Category Archives: Gaming and communities

A Finn convicted of WoW account theft

Thought this might be an interesting precedent: A Finnish man was just convicted in in Finland of World of Warcraft account theft, and has to pay 4000 euros in compensation to the victim of the account theft. The really interesting bit is, the compensation sum was calculated based on the market value of the account if bought from the open market. I’ve no idea what the repercussions of this are on the longer run – if my account is now worth a couple thousand, could I sue Blizzard if I lost access due to their fault?

I can’t find any English language news bits on this, will link if I do.

News at YLE, Taloussanomat in Finnish.

The other side of iTunes Store

Apple’s been getting so much crap recently about problems with developer service with iTunes that I just had to share this bit of customer service I got as a customer of the store.

I sent the following two days ago to Apple’s iTunes support:


I just had iTunes 9 ask me to reauthorize my computer after an update and was surprised that iTunes claims I have 5 computers authorized. I’m currently using 3 authorized computers total, and I know I lost 1 authorization a few years ago when I sent my Powerbook for service and the replaced motherboard caused the authorization to disappear. However I’m at loss as to where the 1 additional authorization has gone, and it’s a bit scary that I’m up to the max with just 3 machines running iTunes.

I tried an old workaround of trying to deauthorize the computer a couple times after the authorization to see if the count would have gone down, but that didn’t help.

I wonder if you can see how many of the authorizations have been used recently? I’d at least assume you might be able to notice the authorization destroyed by Apple service hasn’t been used for years, and clean that up from my count.

Thanks, Sulka

and got the following reply after a couple hours:

Dear Sulka,

I understand you are needing the computers on your account to be de-authorized. My name is XXX and I am more than happy to work with you until everything has been resolved to your satisfaction.

I have deauthorized all computers associated with your iTunes Store account. You can now reauthorize the computers that you intend to use.

… snip couple links to support articles …

In the future, if you find you have reached 5 authorizations due to system upgrades, you can reset your authorization count by clicking “Deauthorize All” on the Edit Account Information screen. Keep in mind that you can only use this feature once a year. The button will not appear if you have less than 5 authorized computers or if you have used this option within the last 12 months.

I hope this helps you. If you need further assistance or have any questions, feel free to reply to this email and I will be happy to assist. It was a pleasure assisting you Sulka. We here at the iTunes Store appreciate your business.

Sincerely, XXX, 
iTunes Store Customer Support

My expectation based on dealing with customer support of most companies was that I’d maybe get a reply a day or two later, and that I’d have to fight to get any computers deauthorized. I was slightly stunned that the issue got resolved in a couple hours and just happily went to sign in on a couple of the machines I use with my iTunes library.

Now, the real kicker was the following letter I got today:

Dear Sulka,

This is XXX, with a follow-up. I haven’t heard from you and wanted to make sure that your request was handled to your satisfaction. You’ve truly been a remarkable asset to the iTunes Store Family and as such I don’t want to leave you without any type of resolution, so if you do not respond, I will be closing this request. I hope that you continue to enjoy the iTunes Store and would like to thank you for being such a wonderful member of our family. If you find yourself with any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

Have a wonderful day!

This is the most adorable response I’ve ever got from a customer service representative, ever. Yes, it certainly goes a bit over the top telling me how wonderful I am, but I have to confess it made me warm and fuzzy inside. The contrast to the passive-aggressive letters some CS reps are sending that tell me to f*** off with my problem is just so mind-blowing that I just had to blog this. And I can assure the rep will be getting a 5/5 rating when the followup request comes in.

(CS representative name censored.)

Interesting small economic change in WoW patch 3.2

The latest big patch in WoW (3.2) implemented a change which has interesting (albeit probably small) virtual economic implications:

Players will now be able to trade soulbound items with other raid or group members that were eligible for the loot. This system will work like the Item Buy Back system and allow 2 hours for players to trade an item after it has been looted. Players who choose to enchant or add gems to the item will get one last confirmation before losing the ability to trade the item.

Prior to this, most of the better items looted from dungeons were bound on pickup, meaning the item never became part of the trade economy of the game. With the new change, you can actually loot items and barter on the item after returning from the dungeon.

From economic perspective this is a small thing, but I’m sure some users will start to take advantage of this at least in PUGs that use Need Before Greed, as you can now not only ninjaloot the item, but also blackmail someone who’d wanted the drop for more than the resale value of the item. Of course that won’t win you any friends but I can’t see that stopping people from abusing the system.

CCP FPS MMO, cool!

As reported by Lum, CCP is putting out an a console-based FPS MMO which is tied into Eve, both thematically, as well intertwined game mechanics. Gamasutra has some more details. This is very cool, and if the interaction mechanisms between Eve and Dust 514 (what an odd name?) are even remotely well done, I think it’ll be a smash success.

