The April Xbox Update Begins Rolling Out Today

April is here, and it comes with a feature-packed update to Xbox One. We unveiled some of these new features on the premiere episode of Inside Xbox last month. This month, we’re announcing that they’ll become available to Xbox One owners around the world over the next few days. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect:

Video & Display

We’ve added a bunch of new video features we hope you’ll enjoy, starting with Auto Low-Latency Mode (or ALLM for short). Auto Low-Latency Mode enables the family of Xbox One devices to notify your display when you’re playing a game, so a TV that also supports ALLM will know to switch to its low latency video mode. Many displays refer to low latency mode as “game mode.”

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Gamers will also enjoy the newly introduced support for variable refresh rate output to AMD Radeon™ FreeSync and FreeSync 2 compatible displays. AMD Radeon™ FreeSync is a form of variable refresh rate which helps to reduce input latency and minimize display stuttering, delivering a buttery-smooth visual gameplay experience in your favorite games. The entire Xbox One family of devices will work with FreeSync-certified displays. Xbox One S and Xbox One X will also support high dynamic range with AMD Radeon™ FreeSync 2.

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In addition, Xbox One X and Xbox One S now support output at 2560 x 1440 (1440p) resolution for games and media. With over a million and a half more pixels than 1080p, this resolution offers even more choice between Full HD and 4K displays. This feature should be especially appealing to Xbox One owners who use a 1440p display for PC gaming. Media apps can now add an option for 1440p output for on both Xbox One X and Xbox One S.  Developers can also now enable games to run at native 1440p resolution on Xbox One X.

You can enable all these video options from the Settings menu on your Xbox One.  Just navigate to “Display & Sound,” then “Video Output.” Note that you’ll only be able to turn on these settings if your TV or monitor supports them.

Streaming & Captures

This month, we’re also introducing a new Mixer Interactive feature called Share Controller. Mixer streamers on Xbox One can now share control of their game with a viewer on Mixer.com. Just turn on the “Share Controller” toggle from the Broadcast & Capture section in Guide and your viewers will be able to share control through a virtual controller in their web browser, or by plugging a physical controller into their PC.

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You can also now start Mixer broadcasts from anywhere on Xbox One, making streaming easier than ever. If you decide to switch games or exit to the dashboard, your viewers will see a pause animation until you jump back into a game. You will also see a pause animation on your broadcasting status bar on your screen.

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In addition, you can now share captured screenshots and clips directly to Twitter, after authenticating your account, from the Broadcast & Capture tab of the Guide. Shared captures will now display and play directly in your Twitter feed instead of showing up as a link. We’ll also help you get your content discovered by suggesting a hashtag for the title of the game. Want to follow clips shared by Xbox gamers? Track clips with the #XboxShare hashtag!

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Xbox Insiders have seen this option for a while, but now everyone can choose to switch between light and dark themes on your Xbox One based on the time of day. You can also personalize your theme to automatically transition from dark to light based on sunrise and sunset in your location. We’ve also added a new high-contrast light theme option, which makes on-screen elements easier to see.

Audio & Ease of Access

Based on fan feedback, we’re making additional improvements to Narrator on Xbox One. Narrator volume can now be adjusted independently from system audio volume. We’ve also introduced a new input learning mode to the Narrator menu. With input learning mode enabled, the Narrator on Xbox One will say the name of whatever button you press on an attached input device. High contrast light theme and narrator options can both be adjusted in the Ease of Access menu in Settings.

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If you love to stream music while gaming, you will be happy to hear that you can now selectively balance game audio against background music within the Guide. Simply navigate down to the app that is playing background music in the Guide. Press “A” to open a new flyout with additional music controls, including a new slider that will allow you to adjust the balance of background music and game audio.

We’ve also made audio enhancements in the Xbox One dashboard itself. System sounds on Home and in the Guide have been completely revamped to support spatial audio, so the audio cues from your surround sound system will match the actions you see on-screen.

