Microsoft profiles new systemâ??s limitations (and unknown potential) at Gamefest

360 Avatars can only be used in non-violent titles

At Microsoft’s recent Gamefest event in Seattle, the company’s Xbox Live GM Eric Kilgore detailed ways developers can get on board with the new 360 dashboard, confirming they would be allowed to use the new Mii-like Avatars in-game – but admitted some firm details were still being fleshed out.

The new Xbox 360 dashboard and its new features – which include player Avatars tied to each machine’s player profile – were announced by Microsoft at E3 three weeks ago. During Gamefest, the company was keen to point out the versatility of the new player identities.

“We think it’s really important that these things can scale between in game and out of game, and how we can use them on the web,” said Kilgore of the Avatars, explaining that Microsoft is designing them so they can be seen not just via the Xbox dashboard but also websites, and embedded in forum profiles and Facebook pages the way gamertag information can be.

But most important was how developers can access and use Avatar data, said Kilgore, adding that he envisioned “a category of games to use [Avatars] in different ways”.

Avatars can be incorporated into games as either full 3D models or 2D images – although Microsoft added that it has only just opening ‘the dialogue’ with developers to “understand how it can be integrated with your ideas”.

Kilgore demonstrated mock-ups showing Avatars taking the place of player characters in upcoming titles, but added that Microsoft is placing some early restrictions on their use – specifically when it comes to game content and violence.

He explained that Avatars will only be allowed to feature in an ESRB ‘E10+ context’ – at least at first.

“We are still developing the final policies,” he said, adding that “The final guide we have this year is to think of them in an ‘E10’ context. That doesn’t mean it won’t change – but this Fall they won’t be able to blow each other’s heads off’

Kilgore also conceded that some other elements of the Avatar system are still to be fleshed out in future. When asked if players could have a collection of Avatars the way they can have multiple versions of the comparable Miis stored on the Nintendo Wii, Kilgore said: “The answer is a mixed one. From a user profile perspective you have one avatar for one profile. You can change you avatar whenever you want but if you want a new avatar you need a new profile.”

He admitted, “we haven’t really gotten there yet” on figuring out how multiple avatars might work.

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