10/10 Project: Anarchy Online

I’m about two inches away from the point where any game I can download and start without installation problems will receive full marks from me.

Having gotten tired of installation experiences which leave one dubious about the technical competency of the people on staff, I jumped back to Funcom, which I at least know from prior Age of Conan and The Secret World experiences that I probably -will- be able to start the game up, even if the load times are long.

By sheer contrast, I’m having a good installation experience already. The downloader was a mere 930k.

Double-clicking that opens its propietary download client, which begins a 1.72 gb download. It has three selection tabs which treat me as a user respectfully:

Okay, so the download speed isn't phenomenal, but at least all the information is laid out clearly.
Okay, so the download speed isn’t phenomenal, but at least all the information is laid out clearly.
Look! OPTIONS! *swoons*
Look! OPTIONS! *swoons*

Look how awesome this is. You can select HTTP or P2P download or a blend of the two at will. Some people are blocked from P2P or are morally opposed to it or get cruddy speeds because their ISP throttles them or have to pay their ISP extra for too much uploading or what not. Some others really benefit from it. Some people may be blocked from a HTTP download and need to use P2P instead.

The client doesn’t try to be smart for you and sneakily choose an option behind your back. It just uses both as a default, and lets you tweak it at will.

Thank you for laying this out clearly.
Thank you for laying this out clearly.

The last page is my favorite. It lays it out in plain language what the downloader is doing. If you have P2P selected, it explains the P2P component, that you are only a participant in the network while this download manager is open. It tells you what the download manager is, a single disposable file, and even shows you its location so that you can go delete it when you’re done and don’t have to search a gazillion folders wondering where it snuck in and got to.

Now they could be lying and talking out of their ass, but I’m not that paranoid without further justification. Taken at face value at least, it is pleasant to be informed about what the downloader is doing.

The download speed ain’t great, hovering at an average of 300kb/sec, but I’ll cut it some slack simply because the download manager impresses me.

Installation and launch without any problems, which makes me deliriously happy after my last two experiences.

The very first impression I get of Anarchy Online is having landed directly back in the last decade and a half – some 15 years perhaps – because WOW, THIS IS OLDSCHOOL.

Stretched, pixelated, primitive character models. Lots of small text in windows to read. Character appearance options that only have 2-7 choices between ugly and horrible.

This is not to say that oldschool is a bad word in my parlance, because I tend to get excited by anything that reminds me of my old memories of MUDing, and Anarchy Online gave off a very distinctive vibe of having been there at the very beginning as stuff was crossing over the line from graphical MUDs into full fledged MMOs.

Why? Rough, alien edges. Bits of the UI were strange and unrecognizable. Controls didn’t quite work as one would expect. I liken it to the feeling I got as I hopped between different styles of MUDs, from Diku and SMAUG to LPMUD or some other codebase. You get the feeling that they grew up from fairly different foundations, rather than everything stemming from an EQ or WoW clone.

Now some people would hate this feeling of unfamiliarity, but I have a tendency to be drawn like a magnet to it – new stuff to learn, seeing how someone did things differently.

I did have trouble with the controls and camera though, a niggling little nitpick that never really went away. I like to switch A and D from the default turn on the spot to strafe left and right, and to my immense amusement, I ended up setting one key to both functions at first – creating very strange movement as I turned left and strafed at the same time.

Removing the key from turn eventually got me solely strafing, but I immediately ran into problems with the camera and mouselook as right-clicking and moving the mouse ocassionally worked as one would expect, but also didn’t react or got jerky from time to time, especially in third-person mode. I ended up mouse-wheel scrolling into first-person mode as the camera seemed to work best in that mode without jerkiness – something I’m quite sensitive to as I can get motion-sick fast with a bad camera acting up.

I was also not pleased at finding out that certain keys seem to be fixed and ‘baked’ into the game. One selected targets with TAB, period.

From the beginning I have always used E as select nearest target and Q as tab target, Tab takes my fingers too far off the WASD position. Not happy about it, but I dealt. Mostly by mouse selection of targets instead. Q instead started an autoattack.

