Atari’s Customer Service

I’m the first one to bitch and moan at bad customer service, so it’s only fair to also draw attention to good customer service.

Last night playing CO I noted I had 3000+ points to spend in the cash shop. Woot!

Today I was over in STO land, and they were offering a deal on Atari Tokens. I wanted to buy some ST:TOS gizmos so I figured I’d spent some money. I ordered 2000 Atari Tokens.

I jumped into STO and it said I had 3300 tokens. Hmm. I checked paypal to be sure the transaction went through. It had. So I hit customer support. I was going to Open a Ticket when a “Live Chat” box popped up. I decided to try it, and a few seconds later I was IM’ing with Mike G.

One we got through the basics of me proving it was my account we were talking about, we started debugging the problem. He said he could see 2000 tokens being deposited in my account. I asked him why I was seeing the same 3000+ I’d seen last night. We went down the list of obvious things. Blowing away cache, trying a different browser, checking in game. Finally I asked him if they could credit me with 1 token just to see if my balance changed, and he left for a bit to see if that was a possibility.

When he came back I asked if he could see a running balance. He couldn’t, but he could see I’d gotten comped 400 CO points on the 28th and 2000 Atari Tokens today. The way he phrased that gave me pause. I logged into Champions Online and it said I had 5000+ points. Eureka!

It turns out that the free points I get from being a Lifetime Subscriber to CO aren’t usable in Star Trek Online. They’re CO points, not Atari Tokens. I apologized to Mike G for wasting his time; I’d never mentioned my previous balance was all freebie points from another game. He remained patient and helpful through the entire process and was very gracious in the face of my being a bit of a bonehead.

So once again, PBCAK (problem between chair and keyboard) but kudos to Mike G for working the problem (I talked to him for about 40 minutes before I realized my error) and never giving up!

A dip into Champions Online: Free For All

Last night my buddy Eric (who you may know as BlamefulGecko) dragged me out of my self-imposed MMO exile and into Champions Online.

This isn’t the first time I played CO; I played at launch and even have a Lifetime Membership. But as with so many other MMOs I eventually lost interest and moved on to something else. According to the character select screen, it’d been 169 days since I last played my characters and if I recall correctly that was a 1 time log in during a welcome back week or something. Really it’s been since a few months after launch since I seriously played. (I still have my “Hall of Champions” listed over to the right, with some origin stories.)

Eric wanted to show me the new Episodes that Cryptic has been adding (similar to what they’ve done with Star Trek Online) so we did the first one. I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I should have, since I was feeling really clumsy and focused more on how to play than what was going on, but Eric did a great job of narrating the storyline as we played. It was a ton of fun!

Afterwards, Eric put on a fashion show of sorts, showing me his different characters and all the crazy-awesome costumes he’s created for them, including a lot of splashy bits that he’s either earned through playing or bought at the C-Store.

I found myself trying to remember why I’d stopped playing; I really enjoyed my visit to this comic book world. I might have to roll a new character to take through the tutorials and get my bearings that way, though. I’ve got unused points to spend, bags full of junk that I have no idea what to do with, and I was halfway through our play session before I remembered some powers work for as long as you hold down a key (and Eric had to remind me that you could ‘charge’ your travel power).

Everything old is new again, I guess. Thanks Eric!

MMOitus interuptus

Regular readers may have noticed a distinct lack of posts about Fallen Earth and Champions Online recently.

I just wanted to very briefly explain that I’m not posting because I’m not playing, but the reason I’m not playing has nothing to do with interest level in the games.

I have a semi-chronic condition with my left arm — I’d say it was carpal tunnel except it isn’t in my wrist, it’s higher up my arm. My upper arm starts to really ache and my fingers start to go numb, and WASD (and to a lesser extent, typing in general) aggravates the condition when it flares up. And I’m in the middle of a doozy of a flareup right now.

