High and Mighty Mods (and Cheaters)

Posted by Daeity On Monday, July 17, 2017

We've all read the new articles and factual accounts of the massively widespread and rampant corruption of power by redditor mods. Whether it's a corporation who has bought the loyalty of a moderator to promote certain products, or a political party deleting posts and peddling propaganda, it's something that permeates all levels of popular subreddits.

But, it happens in very small subreddits as well. It amazes me at just how quickly people can be bribed or corrupted with small amounts of power. I see it in every day life, and power is abused in the most petty of circumstances. But the king of a shit pile, is still a king in their eyes.

It's similar to how cheating works. You're abusing power over another individual. World of Warcraft has a very high number of cheaters (e.g. botters, exploits, hacks), but Blizzard worked on having safeguards in place to prevent cheating as much as possible. South Park Phone Destroyer, however, did not seem to anticipate cheating at all.

The RedLynx/Ubisoft team did a fantastic job on their micro-transactions and payment systems, ensuring that they would securely receive their money quickly. And, they did an adequate job integrating South Park Studio's art into their game. But the rest of the game, especially security and PVP netcode, is a bug-ridden mess. Much like the Achievement system, it seems like PVP was just thrown into the mix as an afterthought. Seriously, who creates client-side authoritative PVP matches these days?

The cheating is so bad in the game right now, that there's practically a 90% chance you'll be faced with a cheater. There are so many cheaters trying to cheat other cheaters, that most cheaters have just given up, and now they're trying to desync the other player so that they win with match instantly when the game starts. And, legitimate players falsely believe that the issues are related to their phone or internet service.

I wouldn't even call it the Wild West, at least there was some order there.. this... is just absolute madness. Some of the early cheaters were pretty sneaky about it for the first month, but most aren't even hiding it any more, and they know that RedLynx/Ubisoft have no tools to monitor, address, or catch cheaters.

It feels like everyone is cheating since the last "hotfix". It was supposed to stop cheating.

What bothers me the most though, isn't the cheaters and complainers on various forums, but rather the long list of hypocrites who are the most vocal advocates against cheating. The ones that doth protest too much. There have even been obvious cheaters that have (hilariously) made PVP Guides, made YouTube videos exposing other cheaters, the ones who "reason" why certain glitches happen in-game, and even /r/SouthParkPhone mods who have been cheating. I don't care if you cheat, but stop trying to fool other people with your lies. That's the aspect I find most annoying. Big deal, you cheat.. now stop being so petty about it, and just accept your role.

I do enjoy, though, when cheaters try to explain why glitches happen. They're quite funny.

So, what kind of cheats/hacks are available today? Since the "hotfix" came out (ie, it's not really a hotfix, it's an update patch), hacking has intensified. The new patch they promised to fix woes really just moves memory addresses around, but the game is still quite exploitable. You can pretty much tweak anything in PVP or PVE.

Many of the hacks and trainers are being passed around within small circles or various hacking groups. I haven't seen too many trainers in the wild, but I see that many cheaters are still using hex/memory editors on their iPhones, Androids, or emulators (like a certain reddit moderator). When you've tested out the hacks on different platforms, you get a pretty good idea of how players are exploiting the game.

Here are some examples of what is currently possible today (using glitches, memory hacking, or pre-made trainers):

  • one very common exploit is a quit-lock glitch. If you pause your game for several seconds during certain periods of PVP gameplay (by changing apps) and loading, you can cause your players' client to crash, giving you an instant win. And typically, you will be rematched with the same player so that you can exploit them again.
  • when you see a player suddenly "explode", two things can happen: you'll receive a window that the game has been interrupted, or you'll see them with 0 HP then suddenly they will jump back up with HP again. In either case, you'll receive a "DEFEATED" window and lose a star.
  • there are also hotkey trainers and scripts that allow you to crash the other player, or speed up your own movement (which is different than the speed-hacking I detailed before.)
  • energy bars can still be altered, giving you unlimited energy or mana (whatever you want to call it)
  • you can set the enemies energy bar to zero, which is helpful in PVE.
  • you can receive locker rewards without requiring to watch an ad, or open an unlimited number of lockers (I haven't tested this myself, I've just seen other users talking about it.)
  • duplicate charge script, when you activate your charge you can trigger it multiple times such as triple AOE damage (that the player never notices, assumes it's a graphics glitch), trigger multiple healing arrows, bombs, or Timmy can summon large quantities of rats. It's not an accidental bug or network lag related, it's an exploit/hack if you see it happen.
  • prevent your units from dying, even if they hit 0 HP. Only way to kill them is with Unholy Combustion or Cock Magic.
  • scripting method to insta-gib your opponent at any point during the game, a simple network injection will do the trick.
  • injection methods allow you to duplicate player drops, so that you can summon 2 sets of a card at a time or my personal favorite: summoning 12 rats instantly. Players are often being told this is a glitch, but it's quite intentional.
  • you can alter your charge time to make it charge faster or allow you to use your ability even if locked out by a spell.
  • you can change the stats on any card, such as giving the character or spell higher damage (+900 hits), AOE or poison damage, more HP, faster attack speed, or faster walking speed.
  • one common card to hack is the Lightning Bolt or Arrowstorm because opponents won't see what level it is, so you can give it a huge amount of damage that gets unnoticed.
  • HP and regeneration are usually tweaked because they don't attract much attention.
In the past, cheaters were _very_ careful with their tweaks, so that they wouldn't get noticed and be reported. Little was known early on about their security mechanisms. But, the developer has made it clear that they have no systems in place to monitor cheating, and must rely on users providing video proof (if you can find out how to report opponents). Yes, it's completely ridiculous. Almost anything about the cards can be edited during PVP matches, but they've just restricted money/cash/etc to be server authoritative (ie, they put all programming emphasis on their payment systems, instead of fair gameplay.)

