Welcome to Meet Team Xbox, which is your inside look at the key talent that drives our Xbox and Windows gaming development here at Microsoft, in an effort to make your console and PC experience as awesome as possible. We recently spoke with Barry Bond, a Software Architect for the Xbox team. While he’s spent only one of his 21 years at Microsoft with Xbox (he joined the team in July 2014), Bond has played a key role in theupcoming Xbox One Backward Compatibility.
Bond’s previous 20 years were mostly spent in Microsoft’s developer division, conducting research, and doing work for Windows. And now, as a Software Architect for Xbox, Bond provides technical leadership to his team, working closely with managers. His team builds the technology for running Xbox 360 titles on Xbox One, which covers a broad range of topics – from graphics emulation, to binary translation from PowerPC to x64 instructions, to network emulation, and an astonishingly rich set of touchpoints between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One worlds. In other words, it’s pretty tricky stuff – but fortunately, Bond is a seasoned pro when it comes to this type of work.
“One of the best parts of working at Microsoft is that my pursuit of virtual machines and emulation hasn’t been constrained to any one product group,” Bond said. “I have been able to move, take on a new challenge, grow, then move again.” And he’s a hands-on, knee-deep-in-the-mud kind of guy, too: “I code and debug daily.”
Bond booted up his first Tandy TRS-80 computer in 7th grade, quickly moved to Commodore 64, and then discovered Microsoft through a recruiting ad in Byte Magazine. He was about 14 at the time, and his mission throughout high school and college was to land a job at Microsoft. He unlocked that particular Achievement in January 1991, when he started as a co-op student from the University of Waterloo. And, 21 years later, he’s still finding surprises.
“I continue to be amazed at what game developers can achieve in terms of realism and just plain fun,” Bond told us. “I have worked on many compatibility projects over the years, and generally, you can reproduce just about any bug in a few minutes – click a menu, fill in some data, and so on. But games are surprisingly different, in that the more you play through the game, the more challenging the code gets. Just because the first scene of a game is playable doesn’t mean the final level will also play well. It’s more than just workload, such as the number of physics objects… it’s different rendering techniques and different algorithms, coming into play at different parts of the game.”
At home, Bond is a self-described casual gamer. “I play Wordament on mobile devices,” he said. “On my Xbox, you’ll usually find me playing a racing game such as the Forzaseries, though I rarely have time to sit down and engage long-term in a game.” Nonetheless, Bond is particularly looking forward to playing some old Xbox 360 favorites on his Xbox One, once Xbox One Backward Compatibility is sealed and delivered later this year.
Bond has two daughters and three stepchildren – with athletes, mathematicians, poets, and musicians between them (“They pretty much fill my day”). He’s also a retired alpaca farmer – and for a time, his official title in the Microsoft company address book was “Senior Galactic Viceroy.” He codes from a golden throne and desk, and occasionally does presentations in his full purple robe and crown. Only one of these sentences is untrue.