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An open letter to MMORPG.com: Back up your writers

August 3, 2009

It’s not too often that I like to critique another site’s policies or methods, especially a group that is technically a “competitor.”  Yet, after reading a post today on the MMORPG.com forums regarding one of their recent Darkfall articles, I feel that I need to speak out.

While not everyone may agree with it, MMORPG.com’s Jeffery Hargrove is a member of The Exodus Syndicate, the currently leading guild on Darkfall’s North American server.  His piece focused squarely on The Exodus Syndicate’s rise to power on day 1 of the Darkfall launch and how they did it.  While I don’t exactly agree with the relevance of the piece (it kind of felt like a “look at how l33t we are” account) I’m not someone who’s going to call for it to be ripped down.

But, people being people, they are calling for it to be ripped down off of the site for one small, tiny, insignificant problem — he mentioned bloodwalling.  To get everyone on the same page, bloodwalling is going afk next to a wall, which allows other members of your clan to beat on you to increase their offensive skills while you increase your defensive skills, all while you’re not at your keyboard.  It’s against the game’s Terms of Service, but the damn practice is so commonplace that it’s hard to NOT bloodwall, as it puts you at a high disadvantage in combat if your skills are too low.  But, seeing that skilling up anything in Darkfall is an extremely painful endeavor, no person playing the game “for real” can come close to someone bloodwalling… hence why everyone and their mother does the bloodwall.  They do it to stay competitive and not die every five seconds in combat.

The whole mention of the bloodwall is as follows:

Our bloodwall was the final contribution of players too tired to stay awake. Those who had fallen off earlier awakened to a few hours of un-interrupted skill ups.

Now, because people have complained so hard about the fact that he says The Exodus Syndicate has a bloodwall, MMORPG’s editor Jon Wood (Stradden) has taken a second look at the article.  He’s contacted the illustrious Tasos Flambouras from Aventurine and has asked if bloodwalling is against the developer’s wishes and if it is then they will take the article off the site.  In Wood’s own words:

If the aforementioned issues turn out to actually be against the rules we will, of course, remove the article from publication, take appropriate internal action and issue an apology and a correction.

I can tell you straight up that bloodwalling is against Aventurine’s wishes.  I can also tell you that, seriously, every clan does it.  I’m not committing an act of hyperbole here when I say that.  It’s just how this game goes, and I don’t see Aventurine walking in and booting people who do it.  I even admitted to doing it openly in my article, and my account hasn’t been terminated yet.

My point here, out of all of this, is MMORPG.com should not take down this article simply because it mentions a practice that the developer doesn’t want people to know about.  If he was explaining in detail how to cheat at Darkfall, then I would take issue with it.  But, in this article, he simply mentions the practice and that his guild has engaged in it.  That’s it.  He’s retelling what happened and that’s the basic practice of journalism.

You may not like the fact that Exodus Syndicate has been doing a bloodwall, but that has nothing to do with the veracity of this article.  The article is solid.  It happened.

If they rip down this article simply because it contains a word that Aventurine doesn’t like being said, then MMORPG.com is saying that they don’t want to back up the reporting of their writers.  It’s saying that when push comes to shove, they’re going to back down to a developer’s wish simply because an article might cause controversy.  Sometimes the point of a journalist IS to cause controversy, but only when that controversy is grounded in truth.

Bloodwalling HAPPENS.  I have SCREENSHOTS.  You can’t IGNORE IT or DENY IT.

Case in point — if Shawn Schuster pulled down my Darkfall article from Massively.com simply because Aventurine doesn’t want us talking about bloodwalling, I would have been furious.  Shawn saw my article before it went to press and he had the chance to stop it from going up.  He knew the content, but he put his seal of approval on it anyway.  If he would have taken it down, I would have lost faith in him.

It would have said to me, “Why should I go out and do my reporting when someone else can come in, suggest that they don’t like the content because it doesn’t suit them, and then have my article taken down?”  It’s abhorrent.  It’s lying.  It’s pandering to an outside source and denying facts.  It’s dangerous.

You do not rip my article, or any other journalist’s article down simply because the developer doesn’t like it.  You issue the developer’s rebuttal and leave it at that, so both sides get a say.  You really don’t take “internal action” against a writer when his reporting is grounded in truth.  Exodus Syndicate did this, he’s admitting to it.  He’s not slandering Aventurine or making up events.

If you agree with me, then go to MMORPG.com’s forum thread on this and tell them to back up Jeff.  Do it because I can tell you that his reporting is solid and that article doesn’t deserve to be ripped down just because it makes Aventurine look like idiots.

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4 comments

  1. Very much agreed, in hindsight. I was quite appalled by the mention of bloodwalling in the article, but I think it was because of the whole tone of the piece – you’ve been writing about your experiences in Darkfall, Jeff is only talking about how great his guild is. You go in and report on a phenomenon that takes place in Darkfall, Jeff actually sounds happy about it.

    I guess there’s a difference, that someone playing the game and being “top dog” admitting to cheating. It’s more or less like if Nihilum getting a world first and stating, as a matter of fact, that they used an exploit.

    But I agree that in any case, MMORPG.com should back him up. I’m quite happy that they posted the article for it does show how broken the core design of Darkfall really is. Changing it now would probably turn the whole thing into a NGE-mess.


  2. I agree. It’s dangerous to bow to the wishes of a few whiners who to think that if they stick their head in the sand practices like this will go away. There is more than one way to play a game. Just because some people use bloodwalling doesn’t mean they’re cheating. People need to stop crying about it.


  3. As a journalist I find the idea of the site changing the article pretty appalling. As someone who plays MMORPGs, I find the idea that somebody can “cheat” like that and not have the developers change something a little silly too. It kind of reminds me of the gold trade in WoW; it is against the rules, but traders and buyers are just a numerous as ever, despite “efforts”.
    On a side note, I just came across your blog because some people have come to mine via a link (related posts, I think). I like the articles. Also, I have never heard of a girl with the name Colin, which happens to be my name as well. Nifty.


  4. MMORPG.com is a business, like any other, trying to make a profit. They probably rely on good relationships with developers for exclusive content, interview, and other things to promote their site. So, there is another side every story. Is the article of one contributor really worth the relationship with the developer?

    That being said, it is appalling that censorship of a person’s editorial would be allowed on any site. We have to take it into context though. Is MMORPG.com more a site about opinions and blogs about games? Or is it about new games, patches, releases, stories etc from the developers of games? What attracts the audience to the site?

    I think it may be a little quick to bring out the torches to say that censoring this fellow’s article is ruinous to the business model, or even the ethical model before assessing what the nature of MMORPG.com really is. Is its primary audience those who read contributor blogs and editorials? Or is it content exclusively provided by the developers?

    As a quick example, beta keys. I know MMORPG.com receives, at times, exclusive beta key distribution for some games. Alienating a developer might hurt that relationship, and even branch out from there. Is it less harmful to the business model to censor a few articles, or alienate the developers?

    We have to remember that these are people trying to make a living. They don’t have the luxury to stand up to “big business” when that is who may very well be paying their bills. Even forum readers, those who visit forums very often visit the site the most. Reader counts pay bills.

    I agree that censorship is apalling, but we just have to take into account what kind of business they’re running. I highly doubt it is in the sense of “free press” that CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews runs. The rules are different.



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