Archive for the ‘The Singular’ Category

Gotta Revisit Robowars

so.  a year or so ago, i reviewed this passive web game called robowars.  you guys may remember me talking about it.

so, recently, it was discovered by the robowars community.  (you can see all the comments)  in fact, yesterday they made a poll out of it where you can earn “scraps” (in game currency type stuff) for your robot if you take the poll.

heh.

well.  of course, i did.

anyhow, apparently the community is saying that a lot of things have changed and i should check out the new version.  sounds like a plan.

that’s what i love about all of these thin-client online games.  fresh updates constantly — no big, clunky downloads.

you know, i should make something like that someday.

m3mnoch.

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Web-based MMOG Imagineering

i’ve been doing a lot of imagineering (man, i love that word) lately when it comes to web-based mmogs. lots of stuff running the gamut from super-secret ideas i can’t tell anyone about right now to general wonderings and observations.

well. i think i’ll just dump some of them out right here so i have them collected somewhere.

subscription fees are choice inhibiting.
paying those subscription fees certainly add up. i know you can say “well, just pay them for the 3 months you play and then get rid of them.”

no. it doesn’t work like that.

the thing with a subscription fee is that it represents commitment. there’s a high switching cost involved. and, since not very many people can afford to pay subscriptions for, oh, 15 games over the course of two years, you tend not to move on to those newer games. we basically have the wow effect where everyone is really only in a few games.

it really moves buying games into parallel with buying cars. you really like different models and styles, but, you have to make an informed decision about one — and only one — you’ll enjoy and use enough to make its acquisition worth it.

with non-subscription games, they are more like traditional media. more like movies or music. you just pop it in and play it whenever you want. you know that from purchase so there is no “will i use this in the future?” or “will i like this better than everquest?” or “will something better come along?”  the only factor is the “now” factor. how does buying it impact you right now?

non-subscription games are very much more pickup-putdown with no real switching cost. that lets you consume more game media.

web servers are more conducive to a persistent online world.
this one is tricky and i’m not going to try not to get too awful web-geeky on it.

the gist is that, for example, myspace.com has millions of concurrent users — all of whom can be on the exact same page at the exact same time. that is absolutely no different performance-wise than all of those million people being on a million separate pages.

not only performance, but the web is better at information dissemination than a graphical, high-visual client.

for example, if these million players were all in one place on a wow server (assuming of course the server wouldn’t go chernobyl on the situation) you wouldn’t really be able to pick out any one particular player to attack or inspect or what-have-you. with something like the singular, you can just ask them how many users per page you want to see?

i mean, has anyone ever seen how many google results come up for the word “page?”

oh sure, you say, but there’s an immersive, graphical richness that can’t be achieved with this silly text and lightweight graphical environment called the web. to that, i say, use the best-of-breed parts of both. use the data layout of a web page and the graphically rich aspects of flash for your deeper spatial relation needs.

the future of mmogs is going to be about ajax-enabled rest applications.

event-based feedback consumable in sub-5 minute increments.
as you may know, signing on and logging into wow may take you a while. hell, it takes 5 minutes on a good day to get logged into something you can actually “play.”

contrast that with 3 or 4 seconds to get to a play screen with travian. your login credentials are cached so all you really need is a bookmark to your village overview.

now, with that same 5 minutes you’re logging into wow, i can check guild messages, send appropriate reinforcements, build a new building, train some additional troops and send out a spy mission — and still have time left over.

that’s a lot of gameplay compacted into a short amount of time.

and, that’s the kind of stuff you just can’t do in a 3d world.

by the time you wander over to the auction house, i’ve already hit the marketplace, scanned the available trades, accepted a trade, sent merchants and moved on to planning my next action. and that’s only if you happen to be close to the auction house when we start.

now that we’ve decided that gameplay interaction is faster with a web-based mmog, what can we do with it?

