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ASTA... la copypasta?

Posted by Ozzallos Wednesday November 4 2015 at 11:11PM
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When it comes to MMOs, I sometimes feel like North America- and by extension Europe -is the Gamestop bargain bin-- you know, the dumping ground for discounted games that didn’t quite make the cut. While that describes quite a bit of the F2P market, it especially describes ASTA – The War of Wind and Tears. The first thing you should know about this game is that it is no longer being supported by its original developer, which makes future content beyond the core game a somewhat iffy proposition. Just keep that in mind if you’re feeling spendy.

The next piece of criticism you’ll hear about ASTA is that it is the Warcraft of the East, and again, there’s no denying that this game is almost a wholesale clone of Blizzard’s flagship title. Be that as it may, I feel the stereotype sells the game short, especially since most of the MMOs made within the last decade are unapologetic Warcraft clones. While that could be a bad thing, there are two things to consider before writing ASTA off completely:

First, it plays like vanilla Warcraft, and that’s not a bad thing folks. World of Warcraft was already pretty user friendly when it first launched, but the current iteration is so dumbed down it’s not even funny. It tries to be all things to everybody and in the process has turned into a very mediocre product. ATSA plays very much like Warcraft before it was weighed down with kludge.

The second thing to consider is that when people are describing this as the Warcraft of the East, they quite literally mean it. From the storyline to the world you play in, everything is imbedded in Eastern mythology to the point that while there is a theme park structure, it’s barely recognizable. Adding to that ambience are the voice overs. None of it has been transitioned to English aside from subtitles, giving it a more immersive feel.

Beyond those two elements, you’re getting pretty much what’s on the tin; a product that Blizzard pioneered a decade ago with a few minor nuisances. ASTA features five classes and five races spread out across two factions. Movement, cooldowns and combat are handled like its Warcraft forefather, though with the wrinkle of adding your own stat points that accumulate with each level. There’s even a talent tree to invest in for each level after nine. Sound familiar?

Graphically, ASTA isn’t going to win any awards. Where the vanilla Warcraft comparison certainly helps in the gameplay department, it unfortunately holds true in the visuals as well. While Blizzard’s title has undergone a number of graphical updates, ATSA obviously has not, so don’t be expecting cutting edge visuals regardless of the fact that it is using cryengine. What is to like is another similarity to that of Warcraft’s environments, and that is creativity. The game definitely has its own unique style and goes all-in on the mythological Asian theme without becoming too cartoony.

Character models are well done—Better than Warcraft, even. Much of your character is customizable and there’s enough races to keep everybody happy. Humans inhabit both factions, but those of the Ora more or less represent the undead. Though cross faction humans are usually the same regardless of what they’re called by a game, ASTA does a good enough job making you feel like they’re different. As an Ora, you kinda feel damned through a combination of the game visuals and starting environment.

Speaking of starting environments, so many games fail at this it’s not even funny. Even TERA, which I personally like, sucks hard at this, and by this I mean dumping every race and every faction in the same goddamn starting zone over and over to ensure you want to stab your eyeballs out when leveling alts. Fortunately, every race has their own starting area like Warcraft in order to help stave off that eye-gouging boredom. You can even go back into the other allied race’s starting content to cleanup those quests for an extra boost, something I always particularly liked about Warcraft.

And hey, there’s even PvP battlegrounds to round out the package.

So what does all of this mean for you? Well, you get a near Warcraft experience that has so far demonstrating itself to be somewhat fair at the cash shop while allowing you to enjoy something familiar; especially if you’re of the mind that it all went downhill after Lich King. It’s likewise familiar but not quite, as if World of Warcraft got an eastern expansion pack tacked on to it. That’s not to say it’s anywhere close to competing with the source material and even then, Warcraft’s dominance is in its twilight anyway. With all the competition in place, we’re certainly not blazing any new trails here.

All of that said, I’ve seen games do worse. A lot worse, so try the beta. See if you like it. Usually titles that try the Warcraft thing screw it up because they fuck up a proven formula. ASTA mostly doesn’t and ultimately comes away better for it.

Death of an MMO redux: Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade

Posted by Ozzallos Thursday October 8 2015 at 6:59AM
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How to kill your Silver Bullet MMO franchise in one easy step:

What business model will the game use?

Eternal Crusade will be available in retail, for digital purchase, and a free-to-play option we call “Free-to-Waaagh!”. By purchasing a copy of the game, you will have access to it forever with no need for a subscription. There will be post-launch expansions as well as a cash shop for aesthetic customizations and side-grades.

You can play Free-to-Waaagh only as an Ork Character. In contrast to the premium Ork progression, some options will be locked, but you’ll be able to go anywhere and fight for the Waaagh! If you like it, but don’t want to pay the full price, you can unlock some of the missing options with micro-transactions.

-Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade FAQs

Billing yourself as a Free to Play MMO from the outset is a risky proposition. Name brand recognition is almost mandatory and even then you’ll need some way to make profit on the backside so you can keep the lights on. Most of your player populace will be free to play until you can entice them to spend money and to do that, you need to give them a taste of the game. Like crack, if you will. The analogy is probably more relevant than not, but that’s neither here of there. Without that foot in the door, you will fail.

