Out for a week

Should be back next Sunday. Bah, had things written half-done…

Memo for next week:
– Comment Mark Jacobs interview on Gamespot (and Sanya on EA fiscal year and DAoC)
– Write critique/precisation about Raph’s design (puzzle-like games, mechanics/metaphor again)
– Join Moorgard and Nerfbat with the discussion on crafting
– Read FFXI census, comment maybe (subs: “over 500,000 players logging in”)

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CoX and Auto Assault subs

SirBruce on Q23 about the subscription numbers of CoX and Auto Assault, related to yesterday’s layoff news:

The rumor reported on f13 is just flat out wrong. An unnamed source close to the games in question has indicated to me that CoH is at about 160K right now, and that AA is over “a little higher” than 10K.

I’m reporting this because it makes sense.

You can see my report for Q1 06. CoX had around 180k by the end of March, it’s just not possible that it lost 40% of the subscribers in a couple of months. Not even with a total revamp gone completely wrong.

About Auto Assault, well, they were just clueless if they were expecting something else.

Plus some infos about Guild Wars that were known:

Guild Wars sold 1.5 million of it’s initial game, and about 500K so far for the expansion. It certainly doesn’t have 2 million active players. Even if everyone buys the expansion, you’re still not going to make anyway NEAR the money would would have with an MMO. I mean, an MMO is basically like selling a .5 – 1.0 boxes per month per subscriber. You just can’t compete with that revenue stream with a non-sub title unless your MMO does really poorly.

Guild Wars was an experiment, and although it’s sold well for a PC game title, it’s not produced anywhere near the MMO levels of revenue NCSoft wanted. The idea was to see if 5-10x as many people would play an almost-MMO as a non-MMO, if there was no monthly fee. Answer: No.

Not really agree with his analysis, though. Guild Wars isn’t a mmorpg that could have gathered millions of paying subscribers and, in fact, I believe that the 1.5 – 2 million boxes sold ARE 4-5x the number of active subscribers it could have brought along (if not less).

Even here it wasn’t smart to expect much more. If they were.

I have tinfoil hats for all! NCSoft next

Lum worries about his friends at Mythic, now lets not start worrying about Lum, please…

While I was writing the Prey review I noticed this comment:

Offtopic, but there are rumors about trouble in NCSoft Austin — layoffs.

I checked the link provided but saw nothing relevant.

Then I start my usual blog tour and I see this on F13:

NC Soft (US) just had a big layoff today:

80% of GM’s
90% of tech support
75% of QA

Numerous other staff, from producers to marketing/pr.

They are blaming the declining subscriber numbers for City of Heroes/COV which has slowly dropped to just over 100k total. Also to blame has been the disaster that is Auto Assault, which has yet to climb over 10k total subscribers since its launch in the third week in April.

Tabula Rasa continues to suck massive amounts of cash, yet still has no release date in sight.

Not good.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this later. It’s starting to sound less of a rumor.

EDIT: Comment from Alan Dunking on Q23, and official announce here below in the comments:

We can’t really comment on anything regarding this, honestly. I think I can safely say Lum & I are still employed.

I do want to give general advice for any kind of weird anonymous posting on the net:

* Don’t believe everything you read.


* It’s never as bad as it sounds (or looks).

— Alan

EDIT2: For a mean chuckle notice Walt’s comment on the Q23 thread:

EA Mythic’s hiring.

From incestuous families only deformed childs.

What about new people?

Btw, I doubt that people in Austin (the Hollywood of mmorpgs) are going to move to Fairfax Virginia to join Mythic.

HIRE ME! I’ll cross the seas like Christopher Columbus and discover the new world!

(J. also commented)

This is the Prey Demo review, spoiler free

Once again, I can sound irritating and say: “I told you so” ;) Prey is fucking awesome.

