Xbox Founder Tears Into 360 Design

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Xbox Founder Tears Into 360 Design

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Nat Brown calls out Microsoft for lazy design decisions.

The various iterations of the Xbox 360's dashboard have received harsh words from gamers, but consumers are not the only ones who tend to dislike them. Nat Brown, one of the founders of the original Xbox project, doesn't like the interface design decisions either; in fact, he hates them outright. According to Brown, Microsoft's interface has become lazy, bloated, and insistent on highlighting all the wrong kinds of content. He believes that a large part of the 360's success has been due to luck and bad business decisions by its competitors.

Brown compiles a laundry list of the 360's shortcomings: "Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect. Touting strategic and market success when you're just experiencing your competitor's stumbling failure (yes, Sony, Nintendo - you are, I'm afraid, stumbling failures)." In particular, Brown takes issue with the roundabout, inefficient way Microsoft has pursued contracts with other media companies. The 360 was always supposed to be a multimedia machine, he insists, but a fragmented marketplace and inconsistent selection hamstrung it. "Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire."

While Brown has some choice words for the 360's hostility to indie developers (it could cost more than $10,000 to publish a game that cost $100 to develop, he argues), he reserves most of his ire for the dashboard and interface. "The device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow, and full-of-shit," he says. The constant update downloads and storage device selections are obtuse, especially for children, and even navigating your way to a game can be hazardous. "You don't turn on your Xbox to play a game quickly - it takes multiple minutes to load, flow through its splash screens," explains Brown, making watching movies or listening to music on the system more attractive by comparison.

While Brown believes that the Xbox is still in a position of strength compared to Sony and Nintendo, it has nothing to do with Microsoft's business acumen. "I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and TV-uses (sic) was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of." These are damning words coming from one of the men who brought Xbox, both as a device and as a brand, into existence. Is his criticism off-target, or does Microsoft still have a ways to go in the interface and usability departments?

Source: ILIKE.CODE

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Wait his problems with the 360 include not capitalizing on Kinect? I don't think we're on the same page.

I agree with absolutely everything this man has said. (Minus the kinect since I don't give a shit about it.)

Without going off on a rant about every single problem I have with the 360, it's good to know the 'Originator' of the Xbox has the same complaints I do.

erttheking:
Wait his problems with the 360 include not capitalizing on Kinect? I don't think we're on the same page.

I don't know about you, but I only know one person who bothered buying a Kinect, and they only used it twice.

When he says they didn't capitalize, he dosn't mean they didn't try ramming it down our throats.

I agree with pretty much all he says. The 360 is such a cluttered mess that it's insulting to people who want to use it to play video games. They seem to have turned it into a machine for which playing games is a side-note, rather than the sole reason for its existence.

He's right, the 360's success is largely due to Sony's massive failures during the early days of the PS3 and 360's life cycle. Sony were late and overpriced so Microsoft lapped up the market share, same happened with Nintendo who failed to capitalise effectively on the wii and agrner third party support.

Microsoft didn't make an appealing product, it's just that others fucked up around them enough for them to get the foot in the door, and people now feel stuck with their Xbox because thats what their games are on and it's where their friends are. Next generation could see a big shift if Sony doesn't fuck up (it probably will.).

Whether or not I agree with him (I can't have an opinion really, considering I don't have a 360) it takes balls for someone in a position such as his to criticize this as brutally and transparently as he did. He has my respect now.

bazaalmon:
I agree with pretty much all he says. The 360 is such a cluttered mess that it's insulting to people who want to use it to play video games. They seem to have turned it into a machine for which playing games is a side-note, rather than the sole reason for its existence.

It's a multimedia machine, not solely for games, but that's beside the point. He's simply saying the OS is universally shit.

I own a 360 and even I agree with this. I miss the old blade interface, before they replaced it with this fucking 2D bullshit on a 3D planes interface. I miss the days before the stupid avatars, when everything was simpler and more streamlined, and not clogged with shit I never use.

I agree with this guy completely! I've owned my 360 since its first year (nearly launch) But over the past couple of years, I've been griping about pretty much everything he mentions here, constantly wondering "have they forgotten about games, or just don't care anymore?"

This guy knows what's up.

Man... the previous console gen was such a clusterfuck, wasn't it? I'm kind of going to miss it actually.

That cat looks like it's gonna murder him.

Dumbfish1:

When he says they didn't capitalize, he dosn't mean they didn't try ramming it down our throats.

Or he could mean that they simply didn't market it viably, but I do often make the mistake of speaking reasonably in the face of blind rage.

Heh, MS is same on the PC front. Pushing GFWL down our throat to stay relevant in the sector of the PC market that isn't the OS, porting Halo 2 to Vista 5 years later to entice gamers, trying to push down their touch interface on desktop users in Windows 8, etc. MS are a bunch of bumbling fools that can afford to throw so much shit on the wall that something always sticks.

