According to the XNA programmer: "Provided with avatars will be two ways to actually use them. First of all is a supplied renderer and animation system. Secondly, you can get the assets and render them inside your technology as you choose."
The technology should allow game creators, using metadata, to use random avatars in games, and create specific avatars to be used in the same way every time in your game, "like a game show host".
Egbert continued: "Animation in avatars is done through two methods -- the first is skeletal animation, which takes care of all of the body animation. It uses the same skeleton through both male and female avatars. Body weight is also controlled through the skeleton system... it can vary by about 7%."
The second type is facial animation, which is "all done through textures", and looks very Mii-like, with different eye and mouth textures to be switched out.
How about integration with Xbox Live? According to Egbert: "Avatars follow your profile across live - so if you load up your profile on one box, it'll look the same on another box. All changes are propagated to Xbox.com", and "...the user has an option to use a 2D headshot of his avatar as his GamerPic."
Questions And Answers
Finally, Egbert and colleague Kroymann took questions from the audience, with Egbert answering a query about whether there would be branded clothes or hats in the game with: "That's not anything that's being handled in the first iteration."
He did indicate that there may later be achievements to unlock avatar-related items, and Microsoft may later add branded items for avatars into the Xbox Live Marketplace.
How about avatars rolling out across Games For Windows or MSN? Egbert said there's "...nothing to announce right now - this is the first stage, doing it on Xbox".
When's the rollout and SDK for avatars for Xbox 360? Egbert indicated rollout will be in "fall, no hard date" and the SDK will be available at the same time.
Can you use avatars in Xbox Live Community-developed games? Dan Kroymann noted: "not yet", but that the Community Team had been talking to them.
Finally, how many avatars can be seen on screen at once if you push things? Kroymann's opinion: "If you're rendering the full avatar maybe 100 would be a rule of thumb, for most games."