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Monday, October 26, 2009

Nexon USA (Soon to be named Block Party) - Review

I've been trying to find a good way to start this review. You see when something is bad, it's almost too easy to blind yourself over all the bad components, and writing a review for it is simple: Just label the fault, make a witty comment and move on, but there are always certain topics that are really hard to write. Not for long list of faults, or the jokes to begin with, but with simply finding a starting point (Ar Tonelico II, Cross Edge, a handful of anime that I can't seem to name off the top of my head....) and no doubt, Nexon USA (and the Korean branch for that matter) is one of them.

You see. Nexon is a company. A company hosting free-to-play (seemingly the new definition for the acronym FTP....) online games. They stay afloat via micro-transactions (small payments that are based on the whim of the end user). With these transactions they receive site-based money that they can use in game to purchase "premium" content, exclusive content for those who invested into the company. There are many other hosts of this sort (Aeria Games, IJJI, NC Soft, Ogplanet, Ntreev USA) and yet this one is the company I choose to review. Why? Because despite all their flaws, poor service, and lack of end user support, they somehow not only manage to stay afloat, but prosper and continue to buy rights for other games....

I'm afraid I may be providing very little context so as an example, I will use their newest game Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) to provide information. DFO has been officially released to the public under the status of "Open Beta" about a month and a half ago. During the Closed and Early Beta, there were many issues brought up in the forums (and probably on support tickets) referring to many changes in the game that struck previous DnF (Dungeon and Fighter) players as unusual.

For starters: It seemed that this uncleaned version of DFO had traces of code that originated from the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese servers. When players joined a party, the connecting screen would be written in chinese, when players tried to join a Passworded PvP arena, the confirmation button would be written in Korean, and some bots (because they stayed in the same spot and idled all day) obtained a title that said "rooted to town" in Japanese. Not only that, a friend of mine set his non-unicode support to korean and to his surprise found all the text to be in Korean. We, the US branch of players, received some freaky Frankenstein'ed version of the game where bugs existed from some bosses in early versions of DnF while other character balancing was already set.

This probably set off the first large warning signal in my head.

Only about a month later, did Nexon then decide to patch in the "item shop" ( a general term for the foundation of the microtransaction process in many Free to play MMOs. Often referred to as an item shop as site based item shops would usually transfer the premium item bought to the game server. Other games implemented the item shop into the game itself).

Most of the game was still bugged, quests and dungeons needed to be fixed, client issues arose and yet Nexon decided to patch the item shop first... Not only that, they implemented the Japanese system of "Gachapons" (in reference to the Gachapon slot machines where people would insert an increment of money to receive a capsule that would contain a collectible. Needless to say, it was a lottery and the money required to "complete a set" would be based on your luck) for low ranking (low quality compared to the other servers) premium items and greatly inflated prices. In addition, items that were supposed to be bought with the in game "gold" were being sold for cash. The Mentorship system (a simple system in which higher levels will be able to support lower level players by running dungeons together and recieving boosted rewards) was removed. In its stead is a "noob-o-meter" which diminishes the experience that both high levels and lower level characters receive when they party togther. Guilds don't exist yet. It's as if Nexon was attempting to remove any sense of community in the game.....

I could go on, but I won't, because there are issues on the surface that require attention.

I'll start off with the forums, the home for many of Nexon's users. From what I can tell, there's only one moderator for the entire forum spanning multiple games...
That's right, a single account responsible for cleaning up all the drivel on site as well as performing the duties of Public Relations. I've seen text based web games feature more administrators than this. And considering the age demographic that Nexon seems to be targeting (based on the games they host) there's going to be a greater need for administrative staff. No doubt the moderator -Hime- has his/her a rough day each time he/she has to walk into the nexon office.

These forums are extremely primitive resembling a loose variation of the old fashioned BBS coding used by Geocities (may god rest its soul) and Angelfire (theirs too). When you run the forums through a google search, you can then see the foundation of the forum... and it doesn't look very pretty. In addition, I'd like to note that YOU CAN'T EDIT YOUR POSTS. So if you notice something is wrong with your post, or you missed a typo. It's there forever. You can't delete it either and so you're usually forced to either double post or deal with the fact that a point you missed won't be spoken. The lack of any sort of post-comment function is definitely unusual and quite old. I certainly wouldn't expect a company like nexon to skimp out on features that players use... (oh wait, yes I do.)

