Hello, I’m AvatarAcid. I’m the InsaneMembrane. The above image was created by myself and tweeted out on March 8th 2013. I had been following Richard Garriott’s UltimateRPG countdown and the information around it for some time with great anticipation. You see I am quite a large fan of the Ultima Series, and always will be, and all through my childhood I could rely on the Ultima Series to provide me with new challenges and adventures. Ultima provided a chance to bond with family and friends, enjoy a great story, and challenge my younger self to think about some of the moral issues the game presented me with through Richard’s wily ways. Then in March 2013 Ultima was coming back. One UltimateRPG to rule them all!
Back then the concept of Shroud of the Avatar was still pretty much a Single Player game with very limited Multi Player options and an allowance for dynamic content, like having the same housing and crafted items across all instances of the game. The game instances were also to be hosted on individual PCs spread across as many geographical locations as there were groups of 12-50 players, which would have greatly benefited me where I am living today due to infrastructure limitations on the internet. Having a unique and rare experience that I could enjoy myself and happily share with others also, a decent way to tackle lag due to living in the internet pits of the world, and it was a brand new Ultima successor – Couldn’t be happier! So happy that I jumped in with a Citizen pledge early on which was around ten times more than I had ever spent on any game in my life of buying games for myself. Later I upgraded to Knight and now fifteen times more than I’d ever paid, and while I know that is a big thing to me it is just a drop in the sea when compared to those of you who have spent tens of thousands.
It was good for a while, but I started to notice a few pretty boisterous personalities starting to push for things early on. Ultima Online things, MultiPlayer, and MMO things. On top of that, some of the users were putting forward further processes which outlined goals to segregate community so some could rise above others based on the price point in which they themselves elected to pay for the game. At the same time several really unsavoury personalities started to arise also both in IRC and on the Forum which carried with them more than a hint of racism as well as harassment. Some even openly so! At first these things were properly reported by myself and others. Yet nothing was done and in fact some of the people whom pushed back were on the opposite side from the SotA moderators, since yes, more than one of the Moderators were persons of interest when it came to some of the issues above like racism and harassment.
The big cratering came for me came in an incident where Owain had told moderator UltimaCodex(WtF Dragon) that he can’t have an opinion. I would bet good money nobody out there, not even some of the people involved in creating the Ultima Series, know as much about Ultima as WtF Dragon and the Ultima Codex site contributors do. I had always followed Ultima Aiera then the UC and appreciated all the work they put in to keep the Ultima Series legacy alive and well. WtF Dragon has the right to his opinion and it matters not what his status in the community is and that goes for everyone else in the community as well, yet that sentiment was not seemingly accepted or encouraged. I chimed in and told Owain he could “GTFO” if he didn’t like that someone else had an opinion.
WtF being a moderator correctly informed me that speaking like that is probably going a bit too far which told me all I needed to know, and that is that the most powerful and in your face voices had already gained a beachhead in the community. This problem wasn’t going to be solved without help, but what could I do about it? Should I speak out as AvatarAcid and have my ass handed to me with my account hanging over my head if they decided to ban me? Mind you nothing quite like that had just yet happened to my knowledge but I could still envision it taking place due to how everything was starting to shape up there, the writing was on the wall. Why should I risk my account which was now linked to a thousand dollar donation in order to deal with things that already shouldn’t have been allowed to establish prominence there?
It soon became more. The game development was going astray, forum personalities including moderators were insulting and driving out the typically quiet and more non-aggressive people like me(usually!) to the point where even Developers fear posting, telling them they are useless and stupid, and then there is the question I still ask myself now; What is Shroud of the Avatar actually trying to be and how do I get my feedback out in an environment as confrontational and unguided as that which exists on the Shroud of the Avatar forum? Well I did exactly the same thing Richard Garriott did with the Avatar and created a schism in my personality, my own little personal Guardian! Meet the InsaneMembrane.
