Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Early Access and The Liberties Taken by Studio Wildcard

It’s been close to a year since I’ve written here, and while I’ve been doing some streaming and working on a video or two for YouTube, I’ve really let this slide.  With a bit more time available, I’m going to be working on this, as writing is one of my favorite past-times.

For years, early access has become more and more common amongst indie developers in the gaming world, who take money up-front, often for the purpose of fulfilling their dream of creating an engaging game.  This isn’t necessarily relegated, mind you, to Steam, but there are game companies out there that use GoFundMe and Kickstarter to get the cash infusion they need.  Valve, to its credit, has attempted to get more and more small game companies into the business with their early access program, which debuted officially in 2013 (though there had been a pilot program in 2012, and only nine titles were made available in this manner).  Game companies view the early access concept as a win-win scenario, though the truth is that the concept heavily favors the developer and not the player, who essentially becomes an unpaid tester, and in many instances will not see games come to fruition.  In 2014, Patrick Walker wrote an article on the phenomenon of the early access craze, which had picked up significantly in 2014 compared to 2013.  In the article, he stated that only 25% of the games in early access have released a finished product, which is a pitiful percentage all things considered.  In many instances, players are paying the full price of a game (upwards of $60.00 USD) for an early access title.  When games are not finished—timely manner or not—it casts a shadow on all early titles, not just that one.  Also of note, Steam makes it very clear that they take a more hands-off approach concerning early access, to quote:

"You should be aware that some teams will be unable to ‘finish’ their game.  So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state.”

As such, if a company cannot finish their product, Valve won’t necessarily punish them directly.  More than likely, Valve will be hesitant to offer them the ability to put other games up for early access in the future.

All this aside, there have been some great early access titles that have gone on to be solid finished products.  My personal favorite to this day is Path of Exile, and there are certainly others that have made it through this gauntlet. That being said, yes, to this day most games do not make it to a finished product.

Ark is an interesting case of a developer failing to meet the expectations of many of the people who have bought into early access.  Going for $30.00 on the Steam store when it first debuted, it has had several sales on Steam, dropping to $10.00 this past weekend before going back to it’s original price.  It has been one of the top early access titles Steam has ever had, and I’m sure it has made a lot of money for both Studio Wildcard and Valve.  Players seem to be very interested in the game, as shown on this Steam Chart, but it’s a matter of time before people become fed up with it, as the game continues to slog on in early release—referred to as “Pre-Alpha” in a January2016 Tweet by Jesse Rapzcak, co-founder of Studio Wildcard–and that self-imposed due date for a finished product has passed: the game was supposed to ship the finished version in June 2016.  It has been, to date, ten months since that went by, and there is no end in sight for the move from “pre-Alpha” to even Beta.

In essence, Ark’s problems lie with the developers, who have pushed off deadlines more often than they’ve met them.

Now of course, no plan survives first contact.  You can’t plan for every eventuality, and even I accept that as a cost of doing business in this area.  I’ve made promises I had to back out of, sometimes because of legitimate issues, sometimes because *I* screw up.  In each case, I am honest about the reasons.  Studio Wildcard is an interesting case of honesty and obfuscation.

Let’s start with the biggest issue at hand: the deadlines.  Patches are routinely days after their initial announcement.  A patch that might be announced for, say 04 April might likely be pushed back to 07 April, because of bugs in the programming, or for “more QA testing”.  Routinely, these patches will also break something that requires an immediate patch in order to fix something that became broken.  Technologically, it’s difficult to tell what will work and what won’t on a live server compared to the test server: CCP Games has this problem every now and again, for example.  To date, over 50% of the patches have not met the initial “ETA”, and Studio Wildcard’s response (and often parroted by strident defenders) is that it’s simply an estimate, and that they have no requirement to deliver it to us at that time and date.  Not completely true, though, as these are self-imposed deadlines, and they have often failed to meet them.  If a company can’t meet its own deadlines on small things like this, it bodes ill for large deadlines…like the finished product release date.

Hand-in-hand with this is the fact that many of the patches do not have complete patch notes.  As shown in the stickied patch notes on their Steam discussion thread as well as the official forums, you can clearly see “More Notes To Come” in both.  Ubisoft took a huge hit in ratings for incomplete patch notes for The Division being far more common, because it seemed like stealth nerfs were intentionally being hidden from players (and routinely on The Division’s livestream with Hamish, players would be the ones asking about these nerfs with Hamish being unable to confirm their presence), and it seems that Studio Wildcard has decided to follow in this same “lazy” tactic.  For a company that routinely puts out minute-cinematic trailers for new biome and dinosaur updates (individual updates, mind you), it seems rather silly that they would take this route, when it would take minutes by comparison to simply type up all the intended changes.