Oh, the combat. I got instant MUD flashbacks because it mainly seemed to be autoattacking. X hits a small rat for Y amounts of damage! x 5 lines in the chat window.

I kept hunting for any hotkeys to press. I’d rolled up an Atrox soldier, and after letting it automatically distribute skill points for me (wasn’t going to read up tons when just trying it out for a few nights), I did eventually find TWO skills, fling shot and burst, which just seemed to let me do more and extra damage on pressing the buttons.

I also eventually figured out that I missed the little “Settings” button in the launcher that allowed me to change resolutions from the default 1024×768, which gave it a look reminiscent of old classic pixelated adventure games, and bring it up to somewhere approaching presentable.


In a sense though, starting with the default resolution helped me to feel my way around the interface better, because the UI was more in your face. Windows were brought up with rather esoteric key combinations – CTRL+4 for Missions, I believe, and CTRL+6 for a map? I ended up clicking buttons a lot instead.

Quests were distinctly oldschool as well. Questgivers weren’t really marked, you pretty much ran up to anybody you saw and clicked to talk to the NPC and it would bring up another window where a long text conversation could be had – complete with timed pauses for the NPCs to speak, and dialogue options for yourself to select.

Eventually, you might hit upon a conversation option that would lead to the NPC giving you a mission – most of which consisted of killing X amounts of random wildlife or killing random amounts of random wildlife for a special item pop.

You had to physically select the items you wanted to give or trade to the NPC as well, rather than the NPC magically removing them from your inventory on quest turn in. In a sense, this felt rather immersive, but on the other hand, it was also tiresome and lengthy.

Which I think summarizes my take on Anarchy Online. It feels intriguing, and looks to have some pretty deep systems to explore. But at the same time I feel the sensation of a clock ticking in my head, that time is passing and much of it is being wasted on slowpoke, oldschool mechanics.

It took me 2-3 nights to get past the newbie island, and I didn’t even do every quest available there. I ended up in Borealis, a neutral city, which seemed fairly big. While just running around aimlessly, I got kind of lost and unable to find the next mission location as the map didn’t seem very helpful. Nor did I really feel like doing the very oldschool style quest of following NPC directions “oh, follow the road up north this way until you hit the X landmark, then take a right to the Y, and then turn left and…” just then.

Perhaps when I have scads of time one day, I might.

There did seem to be quite a few people standing around on a main thoroughfare in Borealis – to the point where I was feeling framerates drop or some lag or some such – so I don’t believe the game is completely deserted. It seems like the kind of game that would probably be rewarding if you put in sufficient time and effort into learning and progressing with it.

It’s just that I’ve already committed to two other games, one of which is just as oldschool and time consuming (and I’m already slacking and doing really badly at it while getting caught up with the renewed shininess of the new shiny,) so I have no more room in my life for Anarchy Online.

Maybe others might have. I’d love to think that some do, because I’d hate to think that the fate of all old MMOs is to fade into obsolescence. AO’s got an interesting looking sci-fi setting, oldschool mechanics, and actually installs and runs, so it’s not like it has nothing going for it.

Just not for me at this time.

GW2: Razing Expectations

Puns. I love ’em.

On a more serious note, quick thoughts about the big end of March patch that just hit us.

Flame and Frost Razing Instances: Braham and Rox


Now THIS is more like it. Full on cut-scenes harkening back to Guild Wars 1. Did them solo. Enjoyed the storytelling for the most part.

I was especially tickled to be able to talk to the guard who knocks you back in the Command Core instance and use my “Pact Commander” VIP status to barge into the War Council and be treated like an equivalent-ranked Charr.

Got a very thematic and immersive screenshot out of it, which is fast becoming one of my favorites.

How Blood Legion argues their point in meetings
How Blood Legion argues their point in meetings

I’m not a fan of Rox’s eyes. I’m not a fan of cutesy, period. Big-eyed cutesy Asura unnerve me the same way. But I suppose she can’t help her genetics. I’ll try not to hold it against her.