I decided to fight fire with fire and parody myself in the situation with positions which would otherwise be mutually exclusive with AvatarAcid’s. People wanted to argue from a point of privilege? PKs want to turn SotA away from an epic single player tale and into a giant MMO UO2 where they camp gathering sites? Moderators not calling nor taking care of obvious rotten apples? That is a job for the InsaneMembrane! Carving up pledges into Founder and Royal Founders, water lot restrictions, Player Owned Towns, unlimited instanced POTs, death of the Dev+ forum and all promises that come with, failing at combat and dumping it, Devs lowering themselves to InsaneMembrane’s level and abusing people on steam…after they ask for positive reviews to be instituted. Madness! There is much more, the one that hit home the most for me was ending the croudsource efforts before I could even get into it. I wanted to do more than just pay for this game, I wanted to HELP it succeed. I was told I could, so what happened to that sentiment and why could I now not? Well InsaneMembrane jumped in and tried to tackle these hard issues and I would like to think he, or I, or we did so not just with the self in mind, but with the rest of the community in mind also. Only InsaneMembrane could do this because InsaneMembrane was unknown and had no leg in the game, nothing to lose to try and get to the source of all these problems and perhaps get some answers. What I didn’t ever expect to happen though was that as time went on and more and more things came out of the woodwork, something else came into the spotlight… Portalarium itself.
I learned through Richard Garriott and Ultima both, you need to challenge yourself, challenge others, to push the envelope! And so I did. That said, I always try to keep to comments related to stuff taking place on the forum and other social media sites directly linked to SotA. I haven’t ever gone after anyone’s personal life or sought out information other than that unless was related to Ultima/SotA community in some way.
At first the warnings and bans to the InsaneMembrane account were cute. But it became clear at some point, probably right around the InsaneMembrane account getting perma-banned for the second time(lul) for pointing out leaks in the Dev+ forum, that I could no longer just blame the community personalities and moderators themselves. Why weren’t the mods moderating the forum properly? Who is looking after the moderators themselves? What policy does that person have and where did they even get it from? My comedy and opinion then turned towards Portalarium and the Devs. Most of whom on a personal level I think are great by the way so I was conflicted about even having to go down this path! But a spade is a spade and business is business, if InsaneMembrane was going to continue on the logical path of finding all Insanity and calling it out, he would need to address the core of these issues. If you aren’t upsetting some people, you aren’t really being brave. If everyone likes you, then you have never said anything true, anytime you speak the truth someone’s going to hate you.
This continued for some time and for the longest time I felt pretty alone in doing this. Statistics sure told me that people were reading here, but I didn’t know who they were a lot of the time or what they thought. Eventually comments started to come in though and I was certainly not alone. The Shroud Unlimited Forum was created by suggestion of a commenter to facilitate even more conversation with the Orphans of Shroud. More and more information was then exchanged and noticed by the many more eyes that were now on the SotA forum personalities and Developer team. Some of them, really, really, didn’t like it this.
Some of them really didn’t like it to the point of committing serious crimes to get at me, going above and beyond the call of duty. To the best of my knowledge on or around August 22nd 2015 someone paid to gather information about me and my family and began sending it to people that InsaneMembrane has “insulted.” I know of at least three people who have seen this information now and one of them indicated it was being “put out there to certain folks” and with the amount of people InsaneMembrane has parodied, you can bet there is more! This included everything from my name, my spouse’s name, our kids names, addresses, work places, phone numbers, passport numbers. I was away for the weekend and at first I pulled back to think, then after about a month of reflection I came to the conclusion that I would sell my Shroud of the Avatar account for whatever I could get for it.
Just to point one very simple thing out here now; some people say that I have been the most toxic asshole to have ever graced SotA’s sphere of influence, yet I have never and would never do anything like that to someone. But one of you in the Shroud of the Avatar community would and did, so ponder that one for a moment everyone and be warned when dealing with what is left of the Shroud of the Avatar “community” under Portalarium’s “guidance,” especially if you are posting on social media with your personal accounts. They came for me, they will come for you too.
Why did I wait until someone started to conduct personal harassment against my family to sell? Why did I put as much money in to community related projects by community members as I did into SotA itself? My love for Ultima and for those who love Ultima, and what Shroud of the Avatar could have become got the best of me. So much so that I felt the need to create the InsaneMembrane to defend the Honour of Ultima in only a way that InsaneMembrane could. But it had become very costly and too costly for many reasons; Too costly personally, through threats to my family. Too costly to play, everything you can think of is being added to the add-on store and I think a grand should have been enough to buy me some nice frigging clothes right? Too costly not to play, the game has been two years+ now and still being derailed by projects never intended to be included in the MMO it has now become, there really is no game(not that I know what kind of game it is or will be any more anyway). This… Is not the UltimateRPG that I dreamt of and it is too rich for my blood on every front. I could have spent thousands on this game also, but apparently I spotted things that others didn’t early on and it saved me a lot of money. I fold.
