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10 Songs From My iPod That I Want To Play In Guitar Hero

April 15th, 2009 3 comments

For my birthday this year, my family got me Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Aerosmith for the Xbox 360. In my opinion, Guitar Hero is the best game ever made! I have an extensive music background from when I was a kid (thanks, Mom!), so I’ve always like to play music. Guitar Hero helps fill a void in playing a “real” instrument, and allows me to jam with my family. We have the whole kits – two guitars, drums and a mic – so we can play together. It simply rocks!

As a result of playing so much GH, I now cannot listen to the radio (and neither can my son) without thinking whether a particular song would be good for GH. Scanning through my iPod today, I came up with these 10 songs that I would love to play on Guitar Hero. I’d absolutely love to hear what you’d like to play!

  1. The Chemicals Between Us – Bush
  2. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
  3. Awake – Godsmack
  4. Work – Jars of Clay
  5. Somewhere I Belong – Linkin Park
  6. Smooth – Santana
  7. Mudshovel – Staind
  8. A Forest – The Cure
  9. With Or Without You – U2
  10. White Wedding – Part 1 – Billy Idol

What songs would you like to play on Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

Categories: Games Tags: , , ,

Disney Games Terms of Use

February 26th, 2009 3 comments

The last response I posted to Disney elicited a response from them directing me to their Terms of Use page. Here is the email I received from them:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your feedback on adding additional information about free accounts.

We are pleased to hear from our Guests and welcome your comments regarding our products and services. We are continually balancing and updating the game as we strive to make Toontown a fun and safe place to play online.

For more information on our submission policy, please view our Terms of Use at:

http://disney.go.com/legal/conditions_of_use.html

We look forward to seeing you in Disney’s Toontown Online soon!

Thank You,

Ruth
Disney’s Toontown Online Member Services

I decided I should take a look at that link before I responded to them, so I spent some time reading what they had posted. It was a lot of the standard Terms of Use legal stuff, but they did have some information about what they consider Solicited and Unsolicited submissions. This applys to pretty much any communication with them, ranging from feedback to creative content ideas. I assume that since I made my initial contact with them via a form provided online at their site, my comments to date, and all responses, fall under the “Solicited Submission” category. So, I fired this response back to them:

Hi Ruth,

I scanned through the Terms of Use at the link you provided. I believe that my comments to WDIG via the original form on your site, and and the subsequent email exchange between WDIG and myself constitutes a “Solicited Submission.” Would you agree this to be the case?

To reiterate my “Submission,” I would like to see that, in the Trial Version of the Disney Toontown Online game, any mission that culminates in a requirement of a paid subscription to complete the mission, that requirement be clearly documented at the start of the mission. Additionally, I would like to see documentation on your site that lets users know some missions may start in the Trial Version of the game, but end in the Paid Subsription version of the game. I have looked in depth at the current documentation on the site (much closer than that average adult would, I believe), and this differentiation is not made clear anywhere.

In addition, I would like specific acknowledgement of this Submission, and not a generic response. I feel that, thus far, WDIG has not clearly nor deliberately addressed the issue this email thread started from. It should be clear that you have already lost a customer – my son – due to the unclear nature of this game. As I have been posting our exchange on my blog (http://www.thunderstruck.com/) and via my Twitter account (GoNorthWest), I have been informed by other users of WDIG that they have experienced similar issues with Toontown. I feel strongly that our concerns should be concretely addressed.

This post, as with the others, will be placed on my blog soon.

I appreciate you taking the time to work with me, as a representative of my 6 year old son, and am looking forward to a definitive resolution to this issue.

Respectfully,

Mark
At this point I just want them to specifically address the concern I have been putting forth, and stop responding with canned email regarding information already available at the site. I like Disney, and I think for the most part they have great customer support, and truly care about their customers. But this particular issue, the one of not disclosing the requirement of a paid subscription to complete a mission started in the trial version of the game, really makes me angy, and I view this as dishonest and deceptive by Disney. I vow to continue this fight until its resolved to my satisfaction.
Categories: Games Tags: , , , ,

“Final” Response From Disney?

February 24th, 2009 No comments

This is the latest response from Disney regarding my son’s Toontown issue. Since this is about the third time they’ve stated the same information, their either not reading my emails anymore, or they just don’t have a good answer for me…”good” being one that actually addresses the issue. So, for completeness, here is their latest response:

Dear Mark ,

Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately, we do not have information available to use as a reference.

Much like any other game, Toontown requires constant care and maintenance to ensure our residents are provided with a smooth, safe and fun experience.

In order to maintain a great game like Toontown, we employ a highly-skilled team of full-time programmers and staff who are constantly working to support thousands of players and make sure the game is fun. While we offer a limited free account, we have to charge for the extended access to the game in order to maintain the level of service and quality our users expect.

