A Guide to Xbox Live

So many people are confused as to how to get on LIVE I’m going to start to try to compile a complete guide to how it works- more will be added to this in the future.

GAMERTAG : Deltatri3

First things first- the most common question- how do I pay? Well you need a Visa, Mastercard or American Express card! Easy as that, if you don’t have one then its tough luck basically!

1 – Getting Started

1.1 – HOW TO PURCHASE XBOX LIVE

There are 2 different ways to purchase Xbox LIVE- one more expensive than others and 2 options once that time you go for is over. Yes it costs money but Its worth it for the added benefits compared to the PS2 network.

1. Buy the Xbox LIVE starter kit- you can get this in any game store practically. With this you get a headset (one of the comfy official ones trust me you need it for all the hours your going to put in), you get a demo disk which installs the LIVE software onto your Xbox and gives you demos to play (currently Moto GP and Mech-assault I think). You also get a scratch card with a code entitling you to one year’s Xbox LIVE subscription. This is by far the cheapest option and the one I would recommend.

2. Using the 2 month free trial – you can get this with a number of games at the moment which entitle you to a free 2 months online gaming- you still need a headset though to get the full experience which you can purchase for a hefty £19.99 from HMV/Game etc. You STILL need a Visa or MasterCard to sign up and really I would hesitate to use this option unless you only plan to use Xbox LIVE for 2 months and no more. You are charged automatically after the 2 months and as such have to be careful. And you need an Xbox LIVE game that the trial came with to install the Xbox LIVE software if you don’t already have the LIVE option on your Xbox dashboard already as the older Xbox’s don’t. (just go to Xbox LIVE option in the game you have and it should start installing from there) so you cannot just get a card without one of the newer games.

After the year or 2 months are over you can go onto 2 options- the annual renewal, available at £39.99 or Monthly renewal at £4.99. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the annual renewal is cheaper and as such you have to notify Microsoft to go onto the annual repayment as they automatically start charging for the £5 renewal I have been told.

In the future Microsoft is looking to get over the barrier of the Visa problem by implementing a scratch card idea (available like phone top ups I assume) but I guess since not much has been said about that lately that its likely to be brought up at X04 this year.

2 HOW TO CONNECT?

This is a tricky question for me to answer fully as I only have experience using the one type of connection myself. That happens to be the most popular here in the UK. NTL home packages are cheap and you get everything you need supplied. Now I only want to write about things that I think I know about so I’m hoping to fill this section with other peoples experiences as there are many different providers and as such many different experiences. For more general information look at Xbox.com/uk/LIVE for more information although they tend to be a bit bias (i.e. saying direct connection only available through telewest which simply isn’t true) if you have your own experiences then please e-mail me at [email protected] and ill be sure to add them.

2.1 NTL

They offer 3 different speeds at the moment- 128k, 600k and 1mb connections.

DO NOT go for the 128 connection – pay the extra £10 to get the 600k (unless you like your games laggy as hell!)

I have 600k and it does fine for every game to present (although hosting 16player games is sometimes a bit of a lag fest- depends on network condition that day and time. Installation is free and you also get the modem for free. Ask for either the NTL 120 home modem or the 200 model as both of these have both a USB port (enabling you to connect you pc to the modem) and an Ethernet port (which is what the Xbox requires).

I do a DIRECT CONNECION and this is not the only way to connect but I find it the best way I have tried. For an extra £5 a month NTL will con you into paying to connect to Xbox LIVE through a router they supply- this means that you can have your pc and Xbox on at the same time but in my experience using a router is bad news and can see you refused access to many games.

Also to have your pc online at the same time, simply buy and install a regular network card into your pc. Run a Cat 5 Ethernet cable from your Xbox into the back of the network card and connect the modem regularly through USB. Then set up a shard network depending on your operating system and make sure any firewalls are configured to allow connection sharing also.

3 Xbox LIVE 3.0

Xbox LIVE 3.0 has just launched but not many games support its features yet- here is a list of what is to come.

3.1 Voice Mail in UIX Friends- NOW AVALIABLE

The Voice Mail feature allows users to include voice mail when they send or accept game invitations and friend requests. Users can include up to 15 seconds of voice data with each invitation or request to provide more context for the recipient.

3.2 Title Managed Storage

Title Managed Storage allows a game to store information on the Xbox LIVE storage servers. The feature is divided into two parts: global storage and per-user, per-title storage. Global storage is read-only to the title and stores matchmaking queries, rosters, weather data, and so on. Per-user, per-title storage provides 32 KB of storage for each player of the title, to store playbooks, settings, and so on.

3.3 Family Title ID

Family Title IDs allow title-managed storage, teams, and messages to be shared across a family of titles. A given title can belong to as many as four title families. The way in which storage, teams, and messages are shared across the title family is up to the publisher and title developers. For example, a publisher with multiple sports titles could have a developer use a Family Title ID that allows a user to create a team that spans all of the publisher’s sports titles.

3.4 Teams

The Teams feature allows players to form teams within a title that persist between game sessions. Titles expose this functionality using the XOnlineTeamXXXX and XOnlinePeerXXXX functions. The infrastructure, permissions, display, and role of teams depend on the design of the title.

3.5 Competitions

Titles can use the Competitions feature to run automated in-game single-elimination tournaments. The participants in a tournament can be either teams or individuals. Tournaments are created either by the title publisher or by the players themselves.

