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Xbox 360 Updates Social Features, Back Compat 112

Posted by Zonk
from the new-toys-for-everyone dept.
Microsoft is gearing up for another big update to Xbox Live, and soon they'll be offering a friend of a friend feature that will allow users to peruse their friends' friend lists. It's a voluntary service, and is gated by your age to avoid any parental fears. If you'd rather turn it off ahead of time, they already have a dedicated site set up for that purpose. (Gamertag login required.) That update will be dropping on December 4th. Relatedly, they're also rolling out a whole bunch of new backwards compatability options for your old Xbox games. Highlights include support for: Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance, Burnout 2: Point of Impact, Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone, Indiana Jones And The Emperors Tomb, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Syberia II, The Bard's Tale, Worms 3D. There's also support for a slew of sports titles going all the way back to 2003.
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Xbox 360 Updates Social Features, Back Compat

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  • Actually, the big news for me in that list is "Lord of the Rings: The Third Age". I've been itching to replay that for months, but now that I've given away my original Xbox, had no way of doing so. It was an interesting and ambitious attempt at making a Final Fantasy-style RPG out of the LOTR franchise and even though it didn't work perfectly, the production values were high enough that I'm looking forward to going back to it.
    • by Cheapy (809643)
      All the games that I wished were on the back-compat list have been backwards compatible for a while now. Except for one. I recently bought Deus Ex: Invisible War (for something like $4) knowing that it wasn't on the back-compat list but hoping that it would be on the next release. I've always been disappointed about that, especially since there are a few Barbie games that are backwards compatible. I have an xbox at home, but the place it was in is too dusty and some dust got in the tray, and now no discs ar
      • by jonwil (467024)
        The Barbie games (and other crap) in the list probably got BC almost for free because they used the same core game engine as .
        That or there were enough games on the same engine to justify the BC work for that engine.

      • I'm also probably the only person on the planet who is sad that Azurik isn't on the list either. It was a launch title too. And MechAssault.
        Might MechAssault be off the list in part because of MechInstaller?
  • Surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:41PM (#21505991)
    that they're still adding backwards compatibility 2 years after release. The real need for it diminishes as time passes, I would think. Personally, I'm waiting for some better video codec support so I don't need to transcode streamed video.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by OK PC (857190)
      Personally I'm of the opinion that if it uses the Xbox name then it should be compatible with Xbox titles. Same for PlayStation.
      It is nice to see them continue support for Xbox titles, I am enjoying going through the games I missed first time around. Especially seeing as Sony seem to have given up on backwards compatibility. On the flip side, they do still sell the PS2 and you can't say the same for the Xbox.
      As a side note, Xbox games seem to difficult to get hold of/expensive. For example, I have seen KOTO
      • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by king-manic (409855) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:39PM (#21506935)

        It is nice to see them continue support for Xbox titles, I am enjoying going through the games I missed first time around. Especially seeing as Sony seem to have given up on backwards compatibility. On the flip side, they do still sell the PS2 and you can't say the same for the Xbox.
        PS3 has 1 version / 5 versions without backwards compatibility (BC), 2 of the remaining have ~80% BC, the other 2 have 90+% BC.

        360 has 1 version / 4 versions without BC, the remaining 3 have ~40% BC.

        Wii is ~99% BC with GC titles.

        I don't see Sony being against BC but they did trim it to reduce the price. MS has paid lip service to BC but isn't really that into it.
        • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

          by NoodleSlayer (603762) <[ryan] [at] [severeboredom.com]> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @02:18PM (#21507467) Homepage
          But really isn't that into it?!?!?

          You realize that they are writing this emulator without having access to any of the specs for the CPU or GPU that were in the original xbox. It's not as simple are writing a 1:1 emulator simply because they don't have access to all the information to do that, they're effectively reverse engineering the original xbox to make sure that each game works. Because the emulation isn't perfect they don't have as large of a percentage of games, and they individually test each one. The fact that two years after release they're still updating the backwards compatibility list and still working on the emulator is pretty impressive in of itself.

          Not to mention that the Xbox emulator on the Xbox 360 renders the game at a higher resolution then the original xbox did, with Anti-Aliasing to boot. This is why Xbox games typically look better on the Xbox 360. Overall that emulation software on the Xbox 360 is a engineering marvel that it works as well as it does with what typically is some of the most hardware bound performance intensive code.
          • But really isn't that into it?!?!?

