A community crime: Take 2

RogueSlayer | 21 March 2009 | 17 comments (off)

A few days ago, I was reading through numerous official forums for different MMORPG games.  On this day I noticed one of particular curiosity.  I was a announcement post made by Ex Libris on the City of Heroes forums.

A Word Regarding Outside Solicitations

Those of us here at the City of Heroes® franchise wanted to take a moment to comment on solicitations our players may receive from outside sources—either in-game or through our message board system. We would like to acknowledge that we know these kinds of communications occur. It is unfortunate that people do this…but we also recognize and accept the fact that ultimately, we do not have control over the messages our customers with valid accounts send one another. Although we cannot stop someone from initially communicating with you – whether it be RMT (real money transaction) related, another game company trying to lure you to their competing product, or general spamming…we are in a position to investigate the situation (and potentially take action) once a solicitation has occurred, for it is a direct violation of our Terms of Service and EULA (End User License Agreement).

We also like to periodically remind our players to be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from NCsoft and ask for your personal and account information. All such communications should be looked at with a skeptical eye and any asking you specifically for your password and/or special question information are NOT from us (and therefore, might be a scam). We never ask our players for this information and recommend that you never give it out to anyone. We also recommend that you not reveal your email address in either your profile or signature on the boards as it makes it much easier for you to be targeted by those attempting to phish information from you.

If you experience a solicitation like any of those mentioned above, please feel free to contact us at with the specifics so that we may look into the situation. Thank you very much for your cooperation - we appreciate your assistance regarding this matter!

~The City of Heroes Team~

Obviously my interest was peeked.  Tonight, I started to dig around to see if any information was leaked out regarding this.  It was not much of a dig at all as everything had been made public and was now residing at ground level.

Evidently, community (or at least that is my assumption here, there may have been others) employees over at Cryptic Studios used the PM system over on the City of forums to recruit people for their own closed beta.

This is not all speculation at this point as IronAngel from Cryptic posted the following yesterday on the Champions forum.

IronAngel post

“So, we’re currently running the closed beta test for Champions Online and a few of our employees thought it might be a good idea to contact avid MMO notables and various guild leaders floating about to see if they wanted to test. I’m certain this wasn’t meant to be a malicious attack on a competing product, nor did anyone intend to steal players, violate user agreements, kill babies, or knife hardworking farmers in the back. We had invites to send and the folks who send them figured people who play MMOs most might want them most. If a line was crossed, it was totally inadvertent and no harm was intended.

That being said, we have just recently restructured the Community, PR, and Marketing departments (part of the reason I’m here), so we’ll make sure to stay straight as an arrow from here on. Shills, poaching, bullshotting… No chance, man. We make good games and we hope people will play them. Best anyone can do, right?”

I appreciate all of you PM’ing me letting me know your concerns. Hopefully this will explain things a little better...

Which was also followed up in an e-mail to massively.com

“So, to the point then… I am sorry. Cryptic is sorry. This should not have happened. It was inappropriate and it will not happen again. Please understand that we truly did not intend any offense, though. The people involved are very sorry about it, believe me. This has been a big headache when it should have been as simple as, ‘Hey, any MMO guild folks want to play Champions?’”

All I can do is sit here and shake my head while thinking about this.  Last year, I had been given the chance to interview with Cryptic prior to the announcement of Champions.  It was for a community position.  Boy, did I blow that interview big time.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I said out load that I would not hire myself after that.  Luckily though, all of my interviews have not been like that. :) But I digress.

One of the questions I was asked during that particular interview was where I would bring players in from.  I am damned if I would of said from the “City of” forums during the interview or any time there after.  That is just not done.  Not in good faith at least.

Before being laid off last month due to the economic downturn, the place I worked at was right across the street from a Ford (NCSOFT) stamping plant.  Not once did I ever see a truck hauling new GMC (Cryptic) vehicles go into their parking lot and ask people (potential beta testers) to try their product out.  While not a perfect analogy, it does represent a like situation.  Just how long would Ford allow that to happen?

There are many other ways of recruiting people for game testing.  Lets go over a few here.

Third party sites: Places such as MMORPG.com, Zam, Ten Ton Hammer, Stratics, Massivley.com and so on.  These all cater to more than one game and I am sure would be happy to help out in finding some beta testers.  They may even be willing to data mine their own users for a specific demographic that the company is looking for.

Fan sites of your own game: Are there no Champions online fan sites that one could find guild leaders and or others at?  Granted, this may have been used for some but obviously could have been looked at again.  Contact the owners and ask properly for their help.

Fan sites of other games: While this is not the best or first way to go about things, it is an option that does not cross another companies EULA.  The worst a site owner can do is say “no”.  At least when approached properly.

Large multi game communities: This could be places like gamerDNA who claim to specialize in this or even a place like The Older Gamers here.

Your own forums for crying out load!: Now, this is not to say that you want to pick up every random forums member at this point.  If you are looking for a specific demographic, those prerequisites should have been built into the application form.  Such as “are you a guild leader in any game you currently play?”, “What games do you play?” and so on.  With those two alone, you can cross reference guild leaders and “City of” players who are already interested in your own game.

I may have oversimplified things above, but even so, it should still be enough to get you a great deal of people.  If not, then your own promotion of the game in the months leading to beta has not been good nor has the word of mouth from people who already belong to your community.  That in itself can be quite telling.

The above paragraph aside though (as I have nothing of substance to base it on as being true), what has transpired has in every way possible been a community crime that has not only tarnished Cryptic but the industry as a whole as well.

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17 Comments so far

I would not be surprised if the culprits on Cryptic’s side were new people in community management who were former CoX player enthusiasts which perhaps started to contact some old game friends, not realizing the ethics and responsibilities of their position.

With a large part of the current CoX NCSoft staff being old collegues to many of the Cryptic folks I think they probably have sorted out much of it internally and not so likely to happen again.

At least I hope so.

Buisiness is by its very nature predatory. a minor investment in a competitors product through which potential to get a number of competitors clients interested or at least AWARE of your product. Any (free) publicity is good publicity esp when a simple apology can be seen by most people as a acceptable resolution an offence such as this and the only down side is at most the loss of the gaming account used.

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