Star Trek Online : The problems are still here ! Cryptic please listen to US

Hello everyone, I’ve just read an incredible good post on arc forum STO section from a lifetimer sto player, and I totally agree with him, so I decided to link it for everyone to read it 🙂

[Letter] Serious discussion on some big issues is long overdue.

Greetings my fellow STO’ers,

I would like to put forth my thanks to you for reading of what can only be described as a massive wall of text. I make no apologies for this as I will explain my convictions in a moment but as first order of business I feel it is important to show that I am not delusional enough to think that the majority of people who will choose to read this will know who I am. Some people will know me well, another small section will know me as one of the co-hosts of The SHOW by Odenknight and there will be those who have seen some of my ramblings on the STO forums. However, the vast majority will have no idea who I am. Therefore, please excuse my conceit and allow me to devote one or two paragraphs to introduce myself.

My in-game @ handle is Snipey47a and I reside in one of the capital cities of Australia. I’m in my mid-30s and enjoy a highly successful career in the management team of Sales & Marketing for a large multi-national company. I have been playing Star Trek Online since October 2013 (1 month prior to the Dyson Sphere reputation release) and over that time it has become a very large part of my life. I have been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember being first introduced to it when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was released to VHS and I was still under 10 years of age. Since then I have pretty much absorbed all things Star Trek with the exception of about half of the DS9 series due to the love/hate relationship I had (and still have) with Captain Benjamin Sisko.

Although I have been an off & on gamer for many years, it was in the console world and involved much less than 50% of online play. That means that STO is my first MMO and first truly online gaming experience. We all have reasons why we chose to immerse ourselves in this type of entertainment and I’m sure they are very wide and varied but they are all personal to ourselves. Some who I have chosen to confide with know what brought to STO. I state this not to suggest I’m different but more so to acknowledge that we all have reasons but despite whatever brought us here there are many who have a passion for STO and have come to love it. We all cherish many of those whom we cross paths with in the STO Universe.

Please consider this as the fuel that provides me with the energy to write to not only the playing community, but also to Cryptic/Perfect World Entertainment because those two separate entities are both side of the same coin – what one does affects the other. It’s an inescapable truth and probably not as respected as it should be from either side.

Anyway, onto why I am writing this…..

I know that I have been the source of silly videos, rambling posts and a heap of in-game discussion regarding the state of the game. I don’t regret this because at the time it served to vent frustration although, I did realise it would not add any real substance to what is a very serious situation for both the business who owns the game and the customers who pay (in either time or with real world money) to use the service that they offer.

I would also like to acknowledge the Cryptic/Perfect World Entertainment IS a business and that they solely exist to make a profit and as much profit as they can produce – the core definition of any business. A business typically works to annual budgeting plans that intricately plot their costs and revenue for a specific financial year. The companies that are better at making profit are the ones who have a strong philosophy of who they are, the service they offer and how they go about offering that service.

Every company will say they have a philosophy but it is a sad fact that for many their only focus is how they are tracking Year to Date (YTD) & Year On Year (YoY) based on their annual budget plan and only dedicate real focus on achieving the plan for that year at the detriment of the following years. Working in the field that I do, I know that this is a viscous cycle that many companies struggle to get out of and often get left behind. The American car company General Motors immediately comes to my mind when I ponder this.

The highly successful companies are the ones that not only look at the annual budget but also consider how decisions made this year, will affect the years to come and it is all based on their core philosophy and sticking to that philosophy even if it costs the business in the short term. These highly successful companies truly value their revenue source (customers) not just say they do and a part of their strategy is engaging with their customers making them advocates for the brand. Advocates for the brand boost the profit of that company because the equation for the customer becomes slightly less financial and more emotional.

The two companies I know well and come to mind immediately are Toyota & Apple. Regarding Toyota, those who work or have worked with a Japanese company know how much focus goes into the annual financial plan and how closely budgets are watched by senior management, but Toyota were different and worked a plan that went beyond the yearly profit plan. In the early 1990s, they aspired to enter the luxury car arena using the US as the development benchmark and LEXUS was born. Today Lexus is a premium luxury car brand yet many don’t know that Lexus stands for Limited Edition eXport to the United States. It was an internal company product engineering code to put more sound deadening and equipment into a Toyota Camry and sell it for double the price in the United States. Even today’s Lexus models are basic Toyota production cars enhanced with the tinsel of luxury and although over the years the engineering differences have set them further apart from the standard Toyota line-up, essentially people are paying (at least in my country) $100,000 for a $40,000 Camry.

I could spend an hour explaining how they achieved this but essentially the customer was always put, or made like they were put first. They engaged with their revenue source instead of dictating and they made business decisions which in the isolation of a single financial year would look crazy but over a decade are considered genius in the business world. So today for many of us, Lexus is an aspirational brand with a loyal customer base.