For example, using injection tricks, you could summon double cards, or cards from other decks. Then, just blame it as a "bug". Or you could make your characters have unlimited HP or regeneration.

But the really sneaky players would tweak their cards just enough so as not to raise suspicion. Like, increasing all card HP by 30%, or all damage by 50%, and give them +15% movement speed. Spells work best, like direct damage or mind-controlling other players for longer periods of time typically allowed. And all of these cheats are completely undetectable at present. I suspect they'll even launch the game like this too, which is a shame.

In some groups I'm involved in, several people already have bots setup in the game too, running on multiple simultaneous Google Play accounts. That's just in case one of the accounts gets reported and banned. They use simple injection to summon "modified" cards, and then just steamroll the opponent. Very little AI is required, since the game AI does all of the work for you! They have been farming PVP locker rewards all day long. They'll likely never be caught either, just wait until a major security patch comes out, and continue using all of their overpowered cards and play legitimately moving forwards. =]

So for now, go crazy. South Park Phone Destroyer has no tools to combat cheating or catch cheaters. Just don't make PVP Guides or be a vocal dick about being against cheating. We all know you're a dick already.

A new update is scheduled for tomorrow, so many of the cautious cheaters will be playing it cool for a week or so, just to ensure that no new security measures have been put in place. But, cheating will eventually resume again since the patch is merely to balance the game and they won't be able to improve cheat protection or detection for some time.

Current hacks in 'Phone Destroyer' Early Access

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Time to Cheat

After playing for a while, I got tired of the game and decided to test out some theories. I broke out some classic hacking tools available to the public, and discovered some interesting things.

For one, there are a ton of hackers currently in-game. During certain times of the day, I found that 50-75% of my opponents were cheating. Usually, it's fairly obvious: too many characters drop at once in the beginning of the game. Or, if it looks like they could lose early on, they suddenly drop too many cards that they don't have energy for. They might also heal quickly too.

I tested out the usual stuff, like tweaking money and point values, but they are all stored server side. LuckyPatcher obviously doesn't work either, it's mostly for old titles these days. So no surprises there.

However, during PVP battles it appears that they don't use server time to syncronize the events, but rather both of the clients are syncronized together (via the server) with time updates generated from both competing clients. This allows speed hacking, which can have some very interesting effects.

Now keep in mind that this desync bug can occur naturally or unnaturally. The game is very demanding on your device, and if you have a slow mobile, slow internet, unreliable internet, or on a cellular network - this bug can still happen. With a speed hack, you can typically force it to happen, but it's not always reliable.

If it works though, you can ensure victory on every PVP battle with a rooted phone and GameGuardian. If you already have a rooted phone, jump ahead. Otherwise here are instructions on how you can start cheating right away in 'Phone Destroyer' on your own PC.

Install & Play 'Phone Destroyer' on your PC

Nox is probably the best Android emulator out there right now, and it comes pre-rooted. It's such an awesome tool and you can get it up-and-running very quickly.

1. Download it here: https://www.bignox.com/
2. Install. Go into Settings, and turn on Root. Reboot.
3. Download the GameGuardian tool: https://gameguardian.net/download
4. Drag and drop the .APK file to your Nox screen, and you can select to install it.
5. Then just go to the Play Store, search for "South Park Phone Destroyer" and install it.

What's helpful about 'Phone Destroyer' is that your progress is saved on the cloud. So, if you link your Google Play account within Nox, you can continue playing the game from where you left off on your phone/tablet. OR, you can create a new Google Play account, cheat away, and link it onto your phone later after you've maxed out your rewards and ranking.

What's also cool about Nox is that you can customize keys and automated tons of scripts to make in-game activities and PVP very easy.

How to cheat in PVP

Speed hacking affects the energy bar, allowing you to generate energy very quickly. When you use speed hacking in PVE, the computer will also accelerate, so it's not very effective in single-player missions. You can slow the game down however, to make more calculated decisions.

The GameGuardian tool is typically used for memory editing, which is (*mostly) useless in-game. However, it comes with a great Speed Hack tool that you can find under its options. Run South Park, run GG, link SP to GG, and then launch the Speed Hack tool. You'll see an onscreen speed controller that you can move anywhere on the 'Phone Destroyer' screen.

