Back in late October I posted a piece with an interview with an unnamed developer who claimed that the Party System and general XBL-related UI functions were having major issues and wouldn’t be fixed for “months” after launch. The launch has come and gone and these issues are, in fact, real. The results are spotty because of the UI’s decision to go more App based which means that each App needs to interact with each other instead of just having it be a basic UI function like it was on the Xbox 360. This is a definite step backwards, even when it works, but it seems like Microsoft have realized they made a mistake and are working to fix it.
Microsoft over the coming months will be replacing the entire party/notification/XBL-related UI parts wholesale. They won’t be fixing them like they previously had been telling developers. This is definitely a smart move and the right decision for the console longterm but it will have some fairly significant short-term implications. They likely won’t be finished until well into spring or possibly early summer (update: one of the sources of this story just told me “It may take up to a year” HOLY CRAP). With Titanfall and Destiny around the corner – two games that are built around online play and will require solid party infrastructure for working as a team… the news that the party system won’t be replaced by then is a kick to the gut.
Everything still isn’t peachy in the development community either as several developers have told me that the tools are still well behind schedule. The Xbox One dev kit has been so behind and so unstable that one developer told me he was “shocked” by how stable the retail Xbox One was when he got it at launch. The tools will improve but you have to wonder why Microsoft is so behind the ball on this.
My personal take is that this is good news for the Xbox One and its fans. If I worked on the Titanfall team I probably would be livid but in the long run it’s best for Microsoft to rebuild instead of trying to clean up a mess that just isn’t fixable. When it’s finally done the new party system/XBL-UI will be a vast improvement over what is available today. This console war is a marathon, not a sprint, and while Microsoft got off to a completely awful start they have been making some great moves lately including allowing the Kinect to be unplugged, snagging Chris Charla to run their indie division (ID@Xbox), and now deciding to replace bad decisions in the UI instead of constantly throwing band-aids at it. There will be growing pains this year for the Xbox One but it will be a better system long-term because of them. Also the current system, while annoying, does work – kinda. It’s not like current Xbox One owners are left with a brick until it’s fixed. I still can’t wait to get my hands on one and play some Forza and Dead Rising 3.
If I was on the Respawn team though… oh man.