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Inside Community Relations at NCsoft

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the monkeys-on-our-backs dept.

Games 14

jkdove writes "Many citizens of today virtual worlds are often faced with challenges of not only life and limb, but of the very fabric which holds thier worlds together at the seams. When the world breaks down on you or simply feel the breath of god a bit too closely on the back of your neck, it's time to call in customer support. There are many who believe that the big companies don't listen to the hardworking, money paying customers. We were able to sit down with Rich Weil, the Online Community Relations Manager at NCsoft and hear the human side of what doesn't get said in an email from a CSR."

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14 comments

Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (2, Interesting)

sampspoon (813521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14104937)

I bought Lineage 2 a few months back because it was $10 at gamestop and well hey, $10 can't be that bad. Install the game, find out the cd key was actually in use. Wrote in a support ticket stating I had just purchased the title and that the key was in use, provided the key as well as my contact information. I knew I would be questioned and they escalated my ticket to which I never heard a response in 2 days from.
So I called in and the guy said that the cd key was actually IN USE SUBSCRIBED CURRENTLY! I was like wow, ban that jerk and then he said he'd make a ticket and I'd be in contact with someone who would provide me a new key soon. So this is day 3 and I only have 14 days to return this game.
I then get an email stating I need photographic evidence taken with a digital camera of the box, recipt and key. I don't own a digital camera or a scanner, I have 0 use for either. 2 days later they proclaimed I absolutely needed a picture and so I offered them the phone number of the store I purchased my game at as well as the purchase id, time to the second of purchase and told them the store could verify the cd key. This was not good enough for them and seeing as I live in a rural community, I'm not going to drive an hour to reach a city just so I can scan a case for a game I paid $10 for. So it went back to gamestop. I decided after that no more games from ncsoft due to their awesome support. Oh yeah and if you're wondering, yes the person that stole my cd key got to keep their account.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (3, Insightful)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14105091)

I know it sucks for them to require photographic evidence - but how do you propse the verify your purchase? I really don't think a phone number to a store to talk to someone who's identity they can't verify is a good way to lock out the account and turn the key over to you.
I realize that you were the one being screwed in this case, but it works both ways. Otherwise someone with a keygen could call them and pull the same stunt and get an account turned over to them. MMOs have to be VERY careful about deactivating accounts to to supposed key theft.
Personally I would have requested a different copy from GameStop - or for them to provide a camera to create the images to submit. After all they sold you a defective product. If they refused to do either of those than get your money back.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (1)

CTD (615278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14105294)

"Personally I would have requested a different copy from GameStop"

This matches well with the policies of most retailers who will only exchange a game that has been opened for a like title. Easy way out.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14110442)

As a former customer service droid, this was just a massive failure from a business perspective. Look at the business case here: They just spent two support phone calls (thats ~$6 an incident if they were less than 10 minutes and handled in the USA, once you add in all the costs associated with running a CS operation), lost a prospective account ($12-15 a month for an average of 3-6 months, 95% of that is profit, cost of aquisition is generally high and this was a bird already in hand), and over what? Over checking whether the person had or had not bought a box of Lineage, a game which retails for $10 (of which NCSoft will see, literally, pennies) because its older than the hills, and which they HAPPILY give away for free. For the love of little apples, CS droid, this is the sort of circumstance where you say "Sorry sir, let me clear that up for you. *alt-F6* Your new code is $RAND. Is there anything else I can help you with today?" Then you're done with the phone call in a minute, your customer walks away happy, and you GET THEIR MONEY.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14110472)

There is ZERO incentive for NCSoft to deactivate the *paying* account even if it was created using a keygen. They're paying you money now, why tell them "Take your money and leave, we don't work with pirates!" You should just tell the legitimate customer "Sorry sir, technical difficulties, your new CD key is $GENERATE_RESERVED_KEY." Fundamentally, their business model doesn't even really rely on the box sales (and certainly not for a 5+ year old game, where they see pennies on the dollar from retail): the box is only the delivery vehicle to get people signed up for the service. Its like razor handles and razorblades -- the only reason you put boxes at BestBuy/Gamestop is because it vastly increases your reach over all-Internet distribution, at least currently, and BestBuy/Gamestop expect you to charge a price that will make *them* money for new computer games (otherwise your shelf space gets given to $FPS, which will get the retailer 75% of $50 when it sells). If I was their CS manager I'd have a standing directive that we hand out keys to ANYONE who calls, no questions asked (other than the usual credit-card verification we'll do on signup, which will keep the fraud to a minimum). Whats the worst that happens? We just gave out a month-long "free trial" to someone who didn't pay their money to BestBuy... shucks, sucks to be BestBuy. If the person pays even one month worth of bills we've made money on the transaction *and the next 30 like it*.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (1)

sampspoon (813521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14112758)

Aftetr the whole incident occured I looked closer at the box and noticed the box originally had a square clear sticker sealing the case but there was a circulr clear sticker on there. Lots of sticky residue around it. The game had been bought previous and returned.

