World of Warcraft:
Dropping the Ball

 By Shamus Jul 3, 2008 45 comments

My experience with Blizzard has been flawless so far, but that is not true of everyone. Blizzard: You guys screwed up here. You were insulting, vague, and unhelpful. You at least owed him an explanation, as all the guy did was try to buy your damn product.

I didn’t have any problem upgrading my trial account. But then, I upgraded from trial to full copy in just two days. I picked up Burning Crusade a week later. I was able to download both without needing to muck about at the store.

Having said that: When I download software from you guys I don’t expect to need to step through a half dozen patches once I do. Shouldn’t the version you give me be up to date in the first place? Barring that, can you at least automate it so that all the patches will download overnight? Every time an update finished I dumped me back to the launcher, and I had to log in again to get the next one. Asinine.

Once the game is running things are all unicorns and sunshine, but getting into the thing is more hassle than it needs to be. Odd that their failures happen when dealing with potential customers instead of existing ones. Usually it’s the other way around.


20205Feeling chatty? There are 45 comments.


  1. The Lone Duck says:

    Yup. Penny Arcade did a comic about the annoying patching process. Definitely annoying, though if you bought a boxed copy, there’d be no way around part of it.
    Here’s the afore-mentioned comic.
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/6/21/gremlins-are-a-rich-source-of-gremlinium/

  2. Yeah, that patching thing was super annoying.

    After the first patch finished I was like “All right! I get to play now!” but no… I logged in, and it would dump me back to the desktop for anther 30 minute round of downloading and patching.

    I figured it will be at it for a while, so I went to grab something to eat. I came back half an hour later, and saw the update was done. I quickly logged in, eager to play the game and BOOM! Back to desktop – there is another mandatory 40 minute download.

    Why couldn’t they streamline all the patches into a single download is beyond me. And the fact they make you log in between each patch is just stupid.

    But yeah, I am currently not playing the game because the Blizzard customer service things I’m some sort of evil dirty gold farmer who wants to hax their servers. Or something like that. I don’t know – they didn’t tell me. All I know is that they won’t let me pay them unless I go and buy a box to prove I’m legit. And then maybe… Just maybe they will allow me to play if I ask nicely. Screw that. :(

  3. Z!re says:

    I recently upgraded from trial to full burning crusade without any problems.
    It’s probably an issue with the trial account being “old”.

    Though I’m not sure why Blizzard think that’s a problem… If someone want to upgrade a trial account, I see no reason to stop them.

    Also, you can disable the background uploader/downloader if you find the gremlin that annoying.

    I think Shamus was commenting about the fact that if you buy the game, and download it from their website, they give you an ancient version that require almost 2GB worth of downloads to get up to date.

    And then you install The Burning Crusade, which rolls everything back again ensuring you go through more patching happiness.
    Whoever thought this was a good idea should be promptly fired, or shot.

  4. Veloxyll says:

    You’d think they’d add the patch on to the end of the main game download. that’d be the sensible thing to do, so when you DL the game, it’s all patched up.

    Course, blizzard’s customer service re: wow is notoriously sketchy

    And yeah. Burning crusade re-patches your game back to 2.0. The system is v SmrT!

  5. Kevin says:

    “Odd that their failures happen when dealing with potential customers instead of existing ones. Usually it’s the other way around.”

    I’m thinking this is one of the reasons for their success. Not that new people would have problems — that needs to change. But that existing customers feel taken care of. Many businesses fail to make the realization that 90+ per cent of their income comes from repeat customers. The difference is likely even more extreme in WoW’s case. Plus, those happy customers are really the ones bringing in new folks anyway. You yourself Shamus, were willing to pay for two boxed sets and sit through however many patches based not on what Blizzard said about its product, but what you knew from folks who had played it. (Now I’m gonna go read the link and see how they screwed that other guy!)

  6. Factoid says:

    As a person who occasionally creates software distribution packages, I can understand why their downloadable copy is not 100% up to date (though it’s far less excusable from a company that probably makes 100 million dollars a month off subscription fees).

    It takes time to build those packages, and with some utilities (like installshield) sometimes you have to pay to re-license the installer software every time you issue a new build. It’s expensive and time consuming. It’s also an additional layer of quality assurance which slows down the patch process.

    So it kind of depends on licensing and QA time to some extent. Not every installer software requires you to pay for each new build, and I won’t pretend I even know what Blizzard uses, but it definitely requires more QA, and a tech who understands the black art of installer packaging.

  7. ClearWater says:

    30 minute download? Ha! From my part of the world it’s more like a 30 hour download.

  8. Nick says:

    Yes, the Blizzard downloader. Blizzard’s attempt to give out hefty patches without, you know, paying for it. It either attempts to scale my download to my upload speed which anyone with cable will tell you our upload speed is horrible, or try to upload more than you download thus choking your internet by swallowing all your upload and causing all downloads to fail.

    There’s a reason I have a fileplanet subscription.

  9. Derek K says:

    @Factoid: I understand your point.

    But Blizz could simply make a launcher that installs the main installer, then grabs the current 2.0 to 2.XXX patch out there, and installs it.

