on Dec 13, 2009
Leslee was banned from Lord of the Rings Online. You should read the whole thing (it’s not long) to get the details, but basically Turbine thinks her account was potentially hacked, so they suspended it. Re-activating the account will take two weeks. In the meantime…
It’s pretty outrageous, and it does not speak well of the inner workings of Turbine if this is how they run their show. You’d have to be a sociopath or an idiot to approve a string of policies that operate this way.
Here is where Turbine is messing up:
1. Vague Accusations against the customer
Turbine things the account was “potentially compromised” – meaning they suspect something might be wrong. That’s not good enough. You should make sure a crime has actually been committed before you try to punish somebody.
If you’re not certain of a problem enough to put it in writing, then maybe you shouldn’t be taking such drastic action against your customers over it?
2. Lack of transparency
What happened to the account? What made them think it was improperly accessed? They refuse to say. Turbine just says something went wrong, without providing any details at all.
This is simply not good enough. A two week paid ban costs the customer $7 or $8. Once you’re talking about taking money and time from customers, you need to offer more than “take our word for it.” There is no recourse for the falsely accused.
How do we even know the system is working right?
Moreover, the customer has no idea what they might have done wrong or how they might have set off this mysterious “hacker detection”. It might be something innocuous. But the customer might end up doing it again because they have no way of knowing what’s causing the problem.
3. Ham-fisted response
How does a two-week ban help anyone? Are we really supposed to believe that there’s a team of investigators working for ten business days to get to the bottom of this? Of course not. They say the two weeks is not a punishment, but when the cutoff time is arbitrary like this it’s hard to see it as anything else. They do nothing to find the alleged “hacker”. They do nothing to explain what they thought there was a hacker. They just turn you off and then feed you into the customer service mill for a couple of weeks.
I’m sure the account is locked down for two weeks, then someone comes along and flips the switch to let you back in. It may even be automated.
I’m sure someone will jump in and point out another MMO that does this, but that’s no excuse. This is rotten, it’s unfair, and probably a good bit worse than the problem they were trying to solve in the first place.
EDIT: I’d like to add that this behavior would obviously not fly from most other types of service-related businesses. IF anyone wanted to put out the cash to fight this, they first thing they’d run into is the EULA. “Oh, you agreed to let us treat you like this when you signed up for the service.” So any challenge could very well come down to a test of the viability of the EULA as a binding agreement. It’s been tested before, but there’s still lots of room to fight over it.
It would not be a short battle.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.