Xbox 360 Annoyances: Xbox Dashboard

The Xbox 360's Operating System, otherwise known as the Xbox Dashboard, is a vast improvement over what the original Xbox had. The four "Blades" are organized pretty well. There are, however, a few things that should be improved. I don't see why they cannot upgrade Xbox Dashboard like they upgraded the original Xbox. There have already been small updates to the Xbox Dashboard since Nov. 22, 2005 - but I am proposing some major overhauls in terms of usability.

Auto loading Games
I have a lot of games for my 360. I also have bought a number of Xbox Live Arcade games. I play the Arcade titles just about as much as the ones that cost me $60. After two months of playing the 360, I never turn it on and want to jump into Call of Duty 2 right away. I check who is online, see if I have any messages, or play an Arcade title first.

It cannot be that difficult to put a radio button for auto loading of games in the System Blade under Console Settings. This would give users the choice.

To turn on my 360 now I push the eject button now. When I am ready to play the game I push the "Close Tray" button. But this could be hours after I turn the 360 on. Or I might turn it off after only playing Arcade games - imagine that.

This is a serious usability oversight. It was not a problem on the original Xbox because that console did not have an operating system that let you do so much. Auto loading of games was expected then. Now you have Xbox Live Arcade, Xbox Live Marketplace - not to mention the music/vidoes/photos in the Media Blade - all before you pop in Call of Duty 2.

A simple preference would solve this.

Downloading From Xbox Live Marketplace
Microsoft has improved Xbox Live in so many ways over and above what was available on the original Xbox. Is it worth $50 a year? That depends on how much you use those features. I think it is worth it, even more so then on the original Xbox.

One of those great new features is downloading movie trailers, music videos, game demos, Arcade games, etc. Having to wait while you are downloading a 483 MB demo of Fight Night Round 3 is not very next-gen. This is a computer with three processors, and it can obviously multitask. Forcing the user to stare at the download screen is ridiculous.

Allow users to add items to a download queue. Or allow background downloads while giving the user something to do - like play an Xbox Live Arcade game for example. Anything is better then staring at that progress bar for a half hour.

No Video For You!
The Media Blade might as well only have two items in it: Music and Photos. That is unless of course you own a Windows Media Center PC. Unless you are lucky enough to own one of those snazzy computers, you cannot use the Video portion of the Media Blade.

It sure was nice of Microsoft to pre-load the hard drive with those videos. It showed us all what we will not be able to use. Question: What percentages of homes have a Windows Media Center PC? How about a Windows XP based computer? The fact that I can stream music and photos from my Windows XP computer, but cannot stream video, is a joke.

Great feature. Thanks.

Must Have Profile For Multiplayer
Most every game on the 360 has multiplayer capabilities (sans Xbox Live). Most of these games require that players two, three, and four sign into your Xbox with there own Xbox Profile. You cannot have two profiles connected to Xbox Live at once, but you are required to to use another profile to play multiplayer games.

I have found two exceptions: Dead or Alive 4 and Smash TV. In DOA4 when you start a Versus match you are asked if you want to use an Xbox Profile. If DOA4 can do this, then all the games could give that option. Smash TV doesn't seem to care. You just push Start on the second controller and you have a two player game going.

This is not only confusing in games like Perfect Dark Zero or Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but it seems out of place in games like Quake 2 and Mutant Storm Reloaded.

It also puts a buzz kill on the flow of gaming. It makes it rather difficult to jump into a two-player game with your buddy.

Every game should have the option like DOA4 has. This should also be a feature of the Xbox Dashboard, and not something that developers have to program into their games.

Xbox Live Marketplace
I have very little to complain about with the Marketplace. My concern hinges on organization. It has been two months and things are already getting pretty hard to find. Even from the beginning items such as the AAC (iTunes) support file was hard to find.

Organization of Marketplace is in order - and fast. What will it look like six months from now if nothing is done? The alphabetical list of games is a start, but other than that, you have to scroll through pages of listings to find what you want.

Even the Download History page is getting pretty long. Why not break that up by month. That makes sense to me.

Movie trailers and game demos also need to be separated out. As of right now all the movie trailers are listed with the games. The only portion that seems to have gotten any organization at all is the Xbox Live Arcade listings.

Organize the Xbox Live Marketplace or no one will want to use it a few months down the road.

Navigating Xbox Dashboard
All in all there are no complaints with getting around the Xbox 360. My only issue is when you are drilled down three, four, or more levels deep into settings, Arcade, or Marketplace. There needs to be a button to pop back out to the top level. The Bumper buttons are used to traverse the Blades, but the Triggers are not mapped to anything. Map one of those Triggers to allow you to jump back to the main Blade. This would alleviate hitting B five or six times.

Custom Soundtracks
Contrary to popular belief, not every 360 game allows for custom soundtracks. This is a disappointment to me. Custom Soundtracks should be system level so the developer does not have to turn on the functionality.

Save/Load Game
Sony really had a great idea with the PSP's Save/Load feature. When you save or load a PSP game you drop out of the game into a system level interface. Microsoft apparently took notes for the 360. The game developers just didn't seem to get the memo.

Some Xbox 360 games call a system level sheet that glides in from the left of the screen to save/load games. Not many games use this feature however. They all should use it. Always. Every time. The worst offender I have seen is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 where you have to select Save, select the hard drive (or memory card), and finally select Yes to finally save. It is really irritating to have to press A, A, Up, A, every time I save progress in the game.

For all my gripes you may think that I don't like the Xbox 360's Dashboard. In fact I love it. It is one of the best parts about the new Xbox. I just hope that it becomes more usable over time.

Comments (7)

nicholas:

if xbox 360 doesn't make some good and pleasing improvements such as web surfing or make the 360 a media center then millions of people may opt to buy ps3. i personally think that the 360 made a mistake coming first due to the fact it seems that it may lack the next-gen abilities that ps3 has or may have. these are for example web-surfing, watching videos without the need of streaming it and downloading music from sony's own online store. microsoft is a very rich and clever company but did not use their intelligence on making the 360 the best. they{microsoft} are responsible for windows and msn, why didn't they make a update on 360 to enable msn or websurfing. microsoft should listen to the customers and their ideas because they are the ones buying the console. if they don't do these things then 2nd place is visible for them. one more thing why didnt microsoft make the external hd player able to play both games and movies it would of been a good contander for the blu-ray which can hold 52gb of data.

Right... people won't buy the 360 because they can't web surf on their game console. I mean, surely the lineup of game software has nothing to do with the console wars, right?

LKM:

actually, it's easy to come to the conclusion that the lineup of software has nothing to do with the console wars :-)

but yeah, a browser is a nice feature, but most certainly no systems seller. msn chat, though, that might actually move a few consoles if microsoft figured out a usable way to enter text using a gamepad. which they won't, of course.

Why would you want that when you have voice chat? Plus, any USB keyboard would work right now.

All of the multimedia capabilities on the 360 really hinge on having a Windows Media Center PC. If you have that, you can use WMCBrowser to browse teh Interweb on your 360. Not that it would be very usable. There is also a Google Earth app out for use on the 360.

How a web browser on a gaming console makes a person want to buy a gaming console is beyond me. Even if you have a keyboard for your 360, which I do, it is still not a machine created for web browsing.

And lets not forget how well Microsoft's own WebTV device sold (here is a hint: it didn't).

It has been rumored that MSN Messenger would make it to the 360. It at least sounds possible. After all your XBL account is a Passport account now.

So that would allow you to text chat with people who do not have a 360 on your 360? I do that on my computer, why would I want to do that on my 360. They already have voice and text chat for people who are in your Friends list.

Matt's comment about the game software lineup was just a smart ass response - and a damn funny one at that. Millions of people ARE using the 360 as a very nice media center. And you can surf the web on a 360. So that argument holds not water.

Until we see what Sony has for the PS3 we can only poke in the dark, but so far it looks like Sony is only copying what M$ has done with Xbox Live. It will have a detachable hard drive. It will have something very similar to Marketplace. It has also been hinted that the PS3 will have "independent games" AKA XBL Arcade. And I would not put it past them to have some kind of Achievement Points knock off. Sony is very good at copying things. They do it more often than anyone else, even Microsoft.

So it is way to early to tell if Microsoft did the right thing or not.

And to be quite honest, all I care about right now is that the 360 has great retail games and even better Arcade titles (that are cheap). That is the bottom line of a gaming console, isn't it? Great games, fun games, hell, games period.

It is really a shame Sony doesn't get that with the PSP. Sony's failure with the PSP puts a lot of skepticism in the air about the PS3.

Microsoft's 360 does those things as well, but they are going with a games first approach.

And I would not put it past them to have some kind of Achievement Points knock off.

Oh for the love of all gods NO. I can't take this point crap anymore. I can only see myself tripped out on Gran Turismo until I get every damned gold license, car, and track unlocked... and I hate Gran Turismo. Please, no points, ever.

Now, back to the Blacklist in Need for Speed...

LKM:
Why would you want that when you have voice chat?

To communicate with people who do not own an Xbox, which is, like, 100% of all of my friends.


I do that on my computer, why would I want to do that on my 360.

Well, why don't you do everything on your computer? You can play on your computer, too, right? And you can use it as a phone! And you can use it to order pizza, so no more cooking!

Seriously, the PC is overkill for chatting. I know tons of people who keep their PC running only to be on MSN. Keeping an Xbox running is probably easier, it starts faster, it makes less noise, and so on.

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