The End of ALT+TAB

It’s as if it weren’t bad enough being abandoned in World of Warcraft by a guild member tending to pedestrian concerns like using the bathroom or a baby. Now, thanks to a new game overlay called PlayXpert, you’ll be competing for attention with Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger, iTunes, and potentially any other PC application, all accessible without ever leaving the game.

But it doesn’t stop with World of Warcraft. PXP’s overlay works at the kernel level, meaning that it can appear in practically any game, allowing users access to nearly any program they might want or need without exiting the game or setting off any hack detections.

A variety of widgets have already been created for the program (set to release over the summer), including a chat client that can interface with MSN, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo and Xfire (among others); a music widget that gives access to iTunes and Winamp; and a web browsing widget. But PXP will also allow user-made widgets, bringing your dream of simultaneously playing Portal and balancing your checkbook (or writing Weighted Companion Cube fan fiction) tantalizingly within reach.

The idea, according to PlayXpert CEO Charles Manning, originated in 2006 with in-game community service Xfire.

“We were all Xfire users, but we found that the chat had a lot of opportunities for improvement, because we really wanted to be able to chat with our other communities, people who used AIM or Yahoo who weren’t necessarily gamers,” Manning said.

Unwilling to toil under the tyrannical reign of “Alt + Tab” one day longer, work began on a solution.

From that small nugget of chat functionality, the program has continued to grow. For example, in addition to the above features, PXP now features a task manager out of the box, allowing you to kill memory-hogging processes while you’re killing gnolls. Thank you, modern era.

Pure Imagination
So who’ll be coming up with the widgets in PlayXpert? Though corporations will be able to make their own (more on that later), Manning hopes that the bulk will come from clans and other online communities making tools for their users, meaning plenty of variety.

PXP is doing its best to encourage independent development by offering its widget creation tools for free, as long as you aren’t in it for profit.

“The target is gamers, players who are in a clan and want to do something for the gaming community, and really the limitations to what can be done with the widgets are [within] their own imagination,” Manning said. “There could be web-based widgets, health monitor widgets, anything.” There’s even been some testing with rendering 3D graphics in-game, so gaming within games could become the next emblem of the insanely hardcore PC gamer.

There’s no danger of your clan-made WoW widgets cluttering your overlay when you switch to other games, either, as you’ll be able to designate packs of widgets that only load when you’re playing specific titles.


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