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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.