The Democratic People’s Republic of NCWest

Or, how to efficiently kill off your longest-running product in a single sentence.

This wasn’t going to be my next post, but I am still stunned by the breath-takingly bad example here, that I decided to write about this. This is about gaming, so feel free to skip, unless you’d like the entertainment of watching a gaming company burn themselves to the ground with a single catastrophic post, highlighted by a single epically horrible line.

So, earlier this week, I came back to the game where I first ran into Aff, who later became the housemate, and participated in a siege in the clan. It was great fun, and while it became obvious that I would need to upgrade my character’s gear quite a bit, Aff said not to worry about it because while it would take time, the in-game money could be saved up for.

Now this might seem brutal, but honestly, Lineage II has the reputation of being one of the most brutal games out there because it’s hard. The folks here playing like it because it isn’t ‘pushover easy’ – I’ll cheerfully admit that the players here also tend to be incredibly aggressive and casually hostile – but at the same time? Oddly friendly. I’ve been lucky with the people I’ve been around in that as long as you are able to do what you’re supposed to do, folks don’t mind helping you out. So anyway, the game caters to a certain mindset and attitude.

I stopped playing mostly due to depression (linked to the deaths of two baby boys), and was often unable to log in because of the lack of Internet connectivity. Nevertheless, I enjoy playing Lineage 2 – largely because of the people I play with being lots of fun to be around, and do things with. Still, playing means that you have to be able to do your part, and in the case of the support class I play, this means I need to not die. That means I need better gear, tattoos, etc.

Well, that’s no longer possible as of Wednesday, unless they decide to change it back. I’ll give you clan member Infami’s post on this, to explain why this is bad:

You see, farming for hours on end no longer gives you good money – certainly not enough adena to buy the usual supplies, and it will definitely not make you enough adena to buy things like armor and weapons. In a way, the fishing sub-game worked out for folks because they could actively play with friends, enjoy the game and then pop their toon to fish in-game so they could earn adena without having to buy from gold sellers. But even then, you have to be a fairly established player, or have the support of established players, to do this.

A new player couldn’t do any of that – the temporary gear that is gifted to the players stops at level 85 and quite frankly is about as bad as wet tissue paper.

I was looking at weapons in the auction house – something I actually like because it means you can sell your items without having to have a toon sitting in town with a shop up – and a new weapon that would put me closer to being on par with the other folks in clan would cost me 40 billion adena. That’s just the weapon; it doesn’t include the +10 armor – and I was still trying to decide between light armor and heavy armor; since the latter would let me be tougher and survive better, but doesn’t have the skill cool-down reduction bonus the former has. I was still trying to decide between the PVP or PVE stats too (which frankly, adds another hundred or so billion adena to the mix.)

That’s just the weapons and armor to let me play and survive. I’m not in a clan that goes attacking the dragons, or end-game raid bosses. By the standards of the game, I’m a casual player.

You cannot farm that adena from killing in-game monsters – adena drops have been crippled to the point that the mobs that do drop anything in the five figures require at least a party of five players, and anything higher is a raid boss.  The last time I stopped playing (due to connectivity problems) I was doing somewhat okay, having gotten lucky with some item drops that sold and gave me seed money to play the market with. I was working on saving up money for tattoos to help my character’s stats – for a set of tattoo dyes, I was looking at 17.5 billion adena per set, and I needed three sets. Do the math. Between playing the market, selling vendor trash drops and such, I was doing alright enough that a normal day saw 10 million adena in profit (after resupplying items and such) and some days I’d see 75-100 million adena profit (if I managed to sell lucrative items like Blessed Enchant Weapon scrolls that help + up your weapon and don’t destroy the weapon if you fail.) When I logged in I was surprised to find I had just under 3 billion adena in my virtual wallet.

So, slowly working for it, I could have gotten my stuff, perhaps in a year or so, doing all that by myself; with clan help, it would have taken less time, but only by supplementing what I earned myself and luck. I was doing most of the market stuff whenever I took a break from working. I was also fishing – the deal was, I’d get my fishing bait supplemented, I’d give the Powerful Fish that could be traded in at the NPC for Elycium Powder to the person who was helping me out, and I could keep the normal fish to make into Fish Stews which gave additional temporary stat buffs to sell with a vendor toon. (All that requires a constant connection, and well, our Internet got worse.)

I’m told that even the players who buy NCoin to purchase the real-money-store supplies fish – with multiple accounts and computers, in order to get their adena. There is a player-based trade system where some players ‘sell’ their NCoin for adena (I’m not sure how this works, myself) but this gave people who didn’t have the spare funds for NCoin but a computer capable of running more than one client fishing the ability to ‘get’ NCoin only items while not resorting to cheating or botting.

Then NCSoft’s West – ergo the ones running the game for North America, England, Canada, South America, and Australia – decided that the fishing thing was too lucrative. In a region only change, they changed the ratio of needed Powerful Fish and Elycium Powder so much that it effectively killed the ability to profit from the system. As per the parting line:

If you ever come across a method of obtaining currency that feels exceptionally rewarding for the effort required, please don’t hesitate to submit a bug report in-game.

