"They'd been struggling with a similar thing. I like to think they quite like Darwinia+, their company. They're quite excited about it. They could see that Darwinia is an old game, and they don't want it to just look like a port." So things were soon underway. "They suggested a few guidelines and we went ahead and pretty quickly stepped way over them and started publishing confidential reports with classified 'Do Not Publish Outside Microsoft' written on them," says Delay. The result is a site full of the sort of stuff you'd never get to see.
It's obviously of use to anyone considering this form of development. It's hard to actually just get information. "They can't get information about anything to do with Microsoft. If you were thinking about doing an Xbox game you wouldn't be able to find out what royalty return people had got from Microsoft... You'll never get it. There's just no way. No-one's going to tell you that on the record," says Delay. "You can't find out orders of magnitude of sales. This is a classic case of a very closed system, which has gone that way because Microsoft is a very big company. People at Microsoft aren't wed to the idea that it has to be a closed system - they just don't have any way of opening it up. We figured out what they'd be happy for us to do, and started doing it."
Response has been immediate. "A lot of people very quickly said, 'I can't believe you got Microsoft to agree to this, quite frankly'," says Delay. "And then a lot of interest in the site [followed]. I think it's something people are genuinely interested in. Developing games on the Xbox specifically. It's something we're trying to do with [our next game] Subversion. Less like, 'Here's a game. Here's our three-month marketing campaign,' and more, 'There's a process involved in making a game. And the process itself is interesting.' I'd have loved to hear about the process when I was at school and at university. I would have given anything to hear about the inner working of a game company."
And it's good for the team's mentality too. "We love blowing off steam, speaking out about what's going on. It's very cathartic," says Delay. "It's really very satisfying talking about all the problems we've ran into. We have a weird fanbase who are quite interested in that kind of thing. The accumulation of all those things is what brought Darwinia+ forth."
It certainly gives a perspective on how something like Darwinia is brought to consoles. "It's a terrifying thought that it may be thought of just as a port of Darwinia and Multiwinia. And it's not. And the reason it's not is because Microsoft have terribly high standards," laughs Delay. "We were ready about a year ago to go through their certification standards. And they basically said, 'I'm sorry. You've taken your PC game and you've ported your mouse and keyboard to your joypad and it doesn't really work. And we want you to do it all again.'" We really dived in and tried to make an Xbox-specific game. And we think of it as that - as our new game. The culmination of those two games."
Working with Microsoft has pushed some of Introversion's opinions in more accessible directions. "From the cynical point of view, they're big on the trial experience. People who've got the demo version of the game, but haven't bought it. That's the most important point for them - that first 30 minutes are crucial," says Delay. "We've come around to that way of thinking. Not even with Multiwinia, but with Defcon we knew the trial was very important. And ultimately, you want people to buy your game. If they don't buy your game, you can't make your next game. You have to get people to do that. If you take two games, one with a very good tutorial and help system and one without, you'd see a massive difference in purchase rates. Especially if it's an unusual game."