OSI Makes "Less Than Smart" Customer Service Moves
Eventually all good things must come to an end. In late March of 2000, Richard Garriott, the visionary behind the Ultima series and the director of OSI, resigned from the company. Why did he resign? He resigned because, in a nutshell, he wanted to make epic games like Ultima that offered the players a deep emersive environment and the parent company, didnt see things that way since the current games were not making enough money (that is what the news sites of the day were reporting) . With him 20 others were fired including most of the "X" staff and several top Ultima Online people. Following those firings many then quit OSI including such noteables as "Designer Dragon". In short, out with the old guard and in with the new.

This change shook OSI to its core. To quote one GM "As you can imagine, things are very tense around here and no one is sure what is going to happen or who is in charge of what." These departures put alot of people into positions they wouldnt normally have and alot of mistakes began happening.

Chief among those mistakes were bannings that should never have happened. One poor girl plays UO along with her Brother. Her Brother is away at college and she lives at home. Both accounts are paid for by her parents. Her brother was caught macroing on his account so they banned him. They then searched and banned ALL other accounts on that credit card. This same type problem was echod over and over again where OSI is banning all accounts on the same credit cards because of actions done by one acct unrelated to the others. A poor lady from the TSU guild had the exact same thing happen to her as she explains on the TSU board. A poor guy from GL shard posted on the Crossroads site with another similar story. A pattern of behavior began to emerge that reflected a not so nice philosophy for attracting new customers eh? Especially since they considered UO to be a game families could play.

All this really stunk but didnt affect The Syndicate much until OSI made the same mistake with regards to us. They banned the accounts of Dragons, the guildmaster, because of charges that arent actually valid/true and because the other accounts were paid for by the same credit card as the one they had false issues with. Lets explore that a bit more in depth shall we?

One of the accounts paid for by Dragons credit card was an Elder in the volunteer program and had been involved in it since it first began when UO came out. In September of 1999, OSI went through some changes in the program forcing all Elders and Seers to sign a Terms of Service Agreement on things they could and could not do. You can click on that link to read the document word for word to see what it does and does not prohibit.

The Elder program assigns volunteers to specific shards of work. The account mentioned above has spent time on both Atlantic and Sonoma shards. In order to get assigned to a shard where there are other accounts paid for by the same credit card OR that you play on you have to request permission. OSI reviews ALL shard assignments and then accepts or rejects them based on its own criteria. After the Sept 1999 TOS, this account was assigned to Atlantic shard by OSI with full knowledge of everything relating to it because, after all, how can you hide anything from the company that has the billing records.

About February of 2000, OSI lauched a long, detailed but poorly planned quest to herald in the UOR release. We say poorly planned because things were not staffed enough to complete all the parts correctly nor were roles fully assigned. About the middle of February, an IGM (Interst Game Master) was on Atlantic shard and needed the Elders to support the events there by spawning in other towns (like Vesper) and to play their Troubador characters (all Elders are given one of those for permanent use) to help move the plot along. Unfortunately there werent hardly any real troubadors on Atlantic shard and they were understaffed in Elders.

So, they solicited help from the Elders to play roles. With the Elder character, from an account paid for by Dragons credit card, standing right there, with full knowledge of what was going on, the IGM created a troubador character on another account paid for by Dragons credit card. This character was meant to be permanent to support the ongoing plotline and future plotlines and was made with the full knowledge of OSI.

Life continued onward from there with the Elder in question becoming known as one of THE best elders on the shard! It was so widely thought of that when another round of restructuring came in late March of 2000, it was going to be promoted to a shard lead. At this same time the big shakeup at OSI happened and several GMs started to go bonkers with banning people (draw your own conclusions as to why but popular news sites speculated that it was to make a name for themselves in the new structure). Of course since we are speaking about emotions and feelings and desires its impossible to know exactly what someone is thinking when they do something but an educated guess, based on the completely outrageous shifts in policy some (but not all) GMs implemented right at that time, that this is why things were done.

At this time an IGM reviewed the Elder in question to promote him to a more senior role because he was doing such a great job! There was no abuses of power! Tons of events being led for new players. Excellent training of new Elders. Great team focus. In short, everything was being done exactly by the book. However this IGM saw the troubador char wasnt on the main Elder account. He saw who it was robed by but wasnt able to or did not check with that GM to ask why he did it. Instead, he banned every account relating to that credit card for this and called the Elder into a meeting to yell at him.

Well the Elder was simply stunned. A GM created this char, to support an OSI event and to support future OSI events allowing the elder to spawn and that char to participate at the same time via using 2 PCs and connections by the same person. He filled a gap in OSIs staffing and was not asked for by the Elder himself nor was he hidden in any way. On and on the "discussion" went until finally it was stated all accounts would remain banned pending that IGM getting to "think about it".

