By Al Giovetti


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UO Customer Serice

Submitted by

Just makes me want to switch to everquest!

Hey missed you in E3 in Atlanta where we cornered Richard Garriott....

Peter DeVito wrote:

Check this out. Especially the part about the skill atrophy. I wonder if they are actually gonna do it this time.

Also From: Kevin "BCK Chanthe"Jenkins

I think it sums up nicely the experience most people have with customer service. It's more or less the same thing that happened to me that led me to quit.

Along with the new notoriety system -- I mean, reputation, fame, and karma -- only days away (and Lake Superior mirrored on the test center to see how it works), I learned another interesting tidbit. You heard it here first: no more tank mages. Yep, as I was complaining about how my hero lost Strength, I learned that maintaining skills depends on what kind of monsters you fight. I go against some pretty heavy critters but nothing nightmarish -- this is my money-making hobby, and dying, getting looted, and resurrected is not profitable. But I guess ettins and trolls aren't tough enough to keep my skills up -- I'm now 99.8 swords and tactics.

But I learned that a new skill system will make it impossible for folks to maintain high combat and magery skills simultaneously, making the game a bit more class-based. In Dungeons & Dragons, fighter/magic-users are limited by levels, skill advancement, and abilities. In Ultima Online, you can have a GM warrior and master mage. Talk about tough, huh? Well, my guess is that skill atrophy will affect either your combat or magery skill, so get ready to watch one of the skills drop. Even an armor-based modifier to magery may happen wear plate, lose 25 percent of magery. Actually, I'd prefer if they did that -- it'd keep the game truer to its skills-based design. Plate, 25 percent; chain, 20 percent; studded, 15 percent to magery. That'd keep mages in lighter armor, which makes them vulnerable to swords and arrows. But the upside: parties where specialists cooperate. An archer, a mage, a swordsman. That sounds like fun.

There are still game exploits, of course. One is a townkill bug, which I won't repeat. But here's a story of Timedancer, a master mage who helped found the player town of Rivendell on Lake Superior. He recalled to Nujel'm, "It's both beautiful and has a low population due to its conspicuous lack of stores (which I personally find to be wonderful),"Timedancer claims. He opened his bank box, transferred some keys, moved his bag, and turned and walked away. But wait: "After three to five steps, I dropped dead as if killed. A kindly player grabbed my belongings and I ran down to the Nujel'm Debtors prison to get a res from the healers often found there.

Upon returning to the bank, I was handed my goods. I quickly began to get dressed and put on my shiny GM Smith Made plate armor, but a message appeared telling me I was not strong enough to equip. My strength was 62, so I was confused. I opened my status and found I had lost 6 Str. points,10 Int. points, and 4 to 5 Dex points!" Of course, no one complains about losing Dexterity, but the worst is yet to come: a magery loss of 98.7 down to 78.

Magery is the most useful single skill, and the hardest to raise. It's taken me weeks to move from 82 to 84 magery, because it's expensive -- reagents cost and casting 8th Circle spells often results in the gassy backfire of a failed spell for me. Timedancer made his appeal to the gods: "I called a GM.

Well, after about two hours I had gotten two of those corner messages with the now-famous "Sorry there is nothing I can do" line. I was not even dignified with an appearance and chance to fully explain my situation (I assure you that my situation could not be handled fully in the one line provided). I also called Origin Systems tech support to see if there was anything I could do, but it seems to be a case of one hand not knowing what the other does, and I was told to call a GM. However, the nice gentleman I spoke with (Craig) told me that this has occurred several times and is a problem in the code, but that they can't find the common denominator that connects these events.

Now originally Origin Systems gave items and restored stats to people who complained, but it became clear people were lying about fake deaths, etc., to gain skills and stats and items. In this, the land of the virtues and avatars? So OSI did the only thing possible -- they instituted a policy where GMs may not (they can, but are not allowed to) alter stats or items.

"So basically I have no recourse of action other than to accept that through no fault of my own I was robbed of almost five months of work. OSI would take no action to correct my situation even though it was admitted to me that I was not the sole sufferer of this affliction but that *they* had not fixed it on their end but they would do nothing to replace or make good on their faulty product."

I believe that it's not a trivial task to find this bug, and I also believe Timedancer's story. But here's the rub: If OSI can do nothing about his immediate situation, what's going to happen? Timedancer feels left out in the cold. Sure, GMs have to be brief with the many users, but here's how Timedancer felt: "The 'customer service' I received (if it could be called that) was condescending and in no way was any attempt made to please me, the customer. I know of no other business that can have a product malfunction as regularly as UO does and then the company tells the consumer, well, we have the ability to fix your losses but we have a policy not to do so."

My experiences with GMs have been, with one exception, pretty damn good. But customer service is the most important part of an ongoing game, as opposed to standalone games (where it should be important but often is overlooked too). What does Timedancer suggest? "OSI needs to have a system to allow customers a chance to speak to the GMs and designers, and anyone they want to all the way up to the head people, but instead they have no phone numbers you are allowed to call (and if you do call their office they hang up) other than their basically useless tech support. And no process for redress of grievance other than quitting and letting them keep the money you, as a customer, invested."

Well, this process actually is not particularly feasible, but it is in the right direction: There was a case of an OSI employee (not a GM) who used an OSI "god client" to wreak minor havoc in the game.

People put a lot of time and money and emotion into playing UO. When they lose something that's hard-earned, they are upset. And if that loss seemed a mistake or arbitrary, that's even worse. And when there's an appeal to a higher authority, and that authority can't help, faith is shaken.

What did Timedancer decide to do? "Instead of spending another few months earning back what was *stolen* from me by the game, I will now quit, swallowing my money and pride that was spent and leaving behind the friends and enjoyment I did find in UO." Man, Timedancer had spent a lot of time creating player towns, quests, role-playing characters and more. He was a supporter of UO, a real fan. If things can happen to drive people like this away, what becomes of the rest of us?

The good news is that I don't think Timedancer quit yet. The bad news is that I can't speak for tomorrow.












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