It wasn’t long ago on the 3rd of August this year of 2015 that I wrote an article which roughly outlines details on what the Shroud of the Avatar developers could be doing behind our backs based on information collected.
This very day information presents itself to further shine light onto the continuous and inglorious practices of Portalarium along those very same lines. Pay special attention to this article, especially if you were interested in the permanent ban of Shroud of the Avatar player Caliya based on her accused infraction of sharing some of the Dev Standup(which is now public) information.
I usually don’t write twice in one day because I’m a lazy prick, but this is noteworthy more so after the previous article references the same one this does and kind of proposes that high level backers have circumvented we lowly plebs. Well folks, the Dukes are loose and here is what took place.
Lets step back to October 2015 for a nice little event in Austin, it seems like a few things may have converged at once here. The BMC guild flanked by the NBNN was in town and got to have a nice little tour of the Portalarium offices. The Duke+ tier members were treated to special unreleased content viewings also! Very cool right, only one issue, BMC’s non-Duke+ members were also given access to that very same information.
Everyone! Look under your chairs! I have a special gift for you! You are a duke! You’re a duke! You’re a duke too! You are all dukes!
Wow, professional, you can totally un-ban Caliya now!
That isn’t quite all either as a slew of SotA medals where handed out to BMC, and to top it off everyone at BMC was treated by Richard Garriott, thus Portalarium, to a haunted house visitation at $60 bucks a pop.
What has BMC done though? NBNN gets some obviously very good guests to interview, but since it is basically like Portalarium jerking themselves off with NBNN it doesn’t really count now does it? Have a look at everything Blake Blackstone did with the Tantalus Consortium, The Weeping Seven, Blackstone Bluff, and the SotA community and then what they have received as a result. Now take a look at everything above BMC gets in a single sitting.
Go on, tell me you can’t see something wrong with that picture. You’d be a liar if you did, but that is of course your choice.
High Level Backers have now created enough inroads where they have been able to join forces between themselves and their selected friends with lower pledge accounts. Now they are interacting with the Developers of Shroud of the Avatar to a high degree, cutting the rest of us out of the loop all together.
This has been going on for some time, longer than anyone but the most vocal and highest backers know of, and I imagine this is just the tip of the iceberg at that. History goes back a long way, but here is a bullet point list of all the things that are happening between vocal & high level backers with the Devs which the general player base who wishes to contribute may not know about.
- Lore for Shroud of the Avatar
- Writing for Shroud of the Avatar
- NPC Dialogue for Shroud of the Avatar
- Housing & Town Placement & Functions for Shroud of the Avatar
- Special Asset Kit Access for Shroud of the Avatar
- Scene creation for Shroud of the Avatar
- Combat Testing for Shroud of the Avatar
- Skills Testing for Shroud of the Avatar
These are all of things that have been promised to the community for crowdsourcing participation. Did you know they were taking place in secret behind your backs? That someone from the community is working on all of these right now? Not even Dev+ know all of this, and I assume this is the point. The Devs don’t have the structure in place to allow that many people to participate, all at the same time being very vocal to everyone they talk to about how inclusive they are of our community.
Why was there no qualification to this? Who was selected and why? Even if we weren’t asked, consulted with, or given a chance to enter our individual knowledge on these subjects, should we not even be told who and why these special people were cherry picked out of the community, over us, to assist the Developers in our community’s crowdsource model?
The Maze – Nobody Remembers The Maze…
I tell you folks. It’s harder than it looks. It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna be king of Bullshit Mountain. Gamasutra popped a video from the GDC Vault where Starr Long was speaking about crowdfunding. Yes, it is tricky business Starr and that is why I already gave you this:
Yeah, put that right back on cos you goin for a ride on a broken road baby. I’m not going to get too personal and attack everything Starr has said, though it might be possible right at the start. Example, Ultima Online isn’t the first MMOG. Does anyone remember The Maze? Sure, maybe it was the first MMORPG because Lord British happened to create the term as UO was released, but yeah sure not the first MMOG. You need ARPANET for that bro and I can lawyer you on that.
Starr got to talking about an Ecosystem in which a self sustaining entity would rise from contributions between Developers and Contributes. That is important, this is one of the large reasons I put money on the Kickstarter for Shroud of the Avatar was this promise of a relationship where things would be exposed to and driven by the community. Nothing would have made me happier than to take place and be a large part in some way of building the next Ultima. It just isn’t happening and I’m not the only one who knows this not to mention not being alone in letting others know about it for a while now too.
05:55 in the video Starr begins to talk points about this Ecosystem in crowdfunding. Right off the start on this topic I can quote him directly as saying:
05:55 “So the first one that we believe pretty strongly that’s key to any of these kinds of projects and if your attempting to build a loop is transparency, and you know a lot of people are using the term now open development. That starts with some pretty simple things like having a public and private forum, having an IRC that people can talk about the game, but we also do things like on our project we post our daily stand-up notes to our forums.”
That is sounding great. Transparency, I love it. Getting access to what the Devs are doing on a daily basis and understanding the process is even better! As Starr says, those are some pretty simple things. But the only thing they have managed to actually accomplish, after months of waiting even at the beginning of the project, is simply to have a public and private forum. So if so simple, why then is Portalarium not meeting these items in their crowdfunding Ecosystem? When it comes to Portalarium four words can sum up their entire effort: Concept Good. Delivery Bad.