well. what makes gameplay addictive? incremental goals and achieving them, right? well. now, we can have more. more incremental goals and they can be closer together. it’s called instant gratification and it’s a goddamn drug.

and, what quality makes a game permeate throughout your life? being able to get in and get out of the world instantly. how easy is it to check your inbox for new messages? how easy is it to check the box score of the game last night? how easy is it to check what google’s stock closed at today? how easy is it to see if your reinforcements got attacked in your alliance?

answer: super-easy. mere seconds even.

that turns playing a game into a “walk-by” experience. busy working around the house? on an excel document? writing an email? tv commercialing?

multi-task gaming. pop-in. pop-out. top of mind.

and, we haven’t even touched the portability aspect.  connected to the same game on your treo 650?  yep, you sure are.

the web is the single most efficient content distribution channel in history.  mmogs, at their core, are just specialized, interactive content distribution in need of a super-efficient channel.

m3mnoch.

HypeFighter

so. i’ve decided that i’m just going to post this early rev/proof-of-concept thing we’re working on. (tj and ben will prolly string me up for it… erg.)

be sure to check out the caveats below.

it’s just that i’ve got a “serious” project i need to work on this week (food temperature/environment tracking start-up thing) and won’t be able to get back to work on a lot of my parts of our new game, hypefighter. and i really, really wanted to launch it last weekend.

the unfortunate thing is that my parts are always the most visible. you guys don’t see any of the crazy stored procedures or web services tj writes — just the rendered page i attach to them. and, you don’t get to see the piles of spreadsheet data or help files ben puts together as we’re balancing the systems, just that stuff displayed on the front end for you.

/sigh

ah well — here it is: http://www.hypefighter.com

the concept is pretty simple. it’s like digg for video games, but, everytime you “digg” a story, you recruit another troop into your army.

  1. reviews are knights.
  2. previews are scouts.
  3. commentaries are conscripts. 

the earlier you “digg” a story, the stronger your troop will be. for example, if you are recruit 3 out of 6 on any particular story, your guy will be average. however, if you’re 3 out of 600, you dude will rock shit.

and, as your recruits survive battles and get experience, they’ll level up and get even stronger.

it uses the same location-based play that the singular used, but for the uninitiated: you have to be in the same location as someone you are attacking. right now, we’re all hanging out in “thronehold.”  come get some.

don’t attack heyt or stab.  you’ll very, very much regret it.  they have 9000 point armies. 

beat up on my guy, m3mnoch, all you want.  i’ll try to keep his army stacked for you guys to pummel.

we’re looking for feedback. stuff to improve. things that you think are working as is. stuff to add.

caveats:

  1. it’s a proof-of-concept thus far.
  2. it’s running on our dev server, so be nice to it. (no submitting it to digg or slashdot or joystiq or anything crazy like that.) it’s your friends only.
  3. we’re actively developing on that server, so it may go down for no apparent reason. or, you may lose your session for no apparent reason. we’re prolly working on something.
  4. it has no branding yet so it’s pretty boring looking.  well.  downright ugly, you may even say.
  5. it’s missing a lot of the player feedback pieces. well. it’s just missing a lot of the pieces. however, you can recruit, travel, scout and attack. you can also message and do a bit of guild stuff.
  6. none of it is necessarily final. so, terminology and interface may change.
  7. we’re going to try really hard to keep your characters and stats you’ve built intact.
  8. feel free to ignore/comment on the “placeholder” parts.

now, a bit on where to start:

  • You should start by recruiting troops from articles.
  • Use the “Submit Bookmark” for fast and easy story submissions.
  • Recruiting Troops costs turns (Knight:8, Conscript:5, Scout:3) based on how strong that troop type is.
  • Your troops need to be in formation to attack.
  • You can only attack someone in the same location.
  • Attacking or Scouting costs 3 turns.
  • Traveling to a new location costs 12 turns.
  • Your troops can level up as they win battles.
  • The earlier you recruit from a popular story, the stronger your troop will be.
  • A turn ticks by every 10 minutes.
  • Turns reset at midnight GMT on the first of every month.

have fun. let us know what you think. ben, tj, please don’t kill me.

ready?  go!

m3mnoch.