(I’m not sure what they were after there. Trying to make her sympathetic or likeable? It moves her into Japanese anime female territory, not quite the image of gender-equal Charr I would have liked.)

The albino baby devourer is cute though. I’m a fan of cute. Like Quaggan cute. I’d love to see that devourer develop as time passes, similar to Gwen in GW1. I have this image of a gigantic veteran or champion siege devourer following behind Rox one day. *coughs*

Braham’s okay. Be interesting to see how his story develops. His mace and shield though… dayum, would almost make me go mace/shield guardian if I could have those skins.

Agent Brandubh’s Dead Drop Scavenger Hunt

I really appreciated this one. I felt the difficulty level was just spot on.

Talk to the NPC and he sends you a mail with the item you need and sufficient clues to treasure hunt them in just two zones. (Which, if you were at all following the Living Story, you probably already fully explored, but if not, it’s a good excuse to.)


Felt no pressure to go look up an external site. I could actually rely on the in-game information given to ‘quest’ my way to the locations and get a lore/info teaser from each spot.

(As contrasted with something like the Halloween stuff which spanned a whole bunch of zones with fairly vague hints, so the easiest thing to do was just wait for Dulfy.)

WvW-Related Stuff

Whee, no culling. Oh boy, no culling.

I suppose it’s good to be able to see everyone in WvW.

Figuratively speaking, anyway.

First off, titles. They suck. Seriously. Fuck player vanity. You could afford to have titles dangling in Guild Wars 1 when all people did was hang around in a big lobby room not doing anything more important than trading or LFG.

At this rate in WvW, I’m seeing more text cross my screen than if I played a MUD. Get rid of them. Kill it dead. With fire.

In order not to tax my system, I put all settings on lowest for now to test the best case scenario, though I admit I miss seeing how my comrades used to look. The jury’s still out on my part with regards to zerg vs zerg performance – mostly because I HAVEN’T managed to get into a proper ZvZ extended fight yet to really stress test it out.

I’m a little miffed about it, but you know, new patch syndrome, just gotta roll with the punches for now.

See, first, there are the queues. All four maps had queues during NA prime time, something I’ve never seen happen except on reset night in my time so far on TC. It’s, I guess, a good kind of problem, because the more PvErs and new to WvW players come in, they may possibly get hooked and stay. But it also means I ended up working on the PvE Living Story content for quite a bit longer than I initially intended – and ditto some of the WvW regulars I’m more used to seeing in WvW.

Then there’s the obsession about the new shiny of WvW XP. Points score? Who cares about that? Killing people gives WXP! Die die die!

Both combined lead to extremely undisciplined, disorganized zergs. You can feel it, the green dots mill about and move on their own, and aren’t united or stacked on a commander for the most part. Twenty people will break off and chase down a lone invader, because WXP!

I think a bunch of commanders gave up cat herding and turned off their tags, and I can’t blame them. The atmosphere’s quite a bit different from the WvW I’ve been playing for the past 2-3 weeks. I’m sure it’ll settle down in time, but phew, it’s chaotic for now. I’m also hoping less crowd-friendly timezones will be more like what I’m used to. We’ll see. I’m sure once all the easy levels are gotten, people will trickle back to whatever else they like to do also.

So far, my tentative conclusion is that it’s not too bad. I haven’t had an instance where I collide head-on with a zerg that popped up out of nowhere, end up lagged in a bunch of marks and feedback, have my FPS drop to 1-2 and melt before firing a single skill.

But y’see, I haven’t had the opportunity to stand in a bunch of marks and feedback yet to test this. No commander with a sufficiently sized group-focused supportive zerg means I default to self-preservation like the disorganized green dots around me, and now no culling means I can SEE the enemy zerg running towards me, and you bet I can read that charge and NOT BE THERE as they hit and roll right over the other unsuspecting guys who were clumped up.

(Sigh. Well, it’ll take time for them to learn. If they followed the commander who tried to get them to reposition, they would have avoided that steamroll. But they didn’t. And so the commander(s) eventually gave up trying to save/teach them for that period of time, because I’m sure their blood pressure was spiking. And without a commander to follow, you can bet I am still going to reposition myself and attempt disengaging even if barely anyone else is since they’re already dead.)