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Apps

The Microsoft Edge browser on Xbox One has been updated to a more modern look and feel. Enhancements to history and favorites make it easy for you to get back to your favorite sites. Other new features include tab muting, read aloud and autofill. You can also now download and upload pictures, music, and videos from Microsoft Edge on Xbox One; your downloaded content can then be browsed with the File Explorer app.

Clubs, Game Hubs & Tournaments

Community tournaments are now available directly in Game Hubs for supported games. This means you no longer need to own or be the admin of a club to create a tournament.  To get started, open the Game Hub for a game that supports tournaments.  Head to the “Multiplayer” tab and select “Community tournaments” then choose the option for “Create tournament.”

Club feeds have also gained new filters to show you “what’s new,” “what’s hot” or “top posts.” Additionally, you can now lock the comments on your feed posts across clubs, Game Hubs, and Community, so the only person in control of the narrative is you.

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If you’re a club owner or admin, you can now filter invitation requests based on several criteria, including Gamerscore, play time, reputation, Xbox Live Gold status, and recommendations from club members. Club invitation filters will persist until the administrator changes them, so if you set or edit club invitation filters, they will still be there the next time you sign-in.

In addition to all these new features on Xbox One, a subset of users may also see additional experimental features that we didn’t mention here. These features are only enabled for a portion of the Xbox audience to gauge interest and collect feedback.

Many of our Xbox Insiders have already had the chance to play with these features. If you would like to join them, getting started as an Xbox Insider is easy! Just download the Xbox Insider Hub app on your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC and select your desired ring. Visit the Xbox Insider blog here for release notes.

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Obituary: Longtime industry veteran Jay Moon

Longtime project manager and industry veteran Jay Moon has passed away, Gamasutra has learned. 

Moon played critical roles in a wide variety of notable games that sprung up during the 1990s, acting as producer, project manager, music coordinator, and public relations on memorable games like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Batman Forever, and NBA Jam Tournament Edition through the years.

He is credited as a co-founder of the development studio Iguana Entertainment and contributed to titles like Aero the Acro-Bat, The Pirates of Dark Water, College Slam, and Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls in various positions at the studio.

Moon also served as a software development manager for Sunsoft of America, and helped to start publications like Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro magazine during his storied career. 

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How Squidlit’s devs authentically recreated a Game Boy game in 2018

For those of you who miss the many shades of green, the chirpy sound effects, and the simplistic (yet challenging) gameplay of the Game Boy era, Squidlit is the answer to your prayers.

A Game Boy-inspired platformer, Squidlit aims to create a nostalgic experience through simulating the limitations of the handheld with their title.

In a recent interview with IndieGames.com, Squidlit devs Alex Barrett and Samantha Davenport talked about the challenges that came with designing a game for the classic system.

What drew you to create an authentic Game Boy experience 15 years after its discontinuation?

Samantha: We are, first and foremost, people who really enjoy playing video games. To that effect, we have a collection of a few hundred games that spans back to the late 1970’s. When Alex came up with the idea of creating our own video game, it seemed to make sense that we start, essentially, at the beginning with a console we know well and love. The first console Alex played was the Nintendo DMG Game Boy, so it was a natural choice.

When we looked at other games that sought to capture the nostalgia of a previous console, we always noticed that while capturing the look of a console like the Game Boy, it’s hard to find one that goes to the lengths to recreate all the console’s limitations as well. We thought to ourselves that if you don’t see something you think should be there, make it yourself!

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What challenges came with recreating the visual and audio style of the Game Boy?

Alex: I think the most challenging aspect of making Squidlit came from things going on in the background of the game. It was important to me that the four sound channels of the Game Boy be accurately represented. I had to make a system where if a sound effect used one of the channels dedicated to the music, the music on that channel would stop playing for the duration of the effect (it’s most noticeable when you talk to ooblugs). Also, almost all animations in Squidlit are synced to the beat of the music, so everything is that much cuter. This also took some finagling. Perhaps someone more experienced would have an easier time with stuff like this, but as my very first game it took months to figure out.

How did the limitations of the Game Boy technology affect the game’s design?

