Catching obvious hackers

This is mostly directed at Mortal Kombat X Mobile (MKX), but it really applies to anything on the same engine as Injustice: Gods Among Us Mobile (IGAU), which would also include WWE Immortals.

For those in the know, MKX is running a modified Unreal Engine as it’s base software. Specifically, it is running on the same foundation as Injustice but with some different tweaks and some rather significant changes. However, the base of it is the same.

Injustice used to not have multiplayer. It was designed as a single-player only game and it was entirely installed on your device. Challenge characters are already in the code and new ones are pushed via updates. The only benefit to being online was for the daily rewards and for being able to receive the challenge “push” from Warner Bros. (WB)

At some point they tacked on Multi-player and there was an immediate problem. People were already hacking the game to give themselves everything and multi-player based off of local files just meant those same people could continue using their hacked game for on-line matches.

This causes a conundrum for figuring out who is legit and who is not. Someone who spent a lot of money or played a lot may well have a topped out roster. However, some hackers are not able to stop themselves and do things that shouldn’t be possible.

An intern could code something so simple as an autoban system that stopped players whose cards were above level 51, promoted beyond 7, or had any of their stats beyond what is the max for their level and promotion.

What I don’t understand is how the current system doesn’t ban people until the end of the season, which just skews the results, and how they are banning legit players. One of the autoban features apparently decides you have “modified files”, which is a dangerous way to determine someone should be banned since there are many ways file dates can be changed or be made to look different even if the end user is unaware anything changed.

Yet while legitimate players are sometimes caught in this net, obvious hackers are allowed to persist? Why?

If I were a cynic I would guess because there is money to be made having legit players trying to compete with hackers. It’s an ugly assumption and I’m not saying it is true, but with a simple solution to making sure we don’t see Level 99 Promoted to 10 players why aren’t they implementing what would be the easiest of fixes?

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Random thoughts on MKX Mobile’s ongoing problems

Anyone poking around the major forums for Mortal Kombat X Mobile knows there is a lot of aggravation out there. A lot of it is unnecessary.

Speaking as someone with a lot of experience in software development, it’s not hard for me to speculate what has gone wrong. A date was picked to launch the newest iteration of Mortal Kombat and it was decided they were going to launch everything at once. This was likely done by some marketing person who doesn’t have a clue about software development. Games are the worst about this because you have an entire campaign behind them and due to how games are marketed making the date is important since publishers are still foolishly trying to make all their money in the first two weeks.

This is a really dumb strategy when you have a mobile version launching as well. The mobile version can be a “long tail”. The income stream is likely to continue well after the first month if you do it right.

Obviously something is very wrong and with the potential money to be made, or at least still needs to be made, I’m positive they are still working on all the problems.

What’s the most disappointing is that there is no spokesperson trying to calm the masses. Sure, no matter what you say people are going to be upset. Yet here you have a major release that is a huge boondoggle and there is not so much as a “Don’t worry, we’re working hard to fix it.” Radio silence is the worst of strategies. I’ve been in the middle of a bad release. It sucks, no doubt. I also was not in a position to make promises about when the fixes would be delivered, but I had many conversations with many customers that were uncomfortable as hell but still assuring them we’d deliver.

Know what? As much as they ranted and raved at me, as much disappointment as they shared, when we delivered the fix, they praised us. They loved the product in a working state and we never heard a word about the initial boondoggle.

I’m not looking for promises and I think most reasonable people will understand if they can’t provide dates. At this point, no acknowledgement is being made by anyone from Warner Bros. or Netherrealm. They are pissing off customers for no good reason.

Customer Service 101 and Software Development

I’ve been in the software field the entire 21st Century. I spent most of that time as someone who supplied products to other countries. I either wrote them, maintained them, or ran the teams responsible for writing, maintaining, testing, and/or supporting said software. I have learned a lot of lessons about what it takes to sell software and I understand the value of sometimes giving away something for free.

So when people tell me Free to Play (F2P) games are “free” and we deserve nothing I disagree. When you set expectations then it’s reasonable for me as the customer for you to either deliver on your promises or explain why you won’t. It really is that simple. If I am paying nothing for your software, it is actually reasonable to back out of an idea if you feel it won’t pay off. It is not reasonable to utterly fail at communicating with your customers.

Which is what has been going on with almost all of Warner Bros. mobile games right now. They even have an official forum, but there has been no information. Last night after much waiting and dealing with incredible bugs and exploits, an update was released for Mortal Kombat X Mobile. You would think that their hot new game would be a huge priority, but there has been radio silence from WB. Furthermore, in the update notes they tease a challenge that has been advertised since day one. Why tease a challenge if you are still not going to release it? The people who have been playing the game have been waiting for this to be released for over a month now and you make a statement like it will finally be live and it still is not? If you fixed it what are you waiting for?

The ongoing lack of communication has left players to speculate, and a bunch of people sitting around speculating isn’t going to devise scenarios that will reflect well on the company.

I pride myself in supporting games I enjoy playing. I WILL spend money on things I enjoy. It is this kind of behavior that makes me believe the F2P bubble is going to pop because at some point people will tire of being treated so poorly while also being asked to support these games after the fact. I already have games I play that I refuse to give money to because the company hasn’t shown me the value I would get for the cash. There are other games I refuse to play simply because I don’t want to increase their stats and make them think they have a viable business model. I may be one small voice in the wilderness but I will at least stand on principle.

I can look elsewhere for my entertainment. I really hope WB doesn’t give me a reason to go and do just that.