In the spring of 2014, the Xbox team asked the Excel Power Map team to help them analyze data collected from the instrumentation of various games to improve performance and the gamers’ experience. We got on a conference call with them; they showed us some of their data and some very basic graphs that they currently used. While the Xbox team was describing their problem, the first thing that crossed my mind was, “Wow, we get to play Xbox games during work hours.” Then, I realized this matched many other business and sports scenarios we had been dreaming up and was the perfect opportunity to use real data with real players to do real analysis and tackle something super challenging, ambiguous…perhaps, impossible.
It was the kind of challenge that the Power Map team lives for. So, we went to work. Check out the video and read further to see how we accomplished this.
After our first initial conversation we knew that teams working on games need to visualize different types of data on top of their game environment and look for patterns indicating further study. For example, the developers and testers were interested in frames per second, video and rendering performance in different areas of the game world and whether drops in performance over time were concentrated in the same area. To do this, the Xbox team needed a way to import an image of the game world into Power Map and use the same coordinate system used in the game’s instrumentation. We got some data samples and some images that the Xbox team wanted to use as a Custom Map and got them to show us what was happening in the game that was interesting to them.
Our first prototype was off the mark. Even our partners on the Xbox team couldn’t figure out how to make it work. So we went back to the drawing board.
It was now evident that for this analysis we needed to create a new type of scene inside a tour–one that is based on a Custom Map and so we introduced the different types of scenes. Next, we worked on consolidating and covering every configuration case of the custom coordinate system. This was totally new work for us because when the data is based on real world geography with names of cities, states, countries, etc. Bing automatically geocodes this type of data in Power Map and data appears in the right place.
In this case we were dealing with something completely different. We had to allow the user to manually configure their coordinate system and then adjust the visualized data on top of the image, which they chose as a Custom Map.
After some pretty intense weeks and debates, we built the first successful version of the prototype last summer and by fall the new feature was ready for prime time. The Xbox and Power Map teams worked together to find insights in the data—test coverage, game patterns and profiles, the frequency of measurements, as well as performance over time. The new Custom Map and Filtering features in Power Map let the Xbox team visualize the results of multiple missions, as well as seek and isolate specific missions in the game, which needed further analysis.
Now the Xbox team can visualize millions of rows of data, filter based on specific criteria using the powerful filtering feature in Power Map, and configure their Custom Maps with the full flexibility required for successful and deep analysis of their data. You too can use these features for your own “mission.”
And here and there, we play the occasional game. But only on our lunch breaks.
—Igor Peev is a senior program manager for the Excel team.
Power Map is a feature of Excel included in Office 365. Office 365 is a subscription to the Microsoft Office client that is updated with new features and capabilities monthly. Look for Insert > Map in Excel to start Power Map.