I was banned for doing basically nothing

I grew up playing all of the Ultima games despite most of them being released before I was born.  I then transitioned into playing Ultima Online.  I was always extremely interested in the elaborate, interesting stories of these games, and the world itself.  A great amount of detail and character has always existed in Ultima games.   UO was a great way to explore these worlds with friends, and basically run around playing pretend the whole time.

I also remember watching all of the interviews with Lord British on Ultima Collection’s CD, in addition to reading all sorts of other interviews, thinking to myself “This guy’s fuckin sweet.  I wish I grew up in that era.”

When Shroud’s kickstarter was announced, I was more than happy to help.  I was excited.

“Lord British is going back to his roots”.  No more UO/MMO only nonsense, no more Tabula Rasa mishaps (lol or not…).   We were going to get what I felt like was being pitched as Ultima VI, in 3D.   Or, the Ultima IX we should have got.   With the ability to selectively play online with friends or strangers that may become friends.

Perfect!

Yay

I was literally the first person to back this game at the Lord level of 1500$.   Above is the screenshot as proof.

As the Kickstarter concluded, and the project went underway… things took some turns for the worst.

The Dev+ forum was basically a mess of armchair programmers and generally hyper-opinionated people who felt that their 400$+ contributions meant they were now on the team and they would get whatever they demanded.  There was a lot of “this needs to be UO2 with open PK, free looting” nonsense.   That model died years ago.  It’s not sustainable for obvious reasons.

Dev+ really just created a segregated community where stuff had to be explained twice.

I wanted to help with the game.  I debated applying to work for Portalarium.  I am glad I didn’t.

When Dev+ people all complained at the forum being a bit of a mess, Starr and Chris blew smoke up our asses, telling us they wanted to make us happy or whatever.

Chris said something along the lines of being happy to have some of us help where possible.

I offered input and assistance on the dialog system/AI, and the live-music-playing concept that was supposed to be a thing.

I have experience with both of those topics from a development standpoint.  I have a masters in computer science, a normal software development job, and I make games for 30 year old consoles and computers in my spare time for fun (using assembly language).  So, it’s not like I was just talking out of my ass about the things I wanted to help with.

The responses I got from that, and the live Dev Chats made me sort of withdraw from the whole thing and just focus on trying the game.  I slowly realized “These people are not capable of what they think they are capable of.”

It got progressively worse as it became a cash-grab mess that slowly morphed into an MMO.

An MMO being designed and implemented by people who haven’t played an MMO in a decade, or their last MMO project failed miserably.

Perfect.   Just the team to make a game that has to compete with the likes of Black Desert, FFXIV, and whatever other online games people are playing now.

This takes us to the point of this post.

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1111

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We’re supposed to be happy the game is voted the most anticipated MMO?  Why?

You can see the comment I made.  It is pretty tame.  Nothing crazy or out of line.

I posted this on the KS page, FB page, and SOTA.com page’s post for this.   The same comment, on the same post, 3 times.

FireLotus, the community “expert”, immediately banned me.  No warning. No reaching out. Nothing.  I just got an immediate ban e-mail.

Below is the e-mail chain that took place.   After this shitshow concluded, I sold my pledge, and lost all respect for Starr Long, Chris Spears, and it severely damaged my opinion of Lord British for letting bullshit like this actually happen under his leadership.

I’ve not really enjoyed an Ultima game since this has happened.   They all just sit on my shelf, rotting.   I even tried going back to UO for a bit when they released Time of Legends.  Turns out Mythic’s just the same as Portalarium.   Shit customer service, incompetent development leadership.  A poor gaming experience.  Awesome.  Pass.

 


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 8:01 PM
Subject: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Gina
JAN 08, 2015  |  07:01PM CST
Dear Arkham,
I regret to inform you that your SotA account has received a temporary ban for continued violations of our Forum Rules. This ban, which will continue until we are able to discuss your actions via this email thread, is the result of posting defamatory feedback on the SotA website, SotA Facebook page, and the SotA Kickstarter Project page. During this time, you will be unable to post new messages to the forum or website, reply to existing threads, and access private forums such as the Founders and Dev+ areas.
Please contact us by responding to this email at your earliest convenience so that we may resolve this issue as quickly and satisfactorily as possible.
FireLotus 
Shroud of the Avatar ~ Community Manager
For your reference this is Case #: 12793
[[ 230cddf5b836fa4529a3883e4fa029 1d34710aae-356775406]

From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail!
Sent: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 8:01 PM
Subject: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
ARKHAN
JAN 08, 2015  |  10:33PM CST
First, you spelled my user name wrong.  It’s Arkhan.  Little things like this are not helping repair my feelings in the slightest.

