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Community Detective, Issue #12: World of Warcraft

Jef Reahard

Hey look, it's time for another installment of Community Detective! This week, boys and girls, we're going to venture where many folks have ventured before: the lands of Azeroth. That's right, World of Warcraft awaits, and I figured it's high time we took a look at the community and customer service aspects of the industry's resident titan. To be honest, I had a bit of an ulterior motive: I've been playing the game in my spare time, the better to get in and enjoy the old-world scenery a bit before Deathwing does his Pearl Harbor re-enactment on December 7th. So, why not kill two birds with one stone, right?

While the reigning MMORPG subscription champion's community is often referred to as the stuff nightmares are made of, the customer service is some of the best in the business. Yes, yes, I know, WoW's devs stole your lunch money, kicked your dog, and ran over your mother with their gold-plated sports coupes, so how much did Blizzard pay me to say it has good customer service?

Flip past the cut to find out.

This week's methodology will seem familiar if you sidled up to the Community Detective bar at any point in the past. World of Warcraft features a huge number of game servers, and due to time and manpower constraints, I'm limited to picking one per column. The good news is that I'll be returning to Azeroth after the new year to do a Cataclysm-focused issue of the column, and I'll roll on a different shard at that point. For this particular installment, I went with the Moon Guard server.

I also elected to focus on Alliance characters and chat channels this time around (Horde will get equal treatment in the future as well). World of Warcraft features a number of public chat channel options, each of them zone-specific, so instead of polling one server-wide global channel, I selected two of the larger Alliance hubs and made use of their general chats for my community questions. Ironforge and Stormwind are two of the cities that newbies are likely to visit early on in their WoW experience, and since the column aims to replicate what players can expect as they start out in various games, these two locales seemed like the ideal place to begin. As per column tradition, I asked a couple of questions at different times of the day and different days of the week, cataloging responses in terms of speed, friendliness, and followups.

For the customer service portion of the examination, I filed an in-game petition for a lost inventory item in order to test the response time, friendliness, and professionalism of Blizzard's support staff. I also experienced what I suspect was the early stages of an attempted account hack, which represented another opportunity to test the game's CSRs.

Community case file - World of Warcraft
To kick off the community discussion, I asked the following question:

What's the best 3rd party UI?
As you would expect, the answers varied widely, and there were a good number of opinions on the subject during all of my polling times in both the Ironforge and Stormwind general chats. WoW has an unrivaled modding community when it comes to MMOs, and aside from being deluged with responses and data for the this column, I also picked up a few interesting UI mods for personal use, chief among them Fishing Buddy and MyRoleplay.

For the second community question, I went with another how-to topic:

Where do I get a mount?
As before, I got a lot of responses, though fewer than the UI question on average. Ultimately the right answers were given, but depending on the day, time, and location, this question tended to bring out the trolls for some reason. All's well that ends well though, as I eventually made my way to Amberstill Ranch and became the proud new owner of a low mileage Gray Ram.

You may have heard of Moon Guard's community, as it's become rather infamous in MMO circles. I avoided Goldshire for purposes of this column, both out of personal preference and to see whether the majority of the server community was really that bad (or if it had simply gotten a bad rap due to the vocal minority).

Generally speaking, Moon Guard seems to have its share of nice folks. There is a ton of random roleplay happening in the hub areas, and people are fairly polite and helpful when you approach them individually in spatial or tells. That said, the general chat is chock full of e-peen waving. I'd go so far as to say that it's the worst of any of the games covered in this series in terms of the sheer number of obnoxious individuals on display. This is to be expected given WoW's status as Grand Central Station for online gamers, but it's still something of a shock if you're used to the quaint-by-comparison communities in most other MMORPGs.

The good news is that my questions were answered quickly, correctly, and consistently regardless of day or time. The bad news was having to separate the wheat from the chaff. Whether it was an ongoing discussion about the "fact" that World War II never happened, or a girl spam-advertising for "college roleplay" (whatever that means), Moon Guard's community chat is an exercise in facepalming, feigned (I hope) ignorance, and a veritable melting pot for trolls of all ages.

Customer service case files: World of Warcraft
Blizzard's customer service apparatus was impressive and more than made up for the general feeling of yuck that I got from community chat. For this week's test, I deleted a piece of semi-rare chest armor and filed a support ticket to try to get it restored. Filing the request was as easy as clicking on the question mark icon in my hotbar, selecting "open ticket" in the bottom left corner, and typing out a short description of my problem. The ticket immediately went into the queue for an in-game GM response.

Unfortunately I had to log out, so I wasn't able to wait the estimated 40 minutes for a live response. Later that evening though (after approximately four hours had elapsed), I logged back in to find my item restored and a lengthy explanation letter from GM Kebelunis. I also received an email confirming the exchange.

When it comes to this particular type of service (restoration of lost items), Blizzard is easily the best of any of the companies profiled in Community Detective to this point. SOE's service was also exemplary, but Blizzard was a bit faster and its in-game process a tad more streamlined and easy to use (I didn't have to open an external browser window at all, for example). GM Kebelunis was also exceedingly friendly, offering up a lot of detailed information on ways to avoid similar situations in the future and going out of his way to mitigate feelings of user stupidity.

I also got the opportunity to engage in a bit of unscripted customer service testing due to the fact that one of my accounts was seemingly compromised (or at least, well on its way to being hacked). Upon reaching the login screen, I was prompted to enter an authenticator key, which I've never purchased on any of my gaming accounts, Blizzard or otherwise. Lacking the password, I naturally couldn't log in, and so I filed a customer service ticket on The response took a little over two days, and while the communication was very friendly, there was a distinct lack of information as to what had actually happened. The ultimate resolution was a removal of the authenticator, and I logged in normally to find my character and his items unmolested.

That about wraps up this week's look at community and customer service in World of Warcraft. The community is about what you'd expect and probably pretty close to what you've heard about the game if you've yet to experience it for yourself. Granted, this was one server out of dozens, so the sample is relatively small, but I suspect it's a fairly good indicator across the board. Customer service was terrific for the most part, though I would have preferred a bit more clarification on the impromptu account security issue, as well as a shorter wait. As always, let me know about your own experiences in the comments, and I'll see you in two weeks.

Gray ram

Stat table

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

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