While no Star Wars in terms of franchise power, Warhammer 40k isn’t exactly a slouch for fandom, so let’s be generous and say that we’ve at least got a foot in the door. The next is convincing players to spend money, and that’s where Behavior Interactive has gone horribly wrong. Take your favorite MMO, for example. I don’t care which one, but pick one. Got it? Good.

Now you are only allowed to play humans. All other factions are locked out behind a paywall. What? Your MMO is only a single race type game? Okay, you only get to play fighters. Mages, Clerics and thieves are locked behind the same pay wall. While the latter example is less accurate, you get the idea. Free to play lives and dies by giving players a taste of their game. Most of them are not dumb enough to lock a majority of their content behind a cash shop veil from the outset, and that’s where the critical fault here lies with Eternal Crusade. I hear you like orks. So here’s some orks with some orks and a motherfucking cash shop for anything else.

I’m sure you can picture the meme well enough without me having to post it here.

Of the games out today, their business plan seems to resemble Guild Wars 2 the most, but let's be honest-- Does anybody here think Arenanet's game would have been even a fraction as successful if they had forced all F2P player to play just Charr until they ponied up the cash? Say it with me: Nope.

Now I’ve hear that part of this is on purpose. Behavior-if I remember right –wants there to be the hordes of Orks just like there is in the fiction. While it certainly serves the purpose, I can’t help but to think that you’ll completely devaluate the gaming experience by creating an us-versus-them environment, and not simply on the battlefield. We’re talking the have and have nots. The pay versus free players. This can already be a poisonous topic among the player community without going out of your way to actually instigate it as a policy. More to the point, you’re subtly insinuating your free to play user base is an expendable horde.

If this game is planning on surviving as a F2P title, it’s deliberately handicapping itself by locking a majority of its content out from the outset for those free players to sample; and make no mistake, that will be the majority of the player population. It’s also creating a poisonous environment by design and frankly, I don’t think there is enough of an initial paying base to sustain the actual pay portion. Yes, I know it’s Warhammer 40k… but most of this game’s potential audience doesn’t have a figure of Slaanesh on their desk or a 40k rulebook for reference.

I’m predicting one of two things here: Either Behavior Interactive realizes that /wrists is really a bad idea and opens up the race archetypes to everybody or this game implodes faster than the grimdark plot of Warhammer 40k itself.

Leveling – The Gateway Drug

Posted by Ozzallos Sunday October 4 2015 at 5:02AM
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Free to Play publishers. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Whilst perhaps not the wise words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it's certainly a close enough description of free to play’s state these days. A company that cannot find a way to get money from you now (subscriptions) will find a way to get it from you later and perhaps with more desperation (F2P). The cash shop was and still is the facilitator of this big reach around, and is largely used to actuate the pay to convenience theme we all know and love. Buying all out gear advantage is usually frowned upon by most players, but speed leveling items are commonly accepted as only a minor sin.

With so much competition these days, publishers have to walk a fine line—They want their game to be playable in order to attract eyeballs, but not too playable. They want you to buy something from them at some point, and that has traditionally been to alleviate level grind; and therein lies the rub—We gamers are a patient lot when it comes to free stuff. Years of half-baked MMOs have numbed many of us to the grind to the point where we accept it as a fact of life. To put it simply, level grind no longer serves as an effective incentive to wring cash from us.

For the Free to Play publisher, that’s a problem. One of their primary revenue gates is being rendered ineffective, and if they can’t get their cash now or later, they’re pretty much screwed.

Now I’d feel sorry for these people if Free to Play was being used as a fair and equitable transaction of money for entertainment, and there are a few companies out there that really do deserve our business. But by and large, it’s not. Right now, I can go to Greenman and pre-order Fallout 4 for $65, a title that is 100% complete and shines through and through. It quite literally has thousands of hours of voice, a plot, and the graphics are stunning. There is nothing about this game that doesn’t scream quality entertainment.

Or I can go to Wargaming and spend that same $65 on a Tirpitz tier 8 battleship-- Basically a fragment of a gaming experience in a game that is rife with balance issues. A game that is missing core features not due out until 2016. A game that is in no way complete regardless of its launch status.

Now if it sounds like I came here to specifically rag on Wargaming and World of Warships, you’re only half right. I’m actually using them as an example of where the more unsavory elements in the Free to Play industry are taking their brand. We’ve known for a while that manipulating player psychology plays a big role in getting users to spend hard cash. The most egregious example of this is the in-game Slot Machine. Or lottery. Or cash shop random prize box. Regardless of what you want to call it, it achieves the same end as gambling does in a casino: The thrill to maybe win big with odds heavily weighted in the houses favor.

Reaching back to Firefall’s beta, this same tactic was used to simultaneously used to encourage players to retire horded currency for lack of meaningful content as well as stimulate real cash growth for the company as players bought more game currency. They could have added any of those new visuals to the cash shop as promised, but nope. Fuck you, players. We want… no, we need money from you whether this game is called free to play or not.

This is the state of most F2P today: An adversarial relationship between publisher and consumer; where one tries to exploit the psychological weaknesses of the other.

And like ebola herpes, it’s evolving.

