EA Games, it’s in the service

–Open letter to EA Games.

Dear Someone who gives a damn about your customers,

I’m writing to you to let you know about some fairly major issues I’ve had with your services in the hope that you both improve them and provide compensation for my troubles.

On the 22nd of September you sent me some marketing email offering me a birthday discount via Origin. I used this to purchase Mass Effect 3 and managed to get a fair amount into the game. On the 3rd of October however this game went missing from Origin completely. This is when my trouble really began.

Firstly there appears to be no documented way to contact anyone within your company. Sure you can go through a very convoluted FAQ system to be dumped into a page that only lets you log an issue online but that issue (apart from the obligatory automated email) does nothing. The trouble however stars before this when you attempt to use your Origin credentials to login to the helpdesk. In both Chrome and IE the Ajax spinner just sits there forever on the screen. I presume this is a bug and not an attempt to stop people logging calls. I am presuming this as rather suspiciously you provide no other means to log a complaint. No telephone number, no documented complaints process and no address for when you decide that the only means of recourse is a small claims court decision. Anyway luckily I tried opening another tab in the same browser window and in that one the process had logged me in. However once the call was logged no action was taken on your part at all.

My next attempt at getting some form of response from your company lead me to trawling forums in order to get a telephone number for customer services. After 30 minutes of reading peoples issues with your complete contempt for your customers I actually found a telephone number. This in turn left me with two calls to your company each involved being on hold for up to 40 minutes. The first call finally got picked up by a service team in Ireland. A word of advice on the service desk front. Don’t have other operatives in the background taking the piss out of customers. It doesn’t sound very professional and you would be surprised how much you can hear over headset microphones. Anyway I was told that Paypal had cancelled my transaction and there was nothing that EA could do about it and that I should phone Paypal. So I did this. Amazingly for such a large company I easily found the contact number and when I rang them they picked up the call and dealt with my problem without having to wait on hold for 40 minutes. You might want to aim for that kind of services, I’d advise your head of Customer Support to give it a try. Paypal told me that there was nothing on the system to show any cancellation and that there was no way for them to cancel the transaction anyway. So I rang your company for a second time, I clearly like getting my fingers burnt. This time (after the 40 minute wait) I got through and was then put on hold again while my case was looked into (another 10 minutes) at which point I was told that the license for the game had been revoked because the payment was cancelled. However the people on the service desk had no way of finding out why it was cancelled or who requested it. I certainly had not. They did tell me that usually in this situation me entire account would be locked so really I was lucky. I suspect this too would disable my ability to not login to your help pages which meant I wouldn’t be able to find out why you had taken my money and not supplied the services I had paid for. I asked the member of the services team to contact the finance team and find out why. He said it would do this and they would email be shortly. I also asked that my service ticket be updated to reflect this. So far no contact from your finance team and no update on my ticket. This leads me to the conclusion that nothing has been done. The payment wasn’t cancelled as you still have my money and I have no way of getting the game I paid for back. This to me sounds very much like theft but as I only work for a law firm and am not a judge I will leave this up them to decide unless you can resolve this matter in a timely manner.

Lastly although I understand your desire to drop Origin onto the market place don’t you think it would be a good idea to get it out of Beta first? I mean Ubisoft tried to grab a piece of the Steam pie and failed giving most of its customers details to the world. Your provision is unfortunately worse than theirs, I struggle to find the justification for selling a product online with no shipped media, no physical production costs for more than you can purchase the product in the shop. It seems extremely misguided but that is your choice.


Awaiting some form of response,

XCOM: UFO Unknown

Old old old
In 1994 people knew how to make a good computer game. Specifically MicroProse and Mythos Games and there seminal title UFO: Enemy Unknown which this year (like so many film titles) got a reboot. Firaxis and 2K have said that it’s a new game in the theme off (or homage to) the original but to anyone who has played the original it’s a fairly straight copy. The research tree is pretty much the same as are weapon upgrades and mission types. It’s also as frustratingly addictive. Just one more mission always turns into the lose of another hour of your life. Obviously the graphics are vastly superior to the original as well. However there are a few issues. Somehow in 1994 they thought of everything where as in 2012 the games been vastly simplified.

Taking the stock
In the original you had to design you base around your needs. If you hire to many soldiers, engineers and scientist you had to house them all. This meant that you had to prioritise between the three. In the remake your only priority’s are based around finances and the forced choice of location on some missions. Likewise you had to build storage space for your loot. This meant you had to prioritise what artefacts you kept and what weapons you order or build. The new game takes all of this management away and focuses squarely on making money and shooting things.
Missing in action 
The soldiers in the original game could only see the direction they are facing. This meant you had to tactically decide which position they are left in at the end of the turn. If facing the wrong way they’ll not only miss their snap shot but also get killed by the monster lurking just behind them. Although not critical it massively raised the anticipation of entering a building or performing a base attack. Now a focus on cover is pushed but soldiers can always see 360 degrees. Maybe this is an improvement, maybe not. I mean I can certainly look behind me whenever I want but it does seem to dumb down the tactical aspect.
Don’t mess with the dead buddy
The most noticeable omission for me is corpse raiding. Ok so your medics been gunned down, why can’t any other unit go and grab their kit and continue on their Florence Nightingale ways? Predominantly I’m guessing this is to do with the class system but even this seems overly restrictive. The old system let you build up your characters how you wanted them. If you want someone who is good at being a pack horse then weigh them down and force them to run around the map a lot. If you want a crack shot give them a good weapon and have them shot at every target. The new system is much more basic. I like the addition of the skills tree but I also prefer the freedom of the original
You used to be able to rock up to a crash site with as many gun slingers as you could fit into your ship. Now it seems that 6 is your limit. The entire planet is under threat but we are insistent you resolve any problem with a maximum of 6 people. It just don’t seem fair.
Second floor wait it out. The feature I used to like the most in UFO though was getting on a mission where I could get everyone onto the second floor of a building and then shoot out the stairs. Everyone would then grab a window and wait. Classic old school wait and bait. It’s all gone now though due to enemies not moving until discovered.
Don’t get me wrong. I like XCOM : Enemy Unknown. It’s addictive and fun. My main concern is that either developers and games designers have got lazy in copying an old game and missing out on a lot of what made that game complete or they think the people of today are too dumb to want a strategy game with too much strategy in it.