Proof of Concept

well.  we should have a proof of concept/early alpha thing of our new game for you guys to play with next week.  heh.  i guess we’re taking the google approach of throwin’ stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

anyway, i think it’s totally rad and kicks all kinds of ass.  i think you guys will too.

so, what kind of game is it?  well — it’s sort of like if you mashed up dark throne and digg all in one site.  weird, eh?

i promise it’s not as hard to explain how to play as our last game.

as i was saying, i will probably let the cat out of the bag late next week.  i want some internal guys to do a bit more bug findin’ first.

talk to you soon.

m3mnoch.

p.s.  wordpress.com blows.  if anyone knows of a good way to transfer all of my posts and comments over to blogger, by all means, please let me know.  i’m so tired of the shitty reliability of wordpress.com.

Classes, Skills, Avatars and a Sense of Self.

since damion started the latest craze of the skills vs. classes debates, i figured i’d weigh in on the situation. you’ll pardon me as i just do a hearty brain dump.

first, skills vs. classes.

i’ll state it right out — i’m a skill system man. i like the flexibility that a skill-based system gives to someone with a single-minded focus on a discrete set of skills. it’s about finding fun and interesting ways to play and have fun within the system.

maybe that’s just me tho. maybe everyone else in the world likes to play the same character all the time doing the same thing — over, and over and over. but, eh. whatever.

skill-based stuff is harder to balance tho? i’m glad i’m not the only one who’s been scratching his head at the notion of “why on earth is it any harder to balance skill-based games vs. class-based games?”

i mean, what’s the detriment? “flavor-of-the-month?” so? no offense, but flavor-of-the-month means more alts, more fun, more experimentation, more activity to me. and, in a subscription-based economy … uh … you kinda need that. if there was only one flavor — forever — why would anyone (other than the hardcores) play beyond the 6 months or whatever it takes to achieve god-like status with that character?

and people think flavor-of-the-month is rote? again — whatever.

this isn’t to say there’s nothing broken about skill-based systems. it just depends on the game. some things, like, primarily combat-heavy games (read: most of them) are easy to break with a skill-based system.

a major cause of that is that for all of the different skills you use, there really is only one target value you’re hunting for — hit points. that’s where the balancing act comes in. it’s all about tuning dps.

well. what if we took dps out of the equation? what if you could “win” a pvp encounter without doing a single hit point of damage? hell, without every even engaging in combat?

it makes sense. your uber-talented dancer should be able to out-dance some stupid fighter and be rewarded for it, right? what we’re doing is taking the comparison of apples-to-oranges and making it apples-to-apples.

welcome to what we call “skill wagering” over at thesingular.com.

the concept is basically a skill showdown where money and xp are on the line — winner take all! just like in any pvp game, you can walk up and whack any other player you want to gain fortune, fame and xp (ymmv based on the game), in our game, you can sidle on up and skill wager anyone you want. (with the same restrictions as to who you can join combat with, of course.)

some fighter getting out of control? well, the bakers union can waltz in and take all of his money in pie-making contest.

tho. it does depend on the fighter’s baking skill since the amount of xp and gold earned in a skill wager is completely determined by your opponents skill. after all, it’s not too hard to beat down a cripple, now is it? however, having a decent wisdom is all it really takes for the fighter to feel a dent in his wallet because xp and gold would be divvied out based on his untrained, wisdom-based skill total in “hot cross bun baking.”

a side effect of this is that players tend to make their characters rather one-dimensional. focused on combat. or focused on dancing. or focused on crafting. that way, for their tertiary skills and abilities, they aren’t ding’ed too much when they lose the random bake-off. (tho, if that fighter was a mean baker as a hobby and if he won the wagers, he’d be earning xp and gold from the bakers challenging him — while he was offline. yep. offline growth. totally rad.)