Second, how completely pathetic.   I pledged 1500.00$ to your game immediately on Day 1, and can’t say anything unless it’s praise on the forums/posts?

Are you kidding me?  Censoring/banning PAYING BACKERS’ remarks?   You should take commentary like that far more seriously, and leave it up for people to see and think about, instead of just shuffling it all under the rug to save face while you promote SotA as an MMO. 

Keep in mind, this game WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE AN MMO.   Lord British said this himself.

Keep me banned forever for all I care.   I am not interested in posting on the forums, and apparently can’t say how I feel otherwise. 

You’ve already taken my money under false pretenses, destroyed my faith in the game, and the entire Portalarium team has also destroyed my faith in Lord British and his games.  It’s all an utter joke.   I am completely disgusted, and have ZERO, I repeat, ZERO interest in playing Shroud of the Avatar.   The software is gone from my hard disk.  I’ll just pretend Lord British and the Ultima legacy ended years ago and not bother with this anymore.

You should all honestly be ashamed.   I really don’t think there is anything any of you can do at this point to fix this issue.   I’ve already expressed discontent about the community experience before to you, Dallas, and Starr. 

Based off where we are currently at, I am under the assumption the things said to me during that time were pretty much just lies to keep me happy.   Nothing has come of any of it.

Go ahead and show this to the entire team.   Make sure Lord British gets a good look at it too.  I’m sure he’ll really enjoy knowing that a longstanding Ultima fan is this ticked off about the direction of his new game.

Anyway, thanks for lying to me.


ARKHAN
JAN 08, 2015  |  12:50AM CST
Also, I feel I should point out, separately: The news blip that I posted said comment on says this:
“Shroud of the Avatar is all about community collaboration and we’d love your feedback, so please click here to post any replies you may have about the content in this update.”
You don’t love my feedback.   You only love good, positive feedback.  Double standards are not something I paid 1500$ to be a part of.
You state that I was:

“posting defamatory feedback on”:
the SotA website (This is the news blip I commented on.  I see my comment was removed.)
SotA Facebook page (I posted here as well.  The comment is still there.  If it was a problem, why is it still there?)
and the SotA Kickstarter Project page
Noted.
However, in order for these to be “continued violations”, you really ought to notify me that you’re upset, just like I’ve done for you via these posts, and now this e-mail.   Otherwise, you’re just letting a handful of things buildup until you feel it’s OK to ban me.

I wasn’t notified of anything until suddenly being banned for “continued violations”.   I posted two of those comments at the same time (using my phone, explaining the delay between), with regards to the same thing, and was not formally spoken to about them.
So, I think you have overstepped your bounds in issuing this ban, because you’ve gone about it completely incorrectly.

In fact, the Kickstarter comment was actually replied to, by Portalarium.   If it’s such a problem, why was it replied to? 

I think you owe me an apology.
I’m not too worried about the ban being lifted though, because as I’ve said, I am done.
Maybe the game will feel like a Lord British game when it comes out.  I don’t have high hopes, and will expend my excited feelings elsewhere, on different games, where the company in question doesn’t spit in the face of people who provided them with the opportunity to produce the game in the first place.

–Andrew AKA “Arkhan”.


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEMAIL
Sent: Friday, January 9, 2015 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Rick Holtrop
JAN 09, 2015  |  04:32PM CST
Andrew,
I’ve gotten up to speed on your case, and I can understand your frustration. I’m sorry that you feel lied to and that we’re not appreciative of your contribution to the project and the team. What we must do, however, is treat our forums the same for all of our community, from non-backers up to our Lords of the Manor. We greatly appreciate your backing and status but still must proceed to act on our forum rules.
I know you feel the ban was too quick and too harsh, but when decisions are made about how to moderate our forum conversations, we generally are more heavy-handed than not. We do this in the interest of maintaining a friendly level of discourse for everyone currently participating and also future members.
We do not issue temporary bans based on negative feedback, but rather the fashion in which it was delivered. I believe in this case that tempers flared heavily and quickly and this is why the ban seemingly came without warning. Again, our actions are defined by the need to keep public discourse on our forums friendly.
I hope that you change your mind now or in the future, and stick with us through the rest of the development of the game.
Rick Holtrop, Associate Producer
“Shroud of the Avatar”

Arkhan
JAN 09, 2015  |  05:36PM CST
First,
There were no “tempers flaring heavily” with my comments.  I assure you, if they were flaring, you’d know. I posted a similar comment in three places on the internet where this news post was posted.    They are not vulgar.   They’re pretty fair, reasonable statements.

