19 November 2008

The New Xbox Experience

Okay, so the full rollout for the New Xbox Experience (NXE) dashboard for the Xbox 360 is finally here. After spending about 5 minutes waiting for the new stuff to download, I was up and running in no time. So, after playing around with it for a few minutes (I've got a term project to work on unfortunately), I've come to a few conclusions:
  • Its a bit faster than the original dashboard, although the "stacked tiles" a la iTunes is quite annoying even though novice users may find it quite useful. As for experienced users, we'd probably want quicker access to what we want. Maybe there's a setting to turn that into a standard vertical list but with the pictures too?
  • THE AVATAR CREATION PROCESS NEEDS WORK! Okay, yes, its pretty cool that you can create a small little virtual representation of your alter ego, but when you tout high customizability, you'd better deliver BIG TIME.
    Firstly, seleciton of starting avatars. I understand that they are probably generated randomly, but its kind of a disappointment when you say "more" to get a helping of other randomly generated avatars and can never go back to the ones you've seen. Maybe I don't like the ones that were generated? Maybe I change my mind? Maybe I accidentally slipped and pressed the "more" and I lost the one that I really liked? I don't think it would be too hard to ask to keep a history of the previously shown avatars until you've finished creating your avatar.
    Secondly, placement. Unless there is some hidden button combination, you can reposition much on your avatar like you could on the Wii.
    Thirdly, clothing selection. Why in the hell would you only have 2 suits, one white and the other tan? What happened to the black suit? I was hoping to look like James Bond, but nooo, we don't have a black suit here folks. Fooey! You should be able to select a clothing article and change its color.
    Lastly, controls. Did you know that the left and right trigger can make your avatar spin? What about the right stick in positioning the head? Left and right buttons to change facial expressions? I didn't know them until I stumbled on them by randomly pressing buttons trying desperately to spin my avatar around to see the hair styles from behind. Unlike the A, B, and X buttons on the bottom of the screen telling you what you can do, nothing else is easily visible. Come on Microsoft - you wanted to make it easy, then give novice users to the NXE a legend to quickly glance at to see what they can do! I'm too impatient to go through a stupid tutorial, I just want to "jump in"! (By the way, wasn't that your slogan way back when?)
  • Netflix. I don't have it, but seeing it there makes me think that I just might!
  • The Blades are really nice now. No more huge bar on the side of the screen. Quick and clean, that's what I like.
There are a lot of things that I haven't yet played with - heck I only messed around with it for 15 minutes - but I'm glad to see that moving around is a lot easier and less intrusive. Some minor tweaks here and there, and I think they've got it (until Sony or Nintendo looks at it and says "We can do better"). Oh, and one more side note - why isn't there a single avatar service that all other sites connect to so you only have to define 1 avatar and use it multiple places, kind of like an OpenID but for avatars?

Update 11/21/2008: Wow, looks like the Penny Arcade guys are just as annoyed with the same things that I mentioned! Check out their podcast to hear their more elaborate opinion.

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