Except, not so much. In short I believe this is a GREAT game. But at the same time the execution of some parts (and some important ones like “combat”) is lackluster. I took lots of notes while playing the demo, now it won’t be easy to pull all that together. It looks long. On the positive side I think I’m going to exhaust the topic here, in the sense that I’ve already framed everything pretty well and I suspect I won’t have much to add when the final game will be out.

Short version here.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the Prey demo released yesterday, I played it for quite a while, then went to sleep arguing with myself and without a definite opinion. After some rest I think I’m able to isolate better those parts that didn’t convince me.

If I have to be honest I’ll say that I expected more from the execution. Maybe because I read the enthusiastic comments from 3DRealms official forums, claiming better performance and art quality compared to both Doom3 and Quake4, better environments and baddies and so on.

Let me dispell some of these wrong rumors. The graphic performance is aligned with the other Doom3-based games but I wouldn’t say it is improved in Prey. Due to the overall greater complexity of the environments Prey is slightly less fluid than Doom3 And Quake4. It is true that the portal technology doesn’t influence sensibly the framerate but the engine still obviously suffers when you put two complex environments one by the other. Plus I also noticed some limits. For example the open portals only show you what’s beyond when you are close, while they “fade to black” the further away you move (and your personal light also doesn’t affect geometry beyond a portal).

About the graphic quality and style I’ll say that Prey sits somewhere between Doom3 and Quake4. D3 took place in monotonous, dark corridors with a greenish, metallic tint and some red lights. Which resulted in a general dullness. Q4 was able to break that monotony through much more vibrant, colorful and high-quality textures. More crisp and defined. Prey has some very minor graphic glitches here and there, some approximations. So, overall, slightly less polished compared to Q4. It breaks the monotony of D3 through more complex and varied environments, bit it still doesn’t manage to free itself from the dull tint. The textures taken one by one aren’t bad at all, even if not overly inspired, either. But all the rooms and corridors look like a recombination of the same pattern, which makes sense on a space ship but doesn’t help that overall sense of repetition. As I said the textures used in Q4 were much more vibrant and the level design more detailed and polished. On the other side Prey offers more complex and fun to explore environments.

Summarizing: Doom3 was dark, monotone and colorless. Quake4 had much better textures, more colorful and vibrant overall and with a level design polished and detailed to the extreme, even if not too inspired. Prey loses the vibrance, colors and polish of Q4, but compensates through much more interesting and complex environments. Darkness is not a problem, but the overall tint is back to the dullness of Doom3 without offering satisfactory variations.

On the positive side the levels in Prey become quite involving and immersive thanks to all the new tricks and features that the engine now supports. That’s something definitely pushing you forward to discover what the devs have planned for the next room, motivating you to continue till the very end (which is a RARE quality). The story also does its work, but I’ll return on this later.

So it works and it is “fun”. It’s less of a rollercoaster and movie-like experience as HL2, and more old style like a classic FPS relying on creative “level design”. The graphic style in HL2 aims for the photorealism and familiar look, with the injection here and there of sci-fi elements. This is obviously not the case of Prey who takes place inside a huge, technorganic space ship. So aiming for the sense of wonder and alien, foreign feel. “Away from home” with a constant sense of danger.

I’ll say again that it works. The “flow” is good and there are interesting things going on as you move through the ship.

When it comes to the gameplay the “run and gunning” is probably the biggest problem in the whole game. Here Q4 is far superior. Better baddies, much, much better models, better animations, better weapons, better combat patterns, more streamlined action. The weapons in Prey are well designed graphically, but their “feel” is a bit awkward (and not due to the alien look). Sometimes due to inappropriate sounds (the hit sound of pipe wrench is bad, bad, bad), sometimes due to expectations (when you can freeze the baddies you also expect to shatter them to piece with a kick as in Duke Nukem, instead of watching them “fade”). I think their purposes overlap too much so there isn’t much variation to be felt. But I’ll probably write another post to explain what I think is off with the weapons.