I work at a keyboard all day (I’m a web developer by trade) and I write posts for ITWorld; neither of those activities can be curtailed. So the only ‘break’ I can give myself is to stop PC gaming and stop ‘recreational’ writing until things calm down.

So sadly, frustratingly, that’s where I am now. I keep logging in to Fallen Earth because I’m so drawn to it, then after 10 minutes my arm is really hurting so I log off.

Thankfully I have console games to get me through. Using a controller doesn’t bother me (different muscles I guess?). Oh, for an MMO on console. C’mon Turbine! C’mon SOE! Get those console MMOs finished!

Anyway. I just didn’t want anyone to construe my lack of posts with me losing interest in either of the games I’ve been talking about recently. Quite the contrary…I’m itching to play (and post). I just can’t right now. Hopefully I’ll be back soon!

Champions Online Gamepad UI

Someone on Twitter was asking me how Cryptic handles all the skills with a gamepad.
See the X, Y & B indicators on the first 3 skills? Those are the ‘unmodified’ bindings. If you hold down a modifier like one of the triggers, those little indicators move to show which hotkeys they now map to. So they jump around dynamically.

It works pretty well, and the game is a ton of fun to play with a gamepad.

Hope this helps someone.

Hall of Champions

In lieu of blogging, I’ve been having some fun writing up silly little ‘origin stories’ for my Champions Online characters. But since these are ‘Pages’ and not ‘Posts’ they aren’t going out on the RSS feed. I’ve linked to them in Twitter but figured if I did a WordPress ‘post’ then the RSS feed would pick them up. This is not a blog post! 🙂

Warning: I’m a blogger, not a fiction writer, and it shows. 🙂

The format of these pages is a little origin story, then some thoughts on what I’d doing with the character.

The best one is probably The Highwayman‘s page, since I ripped the fiction off from a famous poem. He was my first ‘live’ character and is the highest level so far (which isn’t very high…level 10). Mundane guns and mystical swords.

My next favorite I think is The Collective. Ever hear an author talk about how his or her characters “won’t behave” or take on a life of their own, seemingly out of control of what the author had planned? That’s what happened with The Collective for me. So now I have a glimpse into how these authors feel.

CanTANKerous was my attempt at filling a “trinity” roll, but CO doesn’t really have the tank/healer/dps trinity set up quite that clearly. You can make a character that fills one of those roles, but most characters are hybrids of some kind. Anyway, CanTANKerous had a long-ish origin story and is, I hope, an unlikely hero.

Last is Electric Blue Angel. Her story was an afterthought…I just wanted to make a character with flashy powers and birds wings, and I wanted to have at least one, and eventually a couple, of female characters in my stable.

You probably don’t want to read all of these, and you quite possibly won’t want to read any of them, but a few people who’ve read them have gotten a kick out of them so I figured I’d share; if you aren’t in Early Start and are chomping at the bit these might scratch that itch for you, at least a little.

Personally I’m having a blast with Champions Online so far, but in some ways it feels tailor made for me. Very alt friendly, huge character customization, both at creation and as you level (you can craft enhancements that unlock costume parts assuming you have the associated powers slotted). I’ve created 4 characters and they all feel and play differently, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible.

If you’re considering giving CO a try, disregard any opinions (good or bad) that are based on less than 5-7 hours of gameplay. The game that CO seems to be when you first launch it is very different from the game it actually is. I’m not saying you’ll like it — you might hate it. But it’d be a shame for you to miss out on a game you might enjoy because someone plays it for 2 hours and passes judgement as it being like all the other MMOs out there.

Cryptic and the community

So yeah, I’m not yet able to let this go.

Since last night my irritation with the whole situation continues to grow. However I feel myself become less irritated with Cryptic, and more and more irritated with the blogging and forum-using community.

Here is the situation:

I spent $5 for a pre-order box at Best Buy. I took the box home. I created a Champions Online account. In the process of doing this, the web site popped up a “Take advantage of our Special Offer” interim page. The offer said I had to buy before Sept 1st, as this was a limited time offer. I clicked “Not now, thanks” feeling I’d like to at least sample the game before I made that decision, and in addition I saw no reason to fork over $200 ahead of time.

