This has got to be one of my dreams come true. Gamespy and Stratics in a deathmatch to the death. I mean, one of them has to lose, right? It’s pretty much win-win all around!

OK, seriously, sit down and brace yourself, because I’m (gasp) actually going to agree with the fanbois here.

Anarchy Online isn’t done. It’s in beta. If it were released in its current condition (not that anyone would ever do such a thing) it would suck. We would be among the first to say it sucked, and we would in so doing attract the ire of about 60,000 Holy Sacred and Apostolic Defenders of the One True Rubi-Ka. We’re used to that. Lately no matter what we write someone gets pissy. We write that Verant does something cool and we get bitched at for being suckups looking for a job. We write that Verant does something that sucks and we get bitched at for being whiny bitches that are bitter because we didn’t get a job. WOPR tells us that the only way to win is not to play, but then we get bitched at for not posting enough. It’s enough to drive you to Scientology!

But here’s the thing. When I bitched about World War 2 Online, it was because, you know, I had paid $50 plus god only knows how much shipping since all the local EB people know who I am just from my goddam credit card and you people are freaking the SHIT out of me! STOP IT! LET ME LEAD A NORMAL LIFE! There, I’m back. Anyway. The point being that I paid money for it. As far as I know no one has paid anything for Anarchy Online yet, thus being pretty much assured of getting your money’s worth. Unless of course your Windows 2000 got zapped, but, um, you know, that sort of stuff can happen in betas. Ask me about the time my Windows Memphis (now 98) beta decided to convince my motherboard that the onboard Winmodem didn’t actually exist any more. Betas aren’t supposed be a road test for the consumer.

Of course, they are now. And that in and of itself is probably an interesting thing to think about – at what point did gaming betas become marketing tools? From what I’ve seen, however, AO’s long beta (and it HAS been long, I have a Beta 2 CD from over a year ago) has been less a marketing tool and more of a road test for Funcom itself. While their maintaining seperate code bases is somewhat odd (and we’ve commented on it in the past) it does mean that anyone already writing the reviews for Anarchy Online are, um, wrong.

I’ve made the same mistake. When I read that Anarchy Online had a firm ship date just after E3, I posted to the website that this was a profoundly bad move – based on what I knew from my experience with Beta 3. Then, at E3, Funcom demoed a client that blew Beta 3 out of the water. More content, better framerates, much better stability. Not release-ready, but getting there. And until E3, very few knew that it existed.

When Anarchy Online is released, we’ll take a detailed look at it. If it sucks, we’ll say it sucks. If it was released too early, we’ll say it was released too early. And if it rocks, we will definitely say it rocks.

Until then, getting worked up over a beta being incomplete and buggy is kind of pointless. I mean, you can get worked up over, say, UO being incomplete and buggy. They have no excuse. Until next month, Funcom still has an excuse.

Is that the style of writing you’re trying to avoid, Spacial?