Getting a LOT of email about this one, as you can well imagine.

If you’re looking for the Holy and Apostolic Verant Guide Guide, first off it’s a fairly dry read and no 3l33t s33krits are really revealed therein. But if you insist, a couple of mirrors that I have no control over and personally disapprove of are here and here. I suspect they will disappear shortly, to be replaced by others.

There’s precedent for all this, and it’s not a very pleasant one, both for myself (who would prefer to remain financially solvent, thank you) and for Verant, who I suspect really does not want to be equated in the public mind with the folks I’m about to equate them with.

The Church of Scientology is neither a church, nor particularly scientific. In fact, they are a fairly decent exhibit in how in America, if you have enough money, you can buy respectability no matter how bugfuck in the head you are. Their schtick is to “clear” your “engrams” of bad things, a fairly expensive and somewhat invisible process. L. Ron Hubbard, a bad science fiction writer who allegedly founded Scientology on a bet, turned Scientology into a church/cult after its initial incarnation as a health and fitness tool was looked down on by the Feds in the 50’s.

If you pay enough money to Scientology, you get to learn more and more 3l33t s33krits. Pay LOTS of money and you eventually learn that Hawaii was nuked 65 million years ago and some alien named Xenu is fighting for YOU against other evil aliens. Or something. At any rate, you had better hope I got most of that wrong, because according to Scientology if you read the previous and aren’t an “Operating Thetan” (someone who paid in a LOT of money) you will immediately die. (Possibly from laughing yourself into a coronary.)

There’s a bunch of folks on the Internet, some ex-Scientologists, others just really sick of lame cults making lots of money, who congregate on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. One of them started posting the SEEKRIT DOCUMENTS of the church, and they started going up on websites.

The Church’s response? Sue ’em. They asserted in court that the SEEKRIT DOCUMENTS, in addition to causing instant death to unbelievers, were copyrighted and those people disseminating and distributing them were violating Scientology’s copyright.

The dissident’s reponse were that the SEEKRIT DOCUMENTS held a newsworthy value beyond the copyright held by the church and thus the posting of them without profit motive was legal.

(Any of this sound familiar yet?)

Well, guess what, campers. The Church won. The dissidents retreated to offshore hostings of the SEEKRIT DOCUMENTS, but not before several of them were financially ruined. (Netcom, at the time one of the largest ISPs in the country, was a defendant and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.)

Of course, I’m not really saying Verant is an unstable cult firing off legal missiles at dissident netizens, but the tactic of using legal bullying to inhibit Internet-based disclosure of source material is nothing new.

On to the mailbag. It’s damn near burst, so we’ll only do the lowlights – er highlights. Delusion writes J. Smedley Esq. and cc’s me with this:

This is in regards to your letter written to Lum ( regarding the removal of your Guide Manual.

If Lum comes off as opinionated and irritable, it reflects upon the staff of his site – namely just Lum himself. What’s more, it’s obvious to the casual reader that his site is about, well, ranting. If you don’t like his attitude and his editorial stance, it’s not because you were sold on a false expectation.

If Lum acts unprofessional and offends your sense of how to do business, again, that reflects poorly on the shareholders of his company. Oh wait, I don’t suppose he has one, does he? So again, I guess that reflects on him.

But here’s what I keep asking myself over and over…

What’s your excuse?

“I like my quake with rocket launchers, not effete elves and potkettle dwarves.”

A former EQ guide reports:

I am a guide, Or lets say I used to be until a power tripped GM decided he didn’t like me and got me “Dismissed”. Frankly customer service at verant is a joke and it is very much the Us versus them attitude up in the Airplane as well as on the guide boards. While this isn’t the way all guides or GM’s are it is a sad majority. I also want you to know I have a version of the P&P; downloaded just last week with NO COPYRIGHT info so if there is one now it was added because of this incident not before it. I prefer not to be named on the site because verant has a lot of my personal info due to my involvement in the guide program.

Someone else writes:

Whatever happenend to common sense over at your place? You post confidental material on your website and then bitch about being forced to put it down? Any sensible person would have checked with Verant beforehand. I mean – did it now dawn on you that GM guidelines might, just might, be confidential material? Ah well, america… (gotta love those ‘common sense applies’ stickers on shampoo boxes)

I probably should have checked with Verant beforehand, just so I could add to my stack of “You are a valued customer! Your feedback has been recieved!” form letters.

And again:

I check your site every day even though I’ve never played Ultima On-line or Everquest in my life. You’ve made the scene interesting enough so that a non-player like myself will read the updates and be wholly entertained.

Supposedly someone will bring cable modems and DSL lines into Fort Collins at some point in time, and I had planned on signing up to either UO or EQ when that day arrives. I had really not made a decision either way before yesterday. The guys in charge of those two games couldn’t — apparently — be any farther apart.

I met Richard Garriot last summer at E3 and he was really a friendly, down to earth guy. Er, as much as someone who lives in a castle can be. The guy has nothing to prove to anybody, yet he still took the time to talk to me personally, ask me about my company and then give me his take on how Ultima 9 was going. If there’s anyone in the industry who could get by on momentum it’s Garriot, but he still made the effort to come off as a solid citizen.

Meanwhile, there’s our boy Smedley — apparently the fricking President of a company, here — with nothing better to do than hunt down evil, rogue news sites and threaten them with legal action. I mean, really — “Is that Bad Cop enough for you?” Who on earth talks like that? The only reason I’m remotely interested in his game to begin with is because guys like yourself let the masses on the outside know what’s going on in there. Hell. If I pay ten bucks a month to play Asheron’s Call it’s probably because I want to see some guy named “Effeminate Sailor” rag on brain-dead leets or meet “Nighthawk”, not because I have a burning desire to replicate the experiences I had playing The Bard’s Tale ten years ago and kill laggy drakes.

As far as I’m concerned, Smedley gave me all the reason I need not to give him any Gammons because he attempted to play net.cop over his laughably awful training guide. Maybe if you need to specifically address and outlaw “doodspeak” then you’re not recruiting through solid channels, hoss. What an awful ambassador for his product.