Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More Borderlands Goodness: The Claptrap Web Series, Episode 1

Gearbox Software has come out with a new bit of advertising for their upcoming game Borderlands. If you remember the cute robot from my previous video post on Borderlands, then you're in for a treat, because he's the star of the Borderlands web video series.

Not to spoil anything, but basically, he mimics a very famous actor in this episode, and carries a potty mouth to boot.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Games I'm Looking Forward To

Sorry for not posting, folks. I took up a position writing for, and that's also been eating up my time along with schoolwork, so I haven't been able to post much. The Barriers to MMO Entry will be continued shortly, but an MMeOw version can be found at this corresponding link.

Anyway, today I wanted to discuss two games that I'm actually looking forward to playing, even if they aren't in the general sphere of games I usually play. They're hybrid games, combining RPG elements and Shooting elements to great, yet different effect.

First up, we have Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition. Now, Ilike the Fallout series of games for their general post-apocalyptic scenario, but also because the original Fallout was the only one I was able to play. Basically, I've been waiting ten years for a shot at another Fallout game, and got hooked, but never finished the story when I first bought it.


Because there was DLC. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the DLC for the game, so I had to wait for a boxed version to come out. Luckily, this will be a much better purchase than getting each one separately, so I'm excited to see what tweaks have been made to the game since I last played it.

That, and I heard there's Samurai Armor. YAY!

The second game I'm looking forward to is a bit like the first: It's called Borderlands, and unlike Fallout 3, which was an RPG where shooting mechanics were defined by the game's RPG roots, Borderlands appears to be primarily a Shooter where the RPG mechanics determine the damage dealt by the weapon you have equipped and the skills you can use for your particular character.

The first image I had in my head when I heard about it was Diablo + GTA + Guns + Fallout 3 = Borderlands. I wonder how the reality stacks up to it though. I'm optimistic for this one, and would very much like to see the game succeed.

Anyway, enough about me. What games are you looking forward to in the near future?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Barriers to MMO Entry, Part 1: Account Management and Subscription

Recent events and developments have impressed upon me the need to write about something that isn't normally talked about when it comes to MMO games. That is, defining some barriers to entry in the MMO world.

This is the first in a short series of articles that aims to discuss certain aspects of MMOs that would, unfortunately, keep people from being a part of that game they want to be in.

The first barrier to entry in an MMO must certainly come not from the game itself, but from the means by which one enters the game they wish to play. That is, the account management and subscription page, or its equivalent.

Basically, I see two potential barriers to entry here: one is when you can't sign up for or subscribe to the game you want to play, and the other is when you have to jump through technical hoops to make the system work for you in the first place.

The first is easy to describe, as my previous entries on LOTRO may have shown. Essentially, when one is unable to create even a trial account for a game, or is unable to subscribe to it, that places undue stress on the person who wants to play.

Now, downtimes for account registration and subscription are not uncommon. Even the giant we call World of Warcraft must have issues at times. When the only way to find out, however, is to attempt to create an account, then we have an issue that needs rectifying.

First off, a means by which the company in charge of account creation and subscription can test the system should be implemented in order to keep a close watch on it. This is doubly important when you're offering free trials, as you turn away potential revenue when someone who wants to try your game can't do so.

Second, making sure that any issues are visibly seen by the public would be much appreciated. It might annoy some people, but knowing that the system is down and that the company is acknowledging the issue on the main site rather than in some obscure part of the forums would be useful as well because, at the very least, subscribers and non-subscribers would immediately know that the issue is there, it is being addressed and there is an estimated time for a fix. Besides, most sites won't even let non-subscribers post in their forums to ask if the account management page is down to begin with.

Now we come to what I feel is the more daunting barrier to entry when it comes to account management and subscription: jumping through technical hoops to get the job done.

Allow me to explain: imagine that you are an average gamer with the usual knowledge of technical information regarding browsing, gaming, and other sorts of esoteric techie knowledge. Now, imagine trying to get into the game you want to play for the first time, only to be greeted by a screen that prompts you to update your computer's browser and allow for javascript and cookies to be enabled.

We're not done yet. Imagine that you checked those settings and already set them to the appropriate levels to allow for the game to initiate the account setup process. Yes, this is still the part where you register for an account.