Obviously, they are going to have issues crop up.  So long as those issues are taken care of quickly, I don’t think it’s fair to chastise them if this wasn’t in the patch notes.  However, more and more Studio Wildcard has opted to warn people of impending changes, and then not tell people or engage in a discussion about those changes until they drop.  This seems an odd thing to do, considering the players are supposed to be the ones acting as your quality assurance team.  An unpaid quality assurance team.  Scratch that, we paid to be that quality assurance team.  That's even worse than being unpaid!

This has happened in the past, but recently the players have entered into an uproar over changes to the 'flyer' nerf.  Studio Wildcard said last week that a nerf was incoming to flyers, but not what it would be.  Of course, this led to speculation, but it all came to a head when the patch dropped, and players were left wondering what in the hell had happened.  There were no details on the nerfs until a player took to Reddit to note his findings.  Studio Wildcard eventually came out to tell players what they had done, but this was too little, too late in many instances.

This was on the heels of several recent creature additions, including the Troodon (a small dinosaur that has an attack that drains stamina to zero before disappearing), eels and jellyfish (capable of "stunlocking" players and dismounting them from all mounts except the basilosaurus), microraptor (capable of dismounting players out of nowhere), and others.

As stated previously, it would seem odd that Wildcard would willingly ignore the playerbase when putting in such large changes until after they were implemented, and after the players have begun, essentially, an open revolt.  If you're going to use the players to test your product, it seems reasonable that you would keep them apprised of changes in the pipe, not unload them without warning.

Studio Wildcard, however, has a habit of keeping important information out of the eye of players as long as they can.  In December 2015, Trendy Entertainment filed a lawsuit against Studio Wildcard.  Trendy alleged that Jeremy Stieglitz, who had previously left Trendy after allegations of sexism, fear of retaliation, overworking, and a general feeling of a hostile work environment was actually working on Ark: Survival Evolved as well as attempting to "poach" developers from Trendy, in violation of his contract's non-compete clause.  It wasn't reported on until March 2016, and Studio Wildcard said that the claims held no merit and asked the suit be dropped.  They claimed Jeremy Steiglitz was only consulted on the product, not actively working on it.  His wife is a co-founder of Studio Wildcard, so it's very clear why Trendy would have looked into this.  In April 2016, it was confirmed that Studio Wildcard had settled the suit to the tune of $40,000,000.  Susan Steiglitz claims she and the lawyers did not want to settle, but others in the company felt "intimidated".  It should be noted that routinely, lawsuits are settled in such a manner so that the accused doesn't have to admit wrongdoing.  Had Stieglitz waited until August 2016 (when that portion of his contract was up, which he had negotiated), the lawsuit wouldn't have had any merit.  He didn't, the company had to pay for it.

Move forward to September 2016.  Studio Wildcard is now down $40,000,000 that should have been spent on the game.  They are now three months past when they had originally promised to release the finished Ark.  They haven't even left Alpha status.  Studio Wildcard decides to release a much more polished paid DLC, called Scorched Earth.  Understandably, players were angry that an early access game had a paid DLC released.  As the blowback from this decision continued to build and reviews on Steam and elsewhere began to turn negative, Studio Wildcard released a statement to the media, in which they claimed they were simply following through on their plans for additional Arks (meaning DLCs).  This didn't really help anything, as it was touted as "finished" and "polished", where-as the base game was...well, quite the opposite of that.  In fact, they had fully intended to release this paid expansion that month in the expectation that the finished game would have launched in June, so they decided to carry through with it!

Going back to a previous point, it seems odd that they were able to stay true to this timeline, but almost any other the company seems to fail at maintaining.  To an objective observer, you might almost think that Studio Wildcard decided to bank on some extra money, no matter the excuses, now that Ark likely was not going to make them too much additional currency.  And similar to this decision that had a negative impact on the playerbase, Studio Wildcard was able to have a sale for Ark.  In this most recent development, a similar thing happened: the price dropped temporarily.