Events hosted by nexon are fake...

As you can see, not only do they not follow their own rules but half of those accounts including the 30k NX winner doesn't exist. I have proof of it too. Accounts and characters of the same name were created me and my friend AFTER the announcement of the winners. We even have videos of ourselves doing it. It will be uploaded soon as soon as we're finished with another video.

Events are ways to improve popularity for a game. Usually, when companies host events, they don't LIE about it. Notice the winner for the 40k milestone. The prize is probably 10k because that name actually refers to a player/character in the server. I also have experienced some poor service by nexon. I was a winner in the Mabinogi: Say hello to G1 contest in which we had to post on their forums the URL for our blog post that had two of the embedded videos in their terms. I won, but never received an email. I contacted them vis support ticket a few days after my name came up and this is the following response:

"Inquiry: My forum name is Zerreth and I was a winner in the Mabinogi Promotional Video Contest.

Unfortunately, I have yet to receive any details as to how I can claim my prize."

I'm not stupid. I've checked my spam folder as well as my inbox. I never received such an email at any point in time. Which leads me to believe that they never sent it.I specifically mentioned that I didn't "receive any details as to how I can claim my prize." I had assumed that whoever was in charge would understand what that meant and attempt to work with a customer, but that doesn't seem likely. At that point I tried looking through the forums to see if anyone else had any issues and vaguely remembering a nice list of posts commenting on it with less.... grace.

That said, I'd like to move on to customer support, or lack thereof. My friend recently lost his account which had over $6,000 worth of NX. At one point he needed to do a password recovery except that it sent the password to an email account doesn't exist anymore (the server hosting the email account is gone). He tried making an account and filing a support ticket concerning the matter at which he received a response of "In order to have this issue reviewed, you must file the ticket on the account in question....." Makes me wonder if they even read the tickets. He then called their "contact us" number in which he received a reply, in vocal form, that "this number is not to be used for customer support" and was then immediately cut off. He is now gathering all of his receipts to make a case and filing a lawsuit. There's one issue. Nexon's transaction logs only log transactions as old as 90 days. Meaning any transaction that was made via nexon point card that's older than 90 days doesn't exist... lovely.

In addition, if players didn't realize it yet. Nexon points disappear after 1 year as rights for it expire in such a time. Meaning if you have any points in your account that you want to save for another game that nexon may be releasing or saving up for newer content, it better be under one year, otherwise it will be removed from your account. MOST companies, notify you of such rights expiring around 30 days before expiration. IJJI even has that in their terms of service:

"Regardless of any terminology used or any name freely given by NHN USA at any time with reasonable notice on the Site, rights granted in the Virtual Money, Game Point and in the Items are a limited license right available for one year or less as the case maybe. NHN USA may charge fees for the right to use Virtual Money, and any right of use in the purchased Virtual Money will be terminated within one year from the date of purchase. We will use reasonable efforts to notify via your registered e-mail thirty (30) days before such termination."

By the way, Nexon doesn't have such a term in their terms of service. they just remove it at will and you can't do anything about it because their transaction logs only 90 days. Therefore, using a nexon card will end up hurting you.

The way nexon USA conducts itself is pretty shady. They provide poor service, and seemingly try to rip you off at any price, and really try to do anything with a minimum amount of effort. Any attempts at actually trying to make nexon a good company would require the shutting down of said company. Not only do they basically have no idea what they're doing, but they're not even trying to fix it. They're simply rolling around in the money that kids with their parents credit cards are giving them. It annoys me to no end that shitty companies such as nexon stay afloat because it then crowds out better companies who could do a better job, earn the money they deserve, and release titles with quality service.

Here's the thing. I know nexon's a company which means they want money. That's OBVIOUS. Making profit is a fundamental point for a company. There are, however, many ways to go about doing this, none of which involve being the epitome of the American population.

Take a look at Valve. They quite well known for the support they provide for their games and customers. My account was hacked and they were able to recover it within 4 days. Look at the guard dog in TF2. It was a joke/fan made content and they actually thought it would be a good idea to implement it.

Look at Atlus. They have a set of administrators who actually take time to read the forums and provide their own input. The Atlus Online newsletter always has a section called "forum quoteables" which include 3 quotes (usually humorous even out of context) from the forums.

