I haven’t written a Developer Memo for quite a while; I had intended it to be a series when I first hatched my evil scheme, but I got sidetracked by … I’m not sure what. Maybe blackouts. Or displaced SWG rage. Who knows.
Before I get too deep into illegally using my e-friend’s Warcraft info, I’ll do another. This time focusing on Customer Service and Support in MMOGs, it seems important to write this before I experience WoW’s CS system firsthand. Because I’m sure it’s the best ever, since Blizzard is god.
Ya. Moving on…
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a “good” CS system in a MMOG. I’ve certainly experienced bad ones; evil ones, to be sure. It could be that well-designed games (read: don’t annoy the shit out of me and don’t steal items, experience or time from me) don’t have much need for a CS system.
There’s the first suggestion: make sure the game won’t regularly steal items, experience or time. Less complaints = less payroll needed to deal with really, really, really pissed-off catassers.
Next, I think treating the customers and service volunteers like criminals is a very bad idea. I’ll agree that 99 percent of the players are raging rectums, but they are not cheats. When I complain that the demon game ate a backpack of uber poison-wheat-fangs, I don’t want to hear: Sorry to hear that, friend, alas there is nothing I can do, but happy travels to you!
Either the game needs a solid item tracking system, or you’re going to have to rely on the honor system with the players. Your choice.
Presuming me a cheat on the rare occasions I complain makes the game less about me versus the monsters and more about me versus you.
That’s not good.
You might need help someday with finding game-breaking exploits or the major-league cheaters; trust me on this, if I’ve been treated as the enemy, you can find your own game breakers. If I’ve been given a straight deal, you’ll receive the same in kind.
Lastly, I’m not sure what brain trust originally thought that MMOG customer service didn’t necessarily have to be in-game, or fluent with the native tongue of its customer base, or at least minimally familiar with its game mechanics … but I have my suspicions.
Form letters and bot answers I can get from the knowledge base. (Which, by the way, I have never found useful, but it makes a good stalling technique for an over-loaded CS system.)
If you can’t afford people to be in-game, fluent and game-knowledgable, you’re going to have to pass out a lot of item, experience and death refunds. You might as well just code the demon game to issue these types of refunds on demand.
Or here’s an idea: a help system that clearly states, “If you should erroneously lose items, experience or time due to a problem with game mechanics, please email the details (date, character name, lost items, zone of incident, desired corrective action) to *CS-email* and we will put the situation right within X days.”
Ya. WTF am I smoking?
Next week: I used to be volunteer customer support. Think Project Mayhem.