The Best Buy pre-order came with Early Access. I figured if the launch went well, I’d take advantage of the special offer comfortably in advance of the Sept. 1 deadline.

Following creating the account, I was sent an email, again soliciting me to take advantage of the special offer. It referred to the offer as “Limited.” This was moments after seeing it referred to as a limited time offer.

I assumed, since there was no physical component to this offer, that Limited referred to the Limited time.

Then, Monday night they announced, on their website, that they only had a limited quantity available. By the next morning they were gone. Monday night I was playing in the Open Beta Ending event; I never even saw the announcement until they were sold-out. I pause now to point out that they have a directed means of communicating with players: the launcher. We see that every time we start the game. They chose not to use that avenue to convey the “limited number” nature of the special deal.

I have since read that Cryptic announced that there were limited quantities of these deals in their forums. Have you been to their forums? They’re disgusting. No more disgusting than any other game’s forums, but I avoid gaming forums as much as possible since they are all vile places.

The fact remains that when Cryptic ‘pushed’ their marketing offers to me, they didn’t mention limited quantities. Just limited time. My bad for not accepting things at face value and digging through their forums in case they’d posted info there that they hadn’t bothered to ‘push’ to me.

OK, so that’s that.

I have a beef with Cryptic. I’m not saying they’re evil. I’m not hoping they go bankrupt. I don’t want Champions to fail and I’m not saying they’ve broken any laws. I personally disagree with the way they’ve handled the issue, and I would very much like for them to reconsider the decision to artificially limit what is a virtual product.

The only ‘leverage’ I have to work with is this blog (and let’s face it, Dragonchasers isn’t a force in the industry — if I get 10,000 visits a month I’m doing great) and my wallet.

So I’m doing the only thing I can do to dispute the decision: opting not to buy the game. And really, this is between me and Cryptic, as far as I’m concerned.

So what I don’t get, and what is really, really starting to annoy me, is people on the sidelines chiming in to take pot shots at me and other people in the same boat as I am. For the most part, this is happening in those wretched, vile forums (which I continue to monitor in case they do opt to re-open the offers.. apparently the forums are Cryptic’s primary way to communicate with their users), but there are bloggers jumping on the bandwagon too. (I’m still trying to puzzle out what Tipa meant by her comment “Did the game become less fun because of the ending of their pre-launch offer?” Was it a legit question? I’m honestly not sure if it was, but I accepted it as one, and answered her as honestly as I could in the comment section of her blog.

So my question is, if you weren’t interested in these special deals, or if you were interested and took advantage of them and are all set, then what is your interest in the situation? Why do you feel the need to snidely comment on something that has nothing to do with you? Does it just feel good rubbing salt in the wounds of people who are already frustrated to begin with? What do you, the bloggers and forum posters telling us we should have known better, or just “QQ more, crybaby,” hope to accomplish by your blog & forum posts?

I’ll reiterate what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m trying to convey to Cryptic that I feel strongly about their decision and have $250 that I’m ready to hand over to them if they decide to change their minds. If they don’t, I’m sure there are other developers who’ll be happy to sell me product.

Comments CLOSED on this post. I’m too angry to have a rational discussion about this topic at this point. (And yes, I realize how foolish it is to close topic on a post that I asked a question in…my questions were for the most part rhetorical.)

Champions Online crossed off my list

Early on, I scoffed at the idea of Cryptic offering a couple of special subscription offers (a Discounted 6 month sub, and a Lifetime sub) before the game released. All their marketing material said these were limited time offers that ended on Sept. 1st.

I scoffed, but I kept playing preview weekends and “open” beta, and found myself enjoying the game and slowly being sucked in. Finally I decided that I’d snag one of the two special offers, but I wasn’t sure which one. I had until Sept. 1st to decide, so there was no rush.

