Dear Sirs

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jun 1, 2008

Filed under: Rants 76 comments

Dear Flagship Studios, (And EA)

Dear sirs. I am currently in the process of installing your product Hellgate: London. It may be of interest to you that not everyone enjoys typing in those gigantic strings of garbaldygook, which you sometimes refer to as “registration codes”. In fact, I do not enjoy it. I do the very opposite of enjoying it. I bring this up because your installer made me type it in at two different places during the process of installing your product. It seems like I could have been spared one of those. At least.

I also want to point out that while I’m sure you have millions of fans who can’t wait to jump on your servers to share the gaming experience together, there are still some of us who actually play games on our own. As I understand this has not yet been made illegal, and I would like to enjoy the single-player experience for as long as possible before that changes. To wit: I don’t really want to be online with all the children that infect your service, a great screaming plague of illiterate thieves, con artists, crybabies, bullies, vandals, and pranksters. These sorts of interactions are available to me every day out in the real world, which is one of the reasons I spend so much time at home playing videogames.

With this in mind, I’d like to ask that in the future you not integrate “account creation” with the installer. Or, if you do, I would request the addition of a button labeled, “BUGGER OFF”, the purpose of which I imagine is apparent by now. One of the selling points of the game was the fact that it did not (claim to) require an internet connection. Now that I have broken the seal I learn that this is not really the case and in fact, an internet connection is indeed required, constantly, throughout the entire process.

And now the installation is complete, and I note that while the account registration was integrated, the patching system is not. For shame.

I am going to play this game. For your sake I hope the software does not vex me further.


Shamus Young


From The Archives:

76 thoughts on “Dear Sirs

  1. Patrick the Malcontent says:

    You seem upset. Angry even.

    I just realized it has been awhile since we hung out, and since I am also at this time filled with a morbid amount of disgust for various aspects of corporate stupidity, I would suggest you join me in my personal favorite way of relaxing.

    Wanna go up to the mall and throw sliced baloney at the angst ridden and teenagers loafing around Hot Topic, depressed because their middle-upper class white parents won’t pay for their WoW subscription for the summer? 1 point if you hit them, 2 if you get the sliceto stick.

    Seriously, it may sound immature and borderline illegal, but it really is the boss.

    1. Darkstarr says:

      I hate to break this to you, but sliced baloney would be terribly wrong.

      Finely sliced Spam, OTOH… (yes, I mean the canned Hormel meat product. I know it’s hard to tell lately…) That way, you can appreciate the subtle irony.

      And no, I am not evil. I’m True Neutral, honest. If I were evil, I’d suggest head cheese instead. ^_^

  2. Cincinnatus says:

    That would pretty much make my life if you did actually send that, Shamus.

    At any rate, I applaud it heartily.

  3. Stephen says:

    The death of the modern single-player video game is truly a sad occurrence. Just because we have this wonderful networking technology doesn’t mean every game has to be centered around it.

    (And obligatory connectivity to play a game is just evil. Some of us live out in the boonies where the high-speed may go out for hours at a time.)

  4. LazerFX says:

    I have to say, that does seem mildly ironic – you refuse to hang out with the n00bs in the Hellgate London game, and yet you run a popular website with open forums, which you respond to on regular occasion ;)

    That said, online gaming is not as bad as it seems at first… get a good group, and you’re fine. It’s best to start with a couple of people you know in real life (Or, at least, from other forums online), and build up from there.

  5. Stargazer says:

    So… is there a pun to addressing them as dead sirs?

    Apart from that I really love to read all of your blog, I just kinda get to a point where I have 15 various spin offs open at the same time.

    Oh and another thing, please more harsh dealings with firsts, thirds and what have you nots, that idiotic nonsense is driving me crazy and puts me off reading further in the comment section.

  6. ZzzzSleep says:

    Dear Flagship Studios, (And EA)

    Dead sirs.
    Errr… dead sirs? Is the board of EA a bunch of zombies?

  7. Plasma says:

    Dear Shamus:
    Dead sirs.

  8. ngthagg says:

    Prediction: You will get vexed when you discover that it takes seven clicks, each and every time you run the game, to clear all of the splash screens.

    Bonus follow up prediction: You will stop clicking through those screens, instead taking the opportunity to burn those names into your brain, so that you know who you will be doing this to.

  9. Aquatopia says:

    If it makes you feel any better, you’re not missing out on a great deal. I played the game from before release up to a couple months afterwards and didn’t find it particularly satisfying. Honestly I can’t really explain why. The concept of “Diablo II but in first-person and with guns” sounds awesome (and still does) but somehow Hellgate seemed to screw the pooch on the whole deal. Oh well.

    Here’s to Diablo III. (cheers)

  10. folo4 says:

    …..when will Shamus ever gonna like multiplayer?

    he doesn’t need matchmaking services; all he had to do is hook up with the commentators of this blog for a jaunt.

    I mean, we’re not ” illiterate thieves, con artists, crybabies, bullies, vandals, and pranksters. “, are we?