    I’ve come to accept the “Here, download our game. Oooooh, sorry, it’s a year out of date” bit, but it annoys me every time.

  10. Dreamer says:

    [longrant]

    I’ve heard a plethora of bad stories about how terrible World of Warcraft is with shutting down accounts for little or no reason in back in my days of addiction. Anything from a strange lag that made your characters skip ahead slightly faster than everyone else (And reporting it to the support people so he wouldn’t be accused of hacking) to a mentally and physically stunted kid being booted off because he was using a special keyboard and joystick so he could play…

    I’m sure there’s plenty more stories floating around, but I’m betting Blizzard diligently ignored these gaps in their customer service and anti-hacking department, because fixing it would cost too much money – And we all know Blizzard isn’t making quite enough to cut it, now-a-days! And I bet they don’t even pay taxes…

    The sad truth is that those few customers they lose don’t matter to them. What’s $15 a month if you’ve got 16.517 billion subscribers paying the same amount? Heck, if that customer you threw down the shaft pays you another $80 and starts coughing up the subscription fees again so they could play, why shouldn’t they throw more people down the shaft?

    Blizzard is still making their money. As long as customers keep playing, they won’t change any of those “small things” when a new expansion needs to be made so people will spend more time being addicted. They certainly made the near-perfect game, but it’ll only take so long until someone makes something as good or better without the hassles Blizzard has puttered around with. I wish they’d hurry up with it, though.

    [/longrant]

  11. @Factoid – you know that may be the reason why they don’t slipstream it into the main installer.

    Another reason may be that this could potentially split their codebase into two. One branch would be the retail version currently on the market which is patched in regular way, and the other one would be the download copy with integrated patches.

    New patches would have to be tested against each branch separately as they could potentially act differently.

    Still, why couldn’t they modify the downloader to pull in all the required updates at once and install them one after another without the need for any human input? This way you could fire it up in the evening, go to sleep and wake up to a patched game. Right now user have to babysit it, click Finish after each patch, then login and start the download process again. Right now this has to be done at least 4 times when you install a new game.

  12. Yamael says:

    The best option is to get a copy of the game folder from a friend and putting it into your own computer. All patches are already done and you don’t need any registry entries to play so you can just launch it and enjoy.

    I did that using a portable hard drive to get the game from my old to my new computer and it worked flawlessly.

  13. J Greely says:

    It baffles me why their download is so out of date, when it’s possible to simply zip up a fully-patched copy and unzip it on another machine. There’s no DLL hell, no hidden config files, no registry keys, nothing; it’s completely self-contained in whatever directory you copy it to. It’s a nice side-effect of building the Mac client from the same codebase.

    -j

  14. Duffy says:

    Indeed this is pretty much the biggest flaw with WoW. It’s a big enough pain in the arse that I usually grab a portable HD and transfer my copy permitting, or a friend’s copy of WoW if I need to reinstall or plan on having to reinstall. Far less time consuming.

    For normal patching I use Fileplanet.

  15. Skelnik says:

    Not only is the patching a long drawn-out (and unnecessary) process, but their online purchase system doesn’t recognize Canadian credit cards, which means I did have to drive to the store to buy Burning Crusade. And yet, their monthly billing system has no problems with my credit card.

    That said, I still play the game every day.

  16. Dev Null says:

    No, its really not that hard.

    You build all of your patches as cumulative patches since the last major release, and you write your update app to go and get the latest release if necessary and the latest patch for that release, and install both at once without logging in or pushing buttons in the middle. If someone buys the game online, they have to download the latest release, but what did you expect? If someone starts from a disk with the latest release, they just need the latest cumulative patch. If someone starts from an ancient v1.0 disk, they have to download the full latest release.

    Having to download multiple patches is just lazy release management – its not like they have to support people using old versions; you have to be up-to-date to play. And an installer that makes you log in again between the multiple patch installs is just wrong.

    Just because I love their game doesn’t mean I have to pretend they’re perfect.

  17. Rhykker says:

    Shamus, I think you’re being a little hard on Blizzard. They’re games have never had any really terrible DRM (I’m not aware of needing anything more than a CD key to play most of Blizz’s games), so they have to suffer from piracy far more than these other big companies that don’t have qualms with making you suffer through horrid DRM.

    If Blizzard were a small company, with a small clientèle, I’m fairly confident they would do their absolute best to address every issue of every individual client or potential client. Why? Because in every other way, Blizz has been more than caring for its clients, providing continued support to its games for years, free patches with bonus content, displaying gorgeous artwork and providing game lore free of charge on its websites. People don’t just love Blizz because they love their games – they love Blizz because Blizz doesn’t let them down.

    With a game as massively popular as WoW, armies of hackers and pirates are constantly laying siege, and Blizz is fighting an uphill battle. How often does someone decide to reactive their trial account months after the trial period expired? Much less often than hackers try to hijack these accounts, I’m willing to bet. Blizz is simply putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few – it’s unfortunate, but that’s how you have to run a society once it’s grown too large. It’s not an issue of Blizz not caring about losing potential customers – it’s an issue of Blizz doing what needs to be done to prevent hackers/pirates from further infiltrating what they’ve created and ruin the experience for everyone.

