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Author Topic: Stealing from Friends: Things That Cryptic Should Stop Doing  (Read 45916 times)
UnSub
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on: March 16, 2009, 09:03:20 PM

Let's not pretend for one second that the MMO industry is a friendly place, full of friendship, flowers and bunnies. When a multi-million dollar product and dozens of jobs are on the line, competition will be fierce and taking market share (read: players) from your competition is going to be a basic business practice.

However, there are lines you don't cross because 1) even competition should follow some rules of professional conduct, and 2) it opens the door for everyone to do the same thing to you. Representatives of Cryptic Studios crossed this professional line in the sand recently by going into City of Heroes / Villains (CoH/V) - their old product, which they sold to NCsoft - and, using PMs sent through the forums and allegedly through in-game message systems, attempted to lure players into the Champions Online (ChampO) beta test - their new product.

Here's a copy of the forum PM:

Hey <name>, this is Diamonds from Cryptic Studios.

We would like to offer you beta access to Champions Online (if you don’t already have it). We’re specifically reaching out to you so that you can get a chance to see the game before it goes live. If you already have applied for beta, then we would like to accelerate your application.

If you are interested in the Beta for Champions Online please feel free to email me at <emailname>@crypticstudios.com.

Thanks!
Diamonds


According to all my attempts to validate this, it is a genuine message. Their might be other phishing scams going on around CoH/V right now, but this is a real attempt to pull players out of CoH/V and get them into ChampO. Diamonds is a recognised yellow name - it's Chris Stewart, who is a Web Programmer for Cryptic . 

For those playing at home wondering why this is bad, the use of one title's communication methods to true to steal them to another title is just plain wrong. It's unprofessional, it looks incredibly petty for Cryptic to try to steal key players from their old game to their new one and that it is being done in such a sneaky fashion shows that the people involved know that it is wrong. To use an internet analogy, this isn't just two restaurants competing for the same customers, this is one restaurant sending service staff into the other and trying to get people to walk across the road with them. It's. Just. Not. Done.

There would be no issue if Cryptic was open about this grab for CoH/V players out in the broader internet. If they'd put up a web page saying, "We'd like players of superhero games to beta test ChampO - please send us your details" and perhaps one of those fields included your CoH/V user name, that'd be fine. That's open and transparent competition. CoH/V could do the same thing to ChampO players post-launch. It's not nice, but it doesn't have to be. But actively going into the game and recruiting? Unprofessional. Sloppy too, since it's easy to trace. Finally, it's not like there is a shortage of players trying to get into the ChampO beta. Scarcity of numbers isn't the issue - this is all about trying to hamstring the competition. 

What hurts Cryptic even more is that theoretically they worked alongside the very same people they are now trying to steal from in an underhanded way. It reinforces every negative comment made about Cryptic's behaviour towards the sale of CoH/V or its attitude towards its old title. Doing this kind of thing is a reputation killer for a studio - they are willing to stab old friends in the back to win, apparently, so how low could they go? I've asked for some responses from some people at Cryptic regarding this process (IronAngel is "looking into it") so there is no indication whether this is the proverbial a few bad apples or goes right to the top, but regardless it just makes Cryptic look incredibly bad.

In response, NCsoft NorthCal (current developers of CoH/V) have released a general warning about outside solicitations, with CoH/V players recounting their experiences (and healthy dose of internet cynicism) in this thread. Jill Henderson (aka Ex Libris and CoH/V's Community Relations Coordinator) has an official 'no comment' on the matter, but I'd have to expect that this kind of behaviour would have led to a lot of internal fuming, especially in front of CoH/V planning to launch a new boxed version.

However, here's the action point for Cryptic: STOP IT.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 09:41:27 AM by schild »

sinij
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Reply #1 on: March 17, 2009, 10:50:39 AM

All Studious/Developers have few guilds they like to work with, these guilds are always given access to betas, new content and heavily relied on to provide player testing and feedback. Unless this message was spammed to general population I don't see a problem inviting these few key players with existing relationship to help with the new title. Would this be any different if message was sent via e-mail?