Okay,

  • When the PVP match starts, you can ramp-up your speed by 1.5x, 3x, 6x, 9x, etc. However, really weird shit happens (including some Mutually Assured Destruction stuff when playing against another cheater) when you do this, so be prepared.
  • Cheating, normal experience: After you ramp up speed to 2x, your opponents players will freeze in place but you can still attack them. They will remain on screen and appear to be immortal, but your players will eventually ignore them and attack the player. At this point, you might as well go back to normal speed. Just focus all attention on the main player. You can't do ANY damage, unless it's poison or direct spell damage. So get your spell cards, and characters who poison the main player. All you need to do is get them down 1 of their 3 bars, and you'll receive a Victory when the countdown ends.
  • Not cheating, normal experience: You're doing well early on and don't need to cheat. If you suddenly freeze and the game hangs, it means that the other player is cheating and you've been disconnected. They will receive an "Opponent has left the game" message and they get the victory.
  • Cheating against another cheater: If it appears that they are cheating (dropping too many cards at once), ramp up your speed to 3x or 4x. There's a good chance you'll disconnect them, and you'll get the message "Opponent has left the game". Then change back to 1x, and finish up the PVP battle against the player with any characters or spells (they will all work this time.)
  • Cheating against another cheater: Occasionally if you ramp up the speed right away when starting the game to like 3x or 6x, the Opponent will leave the game or they will automatically die for an instant Victory. This is also an indication that they had a speed hack running in memory too.
  • If the normal player or cheater does not disconnect: Typically, you'll get to a Sudden Death stage if the player does not disconnect. Focus everything you have on knocking down each bar of the players. You only need to eliminate one bar to get the win.
Hacking to get more lockers opened?

I mentioned that memory editing *mostly useless in-game. However it does work on the locker selection menu, in a weird way. Apparently, when you open the first three lockers, the reward is generated from the server. But you can still open the others to receive rewards, but it's a weird client side glitch.

Simply use GameGuardian to search for the lockers remaining number (ie, 3, 2, 1), use BYTE field, and keep changing the value back to 3. Do NOT freeze the number, or the game will hang. And leave a couple lockers still closed so that your number expires and you can move onto the next screen. You don't want to be stuck on the locker menu. The rewards you receive after the first 3 will be weird, and you will NOT get the "Top Rewards" since they are only server generated.

I think this menu can be further exploited in the future with a mod pack (simulating Ad rewards) so that players can select all lockers and actually get good rewards from them though.

This is a weird hack, but if you try it out, you'll see what I mean: the lockers don't initially have the "best rewards" behind them - so you can't peak using a hack. When you open a locker, the reward is randomly generated from the server. However, they all contain client-side one item simple rewards that you can receive, after getting all of the server rewards. But this might not be worth the effort as the items likely won't stick with server authority.

Exploiting PVP without hacking

This is a very simple and old-fashioned method that works in 'Phone Destroyer'. Create more characters by running multiple instances of Nox. Keep them all around the same rank. Create a different VPN for each instance, so that your client has a different IP address. Click "Join" at the same time on two instances, and you'll keep getting paired up by their Match Making engine. Occasionally you'll get another opponent, but you can win-trade with your own characters.

If you're not familiar with VPNs, an alternative is to use Nox normally on one PC but connect your phone (with 2nd Google Play account) to your cellular data service.

PVE Mission Energy Hack

Apparently, the energy bar is all client-side during PVE missions. So, you can easily blast through all of the zones with a full energy bar!

Here are the steps:

1. Start one of the missions.
2. * If you are extremely paranoid, turn on Airplane mode during the battle. You can still fight, but WiFi and Data is turned off.
3. Pause the battle.
4. Launch GG. You are going to search for the Energy Bar value which is a decimal. For example: 3.23332554454000
5. If the bar is between 8 and 9, search for "8~9" as a FLOAT value. You can use the tilde ~ character for a range of decimals.
6. Go back to the game, unpause, change the energy bar.
7. Pause the game. Search for the new value like 3~4.
8. Continue until you find one value that seems to match the energy bar, like 2.23933720589 (which is 2 plus a little bit on the bar.)
9. You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly, and it usually only takes 2-3 searches to get the right number.
10. Change the first number to 9, leave the rest alone. For example, 3.23332554454000 becomes 9.23332554454000.
11. FREEZE the value in place. (A main feature of GG.)
12. Unpause the game, and your Energy Bar will be locked at 9 and a bit.
13. Go crazy.
14. Watch the bosses health. Before you're about to kill them (25-40% HP), pause the game, disable the FREEZE and continue.
15. * For the extra paranoid: Turn Airplane mode off, and wait for WiFi to reconnect.
16. If you leave the FREEZE enabled, you risk the chance of the game locking up during the following loading screen.
17. Boss dies, collect your reward.