    How often do you think Tech Support gets bogus calls from hackers/pirates that are simply trying to get something for nothing? Sure, Tech Support should still be as friendly and helpful as possible, but I would hardly include Tech Support when I’m talking about “Blizzard” – they may be payed by Blizzard, they may work at the Blizzard office (which I doubt they do, which would further explain why there is a great deal they simply “can’t answer” [because they just simply don't know]), but as far as I’m concerned, if they didn’t help make the game, they’re not Blizzard.

    Is it so terrible to have to create a new account and start over, losing a few hours of inexperienced gameplay, months after you decided to abandon your old account and stopped caring about your character(s)? Most companies would have flat out deleted the account or characters.

  18. Mike Lemmer says:

    I gotta agree with Rhykker. The recent Flash fiasco (Abode goes ‘whoops’, millions of subscribers try to upgrade before hackers use Flash vulnerability to rob their accounts) & Blizzard actually selling a physical security token for WoW seems to indicate Warcraft probably has the worst attempted-hacking problem of any computer game on the market.

  19. Shamus says:

    Rhykker: Well, I guess you WOULDN’T care, since it’s not your character, your work, or your “few hours of gameplay”. If those hours were your entire experience with the game, then yeah, they mean a lot more.

    But this is more than just locking him out of the account:

    1) They let him sign up and approved his card, and THEN locked him out.

    2) They NEVER gave him an explanation of what the problem was.

    3) They gave no recourse but to… buy the game in a store? And then call back again. Wait another 20 mins. And then hope they keep their word that they’ll transfer the characters.

    “We have bad customers” is never a legit excuse for someone to treat YOU like a bad customer. Blizzard screwed up. Yes, customer service is hard, but that doesn’t mean you pay people to treat you like a jerk.

    I think it’s important to put stories like this out there. Bad PR is about the only thing companies have to fear from bad service, and I like to help that process along as much as I can.

  20. R4byde says:

    Rhykker said”
    Shamus, I think you’re being a little hard on Blizzard. They’re games have never had any really terrible DRM (I’m not aware of needing anything more than a CD key to play most of Blizz’s games), so they have to suffer from piracy far more than these other big companies that don’t have qualms with making you suffer through horrid DRM.”

    You think so? Check this out.
    http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2005/10/new-gaming-feature-spyware

    And this.
    http://www.rootkit.com/blog.php?newsid=358

    Blizzard is just as big brotherly as the rest of ‘em.

    EDIT: Yeah! Rolled a twenty!

  21. @Rhykker – ok, so if activating your trial account after few months of inactivity is so suspect, then why they allow it? It would be trivial to deactivate the electronic upgrade option from the expired trial accounts after a week or so.

    It would be very easy for them to simply put a note there explaining how their policy is to ask owners of expired trial accounts to purchase a retail copy. I wouldn’t mind that – I would totally respect that choice because they would be upfront about it.

    But if they allow me to reactivate the account, then lock me out, then proceeding to say this account is done and will never, ever, ever, ever be activated but we may possibly be able to transfer your character to a new account – but maybe. No promises – we will perhaps look into it. Maybe not, but it’s possible.

    To me that is a backwards approach. Instead of being upfront with me about what my options are, they are treating me like some lousy scumbag who wants to steal an account.

    I really don’t care how many people hijack accounts. It is not my problem – it is their problem. All I’m asking is to be treated as a paying customer should be treated.

    I do not think I did anything wrong – nowhere on their page does it say that upgrading trial accounts in a certain way is suspicious behavior. If I knew, I would maybe go about it the other way. But there was just no way for me to know that.

    Don’t get me wrong – I understand their position. It doesn’t change the fact that I feel my issue was not handled appropriately. I am used to higher standard of customer service. I have never “lost” an online account out there for some unspecified reason and was told it can never be reactivated but there is a “possibility” that my data could be transfered to another account. Possibility, not a guarantee. Steve could not promise me my character can be transfered. He said he “might” be able to do it, but it depends.

    Sure, loosing a Lv. 18 character is not the end of the world. If I violated their TOS or was causing trouble and this was disciplinary action I would consider it justified. But my mistake was not knowing their secret policy with regards to trial account upgrades.

    So I’m not really upset about loosing progress, or my account. I’m upset with how my issue was handled. I’m concerned that I may accidentally do something wrong again in the future and lose another account without an explanation. Perhaps the attempt to transfer a character from the blocked account may trigger another red flag in their system forcing me to purchase another retail copy. I don’t know – and I don’t want to know.

    @Shamus – yup, you got it. Thanks for having my back here. That is exactly my issue with Blizzard. I shouldn’t have to care they have bad customers – that is their problem.

    Why should they get away with treating customers this way, when most other companies out there would never even think about locking out a customer for no reason, and without a way to reactivate his account.

  22. Jeff says:

    By the way, to comment on an earlier issue, the reason they don’t bother having culmulative patches is because it’s unnecessary. It’s not driving any business away, and they won’t get more business. Won’t even keep current customers happy, because after you’ve done it once, that’s it. Not really an issue for them at all.

