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Microsoft Announces Major Xbox Live Update

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the ground-control-to-major-nelson dept.

48

simoniker writes "Microsoft has announced its sixth major update to the Xbox Live online service for Xbox 360, with 85 new features and enhancements, including support for native 1080p games and movies, faster Xbox Live Arcade game list display times, and more options for video playback. The company has announced that it will debut the update Tuesday, October 31, and the free download will be available to all Xbox Live Silver and Gold account holders, and will not require the use of the Xbox 360's hard drive."

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48 comments

No DivX (2, Interesting)

urubos (562290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649011)

What I want to know is when can we play something other than WMV files on the 360 media center. I realize there are tricks to do so, but my modded original xbox can play pretty much anything I throw at it without issue. Why can't a machine significantly more powerful do so?

A lot of people are waiting for this... (2, Insightful)

Viewsonic (584922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649343)

You would be surprised how many people are holding off on buying a 360 for this simple feature alone. You wouldn't think it would be a big deal for people, but it certainly seems to be. You can't read any message board or blog site without seeing people wanting DivX support anymore. I suppose this will have to be done eventually to compete with the PS3, as it'll be bootable into Red Dog Linux, which already supports pretty much every codec out there. Competition is great, but man, some companies are really stubborn. They should have had a look at the XBMC and copied it entirely from the getgo, it was one of the most popular reasons people even bought the first XBox.

Sorry.. I meant Yellow Dog.. (1)

Viewsonic (584922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649395)

Between all the distros available, it gets my head broked.

Re:A lot of people are waiting for this... (1)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649805)

It might just be a tech myth, but Bill Gates was rumored to have seen XBMC in operation on a modded XBox and asked "Why don't we have something like this?" I'm stunned that they haven't created their own version or just tried to hire the XBMC team to make it for the 360. They could sell it on Live Marketplace and make a killing.

And yes, without DivX support, it is useless.

Re:A lot of people are waiting for this... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649907)

If that's the best approximation they could do, he needs to fire them.

-Eric

Re:A lot of people are waiting for this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16669821)

DivX and XviD just plain suck. I need H.264/AAC in a standard .mp4 file support, not MPEG-4/MP3 in a non-standard .avi file support.

Re:A lot of people are waiting for this... (1)

MooseMuffin (799896) | more than 7 years ago | (#16650441)

http://www.runtime360.com/ [runtime360.com] is free software that will transcode your xvid and divx files to wmv in realtime. You install it on your media center box and you can play your divx files from your 360. Sure transcoding will cost you some picture quality, but its a decent solution until Microsoft decides to come around.

Re:No DivX (2)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649439)

And since the Xbox 360 is far more powerful than the original Xbox, they should also be able to support H.264 and HD resolutions for all MPEG-4 profiles.

Re:No DivX (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651121)

What I want to know is when can we play something other than WMV files on the 360 media center. I realize there are tricks to do so, but my modded original xbox can play pretty much anything I throw at it without issue. Why can't a machine significantly more powerful do so?

It's not a question of power, but codecs. If the DivX/XviD/Quicktime/Real/etc codecs aren't available, it can't play those videos, period. Could the codecs be added in the future? Almost certainly. Will they? Who knows. Assuming they can get through all of the licensing issues, would you pay extra to download DivX support off of Marketplace (similar to how the iPod support can be downloaded, though that's for free)?

Re:No DivX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16651361)

Why can't a machine significantly more powerful do so?


Because it's locked down proprietary system and even though you paid for it, you're not in control.

Re:No DivX (1)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651715)

It has nothing to do with hardware capability. I also don't imagine it has anything to do with licensing the CODECs - the Divx/Xvid people would probably be happy to be able to put the 360 on their list of hardware supporters and Microsoft could get back any licensing fees by simply making the upgrade a pay feature on Xbox Live Marketplace.

No, the likely reason MS is avoiding this is because Divx/Xvid-encoded files comprise the majority of copyright-violating video on the Interweb these days. Microsoft has a financial stake in protected file formats on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, and has no interest in annoying the movie industry.

