Xbox Live Archive

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Keeping Xbox Live running smoothly is a 24/7/365 job

Xbox Live Operations Center

This November will mark 12 years since the launch of Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming service that currently boasts more than 48 million global users. Ensuring all of those Live members are constantly connected with each other and enjoying all of the service’s many features is paramount to delivering the Xbox experience gamers have come to expect. To pull it off, Microsoft has staffers working around the clock at its Xbox Live Operations Center (XOC) in Redmond, Washington, reports Total Xbox.

As part of their job function, XOC staffers respond to clear-cut problems. The majority of their time, however, is dedicated to ferreting out issues that no one knows about. Team members search for irregularities and investigate them to discover whether or not they are problems that need solving. They can’t guess at whether something is a threat to uninterrupted Xbox Live service or not; they have to know. They have to find out.

Microsoft Gaming Ninja (yes, that’s his real job title) Eric Neustadter informed Total Xbox that his team has to be ready for anything at all times. “It’s a bit like being in the fire department or police, where you have to think through what would I do in [a worst case] scenario. My boss was in the fire department for years, and he went from doing that to running services like this. In a lot of ways, it is a similar mindset.”

Redundancy is Neustadter’s go-to tool for preventing an Xbox Live doomsday scenario. “We have all the things you need to run 24/7/365, like multiple power grids connected into the campus,” he explained. “When that fails, we have diesel generators with huge tanks out there so that we can run for roughly 72 hours without power, and then we can bring in tankers with more diesel and refill the tanks while they’re running. We also have a disaster recovery site… somewhere else on a different power grid with almost all of this replicated so we can go over there and work instead.”

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New apps arrive for Xbox 360 and Xbox One

MLG App 2

A post on the Xbox Wire website reveals both new and updated apps for Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

The lion’s share of the coverage details the Major League Gaming (MLG) app’s release on Xbox 360.  With this app, Xbox Live Gold subscribers can view live streams of gaming tournaments, access an eSport report, as well as take in other original programming.  The most recent broadcast was for the Call of Duty Championship, which included a $1 million prize for the winning team.  Development of an Xbox One version is currently in progress.

Also on its way to Xbox One is MLB.TV.  Previously released and refreshed on Xbox 360, users who subscribe to both Xbox Live Gold and MLB.TV premium can watch all out-of-market regular season games for the 2014 season.

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Microsoft: Improved Xbox One digital experience ‘on the roadmap’

Xbox One

Microsoft has apparently been listening to the chorus of press and gamer voices denouncing the current state of digital downloads on its next-gen Xbox One console. Xbox Community Manager Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb yesterday revealed in a Reddit thread discussing Titanfall digital download release times that his company plans to improve the situation — eventually.

“A better digital experience is on the roadmap.” wrote Hryb. “Preloads, unlock by time zone etc. are all things we want to roll out for Xbox One. Those features are simply not available yet.”

Some Xbox One owners residing in timezones running ahead of Pacific Standard Time have expressed their dismay at having to wait until the clock strikes midnight on the West Coast prior to being able to download Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall onto their consoles. The game will not be available digitally until the wee hours of the morning for many, while it can be purchased at brick and mortar retail stores at 12:01 am local time at participating midnight release stores throughout North America.

In addition, the Xbox One does not provide gamers with the option to pre-purchase and pre-download games to their consoles over Xbox Live, a feature that’s been made available for games on rival digital distribution platforms such as Steam, Origin and the PlayStation Network. Microsoft temporarily displayed a message on Titanfall‘s Xbox Games Store stating that the ability to pre-download would be made available for the game, but it removed the message shortly after and stated that it was posted in error.

Hryb stated in yesterday’s Reddit thread that there is currently no time frame available for when the Xbox One’s digital experience will be upgraded to include pre-downloading and other heavily requested features. He said that the public will learn more about the new digital experience “as soon as [Microsoft has] the proper story to tell.”

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Opinion: Stand by for (Download)fall

Xbox One

This isn’t a new argument; it’s been made before. Chances are high that you’ve made it yourself once or twice. Recent events, however, warrant revisiting it. Microsoft teased us all last week with a feature that the Xbox One should have had at launch. It told us that we’d all have the ability to do on Xbox One what we’ve enjoyed doing on digital distribution platforms like Steam and Origin for years: pre-purchase and pre-download a game prior to its release. Then, in a move that felt like some sort of cruel joke, Microsoft took it all back.

