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Some Death Knells of Granado Espada

The Singapore Granado Espada servers have gone down for yet another surprise maintenance. I find myself with time on my hands, so I'm going to speculate about various death knells of Granado Espada.

I think every Granado Espada player (except for the suck-up forum mods) will agree that the publisher IAH has botched their game management from the start and exacerbate the problems by skipping out on in-game GMs and attempting to automate customer service. (Try to imagine the frustration of sending 8 tickets on the same problem, all misunderstood by apparently non-English-speaking IAH staff, and all auto-closed after a nonsense reply). However, I've refrained from making outright GRANADO ESPADA IS DOOMED posts because there is an unfortunate tendency in the computer to cry THE END IS NIGH just because something doesn't go their way, while they've spent the rest of their forum time mocking and undermining the people who attempt to get something done about the long-standing issues that have been causing player base attrition all along. Don't expect me to care that you are temporarily "bored" when you supported unfairness that worked in your favor, no matter how much of the rest of the community was driven away.

On the other end of the spectrum of people who have been blocking attention to Granado Espada's genuine problems are those players who claim to "hate dramu", "abhor speculation", and "are above the fray"...unless the criticism comes from them: then suddenly the issues are valid and important. What they see as wrong is the only thing genuinely wrong, and they spend the rest of their time abusing anyone else who dares to mount criticism. These guys - who are often mysteriously coddled by IAH - have done their own share of wrecking Granada Espada by suppressing opinion and discouraging democratic participation in Granado Espada's development.

A little over a year ago, I gave up writing this blog because IAH had launched yet another idiotic event-made-for-botting. No matter how many times I blogged about how events driven by farming encouraged players to bot and handed botters dominance over legit players (and often excluding legit players from activities by monopolizing content), IAH just kept doing the same lame farming events over and over again. It seemed like the powers-that-be at IAH were not remotely familiar with the game, and their view from the outside was being obscured by the self-serving forces mentioned above.

I have nothing better to do at the minute, though, so I might as well do an omnibus review of the areas where IAH is racing to put themselves out of business.

1.  Failure to Curb/Rectify Major Imbalances

Granado Espada needs it's own Occupy Movement, because various failures in game management led to such an "opportunity gap" for average players that they were denied access to high end content. IAH has made some effort to reduce the resource imbalances caused by botting and gold-buying, but they failed to do anything to reverse the imbalance once it had built up. In other cases IAH fueled the imbalance by offering events that promoted botting, and also by selling serious advantages through the cash shop. While one rich guy may spend enough to keep IAH afloat for a month, that sugar daddy will soon leave when the rest of the gaming community departs for a game that gives them a fairer shake. In the 6 years I've played, I've seen numerous "mass extinctions" after IAH offered some game-killing item in the cash shop. These advantages grow over time and can eventually become so monstrous as to shut regular players out of normal play. IAH ought to take a look at what happened to Colony War some time. Grossly unfair advantages led to the same few people dominating Colony War, and since winners of Colony War get a cash pay out (a massive failure in Granado Espada's game design), the people who cheated their way to the top then got essentially an infinite amount of game gold - which has STACKED UP week-after-week for years. If IAH mainly listens to those players (who seem to be rich and important "game leaders") they will just get sunny reports about how fair GE is working: obviously the complaints are coming from "whiners" and "the losers". IAH never wonders what happened to all the other players.

2. Customer Service Failing to Resolve Quest Bugs

Players join MMOs not just to advance in the game, but to advance with their friends. Most of Granado Espada's appeal is that it's a BIG game with lots of activities and a lot of characters to acquire. However, it's really demoralizing when a player can't move forward with their friends because of a quest bug. Around 10% of my faction has gotten stuck on quest bugs, and they rarely get meaningful help from IAH Customer service. Some are still suffering from the Viki quest bug from half a dozen patches ago! And now they can't proceed with any quests that require completion of the Viki one! They aren't able to collect all the characters now. Worse, several people experienced a bug on a major prerequisite for the Keilche characters, and they have had to stand by for months without being able to get the most powerful characters in the game. The leader of my faction was hobbled this way!