Re:No DivX (1)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16656159)

That's like saying Microsoft won't support the JPEG format because there's been child pornography in JPEG and they don't want to annoy the cops. Divx is one of the more effective compression formats, which is why it's so popular with pirated movie groups.

That doesn't mean I don't completely agree with you.

Re:No DivX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16652645)

I'll write the code if you cover the licensing fees to DivX/MPEG-LA.

Seriously I almost got it working by putting the bitstream in ASF and changing the FOURCC code.

Re:No DivX (1)

Duds (100634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16655283)

Because MS doesn't want to pay another company licencing fees so you can watch probably illegal video.

They want you to watch illegal video in their format.

More Video Playback options?! (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649021)

I know it probably doesn't, but please, please, let this mean that they're going to allow video playback over UPnP shares, like they do with music. I currently use Connect360 (which I heartily recommend, I tried to use Twonkymedia on my Mac, its setup was weird and difficult to get to work, Connect360 works perfectly with a minimum of fuss, and has easy config options) to serve music from my Mac to my 360, which is quite convenient and cool. I'd love to be able to do the same with Video. But somehow I doubt Microsoft with surrender that much control.

Re:More Video Playback options?! (1)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649279)

Personally, I'd be happy with connectivity to Windows/Samba shares and useful codecs like ogg and divx. But that's probably expecting too much.

Re:More Video Playback options?! (1)

a16 (783096) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649291)

Looking at the full feature list at xbox.com - it looks like this might be possible, they are finally allowing streaming of video from Windows Media Player on non Media Center PCs, and specifically list Windows Media Connect which I presume means third party solutions should work too?

# Stream WMV video from a Windows PC running Windows Media Player 11, Zune software, or Windows Media Connect.
# Play video from storage devices such as USB flash drives, Xbox 360 Memory Units, etc.
# Play video from CD or DVD data discs.

Ignoring the fact that this seems to be WMV only - this is a *huge* improvement. No need to run a Vista beta in vmware anymore just to get video streaming to my 360!

Re:More Video Playback options?! (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649647)

Actually it does, now if they'd just quit trying to pimp WMV, which very few people want, They'd have a pretty great video streaming solution. Here's Hoping.

Re:More Video Playback options?! (1)

Erwos (553607) | more than 7 years ago | (#16656307)

It's actually MPEG1, MPEG2, and WMV. I can confirm that Windows Media Connect is all that's needed, too.

Note that WMC does _not_ work with Transcode360, though.

Re:More Video Playback options?! (1)

radish (98371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16652179)

Yes, they've added support for playing WMV (only) from MediaConnect (aka UPnP) and USB.

Full List (3, Informative)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649087)

The full list of changes can be found here [xbox.com] .

Finally 1080p (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16649093)

Finally a 1080p input device, makes me happy I exchanged my old Samsung 1080p tv for a Samsung 1080p dlp with input support (what a stupid problem that was, who makes a 1080p tv that can't take 1080p input??).

With the PS3 coming out 1080p will be available in a wide range, but this is good for people who already have a 360 (and a 1080p tv) as it's free features, not factoring the cost of the 1080p tv :)

Yes, but... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16649155)

Does it run Linux?

"Lightning Fast" (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649309)

From the list of changes:

Lightning-fast enumeration and listing of all Xbox Live® Arcade games on the console.

Indeed, enumeration of lists has been painfully slow, and the need to needlessly flip between screens causes you to have to do it over and over for many common operations (i.e. downloading more than one video or demo, hello?), making the user experience overall quite poor.

I wonder what exactly they changed to fix it? This is vague; it could refer to the bizarre way the 360 seems to count up its known games at human-visible speed, or possibly enumeration in the marketplace? Could this be Microsoft getting over its religion about using stupidly verbose XML web services for wire protocols? Or simply implementing caching to try to bandaid the problem?

