What the heck is up with EA’s Website and Support?

As an avid gamer, I spend countless hours on my xBox, my PS3, or my Wii checking out the latest games and particpating in online gaming.  One of the coolest facets of multiplayer gaming, in my opinion, is the deep online integration with websites for statistics and rank tracking.  Halo 3, Forza Motorsport, and countless others are excellent examples of how console gaming today blurs the line between the experience on xBox Live with the experience on the PC.  One of the biggest disappointments of recent times, in my opinion, is Electronic Arts.  As a major publishing house, they release countless games which I find very fun and addictive.  Unfortunately, the online experience that they claim "goes hand in hand" with these games is directly the opposite of "stellar".

Back when Electronic Arts first created their website, you created an account to interact with the site as intended.  At inception, the user name was a simple, user defined (usually less than 10 character) name to identify you online.

After a few years, the marketing engine started turning, and someone had the bright idea to force everyone to begin using their e-mail address at log in.  As most people have noticed in the news nowdays, EA is one of the most marketing hungry entities around (remember the in-game advertisements in 2142?), so despite this – many people created new accounts.  This was not an optional venture, you were told that in order to use the "new experience" you must create a new EA.COM login, which would use your e-mail address as the username when logging in.  You were then told to "link" your previous EA account to the new one.  Sounds easy enough.

As time went on, more games were released that used online functionality.  In order to use it, you would be required to LINK your xBox gamertags and PS3 network IDs to your new EA account.  Most of us successfully did this, and promptly noticed that going to the "Persona's" page on your EA profile yielded a list of all of your happily linked accounts.  It's supposed to be as easy as selecting which persona you want as "active", and then taking a visit to your favorite EA game site in order to be instantly shown your stats as applied to your selected persona.

Still sounds simple, right?  I've got news for you – this philosophy has turned into an instant failure.  A quick visit to the EA forums yields hundreds of messages (no matter the game) of varying users reporting problems "linking" their accounts, and even using accounts that are already linked.  Sadly, I am one of them.

I decided to log into the site and visit the support section, and post a request for help.  Of course, this led to at least two to three iterations of e-mails back and forth with tier-1 support, all unproductive, that not only wasted my time – they wasted the time of whomever it is handles Tier-1 support at EA.   I am totally guessing here, but with the onslaught of foreign surnames coming back on my response mails – I would guess that the support department (at least tier-1) is not even in house – it's probably outsourced – what a shame.

I would imagine that things are outsourced because each response that came back seemed to follow the same script I'd seen before.  See, I purchased Battlefield Bad Company recently – and I ran into issues seeing my stats (the bad company website refuses to see my active profile).  But this same thing happened back when I purchased Burnout, and it happened at an earlier time when I purchased the original Battlefield: Modern Combat.

I'm not the biggest fan of outsourcing – it wastes time.  I'm not sure if that is what is happening here, but outsourcing works for some circumstances but in general, its a bad idea.  Sourcing support to *any* company (regardles of locale) takes the support knowledge that you already have in-house and completely burns it away.  Your paying customers either give up trying to reach your "REAL" support, or they simply stop buying your product and/or using it as intended.

If EA isn't outsourcing, they must be hiring banks upon banks of non-gaming knuckleheads to answer support questions with canned responses.  It's frustrating that in today's day and age, you can report the same problems over 3 years of gaming and still come up empty when you ask for a solution.

I digress – and to illustrate what I am talking about, I've put together a short video showing my experience with the support section of EA's website, and with the Battlefield Bad Company website.  I'm really tired of going back and forth and back and forth with support while EA continues to sell millions of games and leave their problems at bay.  I'm hoping that this video will get enough hits on youtube, and enough comments to spark some interest in EA "fixing their shit" so to speak.

Are you frustrated with similar problems?  Visit my youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/rjnedved) or go directly to the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoRimcUZn9U) and post a comment on the video.  For convenience, the video is also embedded below.

Thanks for watching!  and HAPPY GAMING!

Rest In Peace, Scott Kalitta

During my time working for Mac Tools, I had the pleasure of working with the Kalitta Racing Team.  I had the opportunity to attend many NHRA events, private functions, and had the honor of being able to bump elbows with some of the greatest names in Racing.

One of those greats was Scott Kalitta.  Pretty quiet in his interactions with the media, Scott was an extremely talented man that strapped himself into his race car every day knowing that he was doing what he loved.  Today's news of his untimely death in a horrific crash in Englishtown, NJ buckles my heart.

Of course, one of the saddest things to me is that in his passing, a search on YouTube doesnt even yield a tribute video (at the time of this article) – but there are already several videos of the crash itself, ripped from ESPN footage.  Why is it that our culture is obsessed with the sight of a crash and why is it that a man who is so loved in racing does not yet have a tribute video posted?

I have some footage of a press conference back in 2003 where Scott was announcing his return to racing.  I am posting that video on YouTube as we speak.  I don't think by any means that this is an all encompassing tribute, but I do feel that it illustrates the man and his excitement to be in that race car.

You can watch the video by clicking here.   You can also view all of the other videos on my YouTube "channel" by clicking here.

My deepest sympathies go out to our friends at Kalitta Racing, and the Kalitta Families.  Rest in peace Scott, we'll miss you.

My ASP.NET Tab is missing in IIS?!?!?

Using Windows Server 2003??  Have you installed VMWare Server??  Chances are you're stuck in this boat.  Fortunately for you, I've done the hours of legwork necesary to find out why it is that your ASP.net tab disappeared from IIS.

For whatever reason, even though you probably are not using the 64 bit version of Windows 2003 R2, VMWare Server adds a line to metabase.xml found in c:\windows\system32\inetsrv.  The line you are looking for says "Enable32BItAppOnWin64=TRUE" or something of that sort.  The fix is simple:

  1. Shut down the IIS Admin Service
  2. locate the metabase.xml file in c:\windows\system32\inetsrv and open it in notepad or your favorite xml editor
  3. Search for, and delete the line containing the text "Enable32BitAppOnWin64"
  4. Save the file
  5. Restart the IIS Admin Service (and any other services that had to be stopped in order to stop IIS Admin)
  6. Check IIS

The ASP.net tab should now be back and you should be able to set the ASP .net version as you always have.

Now, if you are fortunate enough to be reading my blog before you decide to install VMWare Server, you have three options

  1. Install VMWare without the Administration Website
  2. Open IIS and backup your IIS configuration using the right click menus.  Install VMWare, and then restore your configuration.
  3. Don't install VMWare Server (nah….)

Hope this helps!