To all of my readers in the US and Canada: Happy Thanksgiving. Today I’m celebrating the onset of Stockholm Syndrome as a user of EA’s Origin gaming platform. I ought to be irritated at EA for causing a problem, but instead I’m feeling grateful for how they fixed it. To understand this goofy tale, we need to go back to…
I figure it’s time I should look into the new Star Wars game everyone is making a fuss about. The reviews are good across the board and I’m very curious if the game is actually good, or just good compared to EA’s disastrous Star Wars efforts over the past couple of years.
So I buy the game on Steam. Then to my horror, I realized that EA has Trojan Horse’d the Origin Launcher into the damn thing. I launch the game on Steam, and it turns around and launches Origin, which should then (theoretically) launch Star Wars… Fallen… uh… what is it again?
Arg. Can I just do a little aside on how much I hate the title for this game?
Going by the title / splash screens…
…the full name of the title is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order EA™. It’s long. It breaks from the familiar STAR WARS COLON SUBTITLE format that we’re used to. Even the acronym SWJFO is awkward and unpronounceable. I can only imagine how bad this name will get when they start making sequels. We don’t use numbers for sequels anymore, and instead we append phrases. I get that Star Wars Jedi is the franchise / series and Fallen Order is the title of this particular entry, but Fallen Order is the short phrase people are using to describe this particular game. As in, “I hope they make more Fallen Order games”. Logic dictates that the next game should be Star Wars Jedi: Another Game EA™, but marketing will want the more memorable Fallen Order in the name. Marketing and logic are natural enemies, and I can only imagine the colon-infused mess we’ll get in the next one.
My suggestion? The main character should have been named Pendar Kul. Then this game could be called Star Wars: Order of Pendar. There’s a memorable name! And it shortens to SWOOP!
Anyway. Back to Origin.
The thing is, I already have Origin on my machine, so this setup should be painless. Stupid, obnoxious, and irritating, yes. But painless. But the Origin that Steam launches isn’t quite the Origin I have on my machine. Or rather, it doesn’t have access to my login credentials. So when I launch SWJFO, an Origin login pops up. So now I need the login info and permission of two different monolithic corporations to run my game.
More importantly, it doesn’t work. Once I logged in, Orgin vanishes without launching the game. It’s still running in the background, but no game appears. I try to launch it again, but Steam claims the game is already running. So I have to use task manager to kill the zombie Origin process and try again. When I do, Origin reappears and says it needs to update itself. Then it vanishes into the background again without launching my game.
I realize this is going to be a nightmare, so I refund the game. Life is too short for this bullshit and I am not being paid to troubleshoot EA’s broken technology chain.
Then the moment the refund goes through, the game launches. I’m not exaggerating. I’m reading the last page of the refund process when SWOFJEA appears, and I’m suddenly playing a game I no longer own. My guess is that Origin was doing some self-update nonsense in the background and didn’t see fit to notify the user, which led me to assume it was crashed.
Whatever. Free demo, then?
I play for a couple of hours before I remember that I don’t own the game. It’s a pity, but I really do seem to be enjoying myself. I enjoy adding fresh evidence to the the “EA ruins everything” narrative. I hate to admit it, and I really resent that these clowns have been entrusted with the exclusive rights to make Star Wars video games, but I have to review the game I got and not the game I anticipated. Whatever problems I have with Wilson et al, I can’t claim this game is bad.
(Don’t be disappointed. I’m still going to spend thousands of words complaining about this game someday. I have my gripes, but this game isn’t a cringy, obnoxious, microtransaction-filled mess with tacked-on multiplayer. I may not appreciate all of the creative choices this team made, but they were still creative choices and not corporate sabotage. I mean, aside from the whole Origin Trojan Horse thing.)
This is sort of a funny position to be in. I’m playing the game just fine now. But once I exit, I’ll never be able to launch it again.
