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July 13, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Microsoft Student Insider Feature: Matt Van Gorder + Another Chance at Swag

Welcome back to the Microsoft Student Insider Feature Series, where I get to chat with some super interesting folks from Microsoft, find out what their lives are like at Main Campus and find out more about the dreams that they make realities. This week, we have Matthew Van Gorder, Content Lead at Microsoft Game Studios and Creative Director on the 1 VS 100 team. He let us in on the skinny of what he’s up to and the thought processes that go into maintaining the only live (video) game show on any console network.

1 VS 100 began with the idea of creating  a live event over the Xbox Live network, says Matt. The 1 VS 100 intellectual property had actually already been established years ago as a game show on NBC with Bob Saget as its host and has since been cancelled. When asked why the team used an existing IP, Matt replies,”The adaptation of an existing IP is advantageous because it reduces the barrier of entry.”

More on the on the origins and status of 1 VS 1oo as well as what goes into creating such a title after the break. Stay tuned for information on how you can win a free 60-day trial copy of Expression Studio!

Matthew Van Gorder, Creative Director on the 1 VS 100 team

From the perspective of a player, this is understandable. While most gamers aren’t terribly afraid to enjoy new gameplay experiences (look at the success of recent original IPs like Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed), it’s much more difficult to become a ubiquitous presence in the gaming world as a new IP than something familiar that a large number of users have already identified with.

“The first thing we did was analyze the original show and cut up the show in the pace of a game,” says Matt.

According to Matt, the team then brought in professionals in other fields such as psychologists and statisticians to analyze the game they had created and to help make semantic decisions. “A word carries a lot of meaning,” Matt shares referring to 1 VS 100’s ultimate goal: the be The One.

“Some people might not want to be The One,” says Matt.

This is why since the first season the game has been redesigned a bit to facilitate several goals. Players can lay back and be a part of The Crowd, casually answering trivia questions, aspire to be one of 100 members of The Mob who compete with The One for prizes or try to attain one of the best personal scores and be selected to be The One on a live show.

“The customer is the ultimate measure of the work that we do,” Matt declares in reference to the constant process of game balance through absorbing feedback.

Now that 1 VS 100 is getting ready to start its third season and arguably in its stride, Matt spends most of his time preparing for what’s to come. According to Matt, things were missing in the beta that after considering feedback were injected into the game’s launch such as the Instant Answer feature. This was implemented for those who feel they know the answer before all three options appear and awards bonus points for successful Instant Answers, says Matt.

“Creative development is a strange beast,” says Matt when asked about the design and balance processes. “You can’t figure it out up front.”

Tune in to 1 VS 100 tonight, February 12th, at 7 p.m. for the Live Show 2nd Season Finale with special guests from Bungie Studios (you should probably know who these guys are) and 343 Industries. Want to win a fancy free 60-day trial disc of Microsoft Expression Studio? Then comment on this post by Wednesday, February 17th with your current Xbox LIVE addiction and why you can’t stop playing.

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