Welcome on ABI!
The firmware resides on the hard disk and, when you format it, the player can't be recognized because a firmware isn't loaded. But, if you select the option "reload firmware" from the recovery menu, the player should be recognized by the firmware upgrade package. Did you mean the "reload firmware" function by "firmware-begone-'d"? If so, try to uninstall all Creative software and, if it doesn't help, try to revert back to WMP 10 too. Keep me updated about your progresses... Have a good day!