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FRODO IN FLANDERS [Author: BruceR]

THE GOOD:

1) Last night was a landmark of sorts, as the Big Giant Belgium saw 2,000 simultaneous players for the first time. Back when the game was launched, the servers didn\’e2\’80\’99t work, so the virtual realm had to be split into several 1,000 player shards. The goal of uniting them all into one playing space continues, and 2,000 was a big barrier. While there\’e2\’80\’99s still talk of (sensibly) offering two shards in the end, one with Quakified playing rules, and one with the \’e2\’80\’9cReal War\’e2\’80\’9d to keep everybody happy, progress is progress.

2) The much-feared speedhacking threat has yet to materialize. Standard Gear software doesn\’e2\’80\’99t seem to do much for WW2O, and there\’e2\’80\’99s not enough here yet for the serious client-hackers to be too interested. This writer has yet to see a speedhacked player\’e2\’80\’a6 other reports, while occasional, are still so anecdotal it\’e2\’80\’99s even possible it was all lag-effects from the start.

3) The designers remain stunningly uncompromising about Their Vision (the one part of the game that was ever complete), refusing to dumb down anything for anyone. They\’e2\’80\’99re insane of course, but you\’e2\’80\’99ve got to love the thinking of people like Chris \’e2\’80\’9cMo\’e2\’80\’9d Sherland of Cornered Rat Studios, who said in one famous discussion board post:

There are some details that we are going to keep quiet. And that will remain until we feel differently. Call it adhoc if it makes you feel better about how we do things, frankly I don’t care. I am bound to my contract and the interpretation of it, and I am bound in that way to CRS, NOT THIS COMMUNITY.

You get the feeling from these guys that if they are left with a game that they only play with each other on a basement LAN, they\’e2\’80\’99ll call it a moral victory. Also, there is still no firm sign of the clock starting on everyone\’e2\’80\’99s free month of playtime, which is more than can be said for the competition.

THE BAD:

1) The One Big Patch (v1.2) is, it appears now, only going to contain 40-50 per cent of the content that was promised in the game manuals, but left out of the initial rushed release. Grenades are in, machine guns are out; the Hawker Hurricane is in, the level bombers are out, and so on. There\’e2\’80\’99s miles to go before these guys sleep, I\’e2\’80\’99m afraid. Bringing the game up to its own advertised specs before Labor Day is seeming increasingly unlikely, never mind big fancy additions like another theatre or naval warfare or anything. It\’e2\’80\’99s somewhat ironic that the entire battle of France only lasted a month, but the diehards may be forced to play it over and over again for several times that.

2) The tone of even those diehard fans on the official discussion boards has gone from a Homer-Simpson-chasing-the-roast-pig-like \’e2\’80\’9cIt\’e2\’80\’99s still good, it\’e2\’80\’99s still good,\’e2\’80\’9d to a more Yoda-like \’e2\’80\’9cDo or do not, there is no try.\’e2\’80\’9d There\’e2\’80\’99s been too many letdowns, too many broken promises. At this point an eventual paying subscriber base of 10,000 would seem a realistic projection\’e2\’80\’a6

THE EXPLOIT:

The exploit of the month for July has been the Alt-Tab button, which, besides switching you to another program, also renders you invisible in game. While the ensuing battles between Frodo Mk VI tanks have been amusing for the participants, it\’e2\’80\’99s enough of a disruption the designers are determined to nerf it as part of the Big Patch, even if that means an Everquest-like disabling of Alt-Tab functionality. This, in turn, has royally pissed off the users of voice communication software, who will need to find workarounds for channel-switching and stuff, not to mention those who adjust their video card gamma when night falls. (Curiously in representing night, the designers only darkened the screen instead of reducing the clipping plane, allowing gamma crankers a remarkable degree of night vision.) The interesting debate on the official boards this last week has been centered on how far a game can legitimately go in subverting the use of your PC to its needs. (Kinda like here, in fact -ed.)

Well, that\’e2\’80\’99s what you\’e2\’80\’99ve missed. Hopefully in a week or so we\’e2\’80\’99ll be able to give you an update on World War v1.2, and whether there\’e2\’80\’99s hope for this franchise yet.