A simple thing IAH could do to get these quest bugs resolved is to STOP CLOSING THE TICKET after every single email reply - because it often takes a long exchange to get whoever is now handling customer service to understand the problem.

3. Cash Shop Recruitable Characters and Stealth Online Gambling

I'm sure the IAH bigwigs went into conniptions when they saw players would gamble hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars just to get a rare character. What IAH failed to consider is that gambling is addictive, and many of their young customers are still developing their impulse control. While IAH was gleefully counting it's windfall, some people lost serious amounts of money they needed for their famly or for rent or for their education. Some didn't even get their rare character for all that spending. IAH did not seem to monitor the legions of players who left Granado Espada after such a large amount of money was extracted from them all at once: this represented the loss of revenue streams, attrition of the community, the undermining of the factions that lost their members, and loss of positive "buzz" (instead, former players tried to warn their friends away).

While poor players might always desire cash shop items that they can't afford, a certain amount of selling "prestige" items has to occur just to fund the game. The problem is the way the transaction is modeled on gambling, and IAH's increasing tendency to offer "pay-to-win" game-imbalancing items instead of mere prestige items. However, in my opinion, the biggest prize mistake was the "cash shop characters". The reason is that collecting characters is central to the core game mechanics: players get a sense of satisfaction and achievement out of collecting characters - and this is all the more important since most can't get any satisfaction from the competitive aspects of the game. Competition is only fun if it's perceived to be fair (or biased in your own favor). Right now the most satisfying form of competition is finding a way to "beat IAH" when IAH's actions seem to be attempting to cheat players in some way. Really, it would have been in IAH's best interest to leave the only fair route of game play alone.

4. Reneging on the Player-vs-Environment Server

Way back at the beginning of Granado Espada time, players got to chose between Player-vs-Player (PvP) and Player-vs-Environment (PvE) servers. The players that chose PvE did so because they find killing and being killed by other players at unplanned times/places stressful. The PvE server also attracts working players (with lots of money to spend on games) who wanted to take advantage of Granado Espada's away-from-keyboard progress in leveling and looting. These players knew what they wanted when they chose the PvE server, and IAH made an implicit promise in offering a PvE server.

Last year Granado Espada's game developer made the astounding move of changing the game mechanics so all servers would have to divide into two enemy groups, and all servers would be transformed into PvP, whether the players (who had already invested years and hundreds/thousands of dollars into their accounts) wanted it or not. My own server proved to be fairly mature, and they resisted creating the "enemy" side that would wreak havoc on the PvE players. There were a couple of assholes who decided to go on killing sprees, and IAH declared this to be normal "game mechanics" even though the assholes involved declared their intent to be harassment against players who had chosen - and paid for - a PvE server. Several smaller factions collapsed and a number of players departed from Granado Espada before the assholery waned. Now the game developer IMC is so appalled that the PvE players didn't cooperate with their plan to take away the PvE life style option that they are creating more incentives to create enemy factions. It's only a matter of time before these incentives start working. Then IAH can expect to lose a whole SEGMENT of their player base - the ones who chose to play a PvE game. I think the argument can be made that changing a PvE server into a PvP server after a player has spent years investing time and money into their accounts represents a form of theft.

In Conclusion

I am fully aware that whenever IAH tries to crack down on major imbalances and discipline cheaters, the players that were previously benefiting will start to scream that Granada Espada IS OVER - they will no longer be spending their money, and when they leave Granado Espada "everyone" will go with them. However, IAH needs to realize these very noisy players are the gangrene that has been killing the game. Their advantages cost IAH a large player base and consistent revenue streams (rather than gambling windfall profits). There will be some blood if IAH has to amputate, but any of the gangrene they allow to remain will just spread again.

I'm not sure what IAH can do about the enormous game imbalance that already exists. They can't take away gear that players have already acquired. Sometimes old gear imbalances are resolved simply by that gear being superseded by more powerful items. In order for this to work, though, regular players need to be able to acquire that gear: that means even top gear needs to be accessible through PvE raids. Then players will have equitable items for Player-vs-Player competition. The "wealth gap" issue is harder to resolve. There needs to be some way to cap game gold savings if a flaw in game mechanics is allowing the "1%" to accumulate far too much relative to the rest of the server. Maybe there can be some sort of progressive tax (on Elemental Jewel purchases...?) that can be distributed in ways other than an unfair CW. The wealth and opportunity gap problems are difficult to solve, but it behooves IAH to put some thought into it since they are the ones who let the unfairness escalate in the first place.