So, I posted on SotA’s Facebook, The Kickstarter, and the news post on SotA.com.

1) Facebook and Kickstarter are not your forum.    With regards to Facebook, how would you enforce this rule for people there who aren’t forum members?
2) The Facebook post is still up.   If it’s such an unfriendly remark, why is it still there? 
3) The Kickstarter comment was *replied to* by Portalarium.   Why reply to something and spark a discussion up when the plan is to ban me? 

So, no, you aren’t very appreciative of my contribution.   You guys do not value my feedback.  

What you’ve done is hastily banned me from a forum for posting elsewhere.  It’s an abuse of power.

Are you sure you are actually up to speed on what has happened?   I have not posted on SotA’s actual forum in months because it is moderated poorly.
This ban that has been imposed on me is even more proof of that.

I believe you all owe me an apology.   This is not right at all.  Not in the slightest. 

People say far worse and aren’t banned.   This is a pretty clear case of misuse of power.  

Why wasn’t I issued a warning instead?   It’s hard to know you’re “repeatedly breaking forum rules” if nobody is telling you.

Thanks for nothing.   You’ve done absolutely nothing to even attempt to restore my faith in the project or dispel any misconceptions I may have about the progress on this game.

All you’ve done is given me a poorly reasoned explanation for a poorly executed ban.


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 5:41 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Rick Holtrop
JAN 13, 2015  |  04:40PM CST
Andrew,
My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. We all wear many hats here, and my worldbuilding duties have been paramount these past days to help for a successful Release 14.
I regret that you still feel a lack of faith in the project and its progress. The best that I can do on that front is explain our position, but I have to move on to the production of the game. I stand by my outlook that there was no misuse of power here, when there is a violation of our Terms of Service and Forum Rules we act as we see necessary at the time.
I feel that our conversation here is an attempt to illuminate our rules and our stance on implementing them. We strive to be fair across the board, and your temporary ban is indeed temporary if we can come to that understanding. I am hopeful that this discussion has served that purpose.
Rick Holtrop, Associate Producer
“Shroud of the Avatar”

Arkhan
JAN 14, 2015  |  06:06PM CST
Understanding of what?   This was an obvious misuse of power, and a horrible execution of moderation.   I do not understand how you could stand by such a thing.   I think maybe you are not actually fully up to speed, as I have mentioned before.   Your comment about wearing many hats and focusing on Release 14 implies you haven’t actually looked very far into the matter.

All this conversation has accomplished is removing my faith in Portalarium even further, because you are disregarding the feelings of your earliest supporters.

What I want is:
1) An apology 2) The ban to be lifted 3) Your community practices to be better organized and executed.   This is *not* how online communities are supposed to function.   Where are we supposed to voice our concerns and state any negative feedback we may be having?   All I’ve gathered is that your moderators have the ability to issue shotgun bans with zero warning, in a contradictory setting.   I am not the first to state this either.     Maybe Portalarium as a company should investigate this avenue further.    There’s plenty of people who are pretty dissatisfied with their community/forum experience.

You’ve yet to provide a valid reason for the validity of a ban in which:
1) One of the offending comments is still posted.

2) Another was actually replied to by Portalarium.
You are also still failing to understand that “multiple violations” is invalid.   In order for this to be valid, someone on your end was supposed to do their job of notifying me that they felt I was doing something wrong.      This is Forum Moderation 101.    Free forums accomplish this just fine.   Why is it not possible for a multimillion dollar company’s forum to operate as such?

If this isn’t resolved in a satisfactory matter, you can expect me to forward this entire e-mail chain directly to Starr and Richard.

If it is still not resolved, well, then I think we have confirmed all of my suspicions.


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1:45 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Rick Holtrop
JAN 14, 2015  |  12:44PM CST
Andrew,
The understanding I spoke of is from your end, a recognition of our forum rules and how they can be adhered to by you. As originally stated in the notification of the temporary ban, our plan is to remove that once we’ve had a chance to discuss what happened and come to that understanding.
Regarding the actions that were taken against your account, they were in response to repeated attempts to defame Portalarium and the game on multiple websites. This is a clearly defined violation of our Terms of Service. Beyond that, we may need to agree to disagree on the manner in which we run our forums and our moderation.
All I can say again is that our process is defined in our Terms of Service and Forum Rules that you’ve agreed to. It is indeed possible to have discussions containing concerns and negative feedback within that framework.
I do apologize for this situation and am still hopeful that we can get past this.
Rick Holtrop, Associate Producer
“Shroud of the Avatar”

Arkhan
JAN 14, 2015  |  01:12PM CST
This is getting pretty pathetic, Rick.  Seriously.  I am practically beating my face against the desk right now.