Seeing as the game is so ancient, I had bought the collectors edition because I didn't want to install off 6 cds or whatever it is plus the dvd was more updated which means less patching. I ended up having to get a full refund from the store. All I know is I will never use NCSoft software. I work tech support myself and we definitly don't treat paying customers like the way they treated me.

Re:Just thought I'd make note about NCSoft (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14108938)

I was in the open beta, you're not missing anything. The game is 10% fighting and 90% waiting for your HP/MP to regenerate. I've met one person who enjoyed it, he played on a third party server that gives 12x experience for all kills. It's one huge grindfest and from what I've read plagued with farmers everywhere nowadays.

did I miss anything interesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14107248)

Considering the HUGE problems right now in CoH/CoV land (since the launch of CoV, the support staff is apparently insanely overwhelmed, known bugs are going unfixed and un-publically-admitted for months, aid petitions take hours or days to even get a 'sorry we can't help you' response...) I was expecting there to be SOME comment in this story about the crush and the ways the support staff are dealing with this enormous problem, and how hard it can be to be IN support when you know there's a big mess and you can't catch up.

Instead it just seemed to say... well, nothing, really.

I cry BS on this supposed CSR process (2, Interesting)

Gel214th (827454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14107571)

I've played city of heroes for about 6 - 7 months now, gotten a character to level 43 of 50, another to 18 and a few more low level alternate characters.
From the time I joined, in each and every issue they have been reducing the power of the Heroes. Issue 5 was perhaps the largest single reduction in power in a game beside SWG. Defense for heroes were reduced by as much as 60% in some cases.Issue 5 altered the playstyle of the entire game, and we as players were told that

1) It was better for us
2) It was how the game was always meant to be played by the development team
3) There would be no more power changes after Issue 5, they were happy with the way things were.

Then came Issue 6.
Previously you could slot 6 enhancements in a power, and boost your power by near 200%. So you could get say 200% more damage, enabling you to tackle higher level opponents in the case of stronger character classes,or enable you to survive in a group facing +2 level opponents in the case of weaker character classes. The system was altered in Issue 6 so that you could not use more than 3 enhancements of the same type in a power. So the boost was cut from 200% to 95%. Understand, this affected EVERY single power in the game. If your 6 slotted heal was healing for 3000 before, your 3 slotted heal now heals for 1950 now. THe monsters have stayed the same, or in some cases made more difficult.

Now recall the points above, the final statement issued by develoers/CSR was that There would be no more power changes After Issue 5. Issue 6 introduced this "Enhancement Diversification" which had the final result of reducing all powers, again.

The words from the developers were that they had this working since May 2005, and were just waiting on the right time to introduce it, that Issue 5 had been totally balanced with this change in mind.

And this was the way the game was meant to be played.

Questions by an incredulous player population as to why it took over a year and a half after its release for the game to be changed to 'how it was meant to be played' have not been answered by the CSRs.Of course it also means that those game journalists that gave the game stunning reviews were actually not playing the game 'The way it was meant to be played'.

There was an outcry over Issue 5 (Though most were able to adapt and enjoy it) and now Issue 6. There have been long threads on the official message forums, some of which have never gotten a developer response. You would expect, if you believe the spin from this interview with the NCSoft CSR, that we the paying customers would get a response,even if someone responds with a Negative, "We hear what you're saying, but we are not going to change anything at this time because..." for threads that have been running for months with over 6000 views and hundreds of responses, and several PMs to the message board CSR,especially since the subscriber base and board population of CoH is nothing close to the larger MMORPGs. Less people to deal with, should enable quicker responses and a closer community. Each Archetype for CoH has only just gotten a dedicated CSR point of contact, and some are more active than others in responding to player questions and queries.

