CES 2001: Justin Chin Speaks Out on the Xbox

We caught up with Infinite Machine president Justin Chin to talk about the newly unveiled console.

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Infinite Machine surprised the PC gaming community earlier last year with the announcement that it had ceased development on New Legends for the PC. Instead, the Northern California-based developer switched platforms, opting to port the anticipated Unreal-powered action game to the Xbox. We took this morning's unveiling of the Xbox as an opportunity to sit down with Infinite Machine president Justin Chin and discuss the advantages of developing a game for Microsoft's console as opposed to the other platforms.

GameSpot: When you decided to stop development on the PC version of New Legends, why did you choose the Xbox over the consoles from the competition?

Justin Chin: The Xbox development scheme is a much easier environment for porting New Legends - which of course, started as a PC title. It became the most obvious choice from a development and cost standpoint.

GS: How easy is it to develop for the Xbox as opposed to for the PC?

JC: At this point, it's pretty much the same development process. The only difference now is we have to develop for a very specific hardware profile.

GS: Hypothetically speaking, how easy would it be to port over an Xbox game onto the PC, and vice versa?

JC: Hypothetically, it should be very easy to port back over to the PC. Porting over a game to the Xbox from the PC is not as easy as one might think, given that you have some restrictions you might not have from the PC side. But they are fairly minor if you address them pretty early.

GS: It's been said that the Xbox's Nvidia GPU is three times as powerful as the processor of its closest competitor. From what you've seen, is this true?

JC: It's looking pretty impressive, but we won't know everything relating to New Legends just yet.

GS: What does developing for the Xbox afford you that developing for other platforms doesn't?

JC: Right now, it allows us to focus on a development environment that we're familiar with. Things are moving over fairly easily, and Microsoft has been very responsive to questions and information.

GS: You've just seen the final design of the Xbox. What do you think of it?

JC: Well, when we saw the design before the final plastic and color treatment, we had some concerns. The controller was awesomely comfortable and felt pretty natural, but we left thinking that the design wasn't going to work out very well. Now that we just saw the final design and plastic, our concerns vanished - it looks fantastic! Personally, I think it compares very well with the other systems.

GS: What about the controller? How does its design complement the control interface of New Legends?

JC: We've nearly honed down the controls with regard to New Legends. The movement and attacks are really smooth and fluid. When we saw the controller at Microsoft, we came back to the office and changed some game design and inventory management to fit the actual controller specs. I think the design works very well with our control scheme and philosophy.

GS: Will the game make use of both analog sticks? All the buttons?

JC: Yes. But you will not need to use all of them at once. The player will have a very relaxed and simple thumb positioning. That position will work for 90 percent of gameplay. Any other extra movement of the thumb positioning will be for inventory management or menu systems.

GS: Do you think the market will be big enough to support four consoles in addition to the PC platform? If not, who do you think will be the odd man (men?) out?

JC: This is a complicated question. Right now, I think the Dreamcast is the top system out there because of its games. They are definitely in their second generation. The Xbox will be competing with the start of the PlayStation 2's second-generation games, and those promise to be impressive. Microsoft, on the other hand, is putting a lot of effort into the Xbox, and they are working very closely with developers. That will hopefully push the second-generation window closer to the system launch. Then there is the Gamecube - the latecomer, but not totally out of the game. Nintendo is still a powerhouse.

No one really knows how it's all going to end. They might say they do, but they are all guessing like everyone else. If our economy stays stable, then we can support all four systems. If we hit a recession, then some systems are going to get hit hard.

GS: If it were up to you, what would you add to the Xbox?

JC: I can't imagine realistically adding more to that system at this time. If it were a perfect world and Microsoft had the suppliers, the company could push it to a 1GHz processor and double the RAM. But then again, who wouldn't want that?

GS: Thanks, Justin.

New Legends is scheduled to release for the Xbox later this year. For more information on the game, be sure to visit its gamespace, which is linked in the upper right-hand corner.

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