At first I didn’t mind that in order to play certain games you needed to have the Steam client installed. I got used to it when I got into World of Warcraft. I even forked over twenty dollars when Portal was first released on the platform just so I can play the game, which I enjoyed.
So I bought a few more games that required steam and never thought about getting anything else for it. Then I stopped playing those games that required steam for about a year, only to realize that my account was hacked during my hiatus when I wanted to get another game that required me to use the platform. After a few attempts to get my account recovered through email didn’t work because I realized that the first thing the attacker would’ve done after they compromised my account was to switch the email the account was tied to to prevent me from regaining control, I checked Valve Corporation’s account support page for any other options I could use to get it back, but all their support page boiled down to was, “if you lost control of your account, you’re screwed. Try using a stronger password next time.”
What also baffled me was the fact that even the forums had several users berating those in a similar predicament as mine for not using a more secure password, because we all know that a really strong password is all you need to prevent would-be attackers from hijacking your account. I’m assuming that Valve Corporation had several lawsuits filed against them for this level of customer support and resolved them behind closed doors because they have a SLIGHTLY better customer support page for issues like these, but they’ve lost my trust with them the moment I knew I was unable to get my account back and would have to rebuy the games I’ve lost on it.
Just for kicks, I decided to check out what the better business bureau thought of Blizzard Entertainment. Obviously it was an A+. And that’s not just because Blizzard’s paying them to get a higher rating; their customer support is leagues better than Valve Corporation’s, which is why I still play Blizzard games even though they too use a steam-esque platform for all of their current titles. When my WoW account got hacked, I received an email saying that my it was going to be banned in a few days because they noticed that I was doing some illegal activity despite me not having an active subscription for well over a year. So I gave them a quick phone call, told them my situation, and they said they’ll look into it on their end, which was resolved in two days. They also told me that they couldn’t reset any of the experience and items gained from on any of the characters that the attacker used on my account, but they gave me two free weeks of playtime to straighten things out if I wanted to. Apparently the attacker loaded my highest level character with stuff that I had no idea what they were, so I gave them to my friend who was still active in the game who said to me they were top-tier crafting materials.
It kind of sucks that I can’t play any of the big budget games on my PC anymore because I refuse to use steam, but eventually they’ll trickle down to DRM-free stores like gog.com in due time. For awhile I didn’t think that the Ys games were going to be there, but they were just put up on that site not too long ago. It looks like I’m not missing much anyway.
I’ve had a WoW account hacked into as well. Customer support got it straightened out.
The Valve Corporation isn’t interesting to me. Gabe, an ex-Microsoft employee, made a company called Valve Corporation that made some games like Half-Life. Then he made an online game store. Everything about the Valve Corporation stinks of ‘money sucking’ in the Microsoft way. The Steam client isn’t anything spectacular. Valve Corporation doesn’t really participate in making interesting games anymore (if they ever did). What bothers me so much about Valve Corporation is how they market themselves similar to Ballmer Era Microsoft. Microsoft would keep showing how they are a ‘high technology company’ and make demos of products they had no intentions of releasing and talk about ‘re-writing the book’ on something. Valve Corporation does the same. They are always making a new ‘console’ or ‘OS’ or ‘more hats’. Oh, and their desks HAVE WHEELS. I kept reading puff stories on Valve Corporation from sympathetic journalists, and they kept mentioning how the desks have WHEELS on them as if this was some revolutionary thing.
Blizzard is a much more interesting company to me. They have roots to the Golden Age of Console gaming of the 16-bit generation where their first games competed against Sonic and Mario. Those lessons they learned then have guided them since. “You don’t worry about what other games are doing. If your game is good, fun to play, well polished, it will do fine despite Sonic or Mario.” They’re right. I remember having a ton of fun with Rock and Roll Racing. Their golden goose of World of Warcraft is itself worthy of books of business analysis. Not too many companies can make a game like that and keep it running for so long. Talk about shelf life, I used to think Civilization was king in that. Civilization would always be relevant and be on the game shelves. But Blizzard games just stay there and stay up in price.
I know during the creation of Warcraft 2, the artist’s room was turned up very bright so they had to make all the art very colorful and bright in order to appear. Some of this was due to the experience of game consoles since the art had to be very bright in order to appear on TVs. I remember Warcraft 2 being such a bright, cheerful game.
What I find curious is that Blizzard seems to have picked up that entertainers need to have a relationship with the audience (or as they say now the ‘community’). Other game companies would not put out map makers. Blizzard does so since it increases the longevity of their game and creates new talent for them to hire (one third of the Starcraft 2 developers were mod makers).
It is not that Blizzard is smarter or wiser than other companies. They make all the same mistakes. However, there is some sort of operation inside that does a ‘reality check’ with the community response. The community keeps yanking Blizzard back from going off the rails. Sometimes it is a painful yank. With Diablo 3, boy, Blizzard did not want to shut down the real-money auction house. Blizzard did not want to demote ‘fuck that loser’ Jay Wilson. But they did. Lately, it appears another yank was done. People on the Heroes forums kept complaining about why are they not telling us the date for the patch release (they did show it at Pax East). What is going on with the matchmaking? Why aren’t heroes being made faster? *YANK* Blizzard then starts giving announcements for the patch release, talks about matchmaking, and agrees it needs to put out heroes faster.
I have never seen Blizzard stampede over the consumers’ wills. It’s not like they haven’t tried. Remember the ‘real name’ system for their accounts? Boy, did people howl. For Heroes, they were going to do artifacts (or whatever). People howled again. It’s incredible to me. Blizzard does the same exact mistakes other companies make, however, there is something inside the company that is like a guardrail that bounces Blizzard from falling off a cliff.
I do know that the Community Managers have to send in reports about what the community is saying. I think this job might even extend beyond the CMs. These reports of what the audience is saying or thinking goes straight to the top. Someone up at top, I don’t know who, then cracks heads down below. Maybe it is Morhaime.
It is also difficult to gather information from the noise. I’m not sure how Blizzard goes about it. Server statistics only show them so much. It doesn’t explain ‘why’ something is going on. It doesn’t explain why something isn’t fun.
After Warcraft 2 in 1995, I kept saying to myself, “And that is it for Blizzard. They had a nice ride.” After all, their neighbor companies such as Westwood and others bit the dust. Yet, twenty years later, Blizzard is still there and still making big games. It isn’t because of ‘WoW’. All their games have been successful including Diablo 3 (initial sales). It’s an amazing track record. I want to know how they do it.
Valve Corporation? They are the Wal-Mart of the gaming world. Lame. Boring. All Gabe does is play make-believe that he is a digital tour-de-force like Google or Apple. He’s not by a long-shot.
Why is it so bad if Microsoft’s store replaces Steam? From the Better Business Bureau, we’d at least probably get better customer service. Also, Microsoft makes good controllers. Valve Corporation still hasn’t figured out how to make a decent controller.