arkham city rant

Batman pencilled by Jim Aparo and inked by Tom Mandrake
This was intended to become a longer rant from me—after the installation of Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios 2011) crashed my brand new system so badly that I had to jump back several recovery points to get it up and running again. But then, on the official forums, I found the posts and threads by KIO. His forum post signature already sums it up: ‘DRM limitations are a punishment for the paying customer and an encouragement to seek better service elsewhere … And then they complain about piracy.’ No reason any more for me to write myself, because KIO already did a job that can’t be done better. Here is his draft of a public statement from unhappy gamers which I full-heartedly signed and gladly repost here:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am one of the numerous dissatisfied customers who have purchased Batman Arkham City from WB Ent. and Rocksteady Studios.
    Recent developments have urged us to attempt to reach public media yet again, full details will follow below.
    This letter is the result of a communal effort on the official forums, so do not be alarmed if you receive a similar message from another address.
    We have set out to contact popular media and gaming sites in an attempt to highlight some aspects of customer experience we have had with these particular companies and make it known to the wider public. The intention is in no way to provoke or badmouth the corporation/studio and we do not put down an ultimatum. We merely want to lay the facts out in front of you, as we imagine they are worth being told.
    As you might know, in December-January WB has officially acknowledged a particular and most game breaking bug – the disappearance of the save games. This specific error (amongst many others) has been present in all versions of the game across all platforms since the release date in October 2011. The acknowledgement was belated, but nonetheless welcome by the community.
    The companies have also acknowledged a bug causing poor DX11 performance on a significant number of machines. Once again, the players were disappointed by not being able to enjoy their game as advertised by the marketing campaign, but accepted the acknowledgment as a sign of progress.
    However, as to this day these issues (and the others, affecting not just the gameplay, but the ability to play as such) have not been resolved. We appreciate the fact that some coding issues need a significant amount of time to resolve and that it may ultimately be to our own benefit. We are, however, at liberty to have our concerns and our doubts, given that we have been patient for over 5 months since the console release of the game, not to mention the delayed PC release, which came as an unjustified disappointment due to these persistent problems.
    This is where the “customer experience” mentioned above comes in. It is very hard to comprehend the reasoning behind the lack of open communication from the companies. The companies make close to no effort to communicate with the existing paying customers and the potential customers.
    At the moment of speaking, the “acknowledgement” of the serious issues with the game is present neither on the official batman website, nor even a singular forum announcement, nor any of the digital distributors, such as STEAM. It is logical to assume that a set of issues that has been stopping a significant fraction of the paying customers from using the product since release/purchase date MUST be made known for the potential customers to avoid a mis-sale of the product.
    The companies have made no such precautions and are happily accepting more purchases from more customers. These customers then quickly arrive at the official “technical issues” forum to seek help from the community and the customer support team.
    The responses they are met with have been somewhat repetitive and unchanging for the last three months – “We are working on the fix for this issue, should update soon”. While this may well be true and we should be happy to hear this, it is easy to see how this same unaltered message can lose its credibility over prolonged lengths of time, such as 3 months since the official “acknowledgement” of the issues, which itself was a further 2 months old.
    (It is worth noting that the particular save game bug has been broken down by an individual forum user, who traced the problem to its roots, only leaving the implementation of the fix to the game developers.)
    Attempts have been made by the users to inquire into further details with the patch. In general, these attempts have been met with an identical message mentioned above. Not only do the companies (WB and Rocksteady) not engage in forward communications, numerous users have reported that very small percentage of their emails to the support team have been answered, none of them in any significant detail. The “official” presence on the “official” forums is pretty much nonexistent as well.
    It is now worth describing the “customer support team” that exists on the forums. The forums are controlled by a single community representative, who does attempt their best at responding to specific questions throughout the forums, when they are not on holiday.
    This only community representative is known to go missing for weeks with increasingly inconvenient timings, and with no prior warning, unless you count the rep’s personal twitter feed as an official announcement. While the staff holidays as such are not an issue to be debated, the fact the representative is presumably irreplaceable and unique during those periods raises an eyebrow and leaves the unhappy customers in complete silence, rotting on the forums and composing letters such as this one.
    The understandable lowtoned comments of disgruntled customers on the forum are met with a “we apologize IF you FEEL that the customer service is poor” statement, followed by a further lengthy absence of the community rep. It is evident that WB and Rocksteady themselves seem to be unaware that they are providing poor customer service, despite all of our (mostly sensible and reasonable) statements on the official forums and in emails. We have made a lot of fruitless efforts to encourage forward communication from the companies, or even just to obtain a response. It now seems we have to make an effort to make sure the public and the companies themselves know that we are not happy with this situation and the lack of service that we are receiving.

Now towards the most recent developments. The patch has been announced to be in the final stages of testing in the beginning of March. Most of the community was sceptical, but nonetheless the mood on the forums has improved. On the 12th of March, we have been informed that the companies were “working out timings” with their partners in terms of the digital release of the patch.
    The statement was followed by announcing that “the patch is currently being uploaded to the servers” two days later on the 14th of March. The next statement specified that the patch is on Steam servers ready to go live, and Games for Windows Live might take a little bit longer. Throughout this week the representative has assured us that the patch is due before the end of the week.
    The most striking development happened on Friday the 17th, when the patch still was not out and we received an announcement informing us that, in fact, the patch has failed a test and will not be released. Apart from the fact that it is very disappointing to hear, this statement renders the previous assurances that the patch is uploaded and waiting to go live untrue, to put it nicely.
    A long weekend now follows, which ensures that there are absolutely no means to obtain any more information about the reasons for yet another delay.
    All of the contradictions in the announcement and outright refusal to provide incoming patch details, such as the approximate size, a rough fix list and compatibility with old save games very strongly imply an intended deception throughout this time.
    A chronological list of all official announcements on the forums can be found in this thread in the first post. Bear in mind, the thread is kept by a forum user, as the community team made no attempt to organize their announcements for ease of access.
    The message we get from this is that WB and Rocksteady do not care about their customers after they have obtained the payment for an allegedly faulty product. They are now dragging time and providing false information to the community for unknown purposes.
    Logic dictates that a corporation, such as WB Ent. is interested in its corporate image. Same logic states that the said corporation must put in an effort to preserve that image. We can witness that almost none of this effort has been made and we do not feel it is fair that the company manages to hide from the responsibility to its customers in this way. The customers have even been outright deceived.
    We are contacting news sites in an attempt to tell about our customer experience with these companies to WB/Rocksteady and the public.

Faithfully yours,

Alexander Knorr aka zephyrin_xirdal

ROCKSTEADY STUDIOS. 2011. Batman: Arkham city. Burbank: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
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