A blatant customer disservice, ESO

ESO_sorrynotsorry

To my great dismay, I discovered I was being billed for someone else’s account! Ok, no big deal, I thought trying to still my fluttering heart that was setting off a panic attack at the thought of my Christmas money that just disappeared. I will just contact them and let them know there’s been a mistake and I’ll get my money back. No big deal. Just a mistake. It will all be alright.

Six weeks later I’m beginning to think my money are lost in some eternal loop of redirection, error messages and “we apologize for how long it has taken us to get back to you, and appreciate your patience.” No! You do not appreciate my patience, you take it for granted! Then you take the p*ss by sending me messages like this:

“If your issue has been resolved, please be sure to provide feedback using our Customer Service Survey when it arrives in your inbox. If your issue has not been resolved, please respond back to this email so we can continue to assist you. Thank you again for your time and patience.”

Dear Derek, (name of person sending me this email) You have my money. I want it back. I have neither time nor patience enough to be responding to automated emails or stupid error messages on my screen. I am angry! I feel robbed and ridiculed! This is a blatant customer disservice and you should change your title accordingly.

With p*ssed off regards,

//Gamergran

 

The Return of the Werewolves… | Dragon Age Fails

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave… Who knew playing Dragon Age would make you think of the Eagles old Hotel California tune.

So, picture this: I went into the old elven ruins, spoke to the Lady of the Forest and convinced Zathrian to fix up and let bygones be bygones. Begrudgingly, the old grumpypants agreed to lift his age old curse turning humans into werewolves; even though it spelled the end of his own life. Relieved, and feeling pretty proud of myself, I was eager to return to the Dalish camp and finally rally the troops I so desperately need to kick this sodding Arsedemon (pun intended!) back into oblivion. But, of course, that was asking too much.

The mischievous marauder’s map

No matter how many times I kept opening the bugger, the marauder’s map, rather than allowing me to click my way out of the ruins and straight back into the Dalish Camp, showed me nowt but a blank slate. I kid you not! It was as if it had been Weasleyfied and I could almost hear it gigglingly swear that it was up to no good. Which is why I decided to bypass the blasted contraption and console command my way out of the situation.

My first option was to try the jump_around option which puts you in a different spot on the map. I was hoping it would place me outside the ruin, but that was a foolish idea. While inside a ruin (or any other building or area) that is all your map covers, so naturally all I achieved was to be moved further back into the ruin again. Option two was to use the command that teleports you into the Dalish Camp; and guess if I was glad to see Lanaya and hand in the quest to her. We spoke of Zathrian’s fate and established that she had suspected he had something to do with the werewolf situation. Then she promised me the support of the Dalish and we said our goodbyes. Two seconds later there’s battle music and – drumroll – PANIC MODE!!

The confusion is complete!

The Lady of the Forest, the one who died 20 minutes ago, is marching on the Dalish Camp side by side with myself (Wait! WTF?! How??) and the very gang of werewolves I had taken leave of after they turned back into humans and chose to Brexit the forest for good. As this is a cutscene, there is nothing I can do to stop this nightmare. Instead, I am forced to witness werewolves being slaughtered as they launch the attack on the elves. Zathrian comes running towards us and just as it looks like he is about to start a conversation it all end in… Nothingness.

My confusion is total, and I just have to quit the game to cut this scene out and post it online. As I log back in I am even more confused. In the Dalish camp it seems elves and werewolves are now living side by side. As if none of them know who actually were the winning team in this conflict. I’ll add some footage of this to the edited version of this film that will come later. I’m learning Premier Pro through trial and error as I am hoping to deliver more vids in the future.

When the initial shock had subsided, I could not stop laughing. (It’s fascinating how engaging a game can be and how completely blown away you can feel when things happen that should not be happening!) All I felt was this inexplicable need to share this moment with you all, and I dare say there will be more vids like these in the future. Clearly gaming fails should be shared for all to enjoy. =)

 

An Unexpected Origin Weekend Sale

Origin Weekend Sale

I just stumbled across a sale I wasn’t aware of on Origin today. For one weekend only, they are offering some of their titles at incredible prices.

My library has just been expanded with Mirror’s Edge and Plants vs Zombies both of which were just £4.25 each. Two new (for me) games for under a tenner just like that. I is much pleased…

Save Net Neutrality in the EU

savenetneutralitybanner

Today, we have less than a week to save Europe’s Internet neutrality. Did you know?