            You realize that they are writing this emulator without having access to any of the specs for the CPU or GPU that were in the original xbox. It's not as simple are writing a 1:1 emulator simply because they don't have access to all the information to do that, they're effectively reverse engineering the original xbox to make sure that each game works. Because the emulation isn't perfect they don't have as large of a percentage of games, and they individually test each one. The fact that two years after release they're still updating the backwards compatibility list and still working on the emulator is pretty impressive in of itself.

            The choices of CPU/GPU more or less justifies my comment. As well 2 years and ~40%, it started out at ~30% with marginal improvements. Event hat 30% was iffy. Nintendo showed they were serious about BC (or unconcerned with performance) by using an extended GC chipsets for the wii. Sony included the hardware in their machines and wrote a CPU emu.

            • by Cheapy (809643)
              I tried looking this up with the wayback machine, but I am having troubles connecting to it. Regardless:

              According to wikipedia, the xbox 360 started out with 213 games that were backwards compatible. There are now 478 games that are backwards compatible. It looks like the Xbox had 900-1000 games written for it. So, it would seem that the xbox360 originally had roughly 20% of games backwards compatible. Now it apparently has 51% of games backwards compatible. Custom writing an emulator and testing it out for
          • by aztektum (170569)

            ...without having access to any of the specs for the CPU or GPU that were in the original xbox.

            I call BS. They used slightly modified Intel and nVidia consumer level chips. It's not like it's some 30 year old processor that was designed on a cocktail napkin.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox [wikipedia.org]

            I find it hard to believe they simply pitched ALL technical reference materials for the orig. Xbox.

            • by KDR_11k (778916)
              Yeah but you try getting Intel and NVidia to let you emulate their chips. I mean, if they wanted to they could even give you their original simulation code to work from but they probably have zero interest in that. Sure, they could give you the specs but there's a good chance those games ran outside of spec and exploited behaviour that wasn't even intended.
              • by edwdig (47888)
                Intel is the easy part. They publish full specs for their processors on their website. You can download the PDF or even ask them to send you free printouts. Also, remember that Microsoft bought the company that made VirtualPC for the Mac. There's your x86 on PPC emulation right there.

                NVidia is the harder part, but remember, all the games are coded to DirectX, which MS sets the standard for.

                I'd say the hardest issue is NVidia avoiding patents.
          • by DrXym (126579)
            Microsoft don't have the specs to the CPU and GPU? Well that's amazing considering that Microsoft designed and specified the original XBox and produced the SDK developers used to make games, and the firmware it all runs on. I think Microsoft have an inkling of how their old system worked.

            It would be more accurate to say that emulating hardware, even known hardware in software is *hard*. Emulating the instruction sets and APIs is probably the easy part. The hard part is realising all the horrible race cond

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          I don't see Sony being against BC but they did trim it to reduce the price. MS has paid lip service to BC but isn't really that into it.

          But look at the trend. Backwards compatibility on the PS3 is going away... on the 360 it's slowly getting better.
        • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Informative)

          by rtechie (244489) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:20PM (#21510757)
          Many posters don't seem to grasp what happened with the original XBOX.

          When building the original XBOX, MS choose to make a very "PC like" design that was essentially a specialized Windows PC. To save time and money, rather than developing their own hardware they outsourced that task to Nvidia and Intel who adapted existing parts (the NV25 and the Celeron 733) to the XBOX. Crucially however, they did not sell the production rights of those parts to Microsoft.

          Fast forward a few years. The XBOX is selling nicely and Microsoft, like most console manufacturers, wants to reduce the price of the console to sell more units. Unfortunately for MS, since they don't own the rights to the GPU and couldn't reverse-engineer it, Nvidia has them over a barrel on pricing and they refuse to reduce the cost of the GPU (I'm told they were ballsy enough to actually try to raise it). Intel was much more willing to negotiate for the CPU (because they had competitors, like AMD), but that was useless without the GPU.

          Because of their inability to cost-reduce the XBOX, Microsoft kills it prematurely. That's why absolutely NO XBOX games were release after 2006. Microsoft actually paid developers to have them move their games in development to the 360.

          Fast forward to the launch of the 360: Without being able to include compatible hardware in the 360, MS is forced to rely on software emulation for backwards compatibility. Emulating Intel and Nvidia hardware on a Power4 system with an ATI GPU it even more difficult than it sounds. Consequently, backwards compatibility on the 360 is less that stellar.

          You could blame Microsoft for this situation because they failed to ensure they held the rights to the Nvidia GPU, but personally I blame NVIDIA for being greedy. It hurt them in the end. Ever wonder why all the next-generation console have ATI GPUs? It's because of the way NVIDIA burned MS on the XBOX.