meaning, with blase-half-assed secondary skills, you’re basically just increasing the xp and gold some other character would earn when they beat you at it. however, as the game goes on, soon that blase-bit you’re earning for baking wagers against people without the skill just don’t look that appetizing. (pun alert!) it’s sort of built-in bottom-feeding deterrent. it all breaks down to how much xp and gold you can earn for each turn you spend. (yup. we’re realtime-turn-based.)

as the theory goes, over the long term, skills should smooth out bell-curve style as xp rewards get higher and pool around several specific base skills. simply because the skills the general population want to increase — the popular ones — will be the ones folks test. and, if they generally test them against higher and higher skilled players (as the mean skill goes up over the player base) their own average xp/gold per turn will increase.

voila! self-assembling classes all folksonomy-like.

this system will produce more than just fighters. however, it’s a web-based game and not a virtual-3d-wander-around-lost-time-sink-need-to-be-logged-in-to-play game. how would skill wagering fit within that context? luckily, it’s not for me to figure out.

on to “role-playing” and avatars.

so. a requirement for role-playing is to create your character — your online avatar. a consistent role you can play in a game. with all the combat-heavy, class-based love out there, those “roles” seem relegated to tank, healer, etc. it’s not role-playing. it’s job-title-playing.

which, i guess isn’t really a bad thing if that’s your bag. be one of the trillions of other hunters out there, i suppose. whatever blows your skirt.

however, in a web-based environment, we have a few things going for us that don’t exist in a 3d world.

1) it’s text-based.

well. mostly. you of course have your avatar pic that you can update and some flavor images throughout the site, but, most communication is non-visual in the textual sense. that means, you don’t have to sound like a shmuck when you are recorded revoking dkps.

you can take the time to craft your messages/posts/comments to be in a consistent voice.

and 2) we’re a persistent world.

no, i mean really persistent. online or off, your avatar is out there. people are reading your description. looking at your guild. checking out your quests. reading your posts. you are there. (but, you’re not really.)

your avatar truly becomes your online version of self rather than some collection of goodies in a mobile bag with one of four job titles.

that means there’s more incentive to project whatever persona you really want. and, quite frankly, it’s a lot easier too. since our channel is the web, we can take advantage of all the bloggy-commenty-posty-customizable goodies that come along with it.

all in one nice, neat, integrated package.

build your own avatar. write and create your own background. build your adventure history.

hell. build your own quests.

yep. we’re all about user-created content over here. just like you, we’re tired of all the fed ex quests requiring somebody somewhere to get beaten up. with our system, you can make your own baking quest. your own stealth quest. make quests related to your group of friends and their adventures!

you can even build an entire quest to be played out during a single conversation using different diplomacy or bluffing skills to determine the outcome. (i’ve got a great idea for one of these — just looking for the time to write it up.)

there are just so many opportunities for players to directly affect our world. (creating your own locations, quests, guilds, skills, items, etc. is just a start.)

the way we’ve structured things, it’s really all about grouping (just in a different way than you’re used to) and all about solo-type play. it solves (at least, i think) a lot of the problems inherent with the big 3d mmo games out there.

yes, it’s still point and click. and no, you don’t have to “telnet” anything. ya just have to get over that hump of “dude. where are the particle effects?”

m3mnoch.

RoboWars – The “Enhanced” Browser Game

Thumbs ...  well ... meh.so, i played this game called robowars last night. it’s another one of these web-based passive games i’m enjoying so much. i was telling one of the sas guys about it and decided i’d just write up a quick review.

first impressions are fantastic. the ui is great. all of the hard-wired graphics are fantastic. although nice, i’d still like a low-bandwidth version — maybe it’s just me. even all of the weapon and armor icons are good. all the atmosphere images are good. the only ones that are actually quite poor are the pictures of your robot.