This summer, the EU decides on net neutrality. If we lose, European ISPs win the power to give some sites & apps special treatment while slowing others to a crawl. On June 28, the EU Slowdown began and sites are protesting with a slow loading icon based on Europe’s flag, to drive millions of comments to EU regulators. Can you join?

Other countries like America and Brazil have fought this and won. Don’t let the EU force it upon us without making your voice heard. But do it now. We only have a few days to go and many people have no idea this is even happening. Watch the informative video below:

If you need more ammunition, please take a few more minutes and watch John Oliver’s witty, but no less on point, explanation here:

This video is from 2014 when the US were about to vote on the matter. John Oliver’s rant woke the American people up and he rallied enough protesters to crash websites and sink this stupid idea to the abyss where it belongs. I wholeheartedly agree with every word he says on this matter. Let’s go, me luvlies, let’s tell them how we feel about our internet!

Let’s Play Dragon Age! Before We Start…

I hope you are ready to battle, because the time has come to kick some darkspawn arse in Thedas; the southern hemisphere continent where all of the Dragon Age games are set. Today, I’ll begin my journey through:

DAO Banner

Pic taken from the cover of the PC-version of the game. 

As I have mentioned before, I will be playing this game on the Steam platform, but you can tag along on xbox, Playstation or the physical PC version of the game. And better still, you can technically start whenever you want to. It doesn’t matter if you join late or, indeed, even after I’ve finished. The posts will still be here to guide you, and we can still discuss the games pros and cons as well as any obstacles we might encounter.

Before you start playing, however, I would very much appreciate it if you would take the time to answer the pre-play qestionnaire below. It does not ask for any private information, only takes a couple of minutes and is designed to elicit prior knowledge, attitudes and expectations of the game. If you have already played the game before I would still like to see your answers; but in the section that deals with your thoughts before playing the game you have to answer what you thought before you played it the first time.

The questionnaire is a google form, which means you need a google account to respond. If you don’t have one, you can just leave your e-mail address in the form below and I’ll send you a copy that you can easily answer inside the e-mail and send it back.

Now, I hope you are as excited as I am to get playing. I’m off to create a character or two. I’ll post some pics and video clips as soon as I have something to show you.

If you haven’t already got the Dragon Age games in your library, click here to see where you can get them.

Get the Let’s Play Dragon Age Games!

If you haven’t already got the Dragon Age games in your library, this post is for you.

To play the whole series, you need three games (but you can obviously choose to just play one or two):

  1. Dragon Age: Origins (with the expansion Awakenings)

  2. Dragon Age II

  3. Dragon Age: Inquisition

 

Steam logo Origin logo Dragon Age digital copies


If like me, you prefer PC-gaming and digital copies, you can get Dragon Age: Origins on Steam:

Or log on to the Origin platform and get all three games in the same place:



 

dragonage_ultimate__09421_zoom  Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition


Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition (PC)
Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition (Xbox 360)
Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition (Playstation)
Dragon Age: Origins: The Ultimate Edition (MAC Online Game Code)



 

DA2 Dragon Age II


Dragon Age 2 (PC DVD)
Dragon Age 2 (XBOX 360)
Dragon Age 2 (PS3)
Dragon Age 2 (PC/Mac DVD)



 

Inquisition Dragon Age: Inquisition


Dragon Age Inquisition (PC DVD)
Dragon Age Inquisition (Xbox 360)
Dragon Age Inquisition: – Game of the Year (Xbox One)
Dragon Age Inquisition – Deluxe Edition (PS3)
Dragon Age Inquisition: – Game of the Year (PS4)



 

Let’s Play Dragon Age Origins

DAO Banner

July is here and this month I will be playing my way through Bioware’s high fantasy role-playing video game series Dragon Age and you are, of course, welcome to join me! I’ll start from the beginning with the 2009 Game of the Year Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition (which includes Dragon Age Origins Awakening and all the downloadable content packs (DLCs)); and I’ll be playing on my PC through the Steam entertainment platform, but you could obviously play it on any platform of your choice.

Dragon Age Origins Unofficial Trailer made by talented youtube user MikkroBitti

In Dragon Age Origins, you are one of the last Grey Wardens; a legendary order of guardians whose heroic deeds have been long forgotten by the people of Thedas. Now, after hundreds of years of peace, the Ferelden kingdom is being torn apart by civil war whilst the ancient foe has returned. You have been given the seemingly impossible task to call on old alliances, unite the feuding peoples and defeat the archdemon that is threatening to destroy the world and everything in it.

Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age™: Origins – Ultimate Edition. Photo borrowed from the Bioware website.

