Horrible XCite Pre-Order Experience

xcite logo

Last month I placed an order on June 8 with XCite.com for Last Of Us Special Edition as a pre-order using Knet online payment. Game was supposed to come out Friday June 14th. Thursday they called telling me game will be late and delivered only on Sunday I think. This was a disappointment, as we all know the game already sells in Kuwait market a day or two before it’s official release. I said ok, but didn’t feel so comfortable. So I bought another regular copy from Blink.com, deciding to sell the other copy if it arrives, and keep the special edition items. Saturday they call again to tell me the game won’t be delivered even on Tuesday, and they don’t have a date yet. Some pre-order that is! I told him people have already finished the game twice probably and I’m still waiting for their delivery. He said it is stuck in customs and they can’t help it. I told him I want it canceled. He offered Web store credit or refund. I opted for refund, but I was shocked to hear it takes 3-4 whole weeks to get the 25 KD refund back. I was pissed off, but let it go.

Today it is July 26, six weeks since I canceled my order, and still nothing! I called yesterday afternoon and they told me someone will call from the web support in an hour or after futoor. So they call center they advertise on their site doesn’t get you to the web support team, and that’s a separate one. Needless to say no one ever called. I called again today at about 2 PM and explained my problem and how they ignored me. The guy on the line with classic defense style replied “No, no one ignored you. They were probably just too busy” Really? I told him if you’re too busy you can’t call back customers for a whole day, you should stop selling stuff. I mean that means you’re making big amount of money. And from my sources, I know they are.

Anyways, he again promised someone will call tonight. I countered what if no one does. He said call again tomorrow and we will open complain again. Huh? Are you even hearing yourself? I kept asking him to open complain for a customer support manager, and he kept replying his manager is not responsible, it should go to web support team which includes their manager. And when someone calls me from them, I can ask him to file complain to the manager. Problem is, no one called! And it’s been six weeks, so that should’ve been a sign I should have some priority in resolving my matter.

That is what truly happens behind the scenes at XCite. However if you tweet something bad about them on Twitter, you immediately get this kind of response.

Twitter exchange with xcite

 

They did not reply to my last two questions. It’s sad and pathetic that such big companies would treat you differently if you call and inquire through their formal channels, than if you deface them online. I have already called my bank and they told me to file official report of the incident against them.

What you should take from this is to never trust them for pre-order items. Especially their PS4 pre-order deal, which requires 50 KD deposit. I can only imagine how bad this can go.

 

Gratuitous Space Battles Quick Review

gratuitous space battles

 

I admit I was taken by the visuals of Gratuitous Space Battles, and hoped for something much more at a very low discounted price. I love the graphics and style of massive damage with lasers and rockets in all direction. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that this is just a simulation where you build up your fleet, click Fight, and then just see the battle rage on, wishing you could at least do little to at least guide the shots. Alas that doesn’t seem to be the case. You just wait for the battle to end, and I managed to get bored from the first fight. Also, the game has a very high edge entry point with dozens and dozens of text screens guiding you through assembling your space fleet. You keep scrolling through one tiny text message after another, hoping to see some action.

Gratuitous Space Battles text messages

This is mostly my fault. Have I know it would be purely a simulation without mostly anything from my part during the fight, I wouldn’t have wasted the small amount. But guess this is how Steam sales work. We tend to think after we buy.

Even my kid didn’t like it and quickly dismissed it. Saying I should’ve read more before I bought it. He’s upset I guess I blew a chance of a good game on him. Still, many seem to like the game. If you’re into simulation, and don’t mind the steep learning curve, and have the time for it, maybe it’s for you. But most people won’t enjoy it I believe.

Now, back to Steam Summer Sale! I’ll try to read a little more this time.

“The Experiment” Review - A Movie With Lost Potential

The Experiment

Sometimes there are just great movies which you can’t do justice. Others there are terrible movies that don’t even deserve your time for a review. Sometimes, it’s somewhere in the middle. A pretty good idea, strong cast, you are fully focused and enjoying the moment, only to realize midway the execution is terrible, and the story leaves disappointed and angry at ruining such an opportunity.

