Full Disclosure: Virtus
Published February 5, 2009
It has been just over one year since I lost my job with Ping0. The post separation NDA has now expired. Even though Ping0 and Flagship Studios no longer exist I wanted to honor that one year time period.
I realize at any level of fame you always collect those who like you and those who dislike you. I only ask that people set aside what they know (of the events surrounding my being let go) and read what happened with an unbiased frame of mind. The following is in chronological order. Comments are saved for the end.
The story began when I was on shift during the wee hours of the morning during late January, 2008. I believe it was some time after 2 AM local time. I was in game monitoring chat. (I believe in the Mythos beta.) As this hour was always slow, conversation in an open channel was started about gaming and game features. As I sometimes did, I joined the conversation to make my presence more visible as well as allowing the players to feel more connected with a game moderator on a personal level (due to shared interests). Someone began a private tell conversation with me and we talked about a number of different games that we liked in the past as well as ones we were looking forward to in the future. After a few minutes the player asked (still via tell) if I knew anything about upcoming subscriber features for Hellgate: London (a released product). I replied, "Sorry, I don't know anything more than anyone else." I believe he replied with something like, "Ah, I see." This was followed by, "Of course you can't repeat this to anyone..." to which the player replied something like, "Of course, sure sure." and I continued with "I myself, as a player, am disappointed with current subscriber features. The features I wanted aren't in yet." I followed that tell with, "We send in nightly reports about what players like, dislike, are looking forward to, expect, etc." "I've been telling them for months what subscriber feelings are on things." "It's like talking to the gods. You put your message down on paper, put it in a fire to send it to them, and hope you get a reply."
Only a fragment of this conversation (my last tell) appeared on a website about one week later at around 4 AM. (They reference it appeared on another site as well, but I never saw it on any other sites.) Within 9 hours of that posting I had been given notice. Within 12 hours of the posting said posting had been removed from the site completely. When asking my direct superiors about my being let go they were just as shocked as I was, and they had no prior knowledge of any shift changes.
Fact: Only a fragment of the entire conversation was posted on the fan site.
Opinion: It is my belief an incorrect opinion of me as a moderator, and of my personal morals/character, was presented due to the missing context of that fragment, doubly so since that was quickly erased from said site(s).
Fact: It was made known that the moderator who made that statement was fired after the posting was removed from the fan site(s).
Fact: The moderators were under contract not to discuss "trade secrets".
Opinion: While I admit it was not common knowledge nightly reports were sent in, it is my belief that players assumed/hoped that their thoughts/feelings/complaints were being monitored. It may have been my bad for mentioning to a player that nightly reports did happen, but I felt, and still feel, it is important for players to know their posts are being read/heard even if they are not being directly addressed or responded to. (Which, at that time, players had zero reassurance that they were being heard.)
Fact: I did not breach any secret information about the game, the state of the game, or information players did not know or could not have gathered. They could have gathered the information I stated themselves by reading the forums or watching in game chat.
Opinion: I stated I was disappointed as a player that there were not subscriber features I wanted in the game. This is only relevant to me, and my opinion is not part of a game feature.
Fact: It is against the Terms of Service agreement, which players must agree to in order to enter the game to repeat communications sent to you by moderators by any method.
Opinion: This player breached that agreement not only by repeating these tells, but by breaching personal honor by repeating a fragment of the conversation out of context after I reminded him our tell conversation could not be repeated.
Fact: I had no prior warnings about any contact I had (good or bad) with any players regarding my personal feelings as players of the game.
Opinion: Obviously it would be bad of an employee to say the "hate" or "dislike" a game, but saying you are "disappointed" because it lacks the features you were looking forward to at this time is completely different.
Fact: The reason cited for letting me go was that the time slot no longer required two moderators due to declining interest in the game. As a contractor it was legal for them to let me go with zero warning and zero severance pay. Contractors also do not qualify for unemployment, nor do they accrue sick leave or vacation time.
Opinion: I guess it was my bad for trusting a company to take care of me under these hiring conditions.
Concluding opinions / thoughts:
While it may not have been ok to say moderators sent in nightly reports of player thoughts/feelings/posts/in game discussions or comments, I fail to see how "leaking" this fact is a big deal. I feel the company could have easily posted the full conversation (both sides) and admitted that communication with players could be improved and comforted them by acknowledging their concerns were being heard.
