FPSLabs Interviews Robert Krakoff, aka RazerGuy

I recently got a chance to chat with the President of Razer, Robert Krakoff (aka RazerGuy) this week about some things the company is doing right now, including the release of some of their new products. He explains some of the challenges engineers had with designing the company’s first wireless mouse aimed at gamers, some of the upcoming product possibilities the company has, and how the company has become such a dominant force in gaming.

Let’s start with the new Mamba wireless mouse that Razer will be release later this quarter; what finally made Razer start looking at a wireless mouse made for gamers? And what sets this wireless mouse apart from others that have been released by companies such as Logitech or Microsoft?

Four major features establish the Mamba as the first true wireless gaming grade mouse. They are latency (only 1ms of latency in the wireless mode), lightweight (only 129g with the battery in place), battery life (72 hours in normal use and 14 hours continuous gaming) and limited signal conflict (I’ll talk more about this later).

The Mamba carries an almost identical design to personally my favorite mouse of all-time, The Deathadder; what made you stick with this shape for the Mamba? Besides the wireless function, What are some of the features that will set these two apart?

You are correct, the DeathAdder was the inspiration for the Mamba; however this is actually an improved design over the DA. There is more palm area on top and the side (thumb) buttons are designed for better feel and access.

Do you think gamers will be a bit timid to shell out $130 on a mouse?

The one thing that we have learned over the years is to never assume what gamers are willing to pay for great technology. If a product can give them a notable edge in their skills the price is usually not a huge factor.

Razer seldom sets out to make a product to fit a certain retail price. We design and develop products that offer the gamer an edge in technology so they can gain better enjoyment in their game of choice. Ten years ago we introduced the Boomslang 2000, the first gaming grade mouse at a retail of $99.99. Ten years later we introduce the first gaming grade wireless mouse for $30 more. If you put it into that perspective the price isn’t that inflammatory.

The mouse runs on the 2.4ghz range; what safe-guards have been put in place to prevent interference with other common devices on the same band, such as wireless routers or wireless home phones?

Transmission interference which may cause cursor unresponsiveness does not occur in wired
Mode; however, it can occur in wireless mode due to the inherent nature of wireless communications when there is an inevitable risk of interference. The engineers at Razer are well aware of the possibility of such wireless interference affecting quality of game play. In order to prevent degradation of performance, the Razer Mamba hardware-assisted interference avoidance automatically switches channels if it detects strong signal interference. Switching of channels serves as an extra protection to ensure optimum game play and is only necessary when the wireless environment can be extremely noisy.

In rare situations whereby there is too much transmission interference, the Razer Mamba will perform channel switching which could possibly cause the cursor to not respond for a split second. This prevents longer downtimes or freezes of the cursor such as with other wireless mice and is essential to ensure optimal gaming performance.

We have tested the Razer Mamba extensively in multiple stimulated gaming environments and determined that this channel switching only occurs when there is significant interference affecting the gaming performance of the Razer Mamba.

Other wireless mice and wireless gaming mice have similar issues whereby the cursor may appear not to be responding once every two to three hours of game play. We have equipped the Razer Mamba with an inbuilt DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) technology in combination with an interference detection technology which enables the Razer Mamba to detect and avoid noisy channels. As such, the cursor error response rate is minimized on the Razer Mamba to once every five hours or more depending on how noisy the environment is.

To minimize interference in the wireless mode, reduce the distance between Razer Mamba and the charging dock.

Lately, mice manufacturers have been in an almost endless race to claim the highest DPI device on the market. The Mamba features an engine capable of an astornomical 5600 DPI; what is the advantage to gamers from having a high DPI setting that high?

Mamba is actually a 48 MHz processor but with a 12 MIPS rating and while the DPI is the highest of any mouse on the market, the inches per second (IPS) rating is really the most important metric. That represents the speed your hand can reach without skipping or loss of data. The IPS of the Mamba ranges from 60 to 200 inches per second depending on your sensitivity setting.

When can we expect the Mamba available for sale?

