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Interview with Mike Groesch: SideWinder Group Program Manager on the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel

ActiveWin.com:  How did you plan on adding the success of the Force Feedback technology to the racing environment?

Mike Groesch: From the beginning we wanted to bring the sense of reality of driving excitement to an environment that is decidedly not real, your home office or business office when your boss is out of town. We went to racetracks, immersed ourselves in the driving enthusiasts world and worked closely with the folks who develop great driving games. From this initial effort we discovered the following: Precision control is paramount, great force effects add to the control you have, the pedals are critical, and the clamp system is the final silver bullet. On top of those “under the hood” attributes, the wheel has to look great on the desk and be comfortable during those marathon-driving sessions.

ActiveWin.com:  How did you feel that the first release of the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel would be accepted by gaming enthusiasts? Did you expect the amount of success it received?

Mike Groesch: All our development teams work hard and we set out to be the best and hope to ensure the products we produce truly bring pleasure to our customers and ourselves (Sidewinder group is a game playing group of people!). All our efforts talking to customers, software developers and racecar drivers as well as our to ergonomics and engineering teams give us a high degree of confidence in our products.

Yes, we don’t ever start a program without the expectation of delivering a product that enjoys the level of success the entire Sidewinder family currently provides.

ActiveWin.com:  How long was the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel in development? Did you set any milestones or overcome any setbacks?

Mike Groesch: From the time the team was formed to the 1st unit falling off the production line was about 52 weeks. Product development is full of milestones and setbacks and I was fortunate to get a great team with great ideas, commitment to greatness, and a willing ness to work ridiculous hours to bring this device to your homes. I am proud to say we had no divorces and unfortunately no marriages added to the team, but we did have a person become a Father during the project for the 1st time, so you could say we had two major ships during one product cycle!

ActiveWin.com:  If you could release Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel 2 today, what additional features would be included that aren't in the current version?

Mike Groesch: Actually, we have just released the USB version of the wheel and it ships with improved pedals that resist slipping on carpets!

ActiveWin.com:  Is there already a planned Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel 2?

Mike Groesch: See answer to 4 aboveJ

ActiveWin.com:  What additional features could be added to racing games specifically to benefit users of the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel?

Mike Groesch: Our force feedback products are extremely capable devices and we believe the full range of experience is as yet untapped. I personally would love to see a “Force Director” position in game development similar to art directors, sound directors, and story line directors to really take full advantage of the products we produce.

ActiveWin.com:  What do you feel the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel has over its competitors?

Mike Groesch: We are fortunate to compete against some great companies in this market and that competition has really pushed us to greater heights. The team believed the most important features for the Force Feedback wheel were great reliable force feedback, clamping, and pedals. We believe our patented clamp, custom engineered feedback system, and anti-slip pedals set us apart along with great software, sculptured appearance and ergonomics. These combine to provide a great force feedback driving experience.

ActiveWin.com:  What was your most memorable moment while developing the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel?

Mike Groesch: There were so many, from the 1st time we saw the clamp system work, to the 1st competitive marathon driving session (until 3AM) with the 1st two prototypes, to the demonstrations at E-3 with the 9 hand built units being used by the public and the smiles of those 1st non-team drivers!

ActiveWin.com:  What is your favorite game to play currently with this hardware?

Mike Groesch: I have two, The Midtown Madness series (especially Capture the Flag) and the Need for Speed 3+ series, I love dropping the spike strips!

ActiveWin.com:  Do you have anything else you would like add?

Mike Groesch: I have the perfect job! I get to develop the game devices I want to use when I play games and then get to play the games with my colleagues and actually get paid to do it!!


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