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Customer Service

29 May

At one time, not long ago, a company would bend over backwards in order to make sure the customer was happy.  Because if the customer was happy, it was a guarantee for the company that customer would repeat business with that company.  That ideology has changed a lot in recent years.

This is especially prevalent in the video game industry.  The video game industry already has a huge number of problems, the first and foremost being a long list of -isms that it doesn’t really seem to be able to figure out how to solve, or simply doesn’t realize it’s a problem.  That aside (and it’s difficult to set that aside, because that’s a huge elephant in the room), the video game industry has another problem.

I know I’ve gone over time and time again about my enjoyment of one particular video game, and I honestly don’t wish to name drop and point fingers, but there are times when a company has to be held accountable.  That company in this case is Cryptic Studios.  They aren’t alone in this, as people have had massive issues with EA in the past and many other game publishers and studios.  Granted, Cryptic is merely the game developer owned by Perfect World Entertainment.  I can tell you, it’s not such a perfect world.

Cryptic has four games under their belt, all within the MMO market.  They developed and launched City of Heroes, then sold off their share to NCSoft and the studio Paragon Studios handled development.  Since then, City of Heroes has had life support cut by NCSoft.  It was a good game, don’t get me wrong, it had a lot of loyal fans which a small amount of searching will show.  But Cryptic struck off to do their own thing which was develop their own game (sort of).  With the licensed product of Hero Games’ Champions pen and paper game, Cryptic went ahead and began working on their second super hero MMO.  Which went fine.  Later, they acquired the rights to produce a Star Trek MMO.  Currently, they have launched a Dungeons and Dragons MMO called Neverwinter, which initially gave many players warm feelings about Neverwinter Nights, developed by Bioware.

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Before I go on, I need to say this right here and now.  I do enjoy Star Trek Online.  But you can enjoy something and still be aware of how problematic that thing is, or how problematic the group or company who owns/distributes/creates that thing is.  People can enjoy a television show while still recognizing that it’s incredibly misogynistic (Game of Thrones, for example), racist, homophobic and so on.  Or even how misogynistic, racist or homophobic the developing team/creative department is.  And that’s where I sit; I really enjoy Star Trek, but Cryptic Studios is the worst company.

In defense of Cryptic, I don’t accuse them of being misogynistic, racist or homophobic.  I’ve never heard devs or artists or management within Cryptic say anything like that.  They are, however, horrible when it comes to customer service.  At present, they are running three MMOs; Champions, Star Trek and Neverwinter.  Two of those IPs (initial properties) are much bigger and have a bigger fan base than one of the others.  No offense to Champions, but it has a long way to go to eclipse either Neverwinter or Star Trek.  Because of that, new development in Champions has laxed a lot.  The driving force of a game, especially an online game, is more content at a reasonable time frame.  Champions (or Cryptic’s) idea of new content is small alerts that take no more than fifteen to twenty minutes and have no repeat value except for grinding to get more loot.  There’s been no additional story content since they made major changes to the Westside arc which happens to be low level content.  So Champions has basically been kept on the back burner with a large group of players who are feeling rather left out in the cold.

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This began when Star Trek launched.  Cryptic released content for Champions and then began their focus on Star Trek Online.  And it’s been that way even when they launched Neverwinter.  When you’ve got two really good stallions in the stable, why do you pay attention to the mule in the corner.  I can’t say much about Neverwinter, except what I’ve mentioned in a review before.  I played the game for all of two days and then became extremely bored with it.  However, this discussion has less to do with the content of a game, and more to do with those who maintain it.

Since beta testing and launch of Neverwinter, the servers for Cryptic have been, at best, mediocre.  There have been constant crashes and near daily emergency service patches to each game.  Since Legacy of Romulus came down, it hasn’t gotten any better.  The three games are set up on their own servers, however, there’s only one gateway to get into those servers.  Think of it like a shopping mall with three really big brand name stores, all three are popular, and all three have good layouts, lots of lighting and decent areas to find what you need.  The only problem being is that all three stores have only one door to get into all of them.  Just one door.  No double doors, no bank of doors that might have three pairs of doors.  Just one.  When people flock to these stores, they run into the problem of getting inside.  And once they’re inside, there’s still more problems.  The lights flicker in certain areas, there’s no proper labeling on some of the merchandise, there’s no staff to help customers.  This is what Star Trek Online is like, and lately it hasn’t been once in a while, it’s been so common you could set your watch to it.

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Easy solution, right.  Get the problems fixed and move on, right?  You’d think that would be the solution, but it’s not.  During these outages (some scheduled, many more not) emergency patches are released that are often 130 meg in size.  And the things that were broken before the game crashed, well they’re still broken.

The common feeling among the player base is that Cryptic, and Perfect World, just doesn’t care.  They’ve got the customer’s money, and that’s all that matters.  They don’t care about helping the player base.  Especially the player base that are lifetime subscribers or monthly subscribers.  They’re more content with just taking the money, and if anyone disagrees with them and the way they operate, then they don’t care.  The Better Business Bureau has even given Cryptic Studios an F out of the usual A+ to F system.  The BBB does note that Cryptic Studios is not an accredited business and is under no obligation to become an accredited business.  Since 2010, however, the BBB has listed 49 complaints that have been filed with them, and of those only 9 resolutions to complaints.

Yet, it seems Cryptic Studios, and to an extent Perfect World, really doesn’t care.  As a side note, Perfect World Entertainment, which is the parent of Cryptic Studios, was also given an F by the Better Business Bureau.  Perfect World is also not accredited by the BBB, and is under no obligation to do so.

I’ll more than likely still play Star Trek Online and Champions Online.  I’ve got memberships with both, and both lifetime, so no more need to pay more money.  I just feel like Cryptic took my money and then didn’t care about giving proper customer service.

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Life, randomness

 

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