The bad guys are lackluster. The “dogs” are rather inoffensive and could have used better attack patterns. The “grunts” I’ve seen for the majority of the demo don’t offer a satisfying, involving challenge either. They just lack initiative, they stand there. They don’t duck, dodge or take cover. They don’t come to spot you, don’t chase you. You can easily outplay them by moving in/out of a corner quickly and shooting them before they have the time to shoot back (and the dynamic difficulty setting just seem to affect projectile damage).

Basically the biggest issue about the combat that I recognize is about the “movement”. The fight patterns are just extremely static. You stand still and shoot, they stand still and shoot you back till they don’t get killed. “Movement” is probably the most important factor to deliver an involving and fun combat. In Prey this just seems to miss.

It lacks severely of dynamism. You don’t get chased down the corridors, you don’t run for your life. It’s not frenetic at all. I felt more like playing System Shock than a shooter.

EDIT: Playing more I noticed that the “grunts” actually try to dodge, take cover and even lean out of the cover to shoot at you. But they do that rather poorly. They shoot at you with bursts, then stare *doing nothing* for five seconds, then shoot again. Plus they usually keep their bodies exposed anyway. They are extremely easy targets even when they take cover and if you are careful you can shoot them without them having a line of sight on you. Plus they throw “grenades” stupidly and 50% of the times they blow up themselves.

I’m also not so convinced that they can use portals and wall walking pads on their own without a script forcing them doing so…

The environmental hazards I’ve seen in the demo were all in the style of an annoyance. For example there are organic “spikes” that explode if you pass near them. Here the “gameplay” is just about keeping your eyes open to spot them and trigger the explosion before you go near, or just “reload” a saved game if they hurt you too much. Basically this shares the same basic problem of the combat: not enough dynamism and interaction between all these different elements. Even if I suspect that things will improve later in the game when the “tutorial” phase will be over.

The great majority of the players liked a lot the introductory scene, while I think it was the worst part of the demo without a doubt. I don’t know, flushing a toliet doesn’t impress me anymore. Earth-like environments don’t look well in the Doom3 engine and the whole bar isn’t really well rendered graphically. The human models are godawful (throughout the whole game), if you have stuck the model of Alyx in your mind you’ll just shudder when you’ll see Tommy’s fiancee. Textures, model, animations. All subpar. The fight with the two thugs was utterly pathetic and would deserve to be erased to the game without esitation.

Then you are abducted and things get serious. The second introductory, non-interactive scene on the alien ship is amazing. Really well done, well acted. Tommy’s fiancee screams fit perfectly. Tommy’s voice and reactions much less. If I was the director I would have put more focus on that scene, making it a bit more longer and descriptive. But it’s already great the way it is. Plus I would have inverted the order of the tutorial, delaying the fights to the end and instead introducing puzzle elements earlier, so prologing by a fair amount the part where you walk around poking stuff without any weapon. Which is starting to become the best part of all these games.

Context-sensitive voice comments from Tommy are cool, but when he talks to himself (most of the times) he just doesn’t sound like talking to himself. The voice acting in general is fairly good. All the screams from Tommy’s fiancee are great and at the beginning of the game they really help to motivate you and feel “in-character”. You feel like being in a hurry, even if then this urge slows down considerably. They hinted at an interesting pattern there, though. It’s something to reconsider. I’ll also thanks the devs because all the game is subbed.

As I wrote above the “flow” is good, the story is good and the progression through the game is kept interesting. While the sound portion could have been done better. The setting had a lot of potential to be spooky and atmospheric but fails to deliver. Now that I think about it I don’t recall music at all, but I’m fairly sure that there are small sound bits here and there with some Jeremy Soule moody stuff.

I left for the end the comments about the new features supported just because I don’t have much to say since they are so cool that must be experienced directly. The portal technology feels oddly familar. In the sense that it didn’t “estrange” me as I expected. It definitely gave me some “whoa!” moments due to the way it is creatively used at times (as when you are projected on the planetoid), but it still didn’t disorient. Completely the opposite instead with the wall walking pads. Those make you flip out completely. Describing them properly is impossible. The best I can do is comparing them to roller coasters. The closer you can go to that feel in a computer game.

