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.