  11. Cat Skyfire says:

    Amen! I like playing games without 37 other people being involved. Especially since 35 of them would be telling me I’m stupid for doing what I”m doing…

  12. journeyman says:

    *facepalm* Wow, it’s like steam without the redeeming or tolerable qualities. I think I’ll just stick to Diablo II. If I remember correctly it doesn’t even need a CD key, let alone any of these bollocks which are arbitrarily tacked onto games these days.

  13. LemmingLord says:

    Installing Hellgate London…all I can say is you are going to regret doing that.

  14. GAZZA says:

    Gotta say I’m with Shamus to a large degree – most of the reason I stopped playing WoW so long ago was because the idea of having to associate with 39 other random strangers just to see the content I hadn’t see yet, from Australia, where the timezones aren’t exactly friendly, didn’t strike me as likely to be pleasant. Besides, I’d much rather have my mates come around and play tabletop than all log in to Azeroth for a more limited, less satisfying way of achieving more or less the same thing.

    Videogames are for when my mates aren’t available. If that makes me an antisocial elitist… well, then it’s a plan with no drawbacks. :)

  15. Adam Bloom says:

    I mean, we're not “ illiterate thieves, con artists, crybabies, bullies, vandals, and pranksters. “, are we?

    Hey, speak for yourself!

  16. Adam Bloom says:

    I think I'll just stick to Diablo II. If I remember correctly it doesn't even need a CD key, let alone any of these bollocks which are arbitrarily tacked onto games these days.

    You remember… incorrectly. D2 had a CD key on both the original and the expansion pack, and god forbid if you mixed up your household’s two copies and double-installed off one, then tried to go on BNet together.

    Oh well. They did away with the expansion keys for WC3.

    Besides, I'd much rather have my mates come around and play tabletop than all log in to Azeroth for a more limited, less satisfying way of achieving more or less the same thing.

    It is much easier to circle-jerk in real life…

  17. Alvin Brinson says:

    I’m with Shamus here too.

    I consider myself a “gamer”…. However I don’t game much anymore. Neverwinter Nights 2 was fantastic. Oblivion okay, but too much work to get the game running right. Simcity 4 series too buggy, The Sims too needy. Civilization 4 has balance issues, but was okay. Galactic Civilizations 1/2 was great. Sins of a Solar Empire bites, even though I payed for it because I trusted Stardock to provide good games.

    But most of the games I like are old, and a dying breed. Simulation games are more and more replaced with “real-time-strategy” which equates to “Let’s see if we can frustrate the user by overwhelming him with clicking so much he can’t think”. I got tired of FPS games after Unreal Tournament. I would love the RPG genre, but it’s all going online with forced multiplayer.

    I bought GuildWars a few years ago on the promise that it was solo-friendly. I discovered that to be an outright lie, and it is the case with most modern games. I quit World of Warcraft because I didn’t want to live my life around the schedule of 4 to 39 other people.

    The single-player mode RPG, as well as the offline game in general, is a dying breed. Blame piracy, blame EA (I will), blame whoever, the fact is many “gamers” are being left with no choice but to give up gaming. I’ve given up buying games because chances are after less than an hour of play, I’ll be disgusted. If I’d actually wasted $49 to $69 for that disgust, I’d go psycho.

  18. trousercuit says:

    I hope that, along with the true single-player PC game, the word “vex” makes a comeback. Also “sooth”.

    Forsooth, true single-player gaming doth exist on consoles. And there, you just pop it in and go.

  19. Dreamer says:

    I find that (some) online play quite fun, if you keep the voice chat on mute and avoid laggy servers. I hardly want to hear my friends chatter over the internet, much less a bunch of strangers with bad language and shrill voices. If you have something to say, type it!

  20. Fenix says:

    if i want to do multiplayer ill hang out with friends, but when im alone and bored (a lot) i dont want to hang around dumb f***s online who are just ruining any imersion factor there. along with the fact that mmo’s and their brother sister style games have no story, giving me no motivation and ending up with me quitting in bordom.
    guild wars created 3 characters got to level 7/8/3 before quitting.
    WoW 12 characters leveling from 5-19 quit in bordom.
    who was the dude that thought “hey lets make it so that the player repeats the same five things 600 times every hour and then gains a level, THEN (good part) you need to do the same thing 6000 to gain another level!” “genius i say”
    unfortunatly that guy is rolling in dough now. and, like the oil industry, doesnt want to change anything! and who suffers all of us (minus those of you that can manage to enjoy the borefest that is WoW)
    been stuck playing oblivion (238 mods and counting) and now trying to fix the myriad of bugs that is Mass Effect pirated edition. (not mass effect non pirated suffers 1 less bug than pirated edition but suffers from a bad case of drm, so i chose mr pirates version because of the i wont anal probe you clause.)
    well im done.

  21. Amadan says:

    Another reader here who totally agrees.
    Give me my bloody single player non networked games, thankyew verra much.