1) Your company took the time to reply to the comment on Kickstarter.
2) Your company left the offending comment up on Facebook for all to see, after I was banned.

Do you not see how nonsensical this is?

You’ve accomplished nothing in the way of fixing whatever problem it is you are trying to solve.
By engaging in a discussion with me, you implied that the comment posted is of an OK nature.   Nobody said anything to me regarding this breaking a rule, and someone went so far as to TALK TO ME.  Why was I not notified in this instance that something was up?   Because a discussion occurred, it’s reasonable for me to assume it’s OK to post a similar comment elsewhere since not everyone checks Kickstarter.   The extra comments I made are a direct result of someone failing to do their job on your end.    Had your staff done their actual job, I wouldn’t have bothered posting the comments elsewhere.  They are all of the same caliber.    You can’t acknowledge them with discussion, and then later decide “oh this is bad, you’re getting banned”, especially without saying a word to me.

Further, by not removing the comment elsewhere, you again imply that there is no problem.

Again, it’s hard for ME to know that this is some kind of issue if your staff fails to do their COMMUNITY job.  You are paying them to handle community things professionally.  
Being one sided and failing to notify me of anything until I get a ban notification e-mail is NOT how a community is supposed to operate.   How should I know what is considered OK negative feedback and not, if the people watching these things fail to do their job.

The only understanding I have is that you guys screwed up your job and are failing to understand such a simple concept.  This isn’t agreeing to disagree.  This is me telling you, you are doing it wrong.    You’re a multi-million dollar company.   I should not have to be explaining to you how a simple community forum is supposed to be policed.   The way this was executed goes completely opposite of how any normal functioning forum operates.  

Us backers/supporters paid *you* guys.    You owe it to us to do things correctly.   We are the reason you even exist in any sort of functional capacity.

So again, you, and especially Gina, owe me an apology.    Jobs were failed to be done correctly.

Instead of dancing around the issue, why not just accept it and take this as constructive feedback for your company.     I am not the only backer that thinks the community aspect is being handled poorly.    Would you like me to gather more feedback on the matter and forward it along to you? 

AND, lets not forget, my user name was spelled wrong.    Proofreading is important.

I would also like to point out, had this been executed correctly in the first place, it would have saved your company a lot of time and money that would be better spent on making the game since it’s currently in a dodgy state.    Instead, you’re reading these e-mails and dealing with them.
Portalarium should have:1) Told me my initial comments on Kickstarter were breaking rules.
and, it would have ended right there because we wouldn’t have had the other places to deal with them.  

–Andrew

PS:  You all really need to be clearer on what you consider “acceptable negative feedback”.    Right now it seems like you have no actual guidelines and get to just pick and choose however you feel at the time.


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 7:33 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Rick Holtrop
JAN 15, 2015  |  06:32PM CST
Andrew,
For specific details and guidelines on our expectation of community discourse, please refer to the End User License Agreement, and Forum Rules:
I hope those links are helpful.
I’d like to release the temporary forum restrictions on your account tomorrow. Please remember to consider all conduct going forward against the EULA and rules I’ve linked above. There is always a place on our forums for dissenting opinions and feedback as long as the conversation is kept civil and free from allegations of impropriety.
(And please know that your feedback here has been discussed with other management. All of your feelings and concerns on this matter are taken into consideration at the highest level of the team)
Rick Holtrop, Associate Producer
“Shroud of the Avatar”

Arkhan
JAN 15, 2015  |  09:40PM CST
I can’t read the rules until I am unbanned.

I would like to know what was actually discussed, and what management’s opinion is.   This is probably something you guys should seriously address, because I am not the only one who is pretty miffed.  Other longstanding Ultima fans are as well.

I’ve explained this situation to others, some of which are backers as well, and, the general consensus has been “… that makes no sense.”.
and, as you said:
“. There is always a place on our forums for dissenting opinions and feedback as long as the conversation is kept civil and free from allegations of impropriety.”
Sure.   If this is the case, maybe in the future, it would be better on Portalarium’s end to remove the offending comments instead of leaving them up and engaging in discussions with me in public as if there’s no problem.
I find it hilarious that I had to point out for 3-4 days that it was still up before someone actually removed that comment from the SOTA Facebook.

