Roger Helgeson

Etrian Odyssey

June 27, 2007

Dungeon crawling is a fundamental aspect in Role-Playing Games. The RPG genre simply wouldn’t be where it is today without it, and even though the genre has generally pushed more and more into the A

The Avatar, of Origin’s Ultima fame, has been through quite a bit over the years – that much is undeniable. He went to Britannia umpteen times as well as Sosaria and the islands of Fe, Fi, Fo, and Fum before Britannia even rose from the murky ocean depths, each time solving countless social, political, religious, and racial issues. He went also to Mars, to a prehistoric Earth, to the famed, multi-tiered dungeon known as the Stygian Abyss, and even to a labyrinth of fragmented, fractured worlds in a desolate, paranoid version of Britannia. The Avatar even tussled with the Guardian on Pagan, a planet not many from either Earth or Britannia could ever claim to see.

In fact, Ultima is unique in that it is a very long-running role-playing game series in which the main protagonist, the same one throughout the series, evolved very little in comparison to the world he often found himself in. Though he did technically evolve from one trilogy to the next – in fact, he did not acquire the A

So, I just got off the phone with Xbox Live support. A little backstory: my Xbox 360 “died” in November, last year. That is, the optical drive simply stopped reading or even recognizing discs. The console itself booted up and functioned otherwise – this wasn’t a “ring of death” tale that people on the cynical blogosphere are so fond of telling – but otherwise, I couldn’t do anything with it. Xbox Live Arcade is great, but it wasn’t enough, and I needed to have a working optical drive in my 360.

Having purchased the console in February, I was eligible for a free repair/exchange, the warranty having been just recently extended from three months to a year for consoles manufactured before 2006, which mine was. I called up the very helpful Xbox repair support team and, long story short, though I had to foot the bill to send my Xbox out for repair, I got a totally different, fully-working console (likely a refurbished one) ten days later, which I reconnected in the same spot my last console was in, and went on enjoying the system.

Now, I’m a fan of Xbox Live. I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer; I don’t play too consistently. But I own enough multiplayer games and I have enough friends with libraries that match mine that I will randomly play a session now and then, so I like that the ability to jump online is there for me whenever I’d need it. I keep my console permanently connected to broadband internet and I keep my Xbox Live Gold account active; I’ve never had any interruption in either service…until last weekend.

Last weekend, my internet service wasn’t as smooth as it normally is. I kept dropping offline and would be unable to connect. Frustrated, I turned to my Xbox 360, to play one of my Xbox Live Arcade titles, and lo! It wouldn’t let me. I was, of course, unable to log into Xbox Live due to the temporary state of my ISP, so I did some research and apparently, when you purchase any non-free content on Xbox Live, you are really buying a license for your gamertag AND your console.

That is, if you go buy Prince of Persia Classic today, for 800 Microsoft Points, that Xbox Live Arcade game will be licensed both to your gamertag and your console. This is done for a variety of reasons: one, so that other people on your console, say your brother’s silver account, can also enjoy the purchased content and score their own achievements. And, two, so that you can play the content you’ve purchased whether you are online or not.

As you may remember, my console repair was done in November, and I received a brand new console as a result, with a new serial number and a new manufacture date. If they had repaired my console and sent the same one back, there would have been no problem. But, since they replaced it, my console had a different unique…identity, and the licenses I had purchased using my main gamertag were not tied to this new console. Apparently, this is a problem that people struggle with after they get their console replaced through the repair process, it just took me half a year to realize it because I was never not logged in to my original gamertag.

The normal process, when this happens, is to call Xbox Live support, and they historically check the information out and refund any Microsoft Points that were used before the repair. This is, of course, an unwieldy process and one that lends itself to economic abuse: from what I’ve heard, nothing stops the recipient of these replaced points from simply using them as they like. This is certainly a system Microsoft would want to avoid.

In looking it up, though, there were conflicting reports on this process. Some people claimed that they were able to delete their purchased content, say an Xbox Live Arcade title, re-download it, log off, and use it online. Others called these people liars, claiming that they tried this and it did not work. I was just on the phone with an Xbox support supervisor and I was asked to try this very process, to no avail; it did not work for me.

Out of curiosity, I asked her if this whole process was going to be changed, because it felt very cumbersome and potentially exploitative, to simply refund a massive number of points to someone after a console repair (my figure was an astounding 21,000 points spent by last November). She agreed and said that, actually, the download-again process works now in 75% of all cases, but for some reason, it fails 25% of the time, and they are working vigorously to get it fixed so that they don’t have to go through this whole process again. Apparently, check marks are ascribed to a person’s gamertag when they make a purchase, so if they delete the game and then re-download it, the license should tie itself to the replacement console.

So, those hoping to exploit the system are in for a rude awakening when the points-refund process goes bye-bye and the much less painful, easier, and more logical process works for every consumer.

StarCraft 2 was finally announced today, with a few screen shots available over at IGN. While millions of gamers impatiently wait, whine, weep, and pray for StarCraft 2 to zerg rush its way to store shelves, I’ll sit here pondering why it took so long for Blizzard to finally admit that StarCraft 2 was even in their corporate heads’ heads; after all, StarCraft 2 has been on the tips of gamers’ tongues for a full decade now.

After viewing the screenshots at IGN and reading their play-by-play of the South Korean event unveiling it, pretty much everything I expected was confirmed: from how it currently looks, StarCraft 2 is very much like the original StarCraft, with some polished graphics, but similar units and abilities and the same exact gameplay. Blizzard has also lifted the cap off the game’s [url=]official website[/url], offering more media for this hotly anticipated, yet largely unsurprising upcoming release.

While Warcraft and Warcraft II didn’t differ very much, it didn’t take ten years for Warcraft II to come out after Warcraft became popular. Until Blizzard proves that they aren’t just regurgitating most of the previous game into a new product for their slavering fans, the StarCraft 2 announcement and accompanying media gets a big, hearty helping of “meh” from me.

With Season One of Sam and Max finally at a close, it is interesting to note how the series has evolved significantly and rapidly during such a small span of time. A total of six episodes within seven months is impressive, with each episode bringing its own locations, characters, dialogue, puzzles, as well as a self-contained plot that manages to fit into the season’s larger framework. The first episode, Culture Shock, was a witty, fun, but ultimately unchallenging introduction to the A