    Honestly the games I keep going back to over and over are a heavily modded out version of Pirates of the Caribbean (the original 1st movie product tie in, that was originally written to be Sea Dogs 2), Sid Myer’s Pirates, and the X-Com series.

  22. bargamer says:

    Yeah, I’m sorry, but Hellgate sucks. Not only are the classes imbalanced, the documentation is non-existant, so you’re forced to experiment wildly. ALL of the loot tables are randomized, so you’re forced to deal with a mish-mash of good and bad bonuses on your weapons and armor. You can only re-spec and send items between characters with a paid subscription, or a trustworthy friend to mule it for you while you log out, wade through the screens, log back in and find him. The quests are lame, and sometimes, you’re forced to re-learn the interface for a particular quest, with no documentation and very little clue how to proceed.

    Tons of bugs, connection problems, complete lack of in-game GM support, and no actual satisfaction in playing.

    Alvin: Dude, give Guild Wars another try. The Nightfall expansion has an improved Henchman system called “Heroes”, allowing you to customize them like your own character: armor, weapons, attributes and skillbar. Also, you can take both Heroes and Henchmen, so it’s very solo-friendly now. It’s my favorite game, hands down. (Well, until Spore, Starcraft 2, and Fallout 3 come out.)

    ((PS: Apologies to Shamus for still choosing to get Spore. :-p))

  23. Freykin says:

    I hope the patches make it better than it was since the end of beta. It was pretty terrible at that point. Felt like I was playing a Diablo clone with uninspired skills.

  24. Johan says:

    I just want to say that I honestly see nothing inherently wrong/bad with/about registration keys :/.

  25. GAZZA says:

    Got to add my voice to those saying that console games still provide single player enjoyment… but leaving aside the inherent differences (can’t play Civilisation on a Wii), the issue there is that you have to add an “… at present …” to that. Wii is Internet capable, pretty sure the XBox 360 and PS3 are as well (don’t own them, can’t be certain), and it’s only a matter of time before the “it’s more fun to play against real people, and besides we don’t have to code as much AI that way” crowd invade the consoles too.

  26. Eric says:

    I bought a 360 under the impression that it was completely backwards compatible, only to find that was only true if I got an update off of Xbox Live–as service I see no point in having (and which would go to complete waste considering I haven’t even turned on my 360 since January).

    Rambling story cut short–finding out that I can’t play any of the games I have for the original Xbox pissed me off enough. The day I’m required to be online to play an ostensibly single player console game is the day I turn my back on the industry.

  27. kamagurka says:

    You bought a product from EA. Now what were you expecting?

  28. Craig says:

    I really don’t understand your rant here, Shamus. Wasn’t this advertised as an MMO? Also, don’t most new games require an activation key? And isn’t it a one-time deal? This sounds like splitting hairs at this point. As for multiplayer vs single player.. they’re two types of games! its not like one should exist and the other shouldn’t! I really enjoy WoW. I also enjoy CivIV, and assassin’s creed, and halo, and DnD, and real-life sports. They’re something wrong with all of these pastimes, thats why I switch between them and don’t get hung up on one.

  29. Shamus says:

    Craig: Advertised? You mean in those ridiculous gaming magazines I never read? Yeah, I probably missed that. :)

    Anyway, no, this isn’t an MMO according to any definition I’m familiar with. This isn’t a persistent world like WoW, this is like Diablo.

    The gripe is that it required activation without saying so on the box. (And that the installer was an pain in the ass. I’d much rather go cook some Tater Tots while the install runs instead of filling out a bunch of digital paperwork for the online portion of the game which I never plan to use. Really. I spent ten minutes on it, and I’m never, ever going to jump online.)

  30. JayBee says:

    I remember playing Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 and enjoying it without the whole multiplayer experience, and I think that Hellgate London would be the same – the same levels and dungeons, only that your friends can tag along with a bonus in loot.

    The whole registration thing stings terribly, but I think its becoming the norm – reminds me of Half-Life 2 and Valve’s Steam program…and its not like you buy HL2 for its multiplayer component =P

  31. Hermes says:

    I played it in singleplayer and I liked it. IMO best diablo clone so far. The environments gets abit repetetive after awhile but other than that its a good game.

  32. I was in beta of Hellgate and for some reason gave up my Christmas presents for a founders account. Yes, so now I have a permanent non monthly chargable account, that I never play on.

    Hellgate is supposed to be the 3d version of Diablo. It is in a way. Its an ok game, but not one I would want to play for years to come.

    At first they made the online experience really great by holding events where we could get cool stuff. Then Christmas came.. and there were NO PRESENTS under the Christmas tree. We were bummed. Their excuse? They were working too hard on expansions and patches to bother with content for events anymore. But .. but.. Santa? Nope.. Santa doesn’t exist! The demons ate his soul! MUHAHA!

    So another thing, if you do want to play single player off line, expect it to be bugged. Because they make the patches for the online version first and post patches for the single player version basically ‘when they get around to it’.

    Honestly online playing isn’t that bad, they set up the servers in a great way where they aren’t over filled and lagged to the hilt.

