The Daily Grind: Should MMO customer service repair player mistakes?

    
236

In the comments of our article discussing Daybreak’s move to reduce gamemaster support for player “gameplay errors,” I was surprised to see a few of our readers shrug it off, arguing that gamemasters shouldn’t have been bothered with restoring accidentally deleted items or characters in the first place. “It’s not unreasonable for [Daybreak] to expect their players to make smart decisions and deal,” said one player. “This isn’t that big a deal,” wrote another. “Just take responsibility for playing the game and most mistakes can be avoided.” A third opined, “Heaven forbid that players should take responsibility for their own mistakes!”

In my mind, video games are supposed to be fun, not a punitive life lesson in horrific accidental misclicks, so smoothing over genuine mistakes is exactly what I’d think gamemasters should be doing — and it’s what they do in lots of other MMOs. What do you think? Should MMO customer service and gamemasters be in the business of fixing player mistakes and keeping everyone happy?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
syberghost
Guest
syberghost

melissamcdon while I agree in principle, this is an area that is certain to result in bugs, and for those bugs to be hideous economy-breakers. That means they require more or less excessive development resources, both up front and on an ongoing basis. It’s perilous territory. Tread carefully.

BigMikeyOcho
Guest
BigMikeyOcho

syberghost BigMikeyOcho FeveredDreamer As great as some of those metrics seem, there is one huge unquantifiable one in there that is missing. The “community perception” metric. How CS treats it’s customers directly affects a players decision on whether to play their game or not. The better word of mouth their CS has, the more players see it as a sign that the company believes in their game, which leads to player confidence that their efforts won’t suddenly disappear overnight. So, those players who don’t stack up in the ARPU? Helping them is still in their best interest, as it has a good effect on the overall ARPU. So those stats are nice, but they certainly don’t paint the overall picture. As was said, no game wants to be called the “Comcast of MMOs”.

melissamcdon
Guest
melissamcdon

The game itself should have a way of restoring deleted or sold items – “mistakes” are almost always of that nature.    That’d free up the devs from needing to be involved.
Devs should only otherwise assist with programming bugs.   Not gameplay at all.
One of my first/only encounters with a game GM happened in SWG.   I had a nice house out on the lake on Naboo.  But for some reason a squad of stormtroopers kept spawning on my lawn.   It was really annoying.   Finally i petitioned a GM about this problem, and their answer was priceless and correct:  “Get some rebel friends and drive them off.”   ;-)

Jeeshman
Guest
Jeeshman

What’s disconcerting to me is that they’re setting hard and fast rules to NEVER help a player recover an item or deleted character.  And their suggested solutions–“Recover the lost item through gameplay” is absurd to the nth degree.  How do I recover a quested item through gameplay, if the quest isn’t repeatable?  Players need to be responsible for their actions, but sending data to an online server is tricky and mouses are not infallible.  For a while my mouse was left-clicking randomly, and whenever I tried to drag an item from my bags onto my character it would “click” on the way there, and if the click happened outside the bags and character window the game thought I was trying to delete the item.  I came close to disaster several times until I finally figured out the problem and replaced my mouse.
My guild had an event one weekend where we all got together at one member’s house and played from there.  One player had to fly across the country to attend.  It was extremely cool to game from the same big room (small guild obviously).  Naturally, on the second day, our EQ2 server had some kind of big blowup and three guild members’ toons vanished.  We called customer service and explained that this was hands-down the worst day possible for this to happen.  They understood, but it still took 6 hours before everybody’s toons were restored from backup.  What would the CS response be today if we ran into this problem?  “Sorry, our policy is not to help with deleted characters?”  One would assume that wouldn’t be the response since the deletion occurred on their side, not ours.  But it’s not as if we had any proof that we hadn’t deleted the characters.  Even if they agreed to restore them, I’m pretty sure with the decreased funding for CS it would take longer than 6 hours.
I guess my point is, there are reasons for undeleting characters and items when the deletion was beyond the control of the player, and studios shouldn’t take an absolute position of refusing to help out.

syberghost
Guest
syberghost

BigMikeyOcho syberghost FeveredDreamer statistical averaging. It’s all about the ARPU and the ARPPU. Unless you want to make “GM concierge service” a “per-incident” cash shop item, which I whole-heartedly support.

The very top two F2P MMOs make less than $5/player/month. The vast majority of the industry, including 100% of the DGC lineup, makes less than $2/player. You tell me how much GM support that buys, considering that you are also paying for development, hardware, etc. out of that. That’s called ARPU; Average Revenue Per User. Any support that you provide to both free and sub players needs to be based on this.

