Official Forums: Coda

September 22, 2008

A lot’s been said about Mythic’s decision to eschew official forums for Warhammer Online, both good, bad and passionate.  I’ve wavered in the middle of the discussion for the most part, flip-flopping between understanding completely where they’re coming from and frustration that the community is left to pick up the slack for this gaping hole.

Not gonna talk about that today.  I do, however, want to quote a bit from a MMORPG.com interview where Mark Jacob’s defends his position:

From there, I asked Mark what he could say to people who complain that not having an official forum is a way to escape accountability for the company and for issues with the game.

“What is accountability?” Mark asked. “Is accountability the fact that you can get a community manager who has nothing to do with the game development (not saying Mythic but at a lot of companies the CM has nothing to do with the game other than being community managers)… to go on the forums and have abuse heaped on him? That’s not accountability. That’s like putting out a goat for the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park. Accountability is when the players vote with their credit card. That’s accountability. If they players feel we aren’t doing our job, they should cancel. I’ve always said that. We are accountable that way.”

“In terms of reaching out to the community,” he continued, “nobody in this industry does it better than us. Not on the large scale. I can’t talk about the smaller games, but if you look at EverQuest and WoW and LotRO or any of those games, we spend more time reaching out to the community than any other development team. I’m on the boards, other people are on the boards and we will continue to be going forward. We are accountable that way, but we’re more accountable to the players by their use of their credit cards. If they don’t like the job we’re doing, they should cancel. That’s the best way to send any developer a message.”

He rounded out the answer by saying that, “If people think that accountability is just their need to vent their spleen at some community manager, that’s not accountability. That’s just people heaping abuse on somebody in order to feel better.”

Right or wrong, it’s pretty clear-cut where they stand.  When I read this, the one big niggling worry over the whole “lack of official forums” issue remained: where does one go, then, if they start having serious problems with the game, particularly technical issues that prevent them from running the game at all?  I mean, they’ll lack the in-game response of a CSR, and the lack of official forums means that they’re bobbing in a sea of problems without a clear-cut way of presenting their issue to the Mythic tech guys and getting firm help.  Do they turn to the unofficial forums and hunt down player work-arounds?  Do they shout on unofficial forums as loud as they can in hopes that a dev might stumble onto their neck of the woods?

Putting myself into the shoes of a hypothetical player who can’t get their game to work, I looked at my options.  I was prepared to be disappointed by the lack of official forum help, but right on the WAR front page is a big shiny button that says “CUSTOMER SUPPORT”.  Clicky that, and a page full of help options — including in-game, knowledge base, support forms and even (gasp) a telephone number — present themselves.

So.  Color my potential argument null and void.  It might not be as fast or extensive as an official help forum might’ve been, but there is help out there for those in need.



  1. Recently, there have been problems with people getting “Incorrect Password” problems on Oceanic servers. While they have mentioned that it was an issue, not having an official place to ask about it (especially since I live in a different country and can’t call the help line) does bring problems still.

  2. I agree with you. It’s mixed feelings.

    On one side, I just need to look at something like the AoC or WoW forums and quicly realize why they don’t want forums. I completely agree.

    But I agree with the support part. I think it’s harsh that they don’t have forums, and frankly, anything that goes even close to EA for support help is doomed.

    I would like to see them, support forums, with clear rules, toss up some EULA/TOS message, that clearly states, posting anything rude, vulgar, or that isn’t about support and needing technical help will get your account suspended or possibly banned for repeat offenders.

    I really think they could use the support help forums. A lot.

  3. I actually was having a problem which totally stopped me from playing the game.

    After looking at the User to User Support section of WHA for a bit, I did manage to come across a fix for my problem.

    Mythic eventually fixed it in a patch, but the WHA forums were sufficient to get me back up and playing.

    So, speaking from experience, I think the need for official support forums may be slightly over-stated.

  4. Go to WHA and post on the tech forums; someone will likely help you sort out whatever issue you have running the game. =) They’re pretty helpful.

    Bugs and feedback you can feed to them in-game, which is good because 1. they hear what you have to say and 2. if an idiot says something, twenty other idiots can’t immediately jump on his idiot-bandwagon to fuel a flame war. Meanwhile, people coherent enough to coordinate and post a bug/feedback report simultaneously – who usually have more valuable things to say – have their ability to be seen strengthened…not dulled by said idiots and their flame wars.

