Monday, May 29, 2006

Fuck you, Microsoft

I've been having a kind of a love-hate relationship with Microsoft lately, thanks to my experiences with their newest console. Even though I owned an XBox, I was a very late adopter, and I never really got on the bandwagon. I only purchased a 1/2 dozen games for the system, and I certainly wouldn't call myself a fan. However, I was quite pleased with my 360 out of the box-- it looked nice, it played nice, and everything, from the case design to the interface design just felt... slick. Now THIS was a system I could get behind. And don't get me wrong; it still does feel slick. But, after a LOT of time spent with it (thanks to Oblivion), the blemishes have begun to stand out. Now, I'm not going to bore everyone with a list of those blemishes here, since they're kind of tangential to what I intend to write about, and the majority look like they'll be addressed with the new dashboard update that should be rolled out by the end of this week (the first of what will supposedly be biannual major updates to the console's functionality and UI). So, anyway, I've been, by and large, pleased with my 360 experience. And then I decided to take it online.

Most of my readers know that I'm generally not a fan of online gaming-- I prefer my multiplayer experiences to be restricted to face-to-face affairs. Rest assured, this hasn't changed, although I feel like this console generation might succeed in finally bringing me into the fold (if not, I may have to abandon the industry altogether, since the winds are very much blowing that way). That being the case, I decided that it was finally time for me to buy a wireless router, allowing me to make the most of the myriad online devices that will soon be part of my entertainment centre (DS, 360, Wii, and possibly PS3). One quick trip to CompuSmart (I also picked up a long-overdue RAM upgrade) and a painless setup process later, and my new router was up and running. That was last Wednesday. Care to take a guess as to when I was able to enjoy this wireless paradise with my 360? Well, technically, never, but I was finally able to get the damn thing online as of yesterday afternoon.

What do I mean by technically? See, I have a very pretty wireless router, and it is presently serving quite well as a mundane router (which I didn't have previously, so the purchase wasn't entirely wasted), but I have yet to test its wireless capabilities. I have no DS games that support wireless multiplayer yet, the Wii and the PS3 won't be out for six months, and my 360, in defiance of my expectations, was not wireless-enabled out of the box. Now, that's not an overly grievous crime, but the price for the wireless adapter is indeed criminal: $120. That's 1.5 times what I paid for the damn router, and over 1/5 of the console's original purchase price, for functionality that I feel should have been available by default, or at the very least as part of the fancy "premium" package that I purchased. So, fuck you Microsoft, you can't have my $120-- I'll settle for a wired 360 until you lower that price to something at least approaching reasonable.

Now, if that had been my only problem, I wouldn't be writing this post. The pricing of that accessory is positively evil, but evil is par for the course when it comes to both Microsoft and the video game industry in general. My computer is a fair distance away from my television, enough so that the sole spare ethernet cable I have can't reach from one to the other, but I was able to make it work by putting the router on my computer chair and stretching the 360<->router and router<->PC cables to their limits. Now, obviously this isn't an ideal solution, but it's an acceptable temporary one, since, at present, I don't need a persistent XBox Live connection, intending to use just the free service at first, for occasional downloads of things like dashboard themes, updates, free demos and trailers (there's lots of neat E3 content available), emulation software for original XBox games, and additional Oblivion pay content. So, I wired the cursed thing up, and tried to take it online, only to be told that my gamertag (Jordiebear88-- long story) had already been taken.

Now, I knew that no one else had chosen that name-- I've ported that moniker around enough places to know that it's NEVER taken, even at such a wretched hive of scum and villainy as Hotmail, which is part of its appeal. So, I concluded (correctly) that the system must have retained the tag from my original XBox, which came with a 2-month free trial that I promptly cancelled after 1.5 months, having used it only to download a single free KOTOR content update. Fortunately, the 360 has an account recovery option for use in precisely this kind of situation. So, I selected that option, and it then asked me to enter in precise information about that account, which I was told could be found in the account management section of my original XBox. Fortunately, I still have my XBox, since I can't bring myself to part with my KOTOR & KOTOR 2 save files. Unfortunately, I've long since run out of A/V ports on my television, so I had to crawl around behind the thing to hook my XBox back up.

So, I powered the thing back up, and tried to access my account management. Oh, apparently I need to be connected to Live to access my account information, despite the fact that all of the information I need is stored locally. *sigh* I only had the one spare ethernet cable, so I had to disconnect it from the 360 and connect it to the XBox. I then tried to access my account information again. Oh, apparently I need an up-to-date credit card to access my account information. *sigh* Well, I was hesitant to provide a cancelled account with fresh financial information, especially since I had to jump through some obnoxious hoops to get it cancelled in the first place (including arguing with an insistent Southern Belle: "Oh, sugar, why you wanna cancel?"), but I didn't see any other options, so I gave it my current credit card. I then tried to access my account management yet again.

