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My thoughts on the MMO market and current game development.

This blog is mainly my opinions of current and future mmo's, what I think dev's are doing right and wrong.

Author: Pyrostasis

What happened to customer service?

Posted by Pyrostasis Friday February 22 2008 at 3:30AM
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Recently I have been going over several issues with today’s MMO's and reminiscing about old school MMO’s such as UO and Asheron’s call.

 

However, I want to cover a different topic from game design today, but ever bit as critical to a games success, Customer Service.

 

What the hell happened to it?

 

Any other business model short of dealing drugs is heavily focused on customer service and keeping your customers happy. You do this usually by meeting their needs and desires, listening to feedback, and assisting them with issues they may have regarding your product. Yet for some reason MMO’s don’t seem to follow the same rules.

 

MMO companies today can ignore customers, flat out lie to them, and if a customer doesn’t like it, simply remove their access to your product completely, and for some reason not only is this an accepted practice, we as consumers actually sign up for more!

 

THANK YOU SIR CAN I HAVE ANOTHER!

 

Let us take a look at a few examples.

 

How about Star Wars Galaxies, one of the biggest epic customer service failures to date. SOE released a new expansion and like normal fans of the game the customer base went and purchased the new expansion. Two days after the expansion was received, SOE completely changed the game, In essence making it a totally different product. Imagine playing a spell caster in game for 2 years and then one day waking up and finding out your character is now a melee as spells have been removed. 2 years of your life and your character development / story line gone.

 

Did they lose customers? Yes. Are they still in business? Yep.

 

If any other business changed a consumers product after 2 years of service with no warning there would be hell to pay, not to mention legal action taken. Obviously with the way MMO’s work patches and changes are inevitable, but there is a difference between a change, and a complete re-write. However, I’m getting off point.

 

Another SOE issue… over the Christmas holiday I picked up Everquest2 to take a look at the Station Exchange service, basically a condoned RMT / Ebay set up where you can sell in game gold and items for Real money. Sadly sony had some major issues with the service causing it to be down for almost a month and a half with 0 notice to the players other than “We will inform you once we have more information”. Weeks went by with no contact at all. I simply don’t understand how you can ignore your customers. We aren’t talking a day or two with out an update; we are talking weeks / months with out an update. We as consumers bitch and moan, but then we resubscribe, or buy the next game by the same company…why?

 

Let us look at poorly released products! In 2007 we had the wonderful releases of Vanguard saga of Heroes, Hellgate London, Fury, and Tabula Rasa. While I will say TR was more or less complete, just a poor seller, there can not be any argument that the other three titles were complete epic failures, and why? Simply because the product wasn’t finished. However, instead of giving the product more time to mature it was pushed onto the customer base to get more income to use to fix the problems.

 

Basically, we paid for unfinished products, to finance the finishing of said product. Think of it as buying a car and paying full price, then having to continue to make small payments over a series of months to get the engine, then the wheels, and if your lucky finally some doors and a steering wheel. (Assuming those weren’t cut in the process).

 

From a business perspective I understand things cost money, and at some point in time you have to cut your losses and stop spending money on something, but that doesn’t mean you the rape the customer with it. This practice has been going on since 1997 with Ultima Online and quite frankly needs to stop.

 

Companies need to manage their finances better, and release finished products, not works in progress.

 

How about Tech support and in game support. Recently many mmo’s have started outsourcing their GM’s and tech support to third parties like Alchemic Dreams. Sadly many of these third party companies don’t speak fluent English which becomes painfully obvious the second any form of interaction is needed. Not to mention the proliferation of cut and paste answers which are 50% or more not even relevant to the question you asked or the problem you’re having.

 

Can you imagine walking into Sears to get some help with a product and being sent to India to get help from a completely different company? What happened to supporting your product with knowledgeable staff members that KNOW the product! What better way to find a pool of said people than to use your own staff… but that’s just crazy talk right?

 

Recently I worked for a major internet service provider (who will remain nameless), whose technical support for DSL is now 90% located in south America or new deli. When I asked the supervisor in charge of tech support how they got away with it when it was clear there was a rather large gap in support quality, he said well it’s simple. It saves us more money to go with a third party and upset a few people and lose their business, than it would be to pay our own people to do it and make everyone happy.