I'm opinionated and quite vocal (what? you couldn't tell ? ;-) )when I feel passionately about my hobby, and I must say that I really got into CoH (Truly it has no competition in the Superhero Genre) even going so far as to write up an extensive guide for other players (with graphs, a true geek moment ack *_* http://tinyurl.com/bzb7m [tinyurl.com]) .So I participated in a lot of these threads.I was going to post a link to the Issue 5 thread as an example, but I see it has been deleted so here's another example:

Another issue is that City of Heroes hides the numbers behind the game. The game uses words like Moderate, Slow,Long to describe powers. However people have accurately checked the numbers using 3rd party stats gathering software, and moderate for one power means 8 seconds, and moderate for another power means 1000s,and then we have the lovely word Long meaning 20s in some cases and 90s in others.
No kidding.

So we started a thread saying since this major Issue 6 change, we should have access to the base numbers behind the game, since with diminishing percentages in the 4th, 5th and 6th slot they've just taken away the 'simplicity' of the game and made it so that they need to show what this diminishing percentage is: As A Number.

But a %Number of an Unknown is an Unknown, so if we don't know what 95% defense means,it's really pointless showing us the 95% figure.For a player,does it mean if I spend 200,000 infl on enhancements (which would take quite a few hours of play to collect) that I will have 95% defense? NOPE! It's 95% MORE Defense, but we have no idea what that Defense number is. For example:
It actually means you will have 2.5 x 1.95 ~ 5% defense in one case.Is that worth 200,000 Infl? Put to a player that way they may rightly spend their influence/cash on another power that will give them more benefit or skip that 2.5%Defense power totally.

The casual player can easily be mislead, and will be out of a serious amount of cash before they realise their mistake!

Is there anyway for someone to know this ahead of time without checking the message boards, messing with third party statistics programs to get the Numbers etc.?

Nope.

The thread that deals with this is still up here http://tinyurl.com/d9vhv [tinyurl.com] it has 5,010 views and over 100 responses.

Yet not one response from a CSR rep, or the development team. It has been on page 1 of the Training Room Test Server forum for quite a while as it is being bumped occasionally, the CSR Reps have been Private Messaged and said it would be passed onto the developers for a response. Not a word.

So forgive me if I call Spin, marketing, and PR on this article by NC Soft. Now if one were to interview a Marketing/PR person,and they extol the greatness of these departments in NCSoft I would say kudos, they're doing a fabulous job! Not one single review of City of Villains has addressed the fact that players who use ATI graphics card experience VERY poor framerates compared to Nvidia cards. The response to this issue from the CSRs has been that it is known, and was known before Issue 6 was released, but it is ATI's problem and there's no timeframe for any fix.

So how's that for Customer Service?

Re:I cry BS on this supposed CSR process (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14108984)

How useful are numbers really? I mean, if you know you have "163 strength", what does that mean? Only people who look up the calculations involved know what that means anyway (except the "more is better" bit, obviously). Many console Rail Playing Games have numbers for everything but they are almost meaningless because you don't know what they mean. What happens when your magic defense goes from 30 to 35? Is that linear, logarythmic, is it subtracted from another number, what? D&D games often hand you the ruleset at least.

Re:I cry BS on this supposed CSR process (1)

Gel214th (827454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14109422)

I could explain the reasoning for this, but it's straying from the point. The post was in relation to CSR response, the claim of an integrated network of listening and responding to the playerbase made by NCSoft. I gave two examples when a response was sought by customers, promised by CSR staff, and never delivered. The post was also to show the contradictions and downright disingenuous responses (in my view) by the CSR staff and Dev staff (would they be one and the same in the case of CoH?) in certain instances. So I cry PR and SPINNN on the interview ^_^. I'm just speaking up because I've sunk quite a few hours and dollars into CoH which is an NCSoft game, and I'm not happy with the CSR support so far. Posting patch notes and patch reports from the development team isn't CSR. CSR is taking the user's concerns and then responding directly to those concerns online. Good CSR is not just posting an agreement with the happy go lucky posts and having a good time with the Fanbois, and ignoring the people having problems or who are dissatisfied, in my opinon ;).

Too many nerfs (1)

cove209 (681558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14111776)

I quit CoH a few months ago after one too many nerfs. Their dev team pretty much does what they want to, damm the customers.

We'll see how long it takes their customer base to drop below their break even point.
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