  23. Joe Cool says:

    Concerning the patching, Blizz has gotten a lot of flack for distributing their patches via BitTorrent, but the reason they do that is because it’s the only way to distribute them. I have a friend high-up in Blizz’s IT department and he explained the story to me. When WoW first launched, Blizz had contracted the company that handles downloads for Microsoft’s Windows Update servers and other major corporations. The company assured them that they’d be able to handle the traffic caused by Blizzard’s patches. Well, within a few hours of the first patch going live, the company called Blizz and told them to remove their patch, because it was crashing the download servers. In essence, Blizz distributes patches via BitTorrent because there’s no server in the world that can handle the traffic.

    Concerning the failure to upgrade the account, my wife works at Blizzard Billing and knows all the ins and outs of their system. This is what she has to say about the matter:

    “In most cases, when someone creates a trial and tries to upgrade it, the ‘suspicious’ circumstances are that there is some invalid contact info on the account, ’123 street, nowhereville’, etc. This is why the TOU is VERY adamant about putting valid info for an account when registering it.

    “It could also be that his credit card (there are some out there that do this) have actually put a block on WoW subscriptions and purchases due to fraud issues. It takes the customer to call their CC company and request this block be removed from their account. Sometimes the CC company complies, and other times they don’t, hence why in the end, it was suggested he purchase a retail copy, which is the same as an electronic upgrade. It avoids the CC issues.

    “Also, if a trial has been dormant for more than two months, and it does try to get upgraded, the system automatically watches it. Unfortunately, we’ve had a rash of zombied accounts: accounts which are dormant, be them trial or full, and then suddenly activated. These are done by gold farmers. (Thank the [insert ethnicity here] Gold Farmers for this inconvenience.)

    “All we can explain to customers is that the account is not banned. It’s only locked. We can attempt an upgrade through our tools, but if that fails, then we request that the customer take the time to purchase a retail copy of the game, which costs the same, or even less, than an electronic upgrade. They even get more bang for their buck, as they get the CDs or DvD, depending on which copy they pick up, as well as the manual and perhaps some other goodies that come with the retail version.

    “Once they have the retail copy, all they need to do is call Blizz again, or in some cases a rep may give their email address so the customer can provide the key within the email (such as in this case), and the rep can upgrade the account with the retail key and get the account unlocked.

    “Seriously, all he has to do is buy the retail copy of the game, email Steve, who gave him his email, and ask that the account be upgraded with the retail key and unlocked.

    “So, what happened to him is unfortunate, but it does happen. He was given resolutions to the issue, which he chose not to follow through with. That’s his choice”

    (This is me now) Honestly, I don’t think not being able to buy the game digitally is not a big deal. That’s why they offer the game at retail. The digital distribution is for convenience, but when that fails, as any system will at times, you have the fall-back of purchasing it the way we’ve always done it.

  24. You can go to http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?articleId=21079 and get a patch that will patch from 2.x to 2.4. That’s what I did when I reinstalled.

  25. Joe Cool says:

    This is going to be a more general comment than on Luke’s specific case, but whenever I hear someone cry “Blizzard screwed me over”, then hear the explanation from Blizzard (usually from my wife) I end up having no sympathy for the customer. Let me make something clear to begin with: Blizzard wants your money. They are doing everything they can to get it. For every “idiotic” policy that someone accuses them of having that inconveniences them, there are ten people who would be more inconvenienced or whose play experience would be ruined if the policy didn’t exist.

    A frequent complaint that you see on the forums is “Blizz banned my account for no reason”. 9 times out of 10? They got banned for account sharing, which is very specifically forbidden in the TOU and EULA. Blizzard has very good and very accurate tools for tracking this sort of thing. Sometimes these people will call my wife, yelling at her because Evil Blizzard banned them. In front of her, my wife will have a complete history of the account activity, with lists of IP addresses and times that the account was played from. The person insists that they did nothing wrong. My wife can plainly see that the account was used in Texas, then 20 minutes later in New York. Yeah, sure you weren’t sharing your account. Or one day it’s played from California, six hours later, from China. Sure you weren’t using a leveling service. “Oh, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with that,” they say. Except it’s very clearly forbidden in the TOU, which you are forced to agree to each and every time the game is installed/patched. Learn 2 read. I have never heard a complaint about Blizz’s customer service that did not, in the end, turn out to be the fault of the idiot user.

    The other thing to keep in mind about Blizz’s customers: they are idiots. You really think those people role-playing standing naked in the fire in the inn in Goldshire aren’t like that in real life? I sometimes post the ACTUAL QUOTES FROM CUSTOMERS that my wife sends me on my blog.

    My wife has to put up with this idiocy, stupidity, and customer abuse on a daily basis, and I have to live with the effects it has. She is trying to get pregnant and we are seriously afraid that the undue stress may cause her to miscarry. If that happens, I will seek out each and every person who called her over the last six months and strangle them with their own intestines.

