FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK [Author: Lum the Mad]

First, from Mr. Sage to the Destination-Games email list comes these comments on Arcadian Del Sol’s post:

I understand being angry, but I do not understand this kind of provocative action and name calling. For those who aren’t aware, OSI can’t possibly comment on this publicly, because to do so violates a policy of publicly discussing contracts of employment outside of the only parties which should be involved. I don’t really know what happened, but I can tell you I firmly believe in that policy. It saves more people than it hurts.

Basically, the only thing to come out of this will be people once again questioning something that they won’t have all the facts to really form a concrete opinion on. This is PRECISELY the reason people, (i.e. me) are hesitant to address communities at large. It only takes one person speaking out of turn, and without all the facts, to incite others to form conclusions. It is nothing more than someone jumping on every little thing you say or do and ripping it to shreds. It just isn’t productive and at some point it is going to cause the worst possible outcome. It is extremely important that the leaders of the community stand up and act professionally to get their ideas heard. More people (read: suits, or people with the money) read such messages than anyone understands, and they probably react a bit differently than you might hope.

Communication between developers and the community is vital to what we do. Blatant negativity for the sake of sensationalism jeopardizes that more than ANYONE realizes. There is no guaranty that MMORPG or MM worlds are here to stay. Everybody seems convinced they are, but believe me, they’ve sold more hoola hoops, pet rocks, etc. We all believe these worlds can be improved, but there is a right way, and wrong way to get the message across. We really do have to act together, developers and community alike, to grow this genre into something better.

For me, taking this into a personal level by Arcadian disappointed me. I have always respected him up to this point, but I don’t understand this at all. Certainly, all my future contact with Arcadian, should there be any at all, will be done with this incident firmly in my mind regardless of whether I want it there or not. As I said, I know nothing about the incident with Mindtrip, as I am not employed by OSI anymore. I am, however, still aware of the faces behind the names, and I wish that everyone would stop treating good people as if they are a faceless corporation, for whatever reasons. I am not at OSI anymore, but I do know Usul. I know him to be a stand up guy, and not someone who does things lightly. I also respect Mindtrip for all the passion he has put into what he has done for the community of Ultima Online. Imagine if your career were the subject of message boards. Are you sure your daily decisions would be spotless?

Next, a letter I recieved two years ago regarding a rumor we posted about UOVault (the fact that UOVault editors were in fact paid employees – which, of course was true back in the good old days)

Some thoughts on your post regarding the UO Vault making money off of information fed to it by OSI. It doesn’t take a quantum leap of logic to see through this kind of conspiracy theory, something both your and Twister’s pages thrive on.

The fallacy here is in the assumption that the UO Vault posts “sugar-coated” information “fed” to it by OSI. Anyone who reads the page regularly knows that eight out of every 10 posts are about player events. These posts are “fed” to the vault by players. The remaining 20 percent or so of the vault’s posts, the ones pertaining to the game itself, are lifted from UO’s official web page. Occasionally posts are derived from running threads on the Dev board. Hardly a secret pipeline.

The exceptions here, perhaps, are the posts regarding the awards UO occasionally wins. I think these kind of posts probably add up to less than a couple dozen over the life of the UO Vault page. Hardly a torrent of “exclusive” information “fed” from the parent company.

What I find disappointing, actually, is the fact that this latest post was prefaced with the usual blather about you being unable to confirm the information. This kind of hands-in–the-air, wink-wink type disclaimer has been stripped across the top of many of yours and Twister’s more salacious posts over the past few months. Every now and then, your dear readers are treated to an addition line about the “restraint” you and dear Twister showed in holding back the information and trying to confirm it.

In the end, however, it is never confirmed because it cannot be confirmed. I have worked as a reporter and editor in the newspaper businesses for 12 years (which, of course, you cannot confirm …) and the only way stories are confirmed are when real people using real names go on the record to describe events that correlate and cross-check. Off the record sourcing is still used, of course. But outside of the Beltway in Washington, it is being examined heavily as a means of reporting due to the complete collapse in the public’s faith in the media. Gannett, for one, forbids off the record sourcing, with rare exceptions.