I'm not sure if I will ever post another blog, so I will close with the pic that says it all:

IAH Granado Espada Still Too Expensive

First, I should thank IAH for finally updating Hellena's Circus of Face so players have somewhere to buy costumes: I used all - as in every single one - of my remaining tokens to buy them. This will probably clean up the accumulated token problem for a lot of players who were still sitting on the pile they got while trying to win an Asoka character card: now IAH can put out the Ludin costumes, and players will top up for them (hint, hint!). :)

I realize IAH has had a lot on their hands with technical disasters and a game-killing level of exploits. As a player, I also expect these things to get taken care of first - and for IAH to provide some assurance that they are addressing these issues. Otherwise, speculation will go off the charts, and players end up storming off in a huff over things that may not even be happening. Right now Granado Espada is still in crisis - all you have to do is look at the Colony Wars map to see the level at which no one is bothering anymore.

Under these circumstances, the price of virtual items in Granado Espada is a relatively minor issue. After all, IAH has gotten away with this level of pricing for a long time. Furthermore, IAH has persuaded enough people to gamble huge amounts for "limited" items and to pay over-the-top cash for a home team advantage at local auctions that they have not seen any reason to care about the significant chunk of their general customer base they lost over these practices. In my experience, the "deciding moment" for more game-leavers comes when they are shut out of game-advantage items by a ridiculous price point: players tend to just complain about the botting, exploits, and other cheating that disadvantages them relative to other players. Telling players they are too poor to play Granado Espada always seems to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

After I bought my costumes yesterday, I noticed yet another bad sign. I was already uneasy: buying so many costumes at once forced me to confront how much the cost in real money: around $50. When players consider they pay less than this for new games, it makes them reconsider their spending priorities. IAH may not be aware that while the cost of costumes in the Hellena game have remained fixed for a couple of years, the price of the underlying game credits has gone up and some resellers are charging transaction fees.on top of that.

So, I was already uneasy about the amount of money I had spent, and the fact IAH had forced players into gambling for costumes by removing them from the fixed-price cash shop and in-game venues (like Andre's hat shop). I could just imagine middle-aged, balding investors getting all whirly-eyed as the head of IAH Business Development showed them a powerpoint about how to Get Rich Quick by manipulating teenage otaku into gambling for mere pixels. Yet, as far as I knew, there wasn't any major customer rebellion.

Then I noticed the price of one of the new Hellena costumes in the cash shop.- $180 million vis (game gold). Previously costumes obtained through the Hellena game were sold at around $60 million, and even then it seemed over-priced relative to what non-botting players (who are also disadvantaged in winning valuable raid items) could earn in-game. Now that price was tripled!!! When I asked around, I found out that very few players were reselling costumes or the equivalent amount of Hellena tokens.

The price of "growth stones" (a necessary game item that's primarily obtained through the cash shop) has also gone up a lot, despite the legions of players botting to earn them in-game.

It seems like those ultra-rich whales IAH has been courting are not buying enough to significantly redistribute items in-game. Trickle down has failed. I remember around the time Asoka came out, some IAH staff claimed that the game economy would set a "natural price" for her card to be traded in-game. There was nothing natural about what set her price: the only players that could afford her were ones that could deal in billions of vis. I will let IAH consider for a minute which players those are.

I know IMC has been fussing about how they need to "get paid" for the virtual items they designed. However, IAH should be ready to point out that NO ONE gets paid if no one buys. No one buys when customers depart the game or the current climate of the game makes putting down real money not worth it. I hope IAH staff is watching the current situation carefully. They need to either reduce the price on the virtual items (including increasing gambling chances) or they need to negotiate with vendors to reduce the underlying cost of game credits. Again, NO ONE GETS PAID if NO ONE BUYS.