Just kidding, you guys

“Whoops, our bad. Sorry if you got excited, but we’re not actually going to let you do that thing we said we’d let you do that we know you want us to let you do,” Microsoft said in a statement after removing the pre-download option for first-person shooter Titanfall.

OK, no, it didn’t actually say that — but it might as well have. Here’s what Microsoft actually told told Polygon of its blunder: “The pre-purchase offer page was posted in error. We apologize for any confusion.”

The Xbox.com page for Titanfall, which releases on March 11, temporarily had the digital pre-download option that has been so conspicuously absent from digital Xbox purchase pages to date. It was quickly removed, and now Microsoft is apologizing for dangling that carrot out there before yanking it back and locking it away. Polygon captured the official explanation for how pre-downloading on Xbox would work before Microsoft “fixed the glitch.”

Pre-purchase: You will be charged the full price immediately for this pre-purchase. Xbox One game expected to release on March 11th, 2014. You may download the game from Xbox Live before then, but it will not be playable until after 12:01 AM PST on the release date in your country.

For a brief time, at least, it looked like gaming digitally on Xbox was now going to be a little bit more like gaming digitally on PC. It looked like it was going to have something that has become so commonplace in PC gaming that it’s no longer a value-added feature; it’s an expected part of the service that is taken for granted. Unfortunately, unlike those freewheeling distributors of digital PC games, Microsoft has interests other than its own to consider.

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Opinion: Microsoft should be sorry for party rocking Xbox One

Xbox One Party

There was a time when playing a single-player game meant playing alone and playing a multiplayer game meant mandatory exposure to the (often annoying or offensive) thoughts of random players on the other end of Xbox Live. That time ended during the last console generation thanks to an Xbox Live feature that caused many to pick Xbox 360 over PlayStation 3 as their choice system for multiplatform games: party chat.

Fixing the problem

The introduction of party chat to the Xbox Live equation was a game changer. No longer did the desire to play an online multiplayer game mean that players would — almost without fail — be subjected to nonstop barrages of insults streaming into their ears from other players. No longer was getting into a game with friends and communicating with them while playing a hassle. No longer was it necessary to remember to inform friends how cool that single-player game you were playing was and why it was so cool after you played it. Up to seven of your friends were now right there with you in a party, and nobody else was getting in the door without you first putting their name on the guest list. You now had your own private party, and damn if it wasn’t fun.

So improved is the party chat experience over the only option that preceded it (chatting with random individuals) that I now refuse to play online multiplayer games without first entering into a private party. Even when no one on my friends list is available to play I still start my own private party, just to keep the cacophony of the internet’s worst amateur comedians and trash talkers out of my ears. The multiplayer experience is exponentially improved thanks to Xbox Live party chat, and, until very recently, no other home console has been able to compete with it.

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Xbox Live free gold weekend starts today

Xbox Live

Xbox 360 owners who aren’t card-carrying members of the Gold club will have a chance to dabble in some of the service’s subscription-based perks. Starting today and continuing throughout the weekend, Xbox Live Gold features that aren’t available with a silver account become unlocked for use, including: online multiplayer, entertainment “experiences” and various apps.

The Xbox Live Gold weekend does not include access to Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, which gifts subscribers a free game every two-week period – this period’s being Might & Magic Clash of Heroes. Additionally, Xbox Live Support confirmed non-Gold members will not be able to download from the catalog of free game demos.

This promotion is available through Sunday, October 6, in the following regions: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.

If your region isn’t represented in the exhaustive list above, there might be some goods news coming your way. Xbox Wire has confirmed future Gold unlock promotions will be coming October 11 – 14 (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico) and November 7 – 11 (Japan).

Source: Xbox Wire

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Microsoft wants you for Xbox Enforcement United

xboxenforcementedit

Microsoft recently announced its new user driven policy policing program called Xbox Enforcement United. While Xbox Live members have always been able to moderate other users by avoiding them due to ‘Communication,’ ‘Behavior’ or ‘Player Skill,’ this new system sounds more powerful and aims to give members control over their enjoyment of Xbox Live.

