Category: Microsoft

The house of green and black; anything in general about Microsoft. Look to the tags for anything more specific.

These Kinect-free re-releases are a little sad

 

These Kinect-free re-releases are a little sad

I don’t know if it’s liberating or disappointing for Frontier Developments to see their premiere Kinect titles retooled for controllers and re-released to puff up the Xbox lineup. For me it’s totally liberating as I was eager to start both games but quickly tired of recalibrating the Kinect and feeling my arms go limp after pretend petting elephants.

But Frontier was on par with Rare when it came to their dedication to Kinect. They weren’t just shoveling out titles to cash in on the fizzling motion control fad. Frontier put some real heart into the darling little Kinect launch title Kinectimals and expanded on it With Bears!. It was the wholesomeness of Kinectimals that I feel landed them the chance to combine their love of amusement park sims with the most beloved amusement park of all: Disneyland.

Again, they could’ve done the cashgrab and slapped a fresh coat of paint (and Mickey bars) on their Thrillville engine. But from what I remember they put as much love into Cinderella’s dress as they had the doe-eyed Kinectimals. Then they became one of the few studios going all-in on Kinect for Xbox One where they combined all their past experience and expertise for Zoo Tycoon.

Four years later, Microsoft has finally given up on Kinect and set their internal teams on Frontier’s founding titles to make them 100% less demanding to play. Now Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection (alongside Rush: A DisneyPixar Adventure, not from Frontier) are available for $30 and are Play Anywhere compatible on PC and Xbox One. Like I said, it’s great news for gamers — those who skipped the titles because of Kinect or are just now coming to Xbox looking for family-friendly fun — but I can’t help feeling a little remorse for all of Frontier’s efforts as well.

I did not expect to play through Apocalypse in 2017

070617-apocalypse

I’ve got a lot of games I’ve never played (just like everybody else) and the backlog shelf has been swelling over the last two years. So I finally set out to record some new Just Checkin’ videos where I at least boot them up to make sure the discs work. I managed to get one game out of the way before stumbling into a morning session with Apocalypse, otherwise known as The Bruce Willis Game.

I had written it off after playing the demos they put out before the game’s release but here in 2017 I found it quite playable and even clever in spots, if mindless and repetitive. The game is short and fairly easy up until the final boss fight and gave me plenty of time to soak in the weird 90’s aesthetics.

Willis’ character, Trey Kincaid, was originally intended to be the player’s sidekick but his involvement dwindled during production and he eventually took the starring role. So not only are his lines the most typical gung-ho battle cries, it’s a little fourth-wall breaking due to the change in roles. And the immortal line, “strap one on, it’s time to jam!!” still confuses me to this day.

 

Things really get interesting in the final level where Trey assaults the White House which is surrounded by a moat of lava and is filled with fire-spewing politicians in suits. The final battle with The Reverend starts in the oval office and expands to an arena of stone and flesh stitched together around the Seal of the President. It feels more fitting today than it ever did in the 90’s.

The episodes are rolling out every three days through July 12th and end with some bonus content and stuff I dug up on the disc. You can follow along with the playlist above or subscribe and catch all of my random videos.

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

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

[UPDATE: LOL no, I forgot they’d have to include a way to manually eject a disc. That’s just the little pinhole to shove a paperclip into.]

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.