    Now for Luke’s case specifically, it doesn’t sound like he was an idiot, but after my wife filled me in on the details, it does sound like he’s being childish and petty. Basically, a policy that Blizzard enacted to fight gold farmers has prevented him from activating his trial account online. He contacted Blizz, who told him he could still play by buying the game retail, but instead of a) deciding driving to the store isn’t worth the effort; he wasn’t that into the game, or b) buying retail and upgrading the account, he goes for c) decide the game isn’t worth the effort and spend far more effort complaining on his and Shamus’ blogs.

    You’ve complained about them having the “secret” policy of not telling customers why old trial accounts can’t be activated. You said that, if that’s the case, there shouldn’t even be a button to upgrade the account online. After all the experience I’ve had with Blizz, and having all their policies explained to me very thoroughly I will bet you almost anything there is a very good reason for this, that in the end makes the game a more enjoyable experience for everyone. I don’t know the specifics of this policy (why they don’t tell the customer upfront that a two-month old trial can’t be activated online), but if I had to venture a guess, I would say it’s probably because it’s one of their methods of tracking gold farmers. “Hmmm, 50,000 expired trial accounts were just activated from this Chinese IP. Think we should ban it?” Part of it being an effective policy necessitates that it not be public knowledge.

    Now you say “I shouldn’t have to care they have bad customers – that is their problem.” That is hopelessly naive thinking, and reeks of the entitlement attitude that my wife has to deal with each time she says “thank you for calling Blizzard support”. As my wife put it, “unfortunately, customers expect everything to be perfect. That’s not the way life is, and as much as we’d like everything to go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.”

    Blizzard has created an incredibly popular game that, due to its success, is being exploited. There is no conceivable stance they could take on farming and exploits that would not impact their customers in some way. If they didn’t have these restrictions, people would be complaining that the farmers were ruining the game (heck, people STILL complain about that, even with the policies they have implemented). Blizzard’s success has put them in a no-win situation.

    The thing to keep in mind is that Blizzard wants your money. They are doing everything in their power to get as much of it as they can. Their policies are designed to maximize profit. If you don’t want to give it to them, fine, but don’t claim they don’t want it.

  26. Joe Cool says:

    I would like to apologize if my previous post seems harsh or mean-spirited. Reading through it, I realize that it does not exude the level of Christian charity I try to maintain in my actions. I just hope you realize that this issue, having a very direct impact on my wife’s emotional and physical health, is one that I am very sensitive about.

  27. Sitte says:

    To change the angle of the topic:
    Why does Blizzard care about “abuses” such as gold farming & leveling services? Do these things make the game less enjoyable for people? Do they lose Blizzard money? I can understand people objecting on principle, but that’s about all. The only concrete reason that makes sense to me is potentially increased lag from extra players…but if there are all these extra players, Blizzard would naturally use *some* of the extra money to add servers.
    If Blizzard offered the option to start as a level 70 character for $100, would there be anything wrong with that? What about if they sold gold themselves (similar to Second Life)? If the farmers/levelers were making their

    Ah, nuts. I just realized that leveling services obviously don’t make Blizzard more money, but they do increase server load. Fine, fine, leveling services are bad. What about gold farming though? I still can’t think of an issue for that; each farming account earns Blizzard money (even if the subscription rates for China are much lower, it’s still quite profitable obviously).

    Maybe it’s obvious to everyone else. Help?

    EDIT: And, now I’ve just realized that gold farms probably increase the auction house prices considerably, making things harder for those who don’t buy gold. Funny how both leveling & farming seemed 100% harmless to me for months, until I actually spent two minutes writing about it.

  28. Sitte says:

    Erp…trying to remove my comment. Success!

  29. Sitte says:

    Question that hopefully someone here can answer:
    Can I create more than 1 trial account with the same IP & trial install? I assumed so, but this post/thread has me worrying no.

    The reason: I’d like to download the huge number of patches that I’ve heard about NOW so that when I convince my wife to try playing WOW together I have both computers ready to go. I don’t know when we’ll finally try the game, so the trial accounts I make to download the patches will have expired by the time I’m ready to actually USE a trial account.

    If there’s no problem with this, then great. If there’s a big problem with this, can anyone point to a place to DL all of the latest updates manually, without needing to log in?

  30. @Joe Cool – if the customer service people told me openly “we can’t activate it because your trial account has been inactive for N months and we have this policy to prevent gold farming” maybe I’d be fine with it.

    Also, you say my approach is naive. It sure is naive. I only played this game for a few days. I never actually even saw gold farmers. I know of them because people talk about it, but I really have no idea of the scope of the problem. You know these things because you have someone on the inside who explained these things to you.

    Now I know about all this stuff because you explained it here. With this information I can now re-evaluate my customer experience.

    Both times on the phone I repeatedly asked them why was my account locked. They could not help me. They said it could be something with my card, or something else. Samantha said it happens to accounts with suspicious activity but did not elaborate what would that be.

    What your wife says makes a lot of sense, and I wish I got this sort of feedback over the phone. Perhaps I would approach this whole ordeal differently. Perhaps I wouldn’t mind this inconvenience that much.

    All I really wanted to know was:

    1. Why my account was locked?
    2. How do I prevent from being locked again in the future?
    3. What do I have to do to play the game today?

