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Ideas That Can Improve the Xbox One
The Xbox One has appeared to largely be a hit so far with early adopters, despite a few hiccups and a couple other glaring hardware issues. With that in mind, there are some issues that do pop up from time to time, both during gaming and other media implementations. These don’t make the console unplayable, but to manage to create moments that highlight some of the flaws in the current software, often due to Kinect functionality. Christopher Mrkvicka and myself had a conversation over some of the improvement ideas we had for the entertainment hub, and what issues they stemmed from.
In my personal experience, the Xbox One has so far proven to be a positive investment. I’m still playing my launch titles with little to no complaints (especially since Battlefield 4‘s servers seem to work much more consistently), and even the current dry spell of new titles feels inconsequential.
While I do enjoy the Xbox One and what it offers, the console isn’t without its fair share of hiccups, especially in Kinect menu functionality. At times, the Kinect sensor seems to have trouble hearing my commands, whether it’s using my voice to turn on my Xbox or attempting to record my latest endeavors in gaming. In games like Battlefield 4, simple sounds expressing frustration or entertainment will prompt soldiers to request for a medic or ammo.
In the previous console generation, LAN parties were still a possibility. That option remains on the Xbox One, although some utilities remain in the dark. As it turns, out, it can be quite troublesome trying to record gameplay with more than one Xbox in the room. More often than not, both consoles would respond to the command, or the opposite console would. We’re definitely in an age where a recorded video is easier to do, and while a verbal story is feasible for describing motivations, instances of pure gameplay are better off seen than told. Perhaps Microsoft can add a snap Game DVR option to the menu button. Besides that, I cannot say that I have too much in terms of complaints simply because the Kinect hasn’t been a forced game mechanic. It may be unnecessary for most of the games available now, but the Kinect hasn’t been forcibly integrated into any of games I enjoy.
Beyond the issues with Kinect functionality, the Xbox One launched with lackluster functionality with Smartglass, a major feature Microsoft has been pushing for the past few years. Smartglass has a variety of uses and Microsoft has pushed for implementation in a variety of apps and functions with the Xbox One. For gaming, it can be used to expand the narrative of the game. For instance, with Dead Rising 3, you can access the Smartglass app to gain additional quests within the game, as well as unlock locked boxes around the city. This is a cool feature when it works properly, which unfortunately is not very often. The game sends a signal to your device that is supposed to give you a notification and trigger a fake phone call, where you are informed of a mission to complete. Unfortunately, this alert does not always sound, and unless if you constantly break immersion to check it, the loses its intended functionality, and becomes a burden upon the player. If Microsoft is to contnue to provide additional content through Smartglass, they need to ensure that the app functions correctly, so as to not break immersion. This can make for great feature for games, but only if it works properly.
For media functionality, the app works much better, but is not without issues. The most obvious issue that exists is with the “Watch TV” app, where Smartglass is converted into a very basic remote control. In this remote setup, you have buttons displayed that represent the A, B, X and Y buttons from a normal controller. You can then swipe up or down with a single finger to change the channel up or down, or navigate the guide (which can be accessed by pressing X). You can also scroll by swiping with two fingers, but I have found this feature to be completely unresponsive on my phone, restricting the usefulness of Smartglass. I would like to see added features implemented that would allow for channel searches, similar to the “What’s on…” command. This would make Smartglass a more viable option for controlling the Xbox One’s media functions.
Finally, Microsoft needs to work with content providers to make their media apps functional for all users. As it stands right now, apps such as Fox Now are limited in functionality based upon potential cable providers, and FX Now has no functionality at all if you are in an unsupported region. For a console that places such emphasis upon multimedia functionality, this is inexplicable. Making these apps available to all Xbox Live subscribers provides more value to the Xbox One, while also being a strong selling point beyond the media play through.