Beta blocker.

Now, this is a story all about how,
My life got flipped, turned upside down.
And I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there,
I’ll tell you how the WAR beta made me lose all my hair.

Our story begins, as these stories often do, with an old and cynical MMO player.

I’m not sure that I can be bothered with the traditional wall-of-text rant here[1] and, ironically, I’m also having trouble expressing this farcical comedy of errors in any sort of comedic way.

So here’s an outline, please feel free to add your own canned laughter track.

I woke up on Sunday morning and found an email from Zoso waiting for me, informing me that the registration for the Warhammer Online Open Beta was to start at 8:30am. It being just after nine, I hopped on to the WAR website and tried to log in. It failed. At this point I was entirely unsurprised, because despite GOA’s assurances to the contrary, everyone and his pet mushroom knew that the registration process would fail initially, this is The Way when it comes to MMO registration. Especially those registrations that don’t open until the day the servers are supposed to come online.

I seem to recall that I went and made some breakfast, read through my RSS feeds and pondered the meaning of life, the standard Sunday morning fare, and at some point I found out that the registration required a new website account and could not be applied to an existing account; as such, there was a shortcut to the registration page provided, and of course the registration process was totally bogged down, such that you could get most of the way through registering, and then it would fail to provide the captcha image that was required to validate one’s state of human beingness and you could proceed no further.

After a few attempts at this I resigned myself to the fact that this was not going to work any time soon and so I went and did something less boring instead. In this case, housework. After a few hours of chores, I popped my head back in to the website, saw that it was still not working, and then had a quick look at the Warhammer Alliance forums and quickly left when I saw that they were all glowing green and causing Geiger counters to explode due to high readings. After a brief decontamination session, I took the family off to see relatives and came back late that evening. A quick check again confirmed that still nothing was working, and the forum status had been upgraded from Nuclear Bikini Alpha to White Dwarf Super Nova.

I played City of Villains for a bit and then went to bed.

Monday was much the same as Sunday, really. I had the day off of work because Mrs Melmoth was otherwise engaged, and I was to look after mini-Melmoth, so the odd check of the Warhammer website and forums was possible every now and again, but after the first few tries I realised that we were in for the long haul of Open Beta cock-ups. The various ‘official’ unofficial forums had generally been locked at this point, mainly due to load issues I imagine, but also because it appeared that new forms of life had bred in the nuclear wasteland of the previous day, and the rage and bile spewing forth from these entities was actually starting to melt the LCDs of innocent forum posters as they stumbled into the midst of the chaos whilst looking for help on the situation.

Whether the rumours are true that the White House had to be evacuated and the president moved to Air Force One after a presidential aide accidentally browsed to the EU Warhammer forums rather than the US ones, I can’t tell you.

At 15:00hrs on Monday evening an emergency asynchronous activation webpage (also known in the industry as the “it’s all gone to shit in a handbag” page) was provided such that players could submit their account details, whereupon a million small monkeys with hammers would hit Fisher Price keyboards until they either managed to validate some of the seventy thousand applications that flooded in or they managed to finish replicating the complete works of Chaucer. Either one was as likely as the other. This process was only available to people with registered accounts, because the account registration process was buggered and nobody was able to register. The GOA CMs pointed out that they were gob-smacked that anyone thought that they’d need a new account, because they hadn’t stated such a thing. The fact that they hadn’t posted anything at all until the entire cluster-fuck had become a steamy writhing mass of rabid forum-based rumour, speculation and misinformation may have contributed to this somewhat, however.

Anyway, at 16:00hrs on Monday I submitted my Open Beta key, and after a few failed attempts where the page just sat there looking gormlessly at me like a bucktoothed yokel who’s just peed himself and is hoping you haven’t noticed the puddle on the floor, I finally managed to submit some details. Current estimation of a reply email – which would either tell you that your key had been validated; perhaps tell you that you’d got your password wrong and that you’d therefore have to go through the whole process again; or possibly just say “Thise olde gentil Britouns in hir dayes. Ook Ook! Ook! Of diverse aventures maden layes Oook!” – was one to two hours. Now, this estimate was given by GOA CMs, so a slight amount of pessimism was probably in order based on their performance up to this point.

It was some twenty seven hours later, late Tuesday evening when I finally got an email from the registration system.

The forum speculation had continued apace, and after Zoso had had success Tuesday morning with the forum theory of the moment, that spamming the authentication system over and over with ten or twenty applications in quick succession was the way to go, I succumbed to the hysteria somewhat and had a minor spamming session myself when I got back from work, and indeed, a few hours after that an email arrived. Well, three arrived at the same time.

Each email said the same thing in the subject: “Registration issue”. Upon reading each one I was told that my beta key had not been validated and that I should click on the provided link to see why. Fuelled by nothing more than weary curiosity at this point, I clicked the link. The message was simple: “Your account has not been verified, please check your inbox”. So the account that I applied with, the account that I have had since July 5th, the account which I have used to access your site repeatedly since that time, this account, the one that has worked for two months, has, apparently, not been validated?

I’ve said that I’ve boggled at things before, but really it was just artistic license. This was the first time that I have truly boggled.

I sighed.

I checked the game patcher one more time, since now the latest and greatest forum theory was that even if you hadn’t received a confirmation email you could generally log in after a few hours of submitting your application. No dice. So I went and read a good book for the evening; Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, incidentally, and it’s very enjoyable so far.

At about 9pm, just as I was going up to bed to finish my reading for the evening there, I decided on impulse, tugged by that somewhat pathetic hope that if you catch a beta unawares it might forget to not let you in, I checked my email of which there were no new messages, and attempted to log in and run the game patcher.

And it started patching.

After patching the game I managed to play for an hour, but generally just wobbled around like a drunken partygoer on a cocaine high, all Captain Jack Sparrow, staring at the pretty pictures in boss-eyed confusion and wonder, unable to fully appreciate that I was really there in the game. I logged on to the guild’s Teamspeak server, but was afraid to open my mouth lest all that came out of my microphone was “Heeaaaahhahaeeeeeerrrrrrruuggggghhhhhhaahhhh” followed by a minute or two of unrestrained sobbing. So I failed to introduce myself entirely.

Hopefully this evening I can take some time to actually appreciate the game, get to grips with it and give it a decent test drive; you know, clear that new game smell out and replace it with the stale musty smell of regular use, fill the glove box with tissues, scraps of paper with directions on and partially melted boiled sweets, and stick a humorous sticker in the back window that says “Gamer onboard”.

This morning my inbox was full with the replies to the other ten or so applications I made last night, each one saying that I had failed to register.

I still haven’t had an email telling me that I’m officially a part of the beta; the way things have gone, I’m not sure I ever want that association in writing.

[1] Having now finished the post, this was clearly a lie. Never underestimate the power of rant.

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