IAHed by Timed Items

Granado Espada is down yet again. There doesn't seem to have been any warning in-game. Someone just pulled the plug and didn't give players a chance to log out properly.

As usual, players are upset about their timed items being cut off, which essentially robs them of something they paid for. Sometimes IAH offers compensation (usually inadequate), and sometimes they don't. There's usually no acknowledgment of costs that don't relate to cash shop purchases, such as disruption of raids that may have involved long camp times and huge time and effort to prepare. These are especially likely to go on during the weekend.

Something I have never understood about the way IMC developed Granado Espada: why is there no stop-clock on timed items? It's possible to do: older MMOs have this feature. Being able to stop the clock on timed items could have saved IAH a gazillion complaints from players who feel ripped off by ad hoc maintenance and even the scheduled weekly maintenance (which always cuts time off of "one week" items). More importantly, IAH would not have to deal with compensation or anger customers over inadequate/un-forthcoming compensation.

If the issue of compensating for loss of timed items wasn't always the priority, maybe IAH staff could move on to other problems with the game - like LOUDLY banning those JB/TA exploiters so those who refrained from exploiting don't continue to feel like chumps (and feel driven to try such exploits in the future).

Another problem with today's ad hoc maintenance is that player complaints are already being trivialized: of course players complain about loss of timed "every time" - that's because they get robbed every time!!! IAH is clearly in the wrong when they take back something that players paid real money for. How is this different from someone stealing your wallet?

But worse there are certain players (or possibly planted IAH staff or bootlickers like hopeful job applicants) who seek to belittle anyone who complains with remarks like "haters will hate", "whiners", etc. Players should just wait for the heroic IAH staff to get things fixed and not burden them with their petty demands for compensation.

I've seen enough of this suppression-of-the-wronged on the forum to wonder if it's an aspect of Singaporean or Asian culture rather than just a corporation's cheesy attempt to manipulate the tenor of customer feedback. If it is an Asian thing, I hope someone will explain to me what good people thinks this does. How is it remotely in the customer's interest to uphold the "face" of the company at their own financial expense? If customer's realize they are letting a company reach into their pockets and scoop out whatever they want, what do they think the larger cultural or social gain is? I don't get it.

As usual IAH needs to do two things: acknowledge and compensate for losses and communicate with customers in a timely manner. IAH has had communications problems from the start (strange for a wannabe publishing empire), but recently these problems have gotten a lot worse. Half the information on the most recent update wasn't even up before the update.If IAH doesn't want to have to do these things, then the solution is simple - put stop-clock on timed items! What in the world is the business reason for not doing this?

Sadly, IAH was trying to address one of the complaints in my Granado Exploitada post when someone in their data center tripped over a cable: they were finally putting the costumes they forgot to offer during the last two patches in their Hellena Circus of Fate casino game. At last someone noticed there aren't any costumes in the cash shop anymore! Unfortunately the server went down before anyone could buy anything, but the general in-game reaction was "aaaaaaaaaaaah, finally IAH lets us pay for something we want!"

While making costumes available should boost player good will, I think IAH needs to be very communicative and visible about dealing with the exploits - because otherwise players just assume they can get away with it (worse, they will be the losers if they don't try it). Right now Granado Espada players are getting the vibe they have been abandoned, and nothing gets done about the problems they raise. IAH only seems to listen to a few local players, and those players may not be reporting the problems they benefit from. Even if those players spend a lot of money on the game, sucking up to them is not worth losing the rest of Granado Espada's customer base. If some IAH bigwig is shrugging off the customer base and their burdensome demands, he or she should really take some time to tour around the game, chat with players, and see what is really going on for themselves. Once the problems hits their metrics and become lack of revenue, it's too late. Advertising campaigns and rebuilding a decimated community will costs a lot more than cultivating the customers you have.

During ad hoc maintenance many players will go off to "get a real life", and perhaps some won't come back. Since IAH didn't give an estimated time of fix, everyone will probably drift off for the day. I realize that the casino games are the all-important source of revenue, but I wish someone at IAH would start considering the bigger picture and long term effects of the way they treat customers.


As I write this the server is still down, and the Community Manager is busy trying to quash the flames the forum.

