With the launch of Microsoft’s next console only a few short months away, the firm’s developer group boss Chris Satchell has revealed a host of new hardware and functionality information about the system. Game Industry.biz with the details. (I only picked the items that interested me. For a full list click on the Game Industry.biz link.)
- The console can be switched on and off wirelessly using the Media Remote control or the wireless game controller.
- You will definitely need a hard disk to play Xbox 1 games.
- The System blade allows greater control over family settings. Microsoft thinks this is very important, Satchell said, and will therefore allow all manner of controls at a system or individual profile level. You can choose to allow specific people or the whole system access to certain games, DVDs (based on ratings – apparently “99 per cent” of DVDs now supply that information direct to the console), and areas of Live. Online, you can opt to ban certain friends, voice messaging, video messaging (if the camera is available), downloadables or just control online play.
- If you yank the hard disk off the top of the Xbox 360 when it’s in the middle of doing something, it will not corrupt it beyond repair or damage the File Allocation Table or anything like that – the hard disk uses a “transaction model” so that if you interrupt a transfer the data simply isn’t present and the space is presumably reallocated when you next save data to it.
- The “ring of light” around the power button highlights which wireless controller is being used, highlighting player one’s activity in the top-left quadrant. When the console is laid on its side, it senses this and starts using the top-left quadrant as you see it with the console laid flat. What’s more, the ring of light motif is spread throughout the Xbox 360 interface, so you can see which player pulled up the “Guide” page as you’re watching a film or playing a game and, in the words of Satchell, “slap him”.
- Cross-platform development between Windows and Xbox is being actively pursued – in the future, Microsoft hopes that people will be able to play games against each other using either platform.
- Transferring your Xbox Live account to Xbox 360 will be part of the initial set-up procedure when you first plug in your console, and existing users have “Gold” membership.
- Your “reputation” stat is based on your activities online. Rather like an eBay rating, people who have encountered you can rate you positively or negatively, and this is reflected in your reputation.
- Xbox Live will allow you to play in various Zones – there will be causal, pro, family, and underground (where “anything goes”) and perhaps more – and these will allow you to go for whatever kind of experience you like.
- Marketplace is also accessible through the Live blade. As you know, this is where you can download premium content and, in the future, content created by users and sold to other users via a micro-payment system. Marketplace does not require you to insert individual game discs to see content available for those games.
- DVDs can be played even if you don’t have the remote control, unlike Xbox 1.
- DVDs will play back in progressive-scan, with the Xbox 360 up-sampling to prog-scan in the case of DVDs that don’t support it.
- When ripping music to the hard drive, album information is now stored on the HDD, with a huge amount there by default and more available from an online source – presumably something like CDDB, which will be familiar to people who rip their own CDs already.
- The Jeff Minter-created visualisation tool for music accepts input from all control pads and the video camera, allowing you to create various effects on-screen.
- iPods are detected by default, as are PSPs, and by our watch it took about 2 or 3 seconds for the Xbox 360 to notice they were there. With an iPod plugged in you can play music direct through the Dashboard software, with visualisations, or you can play a slideshow of photographs.
- For now, you can play music and access photographs on the PSP, but you can’t do video yet. That may happen, but Satchell joked that Sony wasn’t exactly giving them a helping hand there.
- Interestingly, you can actually have that slideshow draw photographs from another external device, so – as in our demo – you could play music from an iPod while using a slideshow of photos from a PlayStation Portable simultaneously.
- All of these devices will be supported by default, and any firmware updates that are necessary – Microsoft is hoping for very few – can be made available via Live.
- You can also plug in a laptop or PC (or not plug it in – if you’re using wireless networking) and play content direct from that. This is through Windows Media Player Extender, the software for which is pre-installed on the Xbox 360. In our example, Satchell first streamed a high-definition Project Gotham Racing 3 trailer, and then drew upon a high-definition recording of Star Wars: Episode II apparently captured on his home TV.
- You can plug in a keyboard but this is for text input only – including in massively-multiplayer games. You can’t use it to play games and that was a design choice.
I think that is pretty cool. I remember being disappointed with the original Xbox because you needed a special remote to play DVD’s. I have seen a recent video showing off some of the iPod and PSP connectivity features of the Xbox 360, and it was absolutely seamless. It was as if Microsoft had made all of the devices.
The more information that is released, the more excited I get.