Tuesday, 17 July 2012

EA Games: Don't buy from them.

It's not often that I'll post publicly and negatively about a company, but this one deserves it. And I'm not going to grace their pagerank with an HREF; I'm sure you can figure out where a dot-com like ea would have its web site. Caution: Rant follows.

EA Games customer service sucks. Many others have also reported this, so all I'm doing is adding another story to the pile.

Last year, I did something that I've never before done, and probably won't ever do again: I bought a brand new game, within just months of its release, and built a Gaming Rig (capital G, capital R) on which to run it. (Sure, that computer's also a router, but never mind that.) The game in question is Alice: Madness Returns, the sequel to American McGee's Alice. Both games follow a traumatized Alice Liddell as she works through her insanity by exploring a damaged and deranged Wonderland. The first game came out in 2000, but still manages to draw comments of "Is that Alice in Wonderland? Wow, impressive graphics!". But I digress.

The first thing I needed to contact support for was, admittedly, a rather odd request. I wanted to download the 8GB installer on one computer, then transfer it via USB stick. Not normally a problem but EA/Origin uses a downloader that can't handle the concept. My question was simple: Where are the partially-downloaded files stored? But when first-level support can't handle that (unsurprisingly), why can they not escalate the request? In the end I had to do the job myself - not something I mind doing, but really, I'd have much preferred an official method, instead of trying to deceive the program.

During this chapter of the saga, I repeatedly asked for my support requests to be escalated, asked to speak to someone senior, etc, but was always being fobbed off by first-level support who might almost have been an Eliza program. ("You have a problem with your Eliza Programme?") And after being mostly unhelpful, one of them gave me a coupon code for 15% off a new game bought in the next month. Yeah, like I want to buy another game off them when their service is this bad.

Once I'd played right through the game, though, I went looking for the DLC that was supposed to have been part of my purchase. I'd bought, so I thought, a special deal - the game and all its extra unlockable Downloadable Content - but it's hard to prove. Even after quite a bit of searching, I still can't find the exact item I bought. All I have is the title ("Alice: Madness Returns") and the price. So I go back and forth asking for how I would go about unlocking that extra content, and was assured that I should have it, and was advised to post in a particular thread on their forums for an official answer. Which I did, back in December. As of July, my post is still the last one in the thread, which has now been locked. Apparently there's not going to be any such help for me or anyone else who was asking.

Finally somebody tells me that I'm not supposed to have the full DLC, never mind that I'd bought the game under the belief that "Complete Collection" meant everything. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I wasn't, but either way, they weren't going to help me. So I turned to the internet for help. Check this out:

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/958267-alice-madness-returns/59443799

Now, I mustn't advocate illegal activities. However, I will simply point out that the edit suggested in that link does work. It hasn't broken anything for me, and now I have full access to all the extra functionality. So I'm not recommending you do this, in case it's not legal, but there's nothing wrong with happening upon the above link while you're, I dunno, researching something for work. And then independently trying it. But you didn't hear that from me.

Fortunately for me and for EA, I don't need to talk to them any more. That means I no longer need to send them email replies to their support tickets. Their emails would close with a sentence like:

If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or visit our extensive knowledge base online at [URL removed because they don't deserve the traffic]

See the bit where it says "reply to this email"? And I am quoting directly from case 01321206. I did exactly that, replied using the standard techniques. You'd think that that'd add another post to the same support ticket, right? Nope. "Thank you for contacting EA help (Case #04663582)". And then there's all these loose tickets littered about and nobody knows the history of the case.

Once again, I mustn't actually recommend software piracy. However, I'll just say, for information ONLY, that many games are available via BitTorrent. Especially the very newest. And the cracks required to make them run often aren't even difficult. Not that I'd know, of course, having OF COURSE never done anything of the sort. And I wouldn't recommend any torrent sites, like FunFile, Demonoid, or The Pirate Bay, and none of those sites has anything to do with illegal games. No; if you want to find free copies of EA Games titles, you're on your own. But I wish you the very best of luck, as it's really not worth giving EA any money.

Slash rant.

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