In short, the problem is that Studio Wildcard seems more interested in keeping the players in the dark concerning negative impacts to the game, rather than being honest and engaging the community in a discussion until the negative feedback is too much to ignore.  This seems particularly true when the Steam reviews suddenly go from "mostly positive" to "mixed", as was the case with Scorched Earth and this recent creature nerf.  If the players are supposed to be the ones playtesting the game, they should be included in these decisions.  Yes, Studio Wildcard has said they are going to be re-tweaking numbers, but that doesn't undo the damage done, especially concerning the loss of faith players have had after being kept in the dark.

I admit to having played 1,881 hours on Ark, but the decisions have caused me to re-evaluate how highly I rate the game.  Did I get my money's worth?  Sure I did.  I spent $50.00 between Ark and Scorched Earth, but that doesn't mean I should stop pushing for a finished product, and neither should you.  

Studio Wildcard’s continued delay in releasing a finished product—whether because of feature creep or what-have-you—points to a company seemingly more interested in maintaining the “free” quality assurance they get from the playerbase eager to engage in their product.  The release of a more polished paid DLC before doing the bare minimum of releasing the base game points to a company that might be making a decent product, but appears to be more interested in making money.  That’s fine if they choose to do this.  But considering the negativity regarding the constant delays in Star Citizen—to include lawsuits in the pipes for lack of accountability in finances and refusing the give refunds in contravention of their terms of service—and the lack of honesty and forthrightness from Trendy, the implications will be far larger for indie companies in the future, as possible investors consider the negativity associated with early access from two widely-anticipated games, and make their choices accordingly.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The War in the North

The war has been lost.  Try as we might to console ourselves that there is still time—and I admit there is still time, albeit shrinking daily—the truth of the matter is that the war is lost in all but name only.  The attempts by The Mittani to spin the war as a success-in-the-making, that the Fabian Strategy is the most successful option available, and that given time the “Goonhammer” will win is, at this point, nothing but attempts to save face before a declining population.  Before I begin with this TL;DR piece, I’ll provide my statistics for claiming “declining population”, using the current seven-day population statistics for the remaining six members of the Imperium on 28 May 2016, and then again on 01 June 2016, and provide an actual adjustment after each to show statistics between those two dates:

28 May
Goonswarm Federation: -250 (15,656)
The Bastion: -317 (1,748)
Razor Alliance: -11 (1,400)
Tactical Narcotics Team: -25 (1,149)
Get Off My Lawn: -131 (1,137)
Executive Outcomes: -10 (964)

01 June
Goonswarm Federation: -260 (15,546) [Net Movement: -110]
The Bastion: -348 (1,645) [Net Movement: -103]
Razor Alliance: 0 (1,404) [Net Movement: +4]
Tactical Narcotics Team: -24 (1,141) [Net Movement: +1]
Get Off My Lawn: -236 (1,022) [Net Movement: -115]
Executive Outcomes: -2 (965) [Net Movement: +1]

As shown, the populations of these alliances have been declining (exceptions being miniscule gains for RAZOR, TNT, and EXE); this is not speculation, this is fact that can be seen when using an unbiased third-party site (in this case, evewho.com).  Even looking at Dotlan and the metrics used there, it’s easy to see the constantly declining numbers available for all six alliances.  So while the Imperium members might harp on about “declining numbers” in enemy groups like Pandemic Horde, Horde has been gaining members (+270 over the past seven days for a member count of 9,304) while no alliance in the Imperium has seen similar numbers.  One can make the argument that general activity per capita is higher than Horde, but numbers right now do not lie.

Yes, this is a basic explanation, but I like keeping things basic.  If you want a more intimate explanation, I am not your man for that (right now).

Alright, the Disclaimer.

At the moment, I am a member of Tactical Narcotics Team and have been for a few months, now.  I have been a loyal member of the alliance, and have tried to remain positive and upbeat over this war, even writing several pieces for our alliance forums in which I explained the similarities between the current war and battles/wars of the past on Earth.

I say “at the moment” because I have already become disenfranchised with the alliance, and at this point am still in it because I do like many of the people in it.  I firmly believe, however, that TNT as an entity has lost its identity because of the close relationship with Goonswarm.  Coalitions are fine, but you’d expect that there would be attempts to maintain individualism and identity while working towards a common goal.  TNT is regarded as “Goonswarm Lite”, and to quote one director of Goonswarm Federation on Mumble:

“FCON and SMA leaving are expected.  If TNT leaves, then I’ll be worried because we are so fucking similar.”