–Andrew


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2015 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Rick Holtrop
JAN 15, 2015  |  09:10AM CST
Andrew,
Both of the links I sent you are accessible without being logged in, you should be able to read them even before restrictions are lifted.
Rick Holtrop, Associate Producer
“Shroud of the Avatar”

From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2015 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Arkhan
JAN 17, 2015  |  08:12PM CST
Ok.  I’ve read them (the one link was viewable regardless of my Forum login status.).
You didn’t answer the following in my previous e-mail:
I would like to know what was actually discussed, and what management’s opinion is.   This is probably something you guys should seriously address, because I am not the only one who is pretty miffed.  Other longstanding Ultima fans are as well.

and as I have said before, it’s quite unfair to penalize me for comments when Portalarium staff actively engaged me in discussion on said comment.   Mixed signals/double standards aren’t cool.


RADIO SILENCE BEGAN HERE. NOTE THE TIMESTAMPS
From: Andrew Darovich 
To: RicksEmail
Sent: Monday, August 3, 2015 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban

Hi Rick,
I have not heard back from you since *January*, and noted today that I am still banned from the SOTA forums.
What is the reason for this?   
This is beyond unacceptable.
Was my last e-mail not read?  

I am also unable to access any of the account information on ShroudOfTheAvatar.com.   It takes me straight to a 404 page.
I am not sure if this is just some kind of page error, or if it is related to this forum ban.   I really hope it is not related to the forum ban, because I don’t think it is right to be banned from accessing things I paid for.

–Andrew


Arkhan
AUG 04, 2015  |  02:20PM CDT
Forwarding my previous e-mail to here (“support@portalarium.com“) since I sent it to Rick’s normal address instead.  
He was who I was communicating with last, but it’s been so long (JANUARY), that I sort of forgot he was e-mailing through the support e-mail as opposed to his normal address.
Looking forward to some sort of reply / resolution.

Thank you.


From: “support@portalarium.com” <support@portalarium.com>
To: MyEmail
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 3:03 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
______________________________ ____
Please type your reply at the top of the email…
Gina
AUG 11, 2015  |  01:09PM CDT
Heya Andrew,
Thanks for writing in. I checked the status of your case, which had been closed as resolved. It was determined that activity on the SotA website and on the SotA Steam site warranted a permanent restriction from those Communities.
I am not showing any restrictions placed on your in-game access to Shroud of the Avatar, nor any reason why you should be receiving an error message when you try and access your SotA Account. The current restrictions should only impact your ability to post/participate in the Forums/Steam and comment on updates on SotA.com.
Another option I can offer you is to put you in touch with a third party pledge broker who can assist you in selling any portion of your pledge not linked to Steam. If you would like to pursue this option, please let me know.
If you have any questions, or concerns, you can reply to this support case.

You read that last e-mail right.  After months of no reply, they decided (without telling me, or responding to me.), that my activity warranted a PERMANENT BAN, from things that I paid for.  lol.  You can’t make this shit up.  Here’s my reply:
From: Andrew Darovich 
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2015 3:53 PM
To: Support <support@portalarium.com>
Cc: Starr Long <>; Rick Holtrop <>; Richard Garriott <>; Dallas Snell <> YEAH I CC’D THEM ALL.  
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban
Permanently banned?  ..
1) The case was never resolved.  I was never unbanned, to my knowledge.  Portalarium went silent from January until now, despite numerous attempts by me to contact someone.
2) Steam activity?  You are aware that I do not post on Steam, right?   You’re now accusing me of something I did not do, and are penalizing me even further for it.
3) If the above were even true, why was I never notified of anything?
Point #3 is the recurring theme.   I get banned/penalized without warning from anyone at Portalarium.  This is not how moderating a community works, at it’s core.   I have stated this repeatedly, and it has not been acknowledged.
To date:  I have received *zero* warnings for any statements, yet I am somehow permanently banned.   Meanwhile, I hear horror stories of legitimate trolls, terrorizing players (often with racist remarks.). They are getting *repeatedly* permabanned, and terrorizing groups of players who I consider friends.    I think you are focusing on the wrong person here.
Something you all fail to acknowledge is that my initial “temporary ban” was not even executed correctly, by typical forum standards.   You cannot count three strikes at once without doing your job of notifying the person that they’ve done something wrong.
This is even more true when you have staff responding to me in a normal, conversational manner on one of the supposed violations.   It sends mixed signals, and implies that nobody is on the same page at Portalarium.
I have forwarded the entire e-mail chain as far up as Lord British.   I was hoping to hear back by now, but have not.
I have also shared my experience with other backers of various tiers, Ultima Dragons, and other folks who have been keeping up with Shroud.
So far, not a single person thinks what happened to be makes any sense, nor was it fair.   They read the posts that “were in violation”.  They also read the entire e-mail chain from support.
Nobody was impressed.
If you want to foster a good online community, maybe you should heed the input of people who are responsible for allowing your company to even exist in a functional state.
Especially ones who were loyal (read: possibly insane) enough to pledge such high amounts of money at such an early stage in the game.
When you’re miffing Ultima Dragons, it might be time to take a step back and look at things differently.
I will also point out, banning me has also caused me to be unable to file bug reports (which I really needed to do when I was playing last weekend), post feedback, or communicate to the developers on the Dev+ forum.
Parts of that are now a grey area, because you are technically denying me of services I paid for by pledging.
I really hope you guys will finally stop, examine what happened, and realize how off the charts the nonsense is.
As it stands now, I am on the brink of dumping my pledge to someone else, because you are all failing me as a company.
This does not feel like a Lord British game, nor does it feel like a Lord British company, right now.
–Andrew