it’s totally weird. here we have this great looking site with killer images for some 30 or 40 weapons, but, the main thing you look at — your robot — looks … um … bad. you can customize it tho! you can pick from any of dozens of photoshop “colorized” versions of the same image. have your robot be pink! yay!

anyway, overall, the imagery in the game it great and i’m assuming it will just get better.

logging in for the first time, it was pretty intuitive to arm and equip my robot. the way it’s laid out, tho, is a javascript drag-and-dropper’s dream. it’s not there yet, but i bet it will be.

also, looking around, most everything made sense. buy weapons here. buy armor there. bank is over there. scrapyard is over here. very easy and intuitive to get around and, all of the game narative style naming works. so, getting ready for battle seemed pretty easy. you even start off with plenty of money — cash for buying everything and repairs, scraps for a few repairs but mostly to trade in for cash and diamonds which give life back to your disabled robot.

you have health of course. but, you also have battery power. it fills up daily and you can perform actions until it’s drained. then, at 9am the next day, you can spend your upgrade point and have it filled again.

(dude. robot/sci-fi games could be so cool for the passive environment if done right. not a metagame thing like daily turns, but fuel cells that need to be recharged!)

so, i buy 2 chainsaws (the best weapon you can get starting off) and some really terrible wooden armor (again, the best i can get at a low level. wood, tho?) and wade out into the pvp arena.

it looks okay, but playable. you see a list of other players (by default) near your level that you can bang on. they’ve got their levels and win/loss percentages all laid out. should be easy pickin’s to find myself a patsy.

i select someone at random with a terrible, terrible win percentage. click. how many attacks do i want to use? huh?

what does that mean? how many do i get? how much battery power do they use? what on earth?

um. so, i click 25 — the max. go!

the readout comes back with a large blinking graphic “major defeat!” uh for who? me or him? i read the cryptic text. “0 of your 25 attacks are victories.” later down the feedback “294 damage dealt. 384 damage blocked. you take 10 points of damage.”

again. say what?

a couple things:

  1. i was as well armed as anybody could have been at my level. i attacked a guy of a similar level. should have been a 50-50 sort of thing. maybe even better my direction since his loss percentage was so low. (more on that later.)
  2. if i blocked almost a 100 additional points of damage over and above what he dealt, why did i take any damage at all?
  3. major defeat, assumably for me, evidently means doing 10 points of damage to me when i have 110 health.

whatever. i just pressed on thinking i would figure it out and get a feel for it.

turns out, nah. it never made any more sense. every attack i did seemed like some big roulette wheel in the sky determined the results. i was getting things from 0-9 of my 25 attacks would be victories, yet, my win percentage was in the 70% range. huh?

it was strange, unintelligible voodoo combat. the bummer about that is that if you can’t be marginally accurate as to who and what your chances are of defeating and opponent, no one will try. then, the next time they come back to their account, it’s been crushed by someone 10 levels higher (yes. that is correct, there’s no mechanism i saw that prevented that kind of griefing.) it’s kinda depressing. you don’t know who you can beat and all the crazy powerful players are farming the really weak ones.

/click

next site, please.

anyway, aside from a few spammy knick-knacks primarily used to generate clicks or “votes” on various external game listing and whatnot, the only thing to actually “do” on the site is get some pvp love. and, unfortunately, that part’s not very fun despite my 70% winning percentage.

a few fundamental game design issues:

  1. no incremental increases in power. meaning, you fight and fight and fight with no increase in character power/strength. you gain xp like mad — i jumped 6 levels in my little 45 minute foray, including time to figure out what was going on.
  2. cash xp balance. and, unfortunately, i have hocked everything i can at the pawn shop and still will be at least another 6 levels higher before i can afford a weapon with a level requirement of 3. the armor is even worse. if the only way to earn cash wasn’t fighting, i could totally see the item prices justified. as it is, i’ll be level 40 before i have enough dough to buy a level 10 item.
  3. the level disparity and griefing. there needs to be some mechanism in place to prevent high-level characters from just smashing lower level ones. that’s where all the lower player’s piss-poor, misleading loss percentages were coming from i bet.

final thoughts?

the game looks good. sets up nice. but the actual play is meh. it’s not critically flawed because it’s certainly a cool concept, even if relatively one-dimensional.

lump it in as a prettier dark throne with robots.

m3mnoch.

