Community Guidelines

I really enjoyed reading (via Raph Koster) Scott Hartsman’s “Beta Community Guidelines”. It was originally written for the Everquest II Beta in 2004 – but I think a lot is relevant now as well. In fact, I don’t think these rules apply just to MMORPGs – I think any online community would be smart in developing the same…I’m more inclined to use a word such as ethics and morals, than guidelines, but ok.
It reminded me of an article at Gamasutra covering the Edinburgh Interactive Festival where 2 quotes stuck with me.

“”You get a lot of protest in these things, from governance, game
mechanics, political process and griefing,” Reynolds said. “People try to run
virtual worlds as a service, but people playing the game view this as a
community.”

MMORPGs are communities and they are services. Which brings us to Hartsman’s very first point:

1) Character or Person – never Player.
– Don’t refer to people as Players when addressing them. Either address something about the Character or have a conversation with a Person.
– Referring to people as “The Players” when addressing them in public reads like mom and dad talking about “The Kids” in front of them, when it should instead come off as if you’re having a conversation with a Person.
– Referring to people as “Our players” when addressing the media is subtly different, as it can be used to present the people who play our games with a certain amount of pride.

So I think MMORPGs are definitely, without a doubt a service – but, they need to be handled like communities. I’m still not sold with the ‘let’s have democratic elections’ argument(well…maybe I was sold once, but I’ve steered in another direction now). I think that’s way too much hassle for the…ehm…customers. But they need a strong customer service which takes their customers seriously and at the same time act authoritatively. There needs to be an active conversation between consumer and producer.

“”We don’t manage expectations well in the online world,” Mulligan
conceded. “World of Warcraft are horrible at customer service, there [are] just
no managed expectations. In 9 out of 10 virtual worlds, there is no meaningful
communication [between the organization and the users]. The community says one
thing, marketing says another. This really comes down to unfulfilled promises.”
(from the same Gamasutra article)

Which is another extremely relevant point. But – this is where I start scratching my head. Why then, is World of Warcraft the most popular MMORPG? Why do people still keep playing if they’ve got such lousy customer service and don’t fulfill expectations? Isn’t this then proving me wrong? Because Blizzard doesn’t really have the best reputation of treating their players fairly and with respect – maybe they do? How can we explain the ongoing success of WoW if all of this is true? Why aren’t there massive amounts of players leaving? Are there and I just haven’t been paying attention?

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10 thoughts on “Community Guidelines

  1. The problem here, of course, is that the complainers are the loudest. If you read the forums, or certain blogs, you will hear all the complainers tell you that Blizzard’s customer service sucks royally.Well, let me tell you, every time I have ever had an issue (and over the years, it has been quite a few times), I have never been anything but extremely SATISFIED with the customer service I have received … both in-game and via email. On the phone has been a different matter, but that’s because of the time difference here in Australia. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same for the majority of people who play the game. But you don’t go shouting from the rooftops about how great the customer service is.. No time for that – you go back to playing the game :)

  2. WoW fanboi/grrl post go! That’s true, as a rule you’re going to hear the complainers. I’ve had both good and bad with WoW. What’s funny is that beyond anything else that happens in the community, customer service has been what’s motivated me to get dis-interested in WoW, so this is something they’re probably taking pretty seriously. All of my good customer service experiences seemed to happen when I was among the raiding elite. A server shutdown during looting, a griefey 15 year old getting vicious while my Onyxia pug did loot, all of that stuff was taken care of quickly and professionally. When on lower level characters, I don’t get any respect for bug/loot issues. That’s understandable, I guess they’d have to reward a lot more level 29s. Getting hacked, somebody transferred my characters to another server. Rather than move them back to my home community, I was told not to share accounts. That was pretty disappointing. More disappointing was that when getting death threats in the game (they just couldn’t take a joke!), and I should mention the other player was 70, and I was on a 45ish alt, the customer service did the following: WoWdude:”We are currently reviewing your case…” (10 minutes go by)WoWdude:”GIANT BLOCK OF BUH-BYE TEXT!”WoWdude:”GIANT BLOCK OF BUH-BYE TEXT!”Neils:”So are you going to do anything about a person who just got my home address?”WoWdude:”Sorry, this ticket is closed, if you want to talk to a WoWdude then fill out a new ticket.”—These all have fun connections to the community, and the companies definitely go through a balancing act. There are real people, some making real sacrifices to play, and they take their involvement seriously. Which can sometimes make these distinctions “scary important.”

