with John Dongelmans,
Microsoft SideWinder Evangelist: Microsoft
How long was Microsoft Game Voice in
development? How many people were on the development team? Did they spent
all the day playing with it?
The whole idea about a voice device started
about 3 years ago. As you might know the SideWinder team consists out of
people who love games. We wanted to create a device which could enhance
the multiplayer game experience. In the past, we focused on developing
joysticks; game pads and steering Wheels. Obviously, these types of
controllers are genre-specific. With Microsoft SideWinder Game Voice,
we have a gaming peripheral that can be played with virtually any type
Game Voice was really one of the
biggest missing components in the gameplay experience. As fanatic
gamers, we used our phones to talk to each other while we were playing.
We thought: “Come on there has to be a better solution to enhance the
game experience“. It sounds simple but that is where it all started.
During the development of Game Voice, we worked closely together with
the DirectX and the MSN group.
About two years ago we acquired
ShadowFactor, the company that was responsible for the “BattleCom” voice
software. It was a small Canadian company with some very cool and bright
people. Their technology and the Shadowfactor people lay the basis for
the DirectPlay Voice technology (DirectX 8) and SideWinder Game Voice.
Like all of our other hardware
products; before we bring out a new device we need to test it
thoroughly. For a device like Game Voice “testing” could be partially
described as playing a lot of multiplayer games. As you can imagine,
during our test sessions we had a lot of fun.
How has Microsoft Game Voice's success been after being on
the market for several months now?
Game Voice is a great success. The reactions
from the gamers and the game development community are overwhelming.
Just to get closer to our users we created a community section with news
boards on our web page.
Can you describe us your role in motivating
the development team? Basically what did you do (except kicking asses) to
help the development team achieve such a great & innovative product? Was
the idea of a games intended speaking device yours?
In my role as a SideWinder evangelist, I am
responsible for “evangelizing” our game controllers to game developers
around the world. Evangelism is really cool. To be honest, this is
definitely one of the greatest jobs in the world. In the last couple of
months I had great pleasure evangelizing five new game controllers.
(Game Voice; Strategic Commander; Force Feedback 2; Precision 2 and the
SideWinder joystick). It’s super to have the opportunity to evangelize a
whole line of exciting game controllers. Right now we have got a
complete line of game controllers; a game controller for all the PC game
From a team perspective I would like to
add the following:
A product like this depends not on one
person but it needs the expertise and excitement from a group of people.
The whole SideWinder team (hardware + software) + Usability + the
Industrial Design group was and still is involved in the development.
As I would like to say it: Game Voice is a team effort to improve team
What was the hardest thing during the development process:
designing the hardware or creating the software? I may be wrong but I feel
the Game Voice software required complex development due to the inclusion
of speech recognition, right?
For the most important part Game Voice is
software driven. However the control pad and the headset are a very
important part of the total Game Voice package. The one does not go
without the other. We’re constantly upgrading cool new features with our
Game Voice software. You can find the updates at
Was it needed to adapt the L & H SAPI
(speech application programming interface) to work with the
GameVoice device? If yes did you collaborate with Lernout & Hauspie?
We licensed the L&H speech recognition engine
(for a couple of languages) for Game Voice. Our development, design and
usability team did a great job integrating the engine in Game Voice.
How have the game
profiles been accepted in the gaming community? Do you have plans to
release more profiles in the future?
The game (voice recognition) profiles have
been accepted with a lot of excitement. Right now, gamers around the
world are even hosting web profile contests. The coolest speech
recognition feature is that you can also create your very own profiles
for your favorite games. Games are something personal so this option is
fantastic. We even see people using voice recognition profiles for
Office applications; its great to see how creative people can be.
What is special about Microsoft GameVoice that places it in a
unique position in the marketplace?
Game Voice is the first complete PC game
voice solution, from a hardware and software side. There are no other
game controllers available combining all these features in 1 exciting
device. The Microsoft hardware vision has always been “to enhance
people’s life by unleashing the power of technology”. With Game Voice
we are trying to enhance the lives of gamers all over the world.
Can you tell our fellow readers when the
final 1.2 release of the Game Voice software will be available?
Because the software is so important for
Game Voice we are still adding new features to it. We and our users have
got some very wild ideas for upcoming updates of the software. The 1.2a
version has been the latest release till now but we are currently
planning some other updates as well.
You will see some new releases of our
software in the upcoming months. I promise you we are adding some very
cool and exciting new elements. If you are personally interested in new
features do not hesitate to give us your comments and feedback on our
website. Gamers opinions are very important for us.
Are there any plans to release future
versions of Microsoft Game Voice hardware?
Currently, we have no announcements regarding future releases of Game
Voice hardware. As I’ve said before, we’re focused on adding cool,
exciting features through our software.
What is your favorite thing about Microsoft
Game Voice? What games do you use it on?
many of the people in the SideWinder team, I am a real game addict. My
favorite games right now include; Counter Strike; No One Lives Forever;
Unreal Tournament; Diablo 2; MechWarrior 4; Deus Ex; Giants and Red
Alert 2; (I have got lot’s more of course). The coolest thing about Game
Voice is that is really brings extra immersion to games. Type chat is a
great feature but does not offer the excitement of a real talk. I’m a
big Counter Strike fans, along with other members of our development
team. For us there is nothing better than talking with Game Voice while
we are playing the game. It’s hilarious and a lot of fun and belief me
we really kick some ass in Counter Strike because we use Game Voice.
In single player games like Deus
Ex, I love to use the voice recognition part of Game Voice; it is so
easy just to say the command instead of using all your keyboard strokes.
Do you have anything else to add? (life is
a game it is meant to be played? :))
Games are the coolest thing in the
world. Just try out the free “Game Voice Share” and add some voice to
your game today. That’s the way games are meant to be played!
Game Voice rocks.
That’s enough talk for today; it’s
time to play.
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