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Game

Microsoft made a translucent controller for the Xbox’s 20th birthday

On November 15th, 2001, Microsoft released the original Xbox, in the process, it changed the console landscape forever. Twenty years later, the company plans to celebrate the birthday of its first-ever home system by putting out a handful of translucent accessories, including the Xbox Series X/S controller you see above.

According to Microsoft, the translucent design is a reference to the see-through controllers it shipped with the original Xbox debug kit — though I imagine for most people it’s more likely to remind them of the N64’s iconic Atomic Purple controller, and that’s a good thing. A nifty touch here is that Microsoft made the internal components silver to make them easier to see. The brand’s signature green color is used for accent details, including the rear grips. Outside of those visual flourishes, it’s functionally the same as any other Xbox Wireless controller you can buy from Microsoft. Expect Bluetooth for PC and mobile pairing, support for button mapping and a better d-pad than found on controllers from past Xbox generations. 

Xbox Stereo headset

Microsoft

You can pre-order the 20th Anniversary Special Edition controller for $69.99 starting today through the Microsoft Store. Come November 15th, it will also be available through various retailers. If you can’t justify adding another controller to your collection, Microsoft also plans to release a 20th Anniversary Special Edition Stereo Headset that will retail for $69.99. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lean into the translucent aesthetic quite as much as its counterpart but still looks like it would be a decent showpiece.

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Computing

Windows 10 Is Getting One of Xbox’s Biggest Gaming Features

When Microsoft announced several Xbox features coming to Windows 11, it said that DirectStorage would only be available on the upcoming operating system. A recent DirectX developer blog post says otherwise. Some developers already have access to DirectStorage on Windows 11, which will also work on Windows 10 machines.

The blog post details that Windows 10 machines running version 1909 or newer will be able to use the DirectStorage feature. This is an application programming interface (API) that Microsoft debuted with the Xbox Series X and Series S. Essentially, it bypasses the processor to quickly load data into the graphics card, which can decrease load times and allow developers to push more impressive visuals.

As Hassan Uraizee, DirectX program manager, points out, there are three main benefits to DirectStorage. The first is batch input and output requests. Instead of applications dealing with requests for various game assets, DirectStorage can lump them together to make getting through the thousands of requests faster.

In addition, DirectStorage provides GPU decompression. Developers compress assets like textures, models, and music to decrease the install size and improve performance on some machines. The CPU usually handles decompression, but with DirectStorage, the GPU can handle it. That decreases load times as the assets are decompressed and offers options for streaming assets into the game in real time.

Finally, DirectStorage can take advantage of the storage software stack inside Windows 11, which should further improve performance. Uraizee writes that Windows 10 will also benefit from the system with its older storage stack.

“This means that any game built on DirectStorage will benefit from the new programming model and GPU decompression technology on Windows 10, version 1909 and up,” Uraizee writes.

Developers working with DirectStorage only need to implement the feature once, and it will work across Windows 10 and Windows 11. Uraizee says that Windows 11 will see a larger benefit because it was designed with DirectStorage in mind, but gamers sticking with Windows 10 will see the benefits of DirectStorage, too.

A big part of DirectStorage is a solid-state drive, which enables assets to be quickly streamed from storage into the graphics card’s memory. As high-capacity, high-speed SSDs become more commonplace, it’s an essential feature to make games load faster and run with larger assets. That said, users still running games off of spinning hard drives will be able to play games with DirectStorage.

“Compatibility extends to a variety of different hardware configurations as well. DirectStorage enabled games will still run as well as they always have even on PCs that have older storage hardware (e.g. HDDs),” Uraizee writes.

DirectStorage requires a PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive or PCIe 4.0 SSD. Although games using the feature will still run off of a spinning hard drive, they won’t see any performance benefit.

Someone mounting an SSD inside a PC.

Although DirectStorage isn’t as exciting as Auto HDR and the redesigned Xbox app in Windows 11, it’s a bit of a secret sauce that will make PC gaming feel better. The benefits are already clear on the Xbox Series X, which can load games in a matter of seconds and seamlessly switch between multiple games at once.

It’s clear Microsoft has been focused on overhauling the gaming experience on Windows 11. Today’s news shows that at least some of those features will trickle down to Windows 10, too.

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Categories
Game

Xbox’s June update adds speech-to-text chat feature

Xbox’s June update is here, and Microsoft has detailed the latest software tweaks Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S users can look forward to trying out on their consoles. To start, the company has officially implemented the speech transcription and text-to-speech synthesis tools it started testing with Xbox Insiders back in May. Now that they’re part of the Xbox operating system, you can find both features in the “ease of access” setting tab under the “game and chat transcription.” With speech-to-text transcription, your Xbox will transcribe and display what your party says on an adjustable overlay. With text-to-speech, meanwhile, a synthetic voice will read anything you type into party chat.

“At Team Xbox, we believe gaming should be inclusive, approachable, and accessible to everyone,” the company said. “That includes making it easy for gamers to play and communicate together.”

Xbox mobile app

Microsoft

Parents, meanwhile, will find that they have more control over who their kids can play with online. If your little one has an Xbox child account, they’ll have the option to ask you for your permission to play cross-platform games like Minecraft with people who play it on other online gaming services. You can approve or decline these requests either through the Xbox Family Settings app or the console itself. Microsoft has also tweaked the Xbox’s Groups feature, which allows you to create lists of your favorite games and apps. You can now reorder your groups as you see fit.

Outside of those tweaks, Microsoft has updated the Xbox app on Android and iOS to add a Stories-like feature. Over the next month, you’ll start to see official posts from your favorite games. As with Instagram, you can like, share and comment on them.

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