Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reflecting on the BioWare Bazaar

I am without a doubt a huge BioWare fan. Nearly all of my favorite games are BioWare games, and I have played 11 of BioWare's 17 currently released titles. I have to say, though, this BioWare Bazaar was definitely my least favorite BioWare game thus far. It was a good idea, but seeing as they'd never done anything like it before, there were a lot of things that could have been changed or streamlined. Let me take you through my two-week experience participating in the BioWare Bazaar. If you don't want the details, then skip to the graphic and the conclusion at the end.

Sunday, March 28
I am told by my brother that there is a huge countdown on the BioWare websites, counting down to Monday morning. What does it mean? Announcement of a new game? What could it be?!
I am very excited.

Monday, March 29
We find out that the countdown was all for the BioWare Bazaar, a mock auction for BioWare merchandise (e.g. t-shirts, posters) and, for a lucky few, special things like computers customized with Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age: Origins designs. The auction would be from Tuesday, April 6 to Saturday, April 10, and there are a number of ways to earn the "tokens" that will be used as the auction's currency: join the BioWare social website, register games or answer questionnaires related to those games, upload a DAO character from the character creator program, win challenge questions by replying to @biofeed on Twitter, and get people to click your unique URL for the event. Having the countdown be for an auction rather than some new game announcement was a letdown--especially for anyone not in the 50 U.S. states (minus NY and Florida) and D.C., who were not eligible for the Bazaar. But I decided to go for it, and the competitive spirit got me into it. I got all the easy tokens (all but the last two). Then, despite my unspoken vow never to give into the Twitter craze, I set up a Twitter account so I could answer Challenge questions.
I am mildly interested.

Tuesday, March 30
I begin answering the Twitter challenges. Some of the questions are simple--"Who is your favorite character in Dragon Age: Origins?"--while others are quirky--"What does Commander Shepard eat for breakfast?" We can reply multiple times, but we can only win once per challenge question. There are up to 100 winners for each challenge question, but there are a lot of participants. I also start getting a few clicks on my URL, but I don't try too hard; my goal at this point is to get 50 clicks over the course of the week, since the rules say it's 10 points per computer click per day until you reach 500 points, then it's just 1 point per click.
I am having a little fun.

Wednesday, March 31
I win my first challenge, for the question "What did you name your dog in Dragon Age?" I wrote a few answers for the question, but I know which one won:
Boo. He always seemed to know more than he let on, though he did go for the throat more than the eyes.
Ah, BioWare jokes (the very ones that resurfaced in Mass Effect 2, really).
I am very pleased with myself.

Thursday, April 1
I continue getting a few clicks and answering challenges. Nothing particularly interesting happens.

Friday, April 2
No challenge questions for the long weekend. The Bazaar is at the back of my mind.

Saturday, April 3

Sunday, April 4
I finally break 500 tokens earned through clicks...and am still earning 10 tokens per click. I realize that the 500 token threshold is per day--so with 50 clicks a day I could be earning 500 tokens a day! This suddenly makes the clicks the most important deciding factor in the Bazaar--it's now like a popularity contest: who has the best networking to get the most unique clicks? I realize that other people have a ton more points than I do. Here I was all pleased with my challenge win, but all someone needed was 50 clicks in one day to match that. And there had been 7 days already.
I am bitter about my misunderstanding and concerned that I may win nothing.

Monday, April 5
Not giving up hope, I step up my drive for URL clicks. I repost the link in my Facebook status, and I start making posts in various forums and message boards. It's still not the kind of thing I could email all my friends and relatives about--it's not important enough to warrant spamming--but I need points.
I'm still concerned, but not without hope.

Tuesday, April 6
It gets worse. Through the forums, I learn that the challenge judges aren't even reading all of the responses. Seeing as I had been coming up with as many as nine thoughtful answers per question (but usually only two or three), I'm pretty annoyed. Turns out they only take the last answer each user submitted, and then read a random subset of those. Some of my favorite answers were not even considered! Furthermore, the auctions start (one every 15 minutes--all day, all night), and I am more than 1000 points lower than the lowest winning bids.
I am pretty pissed.

Wednesday, April 7
Here's an idea: I'll open another Twitter account. That way, I'll double my chances of winning challenges! And it pays off. I win my second challenge, for the question "Make up your own Mass Effect alien. What is its name, and what does it look like?" My winning answer (with my new Twitter account):
The Vr are a cat-sized, sentient species evolved from viruses who hunt their hosts with thermal sensing.
Unrealistic, maybe, but pretty sweet. Thanks to the Housemate for the help (he studies viruses).
With this challenge win and a bunch more clicks, I am now within reach of winning an auction. I am pretty happy. A nasty gram from a Facebook friend complaining about my status link reposts brings my spirits down somewhat (I always feel bad about spamming people, but seeing as it's my status update rather than a sent message, it's not entirely my fault that he was checking facebook so often). But things are definitely looking up.

Thursday, April 8
With even more clicks to my link (I earned over 500 on both Wed and Thurs), I am now seeing auctions go by that I could have won--the less desirable prizes, such as posters and books. But I hold out all day hoping to get enough tokens for some Mass Effect lithographs. It isn't until later at night that I decide that I probably won't be able to get enough tokens for a lithograph (even though I'm earning more points, so is everyone else, so the minimum winning bids are increasing), and anyway, I probably have better things to decorate my room with and the coolest lithograph--the Citadel--isn't even one of the prizes. There is a prize that, judging by today's auctions (it turns up in the auction every 4 hours or so), I could "afford" that I want--it is a prize "pack" with several things I'd like to have. I decide to go for it. Half the night, I wake up every half hour to check the current auction (they don't announce a prize schedule or anything). When the prize I want goes by just out of my token range, I figure I can sleep for the next 3 hours.
I'm kind of losing sanity--willing to spend my night with half-hour catnaps--but I'm hopeful.