The reason starcraft is so famous is because of the time that Blizzard spent the time taking user feedback to balance units out.

In terms of other microtransaction hosts look at AeriaGames. They have a handful of games, GMs that actually spend time with players and they carry "mature" rated games. They even admit to mistakes they made to the players, and establish a sense of trust.

Look at IJJI. They're not too great in advertising and forum maintenance, but their game maintenence is pretty solid and their in-game GMs do try to establish a bond with the players.

To top it off. Nexon's swear filter sucks. It's so bad and primitive that "sucks" is censored as well as any combination of letters (regardless of whether they're in another word or in MULTIPLE words) that may or may not allude to a slur or a swear. They also have some personal touches such as "4chan".....

Simply put, don't buy cash from nexon. If you have to, buy $5 worth so that you're not targeted for when they do their arbitrary account wipes/bans. You're only supporting their bad practices and cheap tactics to make money. There are better companies out there that deserve to host the games nexon has.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DFO review in need of a revision

Now that nexon has opened up the item shop for Dungeon Fighter Online, they have reared their ugly head of incompetence showing to all just the kind of moneymongers they are. I'll be updating the DFO review soon to reflect how nexon's poor hosting capabilities can kill a game (and its community).

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I've got music, and I've got a handful of gameplay footage. Problem is. I'm actually missing someone who can supply me with some decent footage for the Spitfire.

I'm looking for a lvl 30+ Spitfire for my video. He doesn't have to be amazing but he should be able to handle himself in most dungeons and be well composed. Preferably, I'm looking for a PvP build, but strict PvE is fine as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Domain

I recently bought to link to this site. So no longer would you have to type in or refer your friends to a combination of words that they may or may not remember. The .com domain was like... you know hundreds of dollars so I wasn't able to register any common domains but it's a start.

So yeah. Spread the word, will now be under my control and easier to spread through hearsay than the blogspot reference. Now to wait for the update to take effect.....

edit 16:07 :
I just noticed that there are fewer votes than before. Does everyone's vote on the poll have a shelf life of a year or something?

Edit: 16:11 :
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I broke it. Poll needs to be reset. Goddamnit.

Edit: 16:22
Polls are broke dude.....

Edit: 16:32 :
Temporary fix involves 2 polls at one. I can't remove the broken one and relocated it. Sorry.

Edit: 16:51 :
Fixed.... finally....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

WET - Review

I actually ordered this much earlier, it's just that both college and DFO have been taking up a bit more time than I expected. So it took much longer than it should have to beat this game.

Wet is a third person alternative shooter developed by Bethesda Softworks, responsible for some pretty recent titles such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Fallout 3. They've also had a hand in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth which is a first person shooter based on the HP Lovecraft novels.

Wet is about a gun for hire named Rubi Malone who is famous for her acrobatic gunplay which resulted in people likening her to a monkey.

Wet was more of less everything I expected it to be. It's a stylish third person shooter where you (and mostly a set of dual pistols) take on everything. (sigh) Because Rubi is badass and tough as a brick and people who are badass and tough as a brick don't care about anything....
The gameplay in the game is pretty solid. While the flow of it is pretty much the same throughout the game, it mostly involves firing two guns while jumping through the air, firing two guns while sliding on the ground and seemingly not wreaking your jeans, or using a sword to remove people from the game. Of course, Rubi also has some skills that allow her to move from point A to point B more efficiently, while firing two guns. She can wall run, hang onto cliffs and then run along it, slide down ladders hanging by her feet, run up and jump off of enemies, use enemies as launching platforms and enter a state of pure "pissed-offedness...." to wreak havoc. (I don't see how the last one relates of movement.)

The flow the game seems to generally follow a pretty structurized level design. There's a small gunfight that usually doesn't mean much and is just there to make sure the trek from point A to point B isn't too boring, then there's some form of arena fight. Rinse and repeat and add a few action scenes that involve a lot of quick-time event usage.

You get four weapons, all of which have their purposes and add more fun to the game. Unlike Wanted, where you're stuck with two weapons, which basically do the same thing, while the the enemy has a variety, you have about the same amount of weapons the enemy has. I think the only thing you're really missing is an assault rifle, and instead of that you get twin bowguns that fire explosive bolts. Good trade. They all have somewhat specific uses but after a while, that seems to matter less as it almost feels like ammo is attempting to tripwire you everywhere. Simply break open a box and you have about 1/4 of your total ammo.

