Imx Fix in my experience
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January 5, 2004 3:48 AM

On our computers we expect that the key labelled "x" will give us an "x" on screen when we push it down. On our Macintoshes, we expect the key combo "command-q" to quit the currently running application, and on our Windows machines we know "alt-f4" will kill the top most window on the screen. These are system wide standards and allows us to work faster by reducing the stream of thought to complete our goals to almost zero.

At some point, hitting "command-s" or "control-s" is second nature and is made even more efficient by muscle memory. Really, you only need to say to yourself "I should save my work" and your hands find their way while you keep your eyes on the screen. There's no need to loop-up the key combo or to think about how to do it, you just do it.

In their interactive menus, Xbox Live games (at least the ones I've bought) do not leverage this fundamental usability concept. All of these games very similar features...

  • Search for games
  • Create a new game
  • Manage your "Friends" list and see what your "Friends" are doing
  • Quickly join a game without doing a search
  • Refresh and re-run your search for games
  • Invite "Friends" into your game
  • Change the game rules
Not all Xbox Live games have the same feature set and not all games have as many game modes as the others, but all of these games do have the features mentioned above in common. The unfortunate problem is that some games use one button for something and other games use a different button for that thing. For example, Project Gotham Racing 2 (PGR2) uses the blue "x" button to refresh and re-run your search for games. Crimson Skies uses the yellow "y" button for that, and puts the 'friends' menu on the blue "x" button. PGR2 puts the 'friends' stuff behind the yellow "y" button.

Now, take a moment and reflect back on Microsoft's decision to own everything associated with Xbox Live...

[A Microsoft Representative] defended the closed network approach of Xbox Live, in which Microsoft maintains control over the network, even bandwidth used to run titles from third-party publishers. Many publishers haven't invested in network resources and appreciate having Microsoft do the heavy lifting, he said. The unified approach will also benefit customers, as they will need only a single user name and password to access any online game.
More to the point...
"[Microsoft is] giving you a (complete setup) that means you don't have to worry about infrastructure or billing or security."
Shouldn't centralized control yield some HCI standards? End users shouldn't have to deal with mismatched methods for doing the same actions within a game. But, does it really matter? Well no, because it's just a video game system and there's more important issues out there, but I find that I have to stop and consciously think about what I'm doing when I'm playing my Xbox Live games, and I kind of feel weird saying this, but good (entertainment) experiences can often be tarnished by making me think.