And just when you thought we couldn’t have any more Hell Smurf Updates, the Invisible Counselor writes in with this. It’s a long letter, but read it all anyway, because there will be a test later. My comments afterward.

First off, I don’t condone what happened with the jailings. In fact, I think that’s one command we as counselors can do without. Since we are supposed to ask permission to imprison before doing it anyway, there’s no reason we can’t get someone else with more authority to do it for us. Why not just let them take the blame for it instead of some lowly blue guy? Actually, since we have had these commands available to us, I have not used the jail command, nor do I necessarily ever feel that I will since I have more intellectual ways of dealing with problem players. Nuff said about that issue.

I personally came into counseling because I love what this game can do for some people. There are some home-bound or closed off people who can get a great deal out of it. I’m not one of those people, but I can still get the same enjoyment from it. I lead a pretty normal life, I hope, but UO gives me a nice diversion to take me away from that life for a few hours. I’m not the secret police, though, and I refuse to be taken on that path.

I do my shifts as a smurf because people recognize me as someone who has the necessary knowledge and knows I will not PK them as soon as I finish talking to them. In fact, it saddens me when I read the macro discussions in irc. I can tell that the majority of the smurfs in there don’t mind macroing. We just want to help answer questions, but we’re powerless to do anything but turn in a player if another one has reported it. I for one, will not turn in a macroer if I see them unless it was reported to me from someone else. About the only policing I will do is when it comes to managing harassers or bigots. Those are the people I don’t want in this game and I will do what I can to eliminate them.

Contrary to popular opinion, though, the anti-macroing campaign was most likely started by some suit looking at a p&l; statement and figured he could save some money by limiting bandwidth, not by some $10/hour GM. Personally, I feel that if MY pc is connected, whether I’m there or not, then I am using the service. It doesn’t matter if it’s me entering the keystrokes or a program entering them for me. It’s still my PC that’s doing it and I am entitled to use the service I am paying for.

Enough about that, though. What I really intended to write about was Counselor Crom. What Damsel did was compassionate and I feel a better choice than banning. You say she was abusing her authority, I, knowing Damsel, beleive she did what she could to save that person’s account with no malice intended toward Crom. As I said before, most of us don’t mind if someone macros and we all think it’s just plain wrong to lose an account over it. Take that for what you will, but just know that our counselors are doing the best we can with the tools we have. On my shard at least, we actually spend our time in irc helping each other out with callers. The professionalism in there is amazing. Yes, we crack jokes to lighten the mood, but when someone needs help, we shut up and pay attention.

I apologize if this is a bit rambling, but the vast majority of us are there because we enjoy the game and not for some power trip. The image that you have seems to be completely wrong. Just like any place of business, there are good people and bad people. You took an event with a good intent and spun it into the appearance of humiliation, when in fact it was a saving act. Try to take things at face value and don’t read deeper than what actually happened. The main reason we have bad press is because some people just won’t let go of the past.

I’m asking you to let it go and try to see the good that we do. I sometimes wish we could take regular players along with us so that they can see what we actually do. They’d be shocked at what we see sometimes and how well we handle it. Have you ever spent an hour of your time talking to someone you don’t know whos account was hacked and lost a placed tower? I have. We have the job of explaining that they will not likely get any recompense from us since it was their computer that was hacked, not OSI’s. The thing is, though, we have to do it and try to make them feel better and understand why we can’t help them. We don’t just say “You’re SOL” and leave. We take the needed time to talk to them and make them feel better. That’s why we counsel. We want to pass on what we know to others, not keep it to ourselves. I truly hope you can see that.

I’ve gone on a lot longer than I intended, but I am very supportive of the current program. Page a smurf sometime and I think you’ll find some great people out there who dedicate time to just helping out.

OK, where to begin.

First off, there was some controversy over publishing the Crom-Damsel letter at the Lum the Mad Advisory Board (consisting of me, my drink, the peanut gallery in IRC, and the occasional reproving stares of my better half). In the end, I went with it, not because I thought Crom needed to be banned (he didn’t) or because I couldn’t see that the letter writer had quite a nice big grudge against SLC Damsel (s/he did) or even because I just wasn’t tired of bashing smurfs (I am, believe me, I am).

