XBOX360After an agonizing half-day delay from the scheduled release hour, Microsoft has bestowed New Xbox Experience (NXE) Dashboard 2.0.14448.0, aka ‘Twist Control’ upon the general populace. Aside from the cries of “But I don’t wanna use a Kinect!” and “Where’s YouTube?” the major question on everyone’s mind is still “Will the old dashboard themes work?” The phrase ‘your mileage may vary’ is appropriate here. Judging by the preview images on the ‘net over the past few months, I was prepared to be disappointed by the obscured background image. While ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ it’s better to see it in motion.

As with the previous NXEs, the background image is partially obscured by a central menu block position as you slide left-right among the channels, unless you stop at ‘social’ where you can see your friends’ avatars line up. A bit of relief I see is the elimination of the generic scenes behind the avatars such as the rocket ship, robot and other nonsense. This is helpful when you save your own dashboard picture. Another point of advancement was the placement of text information on transparent dark panes. As you read a game’s information or your friend’s bio, you can actually see the theme background through them. All is not lost!

Premium themes present an alternate background as you delve deeper into channels like ‘video’ and ‘music.’ There’s a different background for ‘settings’ too. ‘My Games’ from the previous NXE had its own background, but now we just see the same image as the media channels. So where did it go? It’s been isolated to the ‘Quickplay’ block on the ‘home’ channel where non-dvd games are grouped. That’s the only access point where you’ll see the old ‘My Games’ background. Bummer!

And oh yes, that persistent fuzzy floor still exists throughout the dashboard except in rare instances like the ‘settings’ panel. But as if that weren’t enough, there’s now a veil coming from the top that darkens the theme backgrounds. Darkens them! What ever happened to the bright airy visage that the preview pictures promised? It’s as if Microsoft is trying to wean us away from theme backgrounds entirely. Sigh.

Funnily enough, the XBox guide ‘blades’ and setting menus are the same design as before the update. So it seems Metro’s visual presence has been in development for quite a while, just not fully implemented on the Xbox 360 until now. What people think of NXE and Metro in terms of gaming is entirely up to personal preference. I can use Kinect. I don’t care about YouTube. Purchased themes still are useable (in my opinion). I’ll live with the ‘Twist Control’ NXE and I’ll deal with it, by creating a new dashboard background template!

NXE wallpaper template

Click for the template updated November 2012.

This new template has been saved as a PNG file with transparency which hopefully will make it easier to use in your imaging program. If enough objections are raised in comments below, I can offer a JPG as well.

One bit of advice regarding the fuzzy floor: Don’t black out the lower area of your background image just because it’s hidden by the floor. Somebody made that mistake when designing the bright ‘SoBe with Kate Upton’ theme on the XBL Marketplace (hey, it’s a free download!), and the final product looks atrocious. Fill the lower area with some related texture, otherwise when you enter the ‘settings’ menu that floor will disappear and you’ll be left with a big ugly nothing, even if a menu window is in the way.

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