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OP 5/26/13 6:10:03 PM#1
A strange complaint.
I've been playing Anarchy Online off and on (mostly off) since Beta. I connected to the game again a couple weeks ago and started re-familiarizing myself with my main characters and after getting to the point where I was able to do stuff again without too much confusion, started to look at the item shop to see what might be avaliable. Several interesting things presented themselves, and I sent Funcom the money for those shop purchases. I'm rather happy with all of them that I have managed to purchase.
But then I noticed something else. Something that one generally doesn't see in a cash shop game, but which was very attractive to me. They had a option to purchase a feature that will level a character to L200. I don't have a L200 character, and decided that I'd give this a shot. It was pretty expensive but when I looked around it was really not much more expensive than simply buying some froob account, would be, and a lot less of a pain, as I wouldn't have to buy account transfers or name changes, etc.
So... I looked for an option to buy 24000 Funcom points. The largest amount that one can buy at the Funcom shop is 9000 at a time. Fine, I can buy 9000, 9000 again, then 6000 and have 24000 points, right?
Wrong. I was able to purchase the first 9000 points without difficulty, but over a two day period I was not able to buy any more points, using multiple different payment methods. At first I thought that There was something wrong with the Funcom payment processing system, but after consulting with my bank, Paypal, etc, it seems that Funcom isn't even trying to process my payment. However Funcom is indicating the transactions failed. Now, saying the transaction failed, without even making any attempt at all to actually process a transaction is mighty odd, so I thought about it and decided to give it 24 hours and try again. Maybe Funcom has some sort of "safety" feature only allowing one purchase per 24 hours? No luck. Two days have now passed and I cannot purchase additional points. So I thought about it some more, because nothing is making any sense here. Until I looked at all the Funcom offerings again. Nothing available in the Funcom shop costs more than 9000 points, and the largest number of points you can buy is 9000 points. My current balance was barely shy of 10000 points. I'd be willing to put beer-and-pizza money down on a bet that Funcom's point system has a maximum point balance of 10000 points, and my transactions are failing because I am trying to buy points in excess of the point balance cap.
So, yes, I am here complaining about Funcom, NOT because I paid for something which wasn't delivered, but because I want to buy something that they indicate is for sale, but they cannot actually sell me. This is a weird complaint for sure, but it really goes beyond this into the whole design and implementation culture of Funcom. They have, without a doubt, generated some of the best content on the market, but they have severe difficulties actually managing and polishing what they have built. In essence, they do great things creativity and art wise, and have introduced some great, novel systems in their games, but they aren't making a neat package out of it.
For example, in Anarchy Online, let's say you want to use a tool on an item. How do you do it?
1) Use a key duplicator on a mission key, a lockpick on a door, or a disarm kit on a trap -> pick up the tool and right click the item.
Why not simply make it so that every tool must be picked up, and shift-clicked on the object which one wants to use it on? My guess is that the design philosophy for tool implementation over the years has changed, and each time there was a change, the new tool use method was implemented for new content, but not old content, so we have three generations of tool-use philosophy that exist simultaneously in the game.
Then there is the fact that there is a third party piece of software that has been in existence for 12 years to help players generate mission content with rewards that are actually meaningful. Funcom has completely ignored thousands of requests in the last 12 years for a in-game system to make running this third party software unnecessary.
I'm not even going to comment on the Funcom chat systems. If you spend a whole day figuring them out and configuring them, then they can be fine, but they are NOT by any stretch of the imagination a user friendly system. Anarchy Online was the first game to implement hypertext links within their chat system to allow players to show links to item stats easily in chat. Great! But the channel and window controls are painfully clicktastic and non-intuitive.
Now, over on the Secret World side, there's a different sort of issue. Funcom has created one of the best skill and perk systems in the gaming market, and TSW has strong graphics and an awesome story line, BUT they have completely ignored the realities of gaming when they finalized their GUI system. Combat in TSW is heavily mouse based, and their GUI has no option for hotkeys for items. I was told the other day that this was no longer the case, so I logged on my account there and checked, but there was no such feature. You can, using a cludgetastic system, separate a part of your inventory into a pinnable subinventory, and attach it somewhere that might be moderately useful for right clicking with your mouse. While you are also using your mouse for both mouselooking AND attacking your enemies. Needless to say, this is absurd. But Funcom doesn't seem to comprehend that being cool doesn't mean that you have a strong interface.
So, what's my point here? Why am I talking about all this stuff that doesn't really seem related?
The common thread here is that Funcom seems to have the design philosophy of scatter-brained artists. They design cool things, but leave junk and trash strewn around the cool things. People see the cool stuff and are attracted to it, but they soon leave because they step on the junk and trash. Sortof like an awesome statue in a park, but the artist embedded broken glass in the pavement in the viewing area around the statue. Some people who are wearing tough boots might hang around to enjoy the statue, returning frequently, but those who can't deal with the glass shards leave quickly after being cut a few times. They might complain a bit, and ask for a fix before leaving, but if no fix, they don't stay around.
And this is the story of all Funcom games. Great story. Great content. Great innovation of some bits and pieces. Mixed in with half-finished user interfaces and poor total-package implementation. Like selling a 24000 Funcom point items in a shop when the maximum possible shop balance being 10000 points.
Funcom needs to start paying attention to the little things, and start considering more than simply the coolness factor of new features. The only reason Funcom is surviving at all is that they have cool features inside their games with awful interfaces and half-finished features. If Funcom were to actually shift their design philosophy more towards function and less towards art, they could become a truly powerful competitor in the MMO marketplace, rather than an also-ran with some cool ideas.