Several days passed and a letter arrived stating that all accounts were permanently banned. Several reasons were sited in that letter. They were:
  • TOS Violations by having the potential for access to the elder account by someone playing on the other accounts paid for by that credit card. (**Note, no access to the Elder CHARACTER ever took place and NO abuse of power or special help took place)
  • Having the Troubador on the other account (that was created by and for OSI as a long term actor for their events. Word to the wise: say NO if you are ever in this position).
  • Having an Elder on the same shard as accounts on the same credit card


Well needless to say this pissed off Dragons, the guildmaster of The Syndicate, because Dragons guild accounts are now banned for no reason and/or not valid reasons relating to the Elder account. Why do we say no reason when OSI clearly sited several of them? Lets explore those closely:
  1. If you read the TOS linked above, it says no one can access the Elder CHARACTER. And no such access took place. Even if it had, which it did not, according to the Elder Roles and Responsibility guide by OSI, such offenses are punished by a warning so long as no abuse of power takes place. If such an abuse does place the ELDER account is then banned OR the Elder deleted depending on the infraction. In short, no violation of the TOS and had one existed it wasnt of the kind for banning but of the kind for warning. The formal text of how infractions are punished is as follows:

    If a volunteer does not meet the minimum set of expectations, fails to treat the players in a proper manner, or fails to conduct themselves according to the guidelines set in this policy document and the Terms of Service, they will be given two warnings. On the third offense that volunteer will be stripped of their powers and removed from the volunteer program. This is a guideline. Depending on the nature of an offense, other steps may be taken, including immediate removal from the Elder program and review of the incident for the determination of penalty-boxing the offenderís account or permanently banning the offender's account from Ultima Online.

    So what we have here is an offense that didnt break the TOS and even if it had is incredibly minor since no access to the elder character itself took place and no abuse of power etc.. The punishment given doesnt even come close to matching the documented punishment but besides that, no infraction took place according to the TOS.
  2. The Troubador char on another account isnt documented anywhere as an issue. But regardless of that, it was created by OSI as a LONG TERM actor for their events. It wasnt a 1 shot character. OSI has changed the program such that each Elder gets one LONG TERM actor now. It was created by OSI for OSI. How can that be the players fault.

    Some players, who arent up on the current rules, state that Troubadors are 1 time event people and are wiped after each one. That is not correct. Troubadors exist permanently now and can be assigned roles that exist for 1 event or for an entire plotline. Here is the current troubador role definition according to OSI:

    Role: Actor. The Troubadour performs the necessary roles that are needed in the various events created by the other levels of Events Programming. These roles range from single event characters to characters that are persistent throughout an entire plot line.
  3. The Elder on the same shard as other characters from the same account is just as stupid. OSI has to approve every single assignment for all elders. At the time the assignments were made there were only 1-2 elders per shard. Barely anyone to watch over with 2-3 IGMs doing it. The assignments were handed down by OSI with full knowledge of all facts surrounding it. After all, they maintain the database of that information. In addition if you read the TOS you see there is no mentioned requirement that the Elder cannot be on the same shard and in fact there are many active people today doing just that with OSI sanctioning. However they have not excelled in their duties and risen to the point of promotion under the new regime so they perhaps have not been noticed.

    In summary, what we have here, is an unfair banning. Not only was it unfair to ban the accounts that were paid for by the same credit card BUT the banning itself should never have taken place. The "infractions" sited as reasons are either just plain false or were created by OSI not by the player. To punish the player for something OSI made a decision to do is not fair or right.

    How can they get away with this you ask? Thats actually very simple. During this massive time of turmoil there was very little oversight. Second, most everyone in a position of power to appeal to was fired or quit. Third, the "agreement" that every player agrees to just to play UO says that OSI can make up any rules they want, change them without notice and remove your right to play the game for any reason, even if it doesnt break a rule. And the best part is, they ban you without getting your side of the story AND they dont let you appeal it! They just say its final so live with it. Now THAT is great customer service!

    Could this happen to you? You bet! Id recommend not ever getting involved in the volunteer program, and I would recommend getting all your accounts on different credit cards. Im sure more bannings will take place after this event, especially in light of the fact that there are loads of counsellors, elders, companions and troubadors playing on their home shards with OSIs permission right now. Hopefully they will just remain "average" players so they never get promoted for doing a good job. Because, if they do, odds are they will end up getting banned because of decisions OSI made that they are forced to live with the consequences of.

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