It’s a trend I’ve been noticing across several free to play titles and perhaps you’ve noticed it too: leveling is getting easier. Taking World of Warships for example, it’s not the actual grind that’s the problem. You can get to late game ships easily enough… It’s staying there because the economy is specifically rigged to force you back down into the mid-tiers so that you can produce enough income to play at the higher ones, like some fucked up gaming yo-yo. Conveniently, you can abdicate this by buying premium time and/or premium warships to produce the cash to stay at the desired gaming levels.

Archeage provides us with another example, as I touched upon in my review of that game. Leveling and combat are almost untouched in terms of the player’s ability to play the game for free. Heck, you can even craft your way to max level. For the majority of the game, you may think you’re getting a pretty fair shake until you realize it’s not the grind they want you to pump money into... It’s everything else. Housing. Ships. Production. End game gear Etc.

Even new arrivals such as Wildstar are showing hints of this. Leveling in this game is not hard, but you start to see a hint of what the game wants to focus your finances when it comes to simple things such as dyes and cosmetics with prices now scaling into multiple platinum.

The TL;DR version is this—The scum and villainy of F2P are still looking to separate you from your money for as little as they can possibly get away with but their tactics are changing. The old barriers of enforced level grinding are just as good at turning potential players away as it is funneling them into cash shop, or even not at all. In its place a new form of psychological manipulation has sprung up—


The game you’re playing just made it fairly painless to level up to 100 and now you’ve got this somewhat awesome character. It dual wields two swords of +4 badassery. You’ve grown attached to it. It has a big number to go with. And now that you’re up here, you’re going to really want to compete, right? Pimp that bitch out. Buy some cash shop coins. Throw some dye on that costume you just bought. Ease the crafting grind that you really didn’t think was mandatory before.

The levels were a diversion. The real threat to your wallet was waiting up here at max level the entire time, hoping that you’ve become so psychologically attached to your character that you’ll pay the publisher to get bent over on the backside. The addiction of 'just one more level!' is now a tool of the trade.

Hey, even I’ll admit this can be a fair exchange depending on the company involved. But do yourself a favor. Well, two favors. Find out what the money sinks are before you invest the time. Second, just assume you didn’t find that single golden nugget amongst the industry flotsam known as free to play, because you probably didn’t.

Free to Play needs to change. I'm struggling to think of an industry that is so manipulative to its consumer base as to resort to such deception in order to get their sales; one that goes to such great lengths to disguise their commerce model in order to ass-fuck you for a dollar.

This it'snt the future of gaming. This is the death of gaming.

Blade and Soul: Feeling Proud of Itself

Posted by Ozzallos Friday October 2 2015 at 12:07PM
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Call this one an NCsoft double feature of sorts. It’s taken Blade and Soul nearly four years to get a North American release date, but we finally have one on the table for beta: October 30th. I’d have been more enthusiastic if not for two things—First, having learned that Blade and Soul is yet another title extremely porous to hacking. The second is their Founder’s pack pricing model; as in holy crap does this game think highly of itself.

Now maybe NCsoft will deal with the hacking issues in the localization from here to there. I’m doubtful, but it could happen. The pricing for the founders packs are, however, less than optimistic. The lowest level doesn’t buy you much at twenty five dollars—The most notable being beta access and 25k “premium points” of dubious value. To get anything meaningful, you have to take the next step up and spend seventy five fucking dollars. Want more than that? $125. Pay up, bitch.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say that this looks amazingly similar to how players got boned for Archeage early access. I know the game looks amazing and NCsoft isn’t usually horrible, but Blade and Soul is starting to look like a game poised to anally rape you and your wallet from the outset. And with the distinct possibility that the same hacking problems will be present in this version as well? Likewise, it's not as if these games are startups in desperate need of cash. Blade and Soul has already had a successful four year run in another market... WTF is it with the exorbitant early access pricing scheme?

Do yourself a favor, folks… Don’t be the early adopter on this one. Let somebody else get burned first.

Wildstar: Reloaded F2P Review

Posted by Ozzallos Friday October 2 2015 at 10:29AM
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Wildstar F2P, eh?

It doesn’t sound like such a bad deal when you think about it and it’s really not, depending on your MMO needs. As many of you already know, Wildstar started its life out as a subscription based title, but failed to generate enough player interest to sustain continued, long term operation. NCsoft came on board and Wildstar was re-launched a year later as Wildstar Reloaded. Going F2P has changed some aspects of the game, of course, the biggest being that F2P gamers are only allowed two character slots per realm and you cannot create or invite to guilds.

That’s not so horrible, right?

Two player slots does strike me as a bit chintzy but not overly crippling, and as long as you don’t have any guild aspirations, it’s a pretty fair deal. Of course, there’s other minor drawbacks—fewer auction house slots, costume slots, etc, while Signature access either alleviates the above or significantly overpowers the bonuses to many aspects of the game. Yep, pay to convenience is alive and well in the new Wildstar F2P but that’s only a crime if you don’t get something in return, such as a great gaming experience.

