There are a lot of secrets that come with a brand new console. Last night at the Forza 5 event Microsoft pulled me aside for taking a picture of a cabinet and a laptop. And, interestingly, I wasn't even violating any rules because, conveniently, no photo rules were stated. Still, I'll never have those 10 minutes back.
Here's what happened: I was at the Forza 5 event in downtown LA, having just come from the quick briefing on the game back at E3. During the briefing, we were told no video, but photos were fine. Ok, great. I took photos, listened to the pitch, had a free gin and tonic. So far so good.
Then, I drive over to the 'event' — essentially a party where you could actually play the game, eat fancy hot dogs off of trays carried by aspiring actresses, guzzle free booze, and watch hundreds of other freeloaders do the same. This is a pretty normal thing for these sorts of big releases.
At the event, there were people shooting video and taking pictures william-nilliam. No photo policy was stated, expressed, posted, or anything. I just want all that to be clear so the rest of this makes sense.
So, after being at the party a while, getting my chance to try the game, chasing down the girl with the fancy hot dog tray and drinking more gin, I began to wonder about what they were running all these demos on, since I didn't see a single Xbox One. All the wires just led under tables and into cabinets.
So, they were hiding the actual hardware, which I figured was probably some dev Xbox One units or something. And I'm curious. I wondered what these units looked like, so I decided to peek behind one of the cabinets. It was dark, so I took a couple quick photos with my flash so I could see.
What I saw was profoundly underwhelming. Just a laptop and a bunch of wires. I was just about to forget about the pictures entirely and find the guy who walked by with the raw tuna somethings when a massive goon packed into a fancy suit approached me.
"You need to come with me, sir," he said.
Those are never good words to hear. Unless they're followed by "Your dog just gave birth to puppies that crap $20s!"
The goon led me to a small enclosure in the corner; a little room made up of dividers and filled with travel cases and a few people on laptops. But you could tell by the haunted looks of the people there that this was serious business. Microsoft jail.
The MicroSlammer. Hotjail. You get the idea. Microsoft jail changes you, I can tell you that. The standing, the (relatively short) waiting, the cold metal of the travel case against your back, the mild sense of trouble — those are the things that haunt a man in his dreams years later.
As the guard stood outside to keep me from freaking out and making a run for it, a couple of Microsoft PR folks came in, large forced smiles on their faces. They just wanted to talk to me.
I figured it was about the photos, so I showed them my camera and told them if it was a problem, I could delete them, because, really, I don't care. It's just a laptop and a bunch of wires.
They made a big point of telling me that they were not telling me to delete the photos. That's because they really couldn't, since they never said what could or couldn't be photos. But they also didn't want me to leave that little room with those photos.
It was weird. They were clearly unhappy and concerned, even though they insisted that laptop was just controlling a looping video. Which it certainly may have been doing, which makes it even weirder that they were so upset at the photos.
Not being able to take their intense stares and restrained desire to yank the camera out of my hands any longer, I just deleted the photos. They then set me free.
I went back out into the party, bemused and found fellow auto-journo Blake Z. Rong, and told him what happened. As I was talking to him, I found I had one photo undeleted on my camera, so I showed him the big nothing all the fuss was about.
And then one of the PR reps appeared out of nowhere, hurt and confused at my betrayal. I assured him I really, really didn't care about their super-secret laptop, and probably wasn't going to reverse-engineer an XBox One from it, but this time I just gave them my camera and let them delete the photo.
So here's a drawing of the photo instead, with absolutely everything the photo had: a laptop, some wires, and the inside of a cabinet. Have at it, reverse-engineers. It's all you need. Maybe it's a development system in laptop form, maybe it's a laptop emulating the hardware, maybe it's really just playing looping video. Who knows?
All I know is that this is a wildly important image that Microsoft must not allow to see the light of day.