Before he responds with "chillax" there are some thing he needs to understand:

1) Many factions do their Fury Raids on Saturdays: these are extremely important for mid-level faction members and faction family-feeling. They are also needed for the Faction Quest, and it can be hard to get the people who need the quest all together on the right day. These raids have a one week cool down! If we can't do Furies on Saturday, we need to wait a week so the schedule is frakked up.

2) The daily quests for XP cards etc. are also very important to mid-level players. Some of them have rewards for accumulated completion: skipping a day robs them.

3) Some players have pets in the farm they need to feed daily. If the pets die, no one can make resu potion because almost everyone has bugged blenders in the farm. Only people who had AT passes have lots of farm tokens to buy the "cash shop" pet resu.

4) Some players may have spent hours preparing, camping, or even slowly killing major bosses. Saturday is *the* raid time. In their minds, server-down may have cost them epic loot. If they did manage to finish, they may fear server rollback will take away their prize.

5) Players were already really upset over all the unfixed bugs and exploits. IAH's lack of communication makes it look like no one is addressing these things. The pain caused by this ad hoc could be the final straw from them. In other words, the loudness of their complaints isn't "out of proportion" to an ad hoc: it's stored up anger from all the other problems.

6) The complaints about disrupted timed items are valid and serious. Don't trivialize them.

I hope the IAH CM will take these factors into consideration as he responds to the community.

In Memoriam to CyCT

I learned tonight that one of my faction members, CyCT died this morning.

CyCT (short for Cyber City - the name of his first cyber cafe) was one of my first faction members. He was disabled, and I spent a lot of time with him as he explored Granado Espada. He found is niche in building armies of characters, and we were just joking last night about how he was finally ready to unleash his army upon the world.

As of last night, he did not seem sick. My whole faction will be shocked and saddened that 24 hours later, CyCT is no longer here.

I hope the entire Granado Espada community will take a moment to think about their friends in-game and say a prayer for CyCT.


Here are a couple of pics from the faction's memorial activities for CyCT.

First here is a 24-hour vigil (wake?) we held by parking our game accounts in a town instead of the usual game activities:

Vigil for CyCT

Second, here is a picture from our public memorial service. Sadly it's the only one I got with the faction member promoting his CyCT-named character at that brilliantly-timed moment. There were also fireworks and water/snow sprays at the end of the memorial.

CyCT's Memorial Service

Granado Exploitada

The January update of Granada Espada may prove to be one of the greatest disasters IAH has ever brought upon itself. I've hesitated to write about it since there are always some bugs after a new patch. Also, I love Granado Espada, and as much as I try to call attention to the problems that drive away customers, I don't want to proclaim it's imminent end. However, it's beginning to look too late for IAH to recover from this tailspin.

The massive imbalances created by exploits have all but killed the game, and IAH's own marketing and management mistake have undercut customer trust (yet again). IAH can attempt to bring out the banhammer and roll back some of the ill-gotten gains, but they will have to be prepared for backlash from the highest level, most self-important players - the ones IAH has been trying court. But if IAH doesn't act, they will have issued an open invitation for everyone to cheat just to keep up.

I have so much to cover, I'll break down under headings.

1. Exploit-o-rama

The last patch didn't only have bugs and exploits - it offered ridiculous wealth to those who dared to cheat. Alliance War allowed the botting of hundreds of thousands of points, which gave the factions that dared to engage in this a weekly bounty of constellation symbols and AR-33 weapons. Apparently both IAH and IMC forgot about the past problem with Reputation-clickers and botting to win the race for the limited EXP cards in Zeia: if you offer a race where botting will win, people will bot. I've heard there is a similar problem with cheating for points in Cross-world PVP, but I don't participate in it, so I hope people will bring this up in the comments.

In MMOs, the highest level bosses drop the highest level loots. One of IMCs design mistakes, IMHO, was to make the highest level bosses "open" raids where players would compete with each other to win: botting and too many cash shop advantages ruin any sense of fair competition in Granado Espada, so the direct competition should be for lower stakes. The last patch, however, included a bug in one of it's highest level bosses (Cortes).So now the highest level players didn't just have an advantage in competition: they could just freeze this boss and get some of the highest level loot in Granado Espada for free.