The vast majority of the insider exposes that grease the pages of yours and Twister’s sites are one-sided, single-source stories that in my business have ZERO credence value. None whatsoever. What they do have is entertainment value.

Alas, blessed be the power of the ‘Net whereby fiction takes on the seeming appearance of fact and the rabid ramifications of that transformation run loose without a leash. I think Tyrant had a valid point that was glossed over — or perhaps seemingly ignored — in his response to the whole “Sex, Lies and GM’s” thread. That is, he said “These ‘corruption’ stories from the past set us back by damaging consumer confidence.”

Indeed they did. For so long as egomaniacal players with access to web space such as yourself and Twister — and PLEASE, let’s stop kidding ourselves that you and he are not virtually one and the same — serve up these posts, and so long as they are read by players who lack the understanding of how little value they have given the utter lack of on-the-record confirmation, then the myth of OSI as “a corporate, profit-minded cabal out to screw the player” will continue on into perpetuity.

Good day,

Bosola of Catskills

And finally, my response from two years ago, unedited.

Never let it be said I don’t spotlight criticism; here’s some fairly well-targeted thoughts, and some I’ve wondered myself of late. Let’s run down the list.

About the UO Vault. I don’t think anyone thinks the UO Vault is engaged in a secretive conspiracy with OSI to get the R33T st0ries in exchange for d0llops of dollar$. It’s a touch more banal than that — The Vault is now a money making concern, and as such has no editorial integrity in covering stories that might reflect badly on Origin — botched patches, broken promises, felonious GMs, what-have-you.

This is a concern faced by all the “major”, “respectable” sites. Stratics, for one, has shown some editorial spine in the past lambasting Origin for among other things abandoning any pretense of a plot line in UO. Most gaming “news” sites, however, MMORPG related or otherwise, do exhibit an unsurprising lack of willingness to bite the hand that feeds them.

As for Origin, specifically, I’ve seen the email press releases that Calandryll sends out (not to me, specifically, I’m not l33t enough to be on The List, nor should I be since I’d ignore 9/10ths of them) and UOVault is one of a very long list, including some sites I’m sure many of you have never heard of. Origin makes an effort to keep as many sites in the loop as possible.

The point of the article wasn’t that Origin and UOVault were involved in some Seekrit Cabal, but that UOVault is a money-making operation that left the word “news” somewhere off in the distance.

As for the “wink-wink nudge-nudge” prefacing the story. You are correct in that I do not pretend to be a paragon of journalistic sourcing; you are incorrect in assuming that I have ever pretended to be so. The title of the website is not “The News, Reported By Lum the Mad” for a reason. There are many other websites who do that well, some of which are not named “UO Vault”.

There’s probably two models for this website that I try to emulate, both of which as a “professional journalist” you no doubt despise. Those would be Matt Drudge and the Free Republic. The former as a self-professed “publish everything, and get 60% of it right” amateur “journalist”, who is far more well-read and influential than those who condemn him, and the latter, as a voice for those who don’t feel that they have much of one.

As for Tyrant’s concern that the recent stories on volunteer/GM corruption have “damaged consumer confidence.” — am I supposed to be responsible for this? Cry me a fucking river. I don’t make up these stories out of whole cloth. And on this particular subject I had sat on numerous submissions about volunteer/GM collusion before starting to run with some of the more outrageous ones. They were not single-sourced. I have dozens more like them, unpublished, and I ran them by my editor (that would be me) before running the stories. These were not an isolated phenomena or the caterwauling of the mentally unstable. There are some real problems with Origin’s system of using volunteer labor to staff its customer service, and that is what is causing Origin’s “damaged consumer confidence”. Shoot the messenger all you want.

The bottom line is that this is an opinion/gossip/unprofessional rantings site, not a news site. And if you disagree with my choice of news stories, the Internet has about 9 trillion other pages more worthy of your attention.

What do you think? Which view of where our site should be – what sort of stories we should publish, what opinions we should present, where would you like to see this unwieldy beast slouch towards?

My own guidelines have always been, simply, to post what I think. The truth, not “news” or opinions shaded by a desire to impress A or distress B or shame C. Simply what’s in my head. The other writers operate the same way. If they didn’t, I’d fire them.

Is it time for new guidelines? Again, what do you think? After all, it’s your site now.