Re:"Lightning Fast" (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16649667)

It probably stores a list and only retabulates it once in a while.

I have to admit this is so painfully slow at times, that this is the one feature I care about. Sad really, but it is important.

If this improves marketplace speeds I'll be very excited as well (though I sorta just wish companies would put stuff like free keys in one major download pack.)

BTW, another cool addition I've heard about (from Microsoft) is the ability to download new Xbox Live Arcade Demos immediatly, with out having to queue them up. If it does that, it'll be a good upgrade, basically turn on your system and get demos. I'm happy they are updating their dashboard, it keeps it new and fresh. They arn't going to give away Divx encodes but they will at least make it work better, rather then stagnating because they can't do anything or nobody wants them to.

I hope this month (november) or next we'll see a nice BC update as well (maybe PGR? Conker? mayhaps).

Re:"Lightning Fast" (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651089)

It probably stores a list and only retabulates it once in a while.

It enumerates every time you enter the Arcade section. My guess is that they read more data at once now, as before it seemed like it was reading one game at a time (find game on HDD/MU, make a call to get information, display it, repeat).

I have to admit this is so painfully slow at times, that this is the one feature I care about. Sad really, but it is important.

On the other hand, if such a minor thing is a major complaint, that means Microsoft has done a great job on the rest, right? :)

Re:"Lightning Fast" (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651343)

The Dashboard is a good system for me, I don't use it for playback and rarely streaming, but when I use it, it works. The 360 isn't the greatest thing ever but it's definatly a worthy system(something I can't say about the original Xbox), I'm still waiting on the Wii, but the 360 will remain promenently in front of my main tv.

I forgot at work I have a development kit and we do get early versions of many things, this being one. All I can say is it really is lightning fast.

Re:"Lightning Fast" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16650755)

I don't have an internet connection at home, I only have 3 XBLA games and list is still slow to dispaly. Weird.

Re:"Lightning Fast" (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651183)

Occam's Razor suggests that they may have just had really unoptimized code for these bits. Generic code may have been used for various bits of the UI, and who knows how much research they did on "average" use cases.

1080p - Oh god... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16649495)

The majority of current 360 games can't even run at 720p without sub 30 framerates, screen tearing, jaggies, lack of AF, etc. The 360 is a 480p machine by design, stop trying to pretend it is more powerful than it really is Microsoft!

Re:1080p - Oh god... (1)

EGSonikku (519478) | more than 7 years ago | (#16650477)

Posting as AC makes your troll attempts easy to spot ;-)

You should instead register a new username and be a little more subtle, something like "My Xbox 360 stutters a lot man how can it do 1080p?"

The fact that you don't have a 360 doesn't matter anyway.

For the record, I have noticed a little image tearing in a few games, but most run perfectly fine at 720p, at 60fps for most titles.
The 1080p support being added is an upscan afaik (for games) HD-DVD movies will be native 1080p however. The software upscale should still look MUCH better for people whose TV's are native 1080p, as opposed to the TV doing the scale itself from 720p, which those of us with LCD monitors know.

Re:1080p - Oh god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16652705)

Actually it is up to the game developer if they support 1080p or not. When you initialize the D3D device, you provide width/height, which could be min(CurrentScreenWidth,1280), min(CurrentScreenHeight, 720). This will limit your game to 720p and the game will be upscaled if the display resolution is higher.

However you can just init the device as the current screen resolution and it will run at 1080p if that is what is selected. I would guess in time the games will start supporting native 1080p.

For the recoder AFAIK some current games support 1080 as well, but not all.

Re:1080p - Oh god... (1)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651625)

The 360 always renders all games in 720p internally. The 480i signal is simply a downsampled version, and the 1080p version is upsampled. There is no difference in framrate between different resolutions. On the other hand, since the source material is always 720p, upscaling it to 1080p won't buy you anything, unless you happen to have one of those LCD tvs with a really bad upscaler.