At this point it began behaving erratically, demanding that I check for a new message from Microsoft before proceeding, but then saying that I had no messages and booting me off. After a couple of tries though, I finally was able to access my account information. I put the information up on split-screen with my 360, and then began to transfer the ethernet cable back. Oh, apparently the moment that you lose your connection to Live, the original XBox kicks you back to the system menu, regardless of whether or not you're actively using the connection. *SIGH* So, I plugged the cable back into the XBox, and, after a couple more failed attempts, managed to access my account information again. This time, I wrote everything down. Which is fortunate, because every time I've since tried to access the account management screen, I've been denied access and given an oh-so-useful "We are experiencing technical difficulties" error message.

Hoping that I was finally done with all of this nonsense, I powered down my XBox and transferred the ethernet cable to my 360. I entered the information that I'd recorded, and tried to reclaim my gamertag. And wouldn't you know it, it actually worked. To a point. The LAST point, specifically. It made me enter all kinds of personal information and made me set several options (a process which, all told, took about ten minutes), and then waited until the very final step, during a commit of the changes, to give me an error and boot me back to the system menu. The error message was: "Xbox Live sign up is currently unavailable. Please try again later." Oh. XBox Live signup isn't available, is it? Then why in FUCK did you just let me do all of that, you FIVE HUNDRED DOLLAR TURD. So, foolishly believing that the error message was accurate, I finally gave up on getting online that night, and waited to try again the next night.

Care to take a guess as to how that next night's efforts went, as well as the next two nights after that? If you said "precisely as fucking infuriating as the first night," then give yourself a gold star. I entered in that goddamn information a dozen fucking times, and also spent some time fighting with my original XBox and the XBox.com website (all of which are connected to the same gamertag database), but all to no avail. Finally, I realized that the error message was fucking lying to me, so I typed it into Google a found a couple of useless threads where people were having the same problem. I tried everything that was suggested there, but none of it worked. Finally, on Saturday night, I'd had enough, so I sent a very long and very precise e-mail to Microsoft tech support.

Yesterday morning, I got a form letter back, telling me that my problem was too complex to be solved via e-mail, and that I should phone their support line and quote some obnoxious 12-digit support number. The reason that I spent all of that time writing the damn e-mail in the first place is precisely because calling tech support is the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Tech support is already evil, so Microsoft tech support must be positively godless. But I had run out of options, so I made sure that the portable phone had a full charge, and settled down for what I fully expected to be a two-hour phone call where some teenager reading a sheet with an accent I can barely understand would painfully slowly walk me through a list of steps that I'd already tried several times and that I know would not work. However, I was pleasantly surprised, as the support call was the one bright spot of this ordeal.

Now, don't get me wrong-- this wasn't a pleasant stroll. It was still a tech support call. It just wasn't too bad as support calls go. There was still plenty of evil afoot: there was an obnoxious phone menu hierarchy standing between me and any actual human assistance, with poorly chosen and ambiguous categorizations; the guy on the other end sounded like he was still in high school and had an almost impenetrably thick southern drawl; he had to ask his supervisor for advice and assistance every few minutes; he periodically put me on hold to bombard me with a mix of loud music and Microsoft propaganda. Also, in the end, he was not able to solve my problem. HOWEVER, he didn't make me do anything I'd already done, and the call lasted all of twenty minutes, so it's already the best support call in history, as far as I'm concerned.

I gave him the support number and described my problem for him, and he was quickly able to diagnose what precisely was wrong. My old account had been cancelled, and because it was still a free account at the time, I couldn't reactivate it, despite the lies my XBox told me, or reclaim it as a 360 account. However, my gamertag was exclusively associated with that dead account. So, I asked him what I could do about that. Roughly fifteen minutes of on-hold propaganda later, with brief breaks when he returned to ask me a question or two, I had my answer: nothing. After lengthy consultation of whatever reference materials he had available, and discussion with the "experts" on staff, he said that there was no way for me to reclaim my old gamertag, either through reactivating the old account or disassociating it, although he was at a loss as to explain "why the fuck not".

Now, this is more of a problem than many of you might think. You see, my MS Passport account (the account used to access Hotmail, MSN Messenger, etc.) is exclusively associated with my gamertag, and such an account is necessary to use XBox Live. So, I asked him if there was any way that I could disassociate that. This also apparently cannot be done for some reason, although god only knows why. So I asked him what I was supposed to do in that case, and he told me to create a new one. Finally, I asked him if, because of my fumblings on my original XBox with my new credit card, I'd have any charges to worry about. He assured me that I would not, and I do more or less trust him on that, although I'll still be watching carefully to make sure.

