Thursday, November 20, 2008

New XBox Experience

The new XBox 360 dashboard is here, for those who connect their consoles to the intertubes, and it's mostly an improvement. I guess.

The marketplace is much easier to navigate, which was the main focus of the upgrade, and it sure is nice to see the cover images for games float past as you browse them. It's also great that you can go from the data of a game you've played directly to the DLC for it.

On the other hand, Avatars are pretty underwhelming as there's not really anything you can do with them and everyone's tends to look pretty much the same. Plus at this stage the whole update is buggy as hell, reporting non-existent connection problems when browsing online content and suffering massive black-screen delays when exiting from some game titles back to the dash. The change-your-avatar system is poorly integrated, requiring the system to apparently load a dedicated application, and the dashboard automatically opens to the "Spotlight" channel instead of the "My XBox" channel which for some reason irritates me.

In game the changes are a mixed bag. The XBox Guide now opens in the middle of the screen instead of along the side, which is just stupid, especially if you're watching video. To make up for that, its functionality is vastly expanded and pretty much contains the entire old-style blade menu, which means you can view achievements for other games and browse DLC without exiting what you're currently playing.

There's the much-vaunted party system, too, which lets you keep up to eight players linked together across multiple games. I don't play a lot of Halo or Gears so I don't really have much occasion for eight-player gaming. Originally you were going to be able to watch NetFlix video as a party, but Australia didn't get NetFlix and the sharing functionality was ripped out anyway, which is a shame because as far as I was concerned that was going to be a killer app.

All in all it's much of a muchness really. In its current state it's pretty unexciting; it'll depend on where Microsoft takes it from here whether all the effort was really worth it.


Anonymous said...

The Netflix streaming alone is worth it, in my opinion. The service issues are mostly due to the insanely high volume of traffic dogging the servers while everyone upgrades, edits their avatars, downloads new community demos, etc. I'm impressed that I continued to have service throughout the day, actually.

I also find myself wishing I would remove the Spotlight channel, or at least reorder the channels so MyXBOX loaded first.

I do like the avatars and clearly mine does not look like all the others. I wonder if the homogeneous nature of the community is responsible for the "we all look the same" issue you mention. But,while the avatars aren't as extensible as Miis, I enjoy having an avatar that is more representative of me.

Greg Tannahill said...

Once again, no Netflix in Australia.

Your avatar is definitely awesome. As soon as I saw it on my XBox, I could say, "Man, that is definitely Corvus". Not all of us can possess iconic twirly moustaches, though.

The homogeneity largely comes, I think, from everyone having the same rough body shape and the same art style.

Anonymous said...

Ah. I must have sped past that paragraph, as I read it as the party while watching a video function was stripped in Australia. That's what I get for commenting before I've finished my 1st mug of coffee!