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Tag: 360

Now the 360’s Fridge is Full

(Has it really been five months since the last blog post? Holy crap. Time flies when you’re having fun.)

One of the reasons I wanted to pick up an Xbox 360 was, believe it or not, how great of a service Xbox Live seemed to be. In addition to the integrated friends list and all that standard goodness, the titles available on the platform seemed like a blast. From old arcade classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, to new takes on old games like Uno, to entirely new experiences like Geometry Wars… well, I wanted in.

Microsoft always painted themselves into a corner by having to support the “Arcade” unit of the system which did not come with a hard drive, eventually resorting to packing in some amount of on-board storage to support their own initiatives. It seemed strange to split your consumer base in this day and age, something Sega learned the hard way with the Sega CD and 32X a decade earlier.

A few years have passed since then. We have been updated to a whole new “experience” with a new interface. The restrictions on how big a downloadable game must be have been lifted, and then lifted again... and lifted what seems like several more times since then. Current games like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light now kick around in the 2 GB range. 50 MB seems hilariously quaint by comparison.

What about me, though? I am a gamer. I knew which system model to get back then — I got the standard model with the 20 GB hard drive, of course! I had all sorts of downloadable games I wanted to check out, and the upcoming Guitar Hero III and especially Rock Band were going to need all sorts of space for DLC!

Flash-forward again to 2010. I have 4 MB of space left on my Xbox 360 hard drive.

I have removed as much as humanly possible while still keeping the necessities. No music videos initially installed to the drive. No extra game demos. It is an epic struggle every few weeks when a new Rock Band Network (or even just standard, weekly DLC) song comes out and I need to juggle some space around. Sure, a USB stick is an option for a couple small items… but with the entire original Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band installed to the hard drive, and now not having enough room for Lego Rock Band (never mind installing Rock Band 2 for when 3 comes out next month)… those dongles just are not going to cut it.

At the time, 20 GB seemed like plenty of space for a game console that was still primarily disc-based. We all saw the purely-digital-delivery revolution coming down the line, but not enough of us anticipated just how much it would come this same generation.

Needless to say, I am in the market for a new Xbox 360 hard drive. 60 GB (the amount Microsoft eventually began including as “standard”) seems like enough for me… for now, anyway. That should cover the Rock Band installs I need to do, along with plenty of room for demos and XBLA games (looking at you Lara Croft and Limbo). The question is… is it really enough? If I could not anticipate 20 GB not being enough, having all the experience that I now possess, is it incredibly short-sighted to think that 60 GB will carry me to the end? A used 60 GB hard drive runs about $35-40; a used 120 GB runs about $45-50. Should I just spend the extra couple bucks on double the more-than-double the space? Buying “new” is out of the question almost on principle alone, as Microsoft is well-known for entirely gouging with their accessory pricing.

That all being said, let us not forget about our ol’ pal the PS3, either — with all of the mandatory installs, that 40 GB hard drive is typically hovering in the range of only having one or two free gigs. At least that one can be easily replaced

Xbox 360 License Transfer Issues – Resolved

That was a pretty easy fix. My Xbox 360 license transfer issues have been resolved, and it legitimately took nothing more than a simple phone call.

I received a follow-up voice message two days later, as promised, letting me know that the license transfer was still being worked on, but it would be resolved soon and to give them a call back if I had any questions. Later on that day, I received an e-mail letting me know that the transfer was complete. To fully resolve the outstanding issue, however, I would have to go through a manual re-downloading process of each and every individual item purchased while the hard drive was being used on the previous hardware. It was an easy process, if not time consuming. Your “Download History” in “Account Management” is painless to go through, so I sat with a drink and went through one-by-one re-“downloading” each item. I place “downloading” in quotes because the download immediately jumps from 0% or 1% all the way up to 100%, since it is only updating the license on the downloaded content, rather than fully re-acquiring said content.

After going through this process, all Rock Band DLC was accessible even when the ethernet cable was unplugged. Good job, Microsoft.

Now if only we didn’t have this pesky problem called “DRM” that made it impossible to use the things you thought you paid for but really only paid for a license to use at the sole discretion of the overlord company…

Xbox 360 License Transfer Issues

Hey. In the new house. Let’s blog, again.

So as you may have read on the site and heard on the podcast, I received a replacement Xbox 360 last September. I did not have a single problem since then (knock on wood). I went through all of their directions and re-downloaded items from my “Download History” if I needed them. All set to go.

Well, I just moved. The internet connection is up in the loft. To get on Xbox LIVE right now, I have to run a bazillion-foot ethernet cable down over the railing, across the living room, and into the 360 in the TV stand. I could buy a $100 wireless adapter, but that would be ridiculous (though I probably will do so using bonus points from my credit card so I don’t feel like I’m wasting real money). Needless to say, I don’t keep that cable running to-and-fro all the time.