    Their guild functions leave a lot to ask for, and looking for groups is sometimes hard but playing alone still gets you through the levels.

    The difficulty standards are kinda lame, like the old Diablo online ones. You have to defeat the entire game from difficulty to difficulty in order to climb to the top difficulty. So really, only those ‘more hardcore than me’ or those who bought their accounts are getting up there. And what do they get? The hardest mobs to fight with a char that can permanently die. Really doesn’t sound that fun to me.

    Oh, and may I bitch.. just because I can.. about their collector’s edition cds? You got a BONUS cd with the game music on it. Which their music is very awesome, however it won’t f***ing play! Its just full of broken files. What noobs.

    Anyway, this went longer than I meant it to.

    Sorry about that.

    I figure I’ll bring my cds with me this summer and let my kids play the game. I’ll smack them if they bug anyone for stuff though. I’m a good gamer mommy.


  33. Hank says:

    Hellgate is a pretty decent game, worth the mony of bying it…bareley. With the patches it gets better, class rebalances etc. Perhaps most interesting is that you actualy don’t need to create an acount to install/play singleplayer, the installer is just built to make you think so.

  34. ngthagg says:

    I’ve been enjoying WoW solo for a couple of months now. It definitely had some learning curve to discover how not to die on a regular basis, but I have a lot of fun with it. It also means that I don’t feel pressured to group, so I only associate with polite, friendly people.

    Although it is repetitive, I find it’s really nice because the quests are simple enough that I can sit down and do one or two in half an hour.

  35. Scourge says:

    Also fun is that they wanted to make a major reshape in skil lboni etc. people who paid for their account get a free return for their skillpoints, people who didn’t paid don’t. Bah!

    I bought the game and thought it was awesome, however it is way to bugged and they concentrate way to much on the people who pay to play online.

    I mean, hey, they added ten new areas or so just for the ones with subscription accounts.

    The rest just has to see where they stay..

  36. Lanthanide says:

    “For your sake I hope the software does not vex me further.”


    I *really* hope you got Hellgate very cheap, Shamus, because it is going to vex you. A lot.

  37. Torolf says:

    You shouldn’t have pointed out that solo gaming had not yet been made illegal. What if they decide to fix that? :(

    Also, it’s always amused me that many or most of the ads on your site are for free multiplayer games.

  38. Bryan says:

    I participated in the beta for Hellgate and was thoroughly unimpressed. Diablo & Diablo II are among my all time favorites, and right now I’m playing through Titan Quest (or Diablo 2.5 as I like to call it) and enjoying it. Titan Quest Gold, which includes the expansion pack, is available for $30 by the way.

    As far as activation goes, I really don’t see the harm in having to enter CD keys when you install a game. Yes, it’s ridiculous if you lose the key and have to reinstall, the solution being to not lose your keys. I don’t particularly mind having a lengthy installation process as I will only have to go through it once. Bitching about it takes more effort than doing it.

    We all have to choose our battles, and that’s one I choose to sit out. Having said that, I know the anti-piracy measures are one of your hot buttons and for the most part I agree with you.

    Damn The Man!

  39. Dave says:

    Shamus has always mentioned dislike of having to enter huge reg strings just to install a game.

    Also… I don’t know anything about Hellgate: London, one way or the other. So I can see how other people might have missed the furor that you say existed on the internet.

  40. Sitte says:

    Then add to that complaining about having to create an account for a game that was billed as a 90% multi player game?

    The way he describes the situation implies that you can’t finish installing the game unless you sign up for an account. That means that when the servers are down in ten years, you can no longer install the game.

  41. Jadawin says:

    I’ve been pretty supportive in general of your position on this, Shamus, but I’ve spent what’s probably a ridiculous amount of time mulling this over at odd moments and I am starting to change my mind. What really got me was the re-review of Mass Effect for the PC over at Ars Technica where they praised the improvements to the interface that were made when porting from the 360. I got the game over the weekend and am about 4 hours in. Yes, there is still SecuROM on the disc, and there was a (transparent) online activation (apparently). But SecuROM has played very nicely (except loading the game takes a really long time- I may download a hacked exe to see if it helps) and hasn’t even complained about the Daemon Tools I have running. I don’t have to have the disc in the drive (for me that is a big deal). I have a PC port of a console game that takes full advantage of PC controls- wasn’t that something we were discussing on this site a few weeks ago? Add to all that the fact that the game which you’ve reviewed most glowingly is Jade Empire, and this is almost a sci-fi version of that- how can you miss out on it? At some point the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

  42. Deoxy says:

    You know, from the ads I saw online (and their initial web-site before launch), I thought HG:L was going to be an MMO-style game, and I don’t get or read any gaming magazines. When I first saw this post, I was VERY confused.