    I sort of got the answer to #3 but I did not like it because it was late, it was raining and the closest place that would probably sell WoW was a 20 minute drive (not counting traffic) from my house. #1 and #2 are still unanswered.

    Was the suspicious activity the fact that I upgraded it after months of inactivity?

    Was it a CC issue? I want to know in case I need to call them and tell them not to block the WoW payments.

    Was it the fact that when I created the account I used the original spelling of my name Łukasz but it is spelled Lukasz on my credit card? The account manager wouldn’t let me change it – I tried.

    Was it because I logged into my account from work (different IP) in a different town and changed the password to a stronger one (I used a throw away silly password for the trial cause I did not think I would ever upgrade it). That’s what bothers me the most.

    For what it’s worth, I was really nice and patient with both of the reps. I did not yell at them, I was polite, and I made effort not to sound too annoyed. I do know it’s not their fault. I do not blame them for this. I appreciate their help. I have worked at a help desk too and I totally understand the stress involved here. Customers who yell, curse or are rude are idiots – this behavior never helps – in fact it makes the person on the other side less eager to help them. I’ve been there and I get it.

    I’m just not happy with Blizzard.

    I can understand the gold farmer situation now. I don’t like the way Blizzard is handling it and that’s why I’m complaining. Maybe it’s necessary to do it this way but I feel that I’m entitled to my opinion. If I walked into a store and one of the employees would immediately start following me watching my every move because I might be a shoplifter I would be annoyed. Does it matter that the shop is in a bad neighborhood? Does it matter they have a huge shoplifting issue? Nope. Bad customer experience is bad customer experience. No excuses.

    As Shamus said “we have bad customers” is never an acceptable excuse. The fact is that Blizzard was unable to solve my issue over the phone in a satisfying manner and as a result I have second thoughts about investing in their product. Call it childish, call it naive or whatever. But if I’m to pay $15/month for a service then I think I can expect it to live up to certain expectations and standards. For example being able to solve a relatively simple account issue over the phone with minimum hassle for me. If the service doesn’t live up to that standard, I can choose to take my money elsewhere.

    Don’t you think?

  31. @Sitte – the 10 day trial actually has a streaming client. You only have to download like 50-100MB binary. When I did the trial I was amazed how small it was, and how responsive the game was despite being streamed in real time.

    Also, the IP thing may not be an issue unless of course you try to upgrade it. After my adventure I’d recommend actually buying 2 retail boxes and upgrading them by typing in the CD keys just to be sure. :P

  32. Sitte says:

    Yeah…I went ahead and downloaded the full version while at work since the connection at home isn’t very reliable when it comes to heavy streaming content. Ah well, I’ll see what happens…

  33. Rhykker says:

    Shamus: “Well, I guess you WOULDN’T care, since it’s not your character, your work, or your “few hours of gameplay”. If those hours were your entire experience with the game, then yeah, they mean a lot more.”

    I’m the type of person who often tries out a game, starts up a few characters, leveling each a bit to get a taste of all the different classes/races/combinations, so yes, I understand that this experience is not trivial. What I’m saying is that after several months of not playing any of these characters, why would I suddenly care about them? Why would I suddenly cry over their deletion if I completely forgot about their existence, and at the time, never had any intention to play the game again?

    As for the oft-raised question of “why couldn’t they say it was to eliminate farming accounts?” Game companies know that publicizing cheating in any way only increases the instances of cheating. If they would give people a warning about farming accounts upon buying the game, that immediately plants the seed in the customer’s mind, “farming, you say? Hmmm…” Blizzard has always addressed cheating issues covertly, sneaking in fixes in their game patches. That’s the proper way of going about it.

    I’ve seen countless games in which hacks are perpetuated because of the idiotic players who complain on forums, “i saw this guy using wall hax!!1 i think it was teh program X-ZE-Ownage.de, they gotta shut dat site down!!” All they’re doing is advertising the damn hack/exploit/glitch. It’s best simply not to bring it up at all.

    I’m sorry Luke had a bad experience. I’m aware that the situation could have been handled better. I concede that Blizzard isn’t doing all it can do to keep every potential customer perfectly happy. But I’m not about to nail Blizzard to the cross because of it.

  34. What I’m saying is that after several months of not playing any of these characters, why would I suddenly care about them? Why would I suddenly cry over their deletion if I completely forgot about their existence, and at the time, never had any intention to play the game again?

    Ok, let me give you a clearer picure:

    1. I did the 10 day trial trying several characters. I ended up leveling my Tauren Warior to lv 12 or something in that range
    2. Walked away from the game expecting my trial account to get deleted
    3. Few months later I figured I want to play again
    4. I checked my account and it still existed – hey, I could pick up where I left off with my warrior
    5. I did the electronic upgrade
    6. Started playing the game bringing that warrior character up to level 18 (almost 19) in a short few days.

    This was precisely the point at which I started to care about that character.

    Regarding publicizing gold farming and hacks – they did not need to go into the subject at all. All the needed to say was that my account was locked because their policy is to ask customers whose trial accounts were inactive for several months to purchase retail copy of the game to activate it to prevent abuse.