Another bug allowed certain daily instanced raids to be done over and over every day. The players that have been exploiting this for over a month have been making hundreds of millions of vis (game gold) a day. Right now there is some extreme inflation in the in-game market - could it be because of these exploiters can now pay any price? Botting and drama in Battle Colosseum (i.e. free way to Letizia boxes) have now gotten out of hand, partly because of this inflation.

2) IAH Marketing and Management Mistakes

IAH set the wrong tone by introducing the game update in a half-assed way. Game guide articles were published late, and some not published at all. In general, IAH seems to have lost interest in Granado Espada. Many of the character costumes from the *last* patch were never even released to the Online Casino games that replaced the cash shop. Did IAH forget the costumes in the cash shop, the low cost hats in the Andre shop, and the permanent costumes in the feso shop have all been removed? Because IAH focused on limited releases, most of the costumes are now exceedingly rare and too expensive for players to buy from each other. When IAH neglects to sell players the stuff they want, something is seriously wrong.

Why is IAH refraining from selling stuff to its customers and not taking advantage of collector-oriented revenue streams? Some players have speculated that IAH is suffering the consequences of their previous greed. IAH made players gamble for hundreds of dollars to get rare character cards and items, but as a result players racked up credits to use for normal content like costumes. IAH has already booked those profits: but if they post new content players will be able to acquire it without spending more money.

I suppose IAH is now looking for a way to extract those game credits back or dismantle the particular casino game that uses those credits. Customers would regard either one as theft: they spent hundreds, in some cases thousands of dollars, and they expect to get virtual items. IMHO, IAH should release massive amounts of costumes, including older ones that have become rare in-game, until customers have spent a lot of their saved credits. When customers feel like they got fair return for the previous money they spent, they will be more willing to buy cash credits for future content.

Another EPIC FIASCO for IAH was their own attempt to cash in on a bug. IAH already looked bad for putting an over-priced (i.e. a couple hundred dollars in gambling) character stance book (Shining Sting) in their casino games when it was going to be available in-game. Now a bug prevented players from completing the quest that was supposed to allow them to get a new dagger stance (Blitz Assault) for free. How did IAH respond to this crisis, which players expected them to fix asap? IAH put the free quest stance in their casino game!!!!??? It only took IAH a couple weeks to realize this was an extreme customer relations fail, but by then IAH had deeply reinforced it's reputation as a greedy, corrupt company.

Where are the Community Managers who are supposed to be a voice for the players? Maybe they are too busy focusing on their auctions, where IAH's local favorite players can literally buy their way to game dominance.

3) Questionable Game Master Involvement In-Game

Granado Espada players have been questioning the integrity of IAH's Game Masters since one entered (and won) a customer contest for an iPad. last year. It's bad enough customers mainly see Game Masters shaking them down for cash during in-game auction events, and almost never see them enforcing the Terms of Service or even patrolling the game. But now it seemed the Game Masters themselves were trying to exploit Granado Espada for their own gain.

Actually players have been grumpy about special-relationship-with-IAH advantages for a long time - especially related to advanced information on cash shop updates (used to manipulate the in-game market) and privileges that came from working at, or even playing at, IAH Cafe. For a while it seemed like IAH was being more careful about these sorts of advantages as a source of game imbalance, which had given way too much power to certain players and factions. I've even heard that a GM pressured one faction on my server to withdraw from a large faction alliance (though one has to wonder why the GM was communicating with a particular faction at all, and what they can offer/threaten that would amount to "pressure").

I also recently noticed that IAH staff put links to particular faction web sites in their Facebook account. I suppose this sort of thing was inevitable when IAH started recruiting GMs from active players, but I hope IAH is starting to realize now why that was such a bad idea.

The latest scandal was a GM posting that he had fun in a raid which allowed a top faction to defeat a new high level boss, where one of the coveted impossible-to-get Devil Weapons dropped. As soon as players started asking what the GM was doing helping a particular faction with raids, the GM quickly retracted his post. Later he remarked he was only there as an observer, but players are skeptical in light of some of the remarks he made about soul crystal usage, etc. Was the GM a member of this faction when he became GM? Does he still hang out with the leadership and give them tips? This sort of favoritism is unprofessional.

