For those who are unfamiliar with the Fluent Design System, Microsoft has designed it with platform agnosticism in mind. Fluent Design incorporates translucency, material textures, and shiny cursor feedback animations in preparation for future paradigms, such as 3D holograms found in Windows Mixed Reality and HoloLens. The Fluent Design System is all about motion and usability, without sacrificing style. And now, it's coming to Xbox One (along with a load of other new features).
This week, Xbox Insider Program testers in the Alpha Ring will get the first taste of what's on the horizon for the Xbox One, which not only brings new features, but a new design to the dashboard itself as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
In a blog post on Xbox Wire, Xbox platform Corporate Vice President Mike Ybarra outlined what features Alpha Ring testers will get their hands on this week. We also got some exclusive images of the latest build, to go with the animated gifs provided by Microsoft.
This week's update will contain updates to the Home dashboard screen, the Xbox Guide menu, and changes to the Community section. Future updates will contain Avatars V3, updates to Game Hubs, player profiles and "more" coming this fall. On the Windows 10 side of things, the Xbox settings menu is getting another update, and the Game Bar for recording PC game clips is also getting some new features.
Ybarra said the philosophy behind this update is driven by personalization, fun, and socializing, citing fan feedback. Microsoft certainly isn't kidding about the "personalization" part.
Updates to Home screen
The biggest change by far in this update is the overhaul of the Home screen, which revolves around customization and the Fluent Design System.
Using the new Home screen, you can "pin" entire sections to your dashboard, creating a tailor-made experience suited to your habits. You can now add games and friends as entire sections, as well as a sections dedicated to pins. You can move the sections up and down as you see fit, in a vertical list with a heavy dose of Fluent Design futurism.
The top of the dashboard will display a large banner with art from the game or app currently active. Below that is a couple of recently used items, as well as a couple of ads. The element highlight will utilize your accent color with a slight glow, in a world where item backgrounds have been replaced by Fluent Design translucent textures. When you flip down on the joystick, you'll go to your next section. In the example shown here, we have pins, and both a new welcome center to explain how the new dashboard works. The green background you're seeing can be customized with a personal background or accent color.
To add sections to Home, it's as simple as pinning. You simply hit the Menu button on your Xbox controller and select "Add to Home" to create a new section.
Ybarra notes that content blocks will also evolve and react to the latest news and information. For example, if you created a section for your favorite game, it will dynamically display information to show when your friends are online, what Achievements might be worth hunting, or when the developer has posted an update in the associated title's Game Hub.
Microsoft has plans for more types of content blocks in the coming months, too. It wouldn't be hugely surprising if these content blocks evolve into some form of rich "Live Tile" for developers building apps for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), allowing them to show off their latest content front and center at a glance.
By consolidating Home, social features, and your games into one dashboard experience, Microsoft says this update will make the Xbox experience even faster.
The Xbox Guide also gets a major overhaul in this build, ditching the vertical tabs for a more familiar horizontal configuration. This takes design cues from the classic Xbox 360 guide, which sported horizontal tabs.
The new Guide shows its tabs across the top. This includes the regular "Home" section, featuring shortcuts for the dashboard, store, and pins, as well as a list of most recently used apps. It also includes a new "Communication" tab, which has separate sections for messages from Xbox members, and Xbox Live itself. The new "Broadcast & Capture" section allows you to configure your Mixer streams, as well as set up "Cameras," which we presume is a preliminary option for when Xbox picks up generic USB device support in the future.
The new "Action Center" comprises all notifications, while providing access to settings and power controls. The new "People" section provides friends list access, including access to Clubs, Recent Players, and search. "Multiplayer" is the new party section, which also includes "Looking For Group and Tournaments." And finally, there's an "Achievement" section.
The new Guide is incredibly fast and can be navigated using the thumbstick, d-pad, or bumpers.
New Community section
Microsoft has completely revamped the Community section, creating a rich Activity Feed that condenses way more information than was previously possible.
Dropping the unwieldy column interface, the new Activity Feed more closely resembles Office 365 Delve, which offers a feed of activity cards from users in your organization. The concept is similar, but we're trading docs for Achievements and spreadsheets for game captures.
When you open a feed item, it is presented in full screen, allowing you to view the content at the intended resolution. Presumably, this is also to help 4K game captures really shine when the Xbox One X comes around. The new items will also display more comments than previous versions, allowing you to see more of the conversation at once.
Microsoft is making improvements to Clubs and their discoverability, noting that new games are coming to Arena in the next few months to join Killer Instinct.
The Windows 10 Game Bar is getting a couple of new features. You will now be able to enable or disable Game Mode per game using a switch on the Bar itself. Streaming to Mixer via the Game Bar will also let you configure more audio options, allowing you to choose between broadcasting game-only audio, or system-wide audio, for those using party chat.
The Windows 10 Xbox Settings page will get an Xbox Live connectivity troubleshooter, just like on the Xbox One, allowing you to see whether or not Xbox Live is down or not.
Just the beginning
This is just the first wave of updates that will form the Xbox branch of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it will also include new Avatars, updates to profiles, and much more.
Microsoft is steaming ahead adding new features to Xbox One all the time, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Some of the features on the horizon include USB devices (such as webcams), digital game gifting, and original Xbox backward compatibility, bringing games from the first generation of Xbox into the modern era.
If you have suggestions for Microsoft, as always, send it over to the company's UserVoice page. Until then, hit the comments and let us know what you think of the changes.