Starr then continues along those lines of the scrums with some even greater faux pas, and listen it isn’t like I can sit in his chair and do any better and I hate splitting hairs like this. I’m not saying I can or ever could, but what I can see with my own eyes and report from my own experience on this project is simply that what he is saying has not actually happened yet. Well they split hairs, so I think then I can do a little bit of that as well.
06:43 “…each person goes around the room, says what they are working on. What they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today, and if they’re blocked. We post those notes directly to our forums so each day the people who’re backing the project can look on the forums, they can see where every dollar is going, every person on the team, what they are working on.”
No. Just no. Not once have I or anyone else in the Dev+ private forum actually seen where a single dollar has been spent and or allocated to the game. In fact, there are many many questions we all have on how money is actually being spent in Shroud of the Avatar. We can’t get answers though because when we quietly ask them they are ignored. When we verbosely ask them, our posts are removed. When we yell for them, we are banned. Fuck the Transparency Starr mentions in his Ecosystem, it doesn’t exist and the community might as well be talking in a vacuum for all the information we get out of Portalarium. Hold on, we’re not done yet.
07:38 “We also have a weekly Q&A with our backers so they’re able to submit questions to the forums, they’re collated, we pick a Top 5, we answer those five questions, those get posted to the forums as well. Sometimes if that information impacts something we didn’t document before we’ll in turn update the FAQ to reflect the answering of some of those questions. “
I had to roll my eyes at this too, we’ve been here before time and time again. There is no longer any Q&A with the Shroud of the Avatar Developers, it was put on the back burner a while back. I believe the main reason that this was done, believe it or not, is because it came from the community and wasn’t something they really wanted to get behind. Every week questions were posted into the forum thread, for that week, which were then collated by Mitch and basically spoon fed to the Developers. Folks, they couldn’t even manage to address them! Then when a heated discussion about the Q&A/FAQ came up, they leapt at their chance to can the entire thing. That seemed perfect for Starr’s ecosystem, the community did a weeks worth of posting and discussion on the biggest questions we had and like I said the top questions were then spoon fed to the Devs. It didn’t work though, the writing was on the wall that it wasn’t going to, and as the link above shows they shut it down as ineloquently as everything else they have where the community is involved.
About that FAQ that Starr mentioned? Documentation he sad? Where’s that? Oh in the FAQ? You mean the one that enderandrew wrote for you(google Shroud of the Avatar FAQ and open the first two links kids, one in the same)? Yes, the FAQ has been produced by ‘the community’ too though a great deal of trials and tribulation with one member, enderandrew who like many others was run out of the forum by the unprofessional moderator staff on the Shroud of the Avatar forum. Wow, there is a lot of back-history here where I have to link stuff huh? Check the post dates, as said, nothing new.
09:05 “There is a pledge tier called Developer, and that’s at the $450 pledge level. Anyone at that level or above, cos we have people who give us more money than that, I’m humbled always, but at that level we provide you assets. We try to provide a regular delivery of that somewhere in the 30 to 60 day range, you get game assets we’re using in the game, so that can be a dungeon set, that can be decorative items, that can be flora that can be fauna, it can be creatures it can be wear-ables, weapons, basically anything and everything that we’ve built for the game we provide to the people who backed us at that level.”
There it is. The flag has been firmly planted atop bullshit mountain! These assets are posted on Dev+ forum, that is what it means: Developer pledge level Plus higher pledge level forum. They are not posted every 30 days, not every 60 days. not even every 120 days, and I am not even going to waste another 30 mins of my time tracking down when the last fucking asset release was because it isn’t worth it. I’ve already spent hours on this post and I’m 9mins through an hour long fucking video!
Look. Watch the video. It is interesting all be it at the point it was recorded, before it was recorded, and to this date it is really bullshit so take every single word with a grain of salt. Their Ecosystem is broken, we might as well all be choking on carbon monoxide right now in a runaway greenhouse effect. I want to believe something like this can work, I want to believe that it will still work for Shroud of the Avatar and that this project just doesn’t turn into a hole in the ground with a bunch of RP house decorating guys pretending to be girls douche bags marrying each other.
One last quote from Starr which comes from the SotA forum this time. The post in question was created by Myrcello, and I have to hand it both to Myrcello and Smack for trolling all this news up from the internet, placing it in a burning paper bag and dropping it into the SotA forum. Thanks to a most virtuous Whistle Blower, I have some of the history in this thread to post because what is left over there now there certainly does not reflect how the community feels about the majority of the comments. When in doubt, lock the thread, clean it up, and post:
“I just want to let everyone know that we are fully aware that we can do better at this and we are trying to (even when it may look like we are not). Some things (like the weekly Q&A) have fallen by the wayside since I first gave this talk many months ago while others have lain fallow even longer than that. I understand also how the omission of that information can be frustrating to many of you who are passionate about crowd sourcing. It was never my intention in this talk to mislead anyone about our state but I did choose to focus on the positives of the experience versus the challenges.
With that said I think when I give this talk again I will give more time to places where we can do better and where it has not worked as we had hoped.”
– Starr Long