Microsoft's Xbox Live Community Games initiative enjoys a low profile buried within the Xbox 360's online dashboard, but the publisher made a bold move earlier this month to change that fact. In a bid to "increase understanding and discoverability" of user-created games, Microsoft banished the stifling--dare it be called corporate--moniker of Community Games, saying it would be rebranding the service with the more-inclusive Indie Games title.
The name change came as part of the new 3.1 revision to the XNA Game Studio tools, which are used to create
Community Indie Games. As an undeniably positive change, the update also ushered in the ability to integrate the new Xbox Live Avatar system into user-created games. However, as anyone who has spent any time interacting with the Xbox Live community knows, there exist unsavory individuals who would undoubtedly use this new functionality for evil.
As such, the publisher has announced a number of strict rules for independent titles which feature Avatars in their in-game action. That action will likely be decidedly mild, as "acts of an aggressive or threatening manner" are verboten. "Cartoon violence" is permitted, as long as it is not of the Itchy and Scratchy variety: Dismemberment is out, as is decapitation, maiming, and/or mutilation.
Players looking to artificially enhance their Avatars', erm, proportions will find themselves short on options. Those who were hoping that the in-game personas could "excrete obscene bodily fluids or substances," too, are in for some measure of disappointment.
The rules will also create some existential conundrums: Avatars are able to "die," though death cannot be permanent. Continuing the dehumanization theme, Avatars can not be made to have "an autonomous personality or instinct." Speech is forbidden, though Avatars are allowed to laugh and cry.
Sexual, profane, and vulgar acts are not allowed, nor is "glorified criminality." Finally, to the disappointment of many on Xbox Live, their Avatar counterparts will not be able to "hold, be seen around or partake in any controlled substances or paraphernalia, including, but not limited to, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs."
An Indie Game containing Avatars must first pass muster via peer review before being added to the Xbox Live channel. A full list of prohibited activity is available on Microsoft's official XNA Creator's Club Web site. For a look at some fully sanctioned Avatar-game action, check out the below demonstration of A Kingdom for Keflings from On the Spot.