Whether WiFi is turned on or not, the Energy Bar trick still works fine. Rinse & Repeat for the next stages.

If you know what you're doing, you can grab the offset of the Energy Bar and import it each stage to speed things up. I suspect this will also work in PVP, if you don't want to use the Speed Hack, but you'll need to understand offsets and pointers and lose some matches at first. Then you can cheat the energy bar with little detection.

Alternatives: Using an Emulator and Cheat Engine

If you're not comfortable using GameGuardian active while SPPD is running, you can also use a program like "Cheat Engine" _outside_ of the Nox emulator. It does make a lot of activities much faster, especially in PVE. You can have two windows open, and just jump back and forth to exploit the energy bar.

All you need to do in Cheat Engine is go into Settings, turn on MEM_MAPPED option.

Select the process 'VoxVMHandle.exe'. Select 'FLOAT' value, leave the 'Truncated' button turned on, and search for the exact number (like, 2, 6, or 9). No more ranges are needed, CE will do the work for you.

Finding offsets within the emulator is much more difficult, but if you happen to find any online instructions that the average user can follow, let me know and I will post it here.

Seeing how easy it is to manipulate the energy bar (not server controlled), it won't be long before dedicated hacks or modded .apks come out for SPPD that allow players to generate energy quickly and without crashes. Likely something for the single player missions too, that will allow you to progress through all of the missions and zones very quickly for huge returns.

These bugs/exploits should be a quick fix for the developer, Redlynx. There are even many super simple bandaid patches that can be applied to prevent cheating, and very quickly. It will be interesting to see if the developer/publisher respond, and how long it takes them to address these issues.

If you found this information helpful, please credit the blog link. A lot of content gets stolen from this blog, and it would be nice for someone to actually credit the origin every once in a while. =]

Opinions on the 'South Park Phone Destroyer' early access build

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I've been playing the 'Phone Destroyer' game on-and-off for the past several days, and I thought I would write about it given that most websites just contain regurgitated press release statements.

It's a perfect time to release franchise games during their TV show hiatus since all of the fans are desperately clawing for any new content. Fans have just been watching the same gameplay videos of 'Phone Destroyer' and 'The Fractured But Whole' over and over just to satisfy their cravings until new episodes come out. The same is happening with 'Rick & Morty', where any fan-made videos become instant viral hits.

Before I write any further, I wanted to remind everyone of what Matt Stone & Trey Parker actually think of Freemium games.



So,

Matt & Trey found it offensive that shortly after playing the game, they were asked to spend $100 on tokens. And, they had ethical problems with freemium games built like slot machines or contained intentional frustrations programmed into the game in order to force the player to buy something. They also mentioned how "fucked up" it was to prey on psychology weaknesses and create an addiction machine.

The audio and visuals for South Park Phone Destroyer are awesome of course, which is to be expected when working with the teams from SP Studios. However, after playing the game for a long time, it's obvious that Ubisoft must have spent a lot of time planning their game design strategies around neuroscience practices and also spending a lot of time deciding how they were going to pitch the game idea to Matt & Trey. I honestly believe that Ubisoft must have sent a highly skilled salesperson to convince them that this game was different than other exploitative games.

Here are some of my various observations:

  • Whoever designed the card-opening mechanic was brilliant. All of the card packs are essentially pinned to a corkboard. They swing back and forth based on feedback from your motion sensor, giving it a great feel. After you select a card pack, you rip open the top and the cards spill out. It's a really great alternative to the classic tap-to-open-treasure-chest mechanic. A nice feature, like the Fallout Shelter 3D effect when turning the phone, that I'm sure certain other games will copy.
  • PVE and PVP gameplay is really fun, but it will take you a while to learn which combinations of players to use, and when to use them.
  • The game requires a persistent online connection. This has both it's pros and cons. It's helpful in mitigating certain types of cheating, but if you have weak connectivity, you're going to have a very bad time.
  • The game has a great start but I was hoping for more story development and South Park videos as the game progressed (ie, a reward system as you progress to different stages.) However, it appears that they blew their load on the new user onboarding experience instead of lengthening the foreplay.
  • The story writers put in very little effort. The startup South Park video you see is the only one, there aren't any more after that. So, the rest of the game will be fairly disappointing. I was expecting video sequences after each zone. There's nothing really too funny after the first 30 minutes of the game, there's no story development, all characters are pretty much the same... and, when you finally reach the end and beat level 60, the South Park characters criticize you for not spending enough real money, brag about how they took advantage of you, and beg you to spend real money on the game. I suppose it was meant to be funny, but it really wasn't. I was expecting a really great ending, and they just kick you when you're down.
  • I've never played a mobile Ubisoft game, but I always suspected that they were extremely bloated based on my experience with their PC offerings. Even on a high-end Android device, I endured very frequent and long loading times, graphical slowdowns, and many crashes. Especially during any loading screens: if you lose connectivity, or even just a minor traffic bump, expect the game to hang indefinitely.
  • The game will frequently freeze during PVP matches, and I'm assuming that opponent bandwidth is also a requirement to have a positive experience. If they lock up, you'll probably crash too. During any online matches, also make sure not to switch windows or you'll return to a black window unable to target anything while your opponent pummels you. If you won the game, but the proceeding loading screen hangs for any reason (which is often), you'll lose your win.
  • If the opponent leaves the game, or swipes to another screen, while you are waiting searching for an opponent or "Waiting for the Opponent..", it will cause your game to crash as well. It will hang indefinitely until you restart. If the game starts acting buggy after multiple restarts, you'll need to reboot your phone to correct South Park.
  • 'Phone Destroyer' is an apt name. It's a huge memory & CPU hog, and it can drain my batteries faster than any other app I've ever used. I'm not even mad, it was amazing to watch.
  • The PVP matchmaking system is very fast (ie, less than 2 minutes), but it's also very unfair. Be prepared to fight players several levels above or below you. I feel bad for those who will be joining on the official release day, they are going to be viciously steamrolled by players who have been levelling their characters during early access. It's extremely unbalanced leaving most new players with a sense of unfair treatment.
  • After seeing how the matchmaking and PVP ranking systems work, however, I'm sure this is all likely intentional and very little changes will be made in the future. Being steamrolled by another player certainly gives you an incentive to purchase all of the P2W microtransactions that are available in-game.
  • Almost no effort went into the achievement system, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of what they're attempting to achieve. It seemed like a rushed afterthought, and they threw it in merely to mimic other competitors. So, after your hard work collecting achievements, you'll be rewarded with some incredibly unrewarding rewards. They essentially made the achievement system the opposite of what it was intended for.
  • The achievement system was also designed very poorly, likely because of it's hasty implementation. It will break if you get too many achievements too soon. For example, say you receive an achievement for killing 10 rats, then 50 rats, and then 100 rats. If you killed 100 rats, but didn't claim for your achievements each time, it will freeze on 0/50 rats and you can't claim any rewards at all or increase the number after that. The "claim" button just disappears.
  • And, there was very little wisdom and inspiration invested in the notification system. I was really curious if Ubisoft would finally get mobile notifications correct this time by ensuring that notifications only arrived during normal human operating hours. But, I was unpleasantly surprised when I started receiving IAP reminders at 12AM, 3AM, etc. Even _after_ I turned off notifications in-game.
  • During PVE missions, if any asset or NPC is slightly off-screen to the right, you can target them with direct damage spells, but they will actually be immune to damage. Random damage immunity of this nature often occurs in PVP as well.
  • The game has an automated Cloud Save feature that you can't exactly control, and linked directly to your Google Play account. As far as I know, there's currently no way in-game to delete your character and create a new one. So, I'm stuck with the same player I created on day one. What's cool though is that the cloud save will carry through to any other devices that you install the game on. So, you can play it on your desktop (via Android emulator), and continue playing on your mobile device when travelling.
  • Due to the online nature of the game, changing money variables will be impossible. But I'm not sure if everything is governed server side. There has been some evidence of speed and health hackers during PVP matches, and I would imagine the game could be botted quite easily as well. Even an AutoIT script (through an emulator) can run nonstop PVP matches for you. There is also a modded APK available for rooted devices which makes the game region-free, however it requires the hacked version of the Google Store as a prerequisite.
Minor Notes:
  • The screen focus handling is a little different than other games I've tested, likely due to some responsive resolution code they have in the game for multiple screen sizes and devices. So, it may mess with your swipe controls or go to a black screen when switch back-and-forth.
  • During a couple of my PVP battles, I noticed that the sprite frames of custom characters were glitchy. I'm surprised this was missed in QA.
  • Notifications will happen at inconvenient times, I would recommend turning them off from your O/S settings. You can turn off notifications within the game settings menu, however they may randomly turn back on.
  • The Bandito Sally (kindergartner Sally Bands) character was renamed to Kenny's Sister. So, when you see the Kenny's Sister card - that's not actually what she looks like.
  • There is Character Art used in various menus, Environment Art, and then Combat Art used during the battle sequences. The developers took some of the Environment art and tried to recycle it for Combat Art, resulting in very blurry and improperly scaled images. The Holy Water asset is a good example. Same with the Character Art, if you jump through the various zone selection menus, the characters appear crisp and clean, but one of the Cartman images is all blurred out and scaled wrong. The Cartman character with the staff is the wrong asset, but the one with the phone in hand is the correct one.
  • In-game interfaces that require scrolling are very sluggish, and randomly unresponsive. It doesn't feel smooth when scrolling. This is due to the bloatyness of the game unfortunately. And likely the reason why they have the Deck Builder menu built the way it currently is: I suspect that scrolling horizontally was very frustrating in earlier testing.
Levelling your characters or cards in the game can be very confusing. There are many Upgrade Items, that only work with certain themed cards, and also require a combination of other duplicate cards, and vast injections of cash/points.