There are points where you really have to sit there for a minute or more doing not but start at the screen trying to figure out where the hell you arrived and from where you came. The fun of the wall walking is that if you jump you fall and flip accordingly to the gravity of that plane. It’s really something that needs to be experienced when you are walking on the ceiling upside down, jump, flip 180 degrees and land on the pavement. Acrobatic!

So nothing to criticize with the implementation, execution and concrete value of those new features introduced in the engine. They are GREAT. Amazing. Definitely not deluding. Fun and with a great potential as I expected. Enough, from my point of view, to make Prey feel absolutely unique compared to any other shooter. I only have some minor compolaints about the physics system and the ragdolls (both terrible) and the controls. I hate when the “crouch” is not a toggle buy a key that I have to keep pressed (edit: managed to fix this through the cfg file), and I wish I could disable the auto-adjustement of the view angle while you walk on the wall walking pads. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe it was an obligatory function on the XBOX360, but I suspect that disabling it on the PC could have lead to much better and reliable controls as you walk on those things.

Concluding. In this sort of review I’ve analyzed all the elements I could recall and went in detail to explain things that didn’t convince me. It may appear that the game isn’t so great, but instead it is. When you give each element its correct weight then you would see that Prey tries to do something absolutely unique and DELIVERS from that perspective. The combat, at least for the initial levels in the demo, wasn’t so great but, overall, setting, story and all the innovative twists definitely make a great game …that could have been better, as always (and I dream about Human Head joining the Q4 team to do a masterpiece on all aspects since the quality of one seem to miss from the other).

For the final game I hope there will be enough conted for a 15-hours single player run. I’m definitely in for something long since I still think those new features can deliver a lot of fun potential and many possible variations. Still, I fear it will settle for something around 8-9 hours. At least it may keep a good pace and flow. Keeping things varied and the story twists alive and kicking. And lets also hope that the combat becomes a bit more involving and dynamic later on, mixing together all the elements that the game has to offer. More challenge, more frenzy.

1- You can add “+disconnect” to the demo shortcut to avoid the ads at the launch.
2- The trick described here works even in Prey. If you have tiny stutters every second no matter of the framerate you can try adding — seta com_precisetic “0” — to the preyconfig.cfg file. Just set it to “read only” so that the game cannot overwrite it. Edit: lip synching goes to hell with this, though.

Btw, here’s a major spoiler: the organic space ship is nothing else that a jam factory and at the end of the game Tommy will become Willy Wonka.

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Clueless about mmorpgs (LFG global channel)

People all over the internet are ranting about the global LFG channel introduced with the latest patch (1.11.0. btw, I updated the repository) in WoW. For example Tobold and FoH.

As they say: “the sacred cow of the retard rocks has been slaughtered”. Referring to the previous clueless idea of the “meeting stones”. This one about creating a server-wide LFG channel surpassed its stupidity. After MONTHS passed saying that they were actively working on a better solution they definitely deserve some mockery if this is the result.

Quite interesting because with all the praises that WoW’s design receives and deserves, they still cannot get right something as simple and trivial as a LFG system.

My previous article on this topic couldn’t be more actual.

In the past I wrote that you can guess the quality of the design in a mmorpg from its LFG system and I still believe there is some truth in that claim. I always considered these tools as the real core of these games and I think they should be the starting point from where you design a new game. Not a feature that you consider later on, but the very first one around which the rest of the game is built.

While the debate goes on about things belonging to the previous century, let me remind you the *essential*:

It is fundamental for a LFG system to let you search specifically for groups already formed and active (both full or LFM)

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Prey “gone gold”, demo out NOW

I’m late reporting this, but the FPS I’m waiting from a long time is finally out to the public.

