Community Detective Issue #22: Allods Online [Updated]

My first few minutes with Allods Online were one part awesome and two parts aggravation. There was intrigue in the form of my research into player-crewed airships, and there was annoyance at the forced installation of Pando Media Booster, a third-party app that supposedly improves download speeds but is really little more than bloatware.

Once I had the game patched and running (and the offending program removed), it was time to get down to brass tacks. Community Detective has largely been concerned with traditional subscription-based MMOs to this point (detours into the lands of Global Agenda and Runes of Magic notwithstanding), so I'm branching out a bit this week to the realm of free-to-play.

Despite its cash-shop missteps and death-penalty brouhahas, Allods has a certain allure, and I figured it was time to answer a few burning questions. In no particular order: What the heck is an allod, what kind of community can you expect in one of the larger F2P games, and what sort of customer service is on offer from gPotato?

Even though this is a community- and customer service-focused column, I can't really mention Allods without paying a bit of lip service to its presentation. The game's aesthetic is simply delicious, and everything from the art direction to the musical score is refined and indicative of high-quality epic fantasy.

The graphics, in particular, are some of the most appealing I've experienced in an MMORPG, F2P or otherwise. There are also some chuckle-worthy touches in terms of animations. My League Mage plops down and proceeds to file her fingernails if I'm AFK for too long, and my Empire Sorcerer takes to reading some sort of whirling light cylinder (and he also looks like the gruesome lovechild of Tim Burton and H.R. Giger).

All that said, you're probably here to read about the community.

My first couple of hours in Allods were pretty lonely, so much so that I rolled multiple characters of both factional persuasions to see if I could scare up some company. Typically I make use of global chat to conduct my impromptu community surveys, but as there wasn't much conversation (and it was also Mother's Day), I opted to toodle around the starter areas and try again later in the week.

As the week progressed, I did have better luck, and I was able to ask my customary questions and take the general pulse of the Allods community. My first question was as follows:

The game features one server, Tensess, and it also features global chat functionality that you have to pay for. Much like my experiences in Runes of Magic, my Allods chat adventures were restricted to local and zone-wide channels unless I wanted to shell out a few bucks to purchase a megaphone from the cash shop. This time around, I opted to forgo spending any money and restricted my polling to /say and /zone.

Responses were generally helpful, though there weren't a lot of them regardless of the time of day or day of the week that I asked. For my second question, I opted to ask about transportation.

I received a large number of helpful responses on this one, almost exclusively in /zone chat (most people told me to check the item shop, if you're curious).

The Allods community initially seemed rather small and closed off, but as my two-week visit wore on, players started coming out of the woodwork. The starter areas were pretty crowded on both the League and Empire sides of the faction fence at times, though I did get more frequent responses to my questions in the League zone of Evermeet.

Despite the large number of players running around, the majority of the ones I approached seemed somewhat aloof, and I was only able to group twice during my time with the game. People generally do their own thing, it seems, and as the game is pretty solo-friendly through the newb lands, this isn't too surprising.

Interestingly, I had the most luck (in terms of responsiveness and friendliness) during my weekday afternoon play times. This is a marked departure from every other game I've covered over the life of this column. Prior to Allods, I've always had the most luck with community interaction on evenings and weekends (Eastern time).

If you've read Community Detective before, you know that my customer service snapshots usually involve the submission of help tickets and the cataloging of responses (and response times). Occasionally I'll have real gameplay issues that warrant contacting customer service. In the case of Allods, the game runs so well and features so few bugs during the early levels that I opted to pull my tried and true "whoops I deleted an item" trick to see how gPotato's CSRs would respond.

gPotato's customer service was nothing to write home about. In fact, I'd have to rank it as one of the worst I've experienced due to the fact that the help ticket I filed has gone unanswered for the better part of two weeks. I received no email correspondence, no in-game communication, and no submission followup, so I have no way of knowing whether gPotato has a ton of tickets on its hands or just can't be bothered with mine.

Finding the help interface isn't the most intuitive thing in the world, either. I hunted around the in-game UI to no avail, eventually settling for the help button at the bottom left of the store window. This opened up an external web browser and directed me to gPotato's main site. After logging in with my Allods account info and clicking through a few more help-related menu options, I arrived at a trouble ticket submission form.

While I'd love to be able to give you a few more data here, I simply don't have it as of press time, though I will update the article if and when gPotato gets around to responding. If you've had dealings with Allods customer service, feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

[Update]: I was contacted by the Allods team the day after this article debuted. I was informed that my support ticket could have been lost due to an internal issue that is currently being resolved. I was also made aware of the fact that the Allods support staff usually responds to customer service issues within one or two days when said issues are submitted via the game's official forums or via email.

That about wraps up Community Detective's first foray into Allods Online. Despite the help ticket unpleasantness, the game itself was surprisingly enjoyable, and I'd probably stick around if I weren't heavily invested in a couple of themepark titles already. Oh, and before I forget: An allod is a shattered piece of the planet Sarnaut, left to float in the vast expanses of the Astral after the Great Cataclysm. I'll see you in two weeks for another look at MMO community and customer service.

Join Jef Reahard every other week as he goes behind the scenes to file first-hand community and customer service reports from the front lines of your favorite genre titles. From Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of jef@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.