Introducing The Singular: Chaos Gate

well. the day is finally here. i’d like to officially welcome all of you (and your friends. and their friends. yeah — pretty much anyone who might be interested….) to the public alpha of:

The Singular: Chaos Gate

it’s what’s been taking up all of my free time and depriving me of sleep since about last october.

“Chaos Gate” being the fancy, fantasy story tie-in, of course. (these days, you just aren’t cool unless you’ve got a title-dangler like that) like i’ve said before, if this one goes well, there’s a vampire one, a sci-fi one and even a pirate one around the corner. It’s built to be pretty genre agnostic. The sweet arena fighting championship game we are thinking of beyond those, tho, is going to require a whole new engine. heh.

we as a team are pretty happy with the way things are progressing.

i’ll tell you what, tho, it sure is nice implementing new features once the core engine is in place. for example, we just dropped in professions on friday. the modular design just let us plop the functionality right in.

there IS one thing i’m not tremendously excited about yet. tho, i still think it’s the right decision to do a public alpha already just to make sure we’re on the right game design track. what am i not happy with? character planning and goals aren’t up to snuff yet. folks don’t really have any easily discernable direction to build their characters yet.

we’re going to have about 3 (or even more, really) tiers of skills inside the trees. not all of them will ramp up that high, but we’ll for sure give the players plenty to build to. right now, i think, the only one that qualifies is the crafting line. Mundane, Masterwork, Magical. sort of a chaining prereq thing.

it’ll get there, tho. with things like our spirit timers, riposte, disguise, fast healing, typed locations, etc. it should be cool. and, as i said, we’ve got a solid base to work from. we just are at the point where we need a critical mass of folks playing to see where to tweak things. we still have a lot of things to do from style sheets to automatically updating the ui to fleshing out some world events, but, it’s shaping up great.

so, yeah, we’re really happy with where it is right now. god knows we’ve put enough effort into it so far. heh. i mean, the world timer is already in the 12k range. and, for most of it’s life, it was incrementing turns every half hour. (it started with 1 back in october of last year)

so, give it a try. then, let us know what you guys think.

maybe i’m just crazy when i get excited about making a specific magic item for me, then customizing a specific skill to use it so that the history the other guy sees is all pimped out — all stuff any character can do.

damn, but i think that’s cool.

m3mnoch.

Trumpets and Fanfare

it is with terrific trumpets and fabulous fanfare that i announce… an announcement.
we’ll be going live with the public alpha this weekend.  just putting the finishing touches on a demo quest or two.  niggling with this or that.  you know.  the nervous twitching right before you let the world see what you’ve been working for.

we’ve got one thing going for us i suppose.  what we have is already better (even at this early state) than anything you’ll find on lists like apex or oz games.

word.

m3mnoch.

Hosting Update

just a quick note to check in. well. that, and some funny reading material.

my family and i just got back from park city, utah (hosted the winter olympics a few years ago). we have a timeshare down there at the resort. very nice. not real conducive to getting our game launched, but i actually got to sleep a bit. mmmm…. sleep.

anyway. we have that whole server thing figured out! woo hoo! we ended up going with ev1servers.net. thanks for the recommend, mike. they’ve been awesome so far.

now, about that bit i mentioned earlier about the craziness that was our first hosting company — what i’m going to do is catch you guys up via an email i wrote to one of their veeps. turns out he and i have some common friends we’ve worked with in the past, so i got some good dirt on their company and how they work. they really are trying hard to do things right and we just happened to fall into a black hole. it’s really just a case of bad timing.

however. that still doesn’t give me the confidence to use them as a hosting company right now, but i promised him i wouldn’t totally bash them.

that being the case, here’s the email i sent to him explaining what had happened so far — with the company’s name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

[Mr. Veep].

