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4J Studios: Microsoft refining update procedures

Studio behind Xbox Live Minecraft says Microsoft pushing towards regular updates

The forthcoming Xbox Live Arcade version of Minecraft is pushing Microsoft to refine its notoriously slow procedures for updates and patches.

The Kinect-enabled port of Minecraft is in development at 4J Studios. During a recent visit to the company's Dundee offices, CTO Paddy Burns told Edge magazine that it is likely be the first Xbox Live release to receive constant updates.

"Microsoft knows that to do a similar thing that's on PC where they constantly update it, that's a very difficult thing to do on Xbox because you have to go through the full tests," Burns said. "But they are quite keen to move towards that - they do see it as the future, so I think we might be the first to do constant updates."

Minecraft's Xbox release will be the PC's beta 1.6.6, which Mojang launched in May 2011. Burns explained that 4J's plan is to catch up to the 1.0 version launched at the Minecon event in Las Vegas last November through regular updates.

However, while Microsoft is actively working to make its approval procedures faster and more responsive, Burns stated that developers are unlikely to be given the sort of freedom to update and patch that they enjoy on PC.

"I don't think it'll ever come to that. I think that there will always be Microsoft testing involved," he said. "But the whole turnaround of that testing they're hoping to speed up, so we can maybe roll out very two months."

"We'll have to see how that goes ... I'm really looking forward to it being updated with patches and new features after it's released."

Microsoft's policies regarding updates on Xbox Live have been widely criticised as too slow to accommodate certain aspects of contemporary game development. MMOs, for example, require constant tweaks and additions to function, while independent developers have baulked at the prospect of waiting weeks or even months for a patch to be approved.

In June last year, CCP Games' Thomas Farrer said that an Xbox Live version of its free-to-play PlayStation Network shooter Dust 514 would be "tricky."

"When you start to consider things like servers, billing, patching or even customer support, it becomes a lot more complicated," added Thomas Bideaux, CEO of online gaming consultancy ICO Partners. "It is my experience that Sony will be a lot more open for a publishers to manage all those aspects."

Microsoft received similar complaints from Valve regarding its "total failure" to provide updates for team Fortress 2 on Xbox 360.

"We thought that there would be something that would emerge," said Valve president Gabe Newell at the time. "Because we figured it was a sort of untenable... 'Oh yeah, we understand that these are the rules now, but it's such a train wreck that something will have to change.'"

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Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.