How Many Mistakes Can You Find in this Picture?

By Shamus Posted Sunday Sep 23, 2018

Filed under: Random 64 comments

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:

You wot?
You wot?

How many things are wrong with this email? Let’s count…

  1. Those broken image links / spacers are obviously a glaring (if harmless) shortcoming.
  2. 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.
  3. The message is warning me that my card is going to expire in the future… in 2012.
  4. 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.
  5. Oh no, my subscription will run out in 2038! I’d better act now!
  6. 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.



[1] 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.

From The Archives:

64 thoughts on “How Many Mistakes Can You Find in this Picture?

  1. Zak McKracken says:

    Wow, tat sure looks hilarious — but I was very positively surprised to see that they noticed the mistake and apologized for it, in such little time. The standard “incompetend internet company” story would have ended with them doubling down and cancelling your subscription, just because.

    So at least someone in that place is trying, and is having some measure of success, and I think that person needs to be acknowledged. Whenever “a company” does something stupid, I think there’s usually a lot more going on behind the scenes than is visible, and it’s way too easy to just project whatever you don’t like about a company onto each employee.

    I once cancelled a newspaper subscription after moving home. I was late on the cancellation period, so I asked them if they could just send them to my mum for the remaining two months. The distributor just kept sending the newspapers to my old address and wanted to charge me even past the cancellation date. I went online to find tons of people complaining that that distributor regularly did this, and what greedy idiots they were. Wrote a letter to complain, and they responded with an apology, refunded me for the two months, and still sent my mum the newspaper for the next two months. Turns out they just had a really hard time dealing with their databse/processes and coordinating stuff, but had probably noticed the online backlash, and at least some people in the right places were at work to improve the mess.

    1. Coupla things . . .

      It is NOT TURBINE any more. LOTRO and DDO are now owned and run by Standing Stone Games. They split off from Turbine, who wanted to move into the mobile market. Which is probably why they use a rinkydink little payment service like XSolla.


      LOTRO and DDO are both going strong and expected to continue for a substantial time to come. I mean, SSG split from Turbine just to run these two games. We just got a big expansion early this year for DDO (Mists of Ravenloft) and they’ve announced one for NEXT year (Sharn: City of Towers). So, things are lookin’ pretty good. :)

      But, yeah, XSolla is kinda . . . myeh.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Unrelated but after one of your posts waaaay back that discussed DDO in detail every time you mention it I’m tempted to give it a spin, despite having nowhere near the time to manage another MMO…

      2. Boobah says:

        Paragon Studios, anyone? Although as far as I know LOTRO and DDO don’t have an NCSoft-equivalent to pull the plug, so there’s that.

  2. Xsolla says:

    We apologize as this email was sent in error. We are now confirming that your subscription is valid indefinitely and you do not need to make any changes to your account. We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding.

    1. Chris says:

      I don’t know whether youre a clever joker or youre some PR guy googling LOTR and Xsolla everywhere to put out fires where they pop up.

  3. InThane says:

    I was going to write something about how Christopher Tolkien was still in charge of the Tolkien legacy, but…


    1. Shamus says:

      Oh! I SORTA remembered hearing something about this, but I didn’t read the official work. So thanks for that. I’m going to add this link to the article.

      Man, Christopher Tolkien was good to the property. Sad to see him move on. Then again, the dude is 92. This was going to happen soon, one way or another.

      1. Nick Powell says:

        Man, Christopher Tolkien was good to the property.

        He was a good source of quality control but he never liked the movies much, which gives me mixed feelings about him.

        I understand why he didn’t like the movies – they weren’t particularly faithful to the tone of the books, but on the other hand they were fucking great as movies. I don’t know. Maybe if he was more strict they would never have happened, but on the other hand, maybe if he was less strict there would have been a lot more Shadow of Mordor-esque adaptations, and I don’t know if I could handle that

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          I absolutely loved the movies, but watching them again now, (particularly after the Hobbit movies) I would think they’re reasonably faithful re-tellings of the books but the thing I absolutely did not like about the Hobbit movies was already there, in the Legolas move, the skateboarding scene, and in some more subtle ways I find hard to pin down. There is some component of Indiana Jones and all those 1980’s “exotic treasure-hunt adventure” movies in there. There is certainly some light-heartedness in the books, but it’s done in an entirely different way. In the Hobbit it becomes quite obvious, and the child-friendly narration of the books is translated into self-deprecating jokes which the movie makes about the story. The movies have a constant undertone of “oh, this story is silly, but let’s just go for it”, but the books were more “the story is a bit brutal but don’t worry kids” a more child-appropriate vocabulary.

          Other things I’m not too keen about in the movies is I think there are too many spoken lines which are entirely for the benefit of the uninitiated audience. People explaining what they’re doing and what they’re planning to do, and what the lore of the place is. It feels like they violate the rule of “show, don’t tell” more than necessary. I wonder what Guillermo del Toro’s movie would have looked like…

          Meaning: Christopher Tolkien’s agreeing to the LoTR movies was a risk, and seeing how the Hobbit movies turned out, I don’t think he ought to have said yes more often.