Last week I got the chance to watch The Experiment. The story itself was unconventional and one that really got me interested.  26 volunteers enroll into an experiment where they play the roles of either a guard or a prisoner for two weeks for the purpose of a  psychological study of human behavior under extreme circumstances. The promise is that each volunteer, shall the experiment conclude successfully, will get paid $14,000. There are certain rules for the study that must be met. Guards must keep order, prisoners must not touch guards, and the experiment will stop immediately in the case of violence. Civil rights are not maintained however during the experiment. The protagonist is a favorite actor of mine,  Adrien Brody, playing the role of Travis the idealistic who ends up being one of the prisoners in the experiment.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Now with that plot, the movie had my full attention. The execution however went astray in the middle of the road. As it was obvious from the candidate screening, volunteers came from different beliefs and ideologies. However most of them had one thing in common. They all wanted the huge paycheck. At the beginning, guards and prisoners were all compassionate and friendly overall, until one prisoner mistakenly throws a basket ball into the face of a guard, who starts bleeding from the nose. Acknowledging the mistake, the guard didn’t take strong action against him. Later however, another guard starts explaining how they must show their control over prisoners, or else they could risk failing the experiment, and losing all the money. And so they start harassing him, and then gradually his inmates, getting more violent and extreme one step at a time. Prisoners started protesting when they were served what seemed to be like dog shit. Disobeying the rule of all dishes must be eaten in full. Up till that point, I could say it was alright.

After that however, the guards and prisoners start to clash head straight, and one protesting prisoner is first shaved, next day tied to a chair, kicked down, and then gets peed on by a group of guards. Kicking him off the chair did not trigger the violence penalty. Seems the Doctor went lean in the experiment. The prisoner goes back to his cell, smelling of urine, broken. His begs to save his inmate who needs his insulin injection is met with absolute refusal. After he convinces one guard to smuggle the injection, he’s busted, and his face gets pushed down the toilet several times.

Now assuming the moral of the experiment is to see how long will people tolerate injustice, which is the violence in this case which gets ignored by the Doctors conducting the experiment, who would agree to get jailed, peed on, and have his head shoved down the toilet, just so that he, and his offender each walk away with $14,000? And I’m not spoken about a homeless, but rather an  idealistic guy. Why did he have to tolerate that long until he erupted? The script got even more ridiculous as sick guy who needed the injection eventually got stabbed, died, and the experiment still kept going! Not until all prisoners were armed, and went fist to fist with the guards, started beating them to death did the alarm ring, signaling the termination of the experiment. And upon hearing the alarm, they all stop. Even Travis, who was beating the guard who killed his friend in vengeance, decided that’s enough and let him live. They all kept waiting outside for the bus to take them back home, only to be seen later in an interview saying they will sue the doctor who conducted the experiment.

Didn’t it occur to the doctor sooner than that he will get sued? Guy getting peed on, have his head down the filthy toilet, and then another stabbed to death. All that didn’t make him reconsider? I mean that’s US, where you can get sued for serving a cup of hot coffee. I felt really sad that such a strong and unique story got messed up so badly towards the end. This could’ve been very huge otherwise.

 

So I ordered some thermal paste

So I ordered 3 pieces of thermal paste. Next thing I know DHL Express is calling me to inquire about what is this and for what I need it. Then they told me I must take the papers and go to Environment Public Authority for clearance. As if that wasn’t bad/ridiculous/hilarious in and of itself, I then got the papers and you won’t believe it!

For non-Arabic speakers, it’s a paper where I pledge not use any of these materials (which I should list below), and store it in the company wharehouse until test results arrive, and be ready for any inspection visit by the government.

 

Thermal Paste Clearance

And in case you’re curious what kind of toxic material I have smuggled into this country, here it is.

  

It’s so sad someone have busted my genius plans. I blame this.

 

Book of Spells Brings A Meaning To The PlayStation Move

A while ago I wrote about Sorcery, and the continuous disappointment PlayStation Move seems to bring. Not very long after however, I received my order for the Book of Spells, an augmented reality book game where you flip pages, learn and cast the magical spells of Harry Potter, as if you were reading a book from Hogwarts. I bought it mainly for my niece, as she’s a hard core Harry Potter fan, but I have to say, I’ve never been so impressed before with a camera based game. Since the book uses clear symbol marks on each page, the game works flawlessly and can identify pages with the book in different positions. And while the game isn’t that much fun for adults, I had wonderful time just sitting and watching my niece and kid explore and cast new spells. They absolutely loved it, and I can’t blame them.

This seems to be the best PlayStation Move based game yet, and also the closest a child can get to living a harry potter experience from inside his house (unless you live at Hogwarts ofcourse)

I’m not sure if it was a commercial success however, as the game is only six months old and it’s already selling for $10.5 bucks on Amazon.