The official release of the game is planned for the 10 July, but right now the demo is out. The announce about the gold status is expected for later today. The demo for XBOX360 is delayed.

I’m quite excited about this because I always found stupid to release a demo of an anticipated game only when it is already out and in this case it is the first occasion to finally find out whether those innovative features provide fun gameplay or not. My bet is that they do (but I won’t be able to comment till tomorrow since it will take me a long time to download this).

About this demo:

– Filesize is 450Mb.
– The single player portion should be quite consistent with about an hour of gameplay and the first five levels (intro and stuff included).
– Four weapons SP (pipe wrench, plasma rifle, energy gun, critters grenades), plus the bow in spirit mode. The MP also has rocket and grenade launchers.
– Two MP levels (with gravity flipping and wall walking).

Previous coverage about the game: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Two fun things I’ve read in the demo previews (here, and here) about the game and that I wasn’t aware before:
– The game will have just one default difficulty mode that will monitor your performance while playing and “adapting” the difficulty dynamically. When you beat the game an harder difficulty mode (Cherokee) will be unblocked.
– The portal technology also supports different scales. So that your character and point of view can be “resized”, making rooms and enemies bigger or smaller.

And here are the mirrors for the demo:



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Your soul is mine

Gathering some comments I wrote about Mythic being sold to EA.

It means that EA will now set too high expectations. And when Warhammer won’t reach them (and it won’t), EA will take over completely and put Mythic to rest forever.

The only difference is that this time they’ll let it release.

Really. The only REAL change after this acquisition is that the 120-130k subs DAoC currently has aren’t REMOTELY enough for Mythic to exist. And that Warhammer must do 5x better only to be granted continued existence.

You think throwing money at it is enough. I don’t. Before this Mythic could survive with modest-sized games and still slowly building very good ones. I seriously think that they threw away a lot of potential because they had the possibility to slowly increase their market share, instead of slowly losing it.

Under EA they don’t have anymore the luxury to go on with modest-sized mmorpgs. It’s quite obvious that EA will now bet heavily on this. It’s quite obvious that they will throw a bunch of money at Mythic. And it’s quite obvious that things at Mythic will change SIGNIFICANTLY because of this.

Athryn: Who knows, maybe they will infuse some life back into DAoC?

DAoC was already the sacrificial lamb for Warhammer. They are too similar to let them compete for the same audience and it already happened that they used DAoC shortcomings to publicize Warhammer (instead of fixing them).

This already before EA’s acquisition, so nothing will change. Maybe DAoC will even have a few more leftovers devs that will give the illusion of more support when instead they will complete the disruption of the original DAoC team (as SWG demonstrated the simplest, quickest way to kill a mmorpg is to have an high churn rate with the devs).

The true impact of EA’s acquisition is that now Mythic is something *completely new*. Maybe not in those who work there, they won’t even relocate. But in *expectations*. Before Mythic could survive and prosper with medium-sized mmorpgs finding their own space. 100-200k subs were absolutely viable and they still had a lot of resources to increase their market share with the time if they wanted to (instead of losing it).

After this, the rules are changing. EA is going to throw a lot of money at Warhammer. This is good? Not from my point of view because it’s quite obvious that you don’t hand out money at will if you don’t expect something BACK. The “old” Mythic dies here (if it didn’t before). Expectations change, plans change. And you can be sure that when Warhammer won’t reach those insane expectations, EA *will* take over completely. Or start the cleansing.

Till now Mythic has been DAoC. Warhammer doesn’t exist. Well, for EA DAoC is nothing less than a grain of sand. You really believe that it’s enough to grant Mythic a continuity similar to the one they have now? Hell NO. You really believe that Mark Jacobs told EA that the target market for Warhammer is 200-300k subs? HELL NO.

EVERYTHING changes with this. The scale changes. The company’s objectives change. The production process will change, testing will change. The ambition and overall strategy change.