We thank you again for your interest in the game, and hope that you can find a way to enjoy Toontown in the near future!

Nobody signed it this time…odd. Here is my response:

Hi,

OK…this is about the third time Disney has responded like this, so I can see we’re getting nowhere. It distresses me a bit that nobody can point me to documentation online that says what parts of the game are free, and what parts aren’t…even in a general way. If you are truly invested in providing your residents a “smooth, safe and fun experience,” I would suggest that a warning be added prior to the start of a mission, letting gamers (let’s be specific…kids), know that they won’t be able to finish their quest until they pay for a subscription.

Again, I have no problems with you charging for content, but I do take issues with the game letting a user go down a free path only to find it terminates in the need for a paid subscription.

You should know that I’ve been blogging this issue at my blog, http://www.thunderstruck.com/, and have been discussing it on Twitter as well (GoNorthWest).

Thank you for your time. I’m probably not done with this yet, but I need to do some research.

Thanks,

Mark

I think my next step will be to scour the Toontown web site for documentation, and see if it fulfills my need for disclosure. If it does, then I’ll let this matter rest. If not, I shall continue.

Categories: Games Tags: , , , ,

Disney Response to my Response

February 24th, 2009 3 comments

Here’s Disney’s response to my response yesterday…as well as my response to them! I’ll give them props for trying to resolve this, but so far they haven’t told me anything that I didn’t figure out the hard way. I want them to show me where they have documented what they are telling me.

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your reply.

Free accounts are limited to working Toontasks in Toontown Central up to the final frame of your first chosen Gag Track Training. Once you have completed all of these tasks (including gag training, teleport access, etc.), it is required to purchase a subscription in order to complete your Gag Track Training and continue on to tasks offered for Donald’s Dock.

We are very sorry that this information was not made clearer to your previously and hope to see you return to Disney’s Toontown Online in the future!

Thank You,

Nicole
Disney’s Toontown Online Member Services

And this is what I sent them back:

Hi Nicole,

Unfortunately, we had to figure that out the hard way. Is this documented clearly anywhere? If so, could you point me to that reference?

Thanks,

Mark

I suspect Disney feels I’m being overly difficult about this, but all I’m looking for is total disclosure about the nature of their game. If they’ve documented the restrictions that I’m now finding out about, then it’s on me for not having read the documentation before letting my son get involved. However, I would bet money that >90% of the people who sign up for the free trial don’t read any documentation at all, and many of their kids have experienced the same disappointment. I’ve been very impressed with Disney customer service, and the quality of the Disney experience at their theme park, I’d just like to see this carry over online.

Categories: Games Tags: , , , ,

Disney Response to Toontown Post

February 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Last week I wrote this post about my son’s experience in Disney Games’ Toontown online game. I got this reponse from Disney today:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your interest in Disney’s Toontown Online.

We apologize for any confusion and hurt feelings your son experienced.
Much like any other game, Toontown requires constant care and
maintenance to ensure our residents are provided with a smooth, safe and
fun experience.

In order to maintain a great game like Toontown, we employ a
highly-skilled team of full-time programmers and staff who are
constantly working to support thousands of players and make sure the
game is fun. While we offer a limited free account, we have to charge
for the extended access to the game in order to maintain the level of
service and quality our users expect.

Toontown now offers two types of accounts, free accounts and paid
memberships. Free accounts replace Trial accounts, and can play whenever
with no time limit; however the available content is limited. Paid
Membership accounts remain the same, with unlimited access to Toontown
Online. Free accounts may upgrade to a paid Membership at any time.

A Free account to Toontown Online includes the following benefits:

- Create and personalize one Toon character
- Enjoy Toontown Central and Toontastic tasks
- Battle robot Cogs with an assortment of cartoon gags
- Explore six themed neighborhoods and see Cog HQs
- Hang out at your Toon’s house
- Race karts, adopt pet Doodles, and enjoy fishing
- Play whenever you want for as long as you want — all for free!

While we offer a limited access free version of the game, we do have to
charge for Unlimited Access in order to maintain the level of service
and quality our users expect. If you would like to progress further in
the game and access more advanced content and features, we highly
encourage purchasing an Unlimited Access subscription. For a full list
of benefits with a paid Membership, please use the link below:

http://play.toontown.com/benefits

If you are interested in purchasing a subscription, you can log on to
http://play.toontown.com/faq/overview_cost.php for current pricing
options and answers to other frequently asked questions. You must be 18
years or older with a valid credit card to purchase.

We hope this helps clarify your questions regarding the Free accounts,
and look forward to seeing you in Disney’s Toontown Online soon!