The action packed quicktime event scenes are honestly the highlight of the game for me. The very first time I encountered this, I basically wet my pants. Rubi Malone is basically trying to hunt down a guy who stole her package and through a series of events, you find her on top of a car, driving along a bridge. In the meantime, there are other cars with enemies trying to kill you. You take control of Rubi and every so often she has to jump from car to car or pull off some flashy stunts to avoid getting roadkilled. So it's a combination of a rail shooter style gameplay combined with quick time events that appear frequently.

Speaking of which. I think that the quick time events handled in this game are probably the best I've seen. The quicktime command is pretty intuitive as the buttons aren't randomized and they generally correspond to basic controls. For example, let's say the car Rubi is on is about to crash into another car. The game goes into slow motion, and X (the button to jump) appears. She jumps and wall runs a truck, vaults over and jumps to another car with a guy sticking out of the window. As she's in mid-air, time slows down again to display the square button (the button for sword attacks). Once the event clears, she slashes the guy in midair and lands on the car.
In addition, I feel that the game gives players pretty ample time (about 1-2 seconds) to press the command. There are times that I simply fumble because I wasn't expecting it but it's not that big of a deal. In addition, the cut-scenes that include quick-time events are pretty well done. After a quick-tiome event is cleared the camera usually stays in the same "shot" so the transition looks very smooth. It also doesn't transition the moment you press the button so when you clear an event, a green circle appears around the button you have to press and the event continues on until the timer runs out. Because of that cutscenes aren't really choppy, the main problem I had with Resident Evil 4.

Music rocks. Enough said. Dialogue is pretty solid and the voice acting is really nice. Eliza Dushku voice fills Rubi with life.

The loading screens are actually kind of creative. I didn't realize until about halfway through the game that they were loading screens. Excluding the main loading screen chapters where there's just a single shot and a small loading animation at the bottom, in chapter loading screens consist of 70s movie theater commercials and small shots of what Rubi does when she's waiting in an elevator. It was humorous and entertaining so I didn't think much of it, but when I considered that at one point, the animation was looping and that they were placed in key areas involving doors, I realized it was a loading screen. Pretty clever.

Of course, there are issues with the game. One such issue would probably be the obscene precision required to move from place to place (feels reminiscent of Tomb Raider...). Rubi generally has a set running speed. It doesn't feel fast but when she jumps it's much further than expected. So what usually happens is that either you jump too early and fall to your death, or you screw up a simple combination of movement tricks which also features you falling to your death (wall running, jumping off, and then hanging onto a cliff). Other times the frustration of missing a simple chain in a link of moves during an arena fight warrants a save load. (Jumping off a ramp, killing two guys before swinging on a pole.... only to miss the pole and land on the ground where your combo has now been trashed). Because this game is so combo/chain-time sensitive, it's as if the developers were expecting you to know how to pull off everything you do at the start.... which is ridiculous.

I recieved a "poor" ranking in the first major fight that involved spawn points because I didn't utilize all the acrobatic tricks properly which would also help my time as the acrobatic elements help you reach the areas that contain the targets which you need to cut to kill the spawn point. COME ON.

Another issue would be how rigid the gameplay is. You hardly see any enemies when you're moving from one "arena" to another. While the gameplay is linear, and there's nothing wrong with that, having too rigid gameplay only emphasizes how linear the game is. In addition, I want some practice during the transition from point A to point B. It's somewhat annoying that I can't try out certain moves unless there's a target I can test on (i.e. flipping off enemies, or going for a super fast slash from a wall) and the game doesn't accommodate me with such a chance other than in an area that's grading you for your performance. It's as if you just learned how to drive and know the fundamentals of driving, but the only time you can drive is when you're taking a test. Unless your ability to adapt is that of god, OF COURSE YOU'RE GOING TO SCREW UP.

Another thing I was unhappy about was that there wasn't a "new game +" after you beat the game. Meaning after you complete the first runthrough of the game, you can't start a new game without removing the upgrade data from the old character... which is annoying because I'm pretty sure a bunch of the extra mini-stages that you unlock after, use the story mode clear data. You also don't get multiple save files, and there's no chapter select screen. I guess, if you count the Point attack mode (how many points can you score in a particular screen), that would count as "chapter select" but I would prefer something a little less competitive.

