“Killer” admits to speedhack problem, says it’s fixed now

In the last couple weeks, the sickening yet obvious realization has been sinking into the remaining WW2O diehards, that their game doesn’t just defy typical MMOG design conventions, it practically spits up on them. As should probably have been apparent from playing the game in the offline mode, WW2O follows the divergent online flight sim tradition of not just leaving some of its files on the player’s computer, but basically leaving the entire game, as that Koster guy would put it, “in the hands of the enemy.”

Basically, the player’s computer and the computers of the 64 closest avatars to him engage in a big TCP/IP game of CounterTank… with the central server responsible mostly for determining which are the closest 64 objects to you at any given moment, and keeping track of deformable terrain. All the serious calculation, is, it seems, conducted on the clients.

In response to player concerns that this could lead to rampant client hacking, lead dev John “Killer” MacQueen issued what can only be seen as the Manifesto of the Client-Side MMOGer. In it he appeared to concede that the game had had a problem with Gear-like speedhackers but that recently had gone away… something he didn’t hesitate to take credit for:

All client server games have both insecure client and insecure data stream.

We have an advantage in that at least the server is securely in our hands, and we can do much to react and kill hacks.

Any of remeber [sic] the speed hack folks used for about a week? Seen half the infantry runing around at mach 2 lately?

Same applies to most any hack, the quickest way to get em gone is to make sure we know about any you see so we can kill em quicker.

Games with the same paradigm we use regarding client/server and placing important things client side are some of the oldest games out there, AW since 1987, Warbirds since 1995, Aces High since 1999, Fighter ace since 1996 all use client side damage etc. just like we do, and all are still playing right along these days.

What it does for us is a trade off. It allows us to do things that you can’t do any other way, and it places much more of a reactionary role on us to kill these hacks when we find them. It’s our job, it’s nothing new, and we have been dealing with it for years.

Hacks will happen, we will squash them.

As I said before remember the speed hack?

In an even more interesting portion, MacQueen swore not only to ban people he suspected of hacking but to make their gaming experience Really Really Bad first:

Know that we could easily detect changing data and variables on the client, and we can send a message to the server that says tells us exactly what the hacker is doing. We can silently ban him, trash the game files and make him reinstall every time he hacks, randomly CTD his client within a few minutes or any number of things.

What you can expect is silence.

We will never tell people exactly what we do to detect hacks and hackers.

We will not announce hacks we find or are told about in most cases.

We will not announce when we ban a hacker or who they are.

We will not implement systems that give a hacker any direct feedback on his success or failure if possible.

Hacks will happen, that’s a known fact, No software is not hackable. It’s what we do when it happens that counts.

The devs appear to feel that much credit goes to their long-promised disabling of Alt-Tab functionality back on Aug. 25 for the demise of the WW2O hacker, if such a person even existed to begin with… the other, equally likely possibility, I suppose, would be that no one really feels hacking this game in its current broken state is worth their time.

“Hatch” has a brief moment of clarity

Meanwhile, public relations head Rodney “Hatch” Hodge has been keeping a lid on some official message boards so disgruntled, it’s hard for some players to even remember what gruntling was like for them… One sincerely hopes the occasional astonishingly truthful statements that have resulted were part of a carefully planned Flack’s Mea Culpa meant to support The Vision, and not the signs of a man whose whole world is disintegrating around him:

We probably made history for the WORST LAUNCH that a MMOLG could possibly have. Anyone would have to be a fool to think that we are proud or happy with that. Rather than cave in and quit because of that legacy, we choose to learn from it, pick up the pieces and move on.