Y’see, being rewarded for your efforts is ‘considered a bug’ by NCWest. This is a change that was applied only to NCWest’s Lineage II servers. None of the other ones have the higher 12 Powerful Fish requirement – they still have the same 4 Powerful Fish = 3 Elycium requirement.

As much as we enjoy a challenge, there is a point where ‘this stops being fun, and isn’t worth the effort any more.’ Not only did NCWest cross that line, they catapulted themselves over it, laughing, and told us that they didn’t think we should be rewarded for our efforts. As if earning adena in-game was ridiculously easy. A player playing a single character can’t. You have to run multiple accounts to earn money, or be supported by players who are capable of that.

As of that announcement, the leaders of the most powerful clans on the server have stated they will not log in past a certain date any more, if they do not see a reversal of the fishing change. That’s not an idle threat – the most powerful clans on the server are also the ones who spend the most real life money on the items in the NCoin store. (Why? one might ask. This is their entertainment. Their hobby. People spend money on their hobbies and seem incomprehensible to others.) Some of the folks in our own clan might drop a couple of hundred; the richest fellow drops a thousand dollars, monthly – and his spending is eclipsed by far by the heavy rollers in the big clans.

But even the big spenders with lots of money know that they’re a minority, and realize that while not everyone has deep pockets, the ones who are a population majority are the ones who either don’t spend a lot of cash, or maybe are able to run the couple of clients… and are the ones who buy the drops and gear that the higher-end-game clans sell. Without them, the game is dead – there’s no challenge (example being our clan) … and no challenge, no game, no reason to play.

It should surprise nobody that the playerbase as a whole reacted with rage. They protested, angrily, but civilly. The same GM who posted the first post replied with this:

That was his first response after all the concerns, and well written posts protesting, and explanations how this was catastrophically bad.

If you ever come across a method of obtaining currency that feels exceptionally rewarding for the effort required, please don’t hesitate to submit a bug report in-game.

I’m still rather stunned at how bad an example of customer service and community management that line was. Yes, we get it – NCWest would looooove it if everyone was a paying subscriber again and would looooooove more money from the masochistic schmucks that keep coming back to the game like an abused spouse ‘because we love it and haven’t found a game as engaging’ – but that isn’t the way to do it.

Especially not after introducing another real-money gambling system in the form of game-changing cloaks. (You buy a cloak with real money, and have items that have a chance of turning it into a certain cloak that grants certain stats, and then get better bonuses if you + up the cloak… which has a great chance of failing…)

Continuing the abused spouse analogy, there are usually two ways this kind of relationship ends. Either the abused spouse leaves, or dies.

We’re waiting to see which one it is.

There’s still some snark going on, but it’s been noticed by a number of the protesters that their posts are just being deleted. Dissent is not tolerated – hence Aff’s suggestion of title. Aff noticed when he logged in to chat to people that it was very, very quiet on the server.

That’s not a good sign.

Well, if it all fails there’s always Heroes of the Storm.


8 thoughts on “The Democratic People’s Republic of NCWest

  1. Foxfier

    Final Fantasy 14 (closest in game play) and World of Warcraft (most likely to have existing friends) both thank NCSoft for once again screwing over their loyal customers, and are likely making sure their servers can handle the influx.

    1. R.K. Modena Post author

      If FF 14 hadn’t been subscription I would have likely gone to that game when Pixie was having me try it out. I couldn’t afford it then. It was fun and the kind of pretty I liked. Heck, I buy the artbooks when they come out, just because everything is so pretty, and I can count on Square Enix to have utterly beautiful artwork. I don’t feel cheated by the artbook price either – Even paying 50 AUD per artbook, plus shipping, I get this really thick book full of art. I have all three that came out so far too.

      See, this is another thing I never understood about NCWest. Thanks to Japan, there’s Lineage 2 figurines – I have almost all of them except for the first Elf figure, the first Dark Elf figure (the dark elf’s skin was wrong and I didn’t like that!), the Human Female Mage, and the very first figures that came out (a Dwarf girl in Demon robes and a monster) – but they never made an effort to sell any swag on their site. No artbooks (there were two) none of the novels (there was a short series of light novels) none of the soundtracks (Lineage 2 has amazing music – people used to leave their ‘toons logged in just to listen to ingame music) and such. They could have offered lots of things on sale for every update release but noooo. Even when I worked in L2 SEA, they had swag for sale- things for cellphones, shirts, pendants, posters, etc.

      1. Foxfier

        They’re idiots who want the next WoW, as WoW was when there was basically no competition….and Blizzard did that kind of fan-feeding stuff.

        They monetizing options are HUGE.

          1. Foxfier

            Goodness, yes, and I remember people leaving WoW in Vanilla because they wanted more of the old-style games– I can’t think of the name at the moment, but I don’t mean everquest. ^.^ One was heavy PVP with an alignment system and lots of RP, my husband loved it but it was a major hobby.

            NCSoft still wants every game to be basically the first casual-friendly MMO launched when internet and computer requirements were fairly easy to meet, and they’ll shoot all their games for not being a bigger cash-cow than WoW is right now.

            (Although it’s gone to where you can farm gold to get a WoW sub….)

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