Monday, April 30, 2012

What Did You Do Ray?

This morning I was greeted by a peculiar email, one that even now I must say has me feeling like one of Raymond Stantz's fictitious peers whilst I ask: "What did you do now, Ray?" The email, was simple enough as it was a sort of digital receipt for Blizzard's various character services. The specific service in question was a paid character transfer to another realm complete with a faction change. In short, they had moved a character to a separate server and enabled an option of changing it's race.

Now, I'll admit it is a legitimate service, one many people take advantage of all the time. The crux of my problem was that I never placed the order to move my character, never would have and that I never received any form of request for authorization/permission. I recently logged into my account from a different machine on my home network and my account was temporarily locked and I was prompted to change my password as a security precaution. A minor inconvenience that I believed meant Blizzard was serious about protecting player's accounts. Even when I changed my password I received an official email to confirm the matter.

How is it then that a secure account, only used on a secure dedicated machine is not only accessed but able to purchase character services like server moves etc. without even a prompt for approval or so much as a flag for logging in from a separate ip(not to mention mac address)? Is this a company who's only interest in security is the illusion thereof and placing the blame on players? Cause all I generally see on the issue is a firm finger of blame citing a player must of compromised their account. Seriously, every possible explanation they cite revolves around a user either being insecure, ignorant, or partaking in questionable practices. At no point have I found anything that speaks to situations like myself and some peers have encountered where secure and careful folks are finding their accounts compromised somehow through no fault of their own.

All I know is that I try to keep my account as secure as I can, and with all I know about such matters I can only see a few ways this sort of thing can happen. Either somehow account names are being found or generated randomly and then their passwords somehow cracked. Or, and this may paint me somewhat paranoid, somehow accounts are being compromised from the other end.

No matter how it happens, security is a big deal, especially when some of these accounts mean years invested in a game and characters. Not to mention the amount of money spent buying software, equipment, game time or even internet bills. What good does it do for a customer to invest in an account and establish safeguards if it is apparently so easy to circumvent, or rather that the company will ignore their own rhetoric and allow anything as long as it is paid for without even establishing where the money is coming from.

I dunno who's credit card was billed in the wee hours this morning for a mysterious $55.00 charge but the only glimmer of hope I can offer is the fact that at least I managed to get the transaction reversed. Even if as the rep suggested it probably was a stolen card. But if company's like Blizzard hope to continue to grow they have got to start not only listening to the people paying them money, but also keep their interests safe and in mind. Otherwise more people's faith will end up faltering like my own.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Remember How Games Used To Be?

Recently, this little project came to my attention: Shadowrun Returns.

Now, I have long been a fan of Shadowrun in all it's many forms - well perhaps everything but the whole Microsoft 3rd person shooter abomination. I can recall with glee playing the Shadowrun Sega and Snes games as a kid, the introduction plot still grips me. However, by today's standards I am sure many would call the game a relic and well bellow the standards of current video games. Much like other games of it's time, their turn based mechanics and graphics/cgi lacking traits mark them by many younger gamers as without worth or merit.

Growing up, for me, games with depth of story and characters were treasures. I used to spend countless hours playing games solo, exploring their content - games like Diablo, Starcraft, Heroes of Might & Magic to name but a few. I used to relish how a new game could be had for around $10-$20, and once purchased was owned and playable without limit. You could dive into such titles solo or if you chose to with a few friends, playing as little or as much as you wanted to. There was no subscription fees or requirements of being on some server full of strangers. There was just you and the game.

Things were simple. In fact, with regard to turn based games, you didn't have massive chaotic melees leaving you confused or frantically panic mashing keys/buttons. You could actually enjoy the story as it unfolded, make decisions about how to fight that fiendish boss, or simply play at your own pace.

It seems like game designers have all forgotten so many of these things that made games great, and instead focused on the more flashy. So many games these days don't even require imagination, instead farming visual landscapes out to their vast servers. Don't get me wrong, I can see the business sense behind their decisions, and some of the newer games are fun to play.  But the truth of the matter is that the current standard is to build a game that once initially purchased for $50-$60 or more requires players to play on dedicated servers, paying continual fees. Add to that the often overloading flood of visual stimulus coupled with chaotic action mechanics and you have increasingly expensive games that bear little resemblance to their forerunners.

If I buy a game, then I want to know that I can play that game anytime I want as little or as much as I desire. I also want the option of experiencing it alone or if I choose to with a few others. The idea of only being able to play a game on an online server alongside teeming masses of others is not always appealing to me. Sometimes I just want to play around for a little bit and then leave the game. Nor do I need high end graphics to take my imagination by the hand and show me every detail of a storyline.

Games like WinRisk and Solitaire are still shining examples to me. Not everything has to be a billion dollar MMO to be considered a great game. Maybe it's just me. But I can honestly say I welcome projects like Shadowrun Returns, and pray they inspire more games. The fact the project was fully funded within 28 hours speaks volumes to me.

Perhaps I have an anti-social approach to my gaming, maybe I am just looking at things in my own flawed way, but I miss the way games used to be played. How ever was it things developed to their present state?