All in good time, I guess.

I find 1-5% not terribly significant in the larger scheme of things, so am not in a particular hurry about this. I’ll play when and what I like and the WXP will come.

The added armor stat types for WvW seem okay. Not too expensive, not too special, just another alternate way to get exotic armor with stats you like, which is as things should be.

Skin-wise, some people aren’t impressed with the armor or weapon skills available, in that they’re nothing different from what’s pretty cheaply available in PvE already. I feel it’s ok, it’s a way for WvW focused people to get those looks without using up a transmutation stone (or crystal or whatever they’re called now.)

And I actually like the racial weapon skins – they’re pretty, even if they’re available at low levels. My Asura’s staff uses the glyphic skin, which I bought off the TP before this. I just like the glow and the tasteful lightning effects. My Charr uses a shiverpeak talisman as a focus skin, because it’s got a nice fiery particle effect that trails behind as he runs and goes with the fiery dragon sword.

Hmm, what else?

RIP catapults behind gates, and a small solemn silence for timewarp. But yeah, balance changes, and people adjust. Nothing to freak out over and quite relieving in a sense that the absurdity of chucking boulders at your own gate is now gone and that uber duber speed timewarp ain’t gonna be used against you too.

In Other Personal Computer News

The last survivor of my ex-dual monitor setup chose yesterday to die.

Cue impromptu hauling of said monitor to the service centre for repairs and a shopping trip to buy new monitor in the meantime.

The happy news is that the new monitor, a Samsung S23B350, supports a higher resolution so my new screenshots are now going to be 1920×1080.

The old monitor also got fixed in record time (a day), though I had to pay them for a whole new power board. If you’re counting, that means I now have a functioning dual monitor setup again. Wheee. I’ve missed it, though it did dent my budget some. It’ll make dual-clienting ATITD a whole lot easier for sure. I hated ALT-TABing.

Since I ended up at the computer store, I also picked up 64-bit Windows 7. (Welcome to the 21st century, right?)

It’s probably an entire weekend (or two) project to save everything I could possibly want to preserve and replace WinXP with Win7 (and reinstall critical programs), but here’s hoping this will solve my regular out-of-memory crashes.

Else I’ll just have to wait until I can afford to build a brand new spanking computer again. *crosses fingers*

10/10 Project: Mabinogi

This is starting to become a pattern.

Went to the website – selected the “old fashioned” way download because I am old fashioned and like my setup files as one big chunk.

Downloaded it at a speedy 1.4MB/sec.

Double-clicked it to install and received this intriguing error:

But but... I haven't even selected a path for you to install the program to!
But but… I haven’t even selected a path for you to install the program to!

One quick Google search reveals that this is not an uncommon problem.

Fuck you, Mabinogi.

Now I really wanted to delete this and end the post here, but this is starting to turn into a series of blog haikus about shit I can’t install.

So I gritted my teeth, and clicked on the big obvious button to get their propietary downloader, which insisted I sign my soul away and agree to downloading Pando Media Booster (something I earlier spent time scrubbing my computer free of, thanks to LOTRO and Aion), which sped up my download speed to oh… a blazing 300-400 kb/sec.

If you were paying attention, I downloaded 3x as fast from the direct download earlier.
If you were paying attention, I downloaded 3x as fast from the direct download earlier.

Queerly enough, the direct download was a mere 2 gb, and the identically named setup file that this downloader downloaded was 2.5 gb.

On double-clicking this one, the hard disk ground a bit but absolutely nothing happened.

No, I lied. Task Manager showed that the 2.5 gb MabinogiSetup133R.exe file was taking up a dinky 392k of memory.

Feeling very weirded out, I ended the process and did my best to delete all the exe files – something that took a little while as Windows insisted one of them was “in use” at the time.

You know, it’s not as if I downloaded this from a possibly contaminated torrent here. This is straight off the official website…

Official conclusion from me:

Mabinogi may also be a good game, but I’ll never know. It’s a good thing I added a baker’s dozen worth of MMOs to try, because I’m running out of them fast even before hitting character creation.