Not much has changed insofar as content goes—Wildstar still has that edgy B-Movie sci-fi cowboy plot going on, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. If there is one thing the title has in spades, it’s style and attitude. A lot of MMOs take the safe route and lean on more familiar settings, such as ye ole China, but you can tell somebody cared about the Wildstar universe and its presentation to the player. Quality narration is plenty and even the simple act of leveling up greets with a rockstar welcome. The cartoonish art style is likewise distinctive and probably single parallel I’ll draw to World of Warcraft in that care went into its design. For some, the cartoonish presentation of the characters and the world may not be there thing, but there’s no denying it was well done. Finally, Wildstar goes out of its way to tell a story and does so better than bioware and its multimillion dollar flop.

So why didn’t Wildstar succeed?

There’s very little fresh about the title, in my opinion. Like Tera, it utilizes an action driven combat engine to interact with the bad guys world. Unlike Tera, it’s not nearly as fun. First off, most of the classes are casters to some degree, with only two being proper melee types. It results in a lot of standoff spam that may or may not be your thing. In PvE, it makes for a pretty sedate experience that gets a bit more exciting in PvP because real players don’t stand around waiting for numbers to fall off of them. In the end, it results in somewhat bland gameplay since the mobs always come to you but you really never have to go to them.

The other part of it is the telegraph system that dumbs it down even more. This was originally sold as a feature of the game, but the more I play it in Wildstar, the more distain I have for it. It literally dumbs gameplay down to the point where you mindlessly avoid the red zones that enemies spawn with zero guesswork. Sure boss battles change that up, but in doing so almost completely invalidates this mechanism with unavoidable attacks and the like. Needless to say I’m not a fan of this system and if would never make it into any MMO I would care to build. Even PvP features this system, which makes it more annoying.

“Oh crap, there’s a giant cone of red death getting charged up. Better move out of the way!”

It’s pretty much like that, but more hectic.

The leveling system is pretty much standard fare after that. You level and get new skills, f which you can only put eight on your action bar at once. This is my frowny face. You can individually improve those skills through a point structure and have yet another point structure to get more skills. Frankly it feels like this system was slapped together as an afterthought, but serves its purposes toward specializing your character.

Faction balance is likewise lopsided. A huge chunk of the gaming population invariably chooses the Exiles due to some poor decisions on Carbines part. First, they are pretty much the theme that Wildstar advertises on the tin, not the shady Dominion Empire. Seconds, they get the underdog freedom fighter backstory. Third, and most importantly: Furries. Exiles have all of these innate advantages while the Dominion doesn’t get nearly enough advertising screen time, and now history is repeating itself in F2P.

So there you have it. Wildstar’s biggest sin was being a mediocre game with a great story, much like Old Republic. It wasn’t a bad title, just not enough to actually interest players from the other mediocre titles that were already free to play or the handful of excellent ones that easily eclipse Wildstar’s gameplay. As a free to play title, I predict success, however. Free is just the right price and the care invested in this title’s backstory is worth that alone.

World of Warships Review

Posted by Ozzallos Sunday September 20 2015 at 10:16PM
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The latter part of 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting quarter due in no small part to Wargaming's newest release: World of Warships. I've been playing since the closed-but-kinda-open-beta phase, which was basically a soft advertising release the moment they started to sell shit. Now the banner ads are plastered across every for-profit review site in existence, which means its absolutely fair game in terms of reviewing what Wargaming deems a release ready product.

Yeah, about that...

While World of Warships isn't as launch ready as Firefall was - that is to say not a flaming pile of ass stank -Warships doesn't meet any industry standard of being release ready aside from the fact they'll happily allow you to pay while you test their product for them. In other words, welcome to free to play gaming, enjoy your stay.

So let’s get the bad out of the way first, if only because there's a lot of good to look at. Probably the most glaring issue Warships suffers from is ship balance. It's atrocious at the moment. Of the destroyers, cruisers, battleships and carriers currently at your disposal, the game heavily favors cruiser to such a degree that they pretty much dominate player populations. They invariably have the rate of fire and maneuverability to inflict substantial punishment. When combined with the broken fire mechanism Wargaming insists isn’t a problem, they are the ideal class. Carriers have likewise struggled to find a home, an issue aggravated mainly by Wargaming’s policy of pigeonholing aircraft into specific loadouts by nationality. If you’re playing a United States CV, you get worthless dive bombers and fighters. If you take the Imperial Japanese Navy, learn to love torpedo bombers and the inevitable pendulum of nerfing that comes with them.

The next major obstacle to your enjoyment of WoWS is the economy. Now none of us really have any right to complain about the grind. It’s a fact of free to play life. Where Wargaming goes horribly wrong is in the upper tiers, where you cannot regularly afford to play unless you are a premium, real-money paying player. As a free to play gamer, you will lose money even in winning, forcing you back down to the mid-tiers in order to afford high-tier gameplay. Even their latest premium ship offering, the Tirpitz, will cost you nearly $65 to purchase in the here and now. Yes, for the price of a 100% complete game by a first string developer anywhere else, you can buy a single ship.

What. The. Fuck.

And not even that great of a ship. Can I afford $65? Sure can. Am I going to throw it in Wargaming’s direction to buy a fraction of a gaming experience that frankly isn’t even complete yet? To answer that, please take this moment to imagine me at the Waragaming homepage, flipping my monitor off.

Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world. As long as you can accept that you can’t play in the upper tiers indefinitely for free, it’s not like you have to buy a $65 ship, and juggling port slots for your ships is doable. There’s still quite a bit of experience to be had sans payment, which brings us to the good stuff.

The graphics have only gotten better with each patch. As silly as it may sound, water textures and movement are an integral part of what is, in effect, a naval warship lite simulator. World of Warships has the best I’ve seen, period. The skies likewise have their own mutating patterns, even if actual weather has yet to be implemented. The lighting is superb and ship models a joy to admire. A map or two is usually added with each new patch, which is the main reason I didn’t list the currently limited map rotation as a detractor in the bitch rant above. Eventually there will be a ton of them, I imagine, even if it’s hardly enough for a ‘release ready’ title.

In any case, it’s hard not to forgive Wargaming the moment you pulverize another battleship into broadside versus broadside submission and watch your opponent’s fiery hull slip beneath the waves. It’s just that good.

Audio is likewise great for the most part. It has its quirks here and there and also seems to undergo varying degrees of adjustment from patch to patch- not always for the better –but it’s still high quality stuff. Ambient noise, battle damage, and even the sound track are all well done. Patch adjustments aside, I really can’t ask for better.

The ships models themselves are wonderful when balance isn’t an issue. Individual components, such as turrets, rudders, torpedo tubes and the like can all take damage. Fires can and inevitably will break out aboard your ship along with flooding, forcing you to affect simplistic damage control. As long as you can deal with the healthy dose of arcade in this simulator lite, you should be able to deal with it and  the occasionally obnoxious random number generator working behind the scenes to infuriate you.

As of the moment, there are only two Navies—The United States and Imperial Japanese Navy. Other nationalities exist, but mainly only as premium ships. Destroyers represent the glass canons of the fleet with low visibility and the potential to nuke other ships with their torpedoes. Cruisers play the role of assault and damage while battleships make up the backbone of fleet with their ability to take punishment and sledgehammer blows… Between lengthy reload times and terribad turret traverse. Carriers, on the other hand, are the real time strategy component of WoWS. Your firepower is in your air wing, which you can control and target like a real-time strategy game. Some like it, while others call it “sky cancer”.

From a purely gameplay standpoint, I would like nothing better to categorize World of Warships as a win. While not release ready by any stretch of the imagination, each patch and subsequent update has shown measurable progress forward, not simply dicking around with meaningless systems. Balance continues to elude the title in many areas, but its obvious Wargaming is trying…

…Which is ironic since it is Wargaming itself that I hold the biggest reservations about when it comes to recommending World of Warships. Like many Free to Play games, the intrinsic desire to ass-fuck the player’s wallet over is present everywhere you look. We all understand these people have to make money, but $65 for a ship reeks of profit whoring. I also cannot state this enough: Just because you bought that premium ship doesn’t mean it’ll actually be worth anything. Witness the IJN cruiser Yubari, sold as part of the Closed Beta promotion. The ship is a buggy, nerfed POS that meets none of its advertised criteria, let alone behaves as a "premium" ship. In other words, don’t be the early adopter. Let others get burned first before you pull the trigger.

Then there was the entire Murmansk debacle, where Wargaming advertised a Russian Tier 5 cruisers, port slots and gold as a reward for taking part in the E3 Humble Bundle promotion. Once it was over, Wargaming claimed it was only for the trial period and promptly revoked the aforementioned loot, much to the outrage of the player base and repeated assurances that players would be able to keep the ship permanently. It took nearly two weeks and constant pressure to get Wargaming to keep the terms they advertised, not the ones they retroactively decided upon.

When combined with adversarial late game economy that tries its hardest to skirt the ‘free’ in ‘free to play’, it’s hard to actually say that I trust the company to do the right thing in regards to its users as matter of policy. To point, we still haven’t seen the shared economy like the one that exists between WoPlanes and WoTanks, even though it was one of the first things players were promised.

World of Warships is loads fun, even in the partially completed state it launched in. It certainly has tons of potential and is imminently playable… That is if Wargaming as a company can get its head out of its ass and stop trying to screw the player base over just because it thinks it can get away with it.

F2P Import Death Watch - Blade and Soul

Posted by Ozzallos Wednesday October 22 2014 at 4:01AM
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While my coverage of Archeage has left me thoroughly disgusted with both Trion and XLgames, it simultaneously serves as its own object lesson and insight for anybody looking to drop large sums of cash on a franchise that may or may not ever deliver.  In the world of F2P, past actions are truly the best indicator of future behavior, which is why every last one of us should have seen Trion's bot and hacking typhoon on the horizon...

...And avoided those stupid expensive $150 early access packages like the plague.

Reddit has been a great 20/20 hindsight resources that frankly should have seen all of this coming and sounded the alarm instead of feeding the hype, but one post in particular caught my eye as the forums continued to rage all over Archeage--

Aeolius write: "Most f2p games from Asia are like this. WHy do you think Blade and Soul isn't being released in the states? NCSoft KNOWS all of this and they dont want to ruin their reputation."