  3. Excellent! Thanx for sharing!I guess that’s why the dictatorial ‘ruling’ of customer service comes under such scrutiny. 9 million people, it’s impossible to treat everyone the same. So much is reliant of the customer service employee’s mood and bias’. It just seems impossible that two people complaining about the same thing will be treated the same way.

  4. I tend to agree with Mulligan in this blog entry where she points out the lack of meaningful communication.Right at this very moment you could go to the WoW CS Forums and see first hand how the moderators dictate the flow of the boards. Basically, if you aren’t talking about stupid, idiotic, food recipes and falling over the presence of a Blue, the thread is either locked, deleted or thrown to the CSF wolves to have fun with.Vrathris isn’t so bad, but that Syndri has to be, hands down, the absolute most immature representative Blizzard could have ever hired. Whatever was Blizzard thinking when they put someone in charge who goes rampant with the banstick every time someone has the presence of mind to point out that she is not doing what she is paid to do. The woman is useless, flirty and unbashedly conceited over herself. Unless you are talking about her, she doesn’t want to hear it.I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Honestly, I think people are just biding their time until another game comes along where they can tell her to go choke on her coffee. It’s definitely the only thing she’s interested in.Customer service? What customer service? Those forums are nothing but a free for all to abuse people who complain.The problem is with the caliber of people Blizzard hires. Just because they have a good command of the English language, doesn’t mean they are fit to be in customer service. Syndri is a prime example of employees that give Blizzard the bad reputation it has.

  5. I might add, Linn, and not to be picky, but Blizzard doesn’t have 9 million customers, they have 9 million accounts. The NA version most of us see are roughly 1.5 million accounts, averaging about 2.5 accounts per person. It includes the United States and other countries in that figure.It’s not uncommon to see multiple accounts in multiple households, upwards in the vicinity of 5 accounts for some users.I don’t recall the link that devulged that information but it was based on survey information and Blizzard’s own press releases.

  6. Ok how many times have we tried to get through to a decision maker at Blizzard only to have some snot nosed punk tell us he can not connect us because of policy.well after some inet investigating I have found some useful information:First of all all Blizz employees utilize thier first initial followed by thier last name @blizzard.com, ie) Mr Mike Morhaime would be mmorhaime@blizzard.comsecond, the recent employee directory can be found at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/basics/bc-credits.htmlthird, if e-mail is not enough call 1-(949)-955-1380 select option 3 for the company directory and type in the first 3 letters of the person’s first name. This will allow you to cycle through the various extensions. ie) Bill Galey the ingame support manager would be 949 955 1380 x 2942I have aquired these from public access and have not hacked or cracked any sites. Thjis info is open to the public, you just have to know where to look

  7. Nice find on the contact numbers, thanks! I guess that would light a fire and open some eyes to what’s going on in there, huh?The problem I have with their Customer Service is that in the game, you get nothing but canned replies and if you ask for specifics, they will tell you to inquire on the forums.Then if you go to their Customer Support forums, you get told you’re posting in the wrong place! It’s supposed to be a forum for in-game issues, yet if you post a problem with a quest, they tell you to go to the bugs forum. If it’s an objection, go to the suggestions forum or wowgmfeedback email. A problem with the game, go to tech support.But one thing I DO notice. Post anything they don’t want to hear and it gets thrown into either General or Off-Topic while their regulars can post anything they feel like. Be one of the GM buddies and you can ridicule anyone you want and post good-morning, afternoon, evening, I’m back, I’m gone or whatever you want and it’s tolerated.The personal attacks are against their rules, yet their buddies post those insults consistently.I’d also like to know how, if they can’t do anything about bans either, they are privy to knowing what the ban was for. Seems that Blizzard gives those GMs access to a whole lot of information they aren’t entitled to have because they can’t do anything with it if they wanted to, so why do they have access to it?That CSF place is very, very biased. It has no purpose. They should just shut it down and stop wasting customer funds on it. Third grade mentality at it’s best.