When The Mittani talked about folding the alliances of the Imperium into Goonswarm to force the best chance of fighting in FozzieSov, TNT was on the fence.  While CEOs in the alliance were hesitant to do so, there were attempts by Goonswarm directors to point out this “special relationship” between the two alliances, a la the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain.  This didn’t fully sway the CEOs, thankfully, and I think that was part of the reason the idea fell behind.  The Mittani and his directors couldn’t even convince “Goonswarm Lite” to go with his plan, so how could they possibly convince the rest of the Imperium to do so without significant failcascades?

But while I am annoyed by this, I can’t overlook the fact that I am a loyal member of the alliance, even with these misgivings.  I wouldn’t betray them, I wouldn’t spy on them.  I’ve never done it, and I have wanted to for previous groups.  Normally I just leave at that point.  TNT has been fun, and I want this to be more of a wake-up call piece than a “fuck you bitches” piece.  However, this is a point in the war where morale is low for the Imperium, and being objective and bringing facts to the table that contradict the narrative is routinely seen as treason.  As such, having already been banned from Goonswarm Mumble and the site because I am taking things more neutral than they want, I hold no doubts that this may be the final nail in the coffin and I might see myself removed because of pressure.

The Fabian Strategy

When the war began, The Mittani called on the Imperium to take up the “Fabian Strategy” in order to win the war.  The Fabian Strategy revolves around denying decisive large-scale engagements in favor of small skirmishes at best, but normally it involves rapid harrying of logistics, stragglers, and forces that can be encircled, cut off, and removed.  This strategy works best against an invading force, where their logistics train is strewn out, reinforcements can’t necessarily be deployed rapidly, and you have a solid “GTFO” strategy and plan.  More commonly, this is seen today as “guerilla tactics”, and we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq that this can be highly effective.

The Fabian Strategy assumes that the force employing it has time on their side.  Alternatively, it is employed if no other viable strategy presents itself.  Once again, the Muj in Afghanistan used it, because they don’t have a viable alternative, and because Western memories tend to be very short: we know about 9/11, but after fifteen years of war we simply stopped caring, and became tired of the mire we were in.

However, the main problem is that we did not cut off the MBC’s logistics.  Their jump freighters continue to move unhindered and unmolested, bringing in the necessary ships for doctrines, modules, and other sundry necessities.  As such, while the Imperium likes to say eventually our enemies will get bored and tired of no SRP, PL, TEST, and other larger conglomerates can easily replace what has been lost, even supercapitals.  That is part of the reason they aren’t afraid to engage in supercapital fights, and The Mittani knows it: we can no longer easily replace lost supercapitals; replacing basic capitals is a chore as-is.  We have no industry capability anymore.  We risk scams by buying from outside sources.  Meanwhile, I Want ISK is funding the war effort, and easily replaced the supercapitals destroyed by SNUFF in the infamous “backstab” not too long ago.  So while the Imperium may have the largest supercapital fleet available (up for debate), it is not easily replaced, which makes it more dangerous to utilize.  Our assets are locked for the most part; our enemies’ are not.

But our own logistics are harried.  The recent move of pretty much every swinging dick into Saranen has pretty much shut off our ability to bring in jump freighters.  Cynos will be removed post haste, as we have seen over the past few days.  It is safer to light the cyno on another station in-system and warp to our home base at 0 than to jump directly to a cyno on said station.

There are also two key components to the Fabian Strategy that are not being utilized, thus actually making it the worst alternative presented to, and by, The Mittani.  The first is that the force utilizing the strategy is not centralized, and that instead of a large force, you have multiple smaller forces camping out.  This is to prevent that decisive, large-scale battle that the strategy seeks to avoid from happening.  While low-sec might be unconquerable, by consolidating the forces into Saranen—and into one station when three are available, at that!—it serves to weaken the overall objectives stated by The Mittani.  Having hundreds, if not thousands, of players in one system, it actually eases up the enemy’s intelligence services: you can now view that one system as your center of focus, and send a very small amount of scouts out to the systems important to the Imperium: Daras (the system important to Imperium Black Ops), Aunenen (the mid-point between Jita and Saranen for jump bridges), and Tamo (the midpoint between Aunenen and Saranen for other capitals).  The stated goal of this consolidation was to make fleets easier to manage, but what it does is allow the enemy to know when a fleet undocks.  And considering The Mittani and directors of Imperium alliances like to harp on about the MBC not having unified communications, wouldn’t it be smarter to take full advantage of that, and spread the forces out in order to minimize the chance PL, TEST, and TISHU might see the same damn fleet undocking?  If the communication lines for the enemy are truly disgruntled (read: fucked), then it makes sense to force greater hardships on it, not make it so one TISHU, one TEST, and one PL scout can each be in the same system and allow for all three to form up.  The purpose of this strategy is to introduce Mr. Murphy far more readily to the enemy, while also increasing the chance he visits himself upon you as well (Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time).  Compounding problems on the enemy is crucial to the power of the Fabian Strategy, but The Mittani ignores this, because of the following component he ignores.