From: Starr Long 
To: Andrew Darovich 
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2015 10:57 AM
Subject: RE: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban

Andrew,
It is very understandable that you would be frustrated with your experience. It is never pleasant to be removed from a community and that loss of control can lead to all sorts of feelings, none of them positive. It can also be hard to be confronted with your own misbehavior. In fact it can be so hard that many people, like yourself, cannot even face it and instead choose to focus on everything but your own actions.
We appreciate your very early and very generous support of our project and we understand your frustration, we however stand by our decision and your communication during this entire process only reinforces that. Your behavior violated our forum rules and was deemed by us as being harmful to the community. We informed you of that and your reaction was violent, insulting, nitpicky and threatening. You completely ignored your own actions and instead chose to attack our process and pick out details like typos. Even in this last communication you continue to threaten us with besmirching our reputation amongst the Ultima Dragons. You also chose to nitpick about the Steam forum ban comment (which was indeed a mistake, it should have said Facebook instead) but that detail was completely irrelevant to the main points of the discussion.
At any time during this exchange you could have instead chosen to be conciliatory. You could have apologized for your actions and promised to never act that way again. You could have spent this time participating in other communities like the Ultima Dragons in a positive manner and spoken about your excitement for our project. If you had done ANY of these things we would gladly consider reinstating your privileges. In fact there has been at least one other case like yours where we did indeed give the user a second chance after they demonstrated a conciliatory, apologetic, and supportive tone.
Before you respond to this email I want you to consider whether you want our next exchange to be positive or negative. If you choose to approach this exchange in a positive manner I will definitely consider giving you provisional access to our community. If however, at any time, I see any of the behavior and attitude you have shown to date this will be the very last time any of us interact with you about anything.
Starr Long
Executive Producer
Shroud of the Avatar
Portalarium, Inc.

From: Andrew Darovich <dancethetango50@yahoo.com>
To: Starr Long
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2015 3:07 PM
Subject: Re: Notification of Temporary SotA Forum Ban

