In Which SOE Surprises Me

And this time, in a good way.

On Friday, I got a 7-day pass for Landmark. I didn’t get around to it until Sunday evening because, you know, Easter and all that. And it didn’t work. It was somewhat weird, but I couldn’t get to the download page that their link was supposed to send me to. Annoyed at being (yet again) foiled by SOE and their website, I vented on twitter. (What is it with SOE and their website, anyway? When information doesn’t disappear, as Wilhelm often points out, there always seems to be at least some part of it broken at any given time.)

Yesterday (and, let’s be fair, that was the first office day again after Easter), I actually got contacted via twitter by Omeed Dariani, who is Senior Brand Strategy Manager for Landmark. Now, if I only knew what exactly that is… but it’s similar to a community manager I guess? So maybe that makes him something like Landmark’s Ghostcrawler or CCP Guard?

Anyway, being actively searched out without submitting a bug report was surprise #1. I’m not sure whether that’s one of the things that just happens on Twitter? Anyway, we got to talking (as well as you can in 140 characters), and I promised him a detailed bug report, even though the original bug had disappeared by then. And when I promise a detailed bug report, I write a detailed bug report. So I wrote him a nice one, complete with screenshots of the web site to highlight the problems, and a nice netcat/openssl trace to show the quadruple(!) HTTP redirection happening to their download link from my location. I’m not sure how much that actually will help them, but my limited experience with bug hunting is that traces from remote users never hurt, because there’s so much stuff that you can’t test properly if you’re sitting next to your own servers.

But now comes surprise #2. Within three hours, I not only got a refreshingly non-canned response. (They seem to be pretty good with that on the Landmark team at the moment. Dave Georgeson’s intro video also pointed out some obvious things that nevertheless many developers don’t like to say, like “Open Beta is pretty much release these days [so don’t hide behind it when you lack polish]”.) On top of that, I got, as  a little “special thank you”, an Explorer Pack key.

I was genuinely surprised. This is actually pretty awesome. It’s not only a non-trivial present money-wise (I think they still cost $60? Not that I had planned to buy one, but still), it’s also a nice token of appreciation.

Being the suspicious person that I am, I tried to figure out whether there were ulterior motives. I already thought about that when I got the 7 day pass; I don’t think I had ever applied for one. But I’m not famous on twitter (go look at my follower numbers, I dare you!), and my blog? Looking at the page hits… nope. So I’ll take it as a genuine thank you, and an appreciated one at that. It’s also fortunate, because I haven’t had much time to play at all yet — I think all I managed so far was create a copper pick — and that pack means I can check back at my leisure.

Now, the bad thing is that the sandbox building game genre is something I haven’t really warmed to yet. There is a chance I might not play much Landmark at all. But hey, now that I have a second chance to look at it, I probably will. It will give me the chance to maybe at least visit some other bloggers’ homes eventually, in case I end up sucking at the whole building thing myself. Syl, bhagpuss, I’m looking at you!

9 thoughts on “In Which SOE Surprises Me

  1. That is fairly un-SOE-like in my experience. But I have, in days gone by, opened tickets that got no response ever from them, so my expectations are always a bit low.

    Go grab my old claim spot on Courage. My monstrosity should have expired by now.

    1. Yeah, I know, it was a pleasant surprise.

      I could claim that spot, but I’m not sure how much better I’d do. My last experiments with building stuff (minus IKEA) are probably from pottery in high school, and the results were best described as “abstract”.

      1. It is just close to the spires and in a deserty setting, so more of a “location” suggestion thing. I clearly was going into a more Dali-esque mode of building myself.

  2. You should go watch a couple of the Landmark roundtable videos or Livestreams to see who Omeed is. I hadn’t run across him prior to Landmark but as developer/PR types go he’s pretty amusing. He certainly has more screen presence than most and he seems to have quite a following in the Landmark community.

    I have never had anything but exemplary Customer Service from SOE in all the years I’ve dealt with them. I would rate them head and shoulders above any other gaming company I have to deal with although to be fair my experience with almost all of them has been pretty good. What you’re describing isn’t really customer service though – it’s more this weird new method of dealing with the player SOE and other game companies large and small seem to be inventing as they go along. You see it in a lot of other media, too. I guess it’s part of the social media cultural revolution, under which a lot of the definitions we have grown up with – producer, developer, consumer, customer, player, viewer, reviewer, commentator – are being redefined or thrown away altogether.

    I haven’t had time to do much in Landmark during beta and my claim is mostly a complete litter of half-finished experiments so not much to see at my claim, which is within sight of the spires on Courage-Peak. Easy to recognize – just look for something like a portakabin hanging from a tree.

    1. I don’t think I ever had any proper customer service with SOE before so they never had a chance to disappoint me on that front. My image of customer relations with SOE is more painted by their byzantine website and their inability to manage their (quite good, all in all) games in any sensible manner. The PSS1 disaster tarnished the image I had of them to the point where I stopped caring about all their games for several months. And in a way, it’s still not solved.

      If I have time, I might watch some landmark videos. I’m just not much of a video streaming person.

      And hey, I can always stop by later when you got a couple more half-finished projects done!

  3. I am honestly not surprised. SOE is the company that is by turns too generous and too strict, oddly prophetic, and frustratingly blind. I am happy that it happened to you though, and not some whiner somewhere who got a key as a “shut up and go away” bribe! Hope you enjoy it.

    1. Yeah if you can rely on one thing with SOE, it’s that whatever they say or however they act today – just wait a month, tops, it’ll change.

      Not that I mind the Landmark key – I like their games. SOE is just confusing, even for a game company. But hey, at least they’re just confusing, and not plain evil like EA!

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