Update: Halo 3 truly hates me

I played up through the fifth mission on the system I borrowed from GamesRadar before Halo 3 gave me the disc read error — the one most other people are getting, right before The Ark. So no, let’s change that list entry from the previous post:

  • Radar’s console, my hard drive, my disc = yes…but only for five levels

Stranger still…now the brand-new console doesn’t seem to want to read any discs. Maybe it’s just overheated, but I tried four or five known good games and nothing. So another update:

  • Radar’s console, Radar’s hard drive, any disc = no

I am afraid I killed a Halo 3 console by playing Halo 3. I am not kidding.I am also not crazy and I am not alone. Reading those threads is very interesting. People are trying different discs on different consoles and getting the same bad results — including “now my 360 won’t read any discs” — so there’s clearly something up. Those threads offer some theories, including corrupt hard drive data — which would explain my save file being valid yet invalid at the same time. But I step back from this, and I see the 360 apocalypse. If the biggest game of the year is responsible for damaging user data or worse, user hardware…well, to coin a Kaz phrase, the console wars is over.

Meanwhile, at Paul’s suggestion, I have tried moving my save file and my profile to a memory card and running the game without a hard drive plugged in; it still refuses to run.

  • My console, no hard drive, my save file, my disc = no

I don’t know what to do now, except wait. If it turns out that I have to delete my save file and start again, I will — a small hardship, and maybe I’ll find some darned skulls on the second lap. But I don’t want to buy new hardware and I don’t want to start a new gamertag. I have done absolutely nothing wrong as a consumer; I have not tried to make the game or system do something it was not designed to do. I just wanted to play Halo 3. And since I cannot fix the problem, my only hope at this point is that Bungie — which has addressed the whole “Halo 3 doesn’t run at 720p” kerfuffle, but not the “Halo 3 reports disc read errors” issue — is secretly working on a title update to fix it for me and for everyone else who is similarly affected. Blind faith is all I have at this point, because neither Bungie nor Microsoft has made any public statement about this, despite two very lengthy threads at xbox.com and bungie.net.

I don’t think getting upset about a problem ever solves a problem, but even I am running out of patience. I literally had problems with Halo 3 from the moment I turned it on — I started out with the save bug on the very first level and had to delete the file to start again. I didn’t know it was going to be a harbinger of doom. It just wasn’t supposed to be this way.

This much I know: What’s happened to me has happened to other people. The question is, when will it happen to you?

Congratulations! Halo 3 doesn’t like you!

So…I’ve had trouble with Halo 3. First, the scratched disc, which led to disc read errors. Then after some testing, the disc read errors seemed to be more about my machine than anything else; the disc played fine in other 360s. So that’s good news. I got a pristine copy of Halo 3 Legendary and…I still got disc errors. So I tried my hard drive on another 360 — a brand new Halo 3 360, no less — and got the same disc read problem. And then I tried ANOTHER 360, this time a new Halo 3 360 that belonged to GamesRadar, and THAT worked. So the only way I can play campaign right now is by borrowing Radar‘s 360, which is very kind of them but utterly fucking ridiculous.

The thing that bothers me the most — more than not being able to play! — is that I cannot figure out why it works on some machines but not others. Using different discs, consoles, and hard drives has provided wildly different but repeatable results. Check this out:

  • My console, my hard drive (my save file), my disc = no
  • OXM’s console, my hard drive (my save file), my disc = no
  • Radar’s console, my hard drive (my save file), my disc = yes
  • OXM’s console, OXM’s hard drive (no save file), my disc = yes
  • Radar’s console, Radar’s hard drive (no save file), my disc = yes

The only difference between the OXM and Radar consoles — both are Halo 3 editions, and they arrived the same day — is the DVD drives. The OXM unit has a BenQ and the Radar unit has a Toshiba. But…my console also has a Toshiba, albeit with firmware two years older. And BenQ is supposed to be the “best” of the drives currently being used. And it’s not corrupt save data, because the Radar console has no trouble with it.

I’m not the only one reporting read errors, so I think it might be a combination of two elements: how the data is arranged on the disc (are they using compression? Is there an error in layout? What makes this disc fail during reading?) and the tolerance of the different DVD drives Microsoft uses. That is, some drives can read this disc and some can’t (Dead Rising had similar problems, but I was unaffected by them…and I don’t believe there was a fix). I have tried different discs but it hasn’t made any difference, so it’s not necessarily my copy of the game. But every other game runs fine on my system, so it’s not necessarily my drive — and even Halo 3 lets me play multiplayer without troubles, which means it’s something with the single-player data and how it’s arranged on the disc, or how the drive is reading that part of the disc. That’s why I think it’s got to be a combination of the two…and without knowing for certain where the fault lies, there’s no way to fix it. Even buying a new console and popping my hard drive onto it doesn’t seem like it will do the trick — though maybe if I bought an Elite and copied the data with the Transfer Kit that comes with the Elite…?