Sorry to bother you with this, but, I’d like to cancel my contract and drop your company as our primary hosting center. [Mr. Sales Rep] hasn’t responded to my request from last week, so I’m assuming he’s on vacation or something as he’s been fairly quick to get back to me in the past.

The reason is primarily support incompetence, but it’s grown into encompassing more of a “black hole of communication” reason.

Let me explain what has happened so far:

Initially, my impression of [Hosting Company] and its staff was outstanding. [Mr. Sales Rep] was responsive and easy to work with. I received several kind and helpful setup emails from support. Everything seemed fantastic and I was very happy to have chosen your company as my hosting provider.

That was the last time I felt like that, unfortunately.

Shortly after our server getting up and having our application loaded onto it, I tested everything and it was fine. The next day, however, the site was mysteriously requiring windows authentication — despite my having set up IIS to allow anonymous users. After much irritation at having issues with something as simple as clicking “the little checkbox” that allows anonymous users, it suddenly started allowing connections after a reboot and 3 attempts at restarting IIS.

Being accustomed to strangeness like that, I just pressed on. Until it happened again. And, again, it just “magically” went down (meaning started dis-allowing anonymous users) and came back up (allowing them again) of, seemingly, its own volition.

The third time, I called in support. This is an important application, otherwise, I would just host the box ourselves at a colocation facility. The whole reason we came to [Hosting Company] was for a managed, dedicated server. In short, we wanted the experts handling the most mission critical part of our operation. If we wanted to setup the infrastructure or build a box and find a colo, we would have.

I was polite and descriptive of our problem in that first message. Shortly afterwards (not counting the automated messages), I received a message from what I would assume is a 1st tier support rep noting that he couldn’t really help me and was escalating the issue. I was notified that it could take 24-72 hours to get a response.

That was fine with me. We were in pre-production and having the Administrator (that’s how I was able to keep us limping along) set up as the IIS user was okay for the short term. We just backed up our data and hoped the server didn’t get compromised. After all, it’s not on my network.

48 hours later (notice that is less than the 72 hour maximum) I received a “ticket closed” email explaining how [Hosting Company] hadn’t heard from me on the issue in 48 hours, so it was considered closed.

You closed my ticket. My ticket that had your server running at a dangerous security level. My ticket that is a showstopper issue for our application. My ticket that I was patiently waiting for an answer back from your support team.

That was the end of my patience.

My response to that was very, very, very angry. That level of incompetence will not be tolerated by myself nor any of your other customers, I’m sure. Here’s why: People can be placated and assuaged as long as there is forward motion. As long as SOMETHING is happening on their issue, they will wait. When you suddenly dismiss their concerns? When all forward progress ends? Yes. They get angry. I did. Others will.

That reason alone was enough of a show of inadequacy to cause me to yank the account. You would think that [Hosting Company] would be concerned or fix the matter. So did I.

There was a prompt response to my flagrantly angry message. A quick apology and a note that someone would get back to me.

No one did.

Although, I didn’t really expect an immediate answer considering the language and tone of my message — But four days of silence? Does anyone actually work at [Hosting Company] ? Just checking.

Eventually, [Mr. Sales Rep] emailed me back and said, again, you were working on it. I’m not really sure what “working on it” was. Maybe getting credit for the account at the close of the quarter — Whatever. I don’t really care. I just want out of a contract where I don’t feel [Hosting Company] is holding up their end of the bargain.

A couple more days go by.

Then, a polite and helpful gentleman from the support team called me. It was approaching the July 4th weekend and he said he would fiddle (my words, not his) with the settings and monitor our server over the weekend to see how it performed because, rightly so, it’s not an easy problem to purposefully recreate.

He said he would call me on the following Monday to discuss and that he would give me his direct line in case there were any other issues.