Not all the way out though, for like many, many, others I was silly enough to try and connect Steam to SotA and now I’m stuck with the $45 Adventurer Pledge. So it looks like I will still be able to jump in and test things out from time to time if I ever break a leg and get holed up for a month or something. Dumping the RF account is a big load off and I thank the community member who purchased it for almost what I paid for it. I still do hope Shroud of the Avatar will succeed but I really can’t understand or see how it possibly could live up to the UltimateRPG I dreamed Richard Garriott was going to produce. At this point I am not even sure if Richard Garriott is even going to like the end product, it is so far from what he described initially!
InsaneMembrane isn’t going anywhere for the moment. My blog will still be up, I will keep posting updates. Shroud Unlimited Forum will still be up and I will be there to provide a place for EVERYONE to come and talk candidly about Shroud of the Avatar and anything else on your mind while you’re there.
First thing is first. @Dallas. You need to re-think how you do your marketing updates. Keep your marketing updates under 102KB so that popular hosted E-Mail services like Google don’t cut them off. I’ve been missing some news from time to time and I am guessing many others are also. Everyone should look for the following advice at the end of SotA updates so that you don’t miss them. On the other hand, Portalarium you do seem to have a nasty little habbit of hiding the bad news at the end of the messages… #tinfoil
Click: View entire message to read the full marketing flyer for SotA.
Now on with the show; Portalarium have just recently taken easily their best and arguably one of their only customer facing services left and have completely buried it. If you haven’t noticed, Shroud of the Avatar is suffering from an exodus of current community members, even highly noticed and productive members like Blake Blackstone and The Mad Hermit are on their way out. Thanks Envy.
Here is the text from the update:
Account Services Vouchers
For a very long time now, since before our Kickstarter ended, we have endeavored to satisfy, at no charge, each and every one of our backers’ Account Services requests. As time has gone by, the number of requests for Account Services has grown. Most of these requests have not been related to account or purchasing issues, but pledge transfers and converting add-ons into store credits.
To accommodate these requests, we have been spending an ever growing amount of backer money to devote more resources to support these efforts. We do not consider this the best use of backer’s funds, so we will no longer be performing these types of requests without some way to fund these elective account services.
Effective immediately, Account Service requests may require at least one Service Voucher, including, but not limited to, the transfer between accounts, or conversion to Store Credits, of pledges, Add-on items, or Player Owned Towns. The voucher will be considered redeemed and removed from your account upon completion of the Account Services request.
Service Vouchers can be purchased in the Game Services Store with new funds only (not Store Credit). You will be notified if your service request requires more than one Service Voucher.
Please send us an email at email@example.com if you have any questions about whether a Service Voucher is needed for your service request.
I am all for saving “backer dollars,” however this is also a mess they have created all by themselves. This mess has been created through the ineffective customer engagement, the inability for devs to live up to their pledge tier rewards, lack of updates in Dev+, their stranglehold on the information presented on the forum, the RF/F/B account split/melt/merge fiasco, the– I’ll stop, I can go on for a week on all the things they have done to either directly and indirectly cause these issues.
Customer service at Portalarium no longer really exists in my opinion. Standard things you should have done for you, no matter where the money comes from, are the cost of business. If you are spending too much money servicing the sale of your member’s accounts, thanks Blake Blackstone, then you are doing something wrong for your members! Simple as that and pretty easy to grasp I would have thought.
There is one exception to this rule, high-level and Whale backers as illustrated on the image above. Not only do they get one on one personal time with the Shroud of the Avatar Developers via E-Mail, Phone, and Forum messaging, they get it in person. To get good customer service at Portalarium you will be spending around $5,000 at a minimum, and then even so is no guarantee. Just look at Blake’s case where 40-60k got him nothing but a sign on a door that said Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You. Hmm, wonder why they are all too busy to deal with us plebs huh?
So what will these account service vouchers cost you? $25! Most mobs like Riot, Nexon, and even the Devil itself, Electronic Arts, allow you to do these things with earned account credit from within the game. But not Shroud of the Avatar ladies and gentleman, they are blazing a trail, right through your wallet. You don’t agree, you think I’m over reacting? I’m not done yet! Click the vouchers, dare you, they tell you that they will get in touch with you if your request will take MORE THAN ONE VOUCHER! What a joke.
Cash must be pretty low indeed for them to be doing this to us all. We know they already have dedicated people working on this, for free, so why the change? Again, a complete lack of foresight as most of this stuff should have been automated anyway. Why can’t their store figure out that you just liquidated a $50 dollar yule tree and turn it into store credit? They have someone at a keyboard doing that? Come on!
It probably isn’t even that really, the reports on the forum and reports relayed to me from people who have sold their accounts have indicated an excellent turn around. There seems to be no lag involved in processing these requests. So with that information on hand and my Transparent Aluminium hat I mandate that it is just another dirty fundraising scheme.
Welcome to Shop of the Avatar.
There is a thread. It is an interesting one…
Since I well expect this to be modified once I point it out, I have vaulted a copy of the thread here: VAULT
I would just like to point out what is surprisingly allowed on the SotA forums these days.
“We open the examples with none other than Small Cock Sillyvan himself to kick us off:
I will sell you my daughter for 3 cows and 10000 gold. “
High Baron O`Sullivan
Really hope you don’t have kids, big guy.
Followed by a less than creative example by this guy who just drops a zero, but adds a sick little quib:
“I will sell you @High Baron O`Sullivan’s daughter for 3 cows and 1000 gold.
slightly used. like new. upgraded skillset. been told, twice.”
Slightly used? Like new? Skillset? You’re a fucking pig.
Another jab at woman kind here by this winner:
“She’s got huuuuuuuuuge….. …. … tracts of land”
And finally, probably the worst one:
“I’ll see his offer, and ill trade you a @margaritte for just one extra cow… and possibly a bucket of fish. “
That is pretty disgusting…
That last one is interesting. Since a user by the name of wrathphoenix just joined the Shroud Unlimited community forums. Maybe you’ll care to come over and have a chat with us at some point?
So yeah, there was at least one voice of reason here so far:
“Stop trading OR joking about woman being traded as livestock and/or for livestock… “
I couldn’t agree more. This was also liked by Kara Brae at the time of the backup copy was taken.
People have literally been banned for far less than these comments. Posts and entire threads fucking wiped out, yet here you have this one with a bunch of dudes going on and on about women in this manner. A post about feminism was quickly wiped off the forum, but this stands.
I am not even going to try and guess what failings of Portalarium and unprofessional bias bullshit goes through moderators minds in an effort to explain how this shit gets left up so long. I don’t generally like to tell people to stay away from something and try to encourage people to get all the information around facts and decide for themselves… The constant influx in that SotA forum run by Portalarium of mindless prejudice really does make me think twice about that!
So think about the comments above when you engage that community, what kind of people they really are.
Well this is an interesting one. The Dev Stand Up Corner has been made public. The Dev Stand Up Corner is a pretty simple and lightweight concept; the Devs get together once a day in a scrum and pop out what they are working on. That is all it is, just a line next to a name. Example: Richard Garriott – Story
So it isn’t overly detailed, yet it was still locked behind a 50$+ pay-wall to get access to it. Unfortunatly it doesn’t really give anyone any detail on how much time is spent on each item or any idea at all about the cost of the item in development time. It kind of leaves us to believe that in the example above Richard spent the entire eight hour working day on the Story, but see if this were the case there would be a lot more going on in the game. Unless it is all true then take a look back and see all of the things drawing the Devs away from the Core game, anything that says “POT” or “Player Town” next to it.
Why did this come to pass? Well you have to read this steam review:
Yeah that is quite correct my friends, someone left a negative review and a Portalarium Staff member got all pissy with them and said they should read the Stand Up Corner notes. The very same notes that cost 20 bucks more than the Steam buy-in. Lawl.
So they are going to unban Caliya now right?
In the criminal justice system, critical thought and truth are considered exceptionally vicious. The overzealous Moderators on the Shroud of the Avatar Forum unequally target this particular group of people: non-Whales. These are their stories.
