Live and kicking

When Xbox One launches in the UK on November 22nd, it won’t just be the debut of a new console, but a new era for Xbox Live. Microsoft has built a brand new version of the online service to support the hardware, with features not possible on previous platforms and a raft of improvements that make for better multiplayer gaming. But there’s lots of continuity for any one of Xbox Live’s current 48m subscribers: if you are already a Live member, you won’t need a new membership, and existing Xbox Live Gold users (and that all important Achievement-drive Gamerscore) carry over to Xbox One.

ONE FOR ALL

As the most prominent multiplayer games service in the world, it makes sense that the new Xbox Live features added support for competitive and co-operative network play – plus ways to make that a comfortable environment. Specifically, great effort has been put in to create a more harmonious online experience.

The first part of that is Smart Match. The matchmaking component of Xbox Live has been completely reengineered for next-gen. Using Smart Match, developers can put players together based on skill, language and a reputation system.

Smart Match also allows gamers to search by DLC, so you can easily find other players who have the same selection of Halo or Call of Duty maps as you, for instance.

Smart Match’s functionality means that waiting in game lobbies before a multiplayer match will become a thing of the past. Thanks to asynchronous matchmaking, users can play another game while waiting, watch TV, or listen to music as Smart Match finds the ideal game to jump into.

That’s all supported by the new Xbox Live Reputation system, a measure to encourage healthy participation in the online community on Live.

Reputation will reward those who play fair while reducing the number of troublemakers and cheaters, by offering a highly visible social score which is based on how other players react to your behaviour, and whether they have blocked you, reported you, or friended you.

Users will get alerts if their social standing is dipping, giving them a chance to redress the balance, so it’s a two-way street on maintaining your reputation and contributing to other people’s.

Reputation feeds back into Smart Match, too – matchmaking will refer to this new social rep ranking when setting up games, and will pit players of equal standing against each other.

A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT

Of course, one of the most popular elements of being an Xbox Live is Achievements, which lets users show off what games they have aced.

Achievements have been expanded or Xbox One, with a system that doesn’t just confine achievements to a single game. Gamers will now get rewards and points for skill, participation and time-based challenges.

Plus, developers can grow and expand their achievements over time, updating them via Xbox Live. That allows them more opportunities for dedicated players to build up their score.

CLOUD POWER

And at a wider level, cloud integration overall promises to improve Xbox Live performance and features. 300,000 servers will be backing Xbox Live on Xbox One when the console launches in November.

Microsoft’s Azure system means all of a player’s games and entertainment can be stored and saved on Xbox Live, so you can instantly access them anytime, from any other Xbox One.

Online functionality also means that there is no more waiting for system or application updates, which now update in the background – the console will will always be up-to-date and ready for you.

SOCIAL NETWORK

Xbox Live on Xbox One offers a host of new ways to record, edit, share and broadcast unique gaming moments directly on your TV.

  • Game DVR captures highlights from gameplay, and can also be used by players to provide real-time help for friends.
  • The Upload Studio app lets players add voice over, skins, slow motion and other features to their recorded Game DVR clips, then share them out and compare them to their friends’ creations.
  • Plus, game video streaming service Twitch is coming to Xbox One as a built-in experience, allowing players to easily broadcast their games in real-time or to take on an interactive spectator role.
The road to XBOX ONE. Follow the journey