Very soon.

Now onto the Carcharias, the new headset that was recently debuted at CES. The set is obviously similar to the Megaladon; what sets the newer Carcharias apart from it’s not so distant relative, the Megaladon?

The only difference is that the Carcharias is a standalone headset while the Megalodon is a headset designed specifically to incorporate the Razer Maelstrom Audio Engine, making it the definitive directional audio headset for gamers. The Carcharias is ready to ship now while the Megalodon is due in the second quarter of the year.

The Razer Lycosa was a huge hit among fans of the slim-key design and you’re put out variations of the same board; are there any plans for another keyboard with the same low profile keys in the near future?

We are pretty tight lipped about products in development; however you can bet the farm that there will be new Razer keyboards in the future.

Logitech began putting LCD screens in their keyboards, like the G15 and G19, to convey various information the user might need at quick-glance; does Razer have any plans to introduce this same kind of feature into any devices in the future?

While I would never say never to any good feature nor badmouth a great competitor’s product, I must say that Razer does not make products in a vacuum. Before we begin the developmental process we engage a dialog with top gamers around the world. When the subject of keyboard features has come up over the past few years our gamer friends, fans and employees have told us that they are not interested in this particular feature. What they say is that they see little to no benefit from taking their eyes away from the monitor to look at a screen on their keyboard.

Last year, you released a Cypher/ESWC 08 Commemorative Editon Deathadder; any plans to do this any other eSports Stars?

We are always open to either licensing our technology to other hardware makers or offering our Powered by Razer products to leagues, brands and even teams (if you remember the SK Copperhead).

A couple years back, Razer released their own soundcard, the Barracuda AC-1; given the recent innovations in HD video and audioand the increase in people using their computer as the main multimedia device in their homes, are there any plans for a followup? Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of techology; video cards? Mother boards?

This is the really cool thing about Razer … we develop all of our own technologies. We have a team of engineers, industrial designers and firmware and software mavens in house, 24/7/360. Almost no other gaming hardware company can make this statement honestly and their development model forces then to go outside their company to seek OEM or other consultants to complete their products. This in house edge provides Razer the luxury of assigning a team to core products and other teams to advanced or skunk works projects. These new projects can be nearly anything our imagination can provide.

Recently, Razer sponsored an online gaming tournament for Quake 3; will there be any more of these in the future, and does the company plan on sponsoring any major LAN events in the future?

In 2001 Razer pioneered eSports sponsorships by offering the first big cash award of $100,000 at CPL Summer Quake event. Back in 1999 we began contributing to local, online, live, LAN and other sponsorship programs.

Since then, other companies have come in and pushed eSports sponsorships to ludicrous amounts, many just trading cash for endorsements. Now the money has all but vanished as sponsors are running away from gamers as fast as their bottom line is evaporating. Stalwarts like the CPL, WSG and CGS have all been forced to pull the plug due to big ticket sponsors dropping out. This all started before the current recession and IMHO will only continue to hurt our community for some time to come.

Despite all of this doom and gloom, Razer continues to sponsor gamers and events in a low-key fashion, supporting gamers, the community, and validating hardware.

With the current financial crisis, many of the companies have and will pull out of sponsorships. While Razer has also been affected by the economic downturn, we will continue to sponsor gamers and events as we believe in the mantra for gamers by gamers. While our marketing budgets have also been scaled back, we intend to continue sponsoring LAN events and have no intentions of ever pulling out.

So Robert, what is your favorite Razer product and why?

I have a few favorites. My favorite mouse has been the DeathAdder due to its comfort; however I have been using a test Mamba without drivers for a couple of months and it simply rocks. My favorite performance product has to be the Mako speaker system though. This product is the perfect example and response to your question, “Does the company plan to get involved with other kinds of technology”

So what does Razer have in store for fans in the coming year?

I hate to be evasive about what we’re working on but Razer is no longer small enough to sneak below the radar of our competitors. My best response is that you can expect more of the same cool, smart, advanced technology products that have been our legacy over the past ten years.

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