So now I need to review this game, which means I need to buy this game. It doesn’t make any sense to buy it again on Steam. Moreover, Steam won’t normally let you buy a game you’ve returned. So I guess I need to buy it on Origin. I hate to reward EA for their Trojan Horse bullshit by adopting Origin directly, but it’s either this or nothing.
There is a bright side to this. I need to make sure I use Origin now and again to keep an eye on the platform. I spend a lot of time coveringComplaining about. the PC Storefront Wars, and part of that gig is using the platforms in questionExcept for Uplay, because Uplay isn’t even a real platform yet. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but right now it feels like a version of Games for Windows LIVE that doesn’t crash all the time. It has all the cost / convenience concerns of a platform without any of the benefits.. So I’ll just treat this as one of my twice-yearly Origin purchases for the purposes of staying informed on the platform.
I launch the actual Origin program and try to buy SWJFOEA™©®, only to discover that the platform thinks I already own the game through Steam.
Sweet mercy. They’ve created a system the requires competing platforms to co-operate. This is the stuff of nightmares.
The upside is that the game is $7 cheaper on Origin. Good job, EA! It only took you seven years to figure out what I was shouting at you way back in 2012: Since you’re saving money by selling on your own platform, you should pass some of that savings onto the user to give them SOME reason to switch to your smaller, less popular platform.
Assuming EA doesn’t get some sort of sweetheart deal from Valve, then the Steam Tax on a $60 game would be $18USD. In an ideal world, I think EA ought to split that with Origin users, but whatever. $7 is close to $9. It’s certainly better than the $3 discount GameStop offers for used games. Seven bucks is stills a non-trivial savings. I’ll take it.
So now I just need to figure out how to get these chuckleheads to sell me the dang thing.
I poke around the EA™ Origin™ Help Center of Extreme Unhelpfulness™ and discover that the help center has many, many suggestions on how to solve problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with my problem. I have to dig for a long time to get past the protective layers of keyword-driven “help”, but I eventually discover real, actual support. Annoyingly, it’s chat-based and not email. Also, the system warns that there’s a 40 minute wait queue. That sucks, but I’ll take what I can get.
My fear is that it’s going to be very hard to get them to understand my problem. If 10,000 people call tech support because their coffee maker won’t turn on because they didn’t plug it in, then when that 10,001st person calls in regarding a coffeemaker that won’t turn on for some other reason, it’s usually very hard to get the support staff to break out of their canned script and give proper support.
I put the support window on my second screen and start scrolling Reddit to pass the time.
Thirty seconds later, the support rep jumps in…
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:24:07 AM): Thank you for contacting EA HELP, my name is Sumit, may I start with your first name please?
(11/23/2019, 4:24:13 AM): Shamus
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:24:22 AM): Nice to meet you Shamus. I hope you are doing good.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:24:34 AM): I can see you have created case for purchasing Jedi Fallen Order. Could you please explain more on it?
(11/23/2019, 4:25:30 AM): I purchased the game on Steam, then due to technical problems, I decided I wanted it on origin. So I refunded the Steam version. Now I want to buy the game on Origin, but it won't let me.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:26:29 AM): I can imagine how inconvenient it can be when you aren't able to purchase the game from origin. I will surely check it out for you and give you the best possible solution.
This is… not what I expected from EA support. I assumed the help would be brusque, bad at listening, and possibly trying to communicate in broken English. Instead this person is eloquent By the standards of realtime chat. and practically obsequious. Also, check out how verbose these messages are. This person is speaking in complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization.
The only thing that hints at this being a non-native speaker is perhaps the use of “you are” rather than “you’re”. And really, you can’t criticize someone for that. What, I’m going to complain that this person is speaking English BETTER than the situation calls for? (And, it should be noted, better than I am. You can see in this chat record that I made lots of typos and Sumit didn’t make ANY!)
I know that support people often have lots of canned stuff ready for copy-paste, but this is still pretty impressive.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:26:41 AM): May I ask you a few questions to locate your account and guide you some steps to purchase the game from origin?
(11/23/2019, 4:26:48 AM): Ok.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:26:55 AM): May I know your email address linked to the account?