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Samwise
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Reply #2 on: March 17, 2009, 10:57:23 AM

Would this be any different if message was sent via e-mail?

It would be a hell of a lot more tasteful.

"Note, i am not saying you're wrong because you're stupid, that would be an ad hominem argument. I am saying you're stupid because you're wrong." - Goumindong
Riggswolfe
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Reply #3 on: March 17, 2009, 11:26:17 AM

Wow. That is petty. It leads me to believe that Cryptic is holding a grudge over NCSoft leaving. It's also totally turned me off of Champions since it goes right to the heart of my trust in the company.

Unless this is a reverse con. NCSoft is doing it themselves to sour people on Champions. Hmmm.... Tinfoil Hat

"We live in a country, where John Lennon takes six bullets in the chest, Yoko Ono was standing right next to him and not one fucking bullet! Explain that to me! Explain that to me, God! Explain it to me, God!" - Denis Leary summing up my feelings about the nature of the universe.
Lum
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Reply #4 on: March 17, 2009, 11:37:42 AM

If I'm not mistaken, Blizzard did a very similar solicitation of EQ guilds prior to the WoW beta.
sam, an eggplant
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Reply #5 on: March 17, 2009, 12:23:59 PM

I believe you are mistaken, yes. Blizzard didn't contact those uberguilds in-game, or through their messageboards. That's what's inappropriate.
Dtrain
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Reply #6 on: March 17, 2009, 12:25:55 PM

That has a bad feeling of a form letter. Like someone in CR couldn't be bothered to do anything more than spam.

If I recall correctly, the courtship of the former EQ guilds by Blizzard was a little more elegant. And the difference really is in the details.

Little things like... finding out who the leader is, doing this thing called "having a conversation," and finally making a judgment call followed by a personal offer.

I doubt every member of EQUberGuild01 woke up to find a form letter in their email - if that's really what happened with COH/V.
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Reply #7 on: March 17, 2009, 01:41:56 PM

That's just about as slmy as it can get. It makes me want to  NDA about the ChampO beta. I won't, but I am chomping at the bit for the NDA to drop.

stark
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Reply #8 on: March 17, 2009, 02:11:10 PM

I didn't believe it when I first heard about it, disgusting.
squirrel
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Reply #9 on: March 17, 2009, 04:26:45 PM

Would this be any different if message was sent via e-mail?

Yes it would be completely different. All businesses target their competitions customers, it's just common sense. That's why they're competitors, they share a market.

What's unethical here (primarily) is Cryptic doing this within the game or using services provided by CoH/V. One of the hard parts of targeting your competitors customers is *finding* them. If this was an email campaign, it would be 100% fair game as they would have the contacts from their own marketing/promotional efforts.

Plus, as the article states, there's no shortage of willing testers I imagine. So this isn't about bettering ChampO, it's about hurting CoH. Which is fine, but they need to do so using their own tools.

It's bad practice without question.

EDIT: Grammar snake hates their | they're errors.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 07:35:33 PM by squirrel »

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Ingmar
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Reply #10 on: March 17, 2009, 04:44:13 PM

Is there a screenshot or other thing proof-like of this kicking around anywhere? I've seen a couple skeptics and/or fanboys elsewhere doubting the f13 brand integrity over this, predictably.

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schild
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Reply #11 on: March 17, 2009, 04:50:40 PM

Quote
I've seen a couple skeptics and/or fanboys elsewhere doubting the f13 brand integrity over this, predictably.

Who cares, they've been wrong every other time they've done that.
Triforcer
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Reply #12 on: March 17, 2009, 06:00:24 PM

Wow, what a tempest in a teacup.  Am I the only person who isn't horrified by this?  Every complaint so far in this thread seems to be saying that its ok to try to get your competitor's market share, but that Cryptic's actions lacked elegance.