You will also be very confused about what they mean by a "Stage". For example, right now when you receive in-game ads ("NEWS"), Early Access users are notified that they will be rewarded greatly for "Destroying the Indian Fortress in Stage 10". However, what the hell is "Stage 10"? There are neighbourhood stages that represent Card Themes, and each neighbourhood has a Stage, however each of those Stages also has up to 15 replayable stages. There are also different Episodes with their own Stage numbers too. For example, you can be in "Stage 3 of Stage 25 in Episode 5 of Stage 5". No, I'm not joking.

The freemium game that Matt & Trey described could might as well be 'Phone Destroyer'. In the beginning, you'll collect a lot of money points and upgrade items. However, the difficulty curve quickly goes from easy to cruel. Moreso than most other similar games. Shortly after you're able to construct your first deck, it becomes extremely difficult to progress in PVE or PVP. In PVP, you never go down in ranks, and the rewards for winning are met with quite unfair diminishing returns. In PVE, as you progress through the different zones, the difficulty suddenly curves up as well and you're forced to replay old zones to collect upgrades. However, since you move up in ranks as you replay old zones as well, so you get quickly locked out of those in terms of difficulty.

In a nutshell, here's how the game works (and please note that it happens very quickly):

You play through the Story PVE stages. You hit a road block. You switch to PVP. Rankings significantly diminish rewards. You switch back to PVE. Even more diminishing returns, making the climb very difficult until you hit a road block. You're forced to replay older PVE zones, but you can only play each once or twice, since they _also_ ramp up in Stages, becoming exponentially difficult. Then, you hit an obstacle where you can't progress at all unless you buy packs and upgrades. This can all happen in one or two days of playing.

The art and sound effects are great, but other than that, it's hot garbage. The game will crash on you very frequently. And it won't give you any error codes to research, it will just simply freeze up on you indefinitely.

Now you could wait for the free pack every 4 hours and collect unpredictable cards over several days to overcome the obstacle, but the road blocks happens exponentially faster each time. Or, you can take the easy path that all human beings are wired for, and visit the IAP store to keep up with the Joneses.

Since everything in the game uses a specifically crafted ranking system with exponentially diminishing returns, the entire game very tightly squeezes you from every single side, and the only way out of it are making payments to Ubisoft. I'm feeling claustrophobic by just writing about my experiences. But, this is how they hide everything that's going on behind the scenes. They cover the game in glitter, bright lights, several varieties of "upgrade items", too many different point systems, and rewards. All of these keep you distracted from how the game is influencing your behavior.

But in the end, I think Ubisoft is going to make a ton money from this game. They are using some very classic and highly manipulative successful casino game design strategies that work very well on addicts players.

I have to wonder if Ubisoft managed to convince Matt & Trey by telling them that they would give players free card packs on a regular schedule. To the inexperienced, this sounds like a altruistic gesture. But heroin dealers have a common term for it.. it's just "a taste."

IAP sales from the game should impact their stock price positively, especially with fears of a take-over attempt looming.

My Personal Top Picks

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An old fan contacted me about my last post, enjoyed the investment information and asked for my opinion on other potentially lucrative investment advice. So, I figured I could make a list of "Top 5" companies I've been following so far this year.

I would say that the entertainment industry is a really good investment to be in, even during the bad times like a depression, recession, bubble pop, financial failure, or another form of tragedy or hardship. When things are rough, humans turn to comfort and various escapes from their harsh reality. Drugs, alcohol and the world's oldest profession are common escapes, but for those that don't take risks or can't afford them, they turn to entertainment options like music, movies, and especially video games. People will always need entertainment, and they'll always find ways to pay for it. And there are many public video game companies that are worthwhile long-term investments, even overseas, like in Japan.

1. Nintendo of Japan (today: 25,600 JPY)

Usually I don't follow Japanese companies because I don't have many contacts there. So, I use various tools to measure trends and statistics across several social media sites and internet sites to determine the future popularity and potential sales of new hardware or software. Based on what I've seen, Nintendo is going to do very well this year with the Nintendo Switch and many of their exclusive games. I double-checked my suspicions by calling up several call centers, and learned that practically every retail store is completely sold out on pre-orders as well as their suppliers. And, they were still receiving thousands more in requests. It even reached a point where they will need to cancel pre-orders because of the shortages (and because their own employees and VIPs want some themselves too.)

The NS will be much hotter than most anticipate and the Nintendo stock is very low right now. It's a very safe bet to get into the company right now, and I'm confident that the stock will surge once word gets out that Nintendo will need to increase production levels. I wouldn't be surprised if they doubled it. So, I would get in on this investment right away. It's going to go nuts this year.

2. Best Buy (today: $48.00 USD)

Normally, I would tell you to STAY AWAY from shitty retail stocks. Stay away from all of them. BUT, in this unique case involving the Nintendo Switch this year, you'll see a spike in Best Buy stock. Keep in mind, that this will just be temporary. So, you're going to go in and out on this one. Normally, you do not want to invest long-term in retail stocks as they are slowly being consumed.