    As for issues with re-balancing and gear, people keep telling me that Mythic doesn’t heed player ideas about these things, so perhaps no forum for this is necessary…though I wish they would listen, sometimes.

  5. When I need an answer to an problem with a product, I don’t want to stumble around the internet. I want to go the homepage of the people I paid money to, and get the support I need in a timely, easy to access manner, with an _official_ answer. In this day and age of product recalls and ‘eh, ship it, we can patch it when its live’, that support is part of what I’m paying for.

    This applies to any product I buy, be it my car, my monitor, my riding lawnmower or any software I buy.

    Not having official forums for general discussion, fine, I don’t care about that. Historically, the signal to noise ratio on general discussion areas has been about the same as the off topic areas. I can live without that.

    So-called ‘Knowledge Support Bases’ have consistantly been pathetic. The information is _not_ updated in a timely fashion, rarely covers anything but the basics if that, and is never in depth. For example, yesterday I get an authentication error when I tried to log into WAR. Going to the knowledge base, I search for that, get a page with some information. And while the information might have been helpful if any of it applied, its failed horribly. I would have been a few hours trying out their suggestions. What was the issue? Servers were down. Nothing in the error on the patcher gives a clue that might have been the issue. Nothing in the knowledge base article gives a clue that might have been the issue. Yet, an official technical support forum? I’d have probably gotten the _correct_ answer _quickly_, based on my experience with competently run technical support forums.

    Another example. Patches without patchnotes, is that normal for Mythic? Official forum, post a question, bump if needed, take action based on their response (or lack of one). I’m not going to go to some fan-site, and hope that the CMs browse that webforum and stumble over my post and choose to reply.

    When your software bugs out, if there isn’t an official forum to get an official answer, odds are I’ll do what I did with Dawn of War. Relic/THQ can’t be bothered with an offical forum, I can’t get an answer worth a damn from their sadly lacking official support channels, so I can’t be bothered to continue to give them money. And I’m a big 40K fan. Pity. So much for me buying DoW 2 or that 40K MMO they are working on.

    Piss poor customer support comes back to haunt you. SOE gave me craptastic support, they lost my business, I won’t give them penny one for anything.

    Mark’s Jacob’s concern about an official forum being a place for you to just dump on the CMs, pleeeease. One word: Moderator. Dump, ban from forum, 1 warning, repeat the dump, ban from game. Problem solved.

  6. I call bull on the Lotro comment. See the link.

  7. The truth is the the WHA forums are really everything you could expect from an official forum, good and bad. You have plenty of tech support, regular new and dev comments, and the occasional constructive idea, while also having trolls endless rants. If it looks like an offical forum and quacks like an official forum does it really matter that it’s not on mythic’s front page?

  8. Living in Australia, the “incorrect password” problems reminded me why official forums are so important. As it was an actual server problem it wasn’t an issue that could be fixed by the usual “oh I tried smashing my computer with a hammer and it’s fine now” advice from “person over the internet”.

    Sure somebody at Mythic might take a look at the server populations and wonder why nobody is playing on any Oceanic server, or they might stumble into any of the unoffical forums and find Australian players scattered around asking for help (the ones that posted that is and didn’t just turn off WAR and go back to WoW). If there’s no central technical support place to go (and the knowledge base is a joke btw) people get scattered, frustrated, or just plain don’t know where to go get help. Even if you do find an unoffical forum and post about your problem you take on the risk of bad advice and also feel as if you’re just shouting in the wind. At least with offical forums a moderator can see all the posts in one place and send a quick email off to a tech guy asking them to take a look at the problem, and also advise players that the situation is being looked into.

    This palming the job off to unoffical, unpaid volunteers comes across as gutless, lazy and might possibly have more to do with not paying people than protecting an employee’s feelings. Maybe they’re being truthful about their reasons, but it just feels a little dodgy to me and makes me a little uncomfortable.

    Sorry this came out as a bit of a rant. It’s a genetic disorder I think 🙂

  9. I agree with Hel, the fact that the community must turn to 3rd party boards (Which the developers post on) splits the utility of a consolidated board between two major contenders (IGN, and WHA). The devers post on both, so it’s confusing for me at least.

    It seems like a cop-out, but I don’t blame them for looking at the WoW forums and recoiling in horror.

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