QC Games and the Fall of Breach

Every year we see dozens, if not hundreds, of newer MMO games release into the games industry. With long standing titans such as World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the Guild Wars franchise its hard not to argue that MMO and online-driven games are incredibly marketable if not highly popular. Every year indie studios take on the challenge of putting together their own massively multiplayer game, some with great success such as Friday the 13th: The Game. Most, however, do not ever reach that pinnacle. Breach is one of those stories.

The Rise of Breach

Breach has been developed by QC Games, a newer game studio composed of former developers from Bioware Houston and Electronic Arts. They had previously worked on The Old Republic and Bioware’s cancelled Shadow Realms before leaving the company in late 2014. Designed from the remains of their former project, Breach is its spiritual successor; an isometric multiplayer endeavor much like 2015’s Evolve. Featuring a 4v1 multiplayer endeavor you play as a Mage, a techno-magical defender of the near future battling against demons invading from beyond the Veil. The fifth player in each match took up the role of a Veil Demon, a dungeon-master like entity that could lay traps, summon enemies, and personally possess minions to fight the Mages.

While putting a newer spin on the now tired isometric multiplayer model, Breach did not have a strong launch. Releasing on January 14th of this year, Breach suffered from the start; entering Steam’s controversial Early Access Program, commonly used by developers looking to develop and build their game overtime, it was not free to play at first. Instead those wishing to pick up into Early Access would pay an up-front fee of $25 USD, with the option to play free following after it left Early Access. Despite promises of wanting to market Breach as a Free-to-Play Microtransaction service model, those wishing to join in would need to purchase their ‘Early Access Pass,’ which featured game access, a 30-day experience and currency boost and 2000 QC points, the developer’s premium currency for their in-game store.

Breach

Breach and QC Games hit the ground hard and fast, finishing their closed Alpha prior to widespread release with a peak player count of roughly 1150 players according to metric database Steam Charts. QC Games had been utterly global in it’s pushing of their reborn game at conventions and trade shows. Claiming that there were 10,000 testers worldwide in their Discord Server, Breach was set for success.

To that end it launched in January and received moderate acclaim. QC Games was quick to jump on the hype and release their roadmap to future developments and plans for the game. In terms of public relations and social media power Breach was optimized for continuous, powerful growth. As a game, however, it was not.

From start up Breach featured both an incredibly interesting set-up in its world’s lore, and an unbelievably frustrating tutorial. While the game opened with a series of wonderful storyboarded cinematics the tutorial featured sluggishly wretched pacing, insincere voice acting and left far more questions than answers in the game’s wider aspects. While featuring gameplay interactions very reminiscent of Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends, there is nearly next to no information on how to go beyond combat and into modifying player gear and stats.

While particular levels and gameplay modes are blocked off until players have played certain numbers of games, I was both shocked and frustrated to find myself entering a game and stuck playing as a Veil Demon without any direction on what I was doing. The conveyance of Breach, the method in which a game expresses how to play it to you understandably, is so fundamentally lacking its simply rather astounding. While Veil Demons have quite a bit more to do in terms of their play mechanics in comparison to Mages, how to complete objectives or perform higher level aspects was simply never explained to the player. That is unless you bothered to check you hidden quest log to find a plethora of tutorials in additional gameplay modes. Gameplay modes which were not restricted in the slightest, yet playing online with your friends was.

Breach’s “Ultra” Graphic Setting in 1080p

Breach was a game of poorly planned problems in that regard.

From terrible graphics to wretched optimization and dull gameplay, Breach was a game incredibly typical of the Early Access platform on Steam. Most games launching on the platform like Tudo_RIP’s Secrets of the Forest are incredibly, frustratingly basic. From incomplete graphics packages to placeholder models these games are often requiring a steep amount of development and feedback to complete. QC’s darling multiplayer, the game the company had left Bioware to make, was incredibly troubled in this aspect. Early reviews of the game are plagued with issues of imbalances and far higher than normal GPU usages which ruined system performance and denigrated the game further.

