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Posted by ahoodedfigure

Electronic Arts has a site called Pogo, with board game translations for games like Scrabble and Monopoly.  I'm a board game designer, so I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I recently had a Monopoly craving that needed fixing, and I found Pogo had a Monopoly game set up, ready to go for free, zero commitment, and I didn't even need to register to play it.

Eventually I ran into problems, the kind of problems that make me wonder if the coders anticipated there being errors on their site.  Most of the windows move around, but the notice that you have insufficient funds is not movable, and sits right over the "roll" button for dice, the trade button, the build houses button, the mortgage buttons...  so if there happens to be an error where the thing doesn't want to drop down, then you're screwed for the rest of the game.  In my case, I wanted to buy a property but didn't have enough money, so I traded a computer player some property for some cash.  Dude gave me the cash, I bought the property, and I got this:

"You ever get so broke it just becomes funny to you?"
In a twist, this blog really isn't about that specific error.  It's more about how the website, and how many websites in general (like Play.com, for instance), tend to put so many barriers in between you and them that it's as if they don't really care what users think.  When you're in a high volume business, I suppose getting a bunch of annoying, random questions will actually reduce profits through having to set up some system to deal with them, but little old me feels a bit irritated by the idea that I have to register with this place just to tell them their code has an apparent bug.  As a freebie, I was also going to let them know that the number one hit in Google suggestions for "pogo monopoly" is actually "pogo monopoly cheats" which sends you straight to site that lets you crack the game and win a bunch of "tokens" which are turned in for a chance to win prizes.

Online gaming to me has always been a bit of a dodge, especially in the PC realm.  I spend time trying to get a high score, decide to register it, and seem some jerk with 999,999,997 points in a game that most people could barely get a few thousand.  I don't think human nature, if you assemble everyone together, can handle the idea of having a system that can be broken down and messed with, without at least one person thinking it might be giggle-inducing to screw up the leader board.  It only takes ten of these people to blot out a good number of these boards.

Folks like the World of Warcraft crowd are diligent, with paid staff whose job it is to hunt down all these weasels and try to keep things fair, but most companies, big or small, don't have the energy or resources to keep after these people, since the effort of cracking a site is probably less than the collective effort of stopping the individual who did it.  I'm not even sure there's a solution to this.  Maybe someone out there has a good idea, but no matter how complex you make site and software architecture, it's common sense to assume someone can break it.  In a weird way, consoles are a better solution to this than I like to admit, with better ways to track hardware and software changes.

But users are a sort of untapped potential in the war against cheating and bugs.  I sorta feel shunned by EA in their giving me a labyrinth to have to contact them with some simple, helpful tidbits.  Maybe there's a way to help harness whatever honesty is out there?  I dunno.  All I know is I had a pretty sweet line of green properties that were aching for houses and hotels, but their needs could not be met.  It doesn't mean I won't dive in again, but I doubt very much that I'd ever register with that place.  I feel small enough in a world with a population approaching 7 Billion; I don't need my escapism to make me feel small too.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I like a little human contact when I'm dealing with a company.  Places like Nintendo and others may improve those form letters they dole out eventually, answering just about every contingency out there instead of often missing the mark.  But until they do, it'll always feel like they don't give a damn as long as you give them your ducats.  Hey, that may be true, but it doesn't exactly make me eager to buy.

What follows is your cookie for making it to the bottom.  I don't feel like warning people about the subject matter, it's not that shocking:

The last gag was a bit low, but I still thought this was pretty good given my current Monopoly fixation.  Not as good as the insufficient funds link, though.
Posted by StaticFalconar

So its kinda like the 360 in regards to hardware and the Wii in software (as a weakness). Sell enough and nobody will notice your flaws (or just get over them). Then again, both those systems are better of than the miserable PS3, which isn't even selling enough to show a hidden flaw.

Just a little analogy I was thinking of while reading....

btw, bugs like that cannot be helped whether its a person reading off a script telling you they are trying to fix it or a company wide letter telling everybody they are gonna fix it (whether they mean it or not).

Posted by erinfizz

Wait, wait. You are a BOARD GAME designer???? That's awesome. What kind of stuff? I am a euro devotee (more cubes, less dice!) that is currently fixated on Dominion.

Posted by Claude

I read an article about how EA/Hasbro had strong sales of its games for the Wii and it mentioned Monopoly. It made me want to play the game, but I have no one to play with, so I checked some reviews. Now, I just read your blog and again, Monopoly... weird, is someone telling me something. I'll just wait for the third sign.

As for the customer service, it's been a hit and miss for me. Sometimes the automated dialog/bots works great and I'm done in no time. Other times, not so much, but I've had some bad experiences with real people as well and I don't download that many free games... too scared of crappy/buggy games, unless I'm familiar with the site.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Before you expect Monopocalypse, Claude, Monopoly is sort of the standard family board game (unfortunately), and since they're pushing to promote it, the free version I played was recently put online.  It all sorta fits together.

I like Monopoly because of the pretty colors, but the game is long, mean, and can go in circles.  The fully functioning online game has a set amount of turns, and only allows 2 bankruptcies (out of four players).  Also, it has a ton of optional rules that I guess you can only access if you join up, but its standard set passes properties around the table instead of giving them all to the player owed debt after a bankruptcy.  Kinda weird.

You're right that some bots/automatic responses work fine, but it's not about when they get it right.  When they get it wrong, they need only be a little bit off for someone to be cast aside.  They answer the question you didn't ask, and you either go through the process again or give up.  Gives me chills just thinking about it.

Yeah, real people can be idiots, but at least you feel like it's them and not the system...  perhaps it's just some sort of emotional framework for me, but when a person is being an idiot, I feel like it's me against that person, when an entire, faceless system is being idiotic, I feel like they never even let me in the building (or it never had any doors to begin with).

I don't care so much if they fix the bug for me, but with the Indie set I tend to feel like I can say "hey, bug!" and they say "OK, thanks!" and the thing is fixed in a week, tops.  Going from experiences like that to lurching behemoths that lumber blindly forth, it's a bit jarring :)

I still fiddle with that stupid game.  I guess it's charming to be able to play a game of Monopoly in a short amount of time instead of 6 hours, but I guess the most fun I had was arguing about the rules, making up new rules, and taunting my friends.  I usually don't get too competitive, but the vacuum that Monopoly's uneven play gives sorta lends to a party game atmosphere....  Yep.