Alex: One of the more limiting aspects of the Game Boy was it’s inability to display more than 10 sprites in a horizontal line. Plip, for example, is made up of two 8 x 16 pixel sprites so the amount of obstacles we could throw in front of her was limited. I didn’t want any flickering to happen in Squidlit, so we had to go through every possible location of simultaneous objects on the screen and make sure we didn’t exceed this limit. The Game Boy also had an itty bitty 160 x 144 resolution screen, so you can’t see very far ahead of you. We put a lot of thought into trying to make the enemies fair in relation to your view.

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Were the play styles or visual themes dictated by the Game Boy limitations? How so?

Alex: I started doodling squidlits in high-school all over really serious things like math and economics. When I started making a game, I found they translated really well to the Game Boy’s limited palette. Kirby’s Dreamland was a big inspiration for Squidlit. Masahiro Sakurai, its director, once stated that the original concept for it used only one button. We took this to heart in trying to design a game around the Game Boy’s limited methods of input, and we ended up whittling the mechanics down to jumping and attacking using the same button.

What challenges did you face in creating cute characters and vibrant worlds when limited by the Game Boy’s visual style?

Samantha: When creating the world for Squidlit, we wouldn’t think about the technology at first. We would first talk about what the characters are like, what their world should be like, and what they would do. Skwit Skwot, God Emperor, does indeed have a reason for why she is creating this possibly dangerous magic, while Plip truly believes she must stop Skwit Skwot. The biggest challenge in this method was taking these grand ideas and finding ways to implement them into a GameBoy recreation. I think we managed quite well, as we ended up not having to sacrifice any of our major ideas.

If there was anything specific I had to point out, however, it’s the word limitation on how much each character could say before it felt overly tedious. It seems like some of the characters are saying a whole lot at certain points, but what they’re saying is very carefully condensed lore on what’s truly going on. That being said, Squidlit is a test run and prologue to our next title, Super Squidlit.

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How do you make your game feel fresh to modern players when working with a purposely-limiting older visual/audio style?

Samantha: In making a Game Boy recreation game, one thing we noticed was that a lot of platformer titles for the console didn’t really incorporate story too heavily. We decided that putting in an over-arching plot with hints as to motivations for both sides of the story would draw in more modern players with aspects of storytelling they are more familiar with. We also made sure to sprinkle in a hearty dose of Squidlit-y love and comedy in there to make things lighthearted and squishy!

Were there any rules of Game Boy development that you didn’t follow? Would this fit on an actual Game Boy cartridge?

Alex: To my knowledge, Squidlit doesn’t do anything that a Game Boy can’t. On that note, if anyone finds it doing something it’s not supposed to be able to, let us know and we’ll put out a patch! One could probably squeeze Squidlit onto a Game Boy cart from later in the console’s lifetime, and that was a deciding factor for the length of the game. We would probably have to pull some shenanigans to get some of the more fluid animations to play, much like Donkey Kong Land did. We capped the game at 30 FPS, even though the Game Boy can run at a full 60, to accommodate for some of the more complex things it does.

This article was originally published on Gamasutra sister site indiegames.com.

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Blog: Expressing values on a logarithmic scale

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Linear interpolation is incredibly useful, but sometime values are better expressed on a logarithmic scale. A good example is zooming in with a camera. Say you zoom in by 2x, then zoom in by 2x again, then once more. Visually you want to treat all of these zoom changes the same even though the last one is a change from 4x – 8x compared to the original zoom amount. While the following code will work, it won’t quite look right. The lower the zoom is, the faster the zoom rate will change. If you need some Google Earth style 100,000:1 zooming, it will definitely look wrong!

// Not-quite-constant rate zooming. :(
zoom = lerp(zoom, targetZoom, deltaTime/duration)

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Compare the two sides. Notice how the left side seems to speed up and slow down even though it starts and ends on the correct zoom level. That’s what regular linear interpolation looks like for the camera zoom. The right side keeps the same zoom speed the whole time. So how do you do that?

What you want to do, is convert the zoom values to a logarithmic scale, then convert them back to linear afterwards. No matter what your endpoints are, the zooming will always look smooth.