The other day Jeff came over to help set up the new ION drum kit. Yes, it’s fantastic. We then attempted to play some Rock Band 2, and of course dived into some recent DLC. No problems there. Then we tried some older DLC… stuff I downloaded before I received my replacement console. Here’s what we got:

rock_band_song_unavailable

If you can’t read that (and for the sake of search-engine optimization), it reads:

The song data you were accessing has become unavailable, and the game cannot proceed without it. Your game session has restarted.

Since I’m moderately intelligent, I knew it was a license issue. A little Googling around brings up similar experiences, confirming that even deleting and re-downloading the individual song content does not re-license it to the new system hardware. What does this mean?

A call to Xbox customer support (800-4-MY-XBOX) was in order.

I ended up speaking with two very nice ladies (with very thick accents, and the second sounded like she was taking the call in a sports stadium full of people). Since I was able to explain the issue clearly and describe to them what the resolution should be, it went very smoothly. I will apparently receive a call back within 48 hours to update me on the resolution, as well as receive an e-mail when it is complete. All I had to do was provide my replacement console’s serial number and system ID a couple times, my gamertag, and e-mail address.

I’ll update again when it’s resolved. Hopefully this is an easy fix…!

Xbox Live Experience: Classic “TMNT” With Friends

Yesterday, our buddy Kevin coordinated a cross-country gaming date for the evening over Twitter. Myself, Andrew, Kevin, and our buddy Ryan all joined up for a little play-through of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic arcade game over Xbox Live (10:30 pm eastern time, 7:30 pm western time). Seems like an easy enough recipe for a good time, right?

Well, mostly!

tmnt_arcade_4players

What we quickly found ourselves doing instead of just playing the game was fighting with the Xbox Live service to simply allow all four of us to join up. We initially started with Kevin creating a “Party”, and then he invited the entire party to a private match in the game. No matter which order people joined in, who tried to set up a match next, inviting through the party system or one-by-one manually, we simply could not get all four of us into the same room. The fourth person would always get the “Game session is no longer available“-style message, even if they just got in on the previous try. We even all tried joining into a “quick match” together at the same time, and ended up with the same problem (only three of us able to join in, though it was a hilarious miracle and testament to the game’s play-drop-off that we all ended up in the same random quick match).

Around fifteen minutes into this epic struggle against Microsoft’s back-end, Kevin randomly suggested that we try signing off and back onto Xbox Live. Andrew and I did so, and we were magically able to all immediately connect to each other in-game. This proves that it had nothing to do with our ISPs, our firewalls, any port-forwarding in our routers, or any nonsense like that. It was nothing more than random nonsense on the Xbox Live side of things, and nonsense we typically only expect from the free PSN, as opposed to a service we pay ~$50 a year for (and therefore, rightfully so, expect a near-flawless experience with).

Once we got into the game, we sufferred little in the way of hiccups (with the exception of some minor lag problems on the “Come on guys, we gotta save Splinter!” stage). We managed to make it up to Krang, and while Kevin survived long enough to get him blinking, the rest of us succummed to his mighty kicks with the measely amount of lives we had left at that point. We all made a couple stupid mistakes, but now that we’ve played again… I fully believe we need to set up another session so we can not only complete the game for that achievement, but also make sure that Andrew doesn’t get himself flame-throwed in the face so we can all get that achivement, too!

360 Woes: Update #5 (Final…?)

So my 360 is finally back. Insert huzzah upon huzzah here.

They tried delivering it on Tuesday to the future-in-laws’ place, but no-one was home, so right back on the truck for the next day it went. Thankfully, someone was going to be home all day the following day, and it was indeed scheduled for re-delivery the next day… so I basically refreshed the tracking page all day to make sure it got there on time. Of course, just like the last package I tracked, it didn’t show up as being delivered until half an hour after the fact… long enough for me to get an e-mail confirmation from “home” saying it was there before UPS could :P.

Opening up the box it came in (which was identical to what it went back for repairs in), there’s not a whole lot to speak of. System’s in there, papers in there, card for a month of Xbox LIVE, etc.

I didn’t do my analysis as well as I should have. I’m basically blind. I wanted to know if the system was a replacement unit or if they actually repaired it. If I actually read the papers that came with it, I would have immediately seen that it was indeed a replacement unit. The instructions also give you the process on how to “re-license” all of your Xbox LIVE downloads (more on that in a second).

What should have tipped me off was an entirely new console serial number. Of course, that’s not something you immediately look for… Or is it…?

I’m not quite sure what this says about the problem I had (initially detailed back here). Does the problem go so deep that they’d rather just give me a whole new system? I guess so. I really think someone should make a site all about the green splotchies problem. I wish I had the initiative to do so. You, over there. Yeah, you. Get right on that.