          • by woodhouse (625329)
            >Ever wonder why all the next-generation console have ATI GPUs?

            No. The RSX chip in the PS3 is an nvidia part.
            • by rtechie (244489)
              Whoops! I stand corrected. Perhaps the partnership with Sony is part of the reason they burned Microsoft?
          • by nuzak (959558)
            > Emulating Intel and Nvidia hardware on a Power4 system with an ATI GPU it even more difficult than it sounds.

            I doubt they needed to do any significant GPU emulation -- that's what DirectX is for. I suspect the games that used nVidia-specific graphics routines are probably the same ones that have graphical artifacting, lowered framerate, or just don't have compatibility. As for the x86, it's a really well-known target, and Microsoft bought the leading PPC->x86 emulator company.

            The BC updates are al
      • by tepples (727027)

        Personally I'm of the opinion that if it uses the Xbox name then it should be compatible with Xbox titles.
        Then why aren't PCs that run Windows Vista compatible with PC disks from the early 1980s? And why can't my Nintendo GameCube run Nintendo cartridges from the late 1980s? And why are replacement parts for Toyota Prius automobiles from older model years not necessarily compatible with newer vehicles?
        • by edwdig (47888)
          Windows Vista will still run Win16 software. Results will certainly vary when that software tries interacting with other software or hardware that wasn't around in its day.

          The Nintendo GameCube is a different brand than the older consoles, so you wouldn't expect it to run the older games. Anything with the GameBoy name in it does run older titles in the same line though. NES / SNES you could have expectations for, and in fact Nintendo did try to make them compatible but didn't succeed.

          The Prius comparison d
          • by lareader (1191563)
            Dude, it's a car analogy on Slashdot - it *can't* make sense, that's against the rules. ;)
          • Windows Vista will still run Win16 software.

            O RLY? From Windows XP Professional x64 Edition on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

            Unlike prior versions of the Windows NT line, 64-bit Windows versions do not include NTVDM so there is no support for the execution of MS-DOS, POSIX, OS/2 1.x and 16-bit Windows applications

            From Features removed from Windows Vista on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

            As with x64 editions of Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003, in x86-64 versions of Windows Vista, NTVDM, the Win16 subsystem for 16-bit applications is no longer present. (This includes all applications for DOS, Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0 and Windows 3.x.)

            Or are you talking about running an older version of Windows inside Virtual PC inside Windows Vista?

            • by edwdig (47888)
              An x86 processor running in 64 bit mode isn't capable of running 16 bit code. Blame AMD & Intel for that, not Microsoft.

              The 32 bit version of Windows is fully capable of running 16 bit Windows code.
              • by tepples (727027)

                An x86 processor running in 64 bit mode isn't capable of running 16 bit code. Blame AMD & Intel for that, not Microsoft.

                Nor is a PowerPC processor capable of running MIPS code, yet the PLAYSTATION 3 can run PlayStation games, and some PLAYSTATION 3 consoles can run some PlayStation 2 games.

                The 32 bit version of Windows is fully capable of running 16 bit Windows code.

                So now you have to buy 2 copies of Windows to run all your Windows apps. That's like buying a PS2 and a PS3.

                • by edwdig (47888)
                  Windows is a software platform. Playstation is a hardware platform. Different beasts.

                  Windows maintains all compatibility it possibly can. The PS3, obviously not.
                  • Windows is a software platform. Playstation is a hardware platform. Different beasts.

                    Is Mac OS X also a hardware platform under your analysis because it's locked to one company's hardware?

                    Windows maintains all compatibility it possibly can.

                    No, it does not. A PowerPC processor cannot run 68K code, so Mac OS 7 through 9 had an emulator to run 68K code on PowerPC. An Intel processor cannot run PowerPC code, so Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 have an emulator to run PowerPC code on x86. So if an x86 processor in 64-bit mode cannot run 16-bit code, then why doesn't Windows include an emulator to run 16-bit code on an x86 processor in 64-bit mode?

    • Re:Surprising (Score:4, Informative)

      by twistedsymphony (956982) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:58PM (#21506297) Homepage
      well, they're rolling down the ability to download Xbox 1 games thought the marketplace soon. Reports indicate that these will be little more than disc rips of the original games running on the BC feature of the console.