In short I told a player via private tells, 'I have no secret info on upcoming subscriber features. And as a player, I'm sad subscriber features are missing just like you.' I stood up for players (specifically subscribers). I implied whatever is being worked on is kept at a higher level than I had access to. I stated that I, as a player, not an employee of the company, wished certain subscriber features were already implemented, letting them know they had someone 'on the inside' who was a player who wanted the missing features.
Yes, in the days following my being let go I was mad. I was, in fact, furious at my misrepresentation and misquote (by the site(s) only posting a fragment of the conversation then later erasing the post completely.) I felt these events led to a perception that I was the bad guy and several people held (maybe still hold) the feeling 'he deserved what he got'.
Yes, I may have "leaked" information by saying that reports are sent in nightly. Everyone wants a strong line of communication between game developer and player in any game and if that doesn't exist players want to know that they are at least being heard. I felt that public relations did not exist at this time and I felt sad for those who were sad/angry/mad. I had secretly hoped that word would quietly leak out that player opinion/feeling was being heard and addressed, even if it was not openly being responded to.
Yes, in the days following I went into a panic on how I would pay rent and bills. However, I never directly or openly asked for money on any open forums. Nor have I to this day, nor will I. Yes, I asked the site which posted my quote via an email system if they could put up a posting asking for help via donations. Yes, I asked about four people (on different boards) shortly after the event via email or private message if they could send donations or loans to help me out, as I have no "real life" people I knew that I could ask for help.
Yes, I looked in to legal action I could take against Ping0, Flagship Studios, or the site which quoted me. I was mad at my former employer for giving me no warning and no severance pay, particularly if their claim of letting me go due to my shift being unnecessary were true. I was mad at the site and player who posted the fragment of the conversation as I felt it misrepresented me, as well as that act being a direct breach of the agreement the player made on entry to the game. I was mad at the site for what I felt was failing to uphold journalistic integrity by taking the player's word regarding the content and context of the quote.
I put up a few donation links on my site a bit later in an attempt to get some kind of help. It has been said I am scamming people. I am not. The quality and availability of information at my site and which I send via private messages and email has remained constant through the years. My site existed for just over 2.5 years prior to these sad events. The fact that I added a donation link in no way forces someone to donate nor has it altered the quality of advice I provide and offer. (Compare this to my suddenly changing the site to be members only access with a fee based structure depending on which area of the site you are visiting.)
Street performers go out on the street, put on a show, and entertain the public. You are free to donate for the service they provide or not. The internet is my street and, for the time being, I have donation links in some places on my site. If people find my site and information helpful or at least entertaining enough to be worthy, they are free to donate. If not they that is their choice. It is totally up to the visitor. The quality of information available will remain the same with or without donations as long as I can keep it running.
To those who say I have been scamming money I reply this - the donation links will disappear when I am no longer in crisis. I provide a free service for the love of gaming through a genuine hope and desire to give others the best gaming experience that they can get for the money they spend on parts and hope to protect them from making bad or uninformed decisions. This has always, and will always, be the intent of my site. People are free to follow, agree, or disagree with my advice.
Also for disclosure, here are my total donations and expenses on non-critical items since I was let go (to this date). (This does not include special event gifts referenced for such use, such as birthday, Xmas, etc., but what may be purchased with money for those events are referenced. It also does not include donations or loans from those considered friends.)
- I have received $1344 (U.S.) in donations over the past year. Of that ~3% is lost due to transfer fees, resulting in ~$41 lost. This is approximately $108 per month. (For reference the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in my area is $1200-1750, or $650-850 for a single room in a shared home.)
- There have been roughly 21,000 unique visitors to my site in the past year, of which 54 made a donation, which makes approximately 0.00257 of the population donators, or roughly 1/4 of 1%, or 1 out of every 389 unique visitors.
- Since being let go one year ago I have made the following purchases; The Collector's Edition of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, a Warrior class t-shirt, a Carrot on a Stick keychain, some round rim glasses ($12), a cammo messenger bag ($4), some iPod cables ($7).
- I have seen 5 movies (~$10 each)
- I have spent $24 on game time at an internet gaming center.
- I have spent approximately $40 on arcade games
- I was offered, but did not accept; A copy of Age of Conan, a time card for Age of Conan, a copy of Warhammer Online.
- I have received as donations/gifts; A copy of World of Warcraft: the Burning Crusade, a one month subscription to World of Warcraft
Again, this information has been written to make a formal record so that the chain of events is made clear for future reference. As a person with a certain amount of fame I will always have those who feel strongly about things around me, be that in agreement or disagreement. You are free to feel as you wish. I can not choose to have everyone love me or approve of my actions, but I can choose to show them the honest truth.