Whilst I admit, the dash has major problems (hey guys lets play a game and lets make it so to play that game you need to click something the size of a pin head) I am more concerned with the lack of anything fun on the system. I bought the xbox originally to play castle crashers, Halo 3 and Banjo kazooie with my mates. That was about 5 years ago now.

But thinking back to say 2012, there hasn't been anything of that flavour of explosive brilliance released on the console. And the PS3 has turned my head more than a few times with say Journey and Ni No Kuni and a large chunk of the old xbox exclusives being re-released for it.

What I do know going into next generation is I am getting a Wii U, becuase you know, nintendo makes games like no other. But will I get the next xbox? Frankly, if they don't release games to play on it that are equal parts fun and innovative why should I?

Nintendo and Sony a failure? Eh, opinions are opinions, but at least they have exclusives that aren't specifically for the FPS crowd, and the FPS crowd only. At this late stage of the console cylce, where every game released seems to be too big for a single 360 DVD, why wouldn't I just play them on a system where I don't have to swap discs.

Complain about the hardware all you want, the real problems/solutions are in the games the hardware lets you play.

Little Duck:
Whilst I admit, the dash has major problems (hey guys lets play a game and lets make it so to play that game you need to click something the size of a pin head) I am more concerned with the lack of anything fun on the system. I bought the xbox originally to play castle crashers, Halo 3 and Banjo kazooie with my mates. That was about 5 years ago now.

But thinking back to say 2012, there hasn't been anything of that flavour of explosive brilliance released on the console. And the PS3 has turned my head more than a few times.

What I do know going into next generation is I am getting a Wii U, becuase you know, nintendo makes games like no other. But will I get the next xbox? Frankly, if they don't release games to play on it that are equal parts fun and innovative why should I?

Precisely.

Anyone else notice how much bad press MS has been getting since that Sony Feb 20 announcement?

Fappy:
This guy knows what's up.

Man... the previous console gen was such a clusterfuck, wasn't it? I'm kind of going to miss it actually.

If it wasn't for the massive rise in the popularity of the "bro-shooter" I really wonder if the industry would have grown this console generation. If we thought this generation was a clusterfuck, I can pretty safely say the next one is going to be far worse. The bad decisions made this gen haven't seen enough negative repercussions to tell these companies to stop doing more of the same. If anything, the general tone of complacency we see from gamers has probably motivated them to do more extreme things.

So true. The Micro$oft way is "hey there is a minor problem here what should we do about it?" the reply is always "OH CRAP!!!! CHANGE EVERYTHING!!!! MOVE IT ALL AROUND AND MAKE THE BUTTONS BIGGER!!!!!!!! WAIT THAT IS NOT ENOUGH CRASH THE SERVERS! BURN AN ANIMAL IN THE PARKING LOT!!!!!!!"

FFP2:
Anyone else notice how much bad press MS has been getting since that Sony Feb 20 announcement?

I noticed it before then to be honest.

I'm glad there is someone on the inside as disappointed in the 360 as I am. When will Microsoft learn how to not screw things up?

It's true I got a 360 because the PS3 wasn't very appealing, especially for it's price. But in recent times my 360 has just gathered dust.

I don't think I'll be getting the new Xbox. At least not for full price.

flarty:

I noticed it before then to be honest.

Yeah but it seems to be happening more often ever since the announcement.

Well, I would say that the 360 got where it is largely by the bumbling over at Sony. It feels like every time I turn on my PS3, I have another update to download off of their incredibly slow servers. Whatever happened to popping in a game and playing?

I like what this guy said, that's pretty much the reason why I ended up selling the 360 after being a PC gamer for so many years, it didn't offer anything new or better that I could already do in my PC, also, it didn't offer anything better than the simplicity of older consoles (pop-in a disc and start playing right away).

From an interface point of view, I'd definitely say that yes, this generation was a complete and utter failure.

I've already maked up my mind for a while that I'm not interested on the new generation of consoles.

Except for the launch dashboard(which was so, so) , every single update has flung more crap on the screen that I don't care about and move things around so I have to spend 10 min searching around. I now loathe turning it on. I bought this device primarily to play games. I don't want to flip through dozens of items to get to what I want to do. And, I hate getting these stupid advertisements for crap I am in no way interested in taking up a third to half of my tv. I stopped paying for live partially for that reason a year ago and have barely played anything on it since. Maybe someone at Microsoft will listen to this man and rethink some designs on the nextbox, because I don't need another mutlimedia paperweight with design flaws up the wazoo with almost no exclusives I might check out when I have a decent pc that plays games, dvds, netflix, hulu, etc right next to my tv. Why spend my money on that, Microsoft?