The Fabian Strategy makes use of small-unit commanders.  Normally, a military would entrust a captain or lieutenant with a company or platoon, but the big decisions would be left up to the major or lieutenant colonel in charge of the battalion, at the lowest.  While the United States military offers the ability for those lieutenants to make command decisions based on a changing tactical situation, overall it’s frowned upon to change entire sections of a plan.  The Fabian Strategy removes such limitations, oftentimes letting the junior officers or senior noncommissioned officers make decisions not normally at their paygrade.  You actually encourage those people to think, make informed judgments, and run things, which can put a lot of pressure on them, but it helps to shape them.  The idea is to turn your forces into makeshift SEALs, Special Air Services, Force Recon, Delta, etc.  They become specialized small-gang fighters, looking to make the enemy bleed in the most efficient way possible.

Unfortunately, the Imperium has kept things to the “coalition-level FCs”.  Sure, there are individual alliance-based FCs, but if you don’t have the FC tag attached to your name you actually miss out on many of the perks associated with FCing.  You don’t get to do pings unless someone higher-up is willing to do so.  In many instances, your fleet will not be eligible for SRP, and there have been several FCs who have said their fleets have been denied SRP because they aren’t “valid”, despite the fleet running the literal fits and compositions found on Goonfleet.  So the enemy knows DBRB, Asher Elias, Amyclas Amatin and the like are FCs, and to headshot them.  There’s little chance of that happening when other people who have proven leadership traits taking fleets out, because it messes, once again, with the enemy’s ability to gather intelligence!

The more pressing matter is that the Fabian Strategy is pretty much a solid “win” card.  Barring the entire coalition falling apart overnight, eventually the MBC will grow bored, either because of no more fights, or just general apathy.  At that point, The Mittani can claim victory, as he “knew” it would happen.  In essence, there is no way to lose with the Fabian Strategy.

What it boils down to is leaders who have no other options, or who can’t actually strategize and plan, turn to this tactic to save face.  Nothing more.  It offers no actual chance for lower-level commanders and leaders to take initiative and do their own thing.  It is rather like the Soviet doctrines, in which everything was decided by the military leaders in Moscow, and it was expected there would be no deviation at the sub-unit level.  That is that antithesis to the Fabian strategy.

Saranen “Standing Fleet”

24 April 2016: “Firstly, the Saranen Standing fleet which is keeping Saranen clean. The enemy that used to be sitting on the undock having fun is no longer having fun, either because the Standing Fleet docks up and advises nobody else to undock, denying content until hostile forces leave, or increasingly because the Standing Fleet kills the hostiles and fewer of them return. The enemy does not deserve content, they deserve misery, and right now Saranen is a rather discouraging place for them to be.”

15 May 2016: “The standing fleet doesn't work because the enemy is always ready to drop overwhelming force, and because Caracals can't take on carriers. If they're going to camp Saranen, let them camp a station where nothing is happening. Use you own insta-undocks and be smart when undocking. We will deal with their campers by boring them to death and then flash forming occasionally.”

In less than a month, the concept of the “standing fleet” went the way of the dodo.  This concept is routinely used in high sec war decs, where overwhelming force isn’t expected.  One alliance can keep people outside the home station, going suspect or other shenanigans while people do real life stuff.  Once hostiles show up, everyone prepares to fight.  This is effective because high sec prevents neutrals from opening fire unless one side goes suspect.  The real strength is that neutral logistics will go suspect, allowing free fire on them.  Mittani tried to take a high sec tactic and turn it into something in low sec.  It does not work.

The reason for this is simple: the Imperium has preferred staying with cheap fits and doctrines, limiting the power of the fleet itself.  Since it’s so easy to prepare for, and you know exactly where they are, you can camp it all day.  The standing fleet’s purpose was to either pop enemies, or deny them content.  It was easily countered, and people only joined to whore PAP links.  A fleet of 90 would only have about 45 undocked, if they were that lucky.