I went with it because I pretty much picked that letter at random out of the 50 or so in my email bitching about SRCs/SLCs/ASRCs/SDGWPRCs. (Unfortunately, the last abbreviation is the only one that I made up.)

Ya want my opinion? Of course you do, that’s why you came to this page. I’ve talked to quite a few smurfs lately, including Papa Smurf himself (sorry, that conversation was strictly off the record), and my opinion of the program hasn’t changed from the days when every K3wld3wd guild had a pet smurf as an invulnerable teleporting scout.

Frankly, recruiting players to give support and aid to other players is a mistake.

Not because those players are somehow evil (most aren’t) or because those players abuse their powers (most don’t); no, it’s a bit more subtle than that.

No, recruiting a player support system from the player base is a mistake because it fosters an atmosphere of cliquish elitism, both among the “rulers” and the “ruled”.

I think the best example here is Siege Perilous. Here we have an expert-level shard. You have this huge sign come up when you log in basically saying “If you aren’t a hardcore expert, stay the hell out.”

Guess what — SP has Cs and SRCs and SLCs and ASRCs and whatever cool abbreviations I forgot. And my question is um, why?

GMs I can barely — just barely accept on SP, mainly because getting stuck on T2A with no way of moving is a very real possibility. But smurfs? I mean, jesus, who the hell is going to call a smurf for help on SP? What, “Hey, Mr. Counselor, I can’t sell anything to these NPCs, what up wit dat?” I mean, this is an expert shard. With expert players. Do they really need a hintbook?

I don’t think so. And I think Siege is getting the usual buttload of Helpful Ultima Online Monkeys because, well, Siege is a cool shard. The same reason we had 10 GMs running around banning macroers the first couple days it was up.. they thought it was cool, too, and their own, special way, they thought they were helping.

I mentioned “rulers” and “ruled” before, and the metaphor bears repeating. I can’t begin to count the number of emails I’ve gotten from Cs and SRCs, some well written, some not, that made the case that C/SRCs were hard working devoted servants of the people unjustly slandered by what I write.

That’s the same thing a Congressman says when the press catches him with the intern. “I’m just trying to do the people’s business!”

I’m sure there’s lots of folks who are Cs and SRCs because they want to help people and help the game that’s eaten far too much of their life already, and I’m sure many, many newbies have appreciated personal tutoring in the vast and bizarre complexity of the Ultima Online gaming system. But ya know what? There aren’t many newbies on Siege.

Unfortunately, and this is a fact that is going to be powerfully argued against by those smurfs reading this, a great many Cs/SRCs get into the program because It’s The Next Step. You know, they got the GM Tinkers, they rocked the enemy guild in PvP, they did the townwars, now it’s time to get the robe and get the kewl powers. And once they do that, the Next Step beyond that is to get more letters in front of your name. SLC? ASRC? There’s so many acronyms in the support program, it makes the US miilitary look like a paragon of clear speech. But those acronyms are important — it’s a tangible reward. Along with that goes access to GMs (although why people would fight over access to barely-street-legal glorified tech support clerks boggles my mind), access to news and updates not given to everyone else… you know. Access. Juice. The part and parcel of being inside.

Communities foster this raging elitism… I’ve gone on before about the “Test Guild” and the “Shardies”, and this is another, more openly visible symptom thereof.

But you know what pisses me off, why I keep raging about all this?

Not that the people themselves are imperfect… the last perfect person got nailed to a cross and left for the crows a couple thousand years back, and we’ve been pretty short on perfect people since. No, what really trips my flamethrowing pineal gland is that OSI, and to a much lesser, much less organized extent Verant, have hit on the possibilities of exploiting that elitism for their own corporate gain. Because when you have hundreds of people willing to work for you for free supporting your product, why the hell would you ever need to pay anyone?

And that’s why this will never change, and why this is the last rant on this particular subject. Because human nature, and the nature of greed, are not things that can be easily fixed. Merely pointed at, for easy recognition, while we whistle in the dark as we pass.