New Xbox InterfaceI’ll discuss the weekend’s wonderful trip up to Cambridge once I get hold of some photos from the panto (I didn’t take my camera up with me). In the meantime I have a few thoughts on Microsoft’s new interface for the Xbox 360, which went live last Wednesday. I am not buying into their NXE moniker. “Experience” is somewhat overstating the product — it’s an interface not a skydiving holiday. It is the first time a console has undergone such a radical overhaul, though it is a logical step for a software giant like Microsoft. With so much strong content being released it would be wrong to say this update breathed new life into the three-year-old console but it was certainly welcome – the old blade interface was already arguably better than its competitors but as the games library grew, finding items online became a chore, scrolling through a list of hundreds of titles.

The other big change it brought was the introduction of avatars, undoubtedly inspired by the Wii’s Miis but a natural evolution with far more detail, taking advantage of the console’s superior processing power. Interestingly the facial customisation is arguably shallower in that one can select parts in various shapes and colours but there is no ability to alter positioning on the face. This is presumably to facilitate more detailed facial animation on the dashboard and in games.

However a large part of customisation is in clothing, which proves far more than just novelty outfits (although in future games may unlock new themed outfits) or exaggerated stereotypes. A behind-the-scenes video showed artists at Rare sketching concepts with fashion magazines as reference, which frankly seemed a bit excessive. The result, however, is that one recognises friends as much from their avatar’s fashion as their appearance – indeed my sister’s is most instantly recognisable from her choice of jumper. That I had not expected.