Then there’s ARPPU, which is Average Revenue Per Paying User. That’s what you base your sub-only stuff on. Industry average in the North American market is over $31, but I don’t know the per-game breakdown (those Super Data reports are expensive and I can’t justify their purchase to my non-game employer, even if my boss also thinks it would be cool to know the numbers.) You can excuse quite a bit of hand-holding for that, but in an F2P game that’s a tiny fraction of your playerbase. (And the oft-spouted opinion of EQ/EQ2 players that “most people are subs” isn’t borne out by the numbers. Super Data has SOE numbers, and they don’t work out; the ARPU would be massive if most players were subbed.)

Note that ARPPU doesn’t just count subs; it counts unsubbed whales too. It’s “people who spend money”.

BigMikeyOcho
Guest
BigMikeyOcho

syberghost FeveredDreamer Define ‘loss’. If a customer is willing to stick around longer and open their pockets more because they restored a fancy digital sword that costs them nothing, that’s far from a loss.

Jeeshman
Guest
Jeeshman

sray155 I tried replying but my reply seems to have vanished into the ether; if this ends up being a repost I apologize.  Your numbers are off.  I could go to EQ2U and do the work myself to figure out an estimate of the number of EQ2 players currently playing, but I’ll work off of the web admin’s information posted here: https://forums.station.sony.com/eq2/index.php?threads/11-servers-nearly-empty-24-7.543577/#post-6011836

Everquest 2 sends its character data to a website called EQ2U.  So it’s relatively easy to find out how many characters logged in over a 3-month period.  In February of 2013, the web admin provided a breakdown of each server showing that more than 500,000 characters total logged in over the previous 3 months.  That doesn’t tell us how many players logged in during that time period, but if it’s actually 3,000 players, that means each player logged in with 166 separate toons.  Since F2P players get 2 character slots and subscription players get 8, even if we assume that every single player who logged in was a subscriber who logged in with all 8 of his/her characters, that’s 62,500 players.  That’s the low end.  The number is probably closer to 100,000, which would be consistent with comments from devs over the past 5 years.

I agree that EQ1 probably has more players than EQ2.  Consequently, Daybreak knows better than to just shut off the servers for these games, even when EQN comes out.  History has already showed that players don’t just jump ship to the sequel when it comes to MMORPG’s–EQ1 players pretty much stayed put when EQ2 came out in 2004.  Daybreak’s actions support my conclusion because it’s still going ahead with a costly server upgrade for EQ2 taking place in the next 3 or 4 weeks; player testing just started on it last Thursday.

Whoever acquires the Everquest games from Daybreak will be getting 2 games already making a decent profit, plus a new game with a lot of potential.  At most, I could see EQ2 going into maintenance mode because it has the smallest playerbase, and that’s only if the buyer mistakenly thinks its players will jump over to EQN.

BigMikeyOcho
Guest
BigMikeyOcho

I believe players are entitled to a mulligan now and again, yeah. However, customer service keeps records, if it becomes a perpetual issue with a player, they should be absolutely cut off. But we all make mistakes we regret, and it is only an MMO (not a profound tool of dispensing life lessons), so yeah, an occasional ‘whoops’ should be allowed.

Keithoras
Guest
Keithoras

Estranged … And this is precisely because of this kind of reasoning that game companies must deal with this fact: a fair amount of players won’t be honest when they contact the support/GM team. Sad but true. This is, by default, why so many support/GM teams in Free 2 Play games don’t give back deleted items. It’s all about abuse. Now I agree that on subscription-based MMO, players should have at least the right to request a deleted item/character “by error” once in a while, but not having unlimited service on this aspect, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, if Devs have the time to put in place an automated system, this is indeed the best solution possible (but how many game companies have an army of employees like the Blizzard’s one? not many, that’s a fact…)

Walpurgisnacht
Guest
Walpurgisnacht

syberghost Walpurgisnacht I think the turnover rate is high because of the low barrier of entry and the apathy towards the job (i.e. percieved value and importance). For example, I worked at a call centre for minimum wage and hated the shill management and hated having my section get sent home before the end of our shift because we “got enough surveys” or something stupid. After a few weeks of working twice a week, I decided to stop showing up without notice (the same way they repeatedly sent my section home without prior notice). On the other hand, I worked at a summer camp for the same wage and showed up Monday to Friday until the end because I felt the job was important, it was hard to get hired and I wasn’t treated like crap. I think these companies shouldn’t just accept the high turnover rate and can do more to lower it.