  43. Mari says:

    Shame on you, Shamus, for not knowing everything about everything. How dare you have missed the raging internet debate and magazine advertising campaign that would have informed you of salient facts about your impending software purchase that the publishers failed to include on the box. ;-)

    For those of you who may have missed the irony there: some of us don’t read gaming rags/blogs/forums/whatever in an attempt to stay abreast of games to avoid. Therefore we miss facts like “This game will force you to create an account to play the 90% of the game you don’t care about before you’re allowed to get to the 10% you do.” We, instead, rely on product packaging to inform us of such salient facts. Once upon a time if you looked on a software package it had a list of hardware and software requirements on it that were needed to run the new software properly. If internet registration was required it would include in the list something to the effect “56K or better internet connection.” It would also include specs about your video card, sound card, memory, and processor (which weren’t lies back in the good ol’ days of Fred Flinstone computers). Sadly, some of us who grew up in the Paleozoic era haven’t adjusted to the fact that software publishers now consider that box blurb to be a place to insert random fiction because we already know the real facts from Gamerz and Haxorz Magazine or reviews and we simply must have seen the raging debate in’s forums.

  44. Shamus says:

    I know I’m often faulted for my lack of brevity. In order to placate those who grow weary of my loquaciousness, I shall now attempt a terse reply:

    Yeah. Mari wins.

    Hm. That wasn’t so bad. I might have been able to sneak a “hells yeah!” in there as well, but I was worried it would violate my mandate in regards to length. Nevertheless I think it contains the sense of full agreement I was trying to convey.

  45. Helge says:

    Whether or not Shamus enjoys MPORG, if a game requires an internet connection for the installation (for account creation or whatever other baloney the game’s creators decided on) but doesn’t make that clear on the outside of the package then that’s a valid complaint. The only thing worse would have been that account creation required a credit card.

    Huh. While I was writing this others have said pretty much the same thing. :-P

  46. Chris Arndt says:

    No. Reg codes suck.

    Any installation or download that I cannot set to run while I cook is stupid.


  47. How on Earth did I miss the fact that Hellgate London isn’t an MMO? I swear, I had friends in the _beta_ and I thought it was an MMO. If EA managed, in their marketing of the game, to not inform people of the nature of the game play, they _Fail_.

    A perusal of Wikipedia (I was trying to find out what sort of DRM scheme they have) tells me that the game is about 120hrs long. I don’t have that kind of time! So this one stays on the shelf…

    Also: Online updates for registered users while the pirates get the “out of the box” experience sounds a _lot_ like Stardock’s DRM…

  48. Doug says:

    Why was my comment BAHleted? Did I strike a chord?

  49. Shamus,

    Once you’ve installed the game, you never have to go on-line again. The game is quite playable without the patches, though when you install the patches you often get respec tokens that let you respec your existing character(s) so automatic patch installation is not always what anyone wants.

    Just FYI.

  50. Sitte says:

    the game is about 120hrs long.

    I assume that is to play through all 3 difficulty modes, so the game is probably 40 hours. Still a lot, but more on par with Diablo 2.

    Anyone who’s played the game able to confirm actual playtime?

  51. Shamus says:

    Hey Doug.

    I nuked a couple of comments because people got personally insulting with me. If you were one of them, then yeah.

    This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

  52. Doug says:

    Sorry…I didn’t intend to personally insult you. I just made an observation on a trend I noticed. I enjoy reading your blog. Like Mari mentioned, I am one of the ones “who grew up in the Paleozoic era”, so I enjoy your take on games and you discuss many that I’m interested in. I just get tired of the increased frequency of complaints. I’m not really familiar with Hellgate: London, but from how you described it, it doesn’t sound too bad. Not anywhere near the nightmare you describe with other games.

    I guess I’m simple in the fact that I’ve made my peace with most PC games and their installation wants and needs. Obviously, this is a big deal to you and I respect the fact that you’re standing on your soap box and making other people aware. Honestly, I haven’t had problems like you describe, ever. But I’m not a cutting edge gamer and the last thing I installed was Team Fortress 2. I wasn’t real happy with some of the Steam stuff, but I’m o.k. with it now.

    So, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know half of what I do about DRM, etc. Thanks for keeping me informed. Now, can we get back to just reviewing a game in that special way you have?

  53. “The game consists of five acts to unify the areas a player travels through on a greater scale. All acts account for approximately 40 hours of single-player gameplay”

    Which actually would put it at 200hrs. But: what is an “act”? I assume it’s synonymous with “stage”, but I tend to get bored with most games by around hour 25-30, so I’m more than leery of a 200hr game…

  54. JKjoker says:

    i tried hellgate (without buying it, thank god), i thought it was a pos (didnt get to install any patch tho), the game is flawed everywhere, classes dont feel unique at all (they even share skills), a LOT of skills are useless either by definition or because the physics suck (give grenades a try), because of that there is only 1 good build per class with little or no variation, they didnt fix the main problem with d2 spells : they still run out and you have to recast every X seconds, no way to “autorecast” (it’s even worse than d2 in the summoning area), the levels look all the freaking same, some skills force you to stop moving (extremely nice when you are about to get surrounded), they even managed to make a fps not fun by making the weapons feel like pea shooters, items SUCK because almost everything you find is not for your class (i could swear they intentionally tweaked the dice rolls to screw with single play) and finally, forcing you to use a “weapon” to cast spells, just shameful
    a word of warning: the lighting (specially if you play the tech classes) might cause seizures and can only be enjoyed if you are really, really high

  55. Deoxy says:

    Yeah. Mari wins.