          1. Agammamon says:

            ” I wonder what Guillermo del Toro’s movie would have looked like…”

            A lot more body horror. Or at least hands with eyes in them.

          2. Joe Informatico says:

            He didn’t agree to the LOTR or Hobbit films, and was pretty critical of them all from the beginning. But his dad sold those rights long ago, which is also how the Bakshi and Rankin-Bass productions happened. I think the studios still had to play nice with him because of the merchandising deals, and the LOTR/Hobbit rights apparently didn’t cover television productions which is what the Amazon deal covers.

  4. DGM says:

    >> “Way back in 2010, I did a write-up on Lord of the Rings Online for the Escapist.”

    Back when you got canned from the Escapist I pointed out that you needed to remove the bit about writing for them from your Twitter bio. It just occurred to me that you can put that back in now.

  5. guy says:

    Yeah, that’s definitely an automated/autogenerated message. The credit card bit is concerning, though; I’ve always only seen the last four too.

  6. Asdasd says:

    Noodling around in the links you provided reminded me how much I want to go and make a compendium of every ‘not the Millenium Falcon’ wish-fulfillment spaceship you get to fly across the extended universe of Star Wars games. It’s gotta be in the double figures at least.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Star Wars Galaxies let you buy and fly your very own YT-1300 light freighter (i.e. the same model as the Falcon). As I recall, you started off X-Wing Alliance in a generic YT-1300, but later got to actually fly the Falcon itself.

  7. Karma The Alligator says:

    I know I’ll be compelled to seek out each new adaptation, and I’m doomed to be frustrated and disappointed in the result.

    Am I bad for looking forward to the resulting article(s)?

  8. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I’ve tried a few mmos and LOTRO was the only one to keep my interest for a while. I hope its good ideas move on to the next.

    Edit : someone else had the same fun surprise :

  9. djw says:

    Is the new Lord of the Rings MMO by the same company? If not then there may not be any incentive to just close Lotro down. What matters is whether there are enough people still paying to play to keep the servers up.

    Its been around for long enough that the grognards may be enough to keep it alive. Ultima Online is still up after all.

    1. MechaCrash says:

      Ultima Online doesn’t have a competing game using its IP looming in the future.

      1. Richard says:

        True, but a pretty sure-fire way to kill a new game is to screw over the existing fan base.

        On the other hand, This Dumb Industry…

      2. djw says:

        Didn’t Richard Garriot make some sort of MMO multiplayer hybrid set in the ultima world recently?

        Also, last I checked both EQ and EQ2 have their servers open.

        1. Unbeliever says:

          It’s called Shroud of the Avatar:

          It’s a pseudo-sequel to Ultima (Richard Garriott doesn’t own the rights to call it “Ultima”, but Lord British is still around, the main continent *IS* “New Britannia” and the natives still remember “Avatars” from the long-ago time).

          I wasn’t part of the kickstarter, but now that it’s officially released, I’ve recently started playing it.

          I’d always stuck with single player games previously, but since SOTA *CLAIMS* to be playable offline as a single-player game, I thought I’d give it a shot and play it that way.

          Word to the wise — don’t bother. The quest journal is flaky enough to ruin the offline play experience (the devs know full well and are working on an all-new replacement system, though it may wait for “episode 2” before it rolls out).

          But having switched to the online MMO mode, I can say that the rest of the game is a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s got an amazing, friendly and helpful community. Excellent skill trees for both combat and crafting, tons of amazing maps to explore. (And it’s not like the quests CAN’T be solved; it’s just that the journal and compass don’t always know when you’ve done something, and can lead you to running around in circles.)

          So yes, I highly recommended SOTA in MMO mode. (Though, umm, I don’t have any other MMO experience to compare with, so…)

          It’s completely free to play — never any monthly fee, and a free trial whose only restrictions are a level cap and a “no trading with other players” rule. You pay ONCE to buy the game and have full unlimited access. Though of course there are plenty of opportunities to pay money for add-ons and goodies, should you find yourself unable to resist… :)

          If you join or are already there, look up “Unbeliever Dragon” and say “hi”! :)

    2. It’s by a different company, and SSG has already announced that they have no plans to shut LOTRO down any time soon. SSG split from Turbine, they’re a little indie studio who only does LOTRO and DDO these days, so the sales decisions of the big industry leaders really don’t affect them much.

  10. Kdansky says:

    If copyright law wasn’t as ridiculous as it is, LOTR would be part of the public domain by now and we would not have to deal with official AAA LOTR games: Anyone could make great of bad games with it, and that would be great.

    But because of Disney being horrible, that’s not the case.

    1. Um, Tolkein’s writings will not become public domain until 2044. This is completely standard and has not one thing to do with Disney. UK Copyright protects an author’s works for their life plus 70 years. US is author’s life +50, IIRC. Tolkein died in 1973, so barring any claims of joint authorship or similar, his works will be public in 2044.

      1. Now, PERSONALLY, I think this is too long, and that