I really enjoyed playing Monday Night Combat (MNC). I enjoyed playing it on the Xbox Live Arcade, and I enjoyed playing it on Steam. I have very fond memories of the game. When Super MNC was announced, I was excited; when I heard about all of the changes Uber was making, I was wary. I tepidly signed up for the beta anyways.
I didn’t enjoy Super MNC at first. After participating in the beta for 60 hours, everything suddenly clicked. I would later go on to play Super MNC for over 200 hours; I actually played Super MNC more than I played MNC. In fact, Super MNC is my third most-played game of all time, with World of Warcraft and Halo 2 coming in at first and second, respectively. There were typically over 1,500 players online in Super MNC at a time, with peaks of 2,500 players, putting it among the top 50 games played on Steam.
I haven’t touched Super MNC since May, and having 200 players at peak hours is a rarity these days. What happened? I can’t speak for the thousands of players who have moved on, but I can tell you why I stopped.
In MNC, everyone ran the same endorsements: gold rate of fire, silver armor, and bronze skill regen. If someone was feeling rebellious, they would run gold armor and silver rate of fire instead. The endorsement changes in Super MNC seemed promising at first. Being able to tweak your build and get things just right for your play style? Yes, please! However, the best strategy was to stack just one endorsement—usually skill regen—and then balance out the negative effects. It wasn’t a better system than Monday Night Combat; in fact, considering that you’d only get one stat boosted instead of three, it was objectively worse.
Each week, there would be a new taunt, a skin for a Pro, or some piece of flair. This focus on cosmetic updates was very off-putting. Any bugs affecting cosmetics would have been very funny if these weren’t addressed the following week; the apparent ease with which these cosmetic items were fixed traduced Uber’s desire to maximize monetization—was it really that difficult to check if it looks right before pushing an update?
Several bugs would go unaddressed for months. Balance changes, which used to be frequent, slowed down before stopping completely at a point where everything was askew and unfamiliar. Paradoxically, for a developer that was so good at engaging the community, very few explanations for changes were ever offered; explanations were to be self-evident for the community, who would have preferred to be otherwise informed. Though it was nice seeing the developers and community conversing like friends, it was discouraging not being able to find any time frames for when bugs would be fixed, let alone acknowledgments that things were indeed broken. It left me with the impression that Uber didn’t have a plan and was just making things up as they went along.
There were bugs with the many mobility skills, which often resulted in either having no mobility or being grossly overpowered. For example, the Wascot class, with its Crook Hook ability, could go from one side of the map to the other in a single bound if the angle was correct. If the angle was wrong, the Wascot wouldn’t go anywhere at all. Hitting that sweet spot took considerable skill.
Similar issues affected the Veteran class’ Ka-Claw ability, where players could either be flung across the map or not pulled at all. However, there was a more pressing issue with the Veteran where players could use Ka-Claw to pull enemies out of their spawn, which was supposed to be the only truly safe area on the map. The community dubbed this exploit as, “fishing.” Uber eventually fixed that bug, but players could still go fishing if the conditions were right due to how the maps were designed.
Furthermore, the Uber Entertainment forums were not friendly to new players. This was a problem if you were looking for support. If you weren’t already ingrained in the community or a top-tier player (and those aren’t mutually exclusive terms), then you weren’t worth talking to. You weren’t worth playing with. There was no sense of community because the community resembled a clique of elitists. When I asked why this was on the forums, I was told (by the community): “Don’t ask stupid questions and you won’t get troll answers;” “When you read thread after thread asking the same noobish question, you start to get annoyed and can’t be bothered to give serious answers;” “You’re just going to migrate to another game by the end of the week, so why should we waste our time playing with you?”
I don’t mean to sound querulous, as these were small gripes and could, for the most part, be ignored. Cosmetic items were just that, so I never bought any. The community didn’t care for me, so I stopped trying to get in to it. Whenever my favorite Pro was nerfed, I either adapted and kept playing, or just switched to another one of my favorites. There were two things I couldn’t ignore, though.
Cheater Night was April 26, three weeks after the game was pushed out of beta. I played several matches that were infested by cheaters; posts on the forums showed that this was not an isolated case. I recall the Gunslinger being free that weekend, though Rule Changes 3 refutes that; it is unlikely that these people spent $7.50 on the Pro just to cheat—there should have been Snipers out there as well.
In my first match that night, which took place on the Downtown Spunky Cola map, the enemy team had someone using an aim bot. What rubbed me the wrong way about the first match was that when the rest of my team called this guy out, he’d vehemently deny that he was using an aim bot and claimed that the VAC1 bans on his account didn’t mean anything. The other players on his team agreed with that logic. They didn’t care, because after all, they weren’t dropping almost instantly under nigh-impossible circumstances.