So, what does all this have to do with Star Trek Online? Well…

Today (28th July 2015) is the 183rd day for what the many of us to consider to be the exposure of some serious flaws in the product offered to us, the playing community (their revenue source), that is called Star Trek Online. In reality, it is the 287th for me and some others (Delta Rising release) and recent revelations from Salami_Inferno about the latency issues caused by Attack Pattern Beta suggest that it is even longer and possibly even as far back as day number one.

What I am talking about here is a computer gaming environment that is offered and/or has been sold to customers that cannot handle what it was recently turned into. We can all speculate and throw stones as to the reasons but at this point the reasons are somewhat irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that company’s core philosophy of which their Terms of Service (http://www.arcgames.com/en/about/terms) can be included when evaluating said philosophy are very disturbing and in my experience is a model of the company that is stuck in a previous generation. It is companies like this that haven’t realised the power is now with the customer and not the corporation due to the advent of social media and the strength of word of mouth to name only a couple of examples.

Specifically I draw your attention to Section 29.1(a) which states:

(a) THE SERVICE, THE GAMES, THE WEBSITE AND ALL MATERIALS CONTAINED THEREIN ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. PWE AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS AND LICENSORS DISCLAIM ALL OTHER WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, PERFORMANCE OR SUITABILITY FOR YOUR INTENDED USE, TITLE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT AS TO THE SERVICE, THE GAME AND THE WEBSITE, INCLUDING ALL INFORMATION, CONTENT AND MATERIALS CONTAINED THEREIN. WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, PWE DOES NOT REPRESENT OR WARRANT THAT THE SERVICE, THE GAMES, THE WEBSITE OR THE MATERIALS CONTAINED THEREIN ARE ACCURATE, COMPLETE, RELIABLE, AVAILABLE, CURRENT OR ERROR-FREE. PWE ALSO DOES NOT REPRESENT OR WARRANT THAT THE GAMES, THE WEBSITE OR ITS SERVERS ARE FREE OF VIRUSES, BUGS, ERRORS OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS OR DEFECTS, TRANSMIT DATA IN A SECURE MANNER, OR FUNCTION PROPERLY WITH THE SERVICE.

Next, I draw your attention to section 30.1

IN NO EVENT SHALL WE, PWE, ITS DIRECTORS, MEMBERS, AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES, EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, SPECIAL, INDIRECT OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF USE, LOSS OF PROFITS OR LOSS OF DATA, WHETHER IN AN ACTION IN CONTRACT, TORT (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO NEGLIGENCE) OR OTHERWISE, ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH THE USE OF OR INABILITY TO USE THE WEBSITE, THE SERVICE, THE GAMES OR ANY OF THE CONTENT OR THE MATERIALS CONTAINED IN OR ACCESSED THROUGH THE WEBSITE OR THE SERVICE, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION ANY DAMAGES CASED BY OR RESULTING FROM RELIANCE BY USER ON ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED FROM US OR PWE, OR THAT RESULT FROM MISTAKES, OMISSIONS, INTERRUPTIONS, DELETION OF FILES OR EMAIL, ERRORS, DEFECTS, VIRUSES, DELAYS IN OPERATION OR TRANSMISSION OR ANY FAILURE OF PERFORMANCE, WHETHER OR NOT RESULTING FROM ACTS OF GOD, COMMUNICATIONS FAILURE, THEFT, DESTRUCTION OR UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO PWE’S RECORDS, PROGRAMS OR SERVICES.

To summarise, they believe they are not breaching any consumer laws by saying if the Performance of the games isn’t good enough, they don’t really have to do anything to remedy it and aren’t liable to compensate for the faulty product to a player who has purchased a lifetime subscription or other financial transaction on an in-game product that was sold under false pretenses.

I am not familiar with the US consumer laws but I do know that despite them stating all that, what they are offering is illegal in Australia to those who have paid a lifetime subscription to the game. This has been in our consumer laws since 01/01/2011.

However, it took over 100 days for Cryptic to even acknowledge the game has problems and while there had been a small placating of the community by Developer acknowledgement with the promise of action it is clear that the annual budget plan of PWE is paramount. They may be fixing latency issues here and there but they are continually adding new abilities. This possibly guarantees achievement this financial year but puts at risk 2016/2017 and more so 2017/2018.

It is clear from Developer contact with the community that sins in coding of the past combined with the additional load put on the system since Delta Rising has caught up to Cryptic in a very big way and it is in moments like this that one can truly evaluate just who and what the company is and whether they genuinely care about the services they offer and how they truly see their customers.

