Way back in 2010, I did a write-up on Lord of the Rings Online for the Escapist. It’s since been added to the archives here on the blog, if you’re interested. At the time, someone from then-publisher Turbine reached out to me and granted a lifetime VIP subscription. This wasn’t as helpful as you might imagine. I’d already written the series and had pretty much burned out on the game by that point. Still, I really appreciated the gesture. I do have a soft spot for the source material.
This past week I got an email from Xsolla, the third-party company that handles payment processing for Lord of the Rings Online. We already knew that Xsolla are creeps, but apparently they’re also incompetent. Here is the email:
How many things are wrong with this email? Let’s count…
- Those broken image links / spacers are obviously a glaring (if harmless) shortcoming.
- The credit card number I’ve blacked out took the form of 123456***1234. Most places only show the last four digits, but Xsolla showed the entire number with just 3 digits masked out. Given that they did so in a message sent over regular email and which also contains the expiration date, this seems incredibly irresponsible. I don’t know if there are firm guidelines for this sort of thing, but I’ve never seen any other company send this much data over unsecured email.
- The message is warning me that my card is going to expire in the future… in 2012.
- A Lifetime VIP subscription does not need to be renewed. That’s what a lifetime subscription is. I assume they just mass-mailed everyone without paying attention to details like this.
- Oh no, my subscription will run out in 2038! I’d better act now!
- This message doesn’t make it clear that it’s from the LOTRO payment processor rather than LOTRO itself. Some links say “contact us” and link to Xsolla, while other links say “contact us” and link to the official LOTRO social media accounts.
Xsolla sent a email a few hours later apologizing for the erroneous email, but still. That is a lot of wrongness to pack into such a short message.
Conjecture: I wonder if the goal here was to warn users who have cards that are about to lapse. So maybe someone built a database query in the form of “get all users with an active subscription who have a credit card with an expiration date before next month.” This would probably work as intended for most people who meet that description. “Hey, your card is about to expire, please update your info so your account doesn’t lapse.” However, they didn’t realize that in the case of lifetime subscriptions it would produce a nonsense message.
That 2038 date isn’t random either. For systems using a 32 bit value to store timestamps, the highest possible date you can store is in January of 2038. When it says that my account will expire in 2038, it just means the system set my expiration date to the maximum valueTechnically the max is 19 January 2038, not 1 January 2038, so the system probably set it to the furthest MONTH rather than the furthest DAY. Either way, same problem.. I don’t expect LOTRO will still be running twenty years from now, so I don’t think this matters.
In more worrisome news, there’s a new AAA Lord of the Rings MMO on the way, built specifically around the idea of free-to-play. Yuck. I strongly suspect this new MMO will do to LOTRO what The Old Republic did to Star Wars Galaxies. An old, interesting, and quirky title will be shut down to make room for some ugly, empty trend-chasing monstrosity.
I know LOTRO is looking a bit dated and I’ve heard it turns into a grindfest at higher levels, but I appreciate a lot of the things it tried to do. Despite the cruel mockery I gave it, I think the authors did an admirable job of trying to adapt the difficult source material and give it the proper respect. I seriously doubt this next team will show the same care. Given how Shadow of War used Middle-Earth to sell a slot machine wrapped in an edgy bad-boy power fantasy, I imagine the license is now in the hands of someone more interested in maximizing profit than protecting the source material. For a long time the Tolkien Trust was very picky about where and how the material could be used, but I’m guessing the estate has passed on to the younger generation. That’s fine. The property belongs to them and they can do what they like with it, but it’s still bad news for me. I know I’ll be compelled to seek out each new adaptation, and I’m doomed to be frustrated and disappointed in the result.
 Technically the max is 19 January 2038, not 1 January 2038, so the system probably set it to the furthest MONTH rather than the furthest DAY. Either way, same problem.
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