In February the peak player count of Breach had plummeted from roughly 1150 prior to its launch, to nearly 300 by month’s end. It’s not hard to see why; Breach was a game that wanted to thrive as an MMO with nothing to grip players. Gameplay was boring, repetitive and there were no game-changing rewards. What was packaged in with its Early Access release simply wasn’t enough for long-term player adoption. Current MMOs such as World of Warcraft have faced similar problems over the last few years and have summarily injected controversial gameplay elements such as their Mission Table system to entice daily playing. Warframe too features returning rewards with a daily slot machine system for those who come back repeatedly. Breach simply did not have such systems in place.

All throughout, however, QC Games was energetic in its development cycle. Updates were incredibly frequent with more than an update per week in its second month. These patches would introduce a plethora of balance adjustments, new classes, new levels and new enemies. It was clear that despite the studio’s small size, Breach was a labor of love. Despite its glaring technical issues, of which there are still many, this was a game that was hitting its goals day after day with steady improvement.

IESnared

That changed, however, with the turn of the seasons and the beginning of March. Player counts briefly spiked upwards from a common curiosity. That curiosity, however, was not for what the game offered.

As early back as February 24th, 2019, Breach’s review scores began to drastically change. Steam users such as walkerb0h began to report that the game featured traffic tracking program IESnare. IESnare is a program that is incredibly shrouded in secrecy and frankly has quite a bit of incorrect information spread about it. Colloquially known as a type of aggressive spyware program, IESnare is a sub-routine program that runs stealthily in the background of your computer. Most often used by gambling websites to increase their odds against players, this program collects a concerning array of data and feeds it back to the originators database.

The data collected from your PC or electronic device can include its screen resolution, device type, operating system, its time zone, java script capabilities, or Adobe Flash capabilities. It can retrieve information on your browser cookies, your browser types, your browser history, how long you spend on certain websites, your IP address and geolocation down to the city. It can also read your router to discover your internet service provider’s information, your computer’s performance information including CPU speed and count, component serial numbers, your device name, your OS build number, your Kernel Information and more.

All of this information is distilled into a ‘fingerprint’ or ‘footprint’ of your system’s unique characteristics. Used often as a method of locating your phone or to see if your data has been stolen, more malevolent Steam Early Access Games have included versions of IESnare and other spyware data in their installation files. The more popular programs, like those accused of being in the game Abstractivism, reportedly utilize your gaming machine to mine cryptocurrency for the developer.

Later reviews of Breach also included reports of the launcher scanning Windows Jump Lists, a feature that allows you to view recent documents in programs pinned to your taskbar, on boot up. Several users complained of being unable to connect to Breach servers if they had IESnare blocked by their browser. Other users complained of the game searching through unrelated file directories during playtime, including those on other solid-state or hard drives unrelated to the game’s installation file.

These accusations are not unfounded either. QC Games’ partner company, En Masse Entertainment (formerly Bluehole Interactive), were accused of using IESnare as a method to check the validity of user accounts for Tera. This was later confirmed when a Redditor posted the script that ran on Tera’s load-up which linked backed to Iovation Inc., the owner-creator of IESnare. This code attempted to test several internet browser functions (including Adobe Flash) and obfuscated its actions with several lines of meaningless coding which attempted to hide what it was doing.

While no one managed to pull a similar string from Breach during its tenure on Steam, more and more users found that blocking IESnare’s target domains would not allow the game to play. Customers became confused as word continued to spread until QC Games released a frankly unsatisfactory apology. Responding to several user reviews individually instead of making a full public statement, one of the developers of Breach left the following canned response which did confirm included monitoring software used for Breach:

Several YouTube reporters and pundits would discuss the topic including popular personality Sidalpha. His video would neither confirm nor deny the inclusion of IESnare but did agree that there was some form of third-party authentication occurring during gameplay. Citing a high graphics load and communication with Amazon Gaming servers, he condemned the company for, “collecting far more information from your system than [QC Games] have any right to.”

I myself have personally checked through every individual file in my Breach installation package, having been supplied a copy of the game for the purposes of publication. I did not find any trace of IESnare during any of my playtime, nor its launching software ‘mpsnare.’ I was unable to test its reliance on connecting to its necessary communication websites. I did, however, find a version of Easy Anti-Cheat used in game launchers as a method of deterring cheating using non-authorized 3rd party software. This version is found in games such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and has no connection to IESnare or its developer Iovation Inc.