Last night, Cryptic posted a notice on their website shifting their story and saying now that “Supplies were limited.” By this morning, they were sold out. I didn’t see their site last night as I was busy taking part in the end of beta event. Nothing about this was in the launcher.

How can you sell out of a virtual product?

When I found out I’d missed out on these special deals, I was pretty upset. Had I known the offer was a limited time one, I would’ve purchased early. And I know now that I would’ve actually sprung for the Lifetime Sub. First of all, it comes with 8 extra character slots, and this was clearly a game I would’ve gone alt-crazy in. Second, it feels like the kind of game I’d play casually… a little bit at a time, over a long period, so a Lifetime Sub made sense for me (and I’d just earned a $200 bonus from a freelance job, coincidentally).

Anyway, now that this sweet offer has been dangled in front of my nose, then retracted, I find that I’m no longer interested in giving Cryptic any of my money.

Unless they decide to re-institute the offer. The one legit concern I can understand is that the special offers included entrance into the Star Trek Online beta, and I can see where they’d have to put a limit on those.

So maybe, hopefully, they’ll re-open the offers, just with the STO beta entry removed. I’d be fine with that.

I won’t delete the client, in the hopes that Cryptic does the right thing by their customers.

New Champion: Maynard

Poor Maynard. Born horribly deformed. His left hand has only two fingers, his left foot, two thick toes. A fleshy fin sprouts from his upper back and below that, a writhing tail with a arrowhead tip. And what’s under that mask? You don’t want to know.

His mother arrived on the steps of a small country church in the throes of labor. Why she sought out a church rather than a hospital would never be known, as she died giving birth to Maynard. Who (or what) his father is remains a mystery that will probably never be uncovered. The priest at the church, seeing the baby’s disfigurements, hid him from the members of his congregation. He told them the baby had been stillborn and that he was buried with his mother.
The old priest raised Maynard in secret. He educated the boy and was kindly towards him, but Maynard’s total seclusion heavily influenced his upbringing. He lived in the basement of the church, never able to walk in the sun, or to play with other children.

When he was ten years old, the priest took a spill. His head caught the corner of a table. The impact cracked his skull and he started to bleed heavily. Maynard had no idea how to cope. He tried to staunch the flow of blood and in the process became covered in it. Finally in desperation he ran from the church, screaming for help. Help came, but when the villagers saw a blood-smeared creature hovering over their beloved parish priest, they jumped to conclusions. They attacked Maynard, thinking they need to drive him away from the priest. He fled to his basement, where he was cornered.

And that was the first time his powers manifested. With no understanding of what they were or how to control them, his force lashed out, and several villagers were killed before Maynard broke free and fled into the night.

Maynard’s remorse over the incident twisted him further, but he has pledged to use his powers to try to do good in the world. To try in some small way to make up for the lives he took. And so he became an unlikely Champion, with his withered shoulders and sinewy tail. Shunned even in the diverse world of the Champions, Maynard follows a solitary path, fleeing from the demons of his past.

* * *
Eh, it’s a work in progress.

Maynard is a “Sorcerer” template character. The builder says his primary stats are Intelligence and Presence. Hmm. Presence helps reduce threat level. Intelligence reduces the energy cost of powers. Turns out the Sorcerer framework has some healing powers in it.

What I’ve taken to doing, at level 5, is heading to The Powerhouse and stripping my Champions of all their powers, then building them back up (it sounds like you won’t be able to do this for much longer, though). When you pick (ugh, I hate that I can’t remember the terminology) a Trait (I think — 0ne of the customizations that heavily impacts your base stats). Anyway, when you pick them in the Powerhouse you get a much better idea of what each stat does than you get just from rolling over the stats on your character sheet.

Since I mostly solo, Presence does very little for me, so I rebuilt Maynard with high Intelligence and Endurance. Endurance impacts max power points. During the tutorial, Maynard couldn’t fully power up his main attack because he didn’t have enough energy to do so, even when is bar was full. Hopefully the extra Endurance will help with that.

