So, you want an Xbox One? Do you really want one though... like, really? How do you know? Maybe the interface is terrible. That's something you'll just have to ponder until you play one. Well, that's only partly true, we sat down with Microsoft today at Gamescom for a bit of a tour. The bad news? Microsoft wasn't quite confident enough to let us show you the interface with photos or video, due to its pre-release nature. The good news? We're going to paint you a word picture instead! The results await after the break.
We've seen games, lots of games at this year's event in Cologne. We've also seen a bit more about Kinect, something that you'll have to get a lot more comfortable with if you want an Xbox One. But, for some, the true heart of the experience -- the oak which all the branches reach out from -- is the dashboard. We've had a few glances at it already, but we can give you a better idea of what to expect, and how it might work out for you.
As you might imagine, things have more than a whiff of the "Windows" about them, and this is zero surprise. The dashboard is all straight lines, live tiles and thin fonts. So far, nothing new. Albert Penello, Senior Director Product Management and Planning at Xbox, took us through the basics, although usual caveats, mainly that this isn't final software. Potential for bugs aside, Albert jumped right in and took us for a spin of the top level interface. Once you're there, if you go to the right, it drops you into the simplified store where you can top up on media. Head left, you'll be getting your settings, and there's easy access to your Pins, too.
While we were being shown this, Kinect recognized Albert and logged him in automatically. He wasn't even trying to make that happen. Pretty neat if you're into the whole automation thing. A little scary if not (thankfully you can turn the feature off). This also meant that now, the interface was customized with his data... and for many that means achievements. The usual Gamerscore was there (we won't share Albert's, the lowness of which he apologized for), along with new dynamic ones. We caught mention of these during our architecture liveblog, but essentially these are achievements that developers can add even after the game has shipped, and can be based on time, the community, or any other number of factors. All stored right there in the UI, just as they always were. Don't worry, you'll still be able to see how your friends are getting along with theirs, and those earned on other Xbox platforms (360 etc) are right there too.
It's worth mentioning that there will be a new follow / follower mode when it comes to friends etc. Think twitter, and you get how this works. This basically means you can follow 1,000 players, and have unlimited followers, doing away with the 100 limit of the Xbox 360. A welcome relief for many.
Kinect's not just about the visual, it's also what you're going to be talking to when it comes to those voice commands. Something many will no doubt be curious about. Well, we got to see quite a few being thrown out. "Xbox, record that," was called, and the game we were being shown suddenly drops into record mode. The last 30 seconds of gameplay are buffered, and can be pulled back for recording (at 720p, in 30fps). "Xbox snap upload," and we see the upload app snap to the side of the game screen. This can be done for all apps, including Netflix etc., if you really want to catch up on Arrested Development while playing Watch Dogs.
This same control is, of course, available in-game. If you're bored of what you're playing, say "Xbox open Ryse," and it will duly oblige, thanks to it already knowing what games you own. You'll also likely be interested to know that it does so, but with a short, intentional delay. In the corner of the screen, you'll have a few seconds to cancel the command. This is to prevent you losing your game status, incorrect commands, or of course, mischievous little brothers. The IR-blaster also got some use. Pre-matched to the TV, we saw it being used to mute, and change volume etc. with ease. We have to say, it all worked pretty well, with all the voice commands responding correctly first time. Likewise, we got to see Kinect recognizing a second player, with their commands bringing up their specific content (showing their friends etc).
All in all, it's very much as we expected, but with the reassurance that some of the more novel features (Kinect, voice commands et al) appear to work as promised. So, while we're still waiting for that actual release date, we at least know a little more about your potential future gaming home.