Dragon Age: Origins is a critically acclaimed winner of more than 50 awards including more than 30 ‘Game of the Year’ awards. It was created as a “spiritual successor” to Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights and with this game Bioware was hoping to create a world somewhere between Tolkien’s high fantasy Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s low fantasy stories.

Watch this space for my next blog post on character options and a pre game questionnaire that will hopefully tell us more about each other and our expectations of this game before we throw caution to the wind and go kick that archdemon’s arse…

 

Time to Say Goodbye to Your Money

Steam Summer Sale

Yesterday, to my great excitement, Steam launched this year’s Summer Sale. Always an event to look forward to and a perfectly good reason to buy more games than you need. Or than you will have time to play at least.

Browsing through the offers, it seems there are some changes this year and I’m not so sure I like them. Apparently, the flash sales are gone which I suppose makes the sale more fair but takes a lot of excitement out of the event. Throughout the sale Steam used to have flash sales of certain titles and prices would differ from day to day. The best bargains would often be up for grabs during the last two days of the sale and that’s when I used to make most of my purchases.

This year the Steam Sale will be just like any other sale. The prices that are displayed today are already at the lowest point they are going to be during the whole sales period. Yep, you read that right. We have no surprises to look forward to, not even a community vote, so yeah Steam that’s proper boring if you ask me.

Still. A Steam Sale is always a Steam Sale and there’s no denying there are some right steals on offer. And we have come to expect nothing less. It is not often we get a chance to buy great games at great bargains, or pick up titles we’ve never heard of just because they were less than a fiver and looked “interesting”.

The Steam Summer Sale closes on 4 July, which means you have 10 days to explore the offers and plan your purchases. Each purchase will grant you an exclusive Summer Picnic Sale trading card and help build your personal Steam library. Personally, I have my eyes on Witcher 3 and a few other games, but I think I’ll stick to my normal routine and hold on to my money until the last two days. How about you? What are you getting?

 

Steam Makes PC Gaming Safe, Fun and Easy

Steam Store

I have been debating whether to write about Steam, as I find it hard to believe there still are people in this (gaming) world that do not know what Steam is. But then I decided to stick with my original intention behind this blog, which was to write about gaming in a way that is inclusive even to oldies and noobs without necessarily scaring the hardcore gamers away. So, here we are. About Steam…

Imagine, if you can, a meeting where Amazon, eBay, facebook and Microsoft sat down to brainstorm a new online platform specifically for gamers. Can you see it? I am pretty sure the brainchild of such a venture would be Steam; the company behind an estimated 70% of the digital distribution market for video games. Which means all of these corporate giants must be kicking themselves as such a meeting never took place. Simply put Steam is an online gaming platform, also referred to as a video game digital distribution software, where you can buy, trade and play games and game related content. You can also interact with other players in a number of ways from trading games and other items in your inventory to discussing your game experience in the forums.

 

Listen up (grand)parents

Steam was created and released in 2003 by Valve Corporation and by now they are an established and highly trusted entity in the gaming industry. Which leads me to this little rant I need to get off my chest before I can continue: I see and hear a lot of parents who are concerned about their kids’ safety on Steam, but it seems to me these are mainly people who don’t understand how gaming or the Internet works and people who are overly cautious and prone to fear mongering. Having said that, my own policy was to never let my kids have online accounts that I did not have control of and I would never have let them have accounts which required payment and/or address details. Of course you should let your (grand)kids play games on Steam, but create the account in your name and make sure you monitor their activity on there. Then make sure to browse the store for a game or two that you could play together and something that looks like it could suit yourself. Trust me, you are going to have so much fun with the little (and the not so little) ones if you join the gaming universe together. Rant over.

Now, back to Steam. Not only did Valve make it possible for people to play other game developers’ games; they are themselves responsible for well-known titles Half-Life, Team Fortress, Portal, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead and Day of Defeat. In other words, I think we can safely say that Valve knows a thing or two about games and gamers. Indeed, I read somewhere that the reason they created Steam in the first place was to enable their Counterstrike players easy access to patches and other DLCs. Presumably, it only took them so long to realise they had developed a vehicle with unparalleled possibilities. And so it was that Steam evolved into what today is a bona fide entertainment platform with an extensive video game catalog, clever player communication tools, a recommendation system, movies, and much more.

 

Five good reasons to use Steam

I can think of a number of good reasons to play games on PC over consoles where that is possible, and I can also think of a number of reasons to do this on Steam instead of buying the physical copies on the high street and sit on an ever-growing library at home:

1) First and foremost the fact that a game you have bought on Steam is yours and there is no way you can lose it. There is no disc that can get scratched, disappear when you move or never return after you lend it to one of your mates. On Steam, the games you have bought are yours to play and you can download them again and again and again. Steam even keeps track of your achievements, so not even that is likely to be lost.