Only a day before Enforcement United was announced, Micheal Dunn, program manager on Xbox Live, made a post describing the Xbox One’s community driven reputation system that will help users avoid other players that have proven to be less than desirable. The new system rates users in the following way: “Green = Good Player,” “Yellow = Needs Improvement” and “Red = Avoid Me.” Dunn goes on to explain player classification is determined by “a crazy algorithm we created and validated with an MSR PhD to make sure things are fair for everyone.”

While the new community driven service is created to help everyone avoid trolls and have more fun on Xbox Live, some users may be worried those very trolls they are trying to avoid will use the system to their advantage. Microsoft has anticipated this very problem. It tells CVG, “We have built in a series of carefully designed controls so no individual participant can wield unchecked power over another. The system will also continually calibrate itself to understand how reliable the data is and the sources it comes from.”

Members don’t have to wait long to try this new system because Microsoft has already begun beta sign-ups. Microsoft says, “Members who join the Enforcement United beta will participate by providing their opinions on whether particular content, initially Gamertags, violate the Xbox Live Code of Conduct.” Xbox Live members interested in taking part in the Xbox Enforcement United beta can sign up here. Now get out there and make online games safe for everyone!

Sources: CVG and Xbox Wire

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Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers – XBLA Fans Sealed Play Guide

Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers was developed by Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast and published by Microsoft Studios. It retails for 800 MSP and was released on June 26, 2013. XBLA Fans awarded Magic 2014 a coveted Buy It! award in our recent review

MTG2014-1

Sealed play (which is perhaps the most exciting addition to this year’s Duels of the Planeswalkers title) is a real life Magic: The Gathering (MTG) staple that attracts casual, serious and professional players time and time again. The format is challenging because it relies upon each player’s ability to produce the best possible deck from a fixed pool of cards, but at the same time it is extremely rewarding to watch that handmade deck pull off a big victory or combo.

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Major changes in store for Xbox Live Rewards

XboxLiveRewards

The Xbox Live Rewards program – Microsoft’s loyalty program incentivizing players to interact and make purchases with the service – is undergoing some ‘major changes’ in the coming months, according to the official site. As announced during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, the company will eschew its Microsoft Points (MSP) currency and transition all future content purchases to local currency. Real money.

With this change the Xbox Live Rewards program must also change, as Microsoft Points are currently the chief form of payout, followed by digital offers and schwag. Beginning August 1, Rewards members will no longer be able to earn MSP via the program, with the total balance of your pending points then being deposited into your Xbox Live account one week later on August 7.

So what can you look forward to receiving for participating in the program once these new changes go into effect? Microsoft isn’t divulging the alternatives just yet. The full details on how the program and reward format will evolve are set to be revealed September 1, 2013.

While these changes take effect during the month of August, Gold member benefits will be offline, however you can still earn rewards for the following actions during this time:

  • Renew 1 Month Xbox Live Gold Membership
  • Renew 3 Month Xbox Live Gold Membership
  • Renew 12 Month Xbox Live Gold Membership
  • Purchase or Renew 1st Xbox Live Online Gold Membership
  • Make Your 1st Purchase on Xbox Live Marketplace

For now, Microsoft Points are still on the table until the end of this month. So if there’s a particular activity you’ve started, or one you want to knock out before Microsoft Points are laid to rest, you have until July 31 to wrap it up.

Source: Xbox Live Rewards

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Test drive Xbox Live’s 2013 Update

XboxLiveUpdateBeta

Xbox Live’s 2013 update is getting ready to roll out across digital dashboards worldwide, and you can sign-up now to take it for a spin. According to Microsoft’s Major Nelson, the update aims to improve overall performance and introduce purchases with local currency, rather than Microsoft Points, in preparation for the official transition.

Anyone looking to be part of the public beta can easily sign-up by finding the “Xbox 360 Beta Sign-Up” tile (pictured above) on the Home hub of your Xbox Live dashboard. Registration is open for users in all Live-enabled regions, with the exception of Japan, which will be given the opportunity at some point down the line. Space is limited, so interested parties should sign-up soon to take part.

Lastly, know that to join the beta, you’ll be required to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) which prohibits you from sharing beta-related information in a public forum. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but in the interest of public service, know that violating the agreement means you could be barred from the beta, future betas and potentially Xbox Live until the beta ends. You’re encouraged to provide your comments and feedback in the appropriate private forum, which is only accessible to beta members.

To check out the nitty-gritty details and the fine print before you take the plunge, head on over to the Beta Program FAQ.

Source: Major Nelson via OXM

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