of people in the industry, and looks pretty interesting.

David Perry: GameInvestors - the concept was to try to make it so that you can get your team out there, and for the rest of the world to be able to find you and know that's what you do. Let's take iPhone developers - how do I find the available ones? There are lots of them, and if I start calling them all there'll be a lot of wasted calls.

I'd rather have a list of all the ones that are available right now that aren't under contract that are looking for work, be able to find out what they've done, and not have to talk to anybody. I want to review all the games they've done, read their bios, I want to contact them to say I want to read more, and they can let me see more because I'm legitimate - so they'll unlock a whole bunch more content, history, and so on.

And then I finally decide I want to talk to those guys - it'll same them time, it saves us time, I found them. I can choose from everyone. Maybe it's a fantasy of mine, but that fantasy is that I don't have to spend the next month trying to find these people - they've just there.

And when a new team surfaces, perhaps a team that spins off from another company, they're available right away to me - I know about it the next morning. They've just added themselves to our database.

It's a bit of a game-changer in the way that we access talent, and it will empower publishers to reach out to talent. And investors that are interested in this space will be able to get in much easier, see all the opportunities that are available right now - I'm not telling you they're going to want to fund them, but they'll certainly be able to reach out.

There might be an amazing team in Brighton right now, and we just don't know.

Q: How much will you need to rely on those teams to update their information accurately, without skewing stuff in their favour to make themselves more attractive?

David Perry: That's a great question. We have a relationship with EEDAR who tracks all the sales information. We have a server set-up that connects theirs to ours, and whenever you put all your information in we ping their servers to work out the sales potential of what you just submitted.

So if you write that you're going to sell a million copies, we can say: "Historically, 235,000." So the investors are informed - and we just try to keep it real as much as we can, and as time goes on we'll do that more and more.

But at the end of the day we give the investors a chance to reach out to attorneys - because they don't know who the best game attorneys are, but we have a list - and to consultants. My advice would be that if you're about to part with any substantial amount of money in this industry, get a design review done with a professional, and get an attorney to write your contracts.

Hopefully, our goal is to try to keep it real, so that people do deals they don't regret later - on either side.

Q: One of the challenges that the industry's always faced, because it's grown so fast, is that some of the business leaders in games companies have really only their own company experience to go on... their involvement in games comes from passion, not necessarily a head full of business acumen. Chris Taylor famously told me that setting up Gas Powered Games was like getting a rocket launcher in a shooter - everybody wants it, but when you have it you realise that it has some drawbacks...

David Perry: It's a real challenge. For a lot of teams, what I see is that they know three ways of getting money. They know someone who knows someone, and they try to get the meeting but they don't get it, and they call somebody else who has a friend who's wealthy but they're not really interested... and they have one more idea.

Generally they don't have the reach to be able to consider more options, and I like the idea - I'm so idealistic, it's scary - I believe there's a way to make it so that this can be improved. So if you have a game and you put it on our service and it's getting some heat and interest, we'll go out of our way to get it in front of everyone.

We'll be careful about that, so we're not going to do it with everybody, but we'll do it with the ones that are really getting momentum, so we make sure it really gets considered by everyone. Hopefully we'll end up with a bunch of success stories, with somebody who before would have only had those three options, but now are considered by 600 access points that could fund it. Then people will get it.

I want to be clear - you can't sell rubbish, that'll never work. You have to put together a good pitch, make a good trailer. As I always say, the people who raise money are the ones that don't need it - meaning that the idea is so good and there's so little risk...

The perfect analogy is, you're the investor. Imagine somebody was coming to you with this idea - would you fund it? It's amazing how many people aren't so sure.

Q: You're a person with a lot of projects on the go, that you've personally funded yourself... How do you have time?

David Perry: My biggest problem is... I've spent over USD 1 million now personally on GameInvestors. I'm breaking the cardinal rule, which is: Never fund anything with your own money.

That's my problem - I keep getting interested in something, thinking it won't be much, and then I start spending money. I hire a team, that team starts eating cash, then I keep changing my mind on things I'd like to see done. Because there's nobody between me and the money I just keep changing stuff. Each time there are always costs, but when it's your own money you tinker around a little bit.

I actually don't think it's a very good thing - it's not smart. But then, on the other hand, I've only got myself to blame, right? That's why I kicked off so many things, because I can, and I don't have to ask for permission.

If I was to go off and pitch every one, I wouldn't start so many things.

David Perry is chief creative officer at Acclaim and co-founder of Gaikai. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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