Microsoft doesn’t want me to play games on the 360

It really feels like Microsoft wants me to continue playing games on my PS3 rather than my 360. At least, that’s one conclusion to which I can arrive after trying to play BattleBlock Theater.

I hadn’t really played my 360 in a couple years. The PS3 had more exclusives about which I cared, is quieter, doesn’t make me worry about failing hardware, has an easier to use and less intrusive interface, is more popular among my friends, and (most importantly) has a d-pad that actually functions. When I bought an HD TV for the first time back in November, I moved my 360 upstairs from the downstairs living room where it used to live. I played a little Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp, an Xbox Live Indie Game without even updating the console and then didn’t use it again.

Last week, Behemoth’s third game was released. Of course, this is the glorious BattleBlock Theater! I was very excited. I read that it was released on Xbox Live, so I checked if it was released on PSN as well. It wasn’t. That was fine by me. I had something to do at home that night, but in my free moments, I worked on getting BattleBlock Theater downloaded.

First I had to update my 360. That was expected honestly, and it went smoothly. After the update, I tried to log into Xbox Live and was told I needed to update my security on my account. It gave me the choice of setting up an e-mail, text message, or call. I already had a second e-mail address on file, so I set up a text message. After typing in my number, I received a text message with instructions to do something online. After confirming, I expected to be able to continue. “Not so fast,” said Microsoft. It still wanted me to add more security. Having fulfilled the other two options, I chose a phone call. Microsoft called me, I answered, they gave me a confirmation code, and I confirmed it in my 360. There. Everything done, right? No, it gave me the same prompt. I fooled around for a while with various choices until I realized what I had to do. In the menu of security choices, it displayed that the ‘A’ button was used to select and ‘B’ was used to go back. I had to go back. Apparently I was stuck in the security screen. Ugh!

Next, it was time to download the game. The progress percentage would slowly increase, and then it would stall without increasing. After about 10 minutes, I’d get an error about getting disconnected from Xbox Live. Navigating through the Xbox 360 interface was a hassle because it seems to take a half second to load each submenu, but I could reconnect to Xbox Live. I’d get another 10% through before it would happen again. I ended up going to sleep with it downloading because I couldn’t stay up to let it finish. This was a risk because I’d rather not have my 360 get the red ring.

When I awoke in the morning, I was disconnected from Xbox Live (no surprise), but BattleBlock Theater had finished downloading! Of course, I was off to work, but in the evening I knew I’d get to enjoy the game. That night I turned on my 360 and logged into my account. Then gem turned on the second controller and logged into her account. She went through the same security hassle, but at least we knew to back out of it. I really thought we were getting close to playing, but I had been disconnected from Xbox Live. I logged back in, and then gem was disconnected. gem connected, and it booted me again. After a few more tries, we both got connected at the same time. I tried playing, but it disconnected while I was in the game. I might not have needed to be logged into Xbox Live, but I wanted to be, so I setup the network settings again. Now, finally, gem and I were both connected to Xbox Live, stable, and ready to play.

I did manage to play a little bit during that sitting, but I don’t want to talk about the game itself in this post. However, I saw in the new, ugly Windows 8 “modern UI”-style interface the ability to pin games. I thought, “oh, this is a pretty great feature! That interface isn’t so bad if I can do this!” I pinned BattleBlock Theater and went back to the home screen to look for it. Was it pinned right there to the first screen you’d see? No. It’s pinned under “My Pins.” That’s a little more helpful, but Microsoft should have let games be pinned directly to the first screen seen. It seems like a terrible missed opportunity.

The next time I booted my 360, it was unpinned. I pinned it again, and then tried to pin some other games. Everything pinned fine except one particular XBLA game that took 10 minutes to pin.

They should ditch the majority of the interface and just use the interface that appears when you press the Guide button on the controller. That features menus and no adds or unnecessary screens. As you might guess, I was a fan of the original blades interface.

Thank you for the fantastic console and stellar interface design, Microsoft.

And if you’re wondering about BattleBlock Theater, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ll talk about it later in its own post!