Starr,
    Finally, one of the people I was hoping to hear from.  Thank you for replying.  This is meant to be a positive e-mail.  If it sounds pissy, it’s not meant to be, so I am sorry in advance.
    Please keep on’ reading.     I’m sometimes a sort of abrasive person (I think the word people use is “surly”), and sometimes can’t really tell if what I’m saying has the tone I’m expecting it to have.
    Before we start here, I’ll point out, I have participated in other discussions with UDIC people about Shroud and such.   I still talk to a lot of them on a daily basis on Facebook or in PMs and stuff.   
    Some of my Shroud comments have been good, some have been bad.   That’s pretty normal for any game.   I’ll routinely bitch about some of my favorite games since just about every game ever made has problems *somewhere*.   The most important thing I’ve noted about the game as of now, is that the overhead map looks awesome.   It was unexpected to see.   Thank you for ditching the goofy looking map.
    I want the game to succeed.   If this wasn’t a Lord British/Ultima related thing, I honestly wouldn’t even be e-mailing.   After the initial ban, I would’ve just shrugged and walked away until the temporary thing went away.   You’ll have to understand, this frustration is out of love/loyalty to this stuff.   It’s not me trying to bring the house down.
    Now, if the Steam thing was indeed an error, that’s fair.  I honestly thought I was being accused of something I didn’t do in addition to what was already being discussed.  I’m sure you could understand how that would make my attitude get worse.  Let’s just chalk that part up to a misunderstanding and forget about it.  I’m glad that’s all it was.  At the very least, I thought maybe someone named Arkhan was on Steam being a giant tool.   My steam name isn’t the same as my Shroud username.
    You’ll also really have to pardon my hostility throughout this.   I don’t think it is as bad as you think it is.  If we ever meet in person, you’ll understand.  Part of it is just how I generally talk.  I’m used to being engaged in heated debates on computer forums full of pissed off dorks arguing about if the Apple II is better than the C64, etc.     It probably sounds worse in text, and then people meet me and hear me talk and go “oh.  what a goon.”.   
Anyway, how do you really expect me to react when I am hastily banned without any warnings for a project I’ve been excited about since day 1?
I’m not even upset about being yelled at for my comments.   I get that what I said was a pretty hard dig at everyone.  I’m aware of this.
What I am upset about is that I wasn’t warned at all, but was banned for “three offenses”!   At most, I would’ve just expected the comments to be deleted, and then be told “dude, stop being a dick.”.    I’ve seen way worse go by unchecked, so this is why I was honestly pretty shocked and annoyed that what I said set off a bunch of alarms.
Put yourself in my shoes.   You’ve got 1500$ sunk into this thing, and you get banned for a pretty short comment…  add in no warnings, no explanations, and put a typo of my username on top, and it’s a recipe for disaster.    I’ll agree there was nitpicking on my part.  I could’ve toned down the e-mails to read less like a Dickens novel, and more like a quick message, but I was a bit shocked/annoyed/mad/confused/ etc., so we ended up with short stories.  I also realize the irony of this statement since there’s like 90000 lines in this e-mail.  😉
I put the same comment in 3 different places when the news blip showed up.  So, it’s a bit of a triple-jeopardy kind of thing.
    What I honestly want to know is, how do the comments count as violations in this sort of manner when someone at Portalarium actually carried a conversation with me on those very posts?  The fact that Portalarium *replied* is the part that is both frustrating, and confusing to me.  One staff member talks to me, and it is a normal exchange…. and then, another bans me.   I don’t get how that works.  It makes it seem like everything is OK when it isn’t.    I think you can understand how this seems strange.  Can you explain?  I’m guessing maybe there was a misunderstanding?   One person moderating deemed it out of line while another was already replying because they had a different opinion?    I’ve been trying to get some sort of understanding / explanation of this from the very start.
I ask because this specifically, is why I am so upset, and is what triggered the overall tone of these e-mails.
I still also don’t understand how a temporary ban can suddenly turn into a permanent ban without any explanation.   The last I heard from anyone, my ban was going to be lifted in January on the 16th or something (whenever the last e-mail from Rick was sent).  If it was going to turn permanent, and not be lifted like Rick had said, why did nobody even saying anything to me?   Being left in the dark about the status of things also doesn’t really make us backers feel great.
    The reason I showed the chain of e-mails to others was to see if I was overreacting, since I’ve been known to do that.   So far, I haven’t been told this.  Many people are all equally confused.  So, this is why I have been trying to get a straight explanation out of someone, and it is the reason why I pointed this out to you guys.  Many people are scratching their heads over this entire series of events, because they’ve seen the e-mail chain, and they also saw the initial SOTA.com/Facebook/Kickstarter comment that initiated the ban.   We’re not talking about trolls and naysayers.  We’re talking about people who actually care.   This sort of thing wasn’t done on my part to destroy your reputation.   It’d take more than one loudmouth dude on the internet to take down an entire company. 🙂
    So, this is an honest criticism of the way your community operates.   An opportunity for the Shroud forums to get a bit better in the eyes of many.  I’m sure you’re aware that there are UDICers and such that don’t even really participate because they don’t like how the moderation happens sometimes.   I am honestly trying to tell you how to help improve that.   I’m involved in a lot of online forums, and have been down in the trenches many times, so I think I honestly have some constructive feedback for the Shroud forums.  You yourself told me over a year ago to contact you about these sorts of things because you wanted to hear from us.    Because I never heard back before, it didn’t help my mood very much.   It creates a mood where I feel like I’ve just been told things to shut me up, and that you don’t actually want to hear anything.
So, I apologize for the hostility, and for flailing around on multiple outlets.   Just remember, it really does take two to tango, so, I would at least like some kind of reciprocation so we can move past this trainwreck and get on with the game.
Just so we’re clear, I’m not seeking an apology for being reprimanded.  It’s more the way it was done, which lead to all of these misunderstandings.  It was very frustrating and confusing, and could have been done better.
I’d also still like to participate in the community (most notably, the Dev+ part).   That was one of the big selling points.   I’m a game developer, and was hoping/expecting to get a lot more feedback in than I was able to… but things took this interesting, unfortunate turn.
As it stands right now, I am moving my pledge to someone else who can make use of the house and stuff.  I’ll get a lesser pledge later.   I’m not too interested in the online portion of the game.
The single player part is what I really wanted to be involved with.
Thanks for reading.  (You did make it this far, I hope.)
–Andrew

