Some things have gone right. The designers wisely took the advice of numerous sage advisors and \’e2\’80\’9cstopped the clock\’e2\’80\’9d on everyone\’e2\’80\’99s first month of free play\’e2\’80\’a6 no word on when that may restart, though one wonders how much more development can be accomplished on the box sale revenues alone, no matter how large they were. Two (reasonably-sized) connectivity patches did all but exterminate the infamous \’e2\’80\’9cflying tank\’e2\’80\’9d problems, although largely by cutting back on other functions. The first widely used exploit, the \’e2\’80\’9ctruck rush,\’e2\’80\’9d was also ruthlessly and efficiently nerfed.

And yesterday, the designers restarted the one thing that everyone wanted from the outset, the single, \’e2\’80\’9c10,000 player\’e2\’80\’9d multiserver world that all the aspiring pilots and tankers were going to zoom around in. Called, ironically, the \’e2\’80\’9ctest server,\’e2\’80\’9d the new one world was peaking at 1,600 players simultaneously last night, generally fairly reliably. This bodes well. And coming, presumably within a day or two, is the long-promised, long-awaited \’e2\’80\’9cbig patch,\’e2\’80\’9d which is supposed to bring the feature set of the game somewhat in line with what\’e2\’80\’99s promised on the box and in the game manual. If this even marginally meets people\’e2\’80\’99s expectations, WW2O may still pull itself out of the spin yet.

That is, if people can be just kept away from the official discussion boards and the diehard fans. Some of these people are so stretched out from this last month of mental anguish the developers have put them through, that they\’e2\’80\’99re about ready to snap. Take as a case study this weekend, which saw some of the real extremists launch a determined campaign to exact vigilante justice on a speedhacker. Unfortunately, like so many vigilantes, they ended up hanging the wrong guy.

It all started some days ago, when a fellow with the unpronounceable moniker of Dshsdksd, in an effort to protest the supposedly increasing use of the speedhack program Gear by ingame cheaters, posted a message with a link to the site of an Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call/Anarchy Online aficionado named Grem. Grem, you see, carries a neat little version of Gear, all zipped up and everything, on his MMOG fansite. Dshsdksd was trying to show how easy it was to get this program that makes, among other things, infantry in WW2O run very, very fast.

Dshsdksd is a long-time poster on the boards, and his post was, while obviously subject to immediate deletion, still an intelligent way of getting his point across. His subtlety was lost, however, on another earnest protester named Coolguyx, who in the wee hours of Monday morning, posted over 200 times in random threads a message containing the same speedhack link. A typical post:

What the fuck, what am I thinking anyway, they can’t ban me, this guestaccount is not my play account name\’e2\’80\’a6 Hatch, tell you what, I am going to post this speedhack over and over again until you guys START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT IN THE GAME!

The aforementioned Rodney \’e2\’80\’9cHatch\’e2\’80\’9d Hodge, online community rep for Cornered Rat Studios/Playnet, did something about it, all right, deleting every Coolguyx post he could find (NB to Hatch: you missed a few.) and promising dark vengeance on the perpetrator — less for the speedhack link than for the spamming, apparently:

You went WAY over the line. We have the IP that you DID use, and will be contacting them tomorrow regarding this issue. I hope it was worth it…

Some other half-crazed fans, however, apparently missed that distinction. Convinced they\’e2\’80\’99d could finally strike back at one of those elusive speedhackers, they hunted down an email address. With some encouragement from Hatch himself, they urged other discussion board members to spam that \’e2\’80\’9cflaming bastard\’e2\’80\’9d right back. Only that kind of cybervigilantism raised eyebrows among a whole bunch of people, who had somewhat more trouble forgetting that annoying little stipulation in the Playnet terms of service about posting email addresses without consent. Wrote one flummoxed World War Two enthusiast:

Hmm This [Coolguyx] bloke probably deserves what coming to him however posting someones details in a public forum like this can only be described as the moronic act of a braggart\’e2\’80\’a6 Now we have started the public shaming excercise by publically announcing private details of the forums patrons?

Sorry. But its wrong no matter how you look at it.

Hatch your doing a good job and its heartening to know that CRS are still wandering the halls of this forum. But if you show bias towards some and allow the actions of others which are just as bad only wear different guises, it detracts from the very reason you are performing your mod duties.

Please delete his information. Be consistant in your editing and stop the “upset cause someone stole my teddy bear” posters before the forum really does turn to crap.

Even leaving the hypocrisy allegations aside, there\’e2\’80\’99s still one problem. The vigilantes GOT THE WRONG GUY. Well sort of: the email address in question belonged not to the annoying Coolguyx, but to Grem himself. And there is no reason whatever to believe that Grem (the AO/AC speedhack facilitator) and Coolguyx (the WW2O speedhack protester) are the same person, or that Grem even plays WW2O. (It\’e2\’80\’99s strangely heartwarming to think that there\’e2\’80\’99s a Gear-user out there at a loss why a whole bunch of historical recreationists suddenly want to kill him.)

In the end, the only one looking bad out of this is the latest potential candidate for the Abashi Customer Service Award, Hatch himself. Hey, Hatch, if you\’e2\’80\’99re listening: we know you\’e2\’80\’99re new, and defending WW2O is probably the Worst Job in the Internet right now, so here\’e2\’80\’99s a tip. It\’e2\’80\’99s probably a bad idea in future to let some fans break the rules in order to cyberlynch other fans who broke the rules, especially when no one involved seems bright enough to finger the right guy in the first place. Next time it might be better to follow the teachings of George S. Patton (Or Brad McQuaid? Same dif.) and \’e2\’80\’9cBan them all. Let God sort them out.\’e2\’80\’9d

For as the guy who started the whole mess, Dshsdksd, put it, without any apparent irony:

I just would hate to see some innocent guy who is hosting a speedhack on his site get in trouble.