Ultra Drama on Eq2flames.com

Well, a guy takes a few days away from the keyboard, and what happens? Only the biggest flurry of drama ever on Eq2flames.

It’s come out that some game developers, employees of SOE, play the game in their spare time. In fact, some of them belong to raiding guilds. In fact, some of them belong to one of the top raiding guilds in the game, Ne Plus Ultra.

That, in and of itself, isn’t what’s got people so riled up. What’s really grinding teeth is the evidence presented that some of these employees are handing out game information to their guild. So far, to support this claim, I’ve seen screenshots from guild forums, and an alleged email, giving quite extensive details on how the upcoming encounter with Trakanon, in Trakanon’s Lair, accessed through Veeshan’s Peak, will work.

It is claimed that free transfers were given to players who just happened to end up on the Guk server as members of Ne Plus Ultra.

There are some other charges which I find to be unfounded slander, and so I won’t repeat them here. All the above charges at least have some evidence in their favor, though screenshots and repostings bear something less than absolute authority.

In addition, there has been an escalation of tension between the administrators/regulars of eq2flames and SOE community relations. Real life names, email addresses and character names of EQ2 developers were published, or “outed”. Rumors of other abusive behavior by game devs in game were published.

In retaliation, SOE’s Community Relations Department sent LFG, the administrator of Eq2flames a letter stating that they no longer want him to participate in their Influencers Program. I gather that this is a program for reviewers, etc., Sort of an online press program through which members get, under NDA, early access to new material and announcements, as well as more contact with game developers and plans.

LFG has posted that he has not, nor will ever, publish any information given to him under NDA.

Were the developer’s names, emails, and character names under NDA? I don’t know, and furthermore, it wasn’t LFG that published them, but another regular named Snark, but, as administrator, LFG does have the power to remove them.

There’s an old saying that it’s much easier to start a war than to stop it. That feels like what’s going on now. Charges, countercharges, hurt feelings, lashing back, the situation is in an escalating spiral. Eventually it will stop, and there will be fallout everywhere.

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I started reading Eq2Flames a couple of months ago. It has two notable differences from the official SOE boards. First, posts are not censored for coarse language. Second, posts are not censored for material that reflects negatively on SOE business policies or developers. Site rules do prohibit incitement to or threats of violence, incitement to violation of the terms of service, or existing laws. Posting of material that is in violation of NDA’s is prohibited too.

However, posters are otherwised encouraged to express their feelings in as colorful or dramatic way as possible, and this is often viewed as entertainment, a la Jerry Springer. I am, in spite of the red hair, not in the habit of being overly dramatic, so it came as a bit of a shock. But I soon grew to like it, for reasons that are a little hard to explain.

We need to talk to each other, to say how we really feel. To stand in the full force of the hurricane of emotion, I guess. For every poster saying how fucked up something or other is, there are others who will mock them for their drama, and tell them exactly how they are being stupid. And perhaps more. As a student of humanoid nature, as all illusionists are, this sort of electronic primal scream holds some strange fascination. Just as I’m sure the shattering of Luclin did for those upon Norrath.

There is good information in the forums, valuable information. And, in the past, certain developers would post there. That will happen no more, it seems. And that’s a shame.

Though to tell the truth, Eq2flames might be better off for having no official ties to SOE. As part of the Influencers program as well as running a site where people feel free to criticize SOE, there is an inherent, though perhaps sometimes latent, conflict of interest. As long as the site keeps its current rules, I think this can only make it better, even if it is inconvenient to LFG.

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As far as developer behavior, I’m definitely not happy with the idea that game developers would pass out information and/or favors selectively, so as to give their non-job-related toons an advantage. To most of us, it doesn’t really matter, we aren’t really about getting there first. But to the people that are trying to stay at the head of the pack, this is a significant advantage. The amount of material on Trakanon would probably take a guild several hours to deduce from logs, not to mention repair costs. This should not have happened.

I generally think it’s a good idea that game devs play the game in their spare time. It gives them a better idea of what goes on, and how the game really works for a player. The problem comes when they start using their insider information to help themselves in competitive situations. I am not in favor of this. Ideally, no information given out should be exclusive. If you’re going to tell one group, tell everyone. And no financial incentives to join a developer’s guild should be handed out, either. That’s a definite problem.

Unfortunately, retaliation has muddied the waters. SOE developers who were probably uninvolved, and perhaps even sympathetic were probably outed. SOE will certainly focus more on its own injury than on cleaning up its act. In the same way, the focus at Eq2Flames the focus has shifted from the initial, legitimate issues to the escalation.

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