Avatars

For at least a week we knew that the Halo: Spartan Assault launch party was scheduled for last night, July 16. But Microsoft didn’t want to announce the game’s actual launch date for some reason, so doubt remained that it would arrive this week. Well, Spartan Assault didn’t release today, but this evening we officially learned that it’s coming tomorrow.

Fans might have to wait another day to play Halo: Spartan Assault, but that doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate the game’s impending release right this minute. Microsoft and 343 Industries have just released seven new Spartan Assault-themed avatar items on the Xbox Marketplace. Hey, at least our avatars can be dressed for success when the game launches tomorrow!

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Babaroga’s Zombies!!! was an early Xbox Windows Phone exclusive that  still commands a loyal following from board game fans. I fondly remember buying it about a month before joining the Windows Phone Central staff, and subsequently advocating for an update to make one of the Achievements more easily attainable.

Jump ahead to the present, the Xbox Windows 8 and RT version of Zombies!!! has finally gone live. We previously covered some of the new version’s features and improvements, and now PC and tablet gamers can experience the enhanced game for themselves. To get everyone in a zombie killing mood, we present this interview with Andreja Djokovic, the CEO and founder of Babaroga.

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If you're looking for a new Xbox Live Avatar prop, you may want to check out the Xbox 360 Sales and Specials app. In the Chain Reaction section, the Toy Soldiers bi-plane avatar prop is free.

As an added bonus to the free Avatar prop, the prop does carry over to your Windows Phone Gaming Hub.

If you aren't familiar with or downloaded the Sales & Specials app on your Xbox 360 console, finding this section can be a bit of a challenge.

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NinjasFate is a site that has gained some popularity amongst gamers for its aggregation of info on XBox games that offer Avatar Awards.  Now they have created a mobile site for WP7 users to visit on their phones that uses the Metro UI style and emulates a WP7 app.  The site mimics Windows Phone so closely that users are even asked to select a color theme and can then scroll through tiles for each game.

What's great about the new design is that you can set http://avatarawards.ninjasfate.com/wp7 as a favorite in your browser, then add it to the home screen as a tile.  When you select the tile, you are transported to a browser window that looks and navigates just like an app would.  We must admit, it's an ingenious way to design a site to cater to WP7 users, and could start quite a trend. 

Source: NinjasFate (Thanks for the tip, 24AMonth!)

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The Xbox 360 is a great place to advertise Windows Phone 7 as the phone’s Xbox Live features are designed to appeal to console gamers. Now gamers can learn about Windows Phone and get a free avatar prop for their trouble.

Here’s what to do:

  • On the Xbox 360, switch to the Inside Xbox section of the dashboard.
  •  Find the tile that reads: Get a free Windows Phone for your avatar/Your avatar is the special guest on Hot Apps with Laura Foy (it’s marked as an Advertisement).
  • Watch the video and then…
  • You’ll see a zoomed-in view of a Windows Phone. Navigate the cursor to the “Keep the phone!” tile. Click it and download the avatar prop.

That’s it! Have your avatar call my avatar. We’ll go out for ice cream.

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Xbox Live integration has been a selling point of Windows Phone since day one. Gamers can earn Achievements; view their avatars, friends lists, and more from the convenience of their phones. But to do many of those things, you have to download the separate free Xbox Live Extras app and then launch it from the Games hub. It’s a needlessly complicate process.

Thankfully Mango will greatly streamline Xbox Live integration. Xbox Live Extras will join the dinosaurs and Milli Vanilli in extinction as its contents will now be built into the main Games hub. The Xbox Live page within the hub will display a user’s polygonal avatar and several other items: Xbox Live Gold membership status (lending credence to the rumor that online play will finally debut alongside Mango) and links to the user’s Profile, Achievements, and Avatar (for customization). This should make the profile and avatar editing options much easier to find than their previous location: stashed away in a pop-up menu at the bottom of the screen.

Live tiles are a great and wonderful thing. We all love them, and I’m pretty sure WPCentral’s Daniel Rubino has several tattooed on his arm. On the other hand, live tiles also take up a lot of space – only 6-8 will fit on-screen at once. People who own a lot of games on Windows Phone often have to scroll quite a bit to find the title they wish to play. Game organization and launching will become slightly easier in Mango thanks to a new list view within the Games hub. The list view displays each game’s name alongside icons that are about fifty percent smaller than before. It doesn’t really fit much additional information on-screen, but gamers will be able to locate titles by names instead of icons.

The Friends section will also receive a few minor tweaks. Friends’ profiles and bios will be separated onto two pages instead of being crammed onto one. Additionally, it will become possible to add new friends directly from the phone thanks to the addition of a New Friend button at the bottom of the Friends page. Now if Microsoft would just add the ability to send and receive Xbox Live voice messages from the phone too – only text messages are supported right now.

These changes will strengthen gaming and Xbox Live use on Windows Phone. Today’s conference didn’t address online play, but we’re still hoping for an announcement sometime around Mango’s actual launch. For Windows Phone gamers, that date can’t come soon enough.

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Avatar Gadgets now free as a bird

Avatar Gadgets has always been an odd piece of software. It’s lumped in with the Xbox Live games, but it’s not a game. It’s just a collection of utilities. If you buy it, it sits there at the top of your games list, mocking you with its non-gameness and lack of Achievements. It does use your Xbox Live avatar though, so there is a tenuous Xbox Live connection.

Avatar-Inspector-Gadgets is also the only Xbox Live product on Windows Phone that regularly sells at the 99 cent price point (everything else starts at $2.99). At least, it used to be 99 cents… Avatar Gadgets is now free!  Our review praises the Zippo lighter gadget and the product’s overall novelty. Now that it’s free, you have no excuse not to try it for yourself - other than the aforementioned space it takes up at the top of the games list, natch.

Grab Avatar Gadgets here on the Marketplace for the low price of zero cents. Will it be free forever? Probably, but we have contacted Microsoft just in case and will update this article when we know for sure.

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Full House Poker - Review

One of the most exciting benefits of Xbox Live games on Windows Phone 7 is the possibility of connectivity. Crackdown: Project Sunburst unlocks a few bonus features in Crackdown 2 on Xbox 360, but that’s only the tip of the ice berg. Full House Poker, developed by Krome Studios and published by Microsoft, integrates more fully with its Xbox 360 counterpart than any game yet.

Full House Poker is a Texas hold ‘em poker simulator. Poker is very well-suited to mobile game play as you can play a hand in no time at all. Full House Poker’s affordable price and the fact that practically everybody loves poker means the game was bound to sell well on Windows Phone 7 no matter what. Thankfully the developers went the full mile and made not just a mobile poker game but a top-notch one as well.

Head past the break for our full house review.

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First Look: Full House Poker on Windows Phone 7

What little Windows Phone 7 news there is at CES centers around gaming. We stopped by their booth to check out a few of the new apps that are coming, including Full House Poker, above. It's a decent enough onilne poker client, it works pretty much the way you'd expect it to. Avatars are fully included, of course, but the main feature is the Xbox integration: money you earn on the mobile version of the game counts towards your total chip count to help qualify you for the regular tournaments on Xbox Live.

 

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