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.
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: