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.
Just a quick post here today as it will be related in part to my next post. This is a collection of Steam posts which were posted by a single Shroud of the Avatar developer working for Portalarium who goes by the handle, on Steam, catnipgames.
Some of these posts appear to since have been retracted and can no longer be located, unless I am doing something incorrect, but thanks to helpful members of both the Shroud of the Avatar and the Shroud Unlimited communities some evidence in form of screen shots remain.
Here first are the rules for posting:
And now for some drugged up cat meows:
So you’re not going to tell people who might read this review what you don’t like. You’re just going to restate that you think it is a cash grab. K, thanks for the awesome feedback. I’m sure that really helps real users who are considering the game make an informed decision.
@Deagle, I banned someone who had not purchased the game, came to the forum and made about a dozen completely unconstructive posts. We might ban one person a week, if that and I always verify that they haven’t purchased the game. Sorry, but you have to add something to the conversation and that guy didn’t. He was just dropping poop everywhere and attacking other posters and then moving on to the next forum to troll.
And the rest:
I don’t think I need to comment further, the comments stand for themselves. Have a look at those reviews linked in while they still exist because they may not for long. Especially the one where catnipgames is accused of banning a user from the Steam area including his review because he didn’t own the game, when in fact he did own the game.
There are a number of Steam and/or review topics over on Shroud Unlimited so I don’t need to create a new discussion at this point. Feel free to do so if you wish or find any of the others.
Just a year after being greenlit, Shroud of the Avatar’s review status has fallen to mixed. Again. It was seemingly just a matter of time, and I don’t think the community would enjoy a another round of developers asking them to leave positive reviews to stem the leak… Then again this is what, the third or fourth time SotA has fallen to mixed status now?
You probably think that I am happy? I am not. My aim through my silly parody, antics, and reviews on various news and personalities was to bring obvious, to me, things to other people’s attention and perhaps change SotA early enough in its course to oblivion to avoid said oblivion. That, and I, failed. So no, I am not happy at all!
I will hold the RIP for now, something tells me it isn’t going to be Mixed for long. I have been known to be wrong though!
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?
Steam. Fucking Steam. I don’t own it, but others do. Portalarium have had a rather sorted affair with Steam already with the Devs asking in the Shroud of the Avatar Forum for backers to post positive reviews to the culling of both negative reviews and forum posts on Steam. Surprise? No. Working? Yes.
Just have a quick look, when I last checked the game overall read as: Mostly Positive out of 509 reviews. 74% are positive.
But when you get right into it, check the All Time reviews for helpfulness. 8 out of 10 of them are negative. Check the most recents(when I did it was this) and you end up with 7 out of 10 negative. The trending is there, and they will need to stay on top of this by a few simple criteria:
1. Did someone say something bad about SotA?
Yes: CHECK USER
2. Is user a backer, owns Shroud of the Avatar?
No: BAN or Lie about it and then BAN.
Yes: Establish one or more negative comments in either Steam or SotA community, issue a troll label and then BAN.
Easy as that kids, two steps.
Today Kuno, a friend of the blog and poster on the Shroud Unlimited Forums, shed some light on some activity which was observed recently in the Steam community. Portalarium are up to their little tricksies as always. I suppose this counts as my first guest poster! Here it is:
In a Steam discussion thread titled “hearing alot of mixed reviews“, an individual asked if he should buy the game in light of the mixed reviews, and several posters warned the OP not to buy SotA.
One of these posters was Strykerx88, who unsurprisingly, posted many negative things about SotA being a chance for adults to play dress up and that it was little more than a virtual LARP-fest (he also posted a review about it with 17/20 helpfulness rating).
However, his posts were quickly removed and he was apparently banned, but fortunately, some snippets of quotes from him remained in posts made by “Smackaholic” (I assume that’s Smack from the SotA forums). This snippet of quoted text led another individual named DEAGLE EVERY ROUND to post the following:
I see people responding to comments that don’t exist. Are these devs banning people who say negative things about their game too? A lot of this going on lately on Steam.
Hilariously, and with no sense of shame, Chris wrote the following in response:
@deagle, I banned someone who had not purchased the game, came to the forum and made about a dozen completely unconstructive posts. We might ban one person a week, if that and I always verify that they haven’t purchased the game. Sorry, but you have to add something to the conversation and that guy didn’t. He was just dropping poop everywhere and attacking other posters and then moving on to the next forum to troll.
It’s too bad for the LYING LIAR Chris that taking a simple gander at Strykerx88’s Steam profile shows that he DOES, in fact, own the game:
So much for the LIE that he verified if Strykerx88 purchased the game or not.
Also, all the talk about verifying if he owned the game or not implies that they don’t ban people who own the game, but then what about this:
^(This image is from my own ban, not Strykerx88’s, but I wanted to include it as proof that they DO in fact ban people who own the game, not just those who post negative things and don’t own it, as Chris implied)
What’s even more amazing to me, considering the experience of so many of us here, is the claim that they “might ban one person a week.” LOLOLOLOOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Holy shiet.
And how about the hubris in statements like “Sorry, but you have to add something to the conversation and that guy didn’t.”
So, Strykerx88 posts a review that garners 17/20 “helpfulness” rating, yet now his posts are deleted and he’s presumably banned because Chris decided Strykerx88 is not adding something to the conversation and then Chris LIES about him not owning the game.
Let’s call a spade a spade… he wasn’t adding something to the conversation that Chris LIKED, so he banned him.
In conclusion, FUCK YOU, Chris.
Alright, back to delivering mah rainbows all around tha werld….
There has been qutie a bit of resistance, for some reason, in the Shroud of the Avatar forum for taking SotA into Steam. Small minds. If anything is going to grab the cash from gamers at this point, it would be Steam so it is a great decision. Good luck SotA.