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Community Detective Issue #16: Lineage II

Jef Reahard

Welcome to a new year of Community Detective. To kick things off, I'm going back in time -- way back in time, to 2004 to be exact -- as this was the year NCsoft's Lineage II debuted in America. Why profile the community and customer service of a game that's almost seven years old? Well, Lineage II is still going strong and drawing players from all over the world. NCsoft also continues to pour money and developer resources into the game (the latest example being the new Goddess of Destruction expansion) despite the existence of newer, similarly themed fantasy projects like Aion and Blade & Soul.

Clearly, then, Lineage II is still relevant in some quarters, and in light of that fact, I've spent the past couple of weeks toodling around the kingdom of Aden.

Lineage II dark elves buffing
As a quick refresher -- or as a primer for any newbs in the audience -- Community Detective is a biweekly series that aims to provide snapshots of an MMORPG's general community atmosphere and its customer service apparatus. This is accomplished by filing both in-game and web-based support tickets as well as interacting with players via in-game chat channels (usually in the form of a couple of game-specific questions that a newb might ask).

While not an exhaustive look at MMORPG communities (mainly due to time and space limitations), the column can arm you with a basic level of information regarding any games you may be considering. Let's get to it then, shall we?

Lineage II currently features one North American and one European server. I rolled a new Dark Elf character on Chronos and spent several days leveling around a good portion of the newb areas including the Dark Elven Village, the Shilen Temple, and the School of Dark Arts. I staggered my playtimes to include weekday afternoons and evenings as well as weekends.

I also attempted to make use of the game's limited chat channel functionality, but unlike many MMORPGs that feature multiple global channels, Lineage II restricts your ability to communicate with large sections of the populace. Aside from alliance and clan chat -- which I, being a friendless newbie, didn't have -- the game offers a trade channel (which was basically dead during all the times I attempted to use it) and a hero channel that elite players can use to broadcast server-wide messages.

After finding the chat channels inadequate for my polling purposes, I elected to run around and talk to people face to face and via private whispers. The trick was finding the people, and the current incarnation of Lineage II seems to be extremely top-heavy. I ran across few players in my travels around the lower-level Dark Elven areas, but luckily those I did find were largely courteous and helpful.

Community case file
I began my community polling with the following question:

Is this game solo friendly?
As I mentioned above, global chat was a no-go, so I didn't get the usual sampling of opinions that I've gotten used to over the course of this series. I did eventually find players, but not as many as I would've liked. In any event, this initial question drew almost universal laughter from the individuals to whom I posed it. I got a lot of friendly responses and also a lot of sympathy, and I was warned repeatedly about the legendary grind in store for a Lineage II newb.

For the second question, I decided to inquire about the possibility of faster travel:

As it turns out, getting a Lineage II mount is quite involved, not something that you'll be able to do at the early levels (though you can start the quest to obtain a prerequisite wolf pet around level 15 or so). I found a couple of players who took a few minutes to fill me in on the details of pets and mounts, but most of the folks I asked told me not to worry about it and suggested that I focus on leveling up.

Lineage II's community seems rather small at first glance, but I suspect that this is due to the low level of my new avatar and my lack of a clan or alliance. The good news is that the random players I ran across were quite willing to chat up a newb. I was expecting a bit more of a cold shoulder, mainly because of the game's open PvP implementation and its reputation as a hardcore grinder.

What I got instead was some good information, a smattering of helpful links, and even some free equipment in the form of weapons, armor, and consumables. I was also the recipient of numerous drive-by buffings, in which high-level players who happened across my path would stop long enough to drop a ton of speed, damage, crit rating, and other time-limited buffs on my avatar before waving and continuing on their way. This happened more times than I could count over the course of a couple of weeks, and it indicated a basic level of community friendliness that made me feel welcome despite the largely empty zones.

Customer service case files
The customer service experience was a bit better than my previous foray into the lands of NCsoft. Last summer I examined Aion, and while it wasn't an abject disaster, the response times conspired to give me a less than favorable impression.

For my first Lineage II test, I submitted an in-game petition on a weekday morning at approximately 10:00 a.m. The issue in question concerned the camera spinning incessantly around my avatar and the fact that there was no way that I could see to stop it (which rendered me unable to move effectively or otherwise play the game). NCsoft's customer support contacted me inside of 10 minutes, with the response taking the form of a detailed in-game text message that directed me to unplug any joysticks, gamepads, or similar peripherals. Sure enough, the spinning stopped after I did so, and I was able to get on with playing the game.

My second test involved a help ticket submission via the game's official support website. When I first installed the Lineage II client, I would occasionally experience crashes to the desktop just after logging in and just prior to selecting or creating a character. I copy/pasted the resulting error message and included it with my help ticket, which I filed on a weekday morning. I got an immediate form email confirmation message, and later that same afternoon I received an official CSR response.

If you're curious, the bug had to do with outdated DirectX 9 components (which the game requires even though you may be running the latest and greatest DirectX 11 stuff). I followed the steps and was up and running again in short order, and I've yet to experience another crash.

All things considered, NCsoft's Lineage II customer service was quite good for my particular issues. The response times were much improved over the responses I reported in last summer's Aion column, and the communications were clear, concise, and straight to the point.

That's all the time I've got for this week's edition of Community Detective. I'll see you in two weeks for another look at MMORPG communities and customer service.

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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