// Constant rate zooming!
zoom = exp(lerp(log(zoom), log(targetZoom), deltaTime/duration)

If you dust off that old sheet of power rules from your algebra class, you can simplify it a bit to this:

// Slightly simpler constant rate zooming!
zoom = zoom*pow(targetZoom/zoom, deltaTime/duration)

// ..or as a function:
float logerp(float a, float b, float t){
  return a*pow(b/a, t);
}

If your camera’s zoom is always changing to meet a target zoom level, you can combine it with the lerp() smoothing trick I posted about a few days ago. We did this in an old space game that we worked on to make the zooming extra smooth.

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Cheers, and happy zooming!

Feature: The History And Evolution of Donkey Kong

Few gaming characters have hung around as long as Donkey Kong, and over the years we at NL towers have garnered a healthy respect for the giant, tie-wearing ape. That’s why we decided to throw together a short audio-visual retrospective to take a look at how DK managed to get where he is today.

What’s your favourite entry from the colossal Kong? Let us know in the comments below.

Splatoon-Style Racer Trailblazers Has Cross-Platform Multiplayer, Switch Version Arrives In June

Supergonk’s Trailblazers is shaping up to be quite the speed-fest, mixing Splatoon-style track-painting with anti-grav racing.

It has now been confirmed that the game will showcase cross-platform multiplayer, which means you’ll be able to compete against players on other systems. According to the game’s Steam page, cross-platform play links PC/Mac/Linux players to either PlayStation 4 or Xbox One/Nintendo Switch players. Looks like Sony continues to be a stick in the mud when it comes to this kind of thing.

Update: The other big news is that the game launches on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on May 8th, but we’re been told by publisher Rising Star that the Switch version won’t be available until June.

[via store.steampowered.com]

You’ve Got Until 9PM GMT Today To Pre-Order Labo If You Want It In Time For Friday

While our chums in Japan and North America are already hard at work(play) building all manner of cardboard creations, we in the UK and the EU have to wait until Friday to get our hands on Nintendo Labo in all its glory (and that includes the team here at Nintendo Life).

If you were thinking about pre-ordering your own kit, and want it to arrive in time for launch day, you’ll need to place your order by 9pm GMT via the official Nintendo Store. You can currently pre-order the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit, the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit or the extra Nintendo Labo Customisation Set. Check out the links below if you’re ready to put down some dosh.

Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale which helps support the site. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.

Let us know if you’ll be getting Nintendo Labo in time for launch, or whether you’re still not sold on its cardboard-based premise. Get commenting!

Video: Sega Invites You To “Get a Load of These Beats” In This New Shining Resonance Refrain Trailer

It’s fair to say that the return of the legendary Shining series to western shores isn’t exactly what we – or many other fans – expected. Shining Resonance Refrain – which is coming to Switch, PS4 and Xbox One on July 11th – feels like a world apart from the turn-based strategy instalments which made the franchise so popular during the ’90s, but we should probably just be grateful that the series has a future at all.

If you’re a little more open-minded than us then you’ll want to check out the latest trailer for the game, which gives a short look at the heroes you’ll be controlling.

Here’s some PR:

First off, we’re introduced to Kirika Towa Alma, the Diva of Nature. She uses her bow to deal damage from a distance while supporting allies with healing magic.

Next, we meet Sonia Blanche, the Lightning Princess. Fierce, yet elegant, she darts across the battlefield with her sword and shield, dealing damage to single targets in quick bursts.

Following Sonia, Agnum Bulletheart, the Pyromaestro makes his appearance. Always aiming to be the center of attention, Agnum deals massive damage to large groups of enemies with explosive fire magic.

Cooling things down after Agnum’s appearance, we have Lestin Sera Alma, the Glacier Sentinel. He uses ice magic to slow down enemies before cleaving through them with his trusty halberd.

Rinna, the Whirlwind Sylph brings some cheer to the party with her lighthearted attitude. She deals heavy damage from the back lines with powerful magic abilities.

Finally, we meet Yuma himself. Armed with the power of the Shining Dragon, he fights with dragon-like ferocity to protect his friends.

Never mind “get a load of these beats” – get a load of these names.