The XMB is now available from games!

2008-07-15

At last! The Cross Media Bar (XMB) is available from within games. Online Playstation 3 users have been practically screaming for this feature since the release of Playstation 3 (especially those that had noted the superiority of the existing messaging capability on the X-Box), and finally Sony have come through.

What can we do?

Whilst in a game, by simply pressing the PS button (just tap, no need to hold), the XMB will spring to life as an overlay. You'll still be able to see most of the game behind the menu, but the items in the foreground will be clearest. Currently, the main feature is that you'll be able to look at your friends list and send messages freely to other users. This allows you to organize meetings and send invites without the need for exiting your current game. In the future, Sony hope to also include features where you can select music from your selection and listen to custom soundtracks during play. Super Stardust already has this soundtrack feature, but through its own custom method (and Burnout looks set to do the same), but more and more games are likely to employ this feature in the future.

What can't we do?

Sadly, there's still one key thing missing, and it's something I feel would fix a lot of issues with online play. Currently, we are not able to initiate a voice chat across games, via the in-game XMB. This feature would allow conversations to be started, between friends, anywhere, and carried into games. Personally, this capability is the one I would most like to see on PS3. I dislike the push-to-talk comms of Warhawk and the open comms of Call of Duty 4 (so far, only Resistance: Fall of Man has got things absolutely right), and would dearly love to be able to start a conversation with friends and carry it into a game. Following the in-game XMB firmware update, users were already asking for this feature, with Sony stating that they were already working on it. This is certainly a good thing, but I just hope it doesn't take as long as in-game XMB did.

Anything else?

As a side note, the latest firmware has brought a rather daft clock (time and date) display to the XMB. It appears in the top right corner and, so far, I've found no way of disabling the stupid thing. I'm quite aware of the date and have, at long last, mastered working out the time from those round things with the numbers and sticks, so all this display manages to achieve is annoyance: annoyance that my customized XMB is being messed up by a silly overlay. A removal option is very much requested!

The other new feature is a massive one, deserving of it's own ramble (really). Trophy support is now available, and I have used up more internet storage space to ramble about that too, on this page.

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