Thank You,

Roberta
Disney’s Toontown Online Member Services

I sent this this reply:

Hi Roberta,

Thank you for taking the time to reply…I honestly didn’t think anybody would!

I have absolutely no problems with portions of Toontown being restricted to paid subscriptions. That’s an established business model and, as you point out, a way to “maintain the level of
service and quality our users expect.” I’m all for that, and expect it anywhere there is a free trial offered.

What I do very much object to is allowing somebody to start a task, from within the free, trial account, and not informing them the task could not be completed without obtaining a paid subscription, until they get near the end. That is clearly a “bait-and-switch” tactic, and is a terrible business practice (and probably illegal). My son embarked on that task in good faith, assuming it was part of the free, trial membership, and spent a considerable amount of time working through it. I’m sure you can imagine his, and our, utter disappointment to be one “frame” away from completion, and being told he has to cough up $4.95!

My son did end up taking five of his hard earned dollars and getting a subscription. He completed the task, and moved forward into more paid areas of the site. He came across some sort of “cog headquarters,” which has utterly freaked him out, and he now wants us to erase his account, and he plans on taking a year off from the game. This is the same boy who can handle the weirdness of games like “Lego Batman” on the Xbox 360, which is certainly more hard core than Toontown. In any event, it appears you’ve lost a customer!

Thanks,

Mark

I’m interested to see what happens next!

Categories: Games Tags: , , , ,

Disappointment In Disney Games’ Toontown

February 20th, 2009 3 comments

This the the story of my son, an online computer game, and a quest that ended in tears and disappointment.

My son has recnetly been spending a lot of time playing an online game called Toontown. The basic premise of this game by Disney Games, from what I can tell, is that you are a character in an animated world, and your job is to use “gags” to destroy various characters that inhabit Toontown. I think these characters are called “cogs.” The gags you use are things like throwing pieces of pie, using a selzer bottle, and other cheesy things like that. The cogs, in turn, use their gags on you as well. I’ll be honest and say that this is about the extent of my understanding of the game, mostly because my son navigates so quickly around the screen that I don’t have time to read what’s going on. As an aside…my wife has spent considerable time with him on this game, so I trust that it’s appropriate for him.

I should mention, before I continue, that my son signed up for the free account on Toontown. That becomes important later on.

One of the things you also do in Toontown is go on various missions to gain things you can use on future missions…to gain weapons, of sorts. This story is about a particular mission my son was on, and the tragic ending to it.

My son spent about three days trying to complete a mission in which he collected frames for a sound gag. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I know that the process was long and complex. His task was to collect 15 frames, each one awarded at the end of a cog killing mission (various numbers of cogs each time). It also necessitated going back to Toontown HQ, checking in, and seeing if the ability to continue the mission was available. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. On Wednesday night, my son only needed three more frames when he went to bed. He was so excited about returning to the game on Thursday after school, that he literally could not sleep. When he awoke in the morning, he was extremely excited about the day, and the prospects of getting the last three frames of his quest.

After school and other stuff, he was finally able to resume his game. He got his first and second remaining frames after some work…it gets harder the further you go into the quest. Finally, he was ready to go after his last frame. He headed to Toontown HQ, checked for his missions, and that’s when the bombshell dropped.

Only paid subscriptions could go after the last frame.

My wife and I stared in disbelief at the screen. We explained the situation to my son, and he literally burst out in tears. This was easily one of the worst moments of his life…all that hard work wasted because nobody bothered to let us know you couldn’t complete this rather extensive mission without paying for the game.

I have no problems with content in a game being restricted to paying users. If you sign up for a free game, where subscriptions are also available, you get what you pay for. What I have a very big problem with is making it look like you get certain content for free, only to find out at the end, after considerable effort, that the final prize will cost you some money. In my opinion, Disney should not let free account holders even start this particular mission unless they are subscribers. The results of their current practice is some of the worst disappointment a six year old kid can face.

Games are about revenue. Even free games online often generate revenue through tie-ins or brand awareness. A child playing the free version of Toontown might someday persuade his parents to buy a related product in a store. There is nothing wrong with this. What Disney has done in this case, I believe, amounts to a bait-and-switch scheme. Hold a carrot out for a user, let them go after it for some time, and pull it away at the last moment. What a terrible impression to leave on a user.

How does this end? Being the trooper my son is, he realized he recently got $5 from one of his relatives, which he has not yet spent. A one month subscription to Toontown conveniently comes in at $4.95. He’s excited to come home from school today, pony up his money, and continue his adventure, finally getting the prize he’s worked so hard for. Score one for American capitalism and the Disney empire.

Categories: Games, General Tags: , , , ,