QC Games Closes Its Doors

This was the unfortunate nail in the coffin for Breach. Whether or not IESnare was truly included in its package, the program’s history is tarnished with its invasive purpose and problematic applications. Coupled with a lackluster and dispassionate response from an otherwise passionate developer, the unchecked rumors were what ultimately killed Breach. By March its concurrent player count had plummeted to 446 players despite its second major update and continued support. Even on April 1st when the player count had dropped down to 52 users there were still published plans to continue updates. Inevitably, this was not to be.

On April 3rd QC Games announced that both its studio and Breach would be closing down. Most likely forced by its publisher En Masse Entertainment, QC Games had begun to ramp down production by the time of their posting, citing in a follow-up statement that, “[Breach] has not performed as we had hoped… The changes required to make it a successful product would require resources we don’t have.” As of April 4th all in-game microtransactions and DLC were disabled, with premium currency being removed so players could try out anything the game had to offer. Steam purchases were also disabled. As of April 30th 2019, Breach and its servers will be closed forever.

The story of Breach is one of a blind faith in itself. In splitting off from Bioware, convinced that their game could succeed, QC Games took their isometric multiplayer worldwide. This band of developers, excited in the success they knew their product could have, showed the industry what they were made of. Despite its rough-hewn edges and unintuitive design, I cannot deny that Breach had an incredible amount of potential. Sporting its own brief esports event this was a game that had the seedings to develop over time into a fully-fledged property.

This game, however, acted in such a manner, whether through including 3rd party monitoring software or the ineptitude of its developers, that it required an immediate and well cultivated response to concerned fans. Its userbase did not receive one and thus a breach of the developers own making was created. A breach which saw its player count plummet, its future decimated, and the foreclosure of a studio with a promising future.

To date Breach has sold roughly 14,000 units according to SteamSpy, not including alpha testers and those purchasing directly from En Masse Entertainment. Player counts have dropped to no more than two individual users at a time. As of April 30th the game will be shut down forever. There is little to what remains of its legacy, save some YouTube and Twitch footage of its gameplay. Breach was a game of incredible potential, but like Icarus it simply flew too high without realizing it had struck the sun.

Both QC Games and its publisher En Masse Entertainment did not respond for a request to comment prior to publication.

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WoW Wednesday: For the Children

The World of Warcraft certainly has a plethora of wild and rather out there holidays packed in to the yearly calendar. One of the more appropriate and tender-hearted events throughout the long game-year is one that tackles a topic we don’t discuss much in a world of constant warfare. Orphans. Children’s Week, or Week of the Wardens, is an in-game event to try and tackle the sensitive subject.

The loss of parents in a world of war is certainly inevitable, but that doesn’t by any means tarnish the wonder of Azeroth’s youth. Instead, most spend their time growing up in the city hoping to experience the wider world of adventure they could only dream of. Organized by Orphan Matrons Nightingale and Battlewail, heroes of Azeroth can temporarily adopt several of Azeroth’s innocent youth and show them the wider world about them.

The main draw of Children’s Week is indeed adopting your own Orphan. Starting at level 10 you can adopt your first young-one from Orgrimmar or Stormwind depending on your faction, with further being available to adopt the higher your character level is. At Level 60 you can adopt either a Blood Elf or Draenei orphan, depending on your faction, from Orphan Matron Mercy in Shattrath City. At level 72 you can adopt either a Wolvar Pup or an Oracle Hatchling from Orphan Matron Aria in Northrend’s Dalaran. With the introduction of Battle for Azeroth this year, you can now also adopt either a Casteless Zandalari or a Kul Tiran Orphan at Level 110, depending on your faction.


Each of the above orphan’s has their own particular quest chains, all of which are unique. Most simply want you to take them out to see the wonders of the world. Some just want you to take them down the street for a cone of ice-cream. Each year you can adopt all four orphans from their homes to complete their chains, each resulting in unique Battle Pet Rewards. Almost every orphan has up to four unique pets available, meaning that you could feasibly collect them all if you had four level 110 alts.