2) The price is very attractive. It is free to join Steam, so the only money you spend is for the games and game-related content you buy. Normally, the price is a little cheaper than in the shops (the benefit of buying a digital copy) and on top of that Steam has two annual sales and frequent flash sales where you can get you hands on loads of games at a fraction of the normal price. Which is why we love to joke about how the Steam sales tend to be hard on our wallets.

3) The environmentalist in me likes the fact that PC-gaming via Steam means you throw a lot less rubbish into the world. No packaging materials, no discs or cassettes or cartridges, no old consoles or need for constantly buying newer consoles, etc.

4) As the oldie I am, I am not very fond of pirating. To me, it makes perfect sense that people should be able to get paid for the work they do. Sure, there are people who make indie games for free and some of them are actually rather decent. But I don’t think we would see too many epic game titles if there was no way for game developers to make money. Using Steam, I am paying for my games thus contributing to my favourite developers and  giving them incentives to keep making content both for my favourite games and for future titles I have yet to play.

5) Steam was one of the first platforms to build in systems to stop hackers and cheaters from having an unfair advantage in-game. When you’re playing on Steam you can feel safe knowing that hackers are constantly being chased off the playing field and locked out of the system. Steam are super strict when it comes to banning players who don’t stick to the rules which makes the gaming experience so much better for those of us who are there for our love of the game(s). It is also safe from another perspective which many (grand)parents seem to miss. Steam requires you to provide them with personal details such as your name, address and banking information. If they have any reason to suspect something about your account is not kosher, they will ask for proof of ID and other pieces of information. This too helps making the gaming experience safer. Steam knows who their players are and are not afraid to take action if some rotten apple is messing with the other apples in the basket. Anyone who takes issue with that is a major douche in my books.

 

Things people seem to worry about

I have seen that some people believe Steam only sell very old, or completely unknown, games but this is not true. They sell pretty much all sorts of games from the family friendly to the mature or violent. Whenever a new big title is being released, you can be pretty confident Steam will have it. Unless the publisher is selling it exclusive from its own store (like EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront on Origin) or for its own console (like Nintendo). You can literally find anything from the LEGO games and SIMS to Grand Theft Auto, The Witcher, Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls. With over 4,000 titles on their virtual shelves, Steam truly have games for pretty much any taste or age. All games are rated for games which means (grand)parents can check if a game their kids want to play is suitable for their age.

There is also a content restriction setting in Steam called Family View. If you browse the Steam store and put “family view” in the search bar it will only list games that are suitable for kids under 16. Furthermore, family view allows you to set a pin code that must be entered before you can purchase a game. This means you can make sure the kids cannot buy a game you have not approved.

As for the fear of sharing your personal details such as home address etc that is a problem you need to get over if you are going to buy anything online. Steam has a secure payment system and you are not at greater risk of being scammed there than on any other site online. By the same token, the fact that Steam has your address does not put you at any greater risk of someone grooming your (grand)child as long as you take responsibility for and safeguard their online presence. The biggest risk they are likely to be exposed to is someone offering them an unfair deal if they get involved with the trading of games, game content or trading cards; but then again this is a risk they run every day in real life too. There will always be some kid somewhere who will try to get them to hand over something they like in exchange for something else that may or may not be of equal value. That is of course a horrible thought, but we can’t necessarily protect them from every conceivable disappointment in life or they may grow up to be rather unbearable adults.

 

No online presence without anti-virus protection

The risk of catching a virus through Steam is pretty much microscopic. Steam games are authenticated and have been monitored and tested in minute detail to ensure they won’t create problems on the system or for individual players. Of course there is no such thing as a no virus guarantee which is why you should never go online without a decent anti-virus software. But you can be pretty confident that Steam will never be the cause of a virus in your system, especially if all you do is play the games without downloading any mods.

Mods, or modifications, are downloadable game content that has been developed by individual players in the community. There is a huge modding community on Steam and pretty much all games for the 16+ audience are likely to have a selection of mods to choose between. If you have no to little experience of games or knowledge of computers I would advise you to stay away from the mods for now. But once you know more and have learned a little more than the basic ins and outs of a computer mods can add a lot of extra fun to your gaming experience. Just remember to check the feedback from other users and have your system secured with a good anti-virus software and you should be (relatively) safe.