Friday, April 9
I wake up to discover that there had been another auction for my desired prize at 5 am--only two hours after the one I had been awake to see--which I could have won! I am so angry with myself, and with the fact that if I had been living anywhere else in the country, I would have been awake for that auction (8 am in California, 11 am on East Coast). Furthermore, as the day progresses, there are no winning bids less than 10000 tokens. It seems that as the auction is coming to a close, people who had been hoping for better prizes are dumping their tokens on anything they can get. My 9500 suddenly looks like it might be useless. I start to panic. I open a third Twitter account, which again pays off, as I win my third challenge with it, for the question "What is your favorite BioWare game and why?" I thought of all my answers, the one that won was the lamest (disheartening me about the challenge judging a bit), but I guess it did suck up to BioWare:
Newer BioWare games come close, but no game quite matches its lovable characters or its deep, engaging story.
Whatever. I hit up the computer lab at school, which puts me over 10000 tokens, but the bids are high enough that it looks like I still can't win. I am especially furious with myself for not winning the 5 am auction and for not bidding yesterday, when I'd been holding out for the lithographs that now I don't even want. I make my boyfriend drive me back to school to hit all the computers in the computer lab again after the clicks reset at 9 pm Hawaii time. I stay awake until 3 am, after which I begin my night of half-hour catnaps. But I am not hopeful.
I am distraught to think that maybe all of my effort in earning clicks and answering challenges and hounding my friends (especially my poor boyfriend) will be for nothing. Worse, I don't want to have this depressing memory associated with my beloved BioWare. If I get nothing, will I always think briefly of this bad experience whenever I play Mass Effect 2? I couldn't stand the thought.

Saturday, April 10
Around 6 am, I bid in an auction. It's not my top desired prize, but one of the items in it is the most important part of my top choice prize pack. I don't know how the rest of the day will go, and if I can win this auction, I will be happy. I enter a somewhat random bid about 160 below my token total. Just to get my foot in the door mentally, I guess. Someone outbids me by about 100. Someone else, let's call him LoserUser, outbids that guy by 10 points (the minimum required to outbid). Someone else outbids LoserUser by about 20 points. LoserUser outbids that guy by 10 points. I'm not so dumb. 7 seconds before the auction closes, I bid all of my tokens. I don't know if LoserUser had more points than I did, but I wasn't about to give him time to think about it.
They call it "sniping." Swooping in out of the night, I was victorious!

If you
made it through this long narrative, I am impressed. It's late, and I know I blabbed on a bit too much. Here is the companion summary graphic:

My experience in the BioWare Bazaar

After all that drama, the insanity, the ups and downs of the last two weeks, I am now the proud winner of the "Mass Effect prequel pack" which includes a copy of Mass Effect (which I already have...), the Mass Effect novels (I may find time to read them at some point) and the Mass Effect art book--the item that I really wanted. It didn't turn out as I had originally hoped, but I didn't walk away empty handed. Thanks to everyone who clicked on my link--I needed every single point I had to win. I am happy.


Sam said...

So I read the entire post, and I think I got it all. Congratulations!! I have outbid someone in the last 10 seconds on eBay a few times. Poor boyfriend, but hey, now he can have a cop of Mass Effect too!

soft nonsense said...

+1 for determination.

I helped clink on the link a couple times, but got rather confused, expecting there to be something on the site to do to garner your points. But still, I helped with, like, 50 of the points. Go team Venture!

Holly said...

Hahaha that was awesome. I didn't even bother with the bazaar, too much work, lol. I think the mass effect art book is easily one of the best things anyway....

Eleni said...

Sam - Thanks! Sorry I wrote it late last night, so I'm not sure how coherent I was. Certainly wasn't great on the whole summarizing thing. Yeah, the boyfriend was a great sport, and he's definitely welcome to the game, though he needs a better computer to run it. We'll work on that.

SN - I know it was a lot of trouble to go through to get a few books, but yeah, it was all about "I've put enough effort into it, there's no way I'm not winning something!" It was a little weird in that it just redirected you to either a Dragon Age or a Mass Effect site. But I won the bid by 50 points, so it made a difference!

Holly - If I had known it would be so much trouble, I'm not sure I would have done it. But the satisfaction of winning makes it worth it. I got the collector's edition of ME2, which includes a tiny little art book, so at first I wasn't impressed by the prizes that included the ME1 art book. But then I looked into it and realized it's like 175 pages. Yeah, I think it's pretty cool.

Sebastian said...

... nice graph!


Eleni said...

Haha, thanks.

I was thinking of plotting a graph of winning bids vs. time--it would have been a nice clean series, over 400 points spaced at an even 15 minutes--and then trending it. There would probably have been a linear trend, since each day people were winning more points through URL clicks, increasing their max bids. But once I'd taken that out, the remaining curve could have been an interesting study of people's behavior, perhaps showing that some people were over-bidding the first day while we all got a sense of how much things were worth, and most likely showing a deluge of points the last day as people gave up their hopes of winning the big stuff and just dumped their points on whatever prize they could get. Unfortunately, they took down all the bidding info before I could record it.

On second thought, that was probably a good thing.