Category: News

Are these the faces of Xbox One X Avatars? UPDATE: Yes!

Are these the faces of Xbox One X Avatars?

Forgive me, I’ve been hands-off with the Xbox platform for quite a while now but Microsoft’s E3 2017 conference today definitely stirred my dormant green-and-white spirit. After the show I wound up on the Scorpio page — errr, Xbox One X page, still getting used to the sound of that — and what do I see towards the bottom? The image above featuring what immediately struck me as Xbox Avatars 2.0.

The image is couched by bullet points touting the ease of bringing your existing content to the One X and the robust multiplayer of the Xbox Live service. It seems perfectly fitting to represent the Xbox community with the cast of multi-cultural mannequins seen above.

If these really are newfangled Avatars they’re sporting more polygons than ever before with more realistic faces and even an array of facial expressions. The current Avatars retain their “Mii too” appearance with flat facial features and minimal animation. Hopefully we find out more this week on the Xbox One X’s Dashboard and how Avatars fit into this burgeoning generation of Xbox.

UPDATE June 14th: Well I called it on the 2.0 thing but there’s so much more to the new Xbox Avatars than just facial animations and skin color. During one of Microsoft’s Xbox Daily streams this week the footage above was shown with Xbox Product Manager Bryan Saftler narrating.

“Avatars are meant for whatever you want your digital self to represent,” Saftler explains. “We don’t want to put you in a box, there are no more checkboxes, no matter what you think you look like or what you want to present online.”

The new Avatars not only accommodate personal gender and race identity, there will now be prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, and even a pregnant toggle to fully customize your online appearance. Naturally, this means costumes and props won’t be restricted to male or female Avatars anymore. “If you can see it in the store you can wear it,” states Kathryn Storm, interaction designer at Xbox. “We’re not holding you to any type of checkboxes.”

Microsoft plans to debut “Avatars 2.0” on Windows 10 later this year before bringing them to Xbox consoles down the line. Thanks to The Verge for catching this news on the daily streams, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to keep up!

Is Super Mario Odyssey Nintendo’s response to annoying Mario canon questions?

This scene couldn't be any more Japanese

Everything in Super Mario Odyssey seems designed to rattle even the most absurd head-canon that fans have crafted for themselves over the decades of loosely connected Mario games. It started with the debut trailer back in January with Mario running around in the human-sized New Donk City and it’s only gotten stranger with this week’s E3 reveal.

Pauline, Mario’s original heroine from Donkey Kong, is the mayor of New Donk City and its streets are named after members of the DK clan. We’d seen Bowser in a white tuxedo before with Peach at his side in a matching wedding dress but now we see that Mario is also dressed for “the big day”. So who is crashing whose wedding and does Peach have any say in this nuptial knockout? Finally, just who is singing the vocal track heard in the new trailer with lines like “I’ll be your 1UP girl”? The camera sure lingers on that saucy singer at the New Donk City Festival, doesn’t it? Could this be the end for Mario and Peach?

Is Mario butting in on a harmonious union?

Things are just as extraordinary on the gameplay end of things. Mario’s traditional powerups are nowhere to be seen and he instead utilizes the sentient, mind-controlling tophat we now know as Cappy. With Cappy, Mario can do typical video game things like boomerang his hat around to hit enemies or grab coins. What was revealed at E3, though, is a completely surprising mechanic that lets Cappy possess most enemies and suck Mario into them, slapping the red cap on their heads and a mustache on their face.

Goombas, Hammer Bros. and Bullet Bills are all commandeered by Mario as well as totally unexpected objects like taxi cabs, tanks, frogs, Rapa Nui statues and rocket ships that look straight out of Super Mario Bros. 2. Then there are the scenes where Mario is squashed flat a la Link Between Worlds and things get decidedly old school.

Between this and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle I’ve never been more excited for new Mario games and there’s surely more bizarre stuff to be seen from both; at E3 and in the months leading up to their releases. Bring it on Nintendo, the weirder the better!

Is the Xbox One X hiding a built-in microphone? Also, here are the ports

"The rarely seen backside... of Xbox One X"

I totally missed the “Drag to rotate 360 degrees” part of the Xbox One X site yesterday. I thought they weren’t ready to reveal what was on the backside of the console but here it is, looking very much in line with the Xbox One S and the recently revealed Xbox One X devkit.

The most surprising part is that the HDMI IN port remains so anyone looking to upgrade their current Xbox-as-a-cable-box experience should be good to go. As an upgrade to the current Xbox One experience I suppose it’s not that surprising to see the ports remain the same. With the added promise that all Xbox One accessories and games would be compatible with the One X there’s not a lot of room to change things up on the ports.

Is the Xbox One X hiding a microphone?

Continuing to rotate the console, however, has led to my next tinfoil-hat speculation: is this tiny black hole on the console’s front left side a microphone? Will Cortana “always be listening” and sending privacy advocates into a panic? Privacy aside, the voice commands offered by the Kinect were the only way I could navigate the original Xbox One’s Dashboard. If that tech has hitched a ride as a low power, built-in component of the Xbox One X it may stand as a fitting legacy for the ill-fated motion sensing peripheral.

Like the Xbox One X Avatars, I hope we find out more on this mysteriously little port this week as E3 steamrolls right over my day-job productivity.

Six Years later, Fortnite still looks really great

All jokes aside about Fortnite’s prolonged development cycle — it was first announced in 2011 at the long-gone VGAs — the game still looks super appealing to this day. Epic finally put a date on the game last week and have spun up the PR machine leading up to its oh-that’s-soon July 25th release.

We’ll surely see a demo coming out of E3 but for now the trailer above pretty much has me sold. It was originally pitched as Minecraft meets Left 4 Dead but the mazes of traps on display recall gleeful memories of Orcs Must Die. I also seem to remember the forts being pretty small the last time I saw the game in action. Now we’re talking about bases so big you can use boost jump pads to launch around inside them. Designing and defending something of that scale should be hilarious, and then sad, and then hilarious again.

All told, I’m still not sure I’ll buy it, even at the Standard Edition price of $39.99 but, umm, I’m glad it’s finally happening. Those more dedicated than myself can spend up to $150 for various “limited edition” bonuses if you pre-order on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC before the launch.

RPGolf is the RPG + Golf combo I didn’t know I wanted

RPGolf is the RPG + Golf combo I didn't know I wanted

For the name alone, “RPGolf” has earned a mention from me. It’s a mobile game for Android and iOS coming this Summer (in Japan anyways) that is exactly the amalgamation the name implies: a fantasy RPG game that happens to be set on the fairway of a cursed golf course. You play as the heroine, out to cleanse the land of evil while working on your backstroke, by adventuring around the landscape between shots.

It reminds me of classic Y’s combat where you walk up to enemies and swing your club wildly but there’s some added depth here with the use of potions, magic attacks, and equippable gear. You’ll also level up as you defeat monsters and are free to explore the courses on foot or on a golfcart to find hidden treasures and dungeons. The dungeon in the video below looks to be optional but on ‘Hole 2’ the ball lands on a small island with a cave entrance. I imagine you’ll have to battle through a maze-like cave to get to to the island (and back out again) to finish the round.

It’s a neat concept that appeals to my strange, years-long addiction to Mario Golf: Advance Tour, but seeing the on-screen D-pad is such a bummer. Even with my new phone it’s still the last place I want to play a game these days. But who knows, maybe it’ll suck me in; the first of 9 Holes will be free with a paid unlock opening up the full game. Oh! On closer inspection, the Indiegogo campaign also mentions a PC/Mac version so maybe I’ll play that… whenever it’s out.