    Well, if it wasn’t on the box, then yeah, I completely agree with that, I just find it funny and odd that I, Mr Learns-about-video-games-from-YOU, had picked up that the focus in HG:L was multi-player and you hadn’t. I just happened to follow a banner link once…

    I also find it funny that I thought it was an MMO, when it’s clearly not that, either, and that I’m not remotely alone on that – they clearly did a pretty bad job on their PR.

  56. lplimac says:

    Prediction: You will get vexed when you discover that it takes seven clicks, each and every time you run the game, to clear all of the splash screens.

    This has been fixed (at least for the on-line version) and now require two- one to get through the logos and one to skip the cinema intro.

    All my experience is with the on-line version. My daughter played off line but never finished it… more due to short attention span than anything else. You know teenagers :D
    I’m a subscriber and have been playing HG:L from near the end of beta, through launch and currently play at least one day a week (a group game). It’s a good mindless time killer game, just like D2 is and takes about the same amount of time to do things. It’s not a true MMO how I play them, like say Lord of the Rings Online (the one I play) and you can do everything evolving the main story line solo. Some of the subscriber content (and new stuff in the pike) is more co-op, requiring teams from what I see at the one fan site I visit, but I avoid the official forums so not positive. All the game areas are instances so you don’t have to worry about people coming in and kill stealing and the like and the loot drops are only able to be picked up by you… if in as team the others don’t even see it. If mindless chat bothers you, you can close the chat windows to avoid the spam or, with four quick commands leave the four broadcast channels completely. You can still get tells, but can set to ignore the sender if you want.

    I play solo most of the times (very easy to do) and for people new to the game have only one suggestion: don’t spend attribute points unless you must for new equipment. Don’t worry about unbalance character classes because unless you team with random strangers (which I never do) it will never matter. If you want the uber class play one if not don’t, it won’t effect me one bit. Also, do not pay for subscriber content unless you play the game, enjoy it and want to see the content only subscribers see. You can still play with a group of friends with out subscribing even if they are subscribers.

    One thing that didn’t look like no one touched on is the EA connection. EA came to the table late in the cycle, insisting on a Halloween ’07 ship date after investing, when the developers knew it wouldn’t be ready. Money, however, talks and that’s what EA brought to the table, plus their distribution system (say what you want about EA, but a small game design company, working in one of the devs living rooms, just doesn’t have the kind of distribution, marketing etc that EA has). Sadly it was too tempting and and so a unfinished product shipped… something that the devs have been trying to fix with every patch. Not apologizing for them at all, just background.

    I like HG:L when I feel line mindless mayhem, and I enjoy the team I play with. Again, I can’t say much about the off line stuff as everything I know applies to my on-line experience. :)

  57. JKjoker says:

    i’m not surprised it was released unfinished, for a game with the idea of hooking ppl up and then have them pay monthly for updates its suspicious they “forgot”/didn’t have time for content until you put the cash on the table (again) (2 funny things : they released quite a bit of new content weeks after the game was out, they just couldn’t put in the full game, and if you join but then bail out all the “register only” content gets blocked), also im surprised nobody mentions the strange “humor” of the game that ranges from insane to intolerable

  58. roxysteve says:

    Shamus, you should send this on as an open letter to the management of the game company (as opposed to posting it in one of their forums).

    I may be naà¯ve but I honestly believe the way forward on these issues is much the same as with anything else; Tell people when they do right and tell them when they do wrong. At worst, it can only be as useless as ranting on your own platform to the converted (says the person with a blog conceived solely as a place to rant and rail against the iniquitous Long Island Rail Road).

    As always, respect and sympathy. Write more.


  59. Oh man…

    My husband and I played Hellgate: London together when it was first released. It was so bad, it was almost comical. Almost..

    Whenever we would zone into a map together, one of us would inevitably become invisible. The “invisible” person would then have to reluctantly zone back to town and then return to the instance. It became a nightmare version of the Verizon commercial: “Can you see me now?”

    Good luck with playing the single player version, Shamus. Hopefully you will have more fun with it than we did.


  60. Hawkstrike says:

    I agree — you need to send this letter. Write it out longhand, in calligraphy, on parchment, sealed with wax … so that it stands out enough to get their attention.

    I’d recommend you hire a crier to walk into EA Games and read the letter at the top of his lungs, but that might be going a bit too far.

  61. SimeSublime says:

    Bit of a foreward: This is a rant I wrote a few months ago on a forum about Hellgate: London. It was intended to be read by people who have played the game as well as those who haven’t so spoilers should be minimal. There are a few typos, but limited time giving me the choice between fixing them and reading your next article I think I’ll let them stand.