Fantastic. He (I wish I’d gotten his name. My fault for not writing it down.) restored some semblance of confidence in [Hosting Company]. Internally, my team and I decided that if 1) he addressed the issue, 2) he called me back on Monday and 3) he gave me his direct line as promised, we would stay with [Hosting Company].

To this day, I haven’t heard back from him. That was a week and a half ago.

To make matters worse (for all of us, really, not just you as we are trying to launch our public alpha. We just need a server.) the test website he set up is now requiring authentication. In other words, his experiment broke too. It still is today. You can go in and try to browse the website and it’ll require authentication.

We’ve since pulled all of our data off the server and back into our development environment. We have no ties to the server or your company anymore. No ties except this disappointing contract that promises us acceptable support services.

That’s exactly the contract I want to get rid of. I don’t want free hosting. I don’t even want you to pay US for hosting. I don’t want my application on a server that could cut off my users at anytime and a company who can’t stop that from happening.

And, I know you can’t figure out my issue. I’m pretty sure your team hasn’t “forgotten” about us. And, you know as well as I do that if it were simple “user error” on my part, they would have politely and discretely informed me of such and fixed the server.

As it is, we want nothing more to do with your company and as some remote form of an apology, really, all we want is our money back. At this point, we’re rather just go away.

I don’t want to turn this into a PR mess or a litigation nightmare. I think we can both agree that $1100 just isn’t worth the effort.

Sincerely,

Christopher D. Chapman
Owner, Steel Anvil Studios
[My Direct Number]

so. a couple days after that email, i sent this one:

oh. my. lord.

what on earth are you guys doing over there? what server do you think you are monitoring when you hit [Our Domain Name]? have i asked you to setup any dns yet? why the hell is this ip: http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=%5BA server on their Network] hitting my dev server every 5 seconds?

let me help you out here:
click start > run.
then, type in “cmd” without the quotes.
then, at the prompt, type in: nslookup [Our Domain Name]

does that ip address belong to [Hosting Company]? no? really? that’s weird. then why are you monitoring it? i mean, i appreciate your help monitoring my own servers on my own network, but, seriously? what the hell kind of operation do you people run over there? not only have you failed miserably at every single request i’ve had, but this is… is… is simply staggering.

please god. just give us our money back for this nightmare of an experience so we can just go away and find a company that is capable of hosting our site.

good lord. i should charge admission. you KNOW this whole ordeal is getting published somewhere. it’s just too good not to.

chris.

after all of that, they actually started monitoring my dev server on my network instead of their server on their network. they don’t even know what servers belong to them….

yup. published.

/sigh

anyway. game update!

during the downtime, we’ve pressed on and implemented some stuff that was slotted for beta. (the new help system is damn sexy if i say so myself) fixed a few bugs. tightened up some skill/experience ratio stuff. all good things moving forward. now, we just need to clean up a bit of our mess and release the public alpha.

we’re really excited (scared to death) to get it out there in you guys’ hands.

m3mnoch.

There’s a Phrase For It

yup.  there’s a phrase for it.  and the abbreviation is: BMOC.  you don’t mess with the ‘m.’

Combat Results

m3mnoch attacks Punching Bag 10 with a Ring of Falling Sky!

Punching Bag 10 only has time to look skyward for a moment before being instantly buried under a huge mound of craggy Brimstone and debris. m3mnoch casually climbs to the top of the pile and laughs maniacally.

Punching Bag 10 recieves 1122 points of Physical Damage.

m3mnoch attacks Punching Bag 10 with a Mitre of Misery!

m3mnoch’s flaming mitre rains fire and death down upon Punching Bag 10’s melting body.

Punching Bag 10 recieves 67 points of Fire Damage.

Experience
  • m3mnoch gains 2363 experience points.
  • Punching Bag 10 gains 0 experience points.

fully customizable skills and equipment.  our game kicks ass.

m3mnoch.

p.s.  links removed to keep us secret still….  shhhhh….