Shoes, Shirt, but no Service
Oct 11, 2007 10:30:17

I recently had a discussion with Liesse of The Older Gamers (TOG). You met another member of TOG in my previous article entitled "Generation O". Liesse is one of the guild leaders in TOG, and at 14,000 members strong they are one of the largest guilds. She is also the Kinship leader of "The Order of Gilthoniel" in Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro). The Order of Gilthoniel is a European kinship. If you want to find out more about her kinship you can do so at the following link: http://www.theorderofgilthoniel.com

Julie: Liesse, what have you played? Which one is your favorite game and why? Is there some factor that makes your favorite game better than others, say World of Warcraft for example?

Liesse: Assuming you asking what online game I've played: Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars and various MUDs a long time ago. I am currently playing LOTRO.

On the not online side of things, I play Japanese console RPGs mainly. Oblivion on my PC, and games like the Final Fantasies, Rogue Galaxy (at the moment), the Suikodens, Digital Devil Saga on my PS2.

My favorite online game is Lord of the Rings. Why? I adore the book. I still own the battered single volume paperback I got from my parents for my 9th birthday, and the game features many examples of the fact that it's been made by people who also love the book. The game has a good mixture of content for casual play and power gaming, brilliant writing and new and original characters. A friend of mine spent a week running around in game in awe at his first sight of Rivendell and the fact that he was talking to THE Gandalf.

And of course, there's a rather nice bunch of people in my TOG guild, The Order of Gilthoniel, on Europe's Evernight Server.

Julie: What is it like to game with players from a country other than your own?

Liesse: The major stumbling block for any European (or Australian) playing alongside US gamers is the Time zone issue. If you play in a US-dominated guild, you will have to pull all nighters to get significant quests done / monsters killed / have a significant portion of social interaction. This is one of the reasons I stopped playing FFXI: it is too difficult to fit into a 'normal' lifestyle that also involves work and other things for me.

FFXI was dominated by the Japanese. My highly generalized and personal opinion and experience of Japanese gamers is that they are highly reluctant to group and talk with none Japanese gamers. I received everything from blatant insults to more subtle excuses like "We don't want to be distracted by seeing none Japanese characters in group chat during battles." There are few things more frustrating than seeing a Japanese group waiting to go hunting for lack of one vital class in their group.... which you could fulfill.

I haven't played FFXI for over a year and the situation could have improved. Tensions between the Japanese and the English speakers is a very unenjoyable aspect of the game. I doubt that things have improved, however.

Julie: Are there any disadvantages or advantages to being from your country when it comes to gaming? For example, when Lord of the Rings Online came out I know that gamers from Australia had a hard time getting there hands on the game before the Life time subscriber offer expired.

Liesse: Time zone is the big one. LOTRO avoids this issue by having separate US and Eu servers. I know that then I log on at 7 in the evening after work, my friends will be on hand to help with quests or to generally hang about. This is a huge advantage.

The disadvantage is watching the American/AU players get better service from the developers. I have seen several examples of US /AU server GMS helping players with issues that the EU GMS say "We have been told by Codemasters that we cannot do this" to. Gamers across the pond have access to the Official Turbine forums (we cannot register there) where the devs regularly post and are available for questions.

We get a monthly Dev chat (as do the American / AU gamers) at which the same old questions about when Helm's Deep will be in game get asked.

Julie: In regard to European GM's. More than once I have heard complaints about this and not just in Lotro. Total Biscuit on WoW Radio used to complain about this all the time. On the American side of things I asked a question of a GM once when I first started playing the Beta. The question could have been answered with a bit of knowledge about the basic mechanics of the game (which being new I had none). It seemed that the gm knew little about the game he was trying to GM. Mind you this was back in Beta and things change.

Why do you think there is such a disparity in the service that EU gamers get when compared to American and Australian gamers? Is it a matter of not knowing the game? Is it a matter of attitude toward European gamers in general? What do you think is going on here?

Liesse: Sometimes it feels like it is a case of not knowing the game. Here's an example - We recently had an outbreak of lag on Evernight server after the latest LOTRO update. Clicking on your vault would take ages to get a response from the server, you couldn't even think of trying to open your mailbox, and rubber banding issues meant some zone lines were not crossable. I responded to a GM on the official forums who was asking for Evernight players seeing issues to run a trace route and post the results.

The GM responded to my complaints about being kicked out of Carn Dum instance with my group and loosing loot as a result of the issues with "As per a senior GM, there was maintenance carried out on Evernight last night. Try it again and see if the situation improves." The response had me cringing with embarrassment for the GM. If he had bothered to read the game status notices, he (or his boss, that senior GM) would have know that the scheduled maintenance to my server that night had been canceled after feedback from the devs. He should have also known that Carn Dum, the instance he asked me to try again, has a three day lockout function that means it's impossible to go in there and try it again.

Mistakes like this do look like simply a lack of knowledge. The desire to help is there.... but there's just no substance backing it up. The cynical response would be that outsourced GMs from Alchemic Dream simply don't have the time or knowledge necessary to provide the first class service that we want.

I'm not sure what I think. I have seen that Codemasters seem willing to monitor the situation, and act --- at least when they get embarrassed in public about it. Here is one of many threads on the issue in the official EU forums, where Codemasters actually responded:
"Just going to step in here and clear something up.

Codemasters have instructed all GM's to assist players in any quests that are bugged, if you encounter a show stopping bug within a quest that stops you progressing - please submit a ticket and a GM will assist you.

If for whatever reason a GM responds saying they can't help - please send an email to lotro_gmreport @ alchemicdream.com providing as much detail as possible about the issue you have.

Codemasters do not want to hinder player's game play experience and neither do our GM's. They are there to assist you and will do so in anyway they can.

Hope that clears a few things up."

The GMs in game DID seem to get a lot more helpful after that. So long as Codemasters seem willing to put the metaphorical boot in when it's needed, the situation is certainly workable.

Julie: Thanks to Liesse for taking the time to talk with me and give us a point of view from Europe and offer her perspectives. Until next time...

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Oct 11, 2007 10:30:17 CST (comments: 0)


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