[MUD-Dev] [BIZ] Billing systems

Christopher Allen ChristopherA at skotos.net
Thu Sep 6 14:47:54 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Brian Hook wrote:

> For those of you that are running small commercial text MUDs, how
> are you handling customer databases, authentication and billing?
> Presumably you have a login server that queries your customer db,
> verifying that the account is active and enabled.  What about
> billing?  Is there a standard software package people get to
> generate card charges and integrate into accounting?

Unfortunately, there is no standard software package. Between
different card services companies, different intermediary software
packages each different one might require you to use, etc. it is
quite a chore. There are some decent pre-written "shopping cart"
packages, but you'll find that those are rarely applicable to the
needs of billing games (except maybe Achaea, which *is* like a
shopping cart). We even looked at some porn billing software, but
they have have a different set of problems and the restrictions that
the card services providers that still accept porn business have
added, and those restrictions are not ones that we wanted to deal
with as a game company.

We at Skotos had to completely roll our own, and I'm sure it cost us
more then 8 man-months of our best engineers to write and
test. There are still aspects of it that I'm sure that we don't have
quite right, in particular for international users which cause the
most headaches for our customer experience team. Also, we are
currently going through a single card services company and ideally
we should be redundant and have two in case (actually "when") the
first craps out. We only don't yet support things like PayPal and
automatic check withdrawal that are increasingly necessary if you
want people from outside the US.

Combined with the hassles all of these card services companies make
you go through to get signed up, and that game engineers just don't
like writing this type of code, expect it to be tougher then you
thought. I suspect that this is one of the contributing factors to
why the World Apart/TEC signed up with us -- they didn't want to
have to write billing code ;-)

-- Christopher Allen

.. Christopher Allen                                 Skotos Tech Inc. ..
..                           1512 Walnut St., Berkeley, CA 94709-1513 ..
.. <http://www.Skotos.net>               o510/647-2760  f510/647-2761 ..

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