You should know by now that not log ago a member of the SotA Forum was banned from the Shroud of the Avatar Forum for an interesting and exceedingly hypocritical reason. News has now come through that this ban has been reviewed by the Shroud of the Avatar management team and will now be a permanent ban for Caliya. This is the information that Caliya received from Portalarium management:
I regret to inform you that your account has been locked for transgressions against our Forum Rules. This ban, which will continue until the SotA Leads have had a chance to review your account activity, is the result of receiving multiple warning points within a 24 hour period. In addition, it has been brought to our attention that you are sharing Founder/Dev+ information outside of the Shroud of the Avatar Community. During this time, you will be unable to post new messages, reply to existing threads, and access private forums such as the Founders and Dev+ areas.
Also, I must inform you that, based on your previous forum activity, and the previous notice you received stating that any further transgressions against the forum rules will result in the recommendation that your forum permissions be permanently suspended, your account is being reviewed for possible permanent restrictions from the Shroud of the Avatar forums.
If you have any questions about this action, please let me know. Otherwise, I will notify you of our decision regarding your forum access once our review is complete.
Shroud of the Avatar ~ Community Manager
I regret to inform you that your forum history has been reviewed by the team and it has been determined that, at this time, it is prudent to continue the restrictions on your SotA Forum Account. This decision was the result of repeated violations of our Forum Rules with no improvement or change in behavior.
These forum restrictions do not impact your in-game access, and you can still log into Shroud of the Avatar with your Adventurer pledge either through Steam or directly through the SotA Launcher. You will also continue to receive our weekly updates unless you elect to opt out of our mailing list.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can reply to this support case.
Shroud of the Avatar ~ Community Manager
The “reason” for the initial ban could almost be understood(covered in the linked blog post above), that is if three other people hadn’t have done the same exact thing right inside the SotA Forum that Caliya did while actually outside of it. Where are their permabans? Lotus?….Lotus?….Lotus?…. Oh that is right a permaban requires prior warnings and “repeated violations” so you must have been asking for it, right Caliya?
Not including the ban and going back six months, Caliya had a single warning. Prior to that you have to go back to September 2014 for the next most recent warning! Let this be a warning to all of you out there who have ever received a warning, if you’ve got one then your head is already on the block. It is clear that Portalarium management will turn back the clock on you as far as they can to manufacture any evidence they wish to support their lies and remove voices, your voice, from the community who just don’t flat out roll over and say “I love SotA and everything about it.”
Every reason Caliya received for the ban which resulted in the permaban could have legitimately be applied to other users on the same exact forum and result in enough warnings to permaban them also. Even others like Ravicus could have been permabanned by now simply by “thread derailment” alone. Themo Lock has been abusing users for weeks, knocked in the F word last week, and has continued to go after others but he is still there. But they/he wasn’t and never have been and that makes this permaban completely and utterly illegitimate.
Myself, Joviex, Caliya, others. All buried under a stack of lies in order for Portalarium to permaban them. The truth is a very dangerous thing indeed when you are surrounded by lies.
Themo continues his acts of defiance against the community rules set out by Portalarium after his awesome display of maturity last week.. He is upset, and he is making sure the entire SotA forum is watching him as he throws his toys out of the cot.
Here is yet another perfect example of not just a community member, not just a Dev+ community member, but a high pledging Shroud of the Avatar Whale personally selected to test special combat mechanics outside the full knowledge of the community as a whole getting away with everything:
How much of this will you as the community need to be subjected to? You could be Themo’s next target, all that I can advise is that you report the post and don’t let him get away with this as he has been!
Molenix Claims Latest Victim – Caliya
Not long ago in forum right smack in our face, there was a discussion about Player Owned Towns started from a Poll by Spoon. This was one of the better discussions out there to take place on that forum, but that means it was getting a little bit hot in Portalarium’s chair. When we turn up the heat, they tend to just lock the thread in question, remove all of the posts within said thread cos “troll,” and just pretend it never took place. That is what was done here, and if you would like to read as much as the tread as you can at this point before Portalarium started to clean it up, you can download the PDF here.
Ok, so enough about the Trolling from the SotA Forum-Norm you can read about that in the article linked. What is this post about? Well mainly the unfair banning of Caliya from the Shroud of the Avatar Forum. But first, lets have a very short history lesson. I was perma-banned twice(lulz), and the second time I was perma-banned it was for asking Portalarium what they planned on doing about the Dev+ leaks from the MGT470 guild, and others.