4) Rise of the Botters

Yes, Granado Espada has always had a farm-bot problem, and it's nothing new for me to complain about it. However, for the last two patches it seems like IMC has re-designed Granado Espada to expressly attract, encourage, and woo botters! The incentives to bot have gotten so ridiculous that it may give credence to the old speculation that someone at IMC wants to make money under the table by providing bot programs. Because both IMC and IAH certainly lose money when bots help players circumvent the cash shop.

By now it is obvious - it might as well be a rule - that if the MMOs make a contest out of how many mobs players can kill and/or how much loot they can pick up off the ground and/or how many times they can click on something - the bots will come out in force. Bot armies will take over every map, making it impossible for the players who follow the Terms of Service to play at all, much less benefit fairly from the Event. The "pro" players will not only feel pressured to bot: they will feel pressured to field as many bots as possible just to compete with each other. The advantages they accrue are ongoing. If they squeeze everything they can out of a few days of a special Event, they will gain the material base to dominate rivals for a year.

What is really mind-boggling is that IAH allowed a situation that enables players to fill their inventories with items they would otherwise buy: such as Rose Wings, premium buff pots, and Stimulation Scrolls. IAH risked widespread player disgruntlement when they attempted to roll back similar damage caused by the Halloween Event. By now they should realize that it's messier and more disruptive to clean up the problem after the fact.Now botters are being allowed to rob IAH to the point of bankruptcy. IAH has no one to blame but themselves for lacking common sense: if they "close one eye" to botters, those botters will descend in multitudes to extract all the cash shop items they can: hundreds, thousands, a year's worth, and enough to build a fortune by selling to non-botters. A number of players already make money *off* of Granado Espada instead of simply just trying to avoid spending their own money to play.

There are GMs (and wannabes) who seem to get a kick out of belittling the players who want the Terms of Service to be enforced against botting. The players who bot are "savvy" and "pro" the players who don't bot are "whiners". Well, those "whiners" are going to be having the last laugh when IAH is forced to "re-align" yet again because a major part of it's cash shop revenues were re-routed into botter coffers. Goodbye Christmas bonuses. Goodbye jobs.

IAH kicked off the latest Granado Espada update with not one, but TWO, bot-courting Events. First the Lunar New Year Event invited players to bot for Lucky Pouches that could be exchanged for Cash Shop items. This would be a fantastic Event for legit players whose loyalty could be rewarded with a few freebies. But since bots have free reign, players could stock up enough of these items to last to the dying day of Granado Espada.

Botters rapidly took over the best maps. And since IAH has been reluctant to enforce their own Terms of Service, the botters have become arrogant and outright rude about taking space from legit players. A member of my faction complained that a botter parked on him and dared him to try to do anything about it. When I visited the scene, the botter declared it was okay because the whole dungeon was filled with botters doing the same.

After some investigation, I was able to connect one of the bot farms to someone's "main account". For the first time in years, I bothered to file a bot-reporting ticket to IAH. I don't know if IAH followed up on the ticket, but the bot farm remained throughout the Event. The bot farm made it's money, and that's IAH's direct loss of Cash Shop item sales.

One botter, Nowino, deliberately auto-built turrets on the Lucky Pouch Event Manager to prevent other players from turning in their Lucky Pouches. A botter actually became gatekeeper for the Event. When legit players could turn in their Lucky Pouches, they got carpal tunnel from clicking on the Manager. The botters used auto-clickers and went off to play Dragon's Nest while their fortune was made on auto..

As if the Lucky Pouches losses weren't enough, IAH stacked on another Event that involved collecting Chestnuts. These Chestnuts could easily be collected by botting: and since having the most Chestnuts win, botters win. It's the botters who will get the most Stimulation scrolls, and they will also sell vast troves of excess Chestnuts to other players so anyone with enough game gold will be able to do an end run around the Cash Shop. And some of that transfer of game gold is going into the Real Money Trade business. Like the botters, the RMT sellers became more assertive over the last couple of weeks. There was a guy parked in Auch with an RMT sign over his head. Here's a case of the gold being passed through the sale of over-priced character cards in the Granado Espada market.

