Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chapter 13: Let's bring in some new things and leave out others

(This play through was recorded before the /who feature was removed)

So, patch 1.2. I heard the Marksman had their class balanced quite a bit. However, since they made some changes to grenades, my Engineer was lucky enough to get a respec token anyways. Maybe I'll plan out to make a viable build out of him now that I know what Engineer skills are there as fluff and which ones bring something to the table. Anyways, I thought I would have a bit of fun with the mail, a feature that is usually launched standard with other online games with a semi-interactive community (I'm avoiding the term MMO here because Hellgate is far from that classification). Despite how long it took to finally arrive in the game, however, is something I was rather willing to overlook. Now I finally had a reason to hold on to all the junk from other classes I was picking up.

E-mail is fun.

To test out the features more extensively, I decided to create a Guardian alt. So I run my Guardian alt through that horrid bit that's called an "introduction" and send him right down through the tube. I then exit and log out of the game (as there is no feature to just log out of your character and be back at the character log in screen) and log back in to my account and select my Engineer. Then I have my Engineer mail some of the items and some palladium to help start off my tad poll Guardian. Then...well, you know what I had to do then. Let's just skip to the part where I log back into my Guardian, shall we?

See that tiny little button flashing red? That's the equivalent to, "You got mail!"

I was rather surprised at first when I logged into him. I mean, I knew where the mail button was (obviousy). I suppose I was just expecting something much more noticeable when it came to you getting a message. Of course, there's the usual, "just hit 'z' every time you log in," excuse, but I believe that's just it; it's an excuse. I mean, we already have notifications when we finish acts "Congratulations! You finished Act II!" How hard would it to have a message pop and say, "You have mail"? Perhaps my biggest gripe, however, is that you have no indicator that let's you know if an alt of yours has received mail as well. Which brings me to my next point.

The mail system works on a dynamic decay. It takes 28 days for mail with money/item attached to it to decay; 21 days once you've opened it; 14 days once you've detached the item.

It's nice the way Flagship Studios combated the inability to know whether or not your other characters have mail (I imagine it's 21 days standard for just a message between people). Besides, mail is so inexpensive (5 palladium fee regardless of what you're sending) that it would be a steal to use in transactions. My only last complaint, however, is the most crucial. I mean, that's just the thing. Transactions. Do they know how easy it would be to get a lot of the trading to be done around in the game if there was a COD option? Come to think of it, every other game that has some sort of mail function has a COD option. Was this just one of those things overlooked as well? Or maybe it was just one of those, "we have the core system of mailing working, so let's just put it out in the next patch without the bells and whistles."

I shrugged, equipped the items, and went my merry way. After all, I wanted to at least get this character to the next station. And so I did. I went through the dismal level once more. Click, slash, smash. The Guardian isn't anything new, he was a class I also extensively tested in the game as well. However, I was surprised to learn that he lost the ability of Heaven's Arch at a low level (another weak argument: "Guardians have the grapler"). I think the key word here is "variety."

When I arrived at the station, I immediately decided to transport myself back to the first station to turn in the dismal quests I did on my way. Of course, I was a little bit surprised when my character sat there frozen for a few seconds before this flashed on my screen:

They sure fixed them bugs good!

So I relog once again just to fiddle around a bit more with my Guardian, but just before I enter the wonderful world of Hellgate with him, I notice something quite peculiar about him.

Now I'm no a doctor of anatomy, but it would seem as if my Guardian is missing his kneecaps.

Thinking perhaps this is just a kink in the uploading of the patch (Yes, I know, I can't believe I used one of those horrible excuses to think that as well), I decided to turn off the game and come back the next day. What was even more to my surprise was when I logged in to my account once more and was met with a loading screen that was downloading something.

Anonymous: "I don't care if the patch isn't stable, just release it and hot fix it as we go on!"

Yep, seems really common for developers to release patches and then to hot fix the client in the later days. Of course, it's more common for developers to only have one or two hot fixes. Here in Hellgate, however, we went through a hot fix each day for the week the patch was implemented--all the way up to Friday. I guess the whole mindset of, "It's done when it's done" isn't a thought they like to put around the office. After all, it would make sense why they then left Blizzard, has Blizzard had the uncanny knack to hold off their products until they were finished. Hmm. I guess nothing really was learned from that experience.

Perhaps the biggest insult to injury of this whole patch deal is how much content still goes untouched or still left on life support. You know, like achievements? Oooh, how about reputation! Yeah, those are really nice things to look at. Too bad they aren't functional in any way besides recording data. My favorite, however, has to be the splitting of stacks. Now here's a feature that is absolutely ridiculous NOT to have at launch--a feature that has been suggested since the hay days of alpha. And how about that, we still can't split stacks. Oh well. At least they know they'll always have about 2,000 loyal fans that think they are doing an "okay" job (this isn't including their "successful launch" in SEA of all 30 players).

Screenshot taken on: March 18, 2008, 11:00PM EST (otherwise known as peak time)

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