There was an unspoken bloodlust amongst my team as we focused solely on the cheater. We even managed to win the match despite our disadvantage, but the Moneyball wasn’t the objective that match. Despite our 18 succulent kills against him, I was not sated. I wanted justice.
I played another match, except this time I was the one teamed up with a cheater. The enemy team eventually called him or her out, at which point I sat and watched the accused in action. It turns out that it is hard to tell when someone is cheating on your team. You can’t hear the pings from headshots. You can’t see them snap from head to head. You can’t see the bullet contrails. You can rarely see them and the target in the same frame. You would have to pull up the replay after the match is over if you wanted to verify he or she was cheating.
I had a perfect record of not leaving any games, but I didn’t want to be party to this victory. What was I to do? I started feeding the enemy team. I’d rush in to their base, which was easy because of the Cheston class’ incredible mobility, and let them kill me. Each time I respawned I would rush to their base and be killed, giving them money. Eventually, I started just sitting in spawn to remove myself as a distraction. The aimbotting Gunslinger started pushing forward.
This left me stuck in that match for nearly 30 minutes, not enjoying a single second of it. I didn’t have fun in any match where I played with cheaters. There is nothing sporting about winning illegitimately. There is nothing fun about losing because one player has such an unfair advantage. There’s nothing fun about feeding the enemy team or sitting in spawn to give the other team a chance at winning.
To make things worse, I reported every cheater I encountered that night. For some reason, Uber has a policy of clearing the reports for their community moderated ban list, so I can’t even prove that I did my part to make Super MNC a better game. That’s not the bad part, though. The bad part is that the cheaters I reported were never banned. I was denied justice.
I can tolerate a lose streak. I had a night where I played 10 matches, had less than 10 Pro kills, over 130 deaths, and destroyed only 700 bots; any normal night, I would have killed at least 120 Pros, died less than 40 times, and destroyed over 1600 bots. I ended that night with a match where I went +3 with 8 kills, placed second on the scoreboard, and I still came back to play the next day.
Cheaters put me off Super MNC for many months. I gave the game a spin when Super Blitz came out (and had a blast), but I didn’t return to Super Crossfire. In September, I fired the game up with the intent of playing competitively for the first time since May. That’s when I encountered the next indelible grievance . . .
I never bought boosts to increase how many credits I earned after each game. Throughout my 200+ hours of play, I earned over 30,000 credits. I spent them on the cookie-cutter endorsement builds and the various products, but other than that, I saved them up. When I returned in September, I had over 15,000 credits saved.
Uber added a new feature while I was away: Recyclo. Recyclo, as you may have guessed by the name, is for recycling your unwanted endorsements and products. Sometimes, you would even get another endorsement or product worth more in return. It was even accompanied with an animation of the item being eaten. Sounds good, right?
If you visited the inventory, you would see that you can get rid of your unwanted products, and you see that credits are involved. For example, the Money Magnet product would be displayed along with 1,225 credits. Well, you’re recycling, and since you might get an item in return, it would only make sense that you would be getting 1,225 credits in return too. After all, you have an infinitely sized inventory; space is a non-issue. There’d be no reason to use Recyclo otherwise.
Every shop button in the game displays a prompt. It shows you how much money you have, how much the item costs, and how much you’ll have left over after the transaction. Recyclo had no such prompt; even now, Recyclo has no prompt.
But Recyclo doesn’t give you credits; you pay credits to use Recyclo.
In less than 3 minutes, I burned through 13,000 credits. Had there been a prompt to confirm my transaction indicating that I would be losing credits, I would still have 15,000 credits. See, the thing about earning credits without boosts is that you’ll earn about 150 to 170 credits on a win, and half of that for a loss. This meant I had lost over 80 hours worth of playtime in the span of three minutes.
Worse, Uber was unwilling to refund anyone who fell into the prompt-less trap. The community-given excuse was that the patch notes stated that Recyclo had a credit cost. It’s a poor excuse. First, those patch notes are no longer accessible from within the game client, as the client only tracks the last ten patches. Second, the feature was not added to the meager in-game help guide. Third, the button to use Recyclo is simply labeled “Recycle,” which is misleading. Fourth, there was no confirmation prompt. But the community would argue none of that matters because of patch notes. Right.
I uninstalled Super MNC without playing a single match. I have no intention to play the game ever again. It’s a shame that Super MNC has less than 200 people playing worldwide, but the game is just broken. Focusing on monetization, through creating cosmetic items, when there are glaring bugs, is a bad business strategy. For every update of “here are new ways for you to give us money,” there were zero updates about issues affecting the game—be it what those issues were or that anything was being done to address them.
I really enjoyed Super MNC, too.
- Valve Anti-Cheat ↩