Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Pentasystem progress

I've been working a bit lately on version 0.6 of the Pentasystem, my roleplaying game system for creating novel-like or movie-like stories in which the heroes change and their lives get complicated as they involve themselves in fighting for what they care about.

It's actually coming together pretty well at last. I've solved a couple of significant issues with the system recently, and it should be in shape to playtest soonish, or at least soonesque.

Hopefully by the time it is, Matt Machell and I will have our browser-based online tabletop emulator up and running and I'll be able to find some people to do a playtest with, despite living in a story-games desert.

Some high points of the system:

  • The Coolmap. This is a diagram on which you put what you think will be cool to have in your game. Introducing things that people thought would be cool is rewarded in the game by giving you more resources.
  • Characters and situation are meshed together at the beginning, so not only are you driven to conflict by what you care about, what you care about is linked to what the other characters care about.
  • How many dice you roll is based on how important the attribute you're using is to your character's self-definition.
  • You're encouraged to play against type.
  • Pain now is rewarded later. Good luck now gets paid for later.
  • You can sometimes win in a hopeless situation by sacrificing part of who you are or putting something you care about at risk.
  • Your attributes can work against you as well as for you.
  • You can set up "paths", sequences of events which, when worked through, result in both a reward and a new challenge.
  • Changing your character is something you narrate, it's not just adjusting the numbers on a sheet.
  • Everyone can play all the time, because supporting characters and sets are run by whoever's standing around.
  • Locations are a bit like characters, and get more attributes if they link to more of the themes that everyone said were cool.
  • You can tinker with the system yourself using Special Effects, which are rule exceptions that you buy with player points and apply to characters or sets.
  • Modelling reality is not important, but modelling fictionality is.
Further bulletins as events warrant.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Poor customer service from Epson and Auckland Office Products

Advisory: Posting while angry.

Last week, my Epson Photo 230R inkjet, which I've been using to print CDs for my hypnotherapy clients, started getting horizontal banding from the black print head.

I bought it last October, so it was still under warranty. So I called the store I bought it from, and they directed me to Epson, who directed me to Auckland Office Products, their local repair agents.

I dropped it in on Wednesday and was told I should hear the next day. I didn't.

I didn't hear on Friday either.

I rang on Monday and was told I'd hear "tomorrow".

I rang on Tuesday, having not heard, and was told "tomorrow". I said, tomorrow never comes. You told me "tomorrow" on Wednesday, you told me "tomorrow" yesterday. It's been nearly a week, what's the holdup?

They were waiting to hear back from Epson about the warranty claim. You see, Epson, in its attempt at the Gillette business model (sell the tool cheap and the consumables dear), says not to use refilled cartridges or you void the warranty. This is total environmental nonsense and, I have been told, illegal in New Zealand, though they probably gamble on people not being bothered to fight it if they just refuse to honour their warranty. The printer service guy who I talked to before I contacted Epson suggested that I get non-refilled cartridges, even empty ones, from Cartridge World, where I get my refills done, and put them in before I put the printer in for a warranty claim to avoid trouble. I probably should have listened to him, but I didn't do that, both because it seemed like too much bother and because it seemed slightly dishonest.

Anyway, I asked the guy at Auckland Office Products to call Epson for me and chase them along, which he agreed to do. He displayed no reaction to my statement that I was very unhappy and it was impacting my business. (I have had to let my CD auctions on TradeMe lapse because I can't fulfill orders at the moment - I work on a "make to order" rather than "make to stock" model for the CDs.)

I don't know whether he kept his promise or not (though you can probably guess what I think), because when I rang back yesterday, Wednesday, he was on another call and the person I spoke to asked if he could ring me back. I said yes. He didn't ring me back.

Today he's up north all day. The other guy I talked to seemed equally unconcerned at how unhappy I was, even when I told him that I would now need to buy a new printer and it wouldn't be an Epson, even when I told him that I had had only promises from them and no delivery, and even when I told him, when he said that they sold printers, that given the lack of service I'd had from them that buying from them wasn't even an option.

I mean, these people have my phone number and my email address, but they haven't contacted me once, even when they've promised to do so.

So just now I have bought an HP Photosmart C5280 online, which is a multifunction (printer/copier) and also prints on CDs. It looks like a better piece of gear, is cheaper (especially since HP are doing a cashback promotion at the moment), and hopefully will be couriered here in time for me to print a CD for my client tomorrow evening or at least for the one on Sunday.

I feel better for having ranted about that. Hopefully I'll be able to get store credit or something for the printer cartridges in the old printer (I've given up hope of it being fixed), since some of them were nearly new and they aren't all that cheap, even refilled.

So, learning experience. Don't buy Epson; if you're going to use refilled cartridges (which you should), don't let on when making a warranty claim; and definitely don't rely on Auckland Office Products to do anything.

UPDATE: Auckland Office Products finally called me on Friday to say that Epson had refused the warranty claim on the grounds that the refilled cartridges had caused damage to the print head. They promised to send me an estimate for the repairs.

This finally arrived on Monday, with some boilerplate on it that said if I decided not to proceed I owed them $65, which I instantly emailed them about saying that I didn't accept it - it was the first I'd heard about it. (No reply to this yet.)

I talked to Cartridge World, who were very helpful and said that if AOP would state in writing that the cartridges had caused the issue, they would meet their guarantee on their product. Apparently this often calls Epson's bluff and they honour their warranty after all. I emailed AOP asking for this. No reply as yet.

It's two weeks tomorrow, and in the meantime I have bought another printer, a Hewlett Packard. I'll be going back to Cartridge World for the cartridges for it, because they stand by their product whereas Epson, apparently, doesn't.

UPDATED UPDATE: AOP have just sent me a revised version of the quote, still with the $65 charge mentioned, but now they say "This printhead is unable to be covered under warranty as non-original/refilled ink cartridges have been used". Which is weaselly, because they're not actually saying that's the cause of the fault.

UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE: I talked to Cartridge World again, they said sorry, they have to say that the refilled cartridges were the cause of the fault. So I emailed back to AOP asking for that. They have never replied, and it's now several weeks later. I suppose I should chase them up but there doesn't seem to be much point.

Suckful, suckful customer service.

HOPEFULLY FINAL UPDATE, 30 September: AOP finally called me last week. According to them, they had sent a revised email, but I never received it, so they were waiting for me and I was waiting for them. Once we got that sorted out, I passed it on to Cartridge World. They are buying me a new printer, a Canon IP4500, since that's cheaper than getting the Epson fixed, that Epson model is no longer made, and I now wouldn't touch Epson with a long pole anyway.

Their opinion (and mine) is that Epson are hiding behind the refilled-cartridge issue as a way of getting out of a legitimate warranty claim that has nothing to do with refilled cartridges. But anyway, I'll now get a replacement printer, two months after my Epson broke down.

I think I'll keep the HP since it works as a photocopier as well and it's a backup in case the Canon ever breaks down, but unlike the Canon it has one cartridge for black and one for colour - expensive to run, in other words, compared with one cartridge for each colour, since if one colour runs out you have to replace the whole colour cartridge. (I should have researched it more carefully before buying.)