 

How to get started using Steam

If you have yet to dip your feet into the Steam fountain, I’d suggest you do so now. Provided you own a PC that could run video games of course. The first thing you need to do is to download the Steam software and create a user account. They will ask you to put your payment details in and do not use a false address here as that will most certainly come back to bite you later. Steam is, as I have said before, safe. They accept a number of payment options, including PayPal, and there is no need to be that paranoid. If the account is for your (grand)child, please set the account up in your name. I cannot stress the importance of this enough! All serious gamers want the gaming universe to be safe and accessible and welcoming to all. Setting kids up with fake accounts leads to two things: a) If you ever need help from Steam recovering your account (or anything else) not being able to verify your identity will lead to suspension and loss of all the titles you have bought. b) Providing a minor with an account that has fake details gives them free reins to become little cyber trolls. For a while. They can still be traced through the IP address your computer has, but you are legally responsible for their actions and anything you have bought on this account will be lost when you get banned for breaking the rules. Neither of these options are particularly pleasant, so don’t be a douche. Play by the rules and teach your (grand)kids to become responsible gamers.

 

Last but not least a look at the negatives

Having spent this much blog space singing the praises of Steam, is there nothing that I don’t like about it you might ask. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone all soft on you! Of course there are things that could be better and things and services that could be added. But the one big issue I have with Steam to date is their poor customer service. It is nigh on impossible to get a personal response if you have a question or a problem. Now, I get that to provide great games at a highly competitive price you might need to keep your costs to a minimum. And I get that you can design pretty fool-proof self-help algorithms these days. But as anyone who has ever worked with customer relations will know, there will always be a certain number of issues that fall outside the pre-determined problem areas.

Getting in touch with Steam is hard work and before they will even consider helping you, they will need to verify that you are the legal account holder and that your account details are correct. They may ask for proof of ID, and they might want to know details about the latest transactions on your account. So let me tell you this one more time before I sign off for today: Please, make sure that the account is registered in your actual name, using your actual address and your actual payment details. And just to make sure you won’t get in trouble at some point, make a Steam folder somewhere in your computer and save a copy of each transaction receipt. That way you will always be able to answer what your previous transactions have been and give accurate reference numbers for any purchase.

Happy gaming!

An Achievement of Sorts…

ESO 2000 hour played

Yesterday, I crossed the 2000-hour mark in Elder Scrolls Online. Yes, you did read that right. I have spent more than 2000 hours playing ESO since I became a beta tester for the game back in 2013!

I was one of many who were quite worried about the Elder Scrolls becoming a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game and I wasn’t sure I trusted Zenimax to handle Bethesda’s creation in a way that would do it justice. When I saw that they were looking for beta testers (i.e. people who test the game and hopefully help the production crew find any remaining bugs or other problems that should, ideally, be dealt with before the release date) I immediately applied. As it was the first time I had done something like that I was really excited and told the gamers in my midst about it. Bad move! Most of them chuckled a little and said something condescending about either the quality of my computer or myself being rather too old to fit the profile of the average gamer.

I never told them, but their comments were hurtful. As an older female gamer you are seldom taken seriously by the youngsters. They tend to believe gaming is about having the right console or the best graphics card or having racked up the most amount of hours in whatever game(s) they deem to be relevant or cool. But they are wrong. Obviously. When a game studio asks for your stats, it’s because they need to know your rig can actually handle the game (not to make sure you have the sharpest one on the block). When they ask questions about you, it’s because having data about the users help with all sorts of analyses (not to make sure only a certain age group are allowed to play their titles). I was fairly convinced I’d be a perfect beta tester and I’m sad to say I wasn’t particularly graceful about it when I got my invite. Uh-uh! Not me! I made sure to rub it in more than once.

Being selected for the beta testing meant I was among the first who entered the world of Elder Scrolls Online. It truly felt like a great honour and a great responsibility and I felt like I made a difference when I submitted feedback on issues, reported problems and commented on the experience. And when the game was finally released to the market, I was really pleased I got to keep my account and very proud of the cute little pet monkey that only the beta testers got.

More than 2000 hours into the game, I think it is safe to say that ESO has become my favourite MMO and my go-to game for pretty much any kind of gaming mood. I am still thinking of myself as a beta tester and I make sure to submit reports (easily done in-game) whenever I run into a problem. I do love this game and I want to continue to contribute to the game being the best it can be for old and new players alike. And I would definitely recommend ESO as a good starting point for anyone interested in gaming who hasn’t quite worked up the courage to take the plunge yet.