The first step, Hatch, is admitting you have a problem. Unfortunately, the brief shining moment of lucidity was just that, a moment, and Hatch was soon back to his regular burbling of such Nostradamite predictions as:

I have heard more than one journalist mention online “game of the year 2002”

Back away slowly, people. Do not make eye contact…

Sure is quiet in here…

Hatch was in fine form only a few days ago though, putting the Bootheel of Moderation down on the official forums. In what should probably be called the “Thursday Night Massacre,” the lead moderator perma-banned at least five regular posters. On the casualty list were usual suspects “Ralpher,” “Triad,” and “Doyle,” and lesser lights “Lampry” and “Teddyg.” Ralpher (more or less a kid who didn’t know when to shut up) seemed to prompt the whole thing with his ill-considered rant about the deceased rock singer Aaliyah:

OMG, THE PLANE CRASHED DUE TO TOO MUCH LUGGAGE, I can only imagine the last words on that plane:

“You just had to pack your BLOW DRYER, didnt you WHORE”

or “You f*KIN B|TCCH, We are dying for your SHOES?”

or just “damn you to hell, BTW, your last song SUXORED”

(It gets much worse from there, trust me…)

Triad, who basically everyone seems to have liked and respected otherwise, lost his privileges in an principled but clearly misguided stand for Ralpher’s free speech, when he reposted one of the offending missives. Lampry went down, too, for posting porn pictures to protest the other two bannings. And Teddyg followed them out the door, apparently for calling Hatch “an ignorant, uninformed, underqualified, steaming pile of manure.”

The last known bannee, Doyle, was well-known for channelling the First Banned, the self-proclaimed “grandmaster troll” himself, “Blair,” the Cassandra figure of this whole melodrama. Blair, himself banned long ago, is famous now as the lone pre-launch dissenter, trying to convince the fanboys last spring there was no way this turkey was going to fly in its current state. Now he’s taken Doyle, his surrogate poster, down with him, it seems. Truth? We can’t handle the truth!

WW2O: Nothing if not persistent

While Hatch was playing New Sheriff in Town, the last of the diehards are trying to mount a rearguard action against the dwindling of player hopes there might someday be a persistent single world. On Saturday, developer Michael “Gryf” Weber set up a special time-limited server, and invited as many players as could fit for a single-evening Warbirds-style fixed-time scenario, with the Allied team ultimately declared the winner. Meanwhile, the developer-appointed High Commands of both sides have been organizing operations of their own on their own time, of increasing sophistication. (Well, not that sophisticated, yet… the last one I participated in sort of fell apart when due to miscommunication all the Germans showed up on one server and all the Allies showed up on the other…) While it’s a little disturbing that the only content development staff Cornered Rat Studios can afford to dedicate is Gryf himself, by all accounts these little wars have been a lot of fun… until the number of players on one server exceeds 1,000 and the game starts to fall apart as usual. Fortunately (or unfortunately) that’s a limit that’s less and less at risk of being punched through these days. (Unlike Everquest, one always knows exactly how many people are playing CRS’ game… I guess they’re not too afraid of DAoC taking *their* numbers away. HINT: Take the percentage numbers at the link above and multiply by 10.)

A patch in our time

So what’s in v1.25, and what’s the development plan from here? Well, the designers aren’t saying much, but it seems clear that any interim patch this month will address long-standing problems with the bug-ridden gunners’ optics. Basically, a mathematical miscalculation resulted in all the gun sights not being “zeroed” with their guns… some were actually quite far off. (Some other historical accuracy errors with the same optics will also be fixed.) There also has to be at least some homily paid to the dream of making the game persistent, if only to keep the dream alive, although it’s not sure exactly what that will amount to.

This patch is meant just to buy time until the next big content patch, v1.3, which one would expect on or around Canadian Thanksgiving. This is almost certain to include two new aircraft and one new tank, the first added content since late July. Based on their average seven weeks between content patches, v1.4 should follow in mid-November, and finally bring the game more or less in line with the on-the-box specs… some five months after the launch itself. As always, these are ballpark predictions, but it seems certain that the surviving players are guaranteed not even to start using up their “free month” until at least Hallowe’en. CRS can’t be in much of a hurry to start charging, anyway… were they to do so after this next patch, they have to know they’d be lucky to get 5,000 paying customers. In this game, that’s still chump change, and everyone knows it.