Indie dev says Microsoft "used to be a**holes," but now that's changing

Hyper Light Drifter creator Alex Preston says Microsoft's new ID@Xbox program is part of a new and "friendlier" era for Microsoft.

Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter

Many developers have spoken out to praise Microsoft's indie efforts through its new ID@Xbox program, but the Xbox maker's relationship with the little guys wasn't always such a positive thing. In a new interview, Hyper Light Drifter creator Alex Preston used some pretty blunt language to describe the way in which he recalled Microsoft handling developer relations, but explained that things have improved of late.

"Microsoft used to be a**holes about it, for sure," told Edge. "But they've become a lot friendlier and that's to do with [ID@Xbox head Chris Charla] and his team. He's awesome. He's a major proponent for smaller developers like us."

Preston isn't the only indie developer to speak openly about a less-than-enjoyable experience working with Microsoft in the past. Super Meat Boy creators Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes did not hold back in discussing their struggles working with Microsoft in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie.

On top of that, War Thunder developer Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev told GameSpot at GDC last month that Microsoft has a lot of "unspoken limitations" and that often times, one person and one person alone decides whether your game gets published or not. Like Preston, however, Yudintsev said he's already seen a change for the better with Microsoft's new ID@Xbox program.

One thorny issue that remains with Microsoft's ID@Xbox program is its controversial "launch parity" clause. This stipulation requires that developers release their games on Xbox One the same day they do on other platforms, thereby eliminating the possibility of a timed-exclusive for competing platforms like the PC or PlayStation 4. Microsoft's official line for this policy is that it will review publishing agreements on a case-by-case basis and this stance isn't going to change anytime soon, even if some developers might want it to.

"The parity thing is a problem. It's not a good policy for Microsoft and I definitely don't think it helps small developers," Preston told Edge. "There's not really any reason to do it and it's one of those old relic things…I think we'll see it disappear eventually."

For Strike Suit Zero developer Ready Games CEO James Brooksby, the future for indie games on Xbox One is looking bright.

"The right kind of people are being put in place around this--it doesn't feel like we have that kind of bureaucratic, corporate stuffy-suits people," Brooksby told Edge. "There's clearly a gathering of people with the right mentality coming in and that makes a big difference. It feels like internally a lot of people [at Microsoft] have been campaigning for this."

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