From Project Scarlett to Gooigi: The best of E3 2019

Every story about E3 has opened with a mention of Sony’s absence, and this one’s no different. The lack of one of gaming’s “big three” loomed large over the show, right down to a strange sense of space on the showroom floor.

Even Xbox chief Phil Spencer mourned the absence of the company’s biggest competitor, stating, “I wish Sony was here,” during a live stream.

But the show went on, as it has through countless ebbs and flows of the gaming industry. Sony’s clearly got plenty up its sleeve with regard to next-generation content, and frankly, no one’s too worried about their health.

Microsoft, meanwhile, came out swinging on Sunday. The company had a TON of games to reveal at the show, with dozens of trailers, all told. And while Microsoft did touch upon two key pieces of news, it ultimately ended up blowing through those announcements, with very little time devoted to either its next-generation 8K console, Project Scarlett, or its streaming service, Project xCloud.

In fact, we ultimately went back to Microsoft later in the week to clarify some things about the service and discovered in the process that console streaming will be free and not a part of the broader xCloud offering.

While Microsoft ultimately seemed cautious (or pressed for time) to go into either xCloud or Game Pass in too much detail onstage, streaming was unquestionably the biggest story of the show. That’s due in no small part to the fact that Google took a little wind out of E3’s sails by shedding more light on its Stadia offering during a surprise press conference last Friday.

On Tuesday, a Nintendo executive confirmed for me that the company is exploring streaming, but wasn’t able to comment on any specifics. Regardless, the writing Read the rest

How to make remote work work

Every time I see a “the future of work is remote” article, I think to myself: “How backwards! How retro! How quaint!” That future is now, for many of us. I’ve been a fully remote developer-turned-CTO for a full decade. So I’m always baffled by people still wrestling with whether remote work is viable for their company. That jury rendered its verdict a long time ago.

One reason companies still struggle with it is that remote work amplifies the negative effects of bad practices. If everyone’s in one place, you can dither, handwave, vacillate, micromanage, and turn your workplace into an endless wasteland of unclear uncertainty, punctuated by ad-hoc last-second crisis meetings — and your employees will probably still conspire against your counterproduction to get something done, albeit much less than what they’re capable of.

If they’re remote, though, progress via conspiracy and adhocracy is no longer an option. If they’re remote, you need decisive confidence, clear direction, iterative targets, independent responsibilities, asynchronous communications, and cheerful chatter. Let me go over each of those:

Decisive confidence. Suppose Vivek in Delhi, Diego in Rio, and Miles in Berlin are all on a project. (An example I’m drawing from my real life.) It’s late your time. You have to make a decision about the direction of their work. If you sleep on it, you’re writing off multiple developer-days of productivity.

Sometimes they have enough responsibilities to have other things to work on. (More on that below.) Sometimes you don’t have to make the decision because they have enough responsibility to do so themselves. (More on that below.) But sometimes you have to make the business-level decision based on scant information. In cases like this, remember the military maxim: “Any decision is better than no decision.”

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Google’s Game Builder turns building multiplayer games into a game

Google’s Area 120 team, the company’s in-house incubator for some of its more experimental projects, today launched Game Builder, a free and easy to use tool for PC and macOS users who want to build their own 3D games without having to know how to code. Game Builder is currently only available through Valve’s Steam platform, so you’ll need an account there to try it.

After a quick download, Game Builder asks you about what screen size you want to work on and then drops you right into the experience after you tell it whether you want to start a new project, work on an existing project or try out some sample projects. These sample projects include a first-person shooter, a platformer and a demo of the tool’s card system for programming more complex interactions.

The menu system and building experience take some getting used to and isn’t immediately intuitive, but after a while, you’ll get the hang of it. By default, the overall design aesthetic clearly draws some inspiration from Minecraft, but you’re pretty free in what kind of game you want to create. It does not strike me as a tool for getting smaller children into game programming since we’re talking about a relatively text-heavy and complex experience.

To build more complex interactions, you use Game Builder’s card-based visual programming system. That’s pretty straightforward, too, but also takes some getting used to. Google says building a 3D level is like playing a game. There’s some truth in that, in that you are building inside the game environment, but it’s not necessarily an easy game either.

One cool feature here is that you can also build multiplayer games and even create games in real time with your friends.

Traditionally, drag-and-drop game builders feel pretty limited. The Area 120 … Read the rest

Google leaks its own phone

Details of the Pixel 4 have been swirling around this week, so Google decided to just leak the design of its next phone via its official Twitter account, revealing the backplate and new camera module on the smartphone.

Well, since there seems to be some interest, here you go! Wait ’til you see what it can do. #Pixel4,” the tweet from the company’s verified @MadeByGoogle account read.

Renders of the Pixel 4 had leaked this week via smartphone blog Pricebaba.

The back of the phone makes some big changes. Most noticeable is the now-square camera module with a pair of lenses, a flash module and a couple of other sensor modules. Also noteworthy is the apparent lack of a rear fingerprint reader, in contrast to past models. There’s not much else evident here; they didn’t post renders of the device’s front.

Google’s Pixel 3 release kind of cemented that Google doesn’t stake much of the Pixel line’s strengths on hardware specs, it’s all about what it can leverage machine learning software tricks to do within those bounds.

On that note, it’s worth noting that Google has been pretty late to the two-camera rear-module setup; at past events the company has always justified this by suggesting that because of their software they can do more with one than most can do with two. This was clearly the case given the strengths of their cameras, but there are undoubtedly advantages to having dual cameras with different specs; it seems Google is now ready to take this plunge.

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Do VC associates matter, women’s fertility, online auto marketplaces, and Salesforce + Tableau

Editor’s Note: New feedback buttons

You might have noticed at the top and bottom of this newsletter that we have added new feedback buttons. These are a quick way to express your happiness (or unhappiness, as it were) about this Extra Crunch Roundup newsletter. What do you like, and what do you don’t? All feedback is welcome and extremely valuable as we continue to improve Extra Crunch for members. And as always, you can just hit reply and let me know directly.

Fundraising 101: Do VC associates matter?

There are hundreds of associates working at VC firms traipsing through meetups and coffee meetings trying to find the best new startups. If you are looking to fundraise though — and fundraise quickly — how do you approach these nebulous non-check-writers?

This week, I wrote a guide based on my experience as a VC associate at two firms. The answer is that yes, they can matter, and it usually is quickly apparent how valuable they can be.

Associates can be helpful, they can and should be nice, and they have a useful role to play in the venture landscape. But let’s be clear: they can’t write checks, and checks is what you are looking for. They can be useful mechanisms to get the right meetings with the right partners at exactly the moment you are ready to fundraise. You probably shouldn’t piss them off by being an asshole to them, but at the end of the day, they are not the decision-maker. And if you learn anything about sales, it is that you want to pitch the person that holds the purse strings.

 

What top VCs look for in women’s fertility startups

Women’s fertility is a major area of investment for VC firms these days, and several prominent investors are … Read the rest