Manipulating Gamerscores

Recently, Microsoft has just finished another massive cleanse of offending Xbox Live accounts. I think Microsoft has adopted one of the best policies to deal with users that artificial inflate their gamer score. The user’s gamerscore is wiped clean and their Xbox Live account is branded with the mark of a cheater. The account can still be used for online gaming and purchases though, so the money that went into the account is not wasted. Continue reading

Shiny New Xbox Dashboard

Behold and be amazed, the new Xbox 360 dashboard has been released for all to enjoy. Sufficient to say, it is a massive improvement from original dashboard. There are a few kinks to work out, but it is an overall sleek and appealing design.

The new tab design will take a bit of getting used to, but the categories are easy to navigate. The customization is not exactly advanced, but it looks very impressive. It is a beautifully crafted user interface and I applaud Microsoft for the update.

There was a lot of talk before the update of how Microsoft was just copying Nintendo’s idea of the Miis, but even with that being where the idea for the Xbox 360 avatars came from, Microsoft did a better job with the avatars. I have always felt that the Miis where lacking in individuality and pizazz. I am actually proud of my Xbox 360 avatar and feel it represents me. The clothing options are limited at the moment, but will eventually include an array of commercial outfits.

The highly anticipated Netflix functionality got off to a very shaky start. Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony, has pulled all of their movies from the Xbox Live version of Netflix for licensing reasons.

Sony puts cork on streaming Netflix movies to Xbox

Microsoft gets a lot of flak for being a globe-spanning empire that uses its hegemony to crush its competition, but not to be outdone, Sony has stepped up to the plate. Movies owned by the company and its subsidiaries have been pulled from the new Xbox streaming movie service.

If you were someone prone to baseless supposition, you might assume Sony said to themselves, “Hey Microsoft is going to make a lot of money streaming Netflix movies through the Xbox 360, the competitor to our PlayStation 3. We own a lot of those movies! Why don’t we throw a wrench in the works?”

Sony disputes that take, of course.

Sony issued the following statement:

This issue is not specific to Xbox or any other individual platform. Sony Pictures is currently in discussions with the relevant parties to resolve certain licensing matters related to the distribution of its motion pictures. Given the ongoing nature of these discussions, we don’t think it is appropriate to comment further at this time.

However, as the L.A. Times notes…

Netflix subscribers who can’t wait to stream “Superbad,” “Drunken Master,” “Bad Boys” or “Karate Kid” can still watch them on the Roku Netflix Player…

So, you can stream Sony movies through this box, but not the Microsoft one. Totally a coincidence that that happened on launch day. Honestly.

New Xbox Experience is live, unnecessary

People who design computer interfaces often lament that their work is only successful if nobody notices it.

The new Xbox 360 interface, pushed out to consoles today under the name “The New Xbox Experience,” is designed to be noticed. That should tell you all you need to know.

The whole thing has been Vista-fied with scrolling panes instead of menus. I haven’t been able to find any instances where this works better than the old blade system. In some cases you actually lose functionality, such as the reduced number of options you’re able to view on the screen at once as you scroll.

Overall, it’s not violating any of the tenents of interface design, but it doesn’t improve much on the clumsy, cluttered layout of the blades either. In fact, check out some of this new clutter they’ve introduced.

There’s a whole top-level tab devoted to “Events,” and I’m hard-pressed to understand why I’d care. “Thursday Nov 20: Play Quantum of Solace with Kerti.” Who’s Kerti? She’s listed under “Game with Fame,” so apparently I should be excited about entering a sweepstakes to be gaming with her.

“GamerchiX Ladies Night, Monday Nov 24: The GamerchiX are Left 4 Dead.” I would think that girls who have already paid $50 for a copy of Left 4 Dead are probably not going to be waiting for a special ladies night to play it, no matter how many miscapitalized consonants the event uses to refer to them.

A good events calandar would let players schedule events themselves, sending out invites that say “Hey guys, we’re playing Gears of Wars 2 on Thursday” with an RSVP option. I don’t need valuable screen real estate taken up by Microsoft trying to convince me that it’s one of the hip kids. I’m not one of the hip kids. If I was, I probably wouldn’t be playing video games.

The other categories are buried in invitations to buy ringtone-style DLC. Pass.

The new avatars are all right, but oddly crippled in customization options. You can’t change the colors of the clothing, so if you want to be in a tie that’s anything but pink and blue striped, you’re out of luck. (The default top my character started with had a gold chain and a giant dollar sign medallion. Yeesh.)

A Netflix app for streaming movies comes with with the new interface, which is a great idea. Unfortunately, you need a Gold Xbox Live membership before you can connect it to your Netflix membership, which is an absurd stacking of memberships.

As if to say “Yeah, we know this is kind of useless, sorry,” Microsoft has included a stripped-down version of the old blades interface that pops up with the press of the Xbox button on the controller. It lets you instantly jump to all the parts of the system that aren’t marketing fluff. It’s the interface without the ill-concieved “new experience,” and it’s probably how I’ll be spending most of my time when working with the system.


Mirror’s Edge Demo

A demo for a new and very unique game has recently hit the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Mirror’s Edge can only be described as a first-person platformer. The game takes the free running, parkour, and adds it into a game environment. The player gets the viewpoint of the character doing free running stunts.

While the player can climb just about anything the way forward is highlighted in red. The highlight system is not as jarring as one might think with the art style of the game. Everything in the game is very bright and clean. The game takes place in a conformist world where the only form of communication not able to be regulated are message runners, such as the main character.

The controls for the game are very simplified as most of the actions in the game are activated by the triggers and bumpers. There is no UI on the screen to distract the player from the gameplay. Once you get used to the controls, the only thing you need to think about is the player’s next destination.

I recommend downloading the demo this week and checking the game out. It’s a one of a kind game that is sure to amaze.