 

Gotcha… so, long as we make enough money to counter the folks we piss off it’s perfectly alright. So much for building long lasting relationships with your customers and getting return business from providing a good service and supporting it with integrity.

 

I don’t know… maybe I’m just old school and nuts, but as a business man to me keeping your customers happy is your #1 priority, your secondary priority is making money. If you keep your customers happy, you’re going to have the funds to keep doing so. If you burn your bridges, it doesn’t matter how good your product is, eventually someone is going to come along and offer a similar product with better support.

 

Hopefully in the next few years we will start to see more and more smaller companies stepping in and providing better service to their customers and take the wind out of some of these multibillion dollar companies who have little to any clue on what we as consumers and customers want.

 

Personally, as a gamedev in training, I can’t wait to provide good customer service to my customers; it makes stealing business from the cold hearted corporations so easy.

grimfall writes:

I don’t know… maybe I’m just old school and nuts, but as a business man to me keeping your customers happy is your #1 priority, your secondary priority is making money.

Yes, that certainly is old fashioned and incorrect.  Businesses, particularly corporations #1 goal is making money, and it's hard to argue that it should be anything else.  Read the book "The Goal" for a really good understanding of how any for profit business should focus it's energies.

I think the funniest Customer Service moment for me, and I admit that most people didn't get the joke, was when Sony was doing research on staring up their premium server for Everquest.  One of the selling points was 'exceptional customer service'.  It;'s not every day that a company waves their sub-par customer service in the faces of their customers, but Sony did it, and to some good success.

Fri Feb 22 2008 4:18AM Report
hypereum writes:

Profit is Supreme!

That is what large corporations believe in, profit. Cheaper to have someone from a different country then to have someone in the U.S.A. And these people know little to nothing about the product, and can barely be understood.

It sickens me...

Fri Feb 22 2008 8:39AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Blizzard hands down offers the best customer service of any MMO i've played.

The fact that they have soooo many players and still get GMs within a few hours and e-mail/phone responses usually same day is amazing.

I've never had a single complaint against them.

Also, they have done an amazing job looking at the most popular 3rd party UI customizations and adding them to the standard core UI. Things like quest trackers, instant quest text, scrolling combat text, voice chat, etc.

I think they screwed the pooch on PvP, making it too much about grind and gear and all but killed the open world PvP that used to be so much fun...

But they've done a great job with Burning Crusade making raids smaller and adding heroic dungeons etc.

WoW is far from perfect, but it's definetly the best around.

Fri Feb 22 2008 10:08AM Report
Hrothmund writes:

Heerobya: I've had really bad experiences with the Blizzard customer service department. GMs who don't understand game mechanics, billing support that never answers your e-mails, double-charging of my credit card, are just a few of the bad experiences I've encountered.

So I guess we have to disagree here.

Fri Feb 22 2008 10:22AM Report
Giddian writes:

LOL. Blizzard ??? People have short memories. When world of Warcraft was released it Still had a Ton of Bugs. Looting was bugged. Lag Galore, Servers Crashing, Look at the Paladin Class. The COMPLEATLY redid that C

LOL. Blizzard ??? People have short memories. When world of Warcraft was released it Still had a Ton of Bugs. Looting was bugged. Lag Galore, Servers Crashing, Look at the Paladin Class. The COMPLEATLY redid that Character from the Start of the Game. ALL programs are released bugged. I remember Everquest, Asheron's Call Having Bugs too. Until it’s released to the Masses there is no true way to tell how the program or servers are going to react with such Mass amounts of people. It goes far beyond Games, Even Microsoft releases bugged OS's. But like sheep that we ALL are. We still buy it all KNOWING it will be bugged, and we All bitch when a Product is delayed. I know we are all dying for the Latest and Greatest Game, But to fix this issue.......... DON'T BUY THEM!!!!!!!

They don't make Money, They Try Harder and release a Better Product. Or wait till they work the Bugs out before jumping into it. Or Better Yet, Don't buy it at all. Look at the list of MMORPG's coming out. 99% of them are total Crap, but we will buy them in hopes that it might be good. Then Bitch When it isn’t.

haracter from the Start of the Game. ALL programs are released bugged. I remember Everquest, Asheron's Call Having Bugs too. Until it’s released to the Masses there is no true way to tell how the program or servers are going to react with such Mass amounts of people. It goes far beyond Games, Even Microsoft releases bugged OS's. But like sheep that we ALL are. We still buy it all KNOWING it will be bugged, and we All bitch when a Product is delayed. I know we are all dying for the Latest and Greatest Game, But to fix this issue.......... DON'T BUY THEM!!!!!!!

