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Special Report, Part II

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Horizons: Special Report, Part II (Page 2 of 3)

Act Two, Scene 2

Umbrage was taken by several over our comment about the original billing page being over an insecure http connection instead of an encrypted https connection, and EI’s seeming dodge of the question.

Current player “Steelclaw” was one of the first to bring up the issue of the original insecure billing page, and contacted us again to report that EI Interactive’s Savage Eden billing page was still insecure (found here), which we investigated and found to be true. As of this date, it is still hosted on a http page rather than encrypted https page.

One of the fortunate few not to have encountered a billing issue due to a long term subscription still in effect, he had this to say about the entire billing issue.

“In general, I think they did a fair job of trying to get the word out – it was just on short notice (I don’t think they had much notice either). The re-subscription process itself was what was poorly executed.”

In his opinion EI Interactive could have taken some simple steps to ease the situation, steps which we concur.

  1. Take down the insecure site immediately.
  2. Acknowledge the problem and give assurance to the community that steps were being taken to ensure the security of their financial information.
  3. Work with the community, instead of fighting it. EI Interactive made moderation of the forums and IRC a higher priority resulting in an even louder uproar and more upset customers.

However, Andercheck defended his company’s actions, while acknowledging that there were problems.

“To the best of my knowledge any change that went through has been instantly reversed,” Andercheck told us during a recent interview. He told us that they have had someone at their company vigorously pursing every request they received.

“Every customer that has asked to cancel has been canceled and every customer who has asked for a refund has received a refund,” he said emphatically.

The Player Community

One of the hallmarks of MMOGs is the player community. They are often an indication of the strength and staying power of an MMOG. From a casual glance at a game’s forums, new players often can and will make decisions on servers to play on, or if they will even adopt the game. Are the forum denizens friendly and welcoming? Is there a good dialogue between developers and players? Are important issues taken care of?

One of Horizons:Empire of Istaria’s strength was the loyal player community. The official forums were moderated by volunteers and communications flowed both ways.

After the takeover by EI Interactive, the open communication stopped and the community stifled. At one point in time, in the dark days of the billing debacle, without any official word from EI Interactive, they even turned on each other, resulting in heavy moderation.

Stephen “Dotcher” Veiss worked with GamersInfo.net who provided marketing services for Tulga Games. He was instrumental in working on the new community website and was responsible for site updates and maintenance. When GamersInfo began providing community support for Horizons in May of 2006, he continued maintaining the community site but also ran the occasional in-game event and offered support to the players via the news page, forums and IRC.

Shortly after the takeover, his community account was banned and later deleted.

“The forum software supports banning a user, which would have left my posts in the search index,” Veiss explained. “Instead, they chose to remove my account, along with many of my posts, severely restricting the ability to search for those posts that remain.

“EI do not seem to be aware of the value of the community website or forums at all: there have been a total of five news posts since the sale, a smattering of forum posts, and the automated website maintenance script has not been run in months.”

“Given this, I would have to speculate that they are either unaware of the value of the forums as a resource for players, incapable of using the forum administration tools, or simply uncaring when it comes to the needs of the community.”

To date, registration is still disabled on the official forums. Current community members ask for the reopening of the forums to no avail. New players that have created accounts in order to post on them managed to do it by filing trouble tickets in game.

Dr. Raymond Rask’s post from August 24th seems to sum up EI Interactive’s stance toward community chatter:

“We have reduced the minimum number of characters in a posting to 25 from 50. The reason for the minimum (I would still prefer 50) is so that the posts contain something real to read, rather than one or two word comments, or chat type posts. I recognize that sometimes there might be very few words to say, but one, two or three word posts are not really that interesting and many times are just chatter.”

The accounts of “shard heralds” – volunteers who reported on the happenings on their servers - have also been removed with the same results.

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Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com 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.