At times, Twitter can be a bad place, amplifying some of the worst opinions and people on the internet. But on some days, the platform can remind us there are still decent humans doing good work to make the world a better, less shitty place.
Long ago, an Xbox user who goes by Noukon on Twitter purchased a Pac-Man ghost avatar for a dollar. Over the years, as the Xbox user interface underwent changes and iterations, Noukon’s avatar got smaller and smaller until it was little more than a tiny blue square lost in the endless gray sea of the Xbox avatar display. Dismayed yet defiant, Noukon shared his problem on Twitter but expressed resolve to keep the cherished avatar.
“I bought this gamerpic for 80 Xbox Points in 2006,” Noukon tweeted. “And I’ll be fucked if it won’t remain the best dollar I’ve ever spent.”
As luck would have it, Eden Marie, an Xbox engineer, saw Noukon’s lament and pledged to help.
“Listen, I can’t promise anything, but I’m going to make it my personal mission to fix this,” Eden responded.
To start, Eden purchased the Pac-Man avatar, now $2.38 instead of a dollar, which, interestingly, is a dollar over the standard inflation rate. (Hey, Xbox gotta get its cut, too, right?) After that, Eden chronicled her process of trying to restore this ancient relic of a gamer avatar from 15 years ago.
Eden first fixed an inconsistency between how an avatar looks when you’re viewing your own profile versus what it looks like viewing someone else’s. On your own profile, Xbox 360 gamerpics look like huge gray circles with the teeny little avatar in the center. On others’ profiles, that same avatar looks much better. It’s still very small, but its background becomes a blown-up version of the small avatar, which creates a cleaner look.
After fixing that problem, Eden’s next task was to figure out how to make the avatar look better on the Xbox profile sign-in screen. Apparently, there are a lot of ways Xbox displays your avatar, making Eden’s project a little cumbersome.
“If I were to ask you how many ways we display gamerpics on the console and your answer wasn’t something like ‘all of them,’ then you’d be off the mark,” she tweeted.
After some trial and error, Eden seemed to hit upon a solution. She took advantage of the Xbox UI’s affinity for transparent images.
“Did you know that if you upload a PNG with transparency as a custom gamerpic, the Dashboard and Guide will respect that transparency in most places?” Eden wrote. “Some of the built in gamerpics have transparency built in. Maybe we can take advantage of that here.”
To get around Xbox cutting off the edges of a square gamerpic, Eden decided to place the square pic inside of a circle and make the circle transparent. It worked, and it looks great now.
It’s a lot of fun, and sometimes, you even learn something new, like… apparently 360 gamerpics supported transparency all along?
— Eden Marie (@neonepiphany) August 27, 2021
Eden credited her ability to update Noukon’s avatar to Xbox’s policy of allowing its engineers free time to tinker with whatever they like within the platform.
“I love that we do it, and this week I absolutely chose to use it to rescue ghosts,” she said.
A noble cause indeed.