Invest in Best Buy sometime soon, but then follow Nintendo announcements. Once they make a statement about their pre-order or production numbers, you'll see their stock surge. This will also follow suit with BBY. Wait until it peaks out, and then dump your stock before it slowly drops over the proceeding one or two weeks. This will net you a short term profit, but I figured I would mention it due to my high confidence in Nintendo this year.

2(b). Twitter (today: $14.40 USD)

Speaking of shitty things to invest in, Twitter has been at an all-time low this month so it's a good time to buy a lot of their stocks. Twitter is actually horribly overvalued, but rich assholes and clever stock-brokers have been manipulating this market for a long time, and they are going to continue pumping up this stock.

I'll be getting another short-term gain from this company, but Twitter is not something I want to long-term invest in. They have a high market cap, but little actual value. Smart people will invest in this company to take advantage of the stupid people who think Twitter will actually be profitable in a few years. So, buy now, wait for it to go up another $5-8, and then sell it all.

3. Gameloft (today: $14.98 USD)

Although I don't know a lot of people working for Public Japanese Companies, I definitely have contacts and listen to people from Activision Blizzard and Vivendi. =]

I've been told to invest in Gameloft as soon as possible. I suggest you do the same. You may have missed out on the Gameloft takeover by Vivendi, but there's another opportunity now to make a little bit off Gameloft right now still. There is tons of chatter in the office places about Vivendi making some major investments into them, so it appears that there's a really big push coming to strengthen the company and expand.

4. Glu Mobile (today: $2.25 USD)

I mostly ignored this company, mostly for personal reasons: I didn't like their game library and offerings. But, word is that they have been talking to a lot of different franchise companies, and they have had successful negotiations on various IP licensing. They're moving into sports franchises, which is going to be really hot on mobiles this year and next. Card games too will be very popular on mobile for the next few years, so this is a very positive trend for the company. Once they get their name out there some more, I'm sure that other sports franchises will be more interested in working with them as well. So, now I'm actually investing in them that now I have more confidence in their future.

5. Zynga Inc. (today: $2.78 USD)

Ah Zynga, the prancing fool. They've made a lot of foolish decisions, but I think someone in management is finally learning their lesson, and trying to correct their mistakes. They still have strong revenue from their highly addictive games (Zynga Poker is trending big), but now they are finally making deep cuts, laying off staff, and significantly reducing their operating expenses. This is a very good indication, and it means that they are significantly undervalued at the moment. I won't be surprised if they can reach $4 again in the near future. This is another solid investment to be in right now.

Penny Stocks and Takeovers

Posted by Daeity On Monday, April 10, 2017

Investments

If you know anything about me, you might say that I have an unhealthy obsession with video game companies, particularly their inner workings. I do a significant amount of digging into financials, business practices, employee posts, public boards, talk to industry employees, and listen to chatter from the industry.

I've written a lot about Activision, Blizzard, EA, and Ubisoft in the past. But, what you might not know is that I also frequently invest in video game companies. I won't invest in something I don't fully understand however. Investing is like gambling, except you can have an edge simply by doing proactive research. Activision, EA, and Ubisoft.. their futures were fairly certain in the beginning. I've owned stocks in ATVI since they were $10-11, Ubisoft at $5, and EA at around $15. I had invested in Tencent back when they were 50 HKD too, and I've written about them many times in the past due to their relationship with Blizzard.

You won't find me investing in much other than entertainment, gambling, electronics, and gaming companies.

Now one company that I have been following for a VERY LONG TIME is Guillemot Corporation. I was initially interested in them back when they manufactured video cards, but was surprised when they acquired Hercules. Shortly after that time, the company lost a huge amount of value and they've been quiet for several years. These days, they just do a little amount of sales and they own the ThrustMaster line of gaming joysticks. It is a small, but profitable business. But what many people don't know is that this company was the birthplace of Ubisoft, and they acted as the gaming company for a short time, before splitting off and creating the Ubisoft Corporation as a separate entity. If you look back at ancient versions of the Guillemot website, you can see their old game releases.

Takeovers you say..

Back in November, there was some industry chatter about several different movements taking place within the Guillemot Corporate family, especially within the Shanghai Ubisoft management structure. Something big was happening. I suspected that it might have something to do with fears of a hostile takeover by Vivendi. They already snagged the Guillemot family's Gameloft, and many experts believe that Ubisoft is next on their target list. My suspicion is that key employees, and potentially licenses/contracts, are being juggled around companies within the Guillemot sphere of influence in order to protect themselves, or at least create some obstacles, in the event of a hostile takeover.

Guillemot Corporation was really their only other public company under their complete control, so I purchased various stocks at around 1.30 EUR. I think something big is going to happen here, including some assets being moved from other Ubisoft facilities to this one. It's climbed about 0.20 EUR since then, but I honestly think something big is still going to happen in the near future that will drive up public interest and value in their stock. And even more events taking place until the end of the year.