I couldn’t just crack open Rock Band 2 and play, though. Nooooo, sir. Since it was a whole new system, and Xbox LIVE content is tied to the hardware (in addition to the gamer-card/name), what you have to do is re-license the content for the new hardware. This means you go to your “Download History” and click “Redownload”… on every single last one. Every. Single. Last. One. OK, so you don’t have to do it on demos if you don’t really want those anymore, but for things like actual XBLA games and add-on content that you would like to be able to access either offline or by other users (gamer-cards/names) on the console, you absolutely have to do it.

For material that’s sitting there on the hard-drive, it doesn’t actually re-download it. What it appears to do is check and see if that content’s there, and if it is indeed there, just re-apply the new license to it (the download will hit 1% and then just be done, regardless of the file size). If there has been an update to said content (for example, I think one of the Police songs/packs I had downloaded had a fix applied to it), it actually will indeed re-download the whole thing again (presumably replacing it on the hard-drive, rather than downloading a duplicate).

So I basically went through that process for all my Rock Band downloads (which is… uhh… a lot), and then all my XBLA games (which aren’t a lot, but enough to be obnoxious).

I then moved on to doing the whole Rock Band export thingie from the first game, which lets you play all (well, 55 of the 58) songs from the first game right in the second game. That took a while, so I ironed some shirts for work while it did its thing.

Then I downloaded a whole bunch of songs I’ve missed in the meantime, which ate up some more time (still ironed shirts).

By the time I was ready to finally use my (new) system, it was 10:30 pm, and I had to get my rear end to bed for work the next day. Played through “Hands Down” on expert guitar one time through, mostly just to say “nyah-nyah!” to the console.

So the big guy is back. I wonder if I’ll ever actually get back to DragonBall Z: Burst Limit, or if it’s just a lost cause. If I’m going to play a fighting game, I’m going to pop Soul Calibur IV over in the PS3. Regardless, it’s wonderful to have it home.

Hopefully it won’t die one week after my one-year warranty, again, with a problem Microsoft refuses to publicly acknowledge and fess up to. Grar.

360 Woes: Update #4

Holy crap! I checked early this afternoon, and Microsoft’s customer service / repair site said they hadn’t even received my console yet. Log in tonight, and what do I see? Completely skipped step #3 (“Device received at service center”), and went right to step #4 (“Device shipped to customer”).

This is either a wonderful or a terrible thing.

Heading down to Atlanta for AWA tomorrow. Check you funky people there… uhh… if you’ll be there.

360 Woes: Update #3

Before I get into the meat of this post, please note that when episode three of the podcast first went up, it accidentally had a random 10 seconds of silence before we read e-mails. It was corrected and reuploaded within half-an-hour of its initial posting, so in case you’re looking for a fixed version… it’s up there, now.

So last week I (finally) received the empty box to send back my 360 for repairs (read here and here for more info). In case you haven’t (yet) gone through the process of needing to send back your system, I figured I’d document my own and allow you to live vicariously through me. Don’t get cocky, though… if you have a 360, you’ll eventually be sending it back for one reason or another…!

The box it comes in is a rather plain, white, standard ol’ box. I actually wasn’t even sure it was the right box. I don’t know what I was expecting… I guess something that would hold a lot more cushioning…?

Xbox 360 Repair Box Picture 1

When you open it up, you get some pretty dummy-proof instructions, a plastic bag to put the system into, a styrofoam holder for the console, a return label to place over top of the one that was used to ship it to you, and a piece of packing tape to seal the box back up with. I should point out that customer service explicitly told me to tape a piece of paper with my name, address, and repair number to the system itself, while the included instructions made absolutely no mention of this.

Xbox 360 Repair Box Picture 2

Again, I was rather unsure about the contents, since the box was so small. I was honestly shocked to see that I was going to pack up such a clearly-volatile system with just these little foam inserts. No additional packing-peanuts, or anything like that. Huh.

Xbox 360 Repair Box Picture 3

When it’s all packed up, it is indeed rather snug. I can’t see this compensating for UPS guys tossing boxes around, though, and being that I’m actually PAYING for my repair (no red rings for lucky ol’ me!), I was hoping for something like… oh, I dunno… better packing to keep the system from falling apart to and fro.

Xbox 360 Repair Box Picture 4

Sent my system back last Thursday, and according to the customer service area of xbox.com, they still have not received it. Grr. I knew that if I was going to have system problems, it would be during the release of a game I’m dying to play (Rock Band 2).

In conclusion, Tara was very upset that she was late to the recording session. She was all prepared, and everything. Unfortunately, it was complete, and we were no longer accepting recorded material for the show.

Tara wants to record a podcast

Better luck next time, babe.

