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Jeff Minter on Xbox 360

Light synth fanatic talks next-gen.

Following earlier reports that Jeff Minter's new 'light synth' software will be built into all Xbox 360s, the loveable old hippy has revealed more of his thoughts on Microsoft's next-gen console.

"I really like the hardware," he told the Guardian website. "Typically in the kind of work I'll be doing, you want a lot of computational power available for generating effects and meshes procedurally in real-time, and the X360 delivers a lot of grunt in that area."

And things can only get better, according to Minter: "We were working with the alpha hardware and still managed to achieve staggering performance with just that, and the alpha kits probably operate at only about 30 per cent of the capacity of the final hardware.

"I'm really looking forward to doing more on final hardware and really pushing the thing as hard as we can."

So just what can we expect from Minter's 360 light synth, otherwise known as Neon? Well, he's confirmed that you'll be able to control the images generated by the software with up to four controllers at once, adding: "Each user controls certain aspects of each effect using the analog sticks and the D-pad and buttons. Any layers not controlled by users are controlled by an audio-driven "autopilot" system."

When asked if you'll be able to hook up an iPod to the machine, Minter replied: "The 360 will be able to use a variety of different audio sources, and any of those sources can be used to drive Neon."

Minter said he's confident we'll all be doing far more than "just running games" with the Xbox 360. "I know that as soon as I get mine it'll be hooked up to my music server and my plasma telly and I'll never again listen to music at home without a light synth accompaniment," he said.

"I am sure that many more non-game applications will emerge as game consoles transition into media hubs."

But that doesn't mean Minter won't ever use his 360 to play games, of course. "Games always interest me. I like things that attempt to create different styles more than those that simply attempt to generate ever greater amounts of realism.

"Things like Rez with its distinctive Tron stylings and linking of in-game events, Katamari Damacy which is simply one of the finest games of recent years and pure joy to play, and work like Toshio Iwai's Elektroplankton on the Nintendo DS.

"I'd love to collaborate with Iwai some day," he added.

Minter first came up with the light synth concept back in 1984, when he wrote a piece of software titled Psychedelia for the Commodore 64.

Reviews were mixed, ranging from "mere words are too cumbersome to describe its brilliance" to "pointless hippy nonsense." Sadly, as much as we liked the idea, we never bought a copy ourselves. We're sure it was trippy.

But Minter never gave up the dream and now, more than twenty years on, his vision will finally reach an audience of millions. So what took him so long - why didn't we see Neon on Microsoft's first console, for example?

"Curiously enough I heard that J Allard had actually been interested in my doing some work for the original Xbox, and the only reason I didn't hear about that was an email gone astray," Minter said.

"Oh well, better late than never."

You can read the full interview here. Neon screenshots and trailers can be found on the Llamasoft website.

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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