Now I've lusted after Blade and Soul for a while and each month without news as to its import status has left me with a painful longing... Or perhaps that was just gas, but it was a franchise I desperately wanted to see come to the United States. Sex did not even begin to describe the game for me, and I'm not talking about the fan service. It looked like everything I could possibly want in an MMO-- The Soul Caliber of MMORPGs. Fuck yes, I was on board with that.

And then I realized I had put those very same fanboy driven blinders on that afflicted many when it came to Archeage. While I could take issue with that near blanket statement being made about the quality of all of those MMOs from that place generically known as "Asia," Archeage had left me with a certain deficit of naivety. I did some digging.

There is now a frown on my face.

I'm not going to dig into as much detail as I did with Archeage, but I'm going to preemptively put Blade and Soul on my caution list as an unsafe purchase. It also leads me to ask the question: What the hell is wrong with these people that they don't put the most basic of security in place to prevent this sort of exploiting? In the many links you can sift through in those google results, you'll see the exact same behavior as Archeage-- Bots teleporting here and there, willy-nilly as if the game code were made of toilet paper and the threat of enforcement almost nonexistent. One of those youtube vids states that it has been the status quo for over a year, which mean significant change is unlikely... Not unlike Archeage, which had a year run-up to the NA and European markets.

Now I know there are people who will groan at the mere mention of World of Warcraft and the franchise is not without it's own bots, but the code was tight enough as to disallow something as basic as teleporting and blatant item duplication. I found bots. I reported bots (without the use of labor you XL dumbasses) and anything as obvious as the exploits featured in the games above usually resulted in foot put to ass by Blizzard, so I gotta ask: What the fuck is going on, Korea? I know f2p margins are tight, but packet insertion hacks are amongst the most basic there is.

I've heard a number of theories thrown around concerning this failure to secure client side data. The most popular seems to be that Korea requires their players to register the equivalent of a social security number before playing any MMO, thus causing the developer placing less emphasis on application side security. It's easy to go after the hacker when you have their state sponsored ID number, right? And in other news, I have a tough time believing somebody can be that naive.

The only thing I have left after that are conspiracy theories. If it should be standard operating procedure to secure against the most basic of exploits and you're not so naive as to think you state ID is going to cross the international dateline to catch that Chinese gold farmer, the only thing I'm turning up is that these games are being built to the bear minimum security standards because it benefits the company in some way. All that hack traffic has to be doing something and some of it even has to be paying to get the ball rolling for the hacker... The cost of business, so to speak. Are these developers purposely neglecting security in the hopes that not only will the legitimate gamer will tolerate it, but the fact that it actually benefits the developer themselves in some nebulous way? They can certainly broadcast that they have five billion players on the banner ad spamming your eyeballs as a way to entice more legitimate traffic, which may stay for a bit before burning out while providing bot fuel like Archeage does.

Like I said, conspiracy theories. I'd be interested in your opinion, because I'm at a loss. In the end, it could be something as simple as just being too cheap to develop real security, but with the backlash facing Archeage, it seems to be an increasingly risky strategy. In the end, I suspect the only reason Blade and Soul has endured it for so long is that it has enough of that unique quality about it that helps the legitmate player ignore it as long as it is convenient to do so.

Even so, I'm almost in agreement Aeolius-- A domestic US and EU release is becoming increasingly unlikely and even if such a thing did happen, we had all better scrutinize it long and hard before succumbing to the early access cash shop land grab urges that afflicted us in Archeage, because there's a good chance you'll get bent over again.


A Taste of Archeage

Posted by Ozzallos Tuesday October 14 2014 at 2:21AM
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Now I know it sounds like I've been overly harsh with my coverage of Archeage, but it's my job to make sure you don't get suckered by some profiteering franchise hiding their commerce model- and ineptitude -behind the free to play label. Archeage, in my opinion, is both. This time I baked cookies, courtesy of the offical Archeage forums where the population is crying tears of blood over the dominance of botting. Sure, every game has this problem to a degree, but only a complete leadership failure could allow this--


(You might have to view the URL source to get the full size version of this pic)

That's one hellva bot train, folks. All above 15 and thus capable of bypassing the chat filter cutoff. All randomly named and all theoretically capable of farming and crafting by themselves once they hit max level. But hey, once you've got them to 50, why not equip them with the ever popular housing hack that allows you to snipe on several foreclosed houses simultaneously and without physical presence?


From a Reddit user:

"There are several Russian hacks that are being used on the US version currently by Chinese and Russian gold resellers. Edit: and of course regular players. To those of you claiming that the person isn't present when the land gets grabbed, you are absolutely correct. They scan the map 24/7 in an external program and then inject packets that spoof the game into thinking they were there and they clicked first. As much as I would love to post sources, I feel like that would only add to the problem by advertising for these private hack sellers."

The in gold spam chat is almost a non event after the broke-fixed-rebroke Seductive Rose exploit that allows you to lock the player in a dance emote, let the owners mark timer elapse on their ship and effect a hostile takeover of their property. Or the trade pack-teleporting-invisibility hack-- Youtube example #1, Youtube example #2. While we're at it, here's a clip of exploiting coding gaps in the out-of-bounds areas of the map to produce virtually inaccessible, large-scale tree farms that are insulated from player reprisal and exempt from the overhead associated with land ownership that regular players would incure.