3.6 Messaging- Update: now you can sync ure msn messenger with ure Gamertag- a 1st step.

With Messaging, titles can send and receive any kind of game-specific message (including voice and text attachments) using the XOnlineMessageXXXX functions. Messages can be sent between teammates, friends, or players.

3.7 New Xbox LIVE Statistics Features

The updated Stats APIs enable titles to group users into dynamic teams, called “units”. Each unit can contain up to four players. Users can compare how their units rank against each other on the new Unit Leaderboards. Also, titles are now able to resolve contested stats using the Xbox LIVE Arbitration servers. Additionally, titles can now post all of the stats for a game session with a single write call.

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4. FAQ’s

With Xbox LIVE there are many questions that have to be answered. I will attempt to answer most common ones below but if there are any others then please e-mail me and ill try to add it to the article ASAP. Xbox LIVE is constantly evolving so if you notice one of my answers is incorrect then please contact me and ill change it.

4.1 Why are they selling the Communicator separately?

The Xbox LIVE communicator is now on sale separately for £19.99 rrp, it’s being sold for 2 reasons
1. Incase you break your existing one
2. Because continuing after a 2 month trial without purchasing a LIVE starter kit means you will want a headset- essential for games such as Splinter Cell PT as it requires a lot of communication.

4.2 What is XSN sports.

It’s a method of competing against other Xbox LIVE users when playing XSN branded sports titles such as Top Spin, Amped and RalliSport Challenge 2. It’s being faded out now however, since its been sort of a flop and EA are really wanting to take over the sports section surprise surprise.

4.3 Will there be extra costs for some games?

An important Question, typically MMORPG’s charge a monthly subscription to play online, such as Phantasy Star Online and the upcoming True Fantasy LIVE Online. At the moment there is rumors going around that EA will charge a subscription to play its more popular sports titles online, but this is just a rumor at present.

4.4 What is “Premium Content” and how much does it cost?

Premium content works in the same way as regular downloadable content, except it is much more higher quality, and thus comes with a standard charge. This is usually around $5 US or approx £2.99 in the UK. Some are more worthwhile than others. PRG2 is the most recent addition, and for the £2.99 you gain a whole new track and a new selection of cars. This type of content is optional.

4.5 Will I need a credit card to use XBL? What about debit cards?

You need a VISA or MasterCard to sign up, you cannot use Switch/Solo cards unfortunately, and you need one to sign up, even if you purchase a starter pack im afraid.

4.6 Is Xbox LIVE broadband only? What about 56K dial-up users?

In theory you can use a 56k connection through a network, but DO NOT!. You will have lag and people will hate you for bringing lag to their games. Xbox LIVE is designed for Broadband only!

4.7 Does Xbox LIVE work with AOL Broadband?

From aol.co.uk apparently you can now, please read the statement from that site below.

You can now enjoy the ultimate gaming experience through AOL Broadband by plugging your console into a global network of broadband gamers. Both PS2 and Xbox offer a service that allows you to link up your games console to the Internet to pit your wits against gamers from around the world. When you subscribe to AOL Broadband you can visit AOL Keyword: Online Games Consoles to view a dedicated support area on how to set up and make the most of your Games Console online.

4.8 How much bandwidth will I need to play on XBL?

A 600k (512) is the minimum I would recommend.

4.9 Will Xbox LIVE work behind my firewall?

Yes, but it is different for everyone, and configured differently for each different software. I personally use ZoneAlarm and Norton Internet Security at the same time and I can still log onto Xbox LIVE.

4.10 Are games hosted on MS servers or on my Xbox?

Generally you have to host your own games. If you want to do this a lot consider getting a 1mb connection to be able to host larger games.

4.11 How many Gamertags can I have?

Just the one I am afraid and choose it carefully as you generally cannot change it unless you have a very good excuse.

4.12 How does the XBL feedback system work?

It doesn’t. Microsoft dont throw people off, they want their money. Only in extreme circumstances would this have any effect.

4.13 Can more than one person play on a single Xbox with Xbox LIVE?

Yes, but that depends on which game you are playing. PGR2 allows for 2 racers in split screen for example- but only under the game Gamertag.

4.14 Can I use my MODDED Xbox on Xbox LIVE?

Yes but don’t! If you get caught (and its easily done) then your Xbox will be banned from Xbox LIVE.

4.15 How does the Communicator work?

You talk into it.

4.16 Is there ANY way for guests to use a Communicator?

Only through a 3rd party headset that supports it.

4.17 How do I add a Gamertag to my Friends list?

There are many different methods, look in your Xbox LIVE instruction manual for how to add Gamertags from the dashboard, lots of games have lists of people you have recently played against, but consult their individual manuals for advice.

4.18 How does the INVITE feature work?

Again this is different for every game, consult your games manual, but it usually is a very easy process.

4.19 Will I be able to play people in other countries?

In most games yes, some older titles don’t allow it, but generally its better to play people from your own country as it

4.20 Why not just stick with free services like XBconnect?

Because there is less cheating and lag, and everything runs smoother generally. Xbox LIVE games were designed to be played on the LIVE network and that is what they are fully optimized to do. Also you get downloadable content exclusively on LIVE.

4.21 How does Xbox LIVE compare to Sony’s offerings?

Your asking a bias person, but from what I have played of ps2 online, not very well. There are great advantages to a closed network, less hacking/cheating most importantly. Plus its broadband only while Sony’s offering is not.

5. What titles support Xbox LIVE Features.

Coming soon!