No, screw that. Buying a new console hardly seems like a rational response to one game misbehaving. I like my freshly red-ring-repaired system and I see no real reason to give it up. BioShock ran wonderfully (after I cleared the cache). So has everything else. This is just a Halo 3 issue. And Halo 3, despite what some folks may think, is just one game.

I have won some sort of reverse lottery.

Still not starting to finish the fight

I have a nice pristine copy of Halo 3 now (thank you, Edelman!). But the same problem occurs — on the first loading point, the disc says it’s unreadable, yet multiplayer works fine. Guess that means it’s my 360’s drive going fritzy.

Maybe it’s time to give up and buy another console. I have never had to do that. I still have my launch PlayStation, my launch PS2, my launch Xbox, and pretty much my original hardware from every console I’ve ever owned. I am clearly due for some bad luck.

Kid Nation

I love it. When I was young, I hated how the adult world assumed I was incapable of being trusted, being resourceful, being creative, being positive. Here’s a show that says, look, kids are really really amazing human beings. They have a valuable perspective on life that you no longer have. Just look at them.

I don’t give a fig about the controversy; the parents knew the risks and the kids are alright. I’m hooked, and I respect every kid out there, facing challenges both internal and external. Some of these kids are more mature than the folks I see on Survivor. Some of these kids are more mature than the people supposedly complaining to protect them.

Kids heal. Adults, apparently, just die.

How not to be an online journalist

Here on my pulpit, I have a simple goal. I hate the “ivory tower” concept, that the press is somehow removed from and better than its audience. At every job I’ve had, I’ve wanted my readers to know that, yeah, the people making this publication are just like you. We have cool jobs, yes. We get to do things you don’t get to do, true. But those things include everything from cool things like playing games early to horrible things like hitting deadlines late. But doing what I do doesn’t make me better than you. I hate the rock-star attitude that some people adopt in this line of work.

Meet Brian Lam of Gizmodo. Microsoft sent out these enormous duffel bags of Halo 3 swag to a select few folks in the press (OXM got one). If you work for an online site, opening such a package counts as news. Brian opened Gizmodo’s bag on camera like a greedy kid on Christmas and sort of seemed bored with it all, throwing this prized gear on the floor as he unpacked and dissed it (listen for the wireless headset comment). So it’s bad enough that bragging that you got swag (please note the article starts with “Usually, I hate the unnecessary swag”; I take the unwritten second half of that thought to be “but when it can drive traffic, I’ll make an exception”), but then to throw the stuff around in front of gamers who would really love to be in your position, well, that’s in poor taste. “Hi, you’ll never own this, and I don’t really want it, but I want your interest in it, so come drool anyway.” Tacky to cruel, depending on how you look at it.

So in response to angry feedback from readers, up comes a second video, which I will not link to, because the apology intentionally and without warning spoils the end of Halo 3, in the middle of the video.

This has nothing to do with journalism. It’s just arrogant and immature spite aimed at the people who didn’t like what he did in the first video.

It’s bad enough that the journalist has become the story. But any journalist who has contempt for their audience is a journalist the audience should reject. We don’t need any more rock stars.

I now realize that I don’t need to read Gizmodo any more. There are plenty of other news sources online. I’ll stick with Brian’s old stomping grounds, Wired. They still have class.

The first Halo 3 consumer complaint

The good news is that I got my retail copy of Halo 3 today. Microsoft was very nice and sent out Limited Editions (the black metal two-disc case) for Saturday delivery. Super cool.

The bad news is that the game disc arrived scratched and will not play. The fancy metal case has very weak CD spindles in it, so the disc bounced around and scratched itself during transit. I opened a sealed package to find a damaged game.

The worst news is that two other media folks reported that their discs arrived scratched too. I guess theirs are not scratched to the point of not playing, but unfortunately mine is.

I have to do some radio interviews about the game on Monday morning, so I kind of need this to work. I can’t exactly take it back to the store, so I blew the $20 on a CD repair device and so far, no luck. I get about four minutes into the first mission and the game stops — disc unreadable. It still won’t play after three runs through the machine, so I will try the toothpaste trick, then try the machine again, and hope.

It happened to three of us, and it happened because of a poorly designed case. Is this going to be a larger problem? It would be not…good…at…all for there to be something wrong with Halo 3 in the wake of the three red lights repairs or the smoking wireless wheel repairs. Anything that causes a customer to open the box and scream “Son of a bitch!” is going to be bad news. Good lord, I hope it’s not going to be like this with every LE copy of the game.

Someone on my friends list sent me a note to say they were envious that I already had Halo 3. Well…um, don’t be.