Two steps forward, one step back.

Oh, Cryptic…  Of course the same day I say nice things about them in reference to character names, they have to make a major gaff (regarding forum names). This especially disappointing since they were just starting to get some positive buzz for Season 6 after all of the lock box drama.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of drama on Twitter from fellow Star Trek Online players that I follow. I got especially curious when I read a few things about names (which I’m a tad sensitive about still). Apparently the website maintenance that took place the night before was not actually maintenance in the normal sense, but a cut-over from Cryptic’s old infrastructure to their parent company’s (Perfect World Entertainment). This included requiring anyone who wanted to use the website to have a PWE account, especially to use the forums.

Not long after Cryptic was sold to PWE by Atari, an option appeared on the game’s launch and website allowing you to choose whether to login using your Cryptic account or a PWE account. I know a few people went ahead and merged or created PWE account because I remember them complaining on the forums about problems they were having afterwards. I had avoided merging my accounts and dreading the day when I would be forced to, because everything was fine with my Cryptic account and I didn’t want to tempt Murphy by touching anything. I treat cellular phone and cable services the same way. In my experience, any change no matter how small likely results in multiple calls to customer service.

So the merge was now being forced. The official PR statement claimed that this was for the players’ convenience, which is laughable. I think it’s much more honest to say that merging benefits the PWE IT and CS staff since they won’t have to maintain Cryptic’s old systems. Which is fine, just don’t try to sell me something claiming I’ll benefit when it’s really a zero sum (or net loss in this case) for me and you that benefits.

Anyway, regardless of the reasons why, the merge has happened. Despite the fact that there’s been a major loss of functionality for the forums, my major issue with the merge way PWE handled the transition. There was zero warning beforehand that I’m aware of. The only message I found about it was on the STO forums, posted on the evening of the 19th.

Now I understand that there are always difficulties when transitioning from one system to another, I’ve done that kind of work myself in my day job and there’s always unforeseen issues.  Which is why you have to over communicate and make sure that there are extra staff on-hand to help support users. Neither of which PWE did.

The biggest hitch in the transition process appears to be display/forum name conflicts. It appears from the FAQ that Cryptic/PWE went through and reserved any account and display names that weren’t already taken for existing players so that they could get them during the linking process. But this wasn’t communicated well enough beforehand and somehow many players ended up with a new PWE account and got a message that the display name they wanted (their old Cryptic forum name which supposedly was reserved) was taken.

Losing a forum name probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but there are some players who are extremely active on the forums. People like Foundry authors and podcasters have spent a lot of time building a reputation on the forums which is now basically wiped out. In several cases (most?) they’ve lost their forum names and either had to tack a number on the end or go with something totally new, plus the old forum posts have all been converted to archived posts so people’s posting history is gone as well.

Now, I’m not very active on the forums, so I wasn’t much affected by this, but after my recent experiences in TOR I’m very sympathetic to the loss many of the forum-active players are feeling. Hopefully it doesn’t kill the podcast community for the game.

Ironically given how little I used the forums, I actually got to keep my forum name and I owe it to Torchlight 2.

I happend to create a PWE account a few weeks ago so I could pre-order Torchlight 2. I’d had a lot of fun during the beta weekend and decided to buy through PWE because they were offering beta access to Neverwinter Nights and I always try to buy games direct from the developers when I can (a habit that also saved my $10 on Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion). I was afraid though that signing up would cause conflicts with my Cryptic account, so I used a different email address but still picked the same display/forum name. Apparently I did this before all the reserving was done in preparation of the Cryptic merge, which saved me some of the problems others have had.

I had really hoped that when Cryptic moved from Atari to PWE that we wouldn’t see the publisher causing problems for the development team.