In short, Mittani expected overwhelming numbers on his side.  However, as he’s constantly said the entirety of EVE is arrayed against us.  While he flaunts a “lack of communication” amongst our enemies, he ignores the fact that you don’t need impressive communication lines in order to stay outside a station and blap anything from the Imperium that undocks.  It was folly to think we’d have the numbers to maintain a round-the-clock standing fleet and maintain numerical superiority, when we simply do not have it.

Once Allies, Now Falling By The Wayside

When SMA and FCON broke ties with the Imperium, I was one of the few saying they should not maintain blue status.  The truth is while this war has been on the minds of many for years, the actions of SMA were the catalyst that caused everything to begin.  As such, it seemed only fair that they should have a part in the defense.  The truth is, SMA was never prepared for this, and hubris on the part of their leadership, and a general belief that the Imperium as a whole would save them, led to their eventual destruction.  It was difficult—nigh on impossible—to fully fight this war on one front, let alone multiple.  As such, bailing means that they had nothing to gain, and their rapidly declining memberbase showed it.

FCON has engaged the Imperium.

The Bastion no longer sees itself as part of the Imperium.

Only TNT, EXE., and RAZOR remain at this point.  And to be frank, given talks lately that I have been privy to, at least two of those alliances are talking about evac’ing the war zone.  Maybe not cutting ties, but moving on to “rebuild”.

So, Is The War Lost?

Right now, the war is lost for the Imperium in everything but name only.  I want to make that clear: there is a chance to pull victory out of this, but it would require a complete restructuring of leadership, and an openness to new tactics and strategies.  It would require humility, which The Mittani lacks.  In fact, I would argue the entire Goonswarm Federation leadership lacks it.  They simply believe that what they are doing now is the only right way to achieve success.

The Mittani’s many claims have never been validated by evidence he claims to have.  In fact, each and every time he’s asked for evidence, it’s never provided.  He’s always said, “we’ve seen”, but the average member hasn’t seen these cracks forming in the MBC.  The average member hasn’t seen Pandemic Horde being decimated and farmed by other MBC groups.  The average member can only see massaged numbers claiming proof of Horde inactivity, and they have to take the promises of this war being “won” by the Goonswarm leadership as gospel.  In fact, on the Fireside Chats, he readily admitted he doesn’t have a “ready list”.  Okay, The Mittani might not have a list right now, but why hasn’t be provided one since?  Why don’t we have video of all these amazing things happening to help us win the war?

It took less than two months to make Goonswarm Federation and the rest of the Imperium a non-sov-holding entity.  This isn’t the first time anyone in the Imperium has lost their sov, but it is the first time it’s happened since the new sov changes came to pass.  In time, yes the MBC will lose interest in the war, and they will go to do their own things.  At that time, the Imperium may rise again and reclaim sov.  But for the foreseeable future, without a severe change in tactics, strategies, and in general a change in thinking, the Imperium will likely continue to be camped into Saranen station, until such time as it falls apart.

Assault on Free Speech...again!

I’m currently in the process of writing up a piece about “World War Bee”, the massive, multi-faceted war taking place in EVE Online, and it’s taking a bit longer than expected, because quite frankly there’s more involved than I intended.  However, this came to my attention on my newsfeed.  Please keep in mind, this is not necessarily game related, but it’s something we all use in our everyday lives, so it’s relevant.  I’ll also come out fully in this, I am anti-SJW (Social Justice ‘Warrior’).  I don’t subscribe to the millennial views on ‘safe spaces’, ‘hate speech’, ‘third-wave feminism’, ‘Black Lives Matter’, and the like.  I’m a libertarian, albeit one that subscribes to having a military that can beat the shit out of people who need it.  After all, we’ve seen what happens when the US doesn’t have a well-funded and well-established military, though eventually we became BACK TO BACK WORLD WAR CHAMPIONS AW YISS!

According to Bloomberg Technology, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook want to go beyond the criminal laws established for freedom of speech and freedom of expression and clamp down on “hate speech” in less than 24-hours of being notified.

Now, this is being said to the European Commission, and it’s not hard to expect them to try to push for this in the United States.  And if it makes it to the States, the history of the government trying to pass SOPA and PIPPA will come to the fore again.  After all, the government will try sleight of hand: “Facebook now does it, why not make everything safer and let the government do it?”  Believe me, any censorship on the internet is bad, and it opens a whole bunch of doors that should stay shut.  However, over on the Continent (and in England) it is far easier to curtail speech of others, labeling something hate speech just because you disagree with someone.  In fact, in Canada a man by the name of Gregory Alan Elliott was arrested by Toronto police in November 2012 amid allegation he harassed two third-wave feminists over the course of several months through Twitter.  He was acquitted after two years, but during that time he couldn’t use a computer, among other stupid limitations placed on him.