    What I got was – “Well, it may be your credit card, or it might be something in your account information, or it could be some *suspicious* activity that *they* detected. I really don’t know.”

    Sigh… I really don’t get this “Blizzard can’t do no wrong – you are just lazy and childish not to listen to their wise advice” attitude. The gold farmer situation sucks, but that does not mean they should be given slack on customer service. I think WoW is a great game and I loved Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo and etc. But WoW experience totally sucked – they dropped the ball on customer service. It could be better. We could talk about how it’s all because some farmers and leveling services but frankly I don’t care. Why should I care?

    I could complain about some other company and no one would question my experience. When I ranted about my rocky relationship with Comcast no one really defended them and insisted I meet them half way. When I rag on Dreamhost everyone tells me I should switch hosts and not put up with their crap. But when I say something bad about Blizzard all of a sudden people are saying I’m being childish, naive, that I’m overacting and how I could not *possibly* expect a company to resolve my problem quickly and without any fuss with a single phone call.

    Sigh..

  35. Winter says:

    I don’t know, patching isn’t that hard. I know Blizzard knows how to do it–Starcraft, Warcraft 3, and Diablo 2 (for instance) all patch correctly. Blizzard could just send all the patches with the downloadable game and then, when the game tries to download the patches it sees they’re already “downloaded” and then installs them. It could download all the patches at once (or just the needed patches) seeing as how it uses Bittorrent, which is pretty much custom-built for this sort of thing.

    It could do all kinds of stuff without too much difficulty…

  36. Ian says:

    I too used to play. I left after hitting level 60 and exploring the world. With what turned out to be 9 months before the expansion I decided to cancel my subscription and reactivate it later when there was more content for me to see.

    Now it was somewhat foolish to leave it to the last day but I did. Only on that day all the subscription servers were down along with the information pages leaving me no way to actually cancel the account. I logged into the game for 30 seconds to see if it was all of Warcraft or just subscriptions. Turns out the game was working fine.

    When I finally could log in I’d been billed for another 3 months. Apparently I should have gone to a website that was down and gotten a phone number from there that I could have called to cancel.

    I never went back to Warcraft after that and frankly I don’t miss it. It was exactly the kick I needed to get clean.

    That said I’m looking forward to Diablo 3. So it shows that I’m all set to give Blizzard more of my money once they do something worthy of it.

  37. Zaxares says:

    I’m just glad that Guild Wars using streaming updates and outside of one big patch when we first start the game (if you bought a store copy) I never have to worry about getting kicked back to Windows.

    Fair warning though, if you’re on a non-broadband connection and you bought a store copy, I still suggest booting up Guild Wars and then leaving it to patch overnight.

  38. Jeff says:

    Except it’s very clearly forbidden in the TOU, which you are forced to agree to each and every time the game is installed/patched.

    Sorry, I have to respond to this, because I’m pretty sure that 99% of EULAs or TOUs are unread, and I’m willing to bet you don’t read them either.

  39. Rhykker says:

    Luke, for the record, I don’t think you’re overreacting, nor being childish, naive, or any of that. You’re reacting in a manner that I would expect someone to react right after the incident. I’d be pissed if that happened to me. I’ve dealt with unhelpful customer service before. Hell, I’ve dealt with unhelpful customer service *answering machines* that got me more upset than this (“what do you mean your damn office hours are Monday to Friday from 9-5? THAT’S WHEN I WORK!”)

    I just don’t see why people should be all torches and pitchforks about this. If a company really, truly treats its customers poorly, then everyone would know about it. There is no big conspiracy here – Blizzard isn’t actually an evil tyrant, chewing up and spitting out potential customers, with a loyal fanbase spewing out propaganda that blinds everyone to the tyranny. Microsoft would not have such a bad rep if it were possible to cover this sort of thing up with propaganda.

    I’m sorry, but that fact that you had a bad experience with a game company’s tech support isn’t going to negatively impact my image of the company. Game companies aren’t consulting firms, or organizations that are essentially defined by their customer service. They’re defined by their product. Sure, customer service is still an important aspect, but yours is a relatively minor issue in the grand scheme of things – they were still trying to help you (or at least Steve was), they gave you workarounds to your problem (albeit inconvenient ones), and were not overtly condescending or insulting. Give Blizzard’s tech support a 6/10 – a passable grade, but just that. Don’t throw them a 2/10 with added antagonistic sentiment and a desire to incite revolt amongst the populace.

    My former ISP’s tech support flat out refused to provide me any assistance whatsoever – why? Because I own a router. *That’s* bad tech support. I had to get my internet working without any help whatsoever. No workarounds, no suggestions, no warnings upon subscribing to their service that if I own a router, I’m on my own. And no warnings that I would lose connection for a few hours every week without providing me a reason, or giving me a partial refund.

  40. Alright. I give them 5/10. The more I read about this, the more I understand that this is just what they have to do to keep up the level of service for existing players. It doesn’t change the fact that it sucked for me, but I guess I can see why it might be necessary and profitable for them to act this way.

    I still don’t like it, but I can begin to understand. How’s that?