Re:1080p - Oh god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16651867)

Not quite true (PGR3 is 540p internally, AFAIK) but more important than that, this update will not just help those with bad scalers.

For one, for 1080p users it will reduce the number of scaling passes by at least one. Even if the display has a good scaler, one scaling pass is still better than two.

For another, this update will allow game developers to natively target 1080p with their games if they choose to do so. How many games will be able to maintain a good fill rate at that resolution, I have no idea, but it'll be interesting seeing what they choose to do with this new option.

Re:1080p - Oh god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16655885)

Indeed, imagine my dissapointment. :) Just got a 360 and the only game I link so fat is pgr3. I don'like NFS much, I like realism more.
Anyway, I wondered why pgr3 didn't look like 720p. I have a 37" tv that has the resolution to show 720". After trying different game demos that I downloaded, I noticed the difference from them and pgr3. Now I just have to wait for Forza 2 which has been delayed until next year. yeay.

That's a lot of pixels (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16650109)

What I want to know is how well the framerate holds up when the resolution in cranked to 1080p. I couldn't dredge up the info on what exactly MS is requiring from developers, although they all are likely tweaking for reasonable performance at the top setting.

Re:That's a lot of pixels (2, Informative)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16650819)

What I want to know is how well the framerate holds up when the resolution in cranked to 1080p. I couldn't dredge up the info on what exactly MS is requiring from developers, although they all are likely tweaking for reasonable performance at the top setting.

The Xbox 360 has 10MB of high-speed local framebuffer for the GPU that is used exclusively for the output frames (a 1920x1080@32bpp frame is 7.9MB). As well, it has a hardware scaling unit that does high quality upscaling to any resolution. The point of all of this is that games will render at a lower resolution (usually 540p or 720p) and then scale up to 1080p at output. With this update, developers now have the option to render internally at 1080p if they wish, but even PS3 games aren't rendering at 1080p. Since there are no games rendering internally at 1080p right now, why add 1080p support at all? By scaling the image in hardware on the console itself, you get a better image than if you let your TV do it (scaling before analog conversion) and you eliminate any potential lag from TVs with poor scaling hardware. That means that even though games are still rendered internally at 720p, a 1080p-native display (DLP, LCD, Plasma) will no longer have to do any conversion of its own. The quality will be similar to an up-converting DVD player from 480p to 720p, for example.

Because scaling is done in hardware, Microsoft doesn't require anything from developers. They can choose whatever size is appropriate for their internal rendering (as noted above, usually 540p or 720p) and let the scaling unit take care of upscaling or downscaling to 1080i/p or 480i/p. Obviously games will look better when rendered at a higher internal resolution. And since the game always renders at the same resolution regardless, there's no tweaking that needs to be done to accomodate different resolutions (ie, a player at 480p is not going to have more free cycles for AI than a player at 1080p, since in both cases the image is rendered at 720p and then scaled in hardware).

What does this all mean? Well, you really can't talk about a game "supporting" 720p or 1080p on 360, as all games support all resolutions. All you can really say is what resolution is native to that game, as a game with a 540p native resolution will obviously look worse than a native resolution 1080p. But then, as Slashdotters like to say, graphics aren't all that matters. A game like Lego Star Wars II has no need to use a 1080p native resolution, for example. But since the console can now support it, 1080p users can play it in the resolution native to their display. I would assume that Sony's taken a similar approach with the PS3, but I'm probably wrong.

Re:That's a lot of pixels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16650955)

I read in an interview that Lair was 1080p native on PS3. I use a VGA cable and a CRT monitor set to 1280 * 1024. Some game have black boarders so only display 720 * 1024 while others, Oblivion, GRAW multiplayer, use 1280 * 1024. Games that only display 720*1024 display at a 4:3 aspect ratio on a standard def TV. Is this because 1280 * 1024 is a non-stadard aspect ratio and games have to be rendered spefically for it?