Now please excuse me while I go and scrub my computer off and run it through several gazillion virus scans because I’m paranoid and hate this type of weird behavior from exe files.


10/10 Project: Maplestory SEA

I’m going to rip Maplestory a new one from the beginning simply because it’s region-locked.

I don’t know about you, but part of the reason why I play MMOs is because I enjoy the massively multiplayer aspect of meeting people from all over the globe.

I enjoy playing with folks from North America, Europe (and the UK), Australia, alongside contingents from places like Brazil, South Africa, the Phillipines and Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China (some of those in the middle do fall under South East Asia, but not those in the front or back) and though I haven’t met anybody yet who has identified themselves as playing from Eastern Europe and Russia, I’m sure some are representing in our global MMOs.

(And other games: My best Alien Swarm experience and uber-hard difficulty badge was knocked out with two Ukrainians. It was awesome.)

Instead corporate greed and game farming out to localized developers ends up isolating players in multiple tiny regions, most of which trail behind at various stages of updates from the main game.

Philosophically, I have issues playing region-locked games. Now I understand the argument for, which mostly boils down to less lag and latency from a more nearby server farm. (The companies will also try to sell you the idea that you’re getting better customer support, but my personal experience of that makes me laugh derisively – I’d prefer a cut-and-paste response from someone in India following rules set out by whoever wrote the guidebook.)

I think this is easily solved by offering choice back to the players. The Singapore version of Starcraft 2 had an interesting twist. Players could choose to play on either NA or the SEA region. (I don’t know if this still exists or works, I haven’t bought the game yet, but having the choice offered at least doesn’t dissuade me immediately from getting it. Unfortunately, it only worked for folks in our tiny little dot of a country and everyone else in the regions around were locked into one by default. I call foul.)

Locking players out by default means only one thing. Licensing rights and issues. Corporate greed. Stupid legal stuff about publishers and developers and distributors following an archaic boxed game system that is slowly but surely being supplanted by digital distribution.

And as much as I’d love to support local games industry, licensing a franchise and running it (oftentimes badly) just… smacks of lacking in creativity and corporate continuance at the expense of customer experience.

On the bright side, what I’ve heard is that Maplestory SEA has a fairly good reputation in that it is pretty popular in this region, possibly among schoolkids, (and in the sense that it wasn’t a flagshipped Hellgate: London disaster, which really pissed me off when I received the nasty shock that my $80 game was only locked to one region, updated poorly, and then crashed alongside the main game. And no, they didn’t offer refunds nor any excuse at good customer service either. You may be able to tell that I am NEVER giving that company – IAHgames – any money ever again. As far as I can tell, Asiasoft has a slightly less godawful reputation, which isn’t saying much, but well…)

Still, in the interests of at least trying out the game and letting it stand on its own merits (as well as be a freeloading bandwidth drain,) I downloaded the SEA version to give it a shot.

At version 1.27, I gather that it’s behind by four patches, as the ironically named Maplestory Global website seems to indicate that it’s up to 1.31 by now. (I hear Maplestory Global region locks out by IP any person from a country whom they have a local agreement with, at 10+ regions, I assume it’s a LOT of people locked out. I couldn’t be arsed to download 3 gigabytes just to try it out and screenshot the error message though.)

At least it isn’t TERA though, whom I’m still amazed had the gall to lock people out of a game while not even HAVING an alternate region for them to go to. And tarring everyone east of, oh, I dunno, London, with the Chinese gold farmer brush. Xenophobia, much?

On downloading, the game started up in full screen and offered me a choice between two gateways: one apparently preferred for Singapore Maplestory players, and the other for Philipines/Malaysia players.

Looking promising... until it didn't.
Looking promising… until it didn’t.

Upon selecting option A, the game crashed.


Trying it one more time, led to the same result. Client up and closed of its own accord.

This isn’t starting out well already.

Just a hint, if I have to start googling for solutions to technical problems even before I make a character, that’s a pretty damn big entry barrier for your game already.

