Hello Everyone,

 

My name is Daryl Welsh, (GT: IndieGames).  I’m the Test Manager for Xbox Console and Digital Entertainment Software.  Today I am excited to talk about the next evolution of Xbox software we are releasing soon.  It has been a challenge to keep quiet about this upcoming release, but since the PR folks have begun to spread the word we’re able to talk about what’s coming.  I’m hoping with this release we’ll address some of the most requested issues users have had since launch, keep our competitors on their toes and remain on the leading edge of features for those living the digital entertainment lifestyle.

 

But before we dive into the new stuff, a little background …..One year ago at E3’05 we introduced Xbox 360 to the world.  It was an exciting time for the team.  Finally the world got to know everything about our little white box.  Getting from that announcement in May to the actual launch in November was an incredibly hectic time for thousands of folks working on the entire platform. Delivering a new generation console is incredibly challenging!  Some people have likened it to building an airplane while rolling down the runway.  As I’ve reflected on that, I find the analogy to be very accurate.  There are 1700 parts to an Xbox 360 and at any given time in the schedule the hardware was changing on a daily/weekly basis.  Our custom built operating system was being rebuilt every day.  The Xbox Live service was being totally overhauled and the game code from developers was constantly changing. To add even more pressure, we were working against very public end-date. Trying to drive to stable milestones and the awesome release we were aiming for, with all those moving variables is tough….damn tough….tough like I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy tough.  But the Xbox 360 Team executed amazingly across the board.  The Hardware and Software teams were in lock-step.  Our game partners performed magic, especially given the short time that had on final hardware and fortunately in those last few weeks before launch we were finally able to build the ‘landing gears’ for the platform and we touched down smoothly in November.

 

Since Launch, we have been overwhelmed by the positive support from the community.  There is no doubt we have some of the most passionate people on our platform and we love hearing from each of you!  In previous generations, once you got a console delivered for launch you were pretty much done until work began on the next version.  The Xbox 360 changes that view.  Great software and incredible services are going to propel what we launched 6 months ago into something even better.  And we’ll continue to improve our software, our features and evolve what we delivery to stay steps ahead of our competition.  We picked the name ‘Xbox 360’ because the gamer is at the center of everything we do and we’ll never forget that…Your Games….Your Friends….Your Lifestyle….You are at the center.  We’re constantly looking at the posts on the Xbox 360 forums, we scour the feedback from our product support teams and of course we spend a lot of time ‘listening’ to the feedback at MarjorNelson.com.  We love Xbox 360 and we’ve put our heart and souls into delivering something we hope everyone enjoys, but we want to make it better.

 

Below is the list of some of the changes we’ve added for this release.  In the coming days and weeks we’ll spend more time on this blog talking about exactly what some of these items are, and we’ll pore over all the feedback we get from everyone as we look to the next release.  Behind the scenes our Games Development Kit team has continued to release updates to publishers and game devs every month like clock work.  The tools and software support we provide to developers is something we take enormous pride in and making our platform the easiest to program for remains one of our key priorities.

 

The evolution of our Xbox 360 is far from over, in a lot of ways it has only begun.  We remain laser-focused on the needs and desires of our fans, from the hardest of hard-core gamers, to that of the Digital Entertainment enthusiast and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve.

 

NEW FEATURES

 

  • “Download manager” - Marketplace items now download in the background, queue up to six pieces of content
  • DVD bookmark support will remember the film’s timing and location when resuming viewing
  • Fast-forward and rewind now offered at 2x -16x for any videos saved to hard drive
  • “Boot to Dashboard” setting will bypass the loading of any disc in the drive and open directly to Dashboard during power-on
  • Begin slideshows from any photo
  • Music player saves “shuffle” setting
  • Much player save “repeat” setting
  • Music player now displays which file is currently playing in the playlist
  • Music volume level persists between game / reboots
  • 8 new locales added (Chile, Brazil, India, South Africa, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia)
  • Separate settings now offered for Game and User volume controls
  • Themes can now be set from the “System” blade on the Dashboard
  • User-selected music continues play when switching from Dashboard to game or game to Dashboard
  • “All Arcade Games” added as a selection in the Xbox Live Arcade area
  • Personal gamer pictures allowed as Gamertiles – displayed only to those on your Friends List
  • Added support to disable sound effects when navigating Dashboard
  • Instantaneous “Change Theme” option added upon downloading new Dashboard themes
  • Preserve folder structure of source when viewing photos
  • A / B labels now provided to identify memory units in Dashboard
  • Online status set to “Away” when screensaver becomes active

 

 

SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS.

 

DVD Player

 

  • Improved audio/video sync after extended pauses
  • Improved visual quality
  • DVD player outputs at native resolution over VGA connection
  • Improved playback smoothness
  • Improved fast-forward and rewind smoothness
  • DVD play continues to attempt to read a disc after “disc read” error
  • DVD play à Pause à Play jitter / out of synch issues improved
  • DVD play à Slow Play à Play jitter / out of synch issues improved
  • Repaired issues with missing menu selection icon from DVD disc menu for certain films
  • Improved Xbox 360 Guide efficiency during certain films
  • Repaired playback stutter during certain films

 

Music Player

 

  • Player now populates music data (Title, Artist, etc.) when no track information is available
  • User music is now pauses, instead of stopping, when games override user-selected background music
  • Selecting an artist’s <UNTITLED> album no longer displays <UNTITLED> albums for all artists
  • Improved performance when retrieving playlists from a Windows Media connection
  • List music tracks in track-order when viewing albums by specific artist
  • Unified music controls for music player in Dashboard and pop-up Guide
  • Improved playback for Mono AAC-encoded files
  • Improved connection timing between console and CD database over Internet
  • Player no longer allows hard-drive selection when no hard-drive is connected
  • Removed handling of MTP/USB devices when playing music from them more robust
  • Improved error codes / messaging associated with unplayable content

 

Localization Improvements

 

  • Fixed partially truncated strings in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian
  • Korean clock / date format corrected after initial set-up
  • Fixed system hang when changing the language of the console immediately after signing out
  • Korean virtual keyboard “down” navigation now works for lower-right button
  • Korean virtual keyboard caps disabled for input mode
  • Fixed overlapping characters for pre-paid Gold membership card (Japanese localization)
  • Removed extra spaces in several translated words (French localization)
  • PC name displayed properly when containing Japanese characters
  • Support single apostrophe character for Japanese virtual keyboard

 

Memory Area Improvements

 

  • Streamlined selection – no profile selection required
  • Improved overall performance, allowing quicker access to content
  • Improved content views including name, file type, size, profile owner and location
  • Faster identification of file types and fewer steps for actions such as copy, move, delete, etc.
  • Capacity (or percentage-full) of storage device now consistent between select-a-device and storage scenes
  • Device selection now shown on each screen to improve usability

 

Miscellaneous System Improvements

 

  • Time elapsed now displayed when playing music files
  • Enhanced categorization of media library
  • Accelerated scrolling of large music lists
  • New “shuffle” icon
  • Repeat / Shuffle icon now operates as toggle button
  • Default button for manual IP address is now “A” instead of “Done”
  • Hidden and system folders are no longer displayed from MTP / mass storage devices
  • Difficulty levels for gamer profiles ordered correctly
  • Added additional line and word-wrap to “Publisher” in video area
  • Shuffle / Random no longer skips last image in list when viewing photos
  • Improved handling of Friend Requests between Gamertags that have changed names
  • No longer asked “Exist to Dash?” when switching between areas in the Dashboard
  • New error messages for when Windows Live ID requires password change
  • Unlocked Achievements now displayed first in Game Summary page
  • Selecting an Achievement now shows the specific Achievement details
  • Full date now displayed for “Member Since” and “Next Bill Date” tabs on Membership scene
  • Updated messaging for deleting arcade games purchased by different profiles
  • No longer launch music CD in disc-tray when moving from Live sign-up to Dashboard or Network Troubleshooter
  • Improved voice quality when connected through wired gamepad
  • Show “Last Played Game” selection in Xbox Live Arcade first before enumerating all games (when Arcade game was last game played)
  • Improved performance of picture enumeration from iPods formatted for Mac
  • Adopt latest updates to Cero-based ratings for Family Settings
  • Show videos downloaded from Marketplace in the Video area of the Media blade
  • Improved usability around “Play Now” when downloading demos, trailers and videos
  • Added support for South Africa-specific Family Settings
  • Updated support for Japanese game ratings
  • Video area changed to include game trailers and entertainment videos
  • Improved robustness of Gamerscore when doing account recoveries
  • Improved messaging around handling corrupt or non-fully recovered profiles
  • Improved download performance for popular content being downloaded through Marketplace
  • Total USB keyboard support
  • Testing Live connection while streaming music from PC works correctly
  • Next item / Focus sound not played when scrolling past the bottom of the video list
  • Handle profiles on memory units inserted into system while enumerating profiles from other storage locations
  • Warning / Alert icons now show as part of deleting items in Memory area
  • Repeat rate for remote control matches game controller repeat rate
  • “A” button disabled when in a list with no items available
  • Wireless battery level added to mini-pop-up guide over backward-compatible games
  • Pop-up guide / Dashboard now supports USB keyboard
  • Console no longer enters “charge” mode when shutdown and the battery has been removed from wireless controller
  • System no longer waits indefinitely when attempting to contact Windows Media Connect service on XP PC
  • Improved Marketplace storage device selector
  • Correctly set focus on selected item when back button pressed on “select a game” scene
  • Notify users when multiple wireless SSIDS with identical names are within reach
  • Provide Gold membership information when trying to join a session or accepting game invites with Silver accounts
  • New text to highlight the ability to clear the passcode for Live account signing
  • Photo slideshow no longer resumes when pressing “previous” or “next” from paused state
  • Improved handling of corrupt profiles when deleting them
  • No longer turn off wireless gamepads after system update reboot
  • More robust handling of initial setup experience for memory unit users
  • Improved handling of backward-compatible update experience, reboot back into Xbox v1 environment instead of Dashboard
  • Improved handling for "block communications" from other players
  • Improved keypress sounds when using USB keyboard
  • Improved usability and performance of content enumeration for storage devices
  • Show visual location for where Xbox Live Arcade games reside
  • Improved user messaging when overwriting content while copying
  • Improved consistency of messaging between "sign out" and "switch profile"
  • Updated troubleshooter text for connection to Windows PC's joined to domain
  • Better support for Xbox 360 game disc recognition
  • Improved initial setup text messaging
  • Improved overall error message terminology
  • Game updates downloaded to memory unit no longer show "please reinsert" notification when memory unit removed
  • More robust support for handling game deletes from memory unit and simultaneously removing memory unit
  • Improved system performance between console and affiliated Windows Media Connect PC