One detail I’m extremely interested to get to know more about is how the economic tie-ins are going to work. Gamasutra’s report states “Players in the PC MMO can “fund mercenaries and give them goals” in the console title” which indicates you can transfer ISK between Eve and Dust. What strikes me as potentially complicated is how you balance the two, given some parties in Eve can transfer megabucks, while in an FPS it doesn’t necessarily make sense to make players have more cash than necessary to handle the dude you’re playing. An obvious design workaround to this would be that you need to equip whole squads of troops with your money (burns more cash) and not get to play any personified individuals during the game, but lack of personified avatars would reduce the amount of emotional attachment to the game.

Anyway, good job CCP – hope you’ll do fine with the game.

Beyond Game Design: Nine steps toward creating better videogames

Amazon just dropped me a new book, called Beyond Game Design: Nine steps towards creating better videogames. Based on my quick reading of the book, it looks like a good reference on the current industry thinking of how games ought to be constructed. So unless you’re one of the designer types who reads everything available on games (as Richard Bartle discusses on page 119 of the book) and want an update on game design, I recommend you get a copy.

Of note, the fist chapter of the book, Understanding Emotions by Nicole Lazzarro which discusses the role of User Experience Design vs Player Experience Design seems to a useful tool when discussing design prioritization in the future.

Looking at the bleeding edge of game design research, Jesper Juul argued in this year’s GDC just a few weeks ago that the classic flow model presented in page 13 is actually not correct. He had data to support that instead of keeping players in the flow channel all the time, good games make players fail occasionally, which in turn leads to players enjoying the game more. His slides are available online, so go read those too. :)

Born too late

Boing Boing has an awesome post pointing to Coppakids, a blog that contains kids’ explanations on why they should be allowed to register after a COPPA age check has stopped them.

I’ve seen a bunch of similar messages, as sent by players as their parents, demanding their banned accounts are restored. The writing style of kids pretending to be their parents is very recognizable. A sure sign is when the writer tries to establish his/her authority in a manner that’d never be used by an adult. One very memorable email that got immediately flagged as being from the player himself started with, guess what, “I am the father of my son.” I don’t have the text at hand, but the rest was as believable as the start. :)

Reason for WAR Europe failure in one picture

I blogged about why I didn’t subscribe to WAR a couple days ago. Now that the latest subscription numbers are out, as reported by Scott, I figured I had to do a small continuation piece.

Now, when people find something new, the excitement curve goes something like this:

where we have the Honeymoon, Negotiation and Adjustment phases as defined in the theory for culture shock. How long these phases take for people online depends on the service and their level of experience that type of services, but the phasing is pretty much the same.

How is this applicable to WAR? Well, when launching a new service that depends on subscriptions, you want the user to enter his credit card number during the initial excitement phase and hope the user doesn’t cancel during the hangover before the commitment picks up again. What you really, really, should not do is what GOA seemed to with WAR in Europe:

Obviously I can’t prove anything, but I think this is the single biggest reason the subs crashed in Europe. Simple operational mistake – the players couldn’t enter their credit card number when activating the license. Which is very sad since the game is was fun.

Why I didn't subscribe to WAR

So, I never subscribed to Warhammer Online, despite my initial enthusiasm on the game. Here’s the reasons I’ve been able to identify, in no particular order:

1) The apparently last minute decision to reduce XP gains slowed leveling so much that the XP grinding felt painful. Being able to level with PvP didn’t help since my Squig Herder just wasn’t an effective class for PvP.

2) None of my friends started to play the game, part simply due to lack of a Mac client. Also myself playing on a Mac, I totally hated having to reboot to XP and hence not having access to my regular browser bookmarks and IM buddies etc while playing. Starting each game session grinding my teeth on seeing the XP logo wasn’t doing much good to the game’s immersion.

3) The pre-Wrath mega-update came out roughly at the critical decision point, and suddenly made WoW fun again.

4) Having used to having a mount in WoW, the movement speed in WAR felt pretty darn slow. I missed a few quests in some places and running back between places took too much time, considering I’m a fairly casual player.

5) I’m a rules and numbers junkie, and part of my MMO experience is trying to optimize my character to my play style. I couldn’t see the rules in WAR through the dressing and had access to very limited amount of equipment to try out, so I was missing this part of the game entirely. This combined with the fact that some of the Squig Herder abilities felt utterly pointless (such as the Squid Armor) just made me feel like a monkey triggering abilities with too little strategy. Jumping back to WoW being able to survive accidental pulls of seven mobs alone felt very liberating after spending hours very carefully pulling mobs one by one.

6) Last but definitely not least, GOA only put the credit card subscription capability live at the last minute before people had to subscribe to continue playing. Had it been there when I activated my account, I’d have entered my credit card number without hesitation. When they put it live later on, I didn’t bother to go there to enter my details, and when I got an email saying my account is frozen, I just didn’t bother. Whomever was responsible for the account system at GOA messed this up seriously, and probably cost them a ton of subscriptions.

The part of WAR I liked the most was the humor. The world is just brilliant. WoW’s torture crap makes me queasy, while most of the content in WAR made me chuckle.

I supposed if Mythic put out a Mac client, I’d subscribe immediately. The rules have now been documented much better by the players, so I suppose I’d get the hang of the game much better at this point. And or course, Wrath has been out for long enough that the honeymoon is over.