Of course, this could just be Vivendi attempting to drive up the stock price of Ubisoft, before selling it off. They haven't fared too well in the gaming industry, and it's something they should abandon. Nothing increases stock prices more than increasing your stake in a company, spreading rumors and then denying them.

And you mentioned something about "penny stocks"?

But now my attention is on a smaller public gaming company. It's a penny-stock too, something I've never really invested in before. It was a Canadian company called Imperus Technologies Corp., who renamed themselves to 'Tangelo Games' (currently at $0.04) after acquiring Diwip Ltd. out of Israel, and Akamon Entertainment out of Spain. There's really nothing to write home about these companies, they don't create anything too special or unique like the big guys, but they have a lot of experience constantly pumping out small gambling and casino games for mobile devices. And, they are very successful. Currently, the company is very profitable, but they are also massively in debt from previous investments and decisions.

There are two primary players in this company that interest me: James Lanthier (CEO) & Vicenç Martí (previously owned Akamon and was made President of Tangelo).

Vicenç owns another company too, called 'Billy Mobile' that operates in the exact same building as Akamon Entertainment. Interestingly, just a few weeks ago, the offices of Billy Mobile were raided by police in Spain. The operation was related to mobile telephony fraud. =]

From what I dug up however, it's only because of their very aggressive marketing (too many text messages to users who complained.) They'll get off with a slap on the wrist and a small fine. But, that Billy Mobile company he owns looks like it's going to be highly successful. If it was a public company, I would have invested in it by now. I think it's going to make big waves, but only in certain countries where their aggressive strategies are still legal. And, I suspect that Billy Mobile will be utilized by Tangelo Games in the future as well. Billy is Vicenç's baby, the golden son, and where I think most of his efforts are currently being placed. He sees it as a billion-dollar company, and he's not wrong.

Now the CEO of Tangelo, James Lanthier, he's a different creature. His primary passion isn't exactly creating video games, but rather increasing the value of entertainment companies, and then selling them off as a complete package. He's into acquisitions and being acquired. Two men with different drives. From what I see, James has been working on reducing company debt - so I don't think there's going to be any problems here. It's a highly profitable business, really just running on old titles at the moment, that will be able to pay off the debt within a reasonable time frame.

And from the developer stand point, the teams are all still busy and hard at work. They aren't developing new games, but rather porting over all of their existing libraries onto a new platform (Unity) so that it can be supported on new devices. New graphics, new engine, and more devices of simple casino games that have worked. There is currently a hiatus of game releases, however there is going to be a huge rush of titles being released simultaneously at the end of this year.

So, what we have is a hugely undervalued company, with very little investment risk, a flood of titles coming out at the end of this year and early next year, and managers who are driven to make the company valuable enough to be acquired. That sounds like a reasonable investment to me, and if you also want to make some money with little risk, I would advise investing this company at the $0.04 rate or under before the end of 2017.

No, it wasn't an April Fools joke.

Posted by Daeity On Monday, April 3, 2017

On the spur of the moment, I decided to bring the blog back online.

Much has changed within the past five years leading a better level of comfort, I guess you'd say.

For example, the public is much more aware now of the type of internet harassment and intimidation that takes place. And, there are more laws slowly appearing to protect internet users from cyber-bullying. Back when I started, death threats and attacks against female bloggers weren't well known of at all, and the term "misogyny" just started to go mainstream. So at least now it's a known and public issue, making it more difficult for aggressors.

So, what's all happened in the past five years?

  • A handsome rogue leaked confidential NSA information, verifying what most rational thinkers in the world already knew.
  • We were all supposed to die of Ebola according to main stream media.
  • We were all supposed to die of the Zika Virus according to main stream media.
  • The Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House failed.
  • Blizzard pulled off the best Legion marketing stunt ever when they turned the Olympic pools green.
  • Various game developers successfully hyped extremely disappointing games. The gaming media agreed that they would never be fooled again.
  • Project Titan was cancelled, and scavenged to create a successful TF2 clone competitor.
  • All of the big names have left Blizzard.
A little bit about me during the past five years:

I've been doing consulting work with AAA developers and publishers, helping them sky-rocket their wealth. And, I've launched three very successful titles that I designed. Occasionally, I have some free time on my hands, and decided to fire up the old blog. I haven't decided what to write about yet, if I write anything at all, but I thought some old readers would at least appreciate the nostalgia.

If I do write about something, I will try to make it original content. I dislike re-posted garbage, and opinions on trending news items. I can't talk specifics due to non-disclosures, but I may enjoy writing about the gaming industry from a general development or finance side.

I love the work of indie developers, so I can definitely provide some useful advice and strategies that they're currently not aware of. I may even review some indie games who don't know how to market themselves.

Who knows.

I'll try this out with comments disabled. It'll be better if people can't send "messages" to me directly. I've gone back and cleaned up the blog, removed irrelevant posts (e.g. exploits and gold making that no longer apply), and tried to focus it some more. Unfortunately, it looks like some old imgur links have died but I can't do much about that.