So, my MS Passport account is locked by a long-dead and short-lived account that I had in the first place only because it was free. I had to sign up for a new Hotmail address, and then use that to register a new gamertag (JBear88), after which the 360 XBox Live signup was as quick and painless as it was likely intended to be. After many hours of frustration and effort, I was rewarded with nothing, and ended up doing something that I could have easily done in a few minutes last Wednesday night, and would have were it not so incredibly stupid. Surely Microsoft doesn't WANT me to have redundant Hotmail accounts, but for whatever reason, that's precisely what I've been forced to do. And now I'm screwed out of their much-vaunted 360<->PC interconnectivity, as the "me" on my PC is not the same "me" as now inhabits my 360, and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste time trying to synchronize the two, or transferring entirely to the new Hotmail account. So, in the end, this all probably only boils down to the fact that I won't be able to send invites and messages from my 360 to people on my MSN contact list using their PCs, which isn't all that important, but it still burns, and after a week of wasted time and stress, I have one thing to say to Microsoft: FUCK YOU.

15 Comments:

Anonymous NOS said...

This is exactly the kind of issue that people forsaw with things like the Passport system, and any kind of centralized, universal identifying system. The whole process is designed to prevent YOU from ripping off MS, and doesn't really care if MS rips off YOU.

The scary thing is that it isn't just MS: More and more resources are being deployed to develop technology to do this sort of thing in everything. Just wait until you have a mandatory all-in-one ID card that they screw up and put the wrong middle initial on.

Monday, May 29, 2006 1:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

1-800-4-myxbox

It's not that hard to remember... I learned it quickly because my first generation Xbox had a slew of delicious issues.

And I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to get angry at microsoft because you used a 2 month trial for a free download and cancelled and then expected it to work again. That's a lot of work for something as silly as Jordiebear...

Maybe I'm a bit of an apologist here... probably. This just strikes me as a lot of fuss for something that could have been solved by an initial phonecall.

Monday, May 29, 2006 2:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

And I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to get angry at microsoft because you used a 2 month trial for a free download and cancelled and then expected it to work again.
I didn't expect it to work again. I only wanted it to work again after I found out that using that same gamertag was not an option. What I EXPECTED was for none of this to be an issue in the first place. If it's cancelled, and I can't renew it, then why in fuck does it have an exclusive lock on that gamertag?

That's a lot of work for something as silly as Jordiebear...
It's not the name that I want. I think it'd be convenient to be able to use the same name, and I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to, but I'd be perfectly willing to do without. The problem is that Jordiebear isn't just a name, but a profile linked to personal information, credit information, and my Passport account, which is in turn linked to more personal information and all of my lists and settings with various other Microsoft and Microsoft-partnered sites and products.

Monday, May 29, 2006 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

This just strikes me as a lot of fuss for something that could have been solved by an initial phonecall.
But nothing was solved. The "solution" I received from Microsoft was for me to go fuck myself.

but you're not allowed to get angry at microsoft
Oh, and I'm "allowed" to get angry at whatever the fuck I want. And it wasn't just the gamertag-- I'm also angry at the cost of the wireless adapter, and the innacurate content of the error messages and their timing. Also, I see no reason why I CAN'T "[use] a 2 month free trial for a free download [, cancel it,] and then [expect] it to work again." They have all of my personal and credit information right there-- why shouldn't I be able to reactivate it?

Monday, May 29, 2006 3:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

simmer down there chief... you're taking the machinations of a giant heaving corporation far too seriously here.

look... I agree that passport stuff is obnoxious... but I have xbox live and it's not synced to shit. I have no desire to email my friend and say "meet me online with xbox live tonight" when I know full well that anyone I know who I would play with would just call me or send an ordinary and non-fancy email to the email that I check and not my shitty hotmail.

You CAN sync them... if you need to be tied to your Xbox everywhere you go. You don't have to. And for someone as recalcitrant towards online play as yourself, I'm not sure all these syncing bells and whistles are even necessary in the first place.

All I'm saying is that you're infuriated by a process that has to be pretty rare. I'm sure most people who got the free xbox live just kept it because they enjoyed it. And people who DIDN'T probably didn't bother because if you wouldn't pay for it with that xbox the odds are pretty low that you would now. You either want to spend money on that sort of thing or you don't.

I just think you're going a little crazy over something that isn't that huge of an inconvenience. It's been one... because you've belaboured the process through tinkering and forum hopping when a call would have given you the intial "fuck you, microsoft is awesome, you suck" message from tech support. Whining about the fact that you had to dig through wires behind your television has no bearing on their policies regarding xbox live gamertag retrieval. Heaven forbid you have to get up.

I'm not arguing about this anymore... I'm just saying you're pretty wound up about something you have already half admitted you probably won't use that much in the fucking first place.

Monday, May 29, 2006 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

look... I agree that passport stuff is obnoxious... but I have xbox live and it's not synced to shit.
As far as I am aware, the synchronization isn't available on the original XBox. I'm not sure of that, though.