Well, fuck elegance.  Cryptic is trying to get customers, and we are saying that trying to get customers for a superhero MMO by appealing to people who like superhero MMOs is wrong?  Because they crossed some imaginary line between guild message boards and in-game emails that causes ya'll to faint like Victorian women in bad period-piece movies?  As far as I am concerned, go Cryptic.   

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Numtini
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Reply #13 on: March 17, 2009, 07:27:33 PM

Going to guild's message boards is just smart. It's a way to build hype. Same reason some people have come here. (And I think a reason why some people don't anymore!)

But spamming on official message boards and even more in game? The former is sleazy, the latter is utterly unacceptable. It's so noxious it's hard to believe it's actually happening.

If you can read this, you're on a board populated by misogynist assholes.
sidereal
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Reply #14 on: March 17, 2009, 07:40:28 PM

I dunno.  DirecTV uses Comcast's pipe to tell me to switch to cable, which seems like pretty much the same thing.

It does have a feel of douchebaggery, though. . using NCSoft's bandwidth, technology, and servers to take their customers.

THIS IS THE MOST I HAVE EVERY WANTED TO GET IN TO A BETA
squirrel
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Reply #15 on: March 17, 2009, 07:45:42 PM

Wow, what a tempest in a teacup.  Am I the only person who isn't horrified by this?  Every complaint so far in this thread seems to be saying that its ok to try to get your competitor's market share, but that Cryptic's actions lacked elegance.

Well, fuck elegance.  Cryptic is trying to get customers, and we are saying that trying to get customers for a superhero MMO by appealing to people who like superhero MMOs is wrong?  Because they crossed some imaginary line between guild message boards and in-game emails that causes ya'll to faint like Victorian women in bad period-piece movies?  As far as I am concerned, go Cryptic.   

Beyond the RAWR capitalism tone, you're mostly correct that it's ok to try and steal market share. As a marketer (20 yrs now, ugh) there's a general rule you follow though which is "If we all do this is it going to cause a net benefit or net loss for each of us?" Being aggressive, haunting guild boards, chasing top players, advertising - all net benefit activities. This isn't.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
Trippy
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Reply #16 on: March 17, 2009, 07:47:21 PM

I dunno.  DirecTV uses Comcast's pipe to tell me to switch to cable, which seems like pretty much the same thing.
Except that DirecTV paid somebody for that privilege. There are also probably laws in place that prevent Comcast from blocking the purchase/showing of such ads.
squirrel
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Reply #17 on: March 17, 2009, 07:56:00 PM

I dunno.  DirecTV uses Comcast's pipe to tell me to switch to cable, which seems like pretty much the same thing.
Except that DirecTV paid somebody for that privilege. There are also probably laws in place that prevent Comcast from blocking the purchase/showing of such ads.

Problem with that argument is someone who doesn't get the big picture will say "Nah-uh - Cryptic pays for those CoH accounts! It's the same thing!"

Which, of course, it isn't.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
Trippy
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Reply #18 on: March 17, 2009, 08:00:05 PM

They may have paid for the account but they are violating the Rules of Conduct and the EULA.
Triforcer
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Reply #19 on: March 17, 2009, 08:22:18 PM

They may have paid for the account but they are violating the Rules of Conduct and the EULA.


People here do lots of things that violate the Rules of Conduct and the EULA in MMOs.  If you've ever let your little brother play your account for five minutes, you've violated the EULA.  If you've ever bought gold, you've violated the EULA.  Hell, if you ever destroyed your MMO's CD, that probably violates the EULA. 

The moral of the story is people here, as is trendy, routinely laugh at the suits and their pathetic EULAs.  When did we turn into the Divine Auxiliary Legion of NCSoft Lawyers?   

What I suspect is happening here is COH/V fans, afraid of massive migration that renders their game less populated (and accordingly less fun- nobody wants to play in a ghost town) are veiling their butthurtedness with a sudden and less-than-convincing cloak of morality.

