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Artifact Entertainment | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 12/08/03)  | Pub:Virtrium
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General Article: The EI Catastrophe, Part I

By Carolyn Koh on October 27, 2006

Horizons: The EI Catastrophe (Page 3 of 3)

The winds of change has not blown kindly for EI Interactive, Tulga Games nor for the players of Horizons:Empire of Istaria. The problems with billing that were evident in June and July before EI Interactive purchased Horizons escalated into a many-headed Hydra and silence from EI Interactive in the early days of the takeover only acerbated the issue.

On September 14th, was able to reach EI Interactive, and Ed Andercheck refuted the allegations of what he called "a vocal minority that wish us ill."

We asked Mr. Andercheck to comment on allegations that the original billing system was over a regular http instead of https protocol and therefore insecure, he said, "That is completely false. At no time was private information of customers available to the scrutiny of outsiders."

In fairness to MR. Andercheck, we contacted him again via email to ensure that he did not misunderstand the question. The question and answer were as follows: Basically, the http vs. https thing is a matter of public fact viewed by us, scores of customers and websites. I wanted to know if you misunderstood what specifically she was asking about when you said that and if you have anything else to add.

Andercheck: I thought my response was to the question, was our customer's financial information compromised? To that point we responded: "That is completely false, we have no log of any customer confidential information being accessed illegally."

Mr. Andercheck informed us that there were also allegations that their servers were hacked, and he assures players that their system was never hacked and that their system logs do not show any hacking attempts.

"We will do everything to protect our customers' information," declared Andercheck. "During the entire difficult situation, we have been providing email and direct contact, including an 800 number call-in through our vendor."

"I recently saw a request that goes back nine months. We have been vigorously trying to solve problems and are putting in a major effort to straighten all those kinds of issues."

In regards to what seemed to be lengthy days of silence without official communication from EI, Andercheck added, "We were always in communication with our subscribers on our website, via direct email and in IRC chat."

Andercheck spoke of process and procedures and indicated that subscribers always had direct contact with EI via the trouble-ticket system and their response in a timely manner, although he did admit to some delay due to volume.

He also referred to the large amount of rumor and noise on the internet in regards to their take-over of Horizons. "There's a large group of people lying aggressively and I can't help you with malicious lies." The change in billing systems, which created a lot of these initial issues, was done quite quickly. Could you tell us what prompted you to change systems with such haste? Andercheck: The credit card vender management made a unilateral ruling that they needed to close the Tulga company billing system and account identification because we bought the game not the company Tulga. So there was no way we could avoid a billing data transition of some type on August first.
When asked if there was a message we could convey to the players of Horizons: Empire of Istaria, Andercheck has this to say, "We are very much interested in helping the players of the game. I think we have a small mature community and great group of players. None of these players have issues you read about on the forums. It is only a very vocal minority who wish us ill.

"I personally welcome and look forward to communication with our players - by email or private messages or chat in game. I am very much In favor of one-on-one communication where I may be able to be helpful in the process. We're open and I listen a lot."

The play hasn't ended yet. When the curtains opened, actors were stumbling and cues were missed. The drama continues as we checked the Better Business Bureau reports on EI Interactive and compared them to other MMORPG*** developers.

The BBB of Middle Tennessee report them as "unpursuable".

To date in mid-October, the official forums are still closed to new registrations which mean that new players are unable to participate in the official community of Istaria. News updates are sparse on the official site. The last three pieces of information dated July 23, August 23 and October 14.

What can we expect in the next Act? Has the curtain re-opened yet?

Endnotes: As indicated by a star in the article.
    * - https is a web protocol adding an additional encryption/authentication layer and is often used for security-sensitive communication, such as payment transactions.

    ** - Nagafen is a named dragon in the game EverQuest - Dobbins would have been better served to have chosen one from Horizons. Gemenoth, Drulkar or Helian would have been more appropriate.

    *** - Companies checked were: Artix Entertainment (makers of Adventure Quest), Three Rings Design (makers of Puzzle Pirates), Turbine, Blizzard and SOE - the grand-daddies of MMORPG related complaints if there were any if only due to sheer number of subscribers.

3 pages
Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.