    Topic – Hellgate: London
    Subtitle – Worst game I’ve played in a long time

    I know, what did I expect? But still. I’m not going to complain about the repetitive ‘gameplay’ and the like. That’s all expected. But I am going to complain about everything else.

    First, the documentation. The manual is even less useful then the manual for Morrowind. It gives no information on the setting/story. There’s no information about the damage types. No information about special damage. Hell, apparantly the game has a mini-game included. There is only one mention to this in game. If you win it enough times, you get an achievement. The description for the achievement is “If you haven’t figured it out by now, we’re not telling you”. I’ve won the mini-game at least 20 times, and I have no idea what it is.
    Second, the plot. Where is it? I think I’m missing it or something. I’m in act 5, and I still have no idea what’s really going on. Ok, so at some point in the future when we have a lot of technology, a portal to hell opened. Right. Apparently, half the population seems to belong to the not-so-secret society of Templars, and they seem to pass for a government these days. You take on the role of some nobody who happened to be walking down a demon infested street for no discernible reason, when a bloke called Murmur takes it upon himself to follow you around for the rest of your life. If we take that as read, then the rest of the (sparse) plot seems to follow through all right.
    Third, the setting. It makes no sense. Humanity appears to be limited to a bunch of stations in the London Underground, whilst everywhere else is under a constant demonic plague. Travelling from one station to the next is a major effort in military force. Yet everybody else seems to have little trouble doing it. That being said, the demons strength seems to be inversely proportional to the number of humans left. Due to the very little amount of people around, one assumes that the demonic invasion did more the decimate our numbers. So they must have been strong enough to commit mass genocide. But now that they outnumber us in the range of thousands to one, they just can’t quite finish us off. Hell, my personal kill count is nearing about 10K. And it makes even less sense when we take into account that the demons re-spawn when you leave an area, pretty much making all that work I just went to purifying it to waste. Which of course leads one to ask why this guy is adamant that I kill 7 zombies in a particular area, and is willing to pay me to do it. I mean, there are a lot more demons there, most of them worse then zombies. And killing them doesn’t seem to slow down the demonic hoard in the slightest. It only takes a minute or two and the place will be crawling with filth again.
    Fourth, the bad level design. The minor point would be the use of randomised levels. Apparently, they’re supposed to increase the re playability of the game. Somehow. In practice, it means that each level is going to be a rehash of one of the four or so skins. Each skin leads to the same patterns, lending you a severe sense of de ja vu as you wonder through the same street yet again. But that’s by no means the least of it. Specific levels seem to be worse then others. Every now and then in the main quest you have to do something different. This should be a good thing, but sadly the designers didn’t quite think things through. The best example that comes to mind is a level where clouds of poisonous air follow you around slowly. It puts an interesting twist on the level. But then you have to talk to somebody. And it’s a long conversation. And the game doesn’t pause when you talk to people. So basically, you’re standing around choking whilst listening to this guy. That leaves you with two options. Either you {a} skip the dialmonologue and give up what little characterisation the game offers you, or you {b}choke to death. Great. Another example was the level I just played through. I had to get three parts to fix a train, but they’re too heavy to carry more then one at a time. I had to wander about the level and kill monsters until one of them randomly dropped a part. But instead of having the parts placed on three monsters when the level starts, they only place the first one. So, I fought throughout the whole level until it finally dropped in the last room. I lug it back, and get sent out for the second piece. The level has reset with monsters, so I do the same level a second time before finding it, once again, in the last room. So, I take it back and get sent out for the third. But this time the level doesn’t reset. It’s empty. No enemies. At all. So, after I waste five minutes running around randomly demons finally deign to appear(lets ignore the fact that the level is a closed environment for now). Fortunately, the final piece dropped only midway through the level this time. I actually killed enough enemies in this one map to go up an entire level. Of course, at least I *could* complete that mission. I’ve had a few “go to area x and kill y amount of enemy z” quests where area x doesn’t infact contain y amount of monster z.
    Finally, the bugs. The game knows just when to crash to desktop. When you exit the game, it will save. It will save which quests you have open, and what you have on you, but not your position. When you restart the game, you’ll be back in the last ‘town centre’ area you visited. So, I had a mainline quest that involved me meeting a character in an area four stops away from a town. After fighting my way through the first three, I went to go through the final portal and the game crashed. So, I reload it. Sure enough, all my equipment and so on is fine. But I’m back in town. I now have to walk through those three levels that I just cleared again. But they’re not clear any more. Oh no, due to the stupid re-spawning mechanic they’re full of mosters again. And, due to the stupid random map mechanic, they’re a completely new shape, so I can’t even take a short cut strait to the end. Fucking great. Now let’s move onto the stupid placing of the characters. I don’t really know where to put this, so I’m calling it a bug. If you meet somebody, anywhere, they’ll always be there. Even if they show up somewhere else later. It got to the point where one of the characters asked me to take messages to people who were about 1 metre away from him. Of course, they wouldn’t accept it there. No, I had to wade out into the field to find them there and hand it over(incidentally, that was the quest where the computer crashed). But the most glaring example of this is when one of the main characters died. But he’s still standing in place. What’s worse is that somebody has tried to take his place. Now the two of them are standing inside each other in the middle of the room.

