Activision ball-dropping games

or: “How to do things wrong.”

Activision and Splash Damage have a game going gold this month. It’s called Enemy Territory.

I pre-ordered so that I could reserve a handle and get some posters and other junk I’ll give away later on.

The interesting part is that whoever handles their internet services [pre-order email, the activation tokens, and whatever comes next], doesn’t know how to do their job.

I tooled around calling EB’s support people to get my confirmation code which never arrived. Afterwards, I had to fill out a support form on Activision’s support site. There is the following troubleshooting FAQ entry that makes things slightly more confusing as mail isn’t marked as spam on Gmail, but is actually refused delivery.

I mentioned the following to them:

Customer – 09/03/2007
Validation information never arrives.

Actually it’s because your systems people don’t know how to configure their internet services. Friends of mine have had to whitelist their email servers to get your mail because your reverse dns is not configured correctly. I specified a gmail address for my email and it never arrived because of this.

My validation code is the following:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 12
I requested the handle of [a handle here].
I believe I used the email address of email@address.here
I don’t know what else has happened as I haven’t been able to get any more information do to your misconfigured servers.

I should mention the following to outline the advanced solutions for people who run their own mail:

02:10 <@nyt> yeah, told you, gotta whitelist the ip block
02:10 <@nyt> their reverse dns doesnt work
02:11 <@nyt> 63.146.124.0/24
02:12 <@nyt> i had to modify my reverse dns checking code
02:12 <@nyt> to allow me to add entries for retards
02:12 <@nyt> to get the mail from them

I don’t have access to manage gmail.com, which I used in this case, so I have a small problem.

The bigger problem is that Activision is screwing up their game launch by not configuring their mail servers correctly resulting in customers not being able to register and alienating fans loyal enough to buy the game on the name alone.

So I pose this question. If you outsource your IT services and management to someone who screws things in a way non-nerds will not be able to detect in a timely manner. How much of a risk to that is your brand in contingency planning dollars?

It gets even more interesting when the staff at Activision doesn’t know who is even maintaining this stuff, nor do they seem to have any responsibility over it. Here’s some back and forth to illustrate:

Response (Nick Bee) – 09/03/2007 03:12 PM
Hi,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us here at Activision. We do not have access to the pre-order website nor do we run it. I’ll try to forward this on to the appropriate department to have them notify the webhost.

I respond again:

Customer – 09/03/2007 04:52 PM
I see. You may wish to inform them of their technical problems and consider running it in-house in the future.

Whom should I contact regarding this if not Activision? I’m not clear if my tag has been reserved which was the whole point of preordering for me.

And surprisingly:

Response (Nick Bee) – 09/03/2007 08:33 PM
Hi,

Generally it isn’t apparent who the host is, it isn’t even apparent to us. In this case, it might be more useful to contact the developers, Splash Damage. http://www.splashdamage.com/ They have community forums.

Bizarre.

With the type of budgets behind games lately, you would think someone would have a handle on these details.

It isn’t like game developers are a bunch of clueless luddites after all.

Update: Someone else stepped in and resent my codes to me.

Response (Kirk McNesby) 09/06/2007 06:46 PM
The only reason we need a valid email address is that the confirmation email you receive has directions on how to link your retail cd key to the pre-order account.

I’ve gone ahead and changed the email address to [censored] and re-sent the confirmation.

Let me know if you get it this time.

Sorry again for our initial handling of this issue and I’m extremely sorry that the issue came up in the first place. A hyphenated email address should be acceptable and I’ll see if I can do anything about making that happen (if not now for the future).

Here’s what I said in followup:

Customer 09/06/2007 07:16 PM
I have logs of attempted delivery for [censored] which was killed by antispam since it’s not using a real MTA.

Your mailserver was whitelisted manually after greylisting, and mail was then accepted.

Sep 6 22:03:04 hostname qmail: 1189130584.780261 info msg 1179652: bytes 1892 from
<lighttpd@avhcapp13.activision.com> qp 26780 uid 310

Since your servers are now whitelisted, you can close this ticket as my mail is now delivered.

I strongly advise you to fix the way you send mail.

Not a big deal as long as it gets resolved eventually, but a good example of making support difficult (and wasting a lot of time for everyone) when your developers or sysadmins misbehave.

If you don’t run your own email server, this may be a difficult problem to get around.

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