  41. Factoid says:

    Regarding cumulative patches, it falls into the same category as my previous post. Some people (most people in fact) don’t need a cumulative patch. They were already current when the new patch came out, and from what I understand blizzard’s patches are pretty good sized.

    They would be back to creating two patch installers for every release, then. One would be the new-content-only patch and the other would be a new cumulative patch for the relative handful of people who need it.

    If I were blizzard (I’m not) and had limited resources (they don’t) I also would not do cumulative patching for WoW because it costs me time and money.

    But with 10 million subscribers, I’m sure they’re making upwards of 100 million a month on WoW, and they can afford the staff time to build two versions of each patch. Barring that they should at least do a cumulative patch every couple releases (they might do this, I don’t actually play WoW).

    Penny Arcade covered the whole bittorrent thing as well as it can be covered. It’s pretty inexcusable in my opinion to outsource your patch distribution onto paying customers

  42. Steve C says:

    @Sitte: Don’t download Warcraft onto 2 computers. Download it onto 1 computer patch it up fully. Then copy your /wow dir over onto the other computer. WoW doesn’t “install” per ce it unpacks. The fact that it is self contained in that one dir and can be easily transfered between computers is my favorite technical aspect of the program. WoW can even play off a USB key. And to answer your other question: http://www.wowwiki.com/Patch_mirrors

  43. Steve C says:

    “Blizzard wants your money and they’re not trying to be mean. But there’s more that goes on in the background than customers know.”

    Shamus has raised (ranted?) this point before for other companies. It’s good customer service to let your customers know the issues you face. It builds empathy and closer ties. Refusing to answer reasonable questions of users equals bad customer service and makes them appear as a mean, faceless corporation that couldn’t care less.

    I read the quotes from “idiot” users you linked to. The contempt for customers is palpable. Note that you are allowed to vent and rant about providing support to customers if you wish. It’s not your job. Even if it was your job, it’s still a human thing to do and a funny story is a funny story. But contempt/apathy comes through loud and clear to customers. When customers sense it, it guarantees a bad customer experience.

    “Blizz distributes patches via BitTorrent because there’s no server in the world that can handle the traffic.”

    I loathe the background downloader. I got quite angry when it was introduced without warning. (I know people who got an unexpected $300 bill from their ISP due to that unannounced “feature”.) If Blizzard had communicated the info you found out to users before making it live, I would have no problems. Why keep that info secret not only from users but also the customer support reps? It’s a cool factoid that would have calm nerves and a perfect example of -bad- customer service that could have been -good- customer service just with more communication.

    “Learn 2 read” was your quote (referring to the manual/TOS/EULA) , ever consider that maybe they -can’t- read those documents? English isn’t necessarily a first language, and the requests for help you post to make fun of that obviously went through bablefish obviously came from someone who can’t write English… that’s why they used bablefish! So why would you expect them to be able to read English? As for the EULA/TOS, it’s written in that bastardized language known as “legalize.” Adults don’t understand legalize. Good luck understanding it if you are 13 years old.

    You reference the TOS/EULA a few times. Well I say “LEARN THE LAW”. Those 2 documents are enforcible in exactly 2 US States and well into the grey area everywhere else in the US. In the majority of non-US jurisdictions they have no validity whatsoever (for various reasons) Outside of the US is where the MAJORITY of WoW customers reside. I live in Canada and the TOS/EULA is not worth the paper it’s not printed on here. It’s also a TEEN rated game. Anyone under the age of majority -cannot- have the terms of a contract enforced upon them. Why should anyone waste time reading an bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo especially when it’s invalid or doesn’t apply to them? I’m one of the rare people who -has- read WoW’s TOS/Eula. It’s out to freaking lunch.

    “Part of it being an effective policy necessitates that it not be public knowledge.”

    I’ve heard that before. Obscurity is not = to security. That stance is flawed and makes for bad customer service. People who are affected by a policy are going to learn about it one way or another. Effectively communicating policies to your customers creates “buy-in” and gets people to support your policies. If someone is negatively affected by a policy and they feel it was unfair/unreasonable etc then they are going to complain about it.

    “I have never heard a complaint about Blizz’s customer service that did not, in the end, turn out to be the fault of the idiot user.”

    I’ve never heard of somebody who has more good experiences with Blizzard customer service than they have bad experiences. I would add a bunch of complaints here that fall squarely on Blizzard’s shoulders but this post is long enough.

  44. Christian Groff says:

    I’m certainly glad I didn’t try WoW because it would drive me insane having to patch the game manually a thousand times. When EA brought out The Sims 2, their program always logs onto the Net and downloads and installs its own patches. I realized that when I downloaded a patch and tried to use it.

    Still, the game isn’t bug-free. When one of my Sims tried to give a photo to another Sim as a gift, an ugly error message appeared and shut the game down, causing me to lose ten minutes of interaction work. Boooooo.

  45. [...] Blizzard handled my case, but my previous post resulted in an interesting discussion both here and on Shamus’ blog which has shed some light on why things turned out the way they did. It appears that my case is not [...]

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  1. [...] Blizzard handled my case, but my previous post resulted in an interesting discussion both here and on Shamus’ blog which has shed some light on why things turned out the way they did. It appears that my case is not [...]

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