Imagine it still doesn't work, and you contact their support center for assistance, and a day and a half after sending your email, you get a response from them telling you to update your service packs as well and basically bring everything, including their specific browser of choice (let's say Internet Explorer for kicks), to the latest upgrades.

And it still doesn't work.

And you have to send them an email again explaining the issue in detail once again so that there's no miscommunication.

Are you annoyed yet?

You probably are, and the above-mentioned experience actually happened to me for the beta of an up-and-coming game which I won't disclose. Now, seeing as this is beta, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, but imagine if that were a newly-released game, and you had to go through that, and the support agent who emailed you didn't explain how to enable cookies or javascript or upgrade the system and you had no idea how to do it yourself. Wouldn't your patience wear a little thin by that time?

Mine would.

Unfortunately, this second one doesn't have any clear-cut answers to alleviate it, other than additional tweaking of the most basic of systems to ensure it doesn't happen to people. Heck, I'd even recommend additional further training of support folk or the creation of special technical templates so they can explain their answers fully and in detail to help the customer, but that's just a suggestion and not a flat-out solution to a glaring issue.

All in all, these two barriers to entry are the most fundamental, for they are barriers that keep one from even experiencing the game to begin with. They definitely need solutions, but at the very least, someone needs to be paying attention to these issues so that they can be remedied to begin with.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Never Forget: Ascaron and Sacred 2

It recently came to my attention via twitter that Ascaron, the guys behind Sacred 2: Fallen Angel had filed for bankruptcy and had actually closed its doors a few days ago.

When I originally heard the news about Ascaron's bankruptcy some time ago, it didn't seem like a big deal at the time, mostly because they were still chugging along as if everything was okay, and that things would right themselves in time.

Except, they weren't okay, and some recent posts on their forums reflected this.

A pair of threads on the Sacred 2 Forums, entitled "The Current Situation About Sacred 2" and "Ascaron R.I.P." had one of the community managers announcing what would be happening to the game: that a different company responsible for the customer support for the game would be taking over, and that those folks originally responsible for making the game awesome were more or less gone as of a few days ago.

It's a sad thing to see a game die a slow death, but there's still one more addon left for the game: one last, great adventure to be had. Hopefully, that also means that Sacred 2 will be remembered by many as an awesome game worthy of praise and admiration for breathing life into the souls of dungeon-crawling, loot-seeking, kobold-slaying adventurers like myself.

Monday, August 3, 2009

If Hell is Other People, then The Shire is Hell.

As has been established previously, I quite like Lord of the Rings Online. Great production values, interesting storylines for characters that aren't meant to be part of the main fellowship, etc. Last night, I ended with a bang, going nearly eleven hours straight just playing my Human Warden main and my Hobbit Guardian alt.

Except, I was mistaken.

You see, I had an extra day's worth of game time on the account, which basically meant that I miscalculated the date when the trial would end. So I played some more just now on the alt to preserve the awesome feeling on the main, and it was during these final hours of the game that I realized something: I absolutely loathe The Shire.

If what I know of the LOTR lore is true, then hobbits in general are supposed to be a very insular people, usually choosing not to go out of their lands, instead focusing on the little affairs they have in The Shire. I have to say, the quest designers captured that feeling of not exactly pettiness (more of being altogether concerned with their own world) to great effect, which I admire.

The thing is, the Shire quests, when compared to the quests of Man, are an altogether different creature. The impending sense of doom doesn't exist for them except as hints here and there in certain chains. Instead of fighting off the Blackwolds from their roost, you're tasked with fulfilling a fireworks order and delivering letters to other parts of the huge Hobbit starting area.

Did I mention that the Shire is huge and requires a certain amount of insane backtracking if you're there for the first time? Running back and forth is a pain, and probably a strain on my poor hobbit's little legs.

Anyone out there in blogland feel the same way about the Shire? How could the Shire chains be improved or streamlined perhaps, if it's even possible?

P.S. The Sackville-Bagginses are horrible, horrible people.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ten Days on Middle-Earth

So I've spent ten days on Middle-Earth, and I quite liked the experience as a whole, even with those hiccups I experienced during the attempt to get the game to work for me. Compared to World of Warcraft, the game is more relaxed, making me feel as if I was welcome to make alternate characters and not rush the experience.

Thanks to the Founder Trial I received, I also was pleased to get a hang of the auction house and mailing system, which worked fine and allowed me to send important goods to my alt characters and vice versa. Enhanced gathering and creation tools for the win, indeed.