 EDIT: @squirrel:  Please to be explaining why this isn't a net benefit.  If it gets players who move to your game long-term, how is 1 or two days of faux nerd emorage on rant sites sufficient to counteract that? 
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 08:26:20 PM by Triforcer »

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu.  This is the truth!  This is my belief! At least for now...
squirrel
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Reply #20 on: March 17, 2009, 08:24:48 PM

For the record, I have never played CoH. Not interested in it or CO. And I still think it's a shitty tactic.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
schild
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Reply #21 on: March 17, 2009, 08:26:15 PM

They may have paid for the account but they are violating the Rules of Conduct and the EULA.


People here do lots of things that violate the Rules of Conduct and the EULA in MMOs.  If you've ever let your little brother play your account for five minutes, you've violated the EULA.  If you've ever bought gold, you've violated the EULA.  Hell, if you ever destroyed your MMO's CD, that probably violates the EULA. 

The moral of the story is people here, as is trendy, routinely laugh at the suits and their pathetic EULAs.  When did we turn into the Divine Auxiliary Legion of NCSoft Lawyers?   

What I suspect is happening here is COH/V fans, afraid of massive migration that renders their game less populated (and accordingly less fun- nobody wants to play in a ghost town) are veiling their butthurtedness with a sudden and less-than-convincing cloak of morality.   
I'd wager NDAs and EULAs get fucking serious when companies start dicking around. In fact, that should be the only time they get serious.

Also, you're a really strange guy.
Triforcer
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Reply #22 on: March 17, 2009, 08:33:19 PM

They may have paid for the account but they are violating the Rules of Conduct and the EULA.


People here do lots of things that violate the Rules of Conduct and the EULA in MMOs.  If you've ever let your little brother play your account for five minutes, you've violated the EULA.  If you've ever bought gold, you've violated the EULA.  Hell, if you ever destroyed your MMO's CD, that probably violates the EULA. 

The moral of the story is people here, as is trendy, routinely laugh at the suits and their pathetic EULAs.  When did we turn into the Divine Auxiliary Legion of NCSoft Lawyers?   

What I suspect is happening here is COH/V fans, afraid of massive migration that renders their game less populated (and accordingly less fun- nobody wants to play in a ghost town) are veiling their butthurtedness with a sudden and less-than-convincing cloak of morality.   
I'd wager NDAs and EULAs get fucking serious when companies start dicking around. In fact, that should be the only time they get serious.

If NCSoft thinks they have an actionable case under applicable law (for intentional interference with business relationship, or something like that), then by all means they are free to sue.  And if Cryptic's actions fall within the ambit of such laws, then they deserve to lose the case.  I have no problem with any of that.

What I don't get is the rage here.  People keep drawing a distinction between What Blizzard Did (tm) (that is good and wise and again shows Blizzard's genius) and What Cryptic is Doing (Robot Hitler). 

There are three possibilities for such rage:
(1) COH/V fans being butthurt
(2) Everyone here thinks it is always 100% despicable when any company does something possibly technically actionable under civil law, or
(3) Something else.

(2) is clearly ridiculous even though some are now trying to sell it that way.  (1) is likely, but if its wrong, I still don't understand (3) and the huge gap between guild message boards and an in-game email.       

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Rendakor
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Reply #23 on: March 17, 2009, 08:46:30 PM

If we're talking about private* guild message boards and in-game email the difference should be obvious. A private guild message board is not the property of your direct competition; using your competitor's PRODUCT to advertise your own (without paying for or otherwise obtaining consent to do so) seems wrong, to me. It's not because of the EULA nor because I'm a raging CoH fanboi; it just seems like a dick move. I could invent fictitious real-world examples to attempt to clarify the point, but if you don't find this sort of thing wrong I can't change your mind.

*As in, paid for and handled entirely by the guild. I don't think that there are official CoX guild boards; I know SOE offers them for a fee but to the best of my knowledge NCSoft does not.

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Dtrain
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Reply #24 on: March 17, 2009, 08:49:45 PM

People keep drawing a distinction between What Blizzard Did (tm) (that is good and wise and again shows Blizzard's genius) and What Cryptic is Doing (Robot Hitler). 