      As nice a media piece about them still "caring" about BC on the 360 at this point I have no doubt it's driven by money... the more they support in BC the more they can pad their Xbox 1 download catalog when they roll it out (probably around the same time as the update).
      • ...and the more 120GB drives they can sell (as part of the Elite SKU or separately) when people realise that Xbox 1 games can be fairly big. Or is that just me being far too cynical? 250GB drives within the next 18 months, anyone?
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)
        "As nice a media piece about them still "caring" about BC on the 360 at this point I have no doubt it's driven by money... the more they support in BC the more they can pad their Xbox 1 download catalog when they roll it out (probably around the same time as the update)."

        WHAT? Companies are motivated by money? Whoa!
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Speak for yourself. Demon Stone is a really fun game, and I've actually wanted to play it again for awhile now but I'm far too lazy to bring up my Xbox from the basement, find the VGA adapter for it, plug it all in and play. Dark Alliance too, both of these games are really fun if you have a buddy over to do co-op with. (I can't speak for the other titles in this update, as I haven't played them.)
    • Not for those of us who went from PS2 to XBox 360, which I suspect is a good chunk of folks. I never got to play KOTOR for example (has that made the list yet?), and the fun I'm having with Mass Effect makes me want to go check out earlier Bioware offerings. I also finally got to play Morrowind (after loving Oblivion) thanks to the backward compatibility. Heck, I only just played Halo *1* this year. :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Osty (16825)

        I never got to play KOTOR for example (has that made the list yet?), and the fun I'm having with Mass Effect makes me want to go check out earlier Bioware offerings

        KOTOR 1 and 2 as well as Jade Empire (same engine as KOTOR, more of an active battle system similar to Mass Effect except with martial arts instead of guns) have been supported on BC for quite some time now. If you haven't played them, you really must. Especially if you're enjoying Mass Effect.

        • by Da VinMan (7669)
          Jade Empire was a real surprise for me. If you like martial arts, (light) philosophy, and RPGs; it's a very good game.
      • When even on older computers you can run it at 1600x1200, or up to 1920x1440 if your monitor goes that high, with a mouse, mods, and superior graphics? And it costs $10 [amazon.com]?
    • that they're still adding backwards compatibility 2 years after release. The real need for it diminishes as time passes, I would think.
      The need for back-compat lasts for 95 years after the last work was published exclusively in that format. Otherwise, the work ends up in a dog-in-the-manger situation.
  • After the update, you can frag your friends, their friends, their friends, their friends, ... and their friends It's infinite frag recursion
    • by vonPoonBurGer (680105) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @01:00PM (#21506347)
      I hear if you frag a friend, then a friend of that friend, then a friend of that friend, and so on to a depth of six people, you will eventually frag Kevin Bacon.
      • Ha. Funny.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nick_davison (217681)
        No, that's only on the PC.

        On XBox Live, if you frag a friend, then a friend of that friend, and so on to the depth of six people... Kevin Bacon eventually calls you "teh gey" whilst sounding like a thirteen year old boy with hormonal issues.
      • by ab0mb88 (541388)
        I just received an e-mail that said for every friend that you frag Microsoft will send you a dollar, and for every friend that that friend frags they will send you a quarter. It was something about some new friend tracking system that Microsoft has been working on since the beginning of e-mail.
      • by steveo777 (183629)
        Even better. I'm going to send out a letter saying my friend is a lawyer and that this really works! Have all your friends send you a dollar, then all their friends' friends send you a dollar, to six degrees, you'll be a millionaire!.. or at least that what the letters they keep sending me say.
  • I'm glad to see that Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is on the list. I greatly enjoyed co-op multiplayer action RPGs like that back in the XBox/PS2 days. I think I'll grab a used copy at lunchtime; plenty of entertainment for only $12 and my Wife will enjoy playing through it again. I know Dark Alliance 2 has been on the list forever, but its so rare that it still commands upwards of $30 for a used copy in Gamestop. Besides, Dark Alliance was a much tighter game and had much less 'filler' than its rather lack
  • This is weird... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952)
    especially considering how well Sony offered complete backward compatibility so perfectly on the PS2. Nowadays, it's lost so much relevence that the "feature" is almost non-existent on the PS3 and exists only an incrimental add-on for the most mediocre of titles on the 360. (Legal issues on who owns what on the original Xbox's hardware, not withstanding...)

    The only console to have it right on this generation is the Wii. (Which, strangely enough, may be why it's still doing so well despite the surprising lar
    • by Lulfas (1140109)

      especially considering how well Sony offered complete backward compatibility so perfectly on the PS2. Nowadays, it's lost so much relevence that the "feature" is almost non-existent on the PS3 and exists only an incrimental add-on for the most mediocre of titles on the 360. (Legal issues on who owns what on the original Xbox's hardware, not withstanding...)