For those that have completed their collection there are pet supplies and cash rewards sprinkled through the questing (or just cash if you want to be that kind of scrooge). However, one of the achievements for the event, Veteran Nanny, requires you to obtain three of the Shattrath Orphan Battle Pets all on one character. Buying them from the Auction House will not give credit, meaning that it will take you three years of questing to complete it. Thankfully this achievement is not part of the holiday’s over-arching meta.

Like most of the Wrath of the Lich King era holidays, Children’s Week also has its series of achievements. It’s meta-achievement, For the Children, ties into the holiday meta What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been, and also awards the title of either Matron or Patron depending on your character’s gender. While most of the following achievements can be completed within a day or two however there are several that will take incredibly focused dedication to complete within the short week the event runs through.

Aw, Isn’t It Cute? is the first and most easily finished achievement on the list. Simply collect any of your available orphans and take them into the world. Complete their quest chain and get any one of their pet rewards to fulfill the requirement. While several pets can be purchased on the Auction House, this achievement can only be completed by receiving the pet directly from the questline.

Bad Example requires you to, very cruelly, eat a series of delicious and wonder deserts in front of your poor Orphan. Monster. Most can be purchased from various vendors and innkeepers throughout the world, however several require Northrend cooking to make. Most items can be purchased either from the Auction House or from Aimee in Dalaran.

Children’s Week
Daily Chores requires you to complete any five daily quests while your orphan is out. For newer players that came into Warcraft during Legion or Battle for Azeroth, Daily Chores cannot be completed through the World Quest system. Instead it can only be completed by the old Daily Quest system that persisted up through the end of Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor. If you have a particular reputation you wanted to start grinding, such as the Netherwing Flight or the Argent Tournament, now is the best time to get them started.

Hail to the King, Baby thankfully doesn’t require you to complete Duke Nukem Forever, but instead finish one dungeon. Head out to Utgarde Pinnacle in the Howling Fjord, Northrend and defeat King Ymiron with your orphan out. This can be completed with any orphan on either normal or heroic difficulty, meaning it can be a fine addition to your Blue Proto-Drake runs.

Home Alone requires you to use your Hearthstone while your orphan is out. If you, like me, prefer your fancy hearthstone alternatives such as The Inkeeper’s Daughter or the Lunar Elder’s Hearthstone these will also complete your achievement. Astral Recall does not work for Shaman, nor do the Ruby Slippers.

School of Hard Knocks is the most difficult achievement to complete on this list, simply due to current queue times on both US and EU servers and the sheer competition you’ll face. This achievement required you to perform the several following objectives in PvP Battlegrounds with your orphan out. These can be done in either rated or unrated battlegrounds.


Capturing the Flag in Eye of the Storm is perhaps one of the more difficult, simply because the others can be relatively completed without engaging in PvP. While in Eye of the Storm you’ll need to race to the center of the battleground and collect the flag from its spawn point, afterwards returning it to a base your team holds. This will be easier to perform after the first collection, as most teams will flood the center at the start of the battleground.

Assaulting a tower in Alterac Valley is slightly easier, as all you need to do is click one flag in one of the enemy team’s tower-bases. Keep in mind you’ll also be competing against forty other players on your team, so be aggressive and play wisely.

Assaulting a flag in Arathi Basin is perhaps one of the easier ones and can be completed almost immediately as the battleground begins. Simply race to the closest base from your faction’s home base and get to capping! Make sure you set your orphan out right away once you zone in, as they’ll be able to keep up with you on their own mount.

Returning a flag in Warsong Gulch is the most difficult achievement to perform, simply due to the high-speed nature most flag carriers act with in Warsong Gulch. Some good Samaritan players will often appear to drop the flag repeatedly for enemy players to collect, but this is not always the case. After an enemy flag carrier snatches your emblem, you will need to kill them and then be the first to click the flag and return it. You’ll be competing against everyone in the nearby area as there are multiple PvP achievements for returning flags in Warsong and the enemy team will want to collect their potential point.Q

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