Coming back later in the afternoon, I booted up again and tweaked my avatar to make it look a bit like me. While there’s way more customization than Miis in terms of body parts and clothes, which is cool, I have to say (for now) I still prefer Miis. Making Miis you can rotate and move around facial features on them to make some cool (and twisted) stuff. Plus, sometimes simple is better. Still, I did like reading that Microsoft will be adding more clothes, for free (it looks like at least) in the coming weeks and months.
After that I joined a Party with my buddy Mike and Dustin’s fiancé, Rose. I guess Parties allow up to 8 people to chat together, even across different games. It also shows all your avatars together on your friends’ list, all of whom are also represented by their avatars, and the avatars of people they’re partying with…interesting. The three of us basically chatted about what we thought of NXE, and Mike gave us detailed Left 4 Dead impressions (which it doesn't look like I'm getting this week). There is of course the ability to watch Netflix movies from your queue on your console right away, though I’m not a Netflix member so no big whup to me.
Instead of blades of old, they have several different menus that scroll vertically, each with small picture boxes of the different things you can do, which scroll horizontally. It’s a lot more to deal with, and a little less user friendly. There are also several more advertisements. The upside is that there is a Events menu that advertises several upcoming events on Live; this will definitely increase the presence and strength of the Xbox Live community, which I think is good.
Hitting the giant “X circle” in the center of the controller brings up pretty much the same things, though a “quick launch” has been added to where you can fire up your arcade games right away (maybe console too, wasn’t sure how that worked unless the game was in the tray). Audio and video menus are similar to the old ones, which made me happy.
One thing I especially didn’t like was that the Batman theme I paid for awhile back was obstructed by over half the screen covered with the top of a giant grey circle. What the fuck! I don’t understand why; is it supposed to be ground for my avatar to stand on? Mike, Rose and I all agreed this was a gyp. Another problem is that it seems you can’t share music anymore; however, there is a channel called “Photo Party” where you can share pictures with people in your party. This worked for me at first, but I got disconnected, and as more friends joined our party, it was impossible for me to reconnect. When I did, I was separate from the group and couldn’t see their pictures or added any of my own. This seemed to be a problem in several other aspects of NXE, with network errors popping up for several functions. I don’t think it’s bugs in the system, it’s more likely just due to probably every Xbox Live account fucking around with NXE like I was today.
It’s new, and different, but increasingly less exciting to me. Microsoft is trying to do some cool things here and that’s great, but until network traffic slows a bit and I figure out all the ins and outs, I’m still lukewarm on it all. Rose pointed out that after it’s no longer new, it may not seem that special. I dunno, only time will tell… Either way, I guess it’s what we’ve got now.