Thursday, July 20, 2017

Legendary Fail

"You said someday you'll change
But even a fool will tell you
Someday never comes"

Brandi Carlile - Someday Never Comes

Partial list of bugged features I've personally experienced in The Secret World: Legends :

stuck animations
switching instances to join your group splits groups
ground targeting will not function while queued after another ability
cone AoE hitting even when off-target, at infinite range
invisible ground AOE (many, many examples)
stuck "in combat" for several seconds after fights
tankless groups created by groupfinder algorithm
pvp health rebalancing will only feign working if you swap gear
inventory items flickering in and out of existence
mobs killing through walls while unreachable
mobs going into infinite regeneration mid-fight (no, not evading)
instance bosses misfiring their skills and insta-gibbing the whole group
instance boss running out of the playable area
a different instance boss running out of another playable area
mission item permanently unobtainable if your inventory was full when you clicked it
mission item only activates AFTER the player relogs and re-does most of a mission
"walk through portal" final step of a multi-hour mission chain teleported me to a wrong location and therefore refused to complete

Add to this the fact that TSWL managed to BSOD my computer, a feat even games officially in Beta or Alpha can't usually attain, plus many many other freezes, CTDs and other flavors of fail. Hilariously, most of the bugs in Legends aren't new. They just haven't been fixed since TSW's launch five years ago. Legends simply duplicated and propagated existing problems and piled on with more serious crashes.

I filed a bug petition.
A week later a GM finally replied, apologizing for the delay.
Delay? Fifteen minutes is a reasonable timeframe. Half an hour to an hour is a serious delay. "Delayed" overnight is already pushing the boundaries of the term.
Putting your customers on hold for a solid week means you've capitulated running the show. You are now the joke.

At this point, I'm half in this for trainwreck appeal. This ain't opening night we're talking about, either. Nearly a month after Funcom's big re-launch of a five year old product, the bugs only seem to be multiplying. Hilariously, even that timeframe confuses new players. I've run into three starry-eyed young novices so far who've made comments like "wow, this game looks really good for having come out in 2002/2004/2007!" The very speed with which TSW rendered itself obsolete seems implausible and puts it barely a step above vaporware. When you hear of a re-launch, you picture something at least a decade old.

So what about the relaunch itself? Out with the old, in with the... old, again. As I recollect, soon after its 2003 launch, EVE-Online scandalized its players by rolling back server and character data about a week. It was seen as a shameful display of incompetence. Funcom has now pulled a five-year rollback, dragging all its most faithful customers through the same inane instance-farming marathon all over again. Pragmatically, this serves the function of reconnecting a minute (and continually dwindling) playerbase fragmented by their relative positions on the years-long WoW-clone MMO iterative gear-accumulation treadmill. Just don't expect Funcom to admit that openly. Also don't expect them to admit to purposely slashing benefits for subscribers (and lifers) in favor of aggressively pushing their new pay-to-win cash shop currency "aurum."

The best that can be said of Legends is that it at long last resolved TSW's woefully unbalanced, redundant chore of a skill system, and in all fairness the new interface is much smoother, more intuitive and responsive. Unfortunately, Legends achieves this end by throwing out most of TSW's leeway for player choice, skill variety and synergy. Weapons' effects no longer interact with each other and with target-lock removed from the interface, combat resolves to hitting whatever's in front of you - literally. While it's easier to get into, it's also more dumbed down than ever.

As for new content, there is none. There may be, in the future. Honestly, seeing how bugged the new old content is, I'd love to see them try to implement some new-new zones and instances just for the faceplant comedy value. While considering what tone I'd take with this post I at first thought I'd praise the development team for actually putting an impressive amount of work into Legends. The new tutorial works flawlessly, I must admit. Then, bugs aside (many, many bugs aside) I remembered my own complaints on this blog from three, even four years ago that TSW's updates had quickly diminished to plain text, a trend only partly interrupted by the two Tokyo expansions. While Legends might look impressive in one glance, it represents years of absent balancing or content updates, years of TSW trying to drown its customers in mindlessly repetitive timesinks (AEGIS upgrades, scenarios, the Museum of the Occult) while never addressing its gameplay issues.

When these long-overdue fixes to their shoddy work finally came, they came bundled with renewed demands that players pay into the cash shop for a "new" re-branded product which so far amounts to even less than the old. But hey, their loyal customers are still rushing to create third-party interface cheats to make up for the game's inadequacies, because as previously noted, it's entirely possible to be both incompetent and crooked in the game industry yet still draw a crowd of enthusiastic slaves from gamers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

C Larsen; C Larsen Run

"Oceans slowly rise
Time to fly"

Syntax - Time to Fly

Isn't it funny that a trillion tons of ice riding the ocean currents count as just one tiny datum in the overwhelming berg of evidence as to how irreparably fucked we are? And still, the glut of apes thickens. Just little caplets of ice poking above the flood of idiocy in our "news" media, floating out of sight, out of mind. We've got bigger fish to fry.
Until we don't.

Run, monkeys, run.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Princess Brooks

The Princess Bride was not a great movie. There, I said it. Fire tomatoes at will.

I'll grant that in its better moments it managed to straddle the line between trite starry-eyed faery-telling and obnoxiously nitpicky deconstructionism, to denote both self-awareness and dedication to its subject matter. Still, on the whole its fan-base seems to spend more time quoting the flick's various catchphrases than watching it, because to actually watch it is to be exposed to the massive amount of filler between those one-liners. It's the sort of movie which can make falling down a mountainside look tedious by dwelling on the stunt doubles' every single tumble. Every monologue is a line too long, every pause a second too pregnant, every line of exposition stretched to two, every establishing shot a few frames over-exposed. This does not negate its many memorable moments, but it does dilute them unnecessarily. Call me a disorderly attention-deficient child of the internet age if you must, but there's simply too little going on in every scene, too little information density to trap my awareness.

I don't know whether Rob Reiner was infected by this directing style via his father's collaboration with Mel Brooks, because the closest analogy I can think of would be Brooks' own films. Yeah, we can rave about all the hilarious one-liners in Spaceballs or History of the World but that's ignoring the miles of dead air between them, cluttered with minor characters making faces at the camera. Once you get the basic joke of sparking a giant doobie, said doobie's on-screen presence itself is just not that impressive. Nor is the bad guys' repetition of "we've got to get them." Too little challenges our expectations, too little detail sparks mental connections.

This does not resolve to a simple generational fad, either, or budget constraints. The Monty Python movies came out a decade prior, with less funding and more lines, jokes and new ideas. And sure, Princess Bride wasn't primarily comedic like Brooks' parodies, but it still seems to follow the same school of thought in constantly condescending to the audience's slow reaction time. It shows a mental separation between performer and audience, the carnie's disdain for the marks.

How well this feature translates into the internet age is anyone's guess. Optimism would dictate that closer dialogue by creators with their audience would eliminate it, yet cynical awareness of one's virtual surroundings begs the question: how many bloggers, vloggers, webcartoonists, pod-casters and youtube personalites wrap their scripts in slow, overwrought redundancy to make sure you rubes get the punchline?