They don't make Money, They Try Harder and release a Better Product. Or wait till they work the Bugs out before jumping into it. Or Better Yet, Don't buy it at all. Look at the list of MMORPG's coming out. 99% of them are total Crap, but we will buy them in hopes that it might be good. Then Bitch When it isn’t.

 

Fri Feb 22 2008 11:13AM Report
wolfmann writes:

What happened? We(or players since I stopped playing) kept on paying em when they FUBAR'ed the services, launched early and basicly did everything in the book to make money without expenses... And make us pay for Alpha.

Thats what I would say most launches are today, since Alpha is where you still putt features in. Beta, you have all the features, and you need to tune/bugfix them for launch.... These days no games launch with the features..not even bugfixed the features that did make it into the game before launch...

 

And we(again, not me, since I'm not playing) still keep on paying them, and are so rabid that we would go and attack other players that dare say negative stuff about the Alpha released game and the company making it.

 

How can they NOT screw us over? We keep on paying! They can do whatever they like! Our money are theirs anyway!

Fri Feb 22 2008 11:16AM Report
mxmissile writes:

"How can they NOT screw us over? We keep on paying! They can do whatever they like!"

 

+1

Fri Feb 22 2008 3:42PM Report
Manifold writes:

most of your problems are not related to mmo's only. It's not new, and it's not exlusive. I thought it was funny you mentioned Sears. Try buying something from them and them calling Customer Service, you WILL get someone from India. Outsourcing is the name of the game in todays corporate world. Which is hilarious because companies are basically shooting themselves in the foot as people have less and less money to spend on their products so they loe money because they were trying to save money by firing people, so now they fire more people which means less money for their products. It's a sad positive feedback situation.

Fri Nov 27 2009 12:10PM Report
mysticaluna writes:

It is pretty sad, we want to support mmos and games but if everyone has bad customer service, do you buy a game that you hate playing and pay for it even though you hate it? Just to support that game having higher quality customer service?

Should we all boycott the best games and support the worst ones, because highly fun polished playable games have terrible customer service, but cheap lower end games have the best? 

I worry soe's customer service ranking is going to plummet now that they layed off like 100 people, they had A ranking in CS from what I had read, compared to Blizzard who had an atrociously low Customer service ranking for WoW. 

WoW required more having a high population of 14 million, which is why their ranking is abysmal. However, SoE might not have enough staff left to provide their cs, even with a much lower population, after all free to play increased their population, however free players aren't entitled to any customer service I think. 

Tue Nov 12 2013 5:45PM Report
mysticaluna writes:

The Everquest Legends server wasn't supposed to only be Customer Service, it was supposed to be GM's and GM Events , fun content updates above normal as they were getting paid like 3 times the subscription fee. 

However, we quit seeing any GMs around Norrath, and now they are invisible forces that you may talk to in a petition ticket, but never actually play and relate with, unlike old EQ1 where everybody knew the GM for their server. They were celebritys of their server,  not just rotated around to a cluster of  5 or 6 servers like now, when you don't know any of them because they all have to rush off and go hit up another server. 

Tue Nov 12 2013 5:50PM Report
mysticaluna writes:

Oh, and it took me 3 hrs to get through to someone on Blizzard's telephone line, so I don't call that the best customer service, sometimes it takes up to a week to get a petition answered =p. 

It can get very congested and busy around WoW. All in timing of course. 

Tue Nov 12 2013 5:51PM Report
mysticaluna writes:

I don't know much about Linux or any other operating systems, but if someone has a version of Windows Xp that can use about 36 gigs or so of RAM and provide video game developer support, that would be way better than Windows 8! 

As it is, Windows XP is still the best OS, but we all have to live with a lesser Windows 7 at the best, because we can't have the past back, and that is the exact same issue with mmos, we can't have higher CS back, we lost it and we miss it. 

Tue Nov 12 2013 6:00PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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