After this, Starr chatted with me on FB messenger and they ended up unbanning me.
No apology was ever given.   Starr basically responded in a condescending tone like I was some child being scolded.   I doubt the lot of them even saw what I said, and Gina or someone just said YEA HE WAS BEING BAD.  IT WAS TERRIBLE.
Good thing I screenshotted the comment that got me banned.
I sold my pledge almost immediately after this before they changed their minds, went wackadoo, or did something else.
Their forum moderation was already suspect from many people at the time that I was banned.  Gina (FireLotus) was notorious for taking things personally and just banhammering like Mario in Donkey Kong when you grab the little hammer.
This is what 1500$ pledges get you from a company made up of millionaires that are supposedly the coolest people ever, who fostered the entire concept of MMOs and online communities.
They’re so full of shit they can’t even handle moderating a forum, or properly handling negativity.
How many times did they approach the UDIC FB page and ask for positive steam reviews?
Brilliant suggestion for that:  Fix the things the negative reviews are talking about.
Shroud of the Avatar is a joke.  Portalarium is a mess.  Starr Long is an arrogant diva.  Chris Spears is a pretend game developer.
#shotsfired
and Lord British?  What the hell dude.   How do you sit back and do nothing?   How do you ignore your game going up in flames, and people dragging your reputation through the mud by association?
Rather than making an amazing comeback into the CRPG world, we’ve ended up with the fantasy version of Tabula Rasa.
Like I said awhile ago.  Shroud is like the Challenger.
It launched…. but….
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7 thoughts on “I was banned for doing basically nothing

  1. I think the part that is most revealing about just how corrupt, and thin skinned Portalarium are, is the claim that you were defaming them by expressing your honest opinion about how they had deliberately lied about even what genre of game they wanted to build. And if they see you doing it anywhere the public will notice, they’ll retaliate against you across every forum and mechanism they control.

    And then they try and gaslight you and blame you for their own over-reactions. It really is the logic of the domestic abuser; “Stop making me angry, and you wouldn’t get hit”.

    And they were doing this back in 2015, long before the real tidal wave of disgust with their actions emerged. And they’ve only escalated to even more vile abuses of power since. They are now actively working with parts of their community who have also escalated beyond racism and trolling into committing criminal attacks and endless harassment against critics.

    I wish you’d detailed your experiences whilst they were happening in 2015, and not waited until now to publish; I know that shortly after you went through the terrible treatment above, I began my own exodus from the community because I had become disgusted with how they were manipulating the pledges to further put fund raising before decency and honesty. And so many people then, even some of those who finally woke up later, thought I was insane for archiving and sharing just how badly Portalarium got increasingly vindictive and abusive, all because I refused to stop warning people about what the game really was.

    Still, history has proven us both right in the end. And when people dare challenge their NDAs, we’ll learn how toxic and appalling working for Portalarium was too. I’ve already seen claims that indicate it was as terrible inside as out.

    Like

      1. Fair enough; I can perhaps understand, as even if had you actually stayed and fought, you’d have also been getting fun, fun attention from the hate filled cult community that Portalarium has nurtured and encouraged… fun like this quick sample of this months antics!

        https://imgur.com/a/T1y017W

        Yes, that’s the sociopath who stalks and harasses critics of the game trying to shut down my Minecraft account, and almost every single day trying to get back into my email via proxy servers and manual log ins.

        But I continue to speak out because people NEED to know how both Portalarium and its community is a toxic cesspool of dishonesty and scamming and abuse. It’s the final victory of The Guardian, baby! And the tiny numbers of remaining backers are his Fellowship.

        Liked by 1 person

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