Re:That's a lot of pixels (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16665317)

Thanks for clearing all that up, even if the info was probably a well-worded query away. As for the tech, it sounds like the hardware devs at MS know what they're doing. I remember a post on Penny Arcade after one of those guys got a high-def set, where the standard upscaling mode threw off Guitar Hero enough to affect gameplay.

As for "requiring things from developers", I was referring to the fact that MS requires (for example) six-channel Dolby sound. Before the 360 was out, I believe there were articles talking about how developers would be required to support some HD spec, however the upscaling hardware pretty much takes care of that.

Re:That's a lot of pixels (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16652517)

Frame-rate, on an XBox-360? You're kidding right.
Most current 360 titles struggle to run at 30fps on standard-def screens, let alone high resolutions like 1080p...

Original XBox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16650273)

Another recent change is that all subscribers to XBox Live service for the "classic" XBox were automatically transitioned to "Gold" status for the balance of their contract. Not sure if this is an "upgrade" or a "let's get even more cash out of them when they renew", since most of the gold features are useless unless you own a 360.

Re:Original XBox (1)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16652835)

"Gold" is the exact equivalent of the old Xbox Live service. "Silver" is free, and includes everything except the ability to play multiplayer games online.

Very Funny (1)

LuciferosX (987569) | more than 7 years ago | (#16650959)

Big update coincides with the major release of Final Fantasy XII (which is naturally not even mentioned on this now pro-MS site, yet Gears of War is?), as if it'll do anything. You crack me up.

Re:Very Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16654159)

That is because GoW is a very important game release, FFXII is not so much. Sure they may end up selling a comparable amount of titles, but GoW will drastically effect the future of X360, while FFXII will not effect PS2s fate.

Yes, I know I'm AC, but that's because I'm too lazy to register.

One Problem (2, Interesting)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16651167)

I'm hoping Microsoft will address a problem that a friend who works at Microsoft said they had recieved a lot of complaints over, one of which was from me as it can get pretty darn frustrating. When you download the trial of an arcade game on the Xbox Live and then delete it (whether because you don't want to buy it or you want to buy it at a later date), the game will always show up in the "My Games" part with no gamerscore attached which then lowers your overall points percentage. Not even deleting the game data on the system will fix this due to the fact that as soon as it is downloaded it is added to your profile on Xbox.com and your Gamercard.

Other than that, it is good to see Microsoft working on keeping the system up to date, as are some of the games (Perfect Dark Zero has updates 'frequently' compared to games such as Ridge Racer 6, which have glaring glitches that really disturb gameplay and the general feel of the game which are never patched). I hope more developers who are working on the 360 start following MS's lead and making sure all of their products are kept up to date and user friendly.

Personally... (1)

MrChom (609572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16654811)

I just hope this finally hammers out the bugs in PGR3 with the guide...I stopped playing the multi because bringing up the guide to change my music or similar would make it crash and force me to reboot, or a popup would tell me someone was online and that crashed the guide as well. I also hope that the lag during XBL sign-in won't be as noticeable....the whole console just grinds to a halt when I do it.

I love my 360, I really do...but the little bugs and oddities (I download Live Arcade titles a lot...so mentally I think of downloads as being on that tab....when they're not...) really do make it a weird place to do things.

Hopefully Marketplace will be a nicer place to browse now....hopefully.

Great, now give me some games (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | more than 7 years ago | (#16655935)

that shows what the xbox 360 can do and don't send out any more games that are upscaled to 720p.

WMV playback from DVD and WMP11 (1)

malf-uk (456583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16670853)

I'm rather glad that this is finally available.

Have some nice looking high definition WMV-HD discs and it's nice to be able to watch them without having to disconnect my Sky HD box from the DVI input on my TV and plugging in my laptop (which is rather flakey at HD video playback too).

Like the handling of photographs, the only thing I don't really like is the way the WMP11 library and 360 presents the list of video clips available on my PC i.e. just a straight list of everything in it.

Makes it a pain in the bum trying to find the clip you want in a list of 100s of files.
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