I have no desire to email my friend and say "meet me online with xbox live tonight" when I know full well that anyone I know who I would play with would just call me or send an ordinary and non-fancy email to the email that I check and not my shitty hotmail.
So you'd never contact someone to set up a game over MSN? Instant messaging programs seem particularly well suited to that sort of thing to me. And if that can be integrated into your console, you have access to an existing list of online associates, who you can contact dynamically, instead of via e-mail.

I'm not sure all these syncing bells and whistles are even necessary in the first place.
They're not at the moment. But I have no idea what my gaming habits will be in five years. I'd like to have the same option open as every other 360 user. Not to mention that if Microsoft keeps these gamertags persistent through their new consoles, and their new OSes, I could be screwed well into the next decade.

And people who DIDN'T probably didn't bother because if you wouldn't pay for it with that xbox the odds are pretty low that you would now.
The difference is that the 360 has a free default membership level. You're right-- I didn't want to pay for it then, and I still don't now. But it's free now, or at least, the bits that I want are free.

It's been one... because you've belaboured the process through tinkering and forum hopping
I did nothing of the sort for the first three days. My 360 told me that it was simply a timing issue, and I made the mistake of believing it.

when a call would have given you the intial "fuck you, microsoft is awesome, you suck" message from tech support.
Which I probably would have been disinclined to believe had I not already tried tinkering and forum hopping before hand. Support is supposed to be a last resort.

Whining about the fact that you had to dig through wires behind your television has no bearing on their policies regarding xbox live gamertag retrieval.
No, but it had plenty to do with why I'm angry. If the 360 informational messages hadn't sent me scurrying on a fool's errand to my original XBox, or if the wireless adapter had been included or hadn't been criminally priced, there would have been little to no fighting with wires.

Heaven forbid you have to get up.
Go fuck yourself. I've never seen someone who claims to not want to argue choose their language to be so inflammatory.

I'm just saying you're pretty wound up about something you have already half admitted you probably won't use that much in the fucking first place.
Again, not immediately. But I do plan to use it a couple of years down the road, as I ease into more regular multiplayer gaming.

Monday, May 29, 2006 3:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

you are an angry, angry man...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

you are an angry, angry man...
Especially when you're around.

Moving on...

I might decide to pay for the premium Live service after all-- I spent most of last night playing online multi-player Gauntlet, and it was quite enjoyable. I feel like I got a good taste of the online multiplayer experience, in that it was very fun when I was playing with a group of mature people who knew what they were doing and knew their character's role, and frustrating when I was playing with a group of trash-talking kids who didn't know what they were doing.

I also played a free Battlefield 2: Modern Combat multiplayer demo, and I must say, the PC BFs are much better. I'd had enough of that shit after 10 minutes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

And I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to get angry at microsoft because you used a 2 month trial for a free download and cancelled and then expected it to work again. That's a lot of work for something as silly as Jordiebear...

The problem isn't that it didn't work, its that the Live system indicated that it should, or conversely, did not indicate that it shouldn't. We are so accustomed to badly written software nowadays that many users don't recognize crap when they see it.

Maybe I'm a bit of an apologist here... probably

No argument here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 3:29:00 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

I think jordan is capable of sticking up for himself.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

And I think that Craig is entitled to speak his mind without having his opinion reduced to "sticking up" for me. If he disagreed with me, I guarantee he'd let me have it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 1:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

If he disagreed with me, I guarantee he'd let me have it.

Duff Man says, "Ohhhh Yeahhh....."

Thursday, June 01, 2006 3:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Well alright then, you guys can high five or rub each others tummies or whatever you do when you've trumped someone in a game of wits.

Except I still think you're spazzing bigtime over something pretty trivial.

Friday, June 02, 2006 9:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Except I still think you're spazzing bigtime over something pretty trivial.

Unless I'm mistaken that's pretty much the point of his blog. Indeed, that is what makes it so entertaining to read.

If you're coming here for insightful political commentary or heart-wrenching social discourse move along. I'm sure CNN would love to have you.

Friday, June 02, 2006 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Unless I'm mistaken that's pretty much the point of his blog. Indeed, that is what makes it so entertaining to read
Indeed, that is the point, or at least, it is when I can think of something to rant about (even I occasionally have weeks where nothing bad happens to me, in which case I might try to be insightful or wax personal; I've actually had a fairly serious and personal entry about my father that's been stewing in draft limbo for weeks now, since I find it much easier to write a rant). To quote myself from a couple of months back, in the post entitled Back to my Bitter, Bitter Roots: "...I've been told that I'm generally at my funniest when I'm writing some kind of rant about something trivial that fills me with rage..."

Friday, June 02, 2006 12:30:00 PM  

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