In the United States we take freedom of speech for granted.  However, such things are not the same in Europe.  Facebook has been working with Germany to censor posts critical of Islamic immigration, labeling it as ‘hate speech’ even if the person isn’t saying anything particularly hateful.  Voicing concerns in Germany is now hate speech?  Of course, it’s understandable about that.  Germans, after all, are still really sore about killing over six-million people just because of their birth status.

They’re blaming the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels (and conveniently leave out San Bernadino) for the need to curb this type of speech.  However, this won’t stop it.  Terrorism experts (and military experts) agree that radicalization is only made easier via social media, but it’s been happening for decades before Facebook and MySpace.  In a joint statement made by the conglomerates, they stated that activity needs to be “expeditiously reviewed by online intermediaries and social media platforms, upon receipt of a valid notification, in an appropriate time-frame”.

That, by the way, means 24-hours or less.

This comes on the heels of several well-known anti-SJW pages being taken down because of bot reporting (a lone person using hundreds of bots to report posts on a page, leading to it being removed).  This isn’t a hard thing to do.  Several military-themed pages I follow are on their 27th incarnation, or more!  Some page organizers just became tired of dealing with having to constantly remake the page.

And please keep in mind, there are legitimate pages out there calling for attacks on people.  There’s a whole multitude of pages calling for attacks on Donald Trump, just as there were pages calling for attacks on George Zimmerman, Officer Darren Wilson, and many others on the “wrong” side of the “social justice debate”.  Many of them aren’t found to be in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service until the national media gets involved.  But the minute you question mass Islamic immigration, enjoy a 24-hour post ban!

This all comes on the heels of Twitter removing the “verified” status of Milo Yiannopolous, a prominent Conservative speaker, and on the heels of the revelation that Facebook censors the news stories you see and the pages that appear in your feed.  Don’t get me wrong, as a private entity Facebook has that right, but to tell people, “No, we don’t do that” is the problem.

They want to be labeled Social Justice Warriors.  But can you be a warrior when you cry for safe spaces so your feelings aren’t hurt, and shout down prominent feminists who disagree with your brand of feminism, like spoiled children?  Looking at you, Trigglypuff.

And yes, this is chilling to free speech on the whole, ladies and gents.

I've asked for comment from several pages I follow that have been on the receiving end of Facebook's bullshittery, and will update when they get back to me.

Wook NationHonestly I think many Americans have become weak and too damn sensitive. If someone makes a statement that doesn't agree [with] their opinion, immediately it becomes an issue. [Facebook] is the worst at trying to suppress freedom of speech. They won't take down liberals, Black Lives Matter or Muslims hatred but you say anything derogatory about any of these groups and you're [sic] post is removed and you're banned. Anything anyone says can be defined as "hate speech" if the person hearing or reading is opposed or offended.

America is breeding spineless children. It's like the 60s again. Peace, love and happiness. They have the freedom feel that way and act foolish spreading their brand of freedom. They fail to realize freedom is not free. There's a price that brave men and women have paid with their lives. Children don't learn about [w]ars past. They learn nothing of The Holocaust. They couldn't even tell you about Pearl Harbor or DDay. Why? Because our education systems are failing [our] youth and parents do nothing. Everyone wants to paint a pretty picture of everyone living peacefully. That is the biggest crock of shit out there. It's never going to happen. Our children can't say the Pledge of Allegiance in school because it offends some people. I guess that's "hate speech" in some peoples bubble. They can't have a moment of silence but Muslims can pray so they aren't offended. My own daughter and her friends in Middle School were called an Infidel by a young Muslim boy who's father was from the Middle East. That was 7 years ago. Where did an 11 year old kid get that knowledge. Yet I was called radical for going to school and discussing it with the principal. The Father wouldn't even attend the meeting because I had spoke at a Veteran's Day assembly and he knew who I was and that I was prior military. I was told that my bringing light to the situation was being a bigot and showed intolerance. I will not go into to what I told the principal to do with his intolerance, but you know me well enough to figure it out. In short, Americans have become soft. We are no longer allowed to be Americans. We can't be proud of our heritage and we are supposed to forget the past that made us a Nation. If you're not with those people you're against them. As far as the page, we have toned it down because redoing the page over and over is exhausting. We have no reach because FB has stifled that. What happened to if you don't like something simply don't read it and move on? Aren't these folks that attack us just as guilty of posting "hate speech" in their comments to us? In the end its perception of the individual. Do we push the edge? Sure we do. It's just words, but these days words will get you locked up for verbal assault. What have we allowed to happen?