  8. So I visited the customer service forums today and only got up to this thread before I had a massive headache and had to close it:http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=2509266658&sid=1&pageNo=1Basically the gist of it was,a. Customer posts complaint regarding the handling of a restoration claim by a GM.b. WoW defenders flock to chastise the customer and it ultimately leads to personal attacks.c. GM walks in and further chastises said customer and implies he isn’t telling the truth. Later GM apologizes, for indeed the customer was telling the truth. Then said GM proceeds to fault said customer anyway for replying to the personal attacks made by his peers. Oddly enough, none of the players are chastised for laying personal attacks towards this guy to begin withd. Second GM waltzes in and further slams the now, totally pissed off customer. She then decides to insult anyone who tried to rationally stop the madness by stating:”Another pearl of wisdom by the philosopher Socrates: Let him that would move the world first move himself.”I guess that’s a hidden way of saying, “How dare you suggest how my customer service boards are run. Worry about yourself and mind your own damn business.” That was enough for me. Obviously, these guys don’t have an inkling about the job they are paid to do, nor do they have the ability to stop riots. Hell, they even help the riot along.After reading this one, beyond hope is all I can say.I can’t believe Morhaime would go for this type of crap on his boards.

  9. Another journalist’s take on the state of customer service after an MMOG scores a hit:http://www.virginworlds.com/pg.php?n=6684I seem to see more and more of these articles cropping up. Curiously, these are written by marked professionals and not the so-called “whiny brats” you see labeled and ostracized for public viewing in the Obituary forums noted as Customer Service.At Blizzard’s CS, the body bag count is rising. Previously paying customers have all but given up on that rezz. The lights are on but no one’s home; just a machine kicking out pre-canned emails in a scrambled mess.It is ironic how Dan Anderson uses a restaurant to make his analogy between bad customer service and Blizzard. Blizzard CS has a bad habit of derailing customer complaints with non-stop talk about FOOD. It would seem the human presence has retreated to the ignorance of the kitchen. The office is on a malfunctioned, auto-pilot.This is a rather bizarre group of individuals stacked in there together for sure.One can only wonder if the praised about Warhammer coming in 6 months is going to tilt the scales of arrogance.Syndri may do well to listen to Bill Gates and put down Socrates, eh? Or at least take notice that Drysc recently announced the coming server merges due to lack of population.

  10. “First of all all Blizz employees utilize thier first initial followed by thier last name @blizzard.com, ie) Mr Mike Morhaime would be mmorhaime@blizzard.com“I don’t know which is correct, but I have a list from an insider that states his email is mike.morhaim at blizzard.com (omitted @ for spider crawlers).We have a discussion going on now at a gaming development review site where one of our member’s accounts was sanctioned for broadcasting a URL in Battleground Chat that compliments the /afkreport function. This function, implemented by Blizzard was an effort to rid this facet of non-participation leechers. The URL given to the chat was to advise of a legitimate mod written to aid players in that vein.The account was sanctioned immediately upon broadcast by an ingame GM despite the user’s previous efforts to inquire if the link was acceptable. No refusal was given to the contrary so the user proceeded only to be met with an email that threatened to ban the account.We are currently awaiting a reply from AccountAdmin before we proceed with our own review of the situation, which we fully intend to make public.Needless to say, we are disenchanted at the numerous steps taken to avoid such a situation only to be arrive at the banstick doorstep. We also have further evidence of the harassment received by players who apparently don’t want to see conformity and fairness in a game. While those reports were made using the proper channels, we have documented the harassing players’ return to the game the very next day, suggesting no sanctions were imposed upon those infractions.Stay tuned…

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