Anarchy Online Journal One
Add One Part Complete Suck, Two parts Incompetence
I feel somewhat guilty knowing beforehand how badly I'm about to trash the release of Anarchy Online. AO has turned into a passing fair game, probably even a good game since its release, but regardless of how good it eventually becomes there were 2-3 months that AO was possibly the biggest computer game disaster ever released. The irony of course is, as has been pointed out in countless reviews, the title of the game could not have more aptly described those first few months.
The actual opening of the Rubi-Kai gates was not where the fun, such that it was, began. The true story begins just after e3 of 2001. AO had its big coming out party at E3, the Electornic Entertainment Expo. The AO beta was just getting ready to go into final phase of beta - open beta. Post E3, as everyone was eagerly awaiting their invitation emails, current phase 3 beta testers were discussing just how bad the stability of Anarchy Online was. Many had even thrown up their hands in frustration and quit testing. On the flip side you had just as many AO supporters reciting the mantra that 'It's Still in Beta.' Funcom did have an ace up their sleeve at this time. The phase 3 client was outdated and the phase 4 client would end up being the one used at E3. However, one ace doesn't give you a winning hand.
So enter beta phase 4. This is my first experience with AO. I had read countless posts from disgruntled testers, so I was expecting to crash alot and encounter all kinds of ugly bugs. I wasn't disappointed. Not only was there plenty of crashes and bugs, it was all mixed together in a tasty Lagolicious Soup. Not just latency, but also framerate. The framerate slowdowns were attributed to the debugger running, but there was a far more insidious reason for the framerate problems. Perhaps the worst memory leak ever in gaming history. Think of the worst memory leak in any game you've played now multiply that by 50 and then multiply that by infinity. Not to be entirely negative though, Anarchy Online did take scantily clad player models and boobies to an all new level.
Phase 4 was coming to a close and AO had gone gold, I had managed to make all of 3 levels. I just couldn't play the game, or I should say slide show. As it was, my main criticism was gameplay performance, I didn't even care that Agents could one shot someone for 5 gazillion points of damage or that soldiers reflect shield let them solo kill Behemoths. In fact no one did. Balance was completely forgotten because the stability and performance were so awful.
There were still many AO fanboys continuing to remind people it was only beta, and you had to expect stability issues. However, as I said in the previous paragraph, AO went gold in the middle of this fiasco. In my opinion a game is no longer in 'beta' when it goes gold. At that point what you see is what you get. And any clear thinking person knew that there was no super secret client waiting in the wings this time. In the end though I made the call to buy the game anyway, perhaps the worst consumer decision of my life, exspecially now that you can basically get the game for free. Back in July '01 though I paid 54.99 for it.
I will say one thing for AO's release, it brought everyone together in a bond of mutual disgust for the game. Rant sites and message boards were crammed with flame after flame against Funcom and their spawn of satan.
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