This could happen to you (and maybe has already)

This week’s big SWWTTOR fiasco is … well, it’s like a menu, so much to choose from and no idea what you’re in the mood for.  But the one that I am most interested in is not the server merges or fear, loathing, and angst associated with that (depending on your venue). What concerns me is the now-resolved story of Battle Chicken’s abrupt, unexplained ban from SWTOR (Start HERE. Continue HERE. Conclusion HERE.).

If you haven’t the patience to read that much (and if not, how do you put up with MY blatherings?) then here is a précis:

  • Battle Chicken (henceforth known as BC) gets banned from STWOR for hacking.
  • BC professes undying hatred of hacking and complete innocence.
  • Mail droid responds, "We’re pretty sure you’re a hacker, go away for a week."
  • She responds "Can you tell me what might be causing this false positive?"
  • Mail droid responds, "We’re pretty sure you’re a hacker, go away for a week."
  • She responds "Can I at least talk to a human being in order to resolve this to my satisfaction?"
  • Mail droid responds, "We’re pretty sure you’re a hacker, go away for a week.  By the way, please take this survey to tell us how well we resolved your issue. Hacker. ((I may have made that last little bit up.))"
  • After a few days of this, impassioned blog posts, cries of outrage from the bloggerati, and possibly one or two droid uprisings (squelched, of course), she gets a real response.
  • BIOWARE HUMAN: "HURR, OUR BAD. SORRREEEE. Please to be making the evil internet demons go away now?"

The contributing factor to this is that known "hacker signatures" are guarded as if they were made from gold. If you tell someone you know they were hacking the system due to such and such a pattern in memory, for example, a hacker could use that information. "I must make my program not look like that", he muses, as he twirls his mustache. ((Indeed, it could be a she, as well, but the moustache creeps me out. Don’t judge me.))

Thus, customer service, even if it were capable of conveying that level of information accurately (which I have my doubts about, no matter what company), is told not to because it would give the bad guys a leg up in the arms race that is MMO client security.

Thus, "you are a hacker, we won’t tell you how we know, but we’re right and you’re wrong, even if we can’t write a game client that won’t crash on a bog standard NVIDIA chipset motherboard, we’re always right."

Guilty until proven innocent, as she said, but in this case – you don’t even get the chance to prove your innocence.  Case closed. Talk to the droid.

Her experience is a wakeup call.  It’s also an outlier. For every case that resolves this way, I bet you a dollar and a bag of lutefisk that there are at least ten that ended badly for the customer.

This is not just on BioWare or EA, though. Light knows they’ve been drug through the mud over this, but they are not exceptions in an otherwise excellent customer service experience in the general world of MMOs.

I’m looking at YOU, Blizzard.

If I put to puter every case I am personally aware of, you’d be here all night.  For example:

  • One of our guildies lost ALL of his toons on one account to a botting banhammer. Did he get told why? No, he did not. Did the other two accounts he had on the SAME COMPUTER get banned? No.
  • Don’t name your pet fox "Fawkes". It will get renamed to "Fox" and you won’t be allowed to change it back, nor told why. And you’ll be asked to take a survey to express your satisfaction with how the ticket was handled  ((I may not have made that part up.)).
  • Back in Vanilla, people were getting banned for having specific keyboard drivers because the "Warden" program determined it was a bot.
  • In fact, I think bringing up "Warden" on the forums would get you banned at one point, no explanation.  In Soviet Russia …

Change "Blizzard" or "WoW" out for "BioWare" and I’m sure it would fit right in. Change BC’s issues with BioWare into a WoW case, and, again, it would play out exactly the same.

Bioware’s wakeup call is Blizzard’s, as well, though Blizz has already gotten plenty of them.  I’m not sure they’re doing more than hitting the snooze button, though. Time and time again they’ve shown a tone deafness to customer support and common-sense human relations issues. They’ve previously shown a paranoid, no-quarter-given attitude on account bans. I wonder how long before Battle Chicken’s tale finds its own counterpart in WoW?

I guess what I’m saying here is, for once, EA isn’t any more at fault than any other paranoid MMO Customer Service organization. Light knows I wanna hate on them – they stole away several friends of mine, after all – but I prefer my hating to be honest hating.

In closing, I’d just like to say that I’m very happy that Battle Chicken’s ordeal ended on a positive note.  A much welcome change from business as usual, yes?

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Blizzard, Blogosphere, Meta, We're not in Azeroth anymore. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. As one of the bloggerati who added my small voice to the generalized internet hollering, I’m both pleased and annoyed that our hollering actually worked. Pleased because it was resolved once an actual person looked at it – and that they are listening to feedback. Pissed off beyond belief that they ignored and gave an auto-response to the feedback that mattered – that of the consumer in question – and only responded to the “feedback” of an overwhelming blammo from the interweb.

    What if you don’t have a blog or blogger friends? Then what do you do? I’m guessing you try a few times, feel helpless, and then say SCREW IT, and decline to give Bioware your money anymore.


    • @Njessi – you’re hitting on something I kinda pussyfooted around. In some ways it sounds like I’m saying HA HAH IMA BLOGGER I HAFF A MAGAFONE which is entirely not the thing I’m looking to say!

      Working at a place that emplloys over 100 people to handle help desk calls from mere thousands of installed sites, I can only IMAGINE the volume at a place like BioWare or Blizz. Yeah, some level of automation is needed. But I think they need to lower the threshold JUST a smidge.


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