5 Things That the Xbox One Can Improve On from the Xbox 360
As an Xbox 360 owner, I’ve always looked forward to system updates. Not because it meant I had the chance to waste ten minutes of my time waiting for my Xbox to download something, but because I knew that Microsoft would be bringing some change to the system in some way- the Xbox 360 improved as a system over the years. Besides gaining functionality, the user interface improved, and things changed. It’s a system that grew in usefulness as the years went on- a first in the industry.
While I haven’t quite decided on which next-gen console I should give first-priority towards purchasing, I have noticed several things that I think could’ve been improved while using my Xbox 360 that I’m hoping to see Microsoft improve upon with their next console. Most of them aren’t major, particularly noticeable things, but they’re things that I think would improve the overall experience on the Xbox One. Thus, the list begins.
1. Improved Visibility for Everything – Especially Indies
While the XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Games) service had numerous issues before Microsoft let it rot away, the biggest issue for indie games on the Xbox 360 was visibility. Flipping on my Xbox today brings me a dashboard full of fancy thumbnails for a bunch of games- some AAA titles and a few smaller games, along with ads for TV shows, movies, and miscellaneous products, but there’s never anything for games produced on the XBLIG. Admittedly, there have been a couple of promotions for the XBLIG, but they’ve been pretty minor Since Microsoft has made the announcement that every Xbox One can be used as a dev unit, it’ll be interesting to see how they treat independently created games.
They can improve their indie game service by making the games a lot more visible- why not have an internal team of reviewers that picks out the best of the games and features them? There could even be room for community involvement here- players could vote on which games get featured on the front “page” or “tile” or whatever interface they feature on the Xbox One.
Another issue with visibility I ran into on the 360 is (was) for some of the shows produced by Microsoft exclusively for the 360 that ran regularly. There were awesome showcases of gaming technology on the tragically short lived Tech with Tina- in the show’s final months, I found it necessary to go digging around for it. Eventually, Microsoft killed it and a few other things off. This was a tremendous disappointment to me- it was nice to curl up on the couch and watch previews and such for games. I’m not sure why the shows were eliminated- not enough viewers? That could’ve been remedied with improved visibility.
Perhaps I’m going about this wrong- perhaps there should be almost nothing on the dashboard of the Xbox One- maybe there should be simple tabs that say “Games” and “Videos” and such, and within those are the tiles to navigate around and browse featured and new releases, by genre, show, etc. Perhaps the solution to the visibility issue is by creating an interface that emphasizes discovery. All I can say that right now, the interface tends to lead into dead ends- this needs to be changed.
2. Better Organization
As a reviewer, I’ve downloaded a lot of games to my Xbox 360- the one thing that disappoints me is that there’s no easy way to organize my games in a way that pleases me- I mean sure, I can visit the “Games” tab and have my downloads sorted by full games, indie games, or… A couple of things. It’s a nice feature, but it could go further. Why not make it possible to sort by genre or playtime? If you need to get into something quickly, a “Sort by Completion” or “Sort by Missing Achievements” option couldn’t hurt at all.
I’d love to be able to sort games by myself, putting games on a playlist of sorts- did I just play Orcs Must Die 3? Nice, next on my list is Transistor- that could be possible with a playlist function.
3. Improved Offline Functionality
Admittedly, the Xbox 360 pretty much works while it’s offline- I can watch downloaded videos, play most games (not indie games, though), and generally use my Xbox 360 as an entertainment center. That being said, there is some room for improvement with the Xbox One. For example, in my game library, downloaded games have a tiny thumbnail image when the Xbox is offline- apparently, the properly sized image is downloaded anew whenever the 360 is online.
Frankly, each game should come with it’s own internal metadata that includes some information about the game, a screenshot or two, and properly sized images. It’s not a gamebreaker, but it’s a little touch that makes the console as a whole more aesthetically powerful.
That aside, I can’t think of any issues that I’ve had with my Xbox 360 when it’s offline. Besides, of course, the XBLIG issue- I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft abandoned the platform entirely after the launch of the Xbox One.
4. Expanded Kinect Functionality
I’ve never understood the complaints over Kinect- besides the worries of spying (understandable in today’s world), I don’t see a good reason not to include a shiny new Kinect with the Xbox One. I use mine quite frequently- besides it’s role in (a few) games, it comes in handy for quickly and conveniently navigating the Xbox 360′s interface. Why not put it to work? It might seem like a minor thing, but I sometimes plug my camera into my Xbox to show off pictures to my guests. Making it possible to navigate pictures via Kinect would be really cool in a Minority Report kind of way.
I’d also like to see Kinect expanded into more games- not cheaply and gimmickily (I hereby declare it a word), but properly. Why not more hybrid Kinect/controller games? Kinect is a great piece of hardware, and I feel that it has a lot potential, but much of it isn’t taken advantage of. Hopefully, the fancy new Kinect on the Xbox One will be better integrated into the user interface and improve the overall experience.
5. Quiet Achievements and Other Notifications
I’m something of a hog for achievements- I suppose that they’re a neat way of giving players a goal to aim for. Microsoft has announced that there will be some changes to the achievement system on the Xbox One, and while these sound interesting, I really think that the Xbox One can be improved with subtler achievements. How so? Well, if you own an Xbox 360, you probably know that whenever you unlock an achievement, a little gray box pops up around the bottom of the screen and a noise plays. This seems to make the achievement a goal in itself- not necessarily a bad thing, but the way it pops up is obtrusive, and it runs contrary to the design philosophies of most most games.
Also, the whole playing just for achievements thing seems uncomfortably familiar. I think that if the unlocking of achievements was a lot quieter in game (and perhaps presented in a larger way after a session of play), the Xbox One would be aesthetically stronger than it’s predecessor. Maybe achievements could be transparent and silent? If you’re just playing to experience a game, you might notice an achievement, but the game need not take your attention to point out that you have a shiny new achievement. I mean really, what if you’re playing something like Dear Esther and an achievement intrudes upon your session? I’ll admit, the Dear Esther is more like a piece of interactive poetry than a game, but the point is that it’s supposed to be an immersive experience- it’s something that shouldn’t be broken by the noise of an achievement.
That being said, if you are chasing achievements, you should be able to notice them clearly. The solution, in my opinion? Developers could be given the option of have their achievements presented in a custom manner. If you’re developing an ultra-competitive multiplayer pet-grooming strategy game, louder, more obvious achievements might be appropriate. On the other hand, a game seeking to tell a serious story should be more reserved in the presentation of achievements. If you’re playing an adventure game about traversing and old person’s memories and you discover a secret spot, it would be fitting to have an achievement that’s quiet. Celebratory, yes, but subtle- maybe even built into the game’s dialogue.
For what it’s worth, I think that the Xbox One is going to be a pretty good machine- while Microsoft had messed up pretty badly with it’s initial unveiling of the Xbox One and now wants to reintroduce the machine to the world, frankly, I’m sure that it’ll be a good piece of hardware. Hopefully, the aesthetic changes that will be made to the Xbox One will make improve the overall experience of everybody who uses it. I’m also hoping that the door is left open for customization for both developers and consumers. What do you think? Sound off below.