Now we can move forward! But first. This:
oh yeah, click this puppy to enlarge or get higher res pdf here
Blues = Thread Commenter | Greens with Blue border = New Topic Branch
Reds = Rule Violators | Greens with Orange border = New Interesting Branch(imo)
Yellow = Thread Derail Troll | Greens with Red border = Topic Violation
Purple = Banned User | Yellow With Blue border = Thread Derail Branch
Small Red Dash = Comment to Topic
Large Green Dash = New Branch Starter
Large Red Dots = Comment to Violation
As human beings, social animals, and people able to read and write, you should be familiar with the idea of a conversation tree. Hell you’re an Ultima player probably, you’re VERY familiar with a conversation tree. This is an attempt for me to visually map out that POT Poll thread started by Spoon. I was curious to see how a Poll can be started and end up resulting in the ban of a player for something totally unrelated and the answer is going to surprise the hell out of you. So I began and I will help you to understand what is in the picture.
You start with people. The first few posts were on topic(I couldn’t always place direct topic comments where they cropped up and moved them to the front due to size of this conversation). But of course it is a Forum, right, so even the initial posters are going to make a comment that is going to branch the conversation out from the root. It is natural, and nothing to be afraid of. Great examples of this early on were posts produced at the very start by Ashlynn, Kendric, and Xandra7, this too is to be expected as it would have been the first related thing to the poll discussed.
As the conversation continues, more posters reference the current branch and start new branches of their own. It really is all at the mercy of the community what is brought up and what is discussed. One of the most interesting topics brought up for example, by unicornslady, was the simple fact that developers underestimate the demand for Virtual Property. I agree, but really the only person to talk about that was Blake Blackstone.
Lets not get bogged down, as I said it was an interesting conversation and it was painful but enjoyable to map out like this. Moving on to all the red stuff which is standing out in there, but just before that now is a good time to mention what Caliya was banned for. Caliya was banned for disclosing information about the “Dev Standup” from the Founder Forum. There are three levels of access. Pleb, where you post. Founder, where you have access to the Dev Standup. Dev+, where Whales compare the sizes of their…POTs.
What is the Developer Standup? Well, it is a “Scrum.” In short, you get whoever is available at whatever time you can get them and stick them into a room. Go around the room and simply ask everyone “hey what are you doing today” and expect a one line ten second response like “I’m working on Player Owned Towns.” This isn’t anything special, it takes five minutes, and is strictly high level with no drill down to any detail. In any case, you aren’t allowed to discuss the information in the Founder or Dev+ blogs in the main Pleb forum. Despite Portalarium not requiring anyone to sign a NDA, and people leak stuff from both the Founder and Dev+ all the time both on the SotA forum and their own fan sites.
RED. The first name you’ll see half way through the conversation is Sean Silverfoot. He was the first SotA forum user to reference the Dev Standup Comments from the Founder Forum directly. Further on in you can see that cartodude joined in with his own direct disclosure of information from the Founder Forum, not only that but he continued to do it three more times. Next up forum favourite Duchess Wyldemane had to be sure to include her insider knowledge also, a couple of times. So there you go, count them: seven rule violations across three people.
So Caliya was banned. No wait, what? But she doesn’t have any big red dotted violation lines! She did reference what others mentioned and discussed the Dev Standup Comments Insane! Yeah she did, but she was addressing what was already disclosed to her by the other users. She didn’t go to the Founder Forum and start nor continue the conversation on the SotA forum with any “insider” information at all. So then how did this conversation lead to her banning!?
After the thread was locked, Caliya came over to the Shroud Unlimited forum to discuss the topic out in the open. There while in discussion on the matter some information from the Founder Forum did make its way onto Shroud Unlimited in a round-about way. So Caliya was banned, after the POT topic was locked, after three other people violated the same thing that got her banned, seven times before her… And, it is still there:
So what can we possibly take away from such a heavy-handed moderator & community response like that? Was that fair to everyone involved?
Not by a long shot! Message to Caliya is:
Why are you guys still here? Oh! All the yellow stuff down at the end? Totally nobody you need to worry about guys, so inconsequential!