on Nov 11, 2009
First up was Lord of the Rings Online. I finished the four-hour download, installed the thing, and got it all set up. And then I discovered that it is impossible to toggle mouse look. If you want to turn with the mouse, you must hold down the right mouse button while doing so.
Is that even possible? It can’t be. I checked the forums and found an argument from 2008 that flowed like this:
Person A: I really need mouselook. My hand is cramping from holding down the RMB.
Person B: Your hand is feeble.
Person C: Why don’t you just steer with the keyboard? You’re stupid for requesting this.
Person D: Stop saying this game is imperfect!
Look, when I play a game, my mouse governs my eyes. I expect to be able to sweep them from side to side at will. I am not a turret or a forklift, and I do not want to “steer” my eyes. Having to hold down the right mouse button ALL THE TIME in order to maintain this connection between mouse movement and what I see is a deal breaker. This is not some exotic feature, never before heard of in this history of games. This is the natural way of things. It’s how I navigated games in 1995. It’s how I navigated in Borderlands, yesterday. WoW had it. Champions Online had it. Guild Wars had it. Fallen Earth had it. Hellgate: London had it. City of Heroes had it.
This is very reason games have auto-run: Because holding down a button all the time is bad for your wrists and hands. In any event, I am not interested in overcoming a decade and a half of experience, comfort, and muscle memory in order to accommodate some bonehead’s crude, atavistic interface.
So… let’s try Age of Conan?
I go to sign up for the free trial. It says the username is taken. Wow. Do I already have a Funcom account? I do. Ah right. Now I remember: I played Anarchy Online for about twenty minutes some ages ago, and the two games share a common database. Cool. That saves me the hassle of creating an account.
Only… it doesn’t give me the option for the free trial. Apparently this is only for completely new users, and if you’ve played Anarchy Online then you can’t have a free trial of Age of Conan? Ubuhwhat?
Fine. I’m thinking of just buying the game outright. It’s only $20. Even if it doesn’t work for a Let’s Play, I might be able to wring a comic or two out of the thing. But before I click the thing I see the fine print:
In order to activate a new game on an existing account, you must verify your contact information.
Hmm. Busywork. Fine. You want to confirm my e-mail or…
In order to verify your account, you must have an SMS enabled phone and be able to-
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You guys want my PHONE NUMBER?!?
No. No no. Nononono. My phone number is a treasure I guard carefully. For the last ten years I have had an unlisted landline number, but I trusted too many companies with that sequence of digits and now the thing rings twice daily with spam calls. I keep the landline for business reasons, but my personal private non-public secret mobile phone number is simply not on the table.
I’m asking if I can have one of your free samples at the deli, and you’re telling me we gotta have rough unprotected sex first.
Why do you need my phone? Why not ask for a credit card? (If you want to confirm adulthood.) Or just my email? (To confirm my contact info.)
The other option is to run to the store and buy a boxed copy. I’m sure big-box stores won’t have it, and I’m sure Gamestop will be selling it for launch-day prices.
But.. the other, other option is to just create a brand-new account. Which works perfectly and without asking for money or attempting to invade my privacy. It takes about two minutes, and I’m in business. I occurs to me that if I was a [nationality] gold farmer, this system would not impede my efforts in the slightest.
I download the client. It takes six hours. Then we’re in:
Let’s see… set up the graphics. Log in. Watch the intro movie. Set up my key bindings…
There is no way to turn on auto mouselook.
I… I really feel an intense level of rage right now. I feel the need to kill a human being with my bare hands. I can’t believe that after all this time, it turns out Jack Thompson was right.
Google leads me to a thread where we learn that the game once had mouselook, but last year they removed it without explanation.
I am speechless.
Later: This tale has a happy ending, sort of. With the help of this program I was able to make the middle mouse button toggle the state of the right mouse button. So if I click MMB, it begins holding down RMB until such time as I click the MMB again. This means both games are now open to me.
Still… leaving out mouselook? In this day and age? Not even leaving it as a checkbox, disabled by default. But simply not having it at all. This feature is so trivial and has such an impact on usability. I need someone to give me a justification for the thinking behind this. Someone with access to the codebase. No, better yet: If you have access to the source code, then here is what you need to do:
1) Go to the code repository and check out mouse.cpp.
2) Add the four lines of code that I know it will take to turn this into a toggle. Just stick the option in the ini file where it can, at need, be turned on by civilized people who know what they’re doing. Don’t worry about adding it to the interface. Desperate times, and all.
3) Submit that bitch to go out with the next patch.
4) No, don’t ask your boss. Don’t bring this up in a meeting. Don’t submit this for review by a committee. Don’t run this by your obviously deficient QA department. Just suck it up and do it. Your worth as a software engineer and a human being is riding on your ability to make this right.
Alternatively: Quit your job as a programmer and find honest employment in some other field of work.
Anyway, I’m not sure which game will get my attention just yet. I’ve played about an hour of each and this could go either way. We’ll see which one strikes my funny bone first.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.