No matter what Mythic reps are saying while trying to reassure themselves.

Jason Booth commented on Lum’s blog:

As for Mythics future games, I wish them luck, but so far, no studio has managed to hit it out of the ballpark more than once.

And that’s the point. Before Mythic could sit in the back and remain prefectly active and healthy in that ballpark. They were deciding for themselves. Set THEIR OWN goals and ambitions. They should have tried to slowly improve and increase their market share in small step as CCP is doing with Eve-Online.

After this acquisition the objectives skyrocket. EA didn’t buy Mythic for *what it is*. But for what they hope it will become. Not for their identity, but for their potential. Not for their current worth, but for growth possibilities.

They bought it as a raw material to transform. Hence the reason why Mythic is now FORCED to “hit it out of the ballpark” or die in the process.

Putting their hand on EA’s wallet means accepting their conditions and expectations. It’s not about getting a disinterested donation. It’s betting with the devil.

They aren’t anymore their own measure. They are EA measure.

Mark Jacobs decided that continuing to do small steps wasn’t anymore satisfactory and, quoting:

We chose to do this deal because of what it meant to Mythic today and to our company going forward. It was a grand slam home run.

They chose to make this big jump at the price of their identity. You know, a sellout.

And you are silly if you believe that “things will remain the same”. Nothing will. For the worse or the better.

You really believe that EA will let Mythic survive with similar subscription numbers to DAoC? And you really believe that throwing money at them is enough to make great games?

Goodnight Mythic

Rumors were correct.

EA is now officially going to acquire Mythic:

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–June 20, 2006–Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS – News) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Virginia-based Mythic Entertainment®. Upon completion of the acquisition, Mythic Entertainment will become EA Mythic, a wholly-owned studio dedicated to developing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs).

Upon completion of the acquisition, Mark Jacobs, the President, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Mythic, will become Vice President, General Manager of EA Mythic. Rob Denton, the Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Mythic will assume the role of Vice President, Chief Operating Officer of EA Mythic. Mythic’s 175-person development team will remain in Fairfax, Virginia.

“Mythic has always been a leading independent developer in the online space,” says Mark Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of Mythic Entertainment. “EA’s commitment to the online market as well as its focus on creating games of unsurpassed quality, scope and scale gives us opportunities and resources we could only dream about in the past.”

“The addition of Mythic to the EA family reflects our deep commitment to the online gaming market worldwide. Mythic will bring one of the industry’s most talented MMORPG teams to EA. Together, we will create games that will introduce MMO players to a whole new level of game play and excitement,” said Paul Lee, President, EA Studios.

The only good part of the news is that I underlined. Now I’ll wait before picking some fun on Mark Jacobs. The post where he denied the rumors (sort of) can be found here. This is what he wrote today:

Mark Jacobs: As you can imagine, it’s been a rather interesting few weeks at Mythic. I promise to post a much longer letter here but the rest of the day is filled with interviews and questions and then I fly out for a few days with the folks at EA. I’ll try to find time to post here during that time but if I can’t, I will do so upon my return.

As always, there is nothing wrong with being skeptical, worried or cynical (traits that are near and dear to my heart) but we will prove over the next 15 months why we deserved your trust and faith from the beginning.

WAR is still coming and nothing will change, except for the better and nothing will stop that.

I’ll leave you will one final bit, we didn’t need to do this deal, we chose to do this deal because of what it meant to Mythic today and to our company going forward. It was a grand slam home run.

Expect LOTS of spinning. LOTS. Mark Jacobs will do his very best.

Sanya also commented:

– EA came to us. Not the other way around. And our deal with GOA (to work as partners on CS and simultaneous patches, etc) still stands.

– We have not been absorbed. Mark’s title is the highest/best/most powerful one he can have. In other words, he remains the studio head.

– I don’t blame MMO players for being nervous, but think about it – we KNOW the history of all previous deals. Only a complete monkey wouldn’t have taken that history into account while the contracts were being written.