I am not saying there isn’t passionate people who work for Cryptic – Trendy, Borticus & Salami (to name a few that I have had personal contact with) are clearly passionate about what they do and care about what they provide us but they are severely being let down by those at the wheel of the ship.

If we are honest, while the system latency issues have improved because of the addressing of some easy fixes (Command Ship Inspiration is an example) but each significant win now is going to be harder and harder to come by. However, instead of using this opportunity to show how they value us, their only revenue source, they have treated us poorly. They expect us to endure a defective product that many of us paid for with the expectation of it performing at a standard that is far from being achieved. Instead, their production schedule which is obviously tied to their revenue plans continues to go full steam ahead. They are adding more to a system that already can’t handle it instead of putting any additional enhancements on hold, coping the financial impost this year but getting the game back up to standard and recovering the profit over one or two future years.

Frankly, I would more than accept not getting a new fleet holding in exchange for a lag free and stable system. That will keep my wallet open but as of now I am joining what many others have already done and close it until I feel valued enough again to open it. Furthermore, my answer in the positive to the countless times I get asked if a Lifetime/Gold subscription is worth it will cease and in fact, will be warned against investing.

Then we have the lack of any sort of quality control in their production gate system. Although I am tempted to criticise some of their coding team, I won’t because I don’t know enough of the facts. However, this is an inescapable fact. See image:

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This is the result of the new science consoles from the Research Lab fleet holding. In my opinion, having this end up in the Tribble/Beta shard is questionable at best because I believe it should have been caught at the Alpha stage on their build shard. But, for this to make it onto the Live shard suggests either very poor senior Dev oversight, flawed QA and/or UAT processes, a system architecture knowledge deficit at the coders level and the list can go on. Heck, it could be all of the above. If this was an isolated or infrequent incident, I wouldn’t even mention it but their rapid release of new content has allowed seeing something that apparently has been par for the course albeit over a longer period of time with wider content release gaps. This particular bug had a chance of severely disrupting this game. If it wasn’t for me and the other DPS admins and moderators (from DPS-10,000 to DPS-75,000 channel) who immediately emailed Borticus at midnight on a Sunday night it might not have been caught before this week’s patch and there would have been hundreds or even thousands of players receiving AFK/Leaver penalties due to 1 or 2 players in the team who can shoot down a shield gateway in 4 shots or some other example like that. There are those who believe that Cryptic did know about it 3 weeks ago from people’s experience on the Tribble shard. If that turns out to be the case, that makes this issue even more serious.

The other thing that makes me feel less valued as a customer is their lack of communication and false and misleading official game issues. The list of bugs as per the last set of release notes dated 24th July reads as:

Known Issues:

Some players are not able to reclaim the Breen Chel Grett and the Dyson Science Destroyer.

The Vault Shuttle Event is not available.

The trait “Salvage Specialist” does not work for Bridge Officers.

Personally, I find this level of communication on the issues of the game insulting. Communication on positive aspects of the game as well as the negative is valued by the playing community. Although we would prefer everything to be working, it shows us that you have it on the radar AND that you are being transparent with us. You should see how long the list of “Outstanding Issues” I’ve compiled and it has nothing to do with uniform clipping. If they are trying to hide the issues of the game or those who haven’t played it yet and are visiting the forums, it doesn’t take too many mouse clicks for people to see what’s going on and this would reflect poorly on Cryptic.

Will all this stop me from logging into Star Trek Online? Absolutely not. The friendships I’ve made are too important to me to lose but will I care about anything new they release that I can’t get with forking over money for zen? Not in the slightest. If a new ship or ability is worth it, I will save up the dilithium to convert back to zen or Energy Credits to spend on the Exchange to secure it.

In closing, I’m not writing this as a rally cry to members to boycott Cryptic and follow my example. I am simply expressing my opinion and will continue to do so on the STO forums as well as Reddit forums and other MMO forums, in the various communities I am in, on Social Media and as co-host on The SHOW. You guys make whatever decision you want but ask yourself this question first, “Does this company truly deserve my hard earned cash when they won’t even guarantee any level of acceptable service or don’t make me feel valued in any way, shape or form?” I can’t imagine anyone saying yes to that question although I know there will be those out there that say they don’t care and that’s fine and dandy. After reading this wall of text, you now know that I am someone who is saying they don’t deserve anymore of m y money and I care that I don’t feel like a valued customer despite my lifetime subscription purchase.

Thank you for your time and I welcome and constructive comments the playing community and Cryptic may have on anything that I have said.

Snipey47a
A concerned STO Lifetime Subscriber.

Original post link is here : http://www.arcgames.com/en/forums#/discussion/1197741/letter-serious-discussion-on-some-big-issues-is-long-overdue

Thank you for reading and share it if you agree 🙂