My wife and I have ended our time in Middle Earth. Sadly, we were really enjoying ourselves, and would have easily made the level cap, but after Book 10, I started to experience some very bad technical problems running the game, and despite numerous attempts to get the problem fixed through all of the available tech support channels offered by Turbine, I hit brick wall after brick wall, and simply called it quits.
Developers grab a sticky note and a pen, because here is a tip just for you: CS and Tech Support matters!
It isn’t enough to design a good game, and hire quality staff to run the top of house operations such as Meghan “Patience” Rodberg. She really is amazing, and is one of the best in the industry, but all of her good impressions are erased when tech support can’t help the customer get their game playable.
The problem started the day I patched Book 10. I started getting complete visual freezes, but the UI, sound, and chat functions continued to work. I was forced to exit the game and restart to fix the problem. Less than five minutes later, I would be frozen again. My wife runs a very similar CPU right next to me on the same network, and was having NO problems at all…
I contacted an in-game GM… 7 minute response time… VERY good. After a lengthy discussion of the issue (while frozen I might add) the GM informed me that it was a technical issue and I needed to contact tech support. Sadly, tech support is outside of the game. 8:50 pm EST I open the live tech support help program, and wait for the person to come on with me… I wait until 9:15pm and then realize that it ends at 9:00… hmmm NOT so good…
So I submit my problem through their email channel, and resign myself to watching reruns of CSI and Heroes. My wife logs off too, because we always level together. The next day, I contact the live team again because no one has responded to my email yet (That is not such a good response rate) and the helpful tech can’t seem to comprehend what LOTRO is.
Helpful Tech: Good evening. What Turbine game are you having problems with, and what seems to be the issue?
Cyndre: LOTRO, Book 10. I am having issues freezing, though its not a connection issue because my wife isn’t having the same problem, maybe a compatibility issue or corrupt file?
Helpful Tech: Ok, for what game are you freezing?
Cyndre: umm… LOTRO? You know, your companies flagship MMO?
I kid you not… that was the start of my contact with tech support. It got worse from there. The tech has me run a dxdiag after a few more questions and determines that my video driver is out of date. He instructs me to update it and my problems will be solved. So I dutifully update that and my sound cards as well, just in case and log back in… to freeze a minute later. Quickly logging off and back onto the live support… damnit… 9:01pm….
The next day I get an email from Tech Support in response to my email inquiry. They assure me it is a corrupt file in the patching process and I need to completely reinstall LotRO. I do so, and re-patch and log on… oops, freezes galore….
Later I tried getting help on the forums, but after close to a week, I just didn’t feel the desire to fight for the game. Its fun. Its well designed. But I was enjoying not playing just as much as I would have enjoyed playing. Also, in a moment of weakness I bought two copies of Starcraft and gave my soul back to Blizzard… at least for now.
To make a long story short… CS and Tech Support will win or lose customers for your studio. Heed or ignore this warning at your own peril, but most people will not be willing to wade through the many layers of the abyss to figure out what is wrong with their game, and frankly it isn’t our job to do so. If all you’ve got for answers is ‘old drivers, and reinstall’ you could have just hired my two year old to manage your tech department.