Xbox.com Interview with Michal Bortnik
Xbox.com: With Xbox Live*, we have the Gamertag. What was the thinking behind expanding that to a gamer card?
Michal Bortnik, product manager: The starting point is that we saw a ton of evidence that people love to express themselves—they want people to know about their political views, where they're from, their clan affiliation, even how they feel about their mom. With gamer cards, we can piggyback people's willingness to share this information with the ability to make better matches through the Xbox Live service.
Xbox.com: Please tell me the gamer card won't include political views—that could get ugly.
Bortnik: No. We started out with a list of more than 100 different pieces of information that we thought would be cool to include on gamer cards, but we had to whittle it down. We worked with the worldwide Xbox® team to come up with the information that was most compelling and the most helpful in deciding whether you want to play with people. If it wasn't easy to understand at a glance, we didn't put it on the card.
Xbox.com: So tell us, after the whittling, what information ended up on the gamer card?
Paolo Malabuyo, UI designer: What you'll see on the card is your Gamertag, gamer picture, Reputation, Gamerscore and Gamerzone. We wanted to have an easily digestible amount of information on the card—it's a manifestation of your digital identity, kind of a cross between a driver's license and a baseball card.
Xbox.com: I get Gamertag, but what about the gamer picture? Can that be photo of you?
Malabuyo: At some point yes, but right out of the box you'll be able to choose from six or so basic pictures, and you'll be able to access dozens more through Xbox Live in the Marketplace. And you can always swap them out … we don't expect people to stick with one.
Xbox.com: How about reputation? What is it based on?
Malabuyo: It's based on feedback, whether people like to play with you or not. If your Reputation is good, it increases your chances of being matched with different people.
Xbox.com: What sort of settings are there for Reputation? Will it be Awesome, Sucky, or So-So, or thumbs-up and thumbs-down?
Bortnik: It's a star system. You can have up to five stars.
Xbox.com: What can you tell us about the Gamerscore? Is it a ranking?
Malabuyo: It's a cumulative number that works across all games. Each disc-based title has 1,000 possible points to award, and Xbox Live Arcade games have up to 200 points. How the points are awarded is up to the game developers. You may earn points for the number of sessions you play, or levels you beat, or achievements you earn. And of course the more different titles you play, the more points you'll have and the higher your Gamerscore will be.
Xbox.com: So having the highest rank in one particular game may only earn you 1,000 points. If you want a high Gamerscore, you should play a lot of different games.
Malabuyo: Right. Basically the difference between your Reputation and your Gamerscore is that Reputation is earned through the people you play with and Gamerscore is earned through the games you play.
Xbox.com: What about Gamerzones? What's that all about?
Malabuyo: There are four different Gamerzones. Family Zone is, well, family-friendly. Not that they just play E-rated titles, but it's an appropriate place for younger gamers. R&R zone is for casual gamers and people that play mainly for fun.
Xbox.com: So you won't find griefers and stat whores there?
Malabuyo: Gamers that take stats that seriously will probably find the Pro Zone the best place for them. And then there's the Underground Zone, which is more "anything goes," within the code of conduct, of course.
Xbox.com: Of course! So will I be locked into a Gamerzone once I choose one?
Malabuyo: Not at all. You can change it whenever you want.
Xbox.com: Okay, so let's say I've got my gamer card all set up the way I want. How do I see other people's gamer cards?
Bortnik: Anywhere you see a Gamertag you'll be able to see that person's gamer card. So if you get a friend request, you'll have a quick way to see if you're compatible with that person. You can access their gamer card and see everything you need to know in a really compact format. You can see from their Reputation if other people have enjoyed playing with them, their Gamerscore will give you an idea of how much they game, and by checking the Gamerzone they've chosen you'll know a lot about their attitude and the kind of gaming experience they're looking for. Checking out gamer cards will also be useful when you're in a game lobby and are trying to decide who you want to play with and which session to join. The other cool thing about gamer cards is that you will see how each gamer relates to you.
Xbox.com: In what way?
Bortnik: It will display whether that person is a friend, a recent player, a preferred player, or an avoided player.
Xbox.com: Wait. So I can designate jerks as '"avoided players" and just never have to see them again?
Bortnik: Yes. I think the best thing about the gamer cards is something the gamers won't even see because it's on the back-end. Every time you use Matchmaking in Xbox Live, the service looks at your gamer card and will match you with gamers who have similar Gamerscores, Reputations, and Gamerzones. If you've made someone an avoided player, you are very unlikely to be matched with them.
Xbox.com: Very cool! We'll be talking to Michal and Paolo again soon about the extended version of the gamer card: the gamer profile.