Listening to the expectations for tomorrow\’e2\’80\’99s premiere of Anarchy Online, I\’e2\’80\’99m reminded of something that has happened in the legendary world of actual sunshine and fresh air. Hearken back, if you will, to a few years ago, when we were paying 99 cents for a gallon of gasoline here in America. $1.30? $1.40? That was expensive stuff at the time.

However, for whatever reasons
our politicians might want to give us, gasoline prices rose astronomically. Soon, we saw prices as high as $2.20 a gallon during the summer. Horrified as we were, we had no choice but to accept the mafia hit to our pocket books. As is human nature, we immunized ourselves to a reality we could not change.

Recently, I\’e2\’80\’99ve noticed the prices at the pump here in Chicago delving as low at $1.55 a gallon. \’e2\’80\’9cAstounding!\’e2\’80\’9d I gasp, as I rush to fill my car, feeling like a thief in the night so cheap is the price.

Hold on a second. $1.55 is not cheap for a gallon of gasoline. Not when compared to what we were paying a scant few years ago. Yet, so used am I to having the oil companies physically lift money from my wallet that I barely notice the conditioning in my brain which makes me feel as if a buck and a half is terribly cheap.

And so it goes with Online Games today. We are so used to failure that a game being an utter disaster for the first few weeks or months (or years) after release is perfectly acceptable to us. Think of any other piece of offline software you have purchased in the past year or so. If that software crashed every thirty minutes and half the features didn\’e2\’80\’99t work, would you continue to use that software? Most people would be at the store the very next day demanding a refund.

Allow me to go on record as saying I like Anarchy Online. It is looks to be the most ambitious online game since UO. However, my experience in beta 4 was one of constant crashes, bugged missions, and lag of the magnitude I have not seen since the first days of UO. If the message boards are any indication, most players expect those problems to continue for the first few weeks.

Shouldn\’e2\’80\’99t we expect a bit more than crashes and bugs from a product we\’e2\’80\’99re spending our hard-earned money on? I have images of what today will be like. I will go to the local computer store, plunk down my $50, then come home to discover that the software I just spent cold, hard cash on is barely playable. However, because I\’e2\’80\’99ve been programmed by the industry to expect an unplayable game out of the box, I will think nothing of it. It will merely be par for the course.

\’e2\’80\’9cHey, at least it isn\’e2\’80\’99t as bad as WWII Online,\’e2\’80\’9d I\’e2\’80\’99ll mutter to myself as I close the game and seek out a nice Scrabble match.

I know, I know. Creating Online Games is HARD. Yet, I implore you to think about this. Imagine if you are at work one day and your boss hands you an especially difficult project. You are expected to complete that project without mistakes, no? And, if you mangle the project or fill it with errors, you are accountable for it, no? Why is the Online Gaming Industry exempt from this kind of accountability? Why do we cut them so much slack? Because making games is HARD? That excuse doesn\’e2\’80\’99t work for the rest of us who also have jobs.

This type of shoddy product management should be unacceptable to the discriminating gamer. We should demand more. We should send a message to companies that they cannot release products until they are a completely finished piece of software. Of course, the only way to send that message is to not buy the game until it is smoothly playable.

Unfortunately, people won\’e2\’80\’99t do that. They will buy the game upon release for that extra edge.

And, I\’e2\’80\’99ll be right there at the counter of my local computer store today, buying a game I don\’e2\’80\’99t expect to work very well for a while. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with us?