Some of the characters have VERY short appearances despite their importance to the storyline. Other characters aren't explained properly which almost makes you feel as if you're missing something or skipped a scene or entire game. The storyline, while fairly thought out is missing key plot points and explanations. As a result, what would have been a classic, yet overdone, story is filled with holes and information leaks that aren't necessary. They degrade the feel of the game overall and to top if off, it seems as if they left it as a cliffhanger for a second game...

Overall, Wet has that kind of Kill Bill feel to it, except that instead of a sword, Rubi is more about guns. The music sets the game's tone really well and I think because of it, I like the game a lot. There are a handful of game flaws in terms of technicalities, but in terms of flow, it plays really well. It's shorter than expected but it's nice. It's much better than the Strangerhood and being able to shoot two people at once, and seeing how well she changes the direction of the guns is pretty awesome.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dear Zerreth, How was NYAF 2009?

NYAF was last week, and this week I was swamped with projects due, so I haven't had much time to post. Sorry.

NYAF this year also had the World Cyber Games (WCG) national finals, so the booth vendors and attendees were actually mixed. Samsung had a booth near WCG as well as Sega, and I think that by hosting WCG at NYAF, it attracted a somewhat bigger crowd than last year. There was no maid cafe this year unfortunately. Next year, Comic-con is co-hosting with NYAF on the same day and share the same space. My thoughts are mixed about that, but I'll dive into that later.

This year, ATK wanted to go to the artist's alley again. This time, however, he and a few of his new friends in college wanted an artist's alley table as well. Prices actually went up in the artist alley by about 30%, whereas booths took a lesser hit. So instead of buying a table at the artist's alley, he decided to buy a booth and share the space with others. He contacted a new found friend at last year's NYAF, RedShoulder, and I contacted one of my college friends, Neolight, who was majoring in animation. Adding one of ATK's college friends we had 4 artists all sharing work at the booth.

Around August, ATK had to think of a name for the booth, so I proposed "Medley" as it was a group of artists with different styles and mediums all sharing work.

The first day (Friday) was relatively slow (as expected). All of us were all over the place trying to determine a better layout for the booth, we eventually ended up with a S shape with 3 tables. The table at the front would display all of our work while the tables to the side and back made an opening for others to enter the booth and allow attendees to extensively look at the artwork of each artist.

We had some support the second day. TheGunrun and his friend brought over some electronic equipment for us to try and advertise the booth better. At first we decided to have a small space dedicated to DJMax Trilogy so that we could try and hook some people in, but what ended up happening was that we were drawing a crowd of the wrong demographic, mainly those of the "join crowd because there's a crowd and leave once point of interest is now boring" group. It ended up distracting any onlookers from looking at the work, so we switched it to a stream of Neolight working on his animation on his tablet, and ATK's speed paints. For the later half of that day, I had to set up a playlist with my Zen as TheGunrun's PC on shuffle didn't really give us the music we needed.

The third day, we switched the setup so that there was only a monitor of DJMax playing and those interested would have to walk into booth to try. This shifted the crowd over to one side and freed up the front table so that it displayed everyone's artwork better.

I didn't track everyone's sales but I believe everyone at least once had a major sale one of the days. What surprised me the most at the convention was this one person who took a liking to ATK's Vocaloid crayon fanart (They're originally on this 17" X 22" paper) and bought them each for $50. We weren't intending to sell them, simply to display them to attract customers but who knew someone would take such a liking to it?

I feel that ATK and I should've also ordered DJMax Trilogy in bulk or something. The number of DJMax fans as well as those interested in buying the game was enormous. If only I linked them to this blog first, I could've probably gotten some commission from Play-asia...

I gotta say though. I was dead tired on Monday. I almost fell asleep in class and my performance in Kendo was atrocious. Regardless, this year was a good experience as well. Maintaining a booth and setting up a table at the Artist's Alley were on whole different levels.

I'm not sure what ATK should do next year though. Because NYAF is co-hosting with Comic-con, there's gonna be a larger number of attendees that will probably head on over to the artist's alley. At the same time, there's also going to be significantly more attendees. The closest thing to Comiket that we have here in the States is probably Otakon but nothing really focused on the artists. Hopefully, we'll get something like that soon.