I also received some good news from Turbine themselves, who've sent me an email regarding the ways with which I can go and add a credit card to my account. It still means I might not be able to play for another week because my credit card is still en route to me, but that's alright. I'm not entirely sure how the process will go though, seeing as I either have to call their number or fax them my details. I suppose calling them would be the best option though, if I can get permission to do so.

So to recap, in ten days, I've managed to enjoy Middle-Earth, save a little kid from the barrow downs, take down a conspiracy between brigands and orcs to disrupt Bree, learned how freaking HUGE the Shire area is, and gotten feedback from Turbine on my worries about subscribing to the game.

All in all, that was an excellent ten days. Hopefully, I can have many more in Middle-Earth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Taken from LOTRO's Forums: My plea to Turbine to let me play the game.

Sigh... been wondering if I should post this since I started reading the information available here on the forums, and I thought, "I really have everything to gain if I can figure out how to subscribe to the game."

Here's the situation:

I live in the Philippines, and the only retailer here that sells original games not only has no stock left for LOTRO, but also doesn't sell the prepaid cards.

I received a founder's referral from a twitter buddy who lives in one of the territories that is supported by Turbine.

I found a post at ( ) which mentions that credit card subscriptions can only be done if you live in the US, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

I freak out internally. I check the My Account page, and try the Buy now Button, and it's true.

Then I remembered the PayByCash option. Well, just checked PayByCash's site, and attempted to purchase 90 days of play... and apparently, my IP address or something indicates to the site that I'm in a restricted country.

Below is the text from the error message:

The Lord of The Rings Online Restricted Country
We're sorry! The Lord of The Rings Online has asked PayByCash not to accept payments from your country. We provide The Lord of The Rings Online information about how often and from what countries their potential customers have this problem.
Thank you for considering PayByCash.

Given all this information, I'm running out of hope that I can play the game beyond the ten day trial. As I can see it, the only way I can find to play this game is if I use Western Union or some other service to send money to my uncle in the States so he can buy prepaid cards for me en masse, if LOTRO prepaid cards are still being sold on the cheap.

Thing is, I don't think he'll accede to my request seeing as his family's also strapped for cash because of the recession.

I could try calling up customer support to setup a subscription, but if they give me a "no" answer, then I'll have made a long distance call at some odd hour of the morning just to be rejected again.

I don't want to give up on LOTRO, but unless, by some miracle, the Community manager for LOTRO steps in (she contacted me via Twitter) and finds some loophole for me to play the game, I think I'm out of options.

I know it's silly to want to play a game this badly, but I really think it's a great game based on some astounding literature, and I'd like to be a part of it.

Within the past three days, I've managed to learn how persevering I am and patient with regard to setbacks, mostly because Turbine is having issues of its own with its Trial account and subscription systems. I can understand that.

I can even accept the fact that my connection or some part of the connection between my router and is pinging back asterisks: that's the nature of the internet connection that people face sometimes.

What I can't accept is going through all these hoops to get into a game just to be pushed back at this very last, and perhaps most important, turn.

In any event, it's 3:32 am where I'm at now. I'm drained, both physically and mentally, and I hope that, when I wake up in five to eight hours' time, something will have changed. Maybe something small, or something miraculous, but just something...

Perhaps something as preordained as a young hobbit picking up a ring that could save or damn the world.

Godspeed to you all.


I woke up this morning to a direct message from Meghan Rodberg, Senior Community Manager at Turbine. She forwarded my post to the Account Supervisor to see if he could help and told me she would get back to me after a day or so.

I don't know if it was my persistence that did the trick, or luck, or whatnot, but I learned the value of knowing when to keep a cool head and analyze the situation and when to let your emotion guide the way. As I see it, I had exhausted all logical and hypothetical options, so a plea based on the experience I'd gone through seemed like the only course of action left: a mild, tired rant, so to speak.

Honestly, even if I don't get into LOTRO at this point, this is the kind of customer service experience that really makes me feel like I'm valued as a consumer. I doubt they can do this for every customer, and I doubt anyone can logistically pull off such a task as to make the customer service experience a positive one despite experiencing setbacks, but one thing I will say is this: for all its issues at the moment, Turbine has earned my respect and support for trying.