360 Woes: Update #2

So while I was picking Jeff up at the train station today, I received a voice message from “Joe” at Xbox customer support telling me that there was a problem with getting the box out to me, and that I would need to call them back to iron out these difficulties. Being that it’s been a whole week without the box showing up, I was more than happy to figure out what was going on.

Before I go any further, please know that I’m not trying to be a discriminatory asshat. I just kinda like it when I can understand what the bloody Hell these people are trying to say to me or ask of me.

The first guy I got was more or less incomprehensible, but after giving him my status number out of desperation for some type of common communication, he transferred me over to a supervisor for some reason or another. I believe this guy’s name was “Devon” (probably wrong on that), but I have to say… he was completely friendly, laid back, and an all-around nice guy. And he spoke English properly, so that was a plus. While we sorted things out we talked about our upcoming weddings, honeymoon plans, etc. Good times.

Turns out UPS couldn’t understand our address. Yes, you just read that properly. In all fairness, we don’t have what appears to be a normal “street address”, but it’s an actual address none-the-less that every other mail-delivery-system (USPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.) can seem to handle. I switched over the shipping info to the future in-laws’ place, and that should take care of things for now.

I just want my damn system back in time for Rock Band 2

Probably going to record episode three of the podcast next week…!

Wait, wait… screw all that! Super Mario RPG is out on the American Virtual Console, now! Time to clean out the fridge, again…!

360 Woes: Not The Red Rings

You may have heard about it on the most recent podcast episode, but let me break it down for you.

On June 18th, a bunch of people were over to go out and see The Dark Knight. In between picking up tickets and going back to see the movie a few hours later, we came back to our place to play a little Rock Band. Shortly after starting to play, strange things started happening with the display on the TV: weird green “splotchies” were all over the place. At first I assumed that a cable was loose with the new component switcher, but that was not the case. I tried plugging the cables directly into the TV (as opposed to going through the switcher), but the same thing happened. We played through a couple songs, anyway, and moved on with our evening.

The next day, I tried switching over to using regular ol’ (ugly) composite cables, just to see what would happen. At first, everything seemed OK! Shortly into watching a video, however, the same “splotchies” resurfaced to cause trouble.

– No, it was not a connection issue going into the TV.
– No, it was not a cable issue.
– No, it was not the TV.

After plenty of tests with various items and doing a little research around the intarwebz, I came to the conclusion that I am one of a small minority experiencing an issue with the GPU / video card essentially frying itself alive inside the 360. It’s a two-step process. The first step is that you get the aforementioned green “splotchies” which, at their best, look like this:

Xbox 360 GPU video card problems

And at their worst… well… you don’t get a video signal. In fact, the component switcher doesn’t even recognize that there is a video signal hitting it at all. Amusingly, audio still works perfectly fine, so you can blindly browse back and forth along the blades hearing the “whoosh”.

I kept putting off calling Microsoft about it, hoping the damn thing would just red-ring itself. Unfortunately, I was literally less than a month out of my standard one-year warranty, and this type of problem is not covered under the three-year extended warranty (exclusively for the red-ring hardware issue).

I would check the system every so often to see how it was doing with video. It ranged back and forth from having the green tint to being completely gone (which is where it is right now… no signal what-so-ever). Once Steven Totilo wrote about it over on the MTV Multiplayer blog, I was hoping the issue would get a little more attention… but unfortunately that just hasn’t happened.

I finally broke down and called Microsoft customer support for the first time, yesterday.

The first woman I got sounded like she had a horrible cold and could barely speak. I’m pretty sure she hung up on me; the call didn’t “drop”, but it died. I wonder if she had to vomit and just couldn’t take it anymore.

I called back and spoke with “Richard” (lolzsurethatsyournamewhatever). After going through a lengthy process of struggling to understand him and informing him that I actually knew what I was talking about, we set up the “generous” $99 repair, and a box would be arriving in three-to-five business days. After I was done with him, I asked to speak with his manager to dispute the charge (since it’s a documented issue that Microsoft unfortunately refuses to publicly acknowledge). I spoke with “Joy” (riiiiight…) and continued to struggle with understanding a single word spoken aloud to me. She talked me in circles for about ten minutes, ready to get me off the phone as soon as she possibly could.

I don’t really have a problem with how they handled the situation, since they’re nothing more than outsouced phone support, and to their credit, they were incredibly polite the entire time. I’m furious with Microsoft, however. I really wanted to be one of the lucky ones to get the red-rings, and I’m instead one of the unlucky ones with faulty hardware that Microsoft is choosing to remain tight-lipped about.

I’m hoping they’ll go back and do a retroactive reimbursement for this type of repair once they eventually acknowledge the damn issue. Until then, I’m hoping I get my damn system back in time for Rock Band 2 next month. If not, Andrew’s going to have to bring over his system.

Yes. Andrew and a 360. He’s got a story for you, himself, all about that… but I’ll leave it up to him to tell…

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