Monday, March 12, 2007

The final death knell of Harshlands

Today I did my weekly login to Harshlands. I don't go in to roleplay or participate anymore; all I do is keep my cart stocked for the benefit of those players who use it as part of the Tashal economy, while slowly accruing silver I will need if they ever make caravanning possible.

But I don't really play. No, I stopped that a couple of months ago, as I wrote about in the blog. There were a number of reasons. A lot of them were flaws in the game, in what it was trying to do versus what the admins were willing to let it do. Some were based on the simple unprofessionalism of the admins, my exposure to which all ran back to one act of twinkery that went unpunished and almost ruined my character last year -- that act wasn't the real issue, though, it was the hostility that it engendered in the admins towards me. I continued to pour my soul into the game, doing lots of in-character development, plus serving as a volunteer coder, hoping that one day they'd make good on their promises to make caravanning work, and hoping that the other problems could be worked around or lived with. But instead, caravanning got less viable as time went on. Most of the people I enjoyed playing with left, or had their characters die and recreated in other places, or went dormant, or simply got themselves involved in things that prevented my character from running into them. Playing got to be no fun. But I stuck it out for months until I finally stepped away... announcing I would keep my cart stocked and be ready to caravan if it ever got viable.

So today I went to stock my cart to find that it had been robbed. Again. Now, this might not seem too odd, but you have to understand the situation. It's a two-wheeled peddler's cart; there's not really room to be on it, let alone hidden inside it, and it only has "interior" rooms because of OOC code limitations -- that's how the stockroom is handled. Here's a similar cart, only much larger because it's four-wheeled:

Bolted to the cart is a sturdy wooden strongbox with a hefty lock. Inside that is a sturdy chest with a lock. There's another locked area where the goods are kept (and where revenue is stored).

The cart is smack dab in the middle of the busiest square in the entire island. The room description specifically says that the square is crowded shoulder-to-shoulder even in the middle of the night, and that the whole square is brightly illuminated with lanterns. There are several guards posted there, in addition to the peddler who works the cart.

Months ago, while my character was a struggling journeyman trying to close the gap between the incredibly poor income rate of a peddler (mostly caused by game limitations) and the huge startup costs of a caravanner, his life savings was robbed from that chest. The admins explained away this impossible act by claiming that it was done at a time when the square was emptied due to an unprecedent invasion of undead. Fair enough, except that I read about that invasion hours before it happened. Trouble is I can't prove that. The admins never admitted, and still do not admit, that there was twinkery involved -- which is funny because the players involved have admitted it was twinkish. And based on that it was handled IC, including my character paying 3000 silver (a large fortune) for lifelong protection against further robbery.

Today, he was robbed again. This time, all three locks were picked, and it's probable merchandise was also taken (no way to tell -- either it sold and the silver from the sale was taken, or it was taken, or some of both).

Now, the important thing which will escape most people's attention is that this isn't about the robbery or the silver. As I write this, the issue of whether this is a twink remains to be decided, and if it is, I might get the silver back. I can't say I'm terribly optimistic given how badly this was handled last time. And yet, the last time might force them to handle it better this time, since they got caught screwing up last time and then refusing to admit their mistake and digging themselves in deeper, so they're extra defensive now. But it doesn't matter.

See, it turns out that the responses I got to my petitions were insulting in a way that defies even my low expectations. It's so far into childish it might be intentionally playful in a way that went very wrong, but even if you grant every possible benefit of the doubt, it still ends up painfully insulting. Amongst the more infuriating insults concerns my use of OOC rather than IC methods to deal with this and everything else -- a clear suggestion that I don't count since I no longer roleplay:
And if not well that is sort of something not
to handle in character.
No, would probably be something out of character.
Best to come in and not play really.
Just use the mechanics.
And stuff like that.
And when stuff does not work fix it.
And go on using the mechanics.
Would really be better that way.
No tension of roleplay and stuff.
And no in character out of character seperation needs.
For all would be out of character.
Another good idea.
Of all the people to be snarky to about handling things IC and contributing to the game, they are so completely off-base to pick me. Plus they deleted the post I made on the forum about it. So what do you think the odds are that they're ever going to feel like treating me fairly, live up to their promises, and make me welcome in the game again?

A tiny part of me wants to note that I still have coder access to their box and could cause an essentially unlimited amount of harm to the game if I wanted. Luckily for them I'm very much not the vindictive sort; this post is about the meanest thing it's in me to do, and that's mostly wanting things to be aired. Besides, I would never punish the other players; they're suffering enough as it is, and if anything I want to find ways to make things better for them on the way out. (The tiny part wonders if crashing the game might not make things better for them, though; maybe being forced out of the game is the best thing for them.)

I am currently "closing up shop" in the game so that my character's departure is explained, and his assets are used to at least benefit those who remain behind, continuing what little I was able to do to add to the game for the benefit of other players. It's frustrating and angering, and yet at the same time, it's almost a relief to close the door on this chapter finally.

Though when I say "finally" I must admit that I have made provisions to undo this departure in the extremely remote possibility that things change. In the short term, that'd mean them changing their tune and coming back with a very convincing apology. If that happened (and just after monkeys flew out of my butt) I'd be able to undo my departure with minimal IC explanation needed. In the longer term, if they stepped down as admins, in favor of someone with more professionalism, I could probably explain my character's return and start afresh.

But these are both very remote possibilities. They don't feel like not closing the door, just like the chance a new door could maybe be opened someday, but not likely. I still get the sense of closure.


Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

The admins never did tell me whether this was twinking or not, or really anything else about it. But they did return some silver -- an even 4200, the same amount as in my first estimate, making me wonder if I happened to guess precisely right (which seems all the more unlikely given that that estimate was made before I saw the theft from my stockroom), or if they just loaded the amount I said and left it at that. They also returned my armor, which I hadn't realized was stolen, since I thought it had been in my cottage rather than my cart.

Later exchanges were mostly plain and factual and simple, with only one veiled insult (and that was one that in another context might not have even seemed an insult). However, this changed nothing, really. The earlier responses made very plain the lack of welcome, and lack of hope of future welcome, for me, and the lack of regard for my part in the game. Thus, they said, as sure as can be, that the reason for me to not finish quitting was dead.

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

I'm tying up loose ends in-game now, liquidating my assets and parceling them out, while setting up for my character (and his wife) to "go on a pilgrimage". I'll leave things so that, if the admins should step down and turn the game over to others, I'll be able to return then. But at this point, that's the only way I'd return.

What little discussion there's been about this has completely centered on the largely irrelevant issue of the robbery. I still maintain the square should be far safer than a private home not always occupied, or other alternatives, and a few people feel compelled to argue against that. There's also some fuzziness about the role of the Lia-Kavair and what "protection" means.

But that's all beside the point. I could live with a world that didn't accurately simulate the LK, just like I could live with one that didn't simulate caravanning, etc. It's harder, but possible, to live with one which didn't simulate all of these things and more.

But doing it with admins who justify their unprofessional behavior by pointing to my distrusting them, when my distrust was caused by that unprofessional behavior, that's not worth my time, or anyone else's. Everything else is beside the point.