IMC (the game developers) actually signalled they were going in this direction last year, when they introduced Shiny Crystals as a type of currency that could be used for things that players previously had to resort to the Cash Shop for - or trade with other players who used the Cash Shop. Shiny Crystals come from mobs: they fall on the ground, and can be farmed. Botters descended on the best maps like paratroopers on the biggest battle of World War III. IMC further changed important crafting items, like the Dragon Heart, so they'd require vast amounts of farmed items (old journals) to craft. In future patches, IMC is even giving the builder characters (used for botting) an Expert stance - fueled by farmed (botted) items!

Seriously, wtf is IMC thinking.

IAH made a half-hearted attempt to ban some, and then gave up. When IAH relented, botters were given the green light.

Another aspect of the game update is an individual quest to farm rhodolites in Zeia. This is a quest that can be easily botted, and it's the highest level reward for this type of quest. It would be onerous for non-botters to farm so many rhodolites every day: they won't even participate. It will be nothing for someone who owns a huge bot farm to park a few in Zeia and harvest these high level quest rewards. Botting is not only rewarded, they are rewarded with the *top* content of Granado Espada!

Over the years IMC and IAH have had plenty of opportunity to watch the way botters imbalance the game in farming vast amounts of loot (used to craft the highest level weapons in the game as well as to sell on the black market), they also become the highest level accounts on the server - a position with a lot of benefits (extra buffs, range of characters to use, pwnage when competing with lower level players...). .Yet here we are again: IMC has apparently learned nothing. Once again they are rewarding players for botting.And the consequences will be (besides unfair game advantage for the botters): a bot-ridden map that ruins game play for legit players, a situation where players are pressured to bot just to keep up (and may end up hacked or beset by malware), and possibly technical problems caused by all the bots.

The thing IAH needs to understand is that when botting is condoned, it grows. And once the majority of players bot, they can dictate *their* terms to IAH. And while these botters seem relatively harmless once most non-botting players have been driven away, the harm to IAH's own interests becomes apparent when cash shop items become available in-game. Then botters rob IAH blind, with every expectation that IAH will let them get away with it. And they will cry foul if IAH decides to act after the fact: after all everyone else was allowed to get away with it...indeed, they would be left behind if they didn't bot. The game mechanics essentially demand it. Selective take-backs will be a player-relations debacle.

After so much ragging on IAH, I feel like I should reiterate that I love Granado Espada. I want IAH to make its profits in legitimate ways. I don't want IAH to decide Granado Espada costs more than it's worth to maintain and just shut the whole thing down. Even after five years, the game is still expanding. I love the new Moonlight Garden maps. I feel overwhelmed by all the new raids: I want to explore everything. The new farm system and pioneering quests also seem to be way more byzantine than they need to be. But over time I will get used to all the new things, and I will rejoice at how much Granado Espada continues to grow.

In Conclusion

Granado Espada should be attracting customers on the basis of amazing new content, not increased friendliness to botters. The bot-courting elements undermine and sabotage the whole update. Colony War is totally dead: the only drama is coming from the forum where an uber-narcissicistic war reporter started depicting the rest of the server as his factions "prey". And - this can't be stressed enough - IAH has now let a hell of a lot of Cash Shop revenue slip from its grasp. IAH not only shot themselves in the foot: they shot themselves in the foot multiple times: they used a machine gun with a hail of bullets! Anything IAH does to fix this will probably further upset the players, their customers.

IAH needs to become a "learning organization" and take preventative measures instead of waiting for a disaster to force their actions.

wtf IAH


SGE, IAHed, Granado Espada, IAH
IAHed by IAHGames Granado Espada since 2007.

House of Saracen

Level 56+3 family on Singapore's version of Granada Espada. 100% legit: I've never resorted to botting in any game. My favorite characters are Kai (Baihu), Tandava (Asoka), Charlemagne (Kurt), and Tlalloc (Nar).

Faction Leader of Merovi70!ngian, proud to reach the max level 70!

Warning: Blog posts that can be seen from the moon are hazardous to your health.
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