Anarchy-Online hit stores yesterday, and I had hoped to bring you a review of what was supposed to be the world's first and greatest MMORPG set in a science-fiction world. At the moment, the best thing I can say is that disgruntled gamers sick of blasting Daikatana will be pleased to know that there's a new outlet for their rage and frustration. But there's one key difference between Daikatana and Anarchy-Online; you can actually play Daikatana out of the box.
About six months ago, one of the developer/playtesters for Anarchy-Online logged onto a MUD I built (www.iconoclast.org) to tell us all that he was building this ultra super-cool cyberpunk futuristic MMORPG called Anarchy-Online, and that we should all go check it out.
I was admittedly excited about the prospect of a sci-fi themed MMORPG, and so I eagerly awaited its release. Today, when a friend and I picked up our copies at the store, we discussed how we planned to create characters tonight, log on and play all night and on into the morning.
The cover of Anarchy Online contains a quote from IGN.com, which was apparently written about another product. It says, "With such a rock solid product, it would be no surprise if anarchy online dominates its competition ... as the top online title for years to come." Someone was obviously smoking the crack rock when they wrote that. Or perhaps that little ellipsis mark is replacing the words "... in the field of being entirely unplayable. There is no way that it will come anywhere close to reigning..."
If and when I finally get the damn thing loaded and working, I promise I'll post a follow-up review of the actual game, with my honest opinions. But since all I have to review at this point is my inability to get the game working, and I have a deadline to meet, let's just summarize the experience thus far, shall we?
10:15 pm. Arrive home, unwrap game. Read back cover. Bad sign number 1. "The year is 29,475 AD." Which is about when you'll actually be able to play this game in the real world (more about that later). But seriously, who the hell came up with this year? I think I'm going to make a game that's set in the year Twenty Gazillion AD next. This way I can make stuff up too and pass it off as an authentic sci-fi experience. And what's with AD? I thought everyone was using CE at this point. And what meaning does CE or AD have since this game takes place ON ANOTHER PLANET?
10:20 pm. Delete several other games on the hard drive to make room, since AO wants 1 Gig to itself.
10:25 pm. Start installer. Actually attempt to read the rulebook. I'd say this thing looks like it was photocopied at Kinko's, and cut and stapled by Kindergartners, except that would be an insult to Kinko's and Kindergartners. The edges are ragged, the stapling is off center, the pages have no right-hand margins to speak of and in some places the text is even chopped off at the page edge. And gee guys, thanks for the 12 blank pages for "Notes" at the end of the book. As if I can't grab a sheet of paper from the printer. Oi. Did this take all of a day to put together in someone's kitchen?
10:30 pm. Installer finishes loading. Yay. We're going to play.
10:35 pm. Have to register to play first on funcom.com. WTF is this all about? No branding there to indicate this is for Anarchy-Online. No user Interface to speak of. Just naked HTML forms to enter information into. I've seen better web page design on Geocities homepages.
10:37 pm. We get to the "Enter your username and password" page. I point out in passing that the page is apparently not using a Secure connection. In its unencrypted form, our chosen username and password is being sent, unsecure, across the Internet. The URL, which begins noticeably with HTTP instead of HTTPS is a pretty solid clue that this is the case, as is the little unlocked icon.
10:38 pm. We get to the credit card information page. Still no sign of Security anywhere. Our personal credit card information is going to be sent, unencrypted, across the Internet. To a foreign country. The rulebook cheerfully informs us that all transactions are secure, but our browser insists that the transaction is not secure. Um.
10:45 pm. After pondering the risks, we opt to risk the $50 we'd be liable for if some 12 year old script kiddie decides to go shopping for Limp Bizkit CDs, and enter the card number. If anyone's bothering to listen at the other end, and this is indeed as insecure as it appears, someone has a nice list of credit card numbers by now.
10:50 pm. We finally get to the Personal Profile Control Panel page, which consists of a single line of black text on white background that says something along the lines of "Oops, this is where the control panel would be if it was working." Oi. We skip it.
10:51 pm. The game informs us that it is UNPLAYABLE out of the box and must download the 1.1.3 patch. We go eat dinner.
11:15 pm. It becomes clear that the game is not just patching, but is totally rewriting itself. This is like patching a hole in a tire by replacing the tire. Did nobody playtest this game first?
11:30 pm. The 1.1.3 patch downloads, and... yay. As it turns out, the 1.1.3 patch wasn't playable either. It was just the patch that allows you to download the other patch that really works. Really. Honest.
11:45 pm. The 1.1.5 patch is still downloading. It becomes clear that everyone else in the world is attempting to download the same mandatory patch for the same game at the same time. Thus, apparently, giving the European hackers plenty of time to buy CDs from Amazon.com with those stolen credit card numbers.
12:00 am. The patch download stalls and locks the computer. We have to reboot in the middle of the patch. Bad things.
12:15 am. The patch resumes download at about 2 Bytes per second. I give up and come home to go to bed, and write this review.
Obviously, I'm not accusing the Funcom people of stealing credit card information (I'm joking... I think), but the fact that it's not using a secure connection is entirely unacceptable in this day and age. As is releasing a product to the market that is, out of the box, unplayable in its entirety. As is forcing users to patch a patch.
If anyone has actually purchased this game, and played it, please feel free to post a review here. I wish I could. I also invite the Funcom people, or anyone who was involved in the development of Anarchy Online, to defend their decisions to:
- Release a product that does not work out of the box.
- Force users to enter username, password and credit card information on a non-secure, non-encrypted page. Or if it IS using a secure connection, explain to me why it is my browser doesn't recognize it as secure.
- Provide no explanation on their website for why the game doesn't work, and why users must patch their game twice before they can even play.
- Include a rules manual and guide that is in such pitiful, shoddy condition.
I'm sure the 'Anarchist cyberpunks' who developed and tested this game are the sort of people who believe in freedom of expression and individual opinions and such, so they certainly won't mind that I expressed mine here. I invite them to express theirs.
Bring it on.
(Addendum) As of 1:00 am, my friend informs me that he has the game running. His initial impression: "It's freaky." Freaky doesn't make me want to spend the next 3 hours trying to load a game. I think I'll play Diablo instead. The Diablo II Expansion Set, which I also purchased yesterday, works out of the box. Imagine that.