(11/23/2019, 4:27:06 AM): [Personal email redacted from this exchange for privacy reasons.]
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:27:54 AM): Thanks.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:28:06 AM): Which payment method are you using? Credit, debit or paypal
(11/23/2019, 4:28:13 AM): paypal
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:28:52 AM): Okay
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:29:01 AM): What error message are you getting when try to purchase the game?
(11/23/2019, 4:30:47 AM): No error message. It just acts like I own the game through Steam. When I try to buy it, it say "In your game library".
Here we go. This is exactly the kind of problem that help systems have trouble parsing. I’ll bet I’m going to need to log out and back inAnd just to be clear, I did try that already., and do a bunch of other silly stuff, before they’ll actually listen to my problem. I am very nervous about how long it’s going to take me to get to the heart of this.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:31:16 AM): Oh I see, Let me go ahead and review your account, will need a few minutes. Is that okay?
(11/23/2019, 4:31:25 AM): Ok.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:34:13 AM): Thanks for waiting.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:34:31 AM): To make any changes I need to verify account ownership. I have sent a 6 digit verification code. Could you please check the email and provide that code to me?
(11/23/2019, 4:34:54 AM): [Code redacted for paranoia reasons.]
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:35:06 AM): Thank you
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:35:10 AM): Just allow me few moments.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:35:33 AM): I think you used to play it with the origin access. Right?
(11/23/2019, 4:36:00 AM): I don't understand the question?
Sumit has noticed that I’ve played the game for an hour or two, even though I don’t own it. They’re confused by this, and are assuming I was using the Origin “game pass” style service to access the game.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:36:46 AM): I meant have you ever played the trial with the origin access?
(11/23/2019, 4:37:24 AM): No. I played the Steam version a bit before the refund.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:37:43 AM): No worries.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:38:12 AM): Alright, I've made some changes.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:38:18 AM): Please logout then login back
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:38:35 AM): And check if it's available for the purchase or not.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:38:42 AM): I am standing by here to get your issue fixed.
(11/23/2019, 4:39:37 AM): Great! Looks like it worked. I just purchased it and am now installing!
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:39:49 AM): Excellent. I am glad I was able to help you. It couldn't be possible without your co-operation and support.
(11/23/2019, 4:39:57 AM): Thanks
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:39:59 AM): I would like to hear from you as you have been very excellent throughout this chat session. Is there anything else I can assist you with?
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:40:03 AM): Pleasure is all mine to help you out
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:40:39 AM): Is there anything else I can assist you with?
(11/23/2019, 4:40:47 AM): Nope. I'm good, thanks.
Sumit (11/23/2019, 4:40:56 AM): Thanks for contacting EA help. You can also get help by reading our articles on help.ea.com, browsing our forums at answers.ea.com, and following us on Twitter.
Nine minutes. No confusion. No wasted time. They handled an unusual problem, and did so quickly and gracefully. I really wasn’t expecting EA support to be good. In fact, when I headed for the Origin Support pages I was sure I was about to embark on a journey that would get turned into a long rant for the blog. I’m sort of baffled that the whole thing is over so quickly and painlessly.
To be fair, this problem wouldn’t have happened in the first place is EA didn’t try to package their launcher within a Steam game and link the two accounts. But I have to begrudgingly give them credit for providing top-notch support.
Support personnel are often malignedOften for good reasons. The staff is quite often under-staffed, under-paid, and under-trained, and that makes for a frustrating user experience., so I thought I’d give credit where it’s due.
While my personal preference is that all games would come out on GoG, I do like that EA seems to be getting the hang of this.
 Complaining about.
 Except for Uplay, because Uplay isn’t even a real platform yet. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but right now it feels like a version of Games for Windows LIVE that doesn’t crash all the time. It has all the cost / convenience concerns of a platform without any of the benefits.
 By the standards of realtime chat.
 And just to be clear, I did try that already.
 Often for good reasons. The staff is quite often under-staffed, under-paid, and under-trained, and that makes for a frustrating user experience.
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