Sure, you could theoretically report them... At 20 Labor per report, which directly impacts your ability to play crucial aspects of the game with zero guarantee of return or even enforcement.  Archeage has set up a system that actually punishes you for trying to alert somebody that bad behavior is taking place. GG.



Yes, I rag on games. But I especially rag on games that pull derp-derp bullshit like this, expecting you to pay into a system that has had over a year in foreign markets to squash this bot hacking wankfest. And this already on top of a crafting system rigged against your wallet in a profoundly advesarial manner.

I'm serious, folks. Do your research and do not pay these dipshits anything until they can work this crap out. Sure, every game has bots and is exploitable to a degree, but I'm not sure I could even trust Trion with my personal information or payment details with the level of shenanigans going on here.


Other Hacks Found Later 

...Confirmed Worker's Comp pot duplication hack, supposedly fixed. Resulting in the price dumping of a major pay to win mechanism of Archeage with an item you can only buy via real money.

...Trade Window Hack, enabling the exploiter to back out of the trade even though the victim has confirmed the trade on their end. Exploiter gets all goods without having to trade anything, victim is out their trade.


Archeage - A Proper Burial

Posted by Ozzallos Friday October 10 2014 at 4:37AM
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So yeah, I just got done panning Trion's Archage as the most overhyped MMO of the year, but didn't really dissect it for content and playablility. So in between character lockouts and growing tired of the tedious monotony of leveling up skill tree after skill tree, I figured it would be only proper to give Archeage a decent burial. Sounds fair, right?

Let's just get this out of the way first: If you're picking up Archeage because of the combat, quests or core mechanisms that generally define an MMO, you're in the wrong place and will be sorely disappointed if you're expecting a half grab at something unique. AA is a merely a poor rehash of every other MMO that has gone before it... And not any old MMO; but a poorly executed MMO. I say that because if you've played any vanilla MMORPG in the last decade, you've played this one... Only this one- like so many others these days -is still a beta product in spite of its launched status.

If I had to pick a single defining aspect about Archeage, it was as if somebody had all these great MMO ideas and wadded them together with duct tape and paperclips; only the duct tape is peeling off and the paperclips twisted into a mangled mess. Leveling to 50 (55 in Korea) is eye-gougingly bad as it features everything you hate about leveling any MMORPG; that is to say bland, grindy quests that have you play errand boy for some meaningless reason for the majority of your leveling experience. That is not to say Archeage is hard or even challenging. It is just so monotonous that you want to rub salt in your eyes and gouge them after a few weeks. If you choose to level an alternate spec, you just signed up for more cornea perforating fun.

Maybe your ears just perked up at the mention of alternate specs, but trust me, it's really not as hot as it sounds. Archeage touts the ability to mix and match any three of ten classes to suit your style of gameplay, but the reality is that like most MMOs that do this, only a handful truly rise to the top as actually being useful. Dig a little deeper and you find a sloppy, poorly constructed system in which some trees are simply useless and refuse to play well with others.

Piss poor itemization rules to the point that most tanks in this game will run leather and cloth; plate being a worthless hinderance. No, really. So even though you could be that stealth-priest-debuffer dual wielding katanas with plate in theory, the reality of this fail system is that you are setting yourself up for failure outside a select group of builds... No matter how many classes you can theoretically create.

PvP does tend to liven things up as PvP normally does, but this is where the aformentioned issues really become obvious. PvP is dominated by ranged warfare. Since tanks are best served wearing leather or less, they are marginalized to the rear ranks or heavily focus on stealth ganking techniques until the front line of ranged casters and arrow slingers soften the other side up. Yes, you heard me correctly: In PvP, you tank with ranged classes.

Healers are another casualty of this completely jacked system. Not that healing is ever easy from either a PvE or PvP standpoint, just that Archeage goes out of its way to punish these players at every turn. The mechanism governing healing is hideously bad. Heals are few, small and on longish cooldowns. Attempting to be an effective Healer pigeonholes you into a Vita-Aura build, which will cripple your leveling experience. Recent changes ensure you will either have lots of mana and sucky heals or meh heals with anemic mana reserves. Not that your healing will ever be that hot compared to nearly every other MMO you've ever played.

The game is playable, but you can just tell that something went horribly wrong along the way.

So we've pretty much determined that at least half the game is a poorly constructed turd, clinging to the other half as it circles the drain. It's this other half that is your best chance to wring any vestige of enjoyment out of the Archeage-- Crafting and the Economy.

When developers create Free to Play MMOs, they have to assfuck you somewhere in order to profit from their creation. In Archeage, that long shlong you're feeling as you get bent over is the player economy. The combat/leveling engine is left largely unmolested, but at some point you will be strongly encouraged to craft the best gear possible. When you do, you're going to realize that this is where Archeage wants you to spend money. They want you to spend money on farms, which are vital to gathering material. They want you to spend money to reduce the impact of their labor scheme, which is required for nearly every action in the game-- From cutting down trees to the mere act of identifying loot. They likewise want you to spend money to make houses, build boats and to generally just participate in the economy to the point that even selling on the AH requires a cash shop bought license.