For his third power I took one of the Sigil powers. I expected this to be a kind of ‘belt’ of rotating doo-dads that did damage to attackers, but instead it throws out sigils in a rather large circle around him. So it’s more of a skill for when you’re going to stand in one place and fight. It reminds me of Shaman Totems in WoW, or healing Runekeeper Runes in LOTRO.

I didn’t get too much farther than the 1st tutorial and then Powerhouse. I spent a long time making this deformed Champion… Oh! And just to reinforce his creepy weirdness, I gave him tunneling as his travel power.

Champions Online Corrections

I have to correct two errors tonight.

The first one is mine. I said you could unlearn all your skills and powers at any point. Apparently that is not correct; I just never got high enough to where I had more than you’re able to unlearn. So sadly, at some point you’re stuck with powers you’ve been using for a while (you unlearn in reverse of the order you learned them in…think of it like ‘unstacking’ your powers).


The second correction is something I’ve heard as a criticism of CO: small zone sizes. In the screenshot below, I’m maybe one third of the way across the zone, looking back at where I started. The structure you see is Project Greenskin, the 2nd Tutorial Zone. Note how small it looks. These are not small zones. I think there were 150 people in this zone when I entered it.

Targeting & Skill Types in Champions Online

Someone on my forums asked about targeting in Champions Online — how it worked. As strange a question as it seems, the answer is somewhat interesting (I think, anyway).

So how to target a mob? Well you can click on it, of course. Or hit whatever key you have bound to “Select Enemy” and toggle through mobs in the vicinity. But there are choices beyond that. You can set an option that will have you auto-target anything that attacks you (provided, of course, you have nothing currently targeted — this option won’t switch targets on you). You can set an option that lets you target a friend, and instead of attacking your friend, you’ll attack whatever he has targeted (kind of a dynamic assist). Or you can set an option where hitting an attack key will automatically target the nearest enemy. I can’t recall seeing that last option in any other MMORPG, but I may be wrong. The other options are common enough, but it’s nice to have them all available, and all optional, in Champions Online.

Now let’s talk types of skills. I’ve found four so far.

First is the Energy Builder. This is a rapid fire, low damage attack that builds up your character’s energy (used to perform other skills). You can choose how to access this skill. You can require a key to be held down constantly while it fires, or you can choose from two ‘toggle’ variations. In the first, the skill will continue to auto-fire until you turn it off; this is a great way to draw lots of aggro if you have the ‘auto-target’ option on. Or you can choose a toggle that gets canceled when you change targets. I suggest that last option. Your energy builder will continue to fire on your current target whenever you’re not using another skill — basically it’ll work like a default auto-attack in other games.

Next skill type is what I call a standard MMO skill. You hit a button, the skills sucks down some of your energy and fires off, then a cooldown timer starts and you have to wait to use the skill again.

Skill type three is the charge up. This kind of skill gets more powerful the longer you hold down its hotkey, and only fires when you let the key back up. There’s an onscreen meter that fills up to indicate how charged the skill is. I believe some of these skills have some extra effect if you charge them to the max. With a little practice you get a feeling of how much you have to charge a skill in order to kill off a wounded baddie, without wasting the time of over-charging it.

The last skill type is what I call the Charge Down. These skills start firing as soon as you press the hotkey, and will continue to fire as long as you hold it down, or until an onscreen meter empties (essentially the charge-up meter in reverse). If you manage to get off a full ‘clip’ you’ll get some bonus effect at the end of using the skill.

I’m no CO expert, so there may be more skill types I haven’t discovered yet.

Playing different characters that use different types of skills feels a lot, well, different, and I think it’ll give some legs to Champions Online in terms of alts (or re-speccing). This is even without looking at the “Power pools” and damage types of the specific skills.

I hope anyone who knows more about the game that I do will jump in and correct anything I get wrong in these posts!