United States Meme Corps: And that's where political correctness has ruined society. People are so scared of hurting someone's feelings that they aren't even telling the truth anymore. It is leading to the destruction of society. When you silence the masses for fear of hurting the few you will eventually lose all creativity and honesty.
Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-31/tech-giants-vow-to-tackle-online-hate-speech-within-24-hours

Monday, February 22, 2016

Goblin's Fairy Tales

So I ended up reading Gevlon's blog post, with his “very lenient peace terms”.  It’s almost sad, how self-deluded he is, that he’s some amazing EVE Online player, and yet he doesn’t seem to engage in PvP.  He pays others to do it for him.  His killboard is a joke: 12 kills, 4 losses.  He’s been in an NPC corporation since he started the game in 2012.  He’s made ISK in-game, sure, but where does it all go?  Well, into the pockets of people he has do all his work for him!  There’s no risk to him while he stays docked in station, though I’m fairly confident he has a PvP character elsewhere, cleverly disguised so as to not be traceable.  Plausible deniability.  Hell, he’s probably in Goonswarm itself!

The verbiage leads one to believe he has a severely narcissistic personality, much as many self-important.  The constant reminder that he is paying people to kill Goon ships in high sec, to fight them in null, to do X and Y, but never actually giving a neutral viewpoint.  Oftentimes this is a good indication that the opposite side of the coin is something that frightens him.  But we’re not going back years to explain killboards, ISK efficiency, shifting battle lines because of gameplay changes, or the like.  What we are looking at is the claims made.

First, we look at Sov changes.  When “Fozzie Sov” was introduced, almost every null-sec group agreed that this would change the outlook of sov-holding alliances, and that it would be better to foxus on smaller groups holding areas of sov, all under the protective umbrella of the larger alliances.  This changed the names on some areas, but overall didn’t change much, because even though several groups hold areas in Tribute, Pure Blind, etc., they’re also falling into the sphere of influence of Goonswarm, and other groups.  More alliances also means it allows those groups to take care of their own sov issues: they can hunt down and defend their IHubs, TCUs, and command nodes, and request reinforcements from other groups rather than force those groups to do so all over the area.  For example, even though Goonswarm today was looking to defend their sov space, Tactical Narcotics Team did the same, and it allowed for multiple groups to do the same thing, work together, and keep their sphere intact.  This is similar to how combat operations after an invasion happens: decisions and operations are planned out and carried out at the regimental or battalion level, which is how one should look at alliances.  The larger division or corps might decide the objectives, but how those objectives are achieved can be left at the smaller group levels.  This allows for a rapid change in a fluid combat environment, which Imperium is capable of doing.

Goonswarm wasn’t alone in this outlook: as stated previously, almost every other null-sec entity said that this would be the better way to run sov after the changes, so it’s no surprise that much of the space around Deklein is held by other entities: Circle-of-Two, Tactical Narcotics Team, SpaceMonkey’s Alliance, and Fidelas Constans all own space around them, offering not just a buffer, but allies if required.

More to the point, the attacks going on right now don’t hit Goonswarm-held space.  The attacks are focused on the other alliances with-in the Imperium, in the hopes of fracturing and destroying the coalition brick by brick.  Mordus Angels continue to attacks SMA and TNT holdings, and even attempt to damage the IHubs of CONDI systems, but the bulk of the fighting is aimed at the other alliances in the Imperium.  It would be impossible right now to try to take sov from Goonswarm, and the hope is that enough small chips will force Goons to pick and choose who to help, and thus cause the ones who aren’t aided to view it as a betrayal and splinter off.  This hasn’t worked, though, and the Imperium (to include Goons proper) have come to the aid of each other.  While people tout successes at hitting SMA, for example, they ignore the utter failings of engaging and dismantling of their fleets when the rest of the Imperium shows up.  It could be argued that SMA’s loss of numbers is a direct consequence of this focused effect, but the truth is no one has bothered to ask the CEOs of those corporations why they left. Not even me.  And I’ll admit that I have feelers out to get the reasons why they left, which may be between