On my third 360 and had to shell out the cash to buy the entire console all over again. On my 4th wireless controller, my third a limited gears of war one that went fubar after 2 months. I have been gaming all my life, and the 360 is the ONLY console I have ever had to buy more then once. Upon realizing just how awful microsoft really is I am forever boycotting any of their products for life. I suggest everyone else here to do the same as they will make their next console's durability crap just so you have to buy it more then once and make them richer. They have proved that once on top they will do anything and everything to gouge more money out of you including rebuying their faulty products.

Right after they added Kinect support to the dashboard, it turned to crap. And I freaking called it. No one seemed to suspect that the Kinect would just be another gimmick. Everyone just got starstruck and soon we're stuck with a device that's incredibly annoying.

The first NXE was good but then it went downhill after that.

Marshall Honorof:
The 360 was always supposed to be a multimedia machine, he insists, but a fragmented marketplace and inconsistent selection hamstrung it. "Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire."

I'm sensing some self-contradiction here. Was the 360 supposed to do a better job of making non-game content available and convenient, or was it supposed to avoid it because Old Media Is Dead? It sounds like he's trying to claim both are true.

I am feeling him about the fragmented marketplace, though. It's incredibly stupid that TV shows and movies aren't just all available through a uniform but decentralized service not unlike the pre-Netflix video rental infrastructure was. Instead of bullshit where some stuff is only available through Netflix, other stuff is only available through Hulu, other stuff is only on iTunes, and Starz refuses to make their shows available at all, but there's enough overlap that you feel like you're being ripped off by being expected to pay for all of them.

Not unlike the console market itself, actually. Except you have to put up with it within a single console's interface. And so far, no one - not Microsoft, not Apple, not Sony - has been able to put an end to it, no matter how much they want to.

Zeckt:
Upon realizing just how awful microsoft really is I am forever boycotting any of their products for life. I suggest everyone else here to do the same as they will make their next console's durability crap just so you have to buy it more then once and make them richer.

The consoles were sold at a loss. As far as I know, they still are. At the very least, they're sold at a virtually insignificant profit margin. Their real money comes from the license fees they charge publishers. If anything, the lack of reliability hurts them in the long term, and that's even before their tendency to break while still under warranty comes into play.

I would like to hear his thoughts on the next-generation machine as well when it comes out. On the other hand, one thing that was intentional on Microsoft's part was the transition towards the shooter genre early in the console generation. Looking at what little success the original had, Microsoft saw that aside from Morrowind, it was Halo and GTA that sold on their machine, and the 360 was built to those strengths.

Still, if rumors are to be believed, the next-gen Xbox will still have separated CPU and GPU, outdated DDR3 RAM, and will force users to have Kinect 2.0 plugged in at all times. So, yeah, I can certainly see how he feels the way he does, and I think it is likely MS will continue its arrogant ways with the next-gen.

Zachary Amaranth:
That cat looks like it's gonna murder him.

Dumbfish1:

When he says they didn't capitalize, he dosn't mean they didn't try ramming it down our throats.

Or he could mean that they simply didn't market it viably, but I do often make the mistake of speaking reasonably in the face of blind rage.

Sorry, I don't really understand your post. Am I the one in blind rage, or the guy I was quoting?

The new interface would work fine with a better way to control it or a touch screen. Something like a remote or pointer device built into the controller or a faster Kinect would be great. I guess I'm one of the few that disliked the previous interface. Also, its still faster at loading a game than my PS3 or PC. Obviously results will vary with other peoples PC builds/ ps3 experiences though. I can only give my perspective on this after all.

I love my 360, but I have to say that the last few dashboard updates have been getting worse and worse. Now if I want to play Skyrim it takes me about two minutes before I can actually play the game. Half of that time is waiting for the Xbox to suss out that my profile is not an Xbox live one, the other half is Skyrim trying to get it's shit in order (man that has horrendous load times).
I know it's a case of "first world problems" and I used to happily sit through two minute load times on consoles past, but I swear the 360 interface was not as slow as it is now.

Jfswift:
The new interface would work fine with a better way to control it or a touch screen. Something like a remote or pointer device built into the controller or a faster Kinect would be great..

That's my biggest problem with it. It feels like it was designed for a device other than the device it's being run on; like I should be running it on a smartphone or something, but there is no Xbox smartphone so I can't imagine any reasonable way that they might have come to these design decisions.

Dumbfish1:
When he says they didn't capitalize, he dosn't mean they didn't try ramming it down our throats.

Actually, that's exactly what they did. What they didn't do was make any worth while software that utilized it though, which is more likely what he's referring to.

It looks like he tore into his cat as well. poor kitty.

But yeah what he sais is true, Xbox succeeded because of luck, blind fanboyism and others failing to do better.

Vivi22:

Dumbfish1:
When he says they didn't capitalize, he dosn't mean they didn't try ramming it down our throats.

Actually, that's exactly what they did. What they didn't do was make any worth while software that utilized it though, which is more likely what he's referring to.

Then we're agreeing with each other.

(I put the double negatives in bold for you.)

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