See, that's the problem - we're not calling them Robot Hitler - more like Retard Stalin.

It's just bad form. On a professional level. It's a lot like if you and I were both plumbers in the same small town. You are going around to your customers and I'm having a slow day, so I follow your truck around and offer to beat your deal and harass your customers. Sure, I can do it, and no, there's probably not a law against it - and I might even get a few customers doing it. It would still make me a flaming douche.
Triforcer
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Reply #25 on: March 17, 2009, 08:59:28 PM

@schild:  Er, did you miss sam's and dtrain's posts in this thread?  And the Broken toys thread?  People draw lines awfully quickly between Blizzard's genius and Cryptic's villainy. 

@Rendakor and Dtrain:  Trying to use real world analogies doesn't work here, because, as most on this site readily acknowledge in other contexts, such analogies are hard to apply in the virtual context.  Also, Dtrain, read again the email that was actually sent.  It does not criticize CoH/V or "harass" anyone, its merely an offer. 

I could just as easily say that its villainy for McDonalds to buy a billboard next to the Burger King parking lot.  Or that McDonalds can't text people about how great Big Macs are when potential customers are sitting in Burger King.  Hell, lets say the Burger King customer is using a special Burger-King themed cell phone he bought with "prize points" from eating 1000 Whoppers, and McDonalds texts him while he's in Burger King.  Is that wrong? 


As much as people here insist they know its a business and people compete, the MMO industry is young enough that people still fancy there is some sort of gentleman's dueling code that makes the industry different and special compared to every other business.  That's wrong, and I'm not going to go all self-righteous holding Cryptic to some sort of unwritten chivalric code that was around when neckbeards were setting up tray tables across from each other at the mall and selling $5 games in plastic baggies. 

EDIT:  Ultimately, as squirrel said, if the positives outweigh the negatives (getting players vs. possible lawsuit, possible strained future commercial relationship with NCSoft) then it was a brilliant decision.  If those negatives outweigh the positives, it was a bad decision.  Time will tell, but people's rage here isn't based on that sort of cost-benefit analysis.  Its apparently based on irrational expectations about how Duke Cryptic took 9 steps before firing its flintlock pistol at Count NCSoft, instead of the civilized and gentlemanly 10 recommended by the Marquis of Queensberry. 
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 09:08:51 PM by Triforcer »

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Rendakor
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Reply #26 on: March 17, 2009, 09:05:13 PM

First you say real world analogies don't work here, then you use one.  swamp poop

But to carry on your retarded analogy, this is like someone from McDonalds going into BK and offering free samples. No magic prize cell phones, no paying for legal advertising. Are you a moron?

"I think it's time for a dose of F13 RED PILL MOTHER FUCKERS" ~cosapi
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Triforcer
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Reply #27 on: March 17, 2009, 09:06:24 PM

No, it isn't.  That's the whole point.  Someone was sent a FUCKING MESSAGE.  You know, like what your email does.  Or your mailbox.  Nobody was giving free samples, it was merely an invitation to a beta. 
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 09:08:33 PM by Triforcer »

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu.  This is the truth!  This is my belief! At least for now...
Triforcer
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Reply #28 on: March 17, 2009, 09:13:00 PM

Triforcer:

Also, it's not about gentleman's dueling codes or some shit. You don't know (or appreciate) how small this industry is, especially the mmorpg industry. This dude Diamonds, if he doesn't give up the information on who said what (and even then) is probably going to have a tough time advancing. This is burn bridges distasteful rude shit in the gaming industry. It's not about chivalry, you just never ever know who your next boss will be or who's going to be in a position to fuck you next. It's a problem, of course, but if you're gonna have to dig deeper to get to the core of it. Fact of the matter is that the gaming industry is an industry of fraternity and grudges.

I agree with all of that.  But thats a problem that Diamonds has to worry about.  You are not Diamonds.  The rage pouring out of Unsub's original post, and the "this is wrong" posts following are not because people are worried about Diamonds.  Its something else.  Your point is correct, but it isn't relevant to why non-Diamonds/non-NCSoft personages are aghast at this. 