Mada apologizes for any convenience they might have given me

This is a follow on to my previous post about Mada and why you should never try them, which explains how I had problem with their service from May, router got hacked and service was slow as hell in August, and when no one solved my problem, I asked to cancel my subscription and get refund for the remaining period of my contract, since Mada could not even guarantee 1.8 Mbps speed, as opposed to their promised 2 Mbps minimum. In early November a funny thing happened. I saw three missed call on two minutes period before half an hour. This was Friday 9:30 PM, so I could have million things going on. When I called it was Mada, and when I checked my email I found out they have closed the ticket I opened since May, saying it was resolved. The one that never got resolved. When I asked them why is it closed and problem is resolved they guy on the phone simply told me “We called twice and you didn’t pick up. We closed the ticket. That’s our protocol”. I told him this is stupid protocol, and the ticket is now six months old, and they just woke up at this time, make three quick calls and close it isn’t acceptable. He said he can’t re-open it (tadaa), but he will open new one. I insisted they explain it relates to the ticket opened in May.

One month later they called saying they want to assess service quality. When I told him what happened, and that the router is offline for months, and I don’t want further testing as I already got alternate service, they guy said “Well Sir, you’re not helping me here. I want to test the speed” I told him it’s too late. Months too late, and I normally replaced it. Just a proof how bad it was and that I wasn’t bluffing, and all I want is refund. He didn’t help me in anyway, and eventually hung up.

Today the best thing happened. A lady called saying she wants to ask about the quality of the service. Not sure if this has anything to do with the ticket, but she was speechless when I told her my story. After I finished she said “Well we apologize for this” I told her I don’t want an apology. If they mean it, they can get back to me with my refund. She said she will send my complain. I told her we’ll see, and I was welling to bet 100 KD they won’t do anything about it. Soon after I finished my call, I got this piece of art customer support email.

Mada apologize for the convenience

It’s heart touching how not only did they close my ticket, but they apologize for any convenience this might have caused me. Worry not Mada. It did not make me any more convenient. Not even the best comedy writers can come up with such stuff. I hope guys at Dilbert are reading this.

Sorcery Review

Sorcery for PS3

 

Just as expected, PlayStation Move after two years in the market still doesn’t have a decent group of games to brag about and justify the spending to buy it. One game that seemed to be promising was Sorcery. A sorcerer’s apprentice with very little magical experience under his belt, grabs his wand and decides to take on an epic journey on his own, mastering different magical spells, and exploring potions of magical powers along the way. Likely inspired by Harry Potter, and coming in this time with no strong competition from other sorcery games, and with the PlayStation Move there to capture the magical wand movement, the game seemed to have all it needs to bring in a home run for the PlayStation Move.

I got the game mainly for my seven years old boy, and I was beside him to play the difficult parts. The boy loved it alright, as I think most children would. Swinging his wand (controller), casting magic spells to move boulders and kill enemies. You gain new magical powers as you progress through the game, and flip through them with special wand (controller) movement, giving it more sense of actually performing the magic. What I really thought was neat is how you can perform different magical spells in sequence and combine them to create super attacks. That’s not always easy however, you need to do it fast. At least, not for the little ones. That’s where you come in handy.

sorcery magical power mix

The game has nice storybook themed cutscenes style that was really enjoyable. The story however wasn’t that great.

And while the game gave hours of fun for the kid,  I see it falls below my personal expectations. First of all, the game is too short, even my kid picked on that. But that’s not where it get real bad in my opinion. The controls and controller response aren’t well implemented, and despite having this ability to recognize true directional movement, casting spells is restricted to certain directions only, and can’t be done freely where you truly aim it at. Some puzzles required accurate gestures that didn’t just frustrate my kid, but got me irritated as well, it was taking all the fun out of it. The point of the PlayStation Move is to recognize your movements and mimic them, giving the player true sense of control. The way it was done with Sorcery is very limiting, and can be probably replaced with regular controller instead. Heck, it might even make the game more fun. But that was obviously not their main objective. They wanted a game to push the PlayStation Move forward. The funny thing is, many reviews call this the best Motion control so far (it was released in May 2012). But that’s only because there aren’t any real games out there. Sorcery pushed things further for sure, but it still needs more work if you ask me, and we can surely dream of better things to come.

Conclusion:

I would not waste time on it personally, but I recommend it for the kids. If you’re up to such kind of games, then the current price of $13.30 at Amazon might make it a good deal for you. The price itself tells a story though. Usually PS3 games hold their price a bit longer than half a year.