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Bungie and Halo 2 responsible for evolution of Xbox Live, say Xbox creators

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Microsoft's Xbox console was always going to have its Xbox Live service, but convincing third party publishers to add online components and tweak their games for Live compatibility was a challenge, according to Xbox co-creator Kevin Bachus in a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

"What we did was to go up to publishers and say, 'Listen, we're building Walt Disney World here,'" said Bachus. "'We're taking care of laying the electrical cables and getting the water pipes in place, removing the garbage, that sort of stuff. You're building the rides.'"

Publishers were uncomfortable with Microsoft collecting revenue for the subscription that would allow people to play their games online, according to Bachus. Publisher EA stated Microsoft didn't need to know who was playing what EA games online, and that Live would be a "competing product" that would prevent EA from successfully cross-selling its products.

Bachus said the launch of Halo 2 in 2004, the first Halo game with online multiplayer, helped shape the future of Xbox Live. Bungie would couch feature and backend support requests in terms of general purpose, with an emphasis on how all Xbox developers would benefit from such features.

The team at Bungie was responsible for the implementation of Xbox Live's matchmaking process, skill rankings and in-game friends lists, as well as the "walled garden" user account system.

"As a group, we provided both technical and creative guidance and thought leadership that really pushed the limits," said Bungie president Harold Ryan. "We weren't just a game developer using the service. We were integrated in the design of the service and how it worked."