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu.  This is the truth!  This is my belief! At least for now...
Rendakor
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Reply #29 on: March 17, 2009, 09:13:58 PM

An invitation to beta test a game is not similar to a free sample?


Fake edit: fuck this I'm done, following the old axiom:
"Don't argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience"

"I think it's time for a dose of F13 RED PILL MOTHER FUCKERS" ~cosapi
"To this day I MUST be dressed as Liver Lips McGrowl from Bear County Jamboree to get a proper erection." ~Cory
http://www.twitch.tv/rendakor
squirrel
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Reply #30 on: March 17, 2009, 09:16:35 PM

using your competitor's PRODUCT to advertise your own (without paying for or otherwise obtaining consent to do so) seems wrong,

The issue. It not only seems wrong, it is wrong. It's not ok to attack your competitor using their property in violation of the terms of agreement, no matter how little you think of them.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
Triforcer
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Reply #31 on: March 17, 2009, 09:23:00 PM

Interesting.  So you condemn every violation of the Rules of Conduct or the EULA under any circumstances (the little brother playing for five minutes, buying gold, etc.) as equally wrong?  If not, and you are ok with some violations of the terms of agreement but blast others, the aforementioned Divine Auxiliary NcSoft Lawyers defense doesn't play. 

Every time a respected F13 poster admits they bought gold or at least are ok with it, why isn't there a front-page story highlighting selected portions of the EULA and calling said poster a terrible person?  All I want is for people to be honest about their reasons for hating this- EULA violation doesn't cut it, because most here ignore or mock the sacredness of the EULA in other contexts. 
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 09:26:26 PM by Triforcer »

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu.  This is the truth!  This is my belief! At least for now...
sidereal
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Reply #32 on: March 17, 2009, 09:25:55 PM

Don't feed the troll

THIS IS THE MOST I HAVE EVERY WANTED TO GET IN TO A BETA
Triforcer
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Reply #33 on: March 17, 2009, 09:39:23 PM

I'm not calling you hypocrites, and I don't think you should call out the 13 year olds.  That's my point.  As people who aren't working for the MMO companies, we don't equally condemn all EULA violations we hear about.  We condemn things that happen to be EULA violations that otherwise offend us on some other, deeper level.  The fact that such offense is also an offense against the EULA is incidental.  Hence, the "its wrong because it violates the EULA" argument doesn't fly here.  I just want to know the deeper reason why this is offensive to so many people.  Usually, even if I disagree with people, I can understand where they are coming from.  But I just don't understand at all why bystanders (who are not stockholders or employees of NcSoft, or who are not Diamonds) would care about this. At all.  Its like I am trying to understand why everyone here feels its important to sukarrup their blagopork in baseball.      
« Last Edit: March 12, 2010, 01:53:27 AM by schild »

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu.  This is the truth!  This is my belief! At least for now...
squirrel
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Reply #34 on: March 17, 2009, 09:46:32 PM

Interesting.  So you condemn every violation of the Rules of Conduct or the EULA under any circumstances (the little brother playing for five minutes, buying gold, etc.) as equally wrong?  If not, and you are ok with some violations of the terms of agreement but blast others, the aforementioned Divine Auxiliary NcSoft Lawyers defense doesn't play. 

Every time a respected F13 poster admits they bought gold or at least are ok with it, why isn't there a front-page story highlighting selected portions of the EULA and calling said poster a terrible person?  All I want is for people to be honest about their reasons for hating this- EULA violation doesn't cut it, because most here ignore or mock the sacredness of the EULA in other contexts. 

Dude. Learn to read. The EULA issue is not even a major portion of my complaint. Read what I've posted. It's bad to to try and scalp your competition using tools they build. That's it. It's unethical. Go after the guild sites, post on boards, recruit via email - all fair. Don't use someone else's product against them. It's unethical. Why? Because it's bad for all of us.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
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