So apparently, according to one year ago forums, this wordless error-message-less crash is indicative of one’s client being not fully updated to the most recent patch, because one is missing the auto-patching Patcher.exe from one’s main game folder.

I really would have thought that something labeled “FULL CLIENT” would come with, oh, I dunno, the full set of game files?

Turns out I missed the other button, labeled “Manual Patch” which I would have to download manually and patch up version 1.27 to 1.28.

So I guess we’re only three patches behind, not four.

While waiting for the manual patch to download and install and do whatever else it is doing (no doubt installing extra bloatware in an attempt to prevent hacks as well,) I just want to rant about my personal pet peeve – MMOs that take forever to get a player into the game. Games that don’t are few and far between (the two Guild Wars and Puzzle Pirates come to mind), but no doubt get a lot more people trying them out before losing patience at the installation stage.

On trying to launch the game after installing the manual patch, the game promptly hangs and gives me a black screen of death (complete with outsized cursor) and refuses to respond to ALT-TAB or indeed CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Had to hit the reset button to get the PC going again.


Now it could be that something that I haven’t yet given Zonealarm permission for is stalling this out, but I’m unable to figure out what. Nor do I see an easily configurable option to bring this client into windowed mode so that I can actually get at the Zonealarm pop up if there is one.

If there’s one thing I detest, it’s a game fails to function properly, locks up my entire system and can’t be ended via Task Manager.

Maplestory may be a good game, but it’s a shame, I’ll never know.

Just wasted two hours that could have been spent playing something a lot more fun than “Diagnose-Your-System-Incompatability-Problems.”

Seriously, fuck this.


Let’s hope the next 10/10 game has better luck.

The 10/10 Project

Syp’s got an interesting idea up, to check out 10 MMOs he’s never played in his life over the course of 10 (not sequential) days.

Despite my being so caught up in GW2 that my ants and camels are busy dying over in A Tale in the Desert (hint: not logging in for 9+ days does a number on the things that require regular upkeep and maintenance,) I think I might just join him.

Though it may take me the course of 2 months or so to get them all. They’ll have to be sequentially installed and deleted as my hard disk is choking for lack of space, and if there’s one thing I have very little patience for, it’s sitting through a 10 gb download with poor speeds.

It took a bit of research to come up with a list of MMOs I haven’t yet played, because I’ve mostly tried any that have caught my eye already.

The following list feels like trawling the bottom of the barrel to me, most were previously dismissed for some reason or other:

1) Anarchy Online

2) Asheron’s Call 1 and/or 2 (not sure if any free trial available)

3) Battle of the Immortals (is it an MMO?)

4) Dark Age of Camelot

5) Free Realms

6) Blacklight Retribution (not an MMO but always been intrigued by the ads)

7) Raiderz

8) Istaria

9) Mabinogi

10) Maplestory

11) Runes of Magic

12) Ryzom

13) Star Trek Online

I note with a lot of irony that a bulk of them come from Perfect World Entertainment. For some reason, the vibe I get from just scanning their stock of MMOs is that cash shop power galore runs rampant, everything is probably very grindy without cash shop boosts, and everything is probably very typical MMO quest and holy trinity combat with a heavy group reliance and an endgame focus on raiding to climb the infinite gear ladder – something I’ve never been interested in from the get-go and thus dismissed even trying them out in the first place.

Perhaps I’m wrong. One night in them can’t hurt, I suppose.

I chucked in a baker’s dozen instead of ten, as I’m really not sure some offer free trials. If they don’t, they’re off the list.

Ryzom is the only game I’ve tried once, and though it didn’t captivate me then, I’d like to give it a second chance to. I think its main problem was that it was so slow and grindy I never got out of the tutorial zone or found I had any impetus to.

We’ll see how far I get.

Oh, and I might just throw in Planetside 2, World of Tanks and Xyson in there somewhere, having somehow forgotten that they exist as I was compiling that list. I’m not sure if my primitive computer can run the first two, but it’s worth a shot, making it sort of a 15/15 project (plus 1 FPS) instead.