      To be fair, complaining about the Playstation backwards compatibility, and comparing it next to the Xbox, isn't a fair fight. The Xbox doesn't even co

      • by vux984 (928602)
        To be fair, complaining about the Playstation backwards compatibility, and comparing it next to the Xbox, isn't a fair fight. The Xbox doesn't even come close, especially if you look at the generation 1 PS3's (60 gig, with hardware based emulation).

        While a new 40GB PS3 has NONE whatsoever.
    • Re:This is weird... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NekoXP (67564) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @02:22PM (#21507515) Homepage

      especially considering how well Sony offered complete backward compatibility so perfectly on the PS2


      It's not. The PS2 ran the same code (common MIPS architecture processor) and had the same IO controller for audio and controller access as the original Playstation. Compatibility was assured through hardware. The graphics controller was also superficially similar - enough at least to let your games run, just faster and with some blending tacked on top.

      Nintendo hit the same concept with the Wii being able to play Gamecube games - it practically *is* a Gamecube, just faster.

      The PS3 also includes some of the original components of the PS2 for compatibility's sake although they are starting to get rid of those right now, and they never worked so well. The Xbox 360 ain't even slightly like the original Xbox. New CPU, new IO, new graphics controller.. the whole thing is software emulation. It should be said that Sony and Microsoft have different compatibility goals - Microsoft want to keep Xbox owners happy by letting them use their old games and back catalogue (Nintendo have the same goal). After all in a world where Halo and Halo 2 (or Metroid Prime and Echoes) did so well, do you really want gamers to start from the third game and lose the ability to play the saga from the start? :)

      Sony have decided nobody wants to buy a $500 console to play 8 year old games so they're ditching the feature. Since they continue selling the PS2 at ridiculously affordable prices, there's no point making the PS3 compatible. It's not like you can still buy a Gamecube or Xbox brand new, though, these days.
      • by Osty (16825)

        Sony have decided nobody wants to buy a $500 console to play 8 year old games so they're ditching the feature. Since they continue selling the PS2 at ridiculously affordable prices, there's no point making the PS3 compatible. It's not like you can still buy a Gamecube or Xbox brand new, though, these days.

        That "ridiculously affordable price" for the PS2 is still $130, which means you have to spend $630 rather than just $500 to get PS2 and PS3 support (assuming you don't already have a PS2, of course). As

        • by G Fab (1142219)
          $630 dollars huh?

          If I get a 400 dollar PS3 and a $99 PS2 (read the news more, that's the coming revision), I pay the same price as the $500 PS3 that runs PS2 games fairly well. It seems like Sony is letting me decide if I want the feature. I can also get a sued PS2... or if I'm like most gamers, use the one I already own.

          And my PS2 controllers seem to work really well on my PS3. Even on PS3 games. Any PS2 to PC usb adaptor works (you can get 'em for $5). I'll write off the comments about power plugs, e
    • The only console to have it right on this generation is the Wii.
      It's right, but still not perfect. The GameCube can play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games through an accessory. No such accessory is made for Wii. Nor can the (admittedly few) GameCube games with online support go online because the Wii's Wi-Fi chip doesn't look like a GameCube LAN adapter.
    • by sxeraverx (962068)
      Sony still does offer complete backward compatibility for PS1 games on all PS3s. One model that's much cheaper than the rest is available for people who don't want or need BC. One other model that's currently in production had software backwards compatibility with almost 1800 titles at release and probably has even more now, as opposed to only 465 XBOX titles available even now, two years later.
    • by ivan256 (17499)

      Nowadays, it's lost so much relevence that the "feature" is almost non-existent on the PS3

      How is this "insightful"?

      If by "almost non-existent" you mean: "supports a much larger percentage of the previous generation's library than the 360, had a larger library to support in the first place, and goes back two generations", then yeah. That's almost non-existent. Oh, unless you buy the one model that doesn't support backwards compatibility in order to be sold at a discount... But even that model supports back

  • We all know all those added titles was just a cloud around the real title, The Guy Game. Some developer wanted his child porn [kotaku.com].
  • My friends' friends, eh? I'm not sure what the setup is, but the punchline is "Kevin Bacon"
    • by justkarl (775856)
      Word on the street is that Julia Roberts is a big Halo 3 fan. I'd love to get to her Gamertag in 6 degrees. Not my favorite actress but I imagine a Halo match with her would be fun.

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