“Microsoft changed my life. That’s a simple fact. Without the support they have given me I wouldn’t be here.”
James Stone has always wanted to make video games, but it wasn’t until he met the European head of ID@Xbox at a conference – and refused to let him leave the room unless they talked – that his dream became a reality.
It’s a journey that’s taken him across the world and cost him almost everything but seen him praised by his heroes and feted at some of the world’s biggest gaming events.
“It’s been a whirlwind tour. How the hell did I get here?” Stone says, as we chat over a socially-distanced coffee in Brighton train station. He’s taking a break from making his latest game – Xenosis: Alien Infection.
The 42-year-old is part of ID@Xbox, Microsoft’s programme for helping independent game developers. It allows Stone to self-publish digital games on Xbox One and Windows 10 with Xbox Live, or add Xbox Live to iOS or Android games, giving him the tools and support he needs to create games he is passionate and excited about.
Xbox’s help has been critical as Stone prepares to release the top-down, science fiction, shoot-em-up Xenosis. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy – in 2016 he quit a lucrative job in IT, sold everything he owned and moved to a little flat in Suzhou, China, with his wife. Neither spoke the local language, and Stone retreated into his own bubble.
“I was working on the game and suddenly realised I had made a really big mistake. I had to do all the art, music, sound effects, everything. I had taken on way too much, the scope of the game was too big,” he says, before pausing. “Everything was just too big at that time. I focused too much on my games.”