    I should point out that this is all *after* I installed the patch. I mean really, what did the patch do that was more important than this stuff? I can only imagine that prior to the patch the game must have just refused to start up entirely. Which really, would be an overall improvement.

    Oh, and if anybody’s curious as to why I’m still playing it. Basically, after the Witcher I wanted something a bit ‘lighter’. The game is rather addictive, so I got into it for a few days. Now I’m close enough to the end to feel that it would be a waste not to finish it, so I’m persevering to get it done.

  62. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Reading SimeSublime an interesting question comes to mind:Why are gamers such masochists?I know I am.I remember back in the olden days I had an amiga 500 that had a faulty disk drive,so while I could play games on it,I couldnt save anything.Yet it didnt stop me from playing,and finishing,civilization on it.I basically wasted days and days and days playing this game,for more than 24 hours at times,just so I could get my name inscribed into a scoreboard,which would then get erased as soon as I exit the game.Sure,the game was fun,and I liked it,but I couldve stopped it as soon as I gained advantage,but no,I had to bring it to the end.

    And it wasnt just me.A cousin of mine sometimes joined me and we took turns playing it(neither of us slept while the other one played,we just watched and offer advices),until we finished.

    Hmmm…Funny thing,I managed to play a game for 24 hours straight,numerous times and it didnt crash once.No patches,nothing,just the game straight out of the box.Yet they say games have improved with time.Pha!

  63. Jeff says:

    I like HGL.

    Keep in mind this is the Patch 1.3 experience, and online.

    Offline is pointless, with no redeeming features other than the reduction of lag.

  64. Well, as DRM goes, it isn’t that intolerable.

  65. ngthagg says:

    lplimac: I only played the game single player, except once when I logged on once out of curiosity. I think it may be that you can skip the screens in multiplayer, but not in single.

    Unfortunately, I moved my computer from my bedroom to another room in my house, and I didn’t feel like digging the CD out of a box just to check if things were still the same.

  66. I’ve played single player to about level 21 or so, with the latest patch I’ve been able to skip all the splash screens much faster.

  67. Derek K says:

    @Shamus: “This isn't a persistent world like WoW, this is like Diablo.”

    I love reading your blogs, but Hellgate is just as “persistent” as WoW.

    There are quests that are monumental, earth-shaking, and significant. And can be done by each and every character that comes around.

    There are giant, game breaking events. That don’t persist once you leave the instance.

    WoW: “Kill the Foozle, player A, or else we’re all doomed!” “You killed the Foozle! Yay, we’re saved!” “Kill the Foozle, player B, or else we’re all doomed!’

    HG: “Close the Hellgate, player A, or else we’re all doomed, player A!” “You closed the Hellgate! Yay, we’re saved!” “Close the Hellgate, player B, or else we’re all doomed!”

    In both, you’re the first person to ever do something, and the only one who can save the world, no matter who you are.

    Hellgate has a bit more of the latter than WoW, but they’re both, to me, as persistent as I expect a current generation mass market MMO to be. Which is fine – I don’t want to find out that I can’t advance in the game because someone else did it first.

    WoW does have some server events, like the Gates of Al-Whatever. But for the first year or so, there wasn’t anything of that sort. If Hellgate did better, they might well have been able to do that too….

  68. Deoxy says:

    The difference between HGL and WoW in terms of “persistence” is that HGL is ALL “instances”, where WoW is not. The part that isn’t an instance, while it does “respawn”, etc, is what’s called “persistent”. So no, HGL is not “persistent”.

  69. Jeff says:

    Meh, who plays HGL singleplayer when they don’t have to?

    Online, you can have exactly the same experience, except it gets patched quicker and has additional features. The only downside is potential lag. On the other hand, you can at any time choose to party up via their very nice party system and kill things with other people. If you’re really avid about HGL (which I’m not, being recently distracted by TWEWY on the DS and now Morrowind again), you can subscribe and get even more goodies. If you were playing offline? Too bad, gotta restart…

  70. mark says:

    MMO(RPG/FPS/whatever) is too much of a buzzword nowdays. Normal multiplayer games need to be called NMO(RPG/FPS/whatever) or something, just to stop the abuse of the term “massively multiplayer”…

  71. Phil Hoper says:

    You Got Flagshipped!

  72. Andrew Timson says:

    There are quests that are monumental, earth-shaking, and significant. And can be done by each and every character that comes around.

    Yes, but can a character do them repeatedly? In WoW, you can only do such quests once. In Diablo, you can do them every time you log in.

  73. wintermute says:

    [You’re] the only one who can save the world, no matter who you are.

    Quote of the Week, my good man.

  74. KelThuzad says:

    Shamus, you have no idea how much time I spend surfing your rants archive.

  75. nietzschesucks says:

    “For your sake I hope the software does not vex me further.”

    Poor, naive past-Shamus… if only he knew the horrors that awaited. If only we could WARN him.

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