Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

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Dominion: Alienating the Customer

I started playing Dominion ten or twelve years ago. It's a very well-engineered card game, and it's not a collectible and there's no "build your deck before you can play" so it eliminates the two things I hate most in CCGs. You play with a limited number of cards and you can pretty much learn what they do while you play it. Dominion is a wonderful game with many expansions. I've spent $300-400 buying various physical card sets; I don't have every expansion, but I've got most of them.

I used to play by calling a friend or two on the phone, and we'd all haul out our sets and set up in parallel and tell each other our turns and it was awkward the way any long-distance board game is, but workable.

Several years ago, a website called Isotrope let people play Dominion online for free. It was a no-frills implementation that relied heavily on text. It had lots of versatility: for example, you could generate a random setup for a given game that would exclude a few specific cards you hated. Or the game could generate a random setup and let players vote-out or vote-in specific cards. Isotrope wasn't licensed, but Rio Grande Games didn't have a licensed site and had basically told Isotrope "we don't mind as long as you will shut down if/when we get a professional site licensed."

A few years ago, Making Fun released a licensed version and Isotrope obediently shut down, as did some single-player Dominion apps.

Making Fun's version had a fancy, well-illustrated UI, and was in every way less functional than Isotrope's. It eventually let you turn off the most annoying bells-and-whistles and was basically playable. I gave them about $75 over the years, to purchase access to most of the existing expansions. It was a pretty good value. If it had been as functional as Isotrope's site, I'd've been happy. But its game-generation options were never close to the pleasure of Isotrope's. There are a few cards I hate playing with, and I want to just remove them from the options and otherwise get a random game. Making Light would not do that for me, and this always annoyed me.

At the end of 2016, Making Fun lost the license for the game and shut down, leaving me out the money I'd spent on them over the years.

Shuffle iT took over the license on 1/1/2017. In an effort to win over the players of old version, they reserved their usernames (except for those who opted out) and were supposed to email out links to reactivate accounts. I got an email on 12/31 saying I was given a one-year "silver subscription", which gave me access to the same expansions I'd "owned" on Making Light's version. For a year. After that, I could buy a new subscription, which I think is £50. Or, y'know, about as much as I'd paid Making Light for unlimited access. Until they shut down. The cost was not appealing. The prospect of watching Rio Grande Games yank the license again and offer it to the next bidder, less appealing still.

I tried to play Shuffle iT's version last night with Terry. Terry and Alinsa still haven't gotten emails from Shuffle iT, so Terry made a new account. There is no apparent way to make private games, so I made a public one and Terry figured out how to join it. We eventually figured out how to disable the "familiar cards" option so we weren't stuck with the same base set cards in every single game. There is no documentation. The "help" button takes you to the forums, which are a cesspit of complaints.

It's pretty much "like Making Fun's version, only worse".

I keep wishing I could play Isotrope's version from 8 years ago which is STILL the best implementation, and wondering why the heck Isotrope could do a better game for free than anyone else can manage for money. At one point, I'd've paid Isotrope $50 a year, if they'd been licensed.

At this point, however, I am disgusted by all three companies involved, and don't want to support Rio Grande Games, Making Fun, or Shuffle iT. Good job alienating the customer there, and ruining a great game with crappy technology and a crappy way of licensing it.

At least Rio Grande Games can't show up at my house and destroy the physical cards I bought. -_- But I don't see buying any more of those sets, either. Not after this debacle.
Tags: gaming

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