There was a time when it seemed every company wanted to compete in the MMORPG market, which is currently dominated by Final Fantasy XIV. When something is so successful, it’s understandable why developers want to compete and attempt to take a slice of that pie.
I’ve been following the news of Bandai Namco’s MMO, Blue Protocol, since its reveal in 2018. Information about the game was scarce for a while, but ahead of its release in Japan, we were eating well on development updates. Sadly, the Global release has been delayed to 2024, but I decided to use my understanding of Japanese to put together an early Impressions for you all. However, fate had other plans.
Shortly after release, several emergency maintenance periods were performed due to players being unable to login in. In fact, the onslaught of logins was so great that even the Bandai Namco ID service itself was overloaded. This isn’t too uncommon, and I’m practically used to this from seeing gacha game releases have emergency maintenance due to the incredible amount of players.
The maintenance cycle continued for a few days, with the game being on and off. Still, when it worked, I managed to play through the game’s tutorial and initial chapter, finding it captivating with its anime-style cutscenes and unique systems. That is, however, until June 17.
After 2 to 5 minutes of being logged in, many users, myself included, were starting to error out, with the code in question saying that “this computer or account has been found in a confirmed violation of the Terms of Service. Further play will now be suspended”, with a link to the Bandai Namco Support Center and the confirmation button closing the game. You could log in again after that, but it would constantly kick you out afterward.
At first, players were confused as to why the error suggested that they were banned until finding out the possibility that it was caused by an anti-cheat software known as Xigncode3, which is used in other MMOs. Similar to software like Denuvo, it buries itself into the kernel of your operating system and scrubs your PC occasionally. However, what sort of information it sends back is still largely unknown, but many believed this software was misfiring and causing it.
Later on, it was found that if you deleted the temporary files, the error would no longer appear, so hooray! Crisis averted, right? Well, not quite. After four hours had passed since players discovered that “solution,” numerous reports surfaced where another error popped up, but this time on the title screen. This error had a more direct message, saying that your account was suspended due to a confirmed violation of the Terms of Service.
Unfortunately, my account also fell victim to the so-called ban wave (as seen in the image above). Fortunately, I was lucky and did not spend money, but I have heard that some players spent real money only to have their accounts banned. Now, I’m not going to say that Bandai Namco is in the wrong here, especially since, as some people have pointed out, their Terms of Service do seem to clearly state that this Japanese version is meant to be for players living in Japan only, which is incredibly fair. It’s not like they’re the first to implement such a thing.
For example, the Japanese version of SEGA’s Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis has one such lock. If you attempt to access it with a foreign IP, it will just boot you with a connection error, saying you could not connect to the servers. Naturally, this can be circumvented with a VPN, and I know several players who’ve been doing this and playing the Japanese version for years without a warning or ban. There was an entire community around it, but that’s beyond the scope of this current article.
What’s confusing is users with and without a VPN were seeing the same prompt. Further, even some Japanese users were affected, too, with some rumors stating that all it took was matchmaking with a foreign player.
I should add that I’m not saying all this to blame any party for this, but, unfortunately, the solution was simply a ban wave. We’re in 2023, and region locks should be a thing of the past, especially since many overseas players like me want to play the Japanese version and maybe make new online friends. But this whole event has minimized any hope of playing this release at launch.
There’s so much to look forward to in this adventure, but we’ll have to wait until 2024 to experience it.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.