– Wait and see if a chunk of sky hits you in the head before you say the sky is falling, okay?

NO ONE is being laid off, moved, rearranged, or changed. Mythic is working with Games Workshop and that isn’t changing in any way. I believe, and I will leave it to Mark to confirm, but I believe that keeping the relationship between us and GW exactly the same was kind of key here.

You don’t have to believe it, but I had to try

Yes, we knew all this. Money hat for Mark. The true impact of this will be only visible in the long term. And it won’t be pretty.

SELLOUT!!1! (this beats Brad bringing Vanguard back to SOE)

WoW is crap, buy EQ2

Now I’m joking but the current issues with the download of the WoW patch let me really appreciate how much, MUCH better is SOE’s support.

It’s from early beta that Blizzard decided to distribute game and patches through Bittorrent to spare on the bandwidth. Problem is that their client is total crap and for very simple reasons. I can use Bittorrent without a problem but the Blizzard’s version is completely broken for me. It was broken during beta and it still is. Two years have passed and ZERO improvements have been done. At that time I ranted on their forums explaining the problems and they said they were going to fix it in time for launch. Yeah, sure.

There are two problems with that crap-program.

The first is that it doesn’t save partially downloaded “parts”. Basically a Bittorrent client chunks a large file in smaller parts and then downloads them from peer connections to then recombine to form the full file. Let’s say a “part” is 256kb (as in this case). Other, better Bittorrent clients save even partially downloaded parts, so that even if you have downloaded 128kb of the 256kb, it isn’t lost and then it is resumed seamlessly. Blizzard’s client doesn’t do this. If you go look at the connection details you could see that you have downloaded a total of 15Mb but completed only 8Mb. If you restart the client the 7Mb partially retrieved won’t be saved and will be lost.

The second problem is an issue with certain network cards and connections. While other Bittorrent clients allow you to set the max number of open connections, Blizzard’s downloader opens them up at will till your connection gets totally swamped and cannot keep up anymore. In my case (ISDN line) I can keep open forty different connections without a problem. It’s way, way more than enough to cap both my upload and download bandwith. But if I go above that cap my connection gets completely swamped till it dies. It stops completely to upload and download and I cannot open even a webpage. Basically it kills my connection till I shutdown that program and all those useless open connections. So if your network card doesn’t like an insane number of connections open the Blizzard’s download is simply unusable since it doesn’t allow you to set a cap. It just continues till it kills your connection.

Recently Blizzard got the “smart” idea to keep the downloader up while you play the game to download the patch in the background using “spare” bandwidth and ease the load during patch day. Well, if I don’t disable it I last two minutes in the game before that FUCKING SHIT of a program lags me to a disconnection. Again because it happily goes to open connections to other PCs at will till my own drowns in despair. You idiot of a program, I’m on dialup, what the fuck you expect when you open more than *eighty* connections to other PCs?

So two years later I’m still waiting Blizzard to fix those two trivial problems or at least provide a standard .torrent file so that I can bypass that shitty program they have.

And one has to praise SOE at this point. SOE doesn’t rely on peer to peer to support their game. In fact their patch program is so smart that verifies and keeps up to date ALL the files. You can go in the game directory and delete a random file and the patch program will deal with it. With a fast, reliable connection. Add to this the mini expansion packs that are distributed completely online. Add to this the possibility to download the FULL game if you need to. Hell, add to this even that they forgot to include the expansion in the expansion DVDs. No problem. I downloaded *all of it* directly from their servers. And if I want I can buy the expansions directly online without bothering to drive to a shop or wait a few days for a shipment to arrive.

Even SOE now supports the possibility to download optional content packs in the background while you play the game as Blizzard tried to do recently. Differently from Blizzard’s crap version, it works. I can play the game even with my poor connection and the background downloader does it work smoothly without lagging me at all.

So some praises, at least when it comes to a good support, are well deserved.