Sunday, April 24, 2016

[Games] Have you tried 'Blade and Soul'?

Blade and Soul finally hit North America. Its a fantasy martial arts MMORPG, first released in Korea in 2012. Then, four years later, it's finally released in North America, to each and every English-speaking gamer's delight. So, how was the game?

First of all, it is very important for me to state the official release date for this game NA version. Its was on the 19th January of 2016. Why is it important? Because during the release of the game, it received mixed reviews. So I don't care if you played the Korean version or others, and had a blast. But I'm not going to review the gaming experience yet. No, sir. That would be on the next article.

What I want to talk about here, is how this game was pain-in-the-neck right from the get-go. It was also the reason why I didn't write about this game when it was first released in NA, 4 months ago. The game was riddled with bugs and exploits, and worst of all, GameGuard. Most of the problems that I encountered in this game are related to GameGuard. But let us get to that, as we go on.

The 85 Bytes File

Spoiler alert? It was not 1 minute.

I don't know what is this file, what's the function of it, but for you to start playing the game, for that blue button that said 'Play Now' to be clickable, you have to complete the download of this seemingly insignificant file. Hey, its only 85 bytes of file, you guys. It will only take about a minute or less.

Except it didn't. It could take hours, just to download this unidentified file. Well, it was usually an hour for me. But in the official forum at the time, it was buzzing with complaints about how the players were stuck from downloading this file for hours, varying from one hour to almost half a day.

What makes it such a pain-in-the-neck, is that you have to go through this file download, every single time you wanted to play. Yes, that's right. You can see it in the picture. It comes after the game launcher's file verification process, then the file repair process if there anything to be repaired, and then, and only then, you can click the 'Play Now' button.

From what I heard, the file was somehow related to GameGuard, but I'm not sure. The only thing that I know is that, the people that managed to get pass this tiny little file download obstacle, was by circumventing the GameGuard. Some people even circumvent the game launcher completely.  Not recommended to do so though, because you could get banned. And normally, its the people who use bots that will and try to circumvent the GameGuard.

There is another solution to this problem however. Thanks to the random people in the internet that shared their solutions. One that worked for me, was by changing the 'local.ini' file in the game installation folder, into a read-only file. It will not circumvent the GameGuard anti-hacking program, because it will start up as usual alongside with your game.

I don't know whether this problem still persist until today, but I did suffered the issue for a couple of months until I did the change on the 'local.ini' file. So, good luck to you guys for getting into the game.

The Stage 2 Download

How many stages are there?
 It is very common for MMORPG today to have two stages of download. Where the first stage will allow you to start playing the game on the starting area, and the second stage will encompassed the rest of game content. Some games don't have stages of download, because they already had you downloaded half of the game content along with the game client.

In the case of Blade and Soul, you'll begin your first stage of download using the game client. Once you finished the first stage, you can play the game throughout the Viridian map, as the starting area. Sounds neat, shouldn't have any problems, yeah?

Except when you are playing the game, the stage 2 download doesn't really work now, innit? Because it will clog your internet bandwidth. And that is not the only issue. Even if you have a super fast and extra large internet bandwidth, there is still the game server to account for.

I'm not sure whether its the issue of the game server, or the game launcher itself, but the stage 2 download was painfully excruciating. The download rate was not fluctuating, but deteriorating. Meaning that your download rate could began at 20 Mbps and slowly it will go down, all the way down, until the game launcher no longer downloading, and finally stopped completely.

Oddly enough, your internet would still be working just fine. In fact, you can actually be in the game, still playing. But the stage 2 data download would abruptly stopped, for a reason that cannot be explained, whether or not you are in the game, or using the internet to surf website or other purposes.

You cannot even leave the launcher unattended. Because the download speed will deteriorate whether you like it or not. And you have to restart the download when it stopped, or the game launcher would be sitting there pointlessly. At least programmed the launcher to re-try downloading the game on its own, dammit!
The Stage 2 Re-Download

The math here is wrong.
Which bring us to the next problem that I'd encountered. Not only the game launcher's download speed would deteriorate over time, there is also a slight possibility, that the game launcher 'might' forgot what's happening. And decided to re-download the whole stage 2, all over again. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But hey, happened to me though.

And this is very likely to happened right at the end, where you supposed to have finished downloading the game data, and the last file would be a GameGuard file. And GameGuard files is notoriously known to be hard to be downloaded. You can see in the official forum yourself where there are people complaining about a file named gamemon.npz, that cannot be downloaded.

During the big patch of the Silverfrost Mountain, I spend 10 minutes on downloading the new patch, but the next 12 hours getting the gamemon.npz download, which was over 10 times smaller that the new patch. And the twist of the dagger? The 85 bytes file download. I was so pissed off at that time.

The Bots

A few months after launching, the bots already start selling game gold. Such dedication.
And I was not pissed off without reasons. Not only GameGuard hindered me from entering the game, but the GameGuard didn't seem to stop bots even though that is one of GameGuard major functions to begin with. No wonder people are looking for ways to circumvent the GameGuard even though they are not botting.

And its not just ingame. Even Blade and Soul official website are frequently attacked, or spammed by the bots. Which is very infuriating and insulting, especially when a decent players like me are having a hard time just trying to get into the game. We just want to play the game!

Sometimes it makes me wonder whether the majority of the playerbase in this game are just bots. What even mind boggling is that this game is not relatively new. It have been around for 4 years. Meaning that by now, the game and its anti-hacking program, the GameGuard, should have come up with at least a decent protection against botting.

Conclusion, Maybe?

And that is all for my experience playing this game since its launch in NA. I don't know whether these issues are already fixed, to be honest I never want to experience it all over again. It was hellish, and I am relieved that now I can enter the game without much of a hassle.

In a way, I felt really bad for those who paid the beginner pack or whatever packs were there during the launch. The packages deal itself was not bad, but if you had paid money and it took you several weeks just to get in, and several more months just to have a smooth gameplay, then whats the point of those packages? You can't even play!

By the time I'm finished with the pain of getting into the game, all those sweet package deals are gone. All that's left are the signature package deals. Oh well, if I were to buy those early packages and had all these pains just getting into the game, I might resent this world a little bit more than I am now. So all ends well, I guess...


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