Hell, it takes labor to report an abusive player or bot, believe it or don't.

In fairness, it's a fairly complex system that might appeal to some. To others, you're taking on another 9-5 job much in the way Mabinogi forced you to. While the complexity is undeniable, there is always that lurking suspicion that the only reason that said complexity exists is to justify the developer's profit motive. Now, can you survive without the cash shop? Yes. Sort of. Kind of. But count on AA to make it just as excruciating as other MMOs do when they handicap the combat experience. You can do it, but you had better have time. Lots and lots and lots of goddamn time. The only positive here is that any crafting or gathering gives you XP; but in all honesty, levels and XP are little more than a gateways to eventially funnel you into the crafting system.

...Or you can say "fuck it!" and use a bot, which brings us to the last nail in this coffin of a turd MMO wannabe.

Thanks to some truly sloppy coding, development and management; cheating, gold spammers and bots all but rule the economy of this game. While Trion employes the Hackshield program to deter this behavior, it is remarkably inept at doing so. Channels will be wall to wall gold buying advertisement. Bots will teleport across the map. Render themselves invisible. Craft goods and trade packs completely independent of human interaction. Auction house sniper bots. Land and housing sniper bots. Bending code to remove textures, increase viewing angles and the like for gaming advantage. All of this is, of course, a violation of the ToS, but enforcement seems to be a lax afterthought.

Long story short, the game is so porous to hacking it's not even funny as a joke.

For as much as people paid for early access to a game that never left beta, Archeage is a remarkably huge failure. The title had a 1 year head start in Korea and was still imported with all of these design problems, which should be a huge red flag in and of itself. That's not to say somebody, somewhere in AA's development process didn't try for a wild, drunken stab at MMO greatness. It has some really interesting ideas that got kicked to the curb by the sheer incompetence displayed in its execution.

I mean, look... It's not an absolutely horrible game and certainly not as bad as some. I know you're bored, but you should in no way spend money on this game. Anybody who spent over $50 for this game in early access was a sucker.  Sure, you can download and play the game, but don't make their mistake.

Archeage exists only to victimize your wallet.


Most Overhyped Game of 2014 - Archeage

Posted by Ozzallos Tuesday September 23 2014 at 5:52AM
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Yep. I said it.

With the summer drawing to a close, I think it's a pretty safe to make the call that Archeage will be without a doubt the most overhyped MMO title of year. I'm sure there are those reading that will think this is an overly harsh summation and that I should get my head out of my ass, but at the end of the day when you're all snug in bed you'll realize a very uncomfortable fact: You're playing Rift all over again, complete with the three soul system and an enhanced socioeconomic focus to change things up.

Oh, and boats. Boats are the new wings.

Further drawing attention to the fact is that the graphics really aren't that much better, nor are they especially creative for a game looking to set itself apart on merits other than hype. Hell, Rift even makes a better first impression in terms of the initial dark storyline you play through that introduces players to the world. Game play is also pretty stale by any standard. It's not as offensive as some of the games reviewed here, but it is by no means the next Warcraft killer.

But it takes more to than being a slightly modified clone of another game from the same developer (Nexon, anyone?) to become The Most Overhyped Game of 2014. The launch has likewise been an especially messy affair, complete with all the skeezy things that give players a bad impression of F2P as a legitimate business model. There were, of course, the notoriously stingy and overpriced founders packages for a game that had already debuted in Korea over a year ago, offering questionable value unless the player dropped $100 or more; product which has yet to be delivered in some cases.

Likewise, they've taken to locking all but a handful of their servers because of the epically mismanaged loads. Que times are averaging several hours depending on various factors, and Trion has taken to freezing character creation on them even if you choose to endure the wait. The developer has single handedly managed to create one of the most divisive pay versus f2p populations i have ever seen to date, all while spam bots run rampant on the main channels with impunity.

And hey, they want to charge a subscription for this shit, because if you don't pay up, you can't sell on the AH without a visit to the cash shop. Now granted interweb polls don't mean a whole lot on average, but I think this one has something to say... It says people are getting pissed off over what is rapidly becoming a stupidly mismanaged NA and European launch.

Will they fix these problems? I'm sure they will. The technical ones, at least. But when it comes to F2P games, I bet on good ol' Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #1: Once you have their money, never give it back.

Honestly though, if you can overlook they financial shenanigans, Archeage is a competent game. Innovative and groundbreaking? Not really; especially when directly compared to Trion's sister game, with socioeconomics being the only thing separating the two. Because if you put them side by side, you'd almost swear you were playing the same game, graphical nuances not withstanding.

I've been playing it and will probably to continue to do so here and there, but in the moment of real that resides within this blog, it fails the hype train almost as badly as Star Wars Old Republic; That is to say pretty damn hard.

I pretty much in agree with Jim Sterling these days. F2P gaming is its own economic bubble... An unstable, gasoline-napalm bubble that is vaguely hostile to the consumers it services by way of cash shop subterfuge, carrot on stick scams, and now the early access phishing scheme. One of these days it's going to pop a fiery, horrible death. And maybe then we'll see a return to consumer centric gaming, not a marketing apparatus specifically designed to abuse and take advantage of its customer base.


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