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November 2008
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The New Xbox Experience

Ok, so I tried out the New Xbox Experience (NXE) and there are good things and bad things.  But let me start by saying: unless you check your friends’ stats frequently, download it right away.  It’s good.  It’s very good.

The one serious thing it’s missing from the original Dashboard is, as Gabe from Penny Arcade points out, is its inability to work the friends list without crashing.  When you look at details about one of your friends by selecting him or her in your friends list, everything is fine.  But when you exit the details screen and return to your friends list, a sort of time bomb is activated and soon after, the whole thing locks up.

Don’t let that discourage you.  The NXE is amazing.  The interface is far more responsive and easier to navigate.  It’s visually simpler – they removed the blades that slide in like futuristic doors on the sides of the screen.  I felt like the learning curve is slower than on the kludgy old dashboard.

Ok, so the look and response time are greatly improved.  That just brings it up to par.  I think a good interface that works fast is the bare minimum, so they’re up to “Meets Expectations”.  But wait, there’s more.

The avatars are not a half-assed implementation of Nintendo’s Mii.  The interface to build them is very well designed.  I particularly like that the preview thumbnails for each part show it on your current character, so you know exactly how it will look.

Check out my avatar!  It looks reasonably like a cartoon version of me.  I need to get a striped shirt like that.  Also, my chucks are red.  But when I browse my friends list (just looking at avatars, not the details for each friend!) I find that everyone’s avatar looks just like them!  It’s like you can make anybody.

Downside: There aren’t a lot of clothing options.  Upside: They’re releasing avatar content frequently for at least the next six months.  I’m excited about that.  My avatar needs new clothes.

So rock on, Xbox.  Now let’s have some games that use the avatars!

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