NEWS - Thursday, March 10, 2005

GDC 2005 Xbox Live Next

GDC 2005 Next Gen Xbox Live Revealed March 9, 2005 - Microsoft´s Corporate Vice President J Allard today showed gamers the tip of the Xenon iceberg today, unveiling a suite of custom features to be used in the Xbox Live portion of its next generation services for Xenon or Xbox 2. First, he referred to Xbox 2 as Xenon, its development code name, the whole speech. Second, he said Microsoft will officially reveal Xenon at E3, where the company will introduce its games, hardware, and services. Third, he talked about the new changes and improvements to Xbox Live, which is rapidly approaching 2 million users. Likening this new idea of user profiles to baseball cards, Allard showed onscreen how users can access relevant information from a new interface that will remain consistent across all future Xenon games. These new user profiles track stats, friends´ online presence, favorite songs, and other particular things about your preferences in a game. Using Forza Motorsport as an example, The user profiles can be called up before or after a game. The simple interface menu slides across from the left, taking up about one third of the screen. Organized in horizontal white bars with a white background and black text, each segment shows custom details about your playing experience. You´ll see a star system, which Allard likened to merit badges, indicating the amount of hours you´ve spent and how good you are across a range of games. Among other things, this tool enables you to more efficiently match your gaming skills with another user online. In the case of Forza, you´ll see the fastest time on a track, fastest lap, and favorite track. Noting that ripping and customizing soundtracks was one of the most asked for request from its online users, Allard said that with Xenon games, all games will enable customizable tracks, not just some. And that the user interface will be the same across all games. Using what Allard called an online marketplace, Allard said that players can search for, trade, and buy their own car parts, upload, and trade them using a virtual currency to prep their cars for a race against a friend. Forza was just the example, but he said that future games would use these functions regularly. Another new feature is the simple use of User Alerts. A user alert might alert you to the fact that your wireless controller is low on batteries, shown by a small window that appears on the lower left hand side of the screen. Or it might alert you that a friend is online and wants to race now. Xbox Live users can proactively use the interface to search Xbox Live for Forza car parts to customize and upgrade their cars as well. While Allard presented new ideas for Xbox Live for Xenon, he didn´t answer all the pending Xbox Live questions most gamers still have, such as will Xbox Live subscriptions carry over from Xbox to Xbox 2, will the new system be backward compatible, etc. We´ll have more on this as soon as humanly possible, though, so stick around.


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