Which brings me to online games, ALL of which are big stinking piles of shit when released. AC might be a notable exception to this except for the fact that AC was just an engine when it was first released. The game came later. Safe but not exactly what most of us have in mind. Reminds me of a commercial for a car rental or a hotel chain. “So did you play an online game today?” “Not exactly. But I did take a lovely stroll through a very pretty engine.”

I bring this up because I have a friend who was anxiously awaiting the release of AO. Begged me to give him my beta account. When it came out he rushed out, got his preorder from the store, and then rushed home to play. The next day when he came to work I asked him if he had played AO the night before. “Not exactly,” he said, “it would be more fair to say that I spent the evening installing AO.” “Have you slept?” I asked (he was looking a little ragged under the eyes). “No,” he replied. “I literally spent the entire evening installing AO. I think it works now,” he said as he crawled off to his cube to get a few z’s on company time.

The same thing happened with WWIIo. A friend of mine who is a military recreationist ran out to get WWIIo. He was very excited about playing the game. When he came to work the next day I asked him how the game was. “My tank floats,” he said disgustedly and went into his office and shut the door. I believe the game went back to the store later that day and he’s back out in the woods playing with real tanks and real guns. Looks like Playnet/CRS lost a customer. Oh well. Doesn’t really look like Playnet/CRS cares all that much does it? If they did, would they have released a big stinking pile of shit?

I was just reading a thread on our forums about some dupe bugs that have popped up in AO. I’d be willing to bet that you dupe in AO the same way you duped in IOK back in 1990 and the same way you duped in LOK back in 1995 and the same way you duped in UO back in 1997 and the same way you duped in EQ in 1998. This brought to mind a recent quote by a clueless gameworld designer at Funcom: “We didn’t have anywhere to look for ideas and possible pitfalls. We had to invent everything and try to foresee any problems that might occur when the game goes live.”

One of the saddest parts of my friends being sucked into buying WWIIo and AO is that it was I who told them to look at these games in the first place. It was I who knew their interests and knew about these games and thought they’d be interested. It was also I who, at least in the case of AO, was begging my friend to wait a month or three to purchase. To wait until the game was finished. To wait until the game deserved to be purchased. It was again I who apologized to my military recreationist friend for recommending that he purchase and waste precious hours of his life on a game that never should have been released. But I once thought that companies wouldn’t release games that were completely unplayable. Well not after the fiascos that were UO and EQ. I mean, now there are companies that have made these mistakes, right? Current developers can learn from the releases of UO and EQ and not repeat the past, right? Wrong.

I’m not sure why I thought this. The developers of UO and EQ didn’t look to games like IOK/LOK, NWN and M59 for lessons. The developers of AC did. They looked and said “SHIT! Lets just release the engine and add the game in slowly over a period of several years and that way our players will love us.” Maybe they are on to something you know? Why I ever thought the developers of WWIIo and AO would have looked and learned is beyond me. I guess I’m just a little slow like that. It just seems so fantastical to me that people would produce a big stinking pile of shit and be willing to have their names associated with it. I mean when I screw up purposefully, I usually don’t go and slap my name all over. “This big stinking festering pile of shit is brought to you by Myschyf! Always buy the Myschyf brand for best in quality piles of shit!” No, I don’t think so. If I’m going to create something and try to get people to pay me for it, I’m going to try to produce something that people want to buy and will actually work the way it was designed. But, you know, I’m weird like that. Maybe its an old-fashioned thing and people growing up today don’t think that way anymore. Its been done. Passe. Over with. This is the new economy where we don’t actually have to deliver what we say and we can lie on the packaging.

So why do we encourage this? Why do we pay for this? So that ‘little’ international companies like Funcom won’t go out of business? Because, you know, if we don’t pay for these games when they first come out then the companies will fold and there won’t be any games for us to play? No. Wrong. But even if it isn’t, have you become so addicted to the online experience that the mere prospect of doing without it sends you running to the store to shell out your hard-earned money for something that you know will not work as expected? There is not one other industry that most of you would put up with this from — yet the game industry is excused. It’s software and, of course, writing software is hard.

There’s more though. It gets worse. By purchasing unfinished games you send a clear message to the game industry that releasing unfinished games is ok with you. That you approve of the practice. Until you stop paying for unfinished games this isn’t likely to get any better. As long as development companies think they can release a game in its unfinished state to get the funding to finish it or to appease their stockholders this state of affairs will continue. Only you can stop it.

So this is a request. I urge you, implore you, beg you even to fight back. If the game doesn’t work take it back. Get your money back. Refuse to pay for big stinking piles of shit. We have the power, we can make them rebuild it and all that groovy sloganistic type of crap. But its true. Its time for this type of thing to end and I urge you to do what you can to make the online gaming industry more responsible to its patrons.