Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Testing The New New Experience

Considering that the present Xbox dashboard is still referred to as the New Xbox Experience, or NXE, I'm not sure what to call the newest update, due some time next month. NXE was introduced some time in November of last year, and brought with it a whole new clean dashboard, party chat options, and, most noticeably, Avatars. One of the biggest additions that the new NXE update will include is the ability to purchase full Xbox 360 games from the Marketplace storefront, storing and playing them directly from your hard drive. All this, and much more will be available for every Xbox with an internet connection from mid to late August onwards.

But I have it now!

A few days ago I was informed through one of the many computer game websites I read that there was a site set up by Microsoft where you could apply for access to the new update early, on a Beta test basis. I signed up, and yesterday evening, minutes before going to bed, I received an email informing me I had been accepted. Turning on my Xbox this morning, I was greeted with the query "Would you like to update now?", and I excitedly accepted! Some six minutes later and I was looking at... oh... the same old dashboard.

At first glance, visually, there is nothing new. The dashboard remains the same as the NXE style, but then, that wasn't what was getting an update. I clicked into my Achievements list and found my first new feature. The first blade now shows a cumulative Achievement score for every game that is registered to my Xbox, titled Achievement Progress. Every game I could possibly get Achievements in. I now know that I have 12065 Gamerscore out of a possible 46645G. That is 632 Achievements unlocked from a potential 2088. I have less than a third of the Gamerscore available to me. Wow! I'm not entirely surprised. I've only experienced a brief period of being a Gamerscore whore, and I've only gotten over 1,000G in two games. The Achievement Progress blade also shows an icon for each completed game, of which I currently only have one; Avatar. Despite having over 1,000G in Burnout, as well as unlocking all the Achievements that come on the disk, I don't get an icon for that because I have yet to complete all the Achievements from downloaded content (DLC).

Realising that the update was at least working now, I dashed off to the Avatar editor. One of the most discussed new additions to the dashboard was an Avatar Marketplace, where you can spend real money to buy virtual clothes for a tiny digital you. My friends and I had chuckled about that for some weeks now, debating the kind of person that would do that.

Turns out, I'm that kind of person. Dammit! Don't judge me! They had Steampunk gear! My Avatar now dresses the way I'd love to dress in real life. I'm jealous of tiny virtual me! He flaunts his cool goggles and clothing at me every time I see him.

Apart from the new Marketplace, the Avatar editor seems to have been given an overhaul. It now runs much, much faster, with the various panels opening as soon as you click on them. And there is an Awards area, where you can get the clothes you won in games! Yes, thanks to the newest update, we now have the feature every Xbox player has guessed at since Avatars were introduced. Games can now award you clothing for your Avatar, making little you into an advertising board for your favorite games. Not something I'm complaining about at all. In fact, I'm be only too glad to show off to friends what games I love to play!

One of the final additions to Avatars that I can see is the ability to purchase Props. While playing in the Marketplace, little Quaid played with a radio controlled Warthog from Halo. He looked so gosh darned cute. can't wait to see what other Props appear over the coming months. Obvious ones such as guitars and drums for Rock Band and Guitar Hero spring to mind, but I'd love to see how creative and inventive game companies get with their Props. As well as the Warthog, the Monkey Island store has a huge cotton bud stick and the obligatory chicken with a pulley in it, among others. Far too cool!

There are loads more little updates that I'm sure I'll uncover as I go along. For now, I'm off to play with the new Gears of War map pack, Dark Corners! I got me some Horde to chainsaw!

No comments: