27 March 2009

The Unfortunate Launch of Xbox Community Games

A Great Idea
I love the new Xbox Community Games. Not only are they cheap, but I like the idea of financing indie developers. I recently purchased some great games, but I found a bug (and workaround) in the system.

A Bad User Experience
I downloaded several Xbox Community Games and found some strange behaviour. I launch most arcade games out of Recent Games in Game Library. I downloaded trials of CarneyVale Showtime and Galax-e-mail and played them off and on for a few days.

The game trials both showed up in Recent Games. I eventually purchased some Xbox Live Points (discounted on Amazon) and picked them both up for only 200 points or ~$3.00 CAD each. After purchasing, the games stopped displaying under Recent Games even though other Community Game Trials continued to show!

I figured this was some stupid bug where purchased games didn't show and was slightly discouraged from purchasing more Community Games.

I later downloaded Groov (a great twist on Geometry Wars and similar to Everyday Shooter). I immediately liked it enough to buy it when the trial ran out (also for 200 points). I noticed that it now appeared under Recent Games.

I'm not entirely certain of how I purchased the first two games. It may have been through an in-game purchase menu or from the Xbox Marketplace.

A Workaround
To try and fix this, went to my recent downloads (Xbox Guide > Settings > Account Management > Download History) and redownloaded CarneyVale. No success. However, then I tried deleting CarneyVale from my system (Game Library > Collections > Community Games) and went to my recent downloads (Xbox Guide > Settings > Account Management > Download History) and redownloaded it. Hurrah! Deleting and redownloading made CarneyVale show in my Recent Games.

An Experiment
As another experiment, I decided to buy Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp (a classic-style, 200-point, platformer with 50 levels). I deleted the trial from my system, went to Community Games, and selected Full Game from Featured Downloads (as opposed to Unlock Full Game). After the game downloaded, I checked and it showed in my Recent Games.

In Summary
  • The Xbox Community Games integration with Xbox is terrible and still needs work.
  • From now on, I'll delete games before I buy them.

Other UI Gripes
While I'm on the topic of Xbox UI issues, there's some other problems with accessing downloadable games in the New Xbox Experience. I'd love to use my Quick Launch bar for some of my games, but it doesn't support Community Games. Even for Xbox Arcade games, there's no quick way to just get a list of those. Why list all of my retail games, when I still have to get up and put in the disc (even after installing to the hard drive)?

The only way to launch Community Games (and if I'm playing a lot of disc games, Arcade games) is through the Game Library > Collections screen, but that screen often takes 10 seconds to load.

Another gripe I have with the NXE is that when you launch the guide, the first item selected is Xbox Dashboard. But I can also press Y to jump to the dashboard. If instead Quick Launch was the first item, then I could quickly get to the Quick Launch screen (it would only require two button presses). Of course, since the Quick Launch bar isn't that useful, I guess this doesn't matter much.

In general, the NXE was an improvement over the original blade interface (with some thoughtful features like holding down stops scrolling at the end of a list, but stepping down will jump back to the beginning), but it still has rough edges.

Reporting Bugs
Finally, does anyone know how to report stuff like this to Microsoft/Xbox Team? I sent an email to Major Nelson, but can't figure out any better place to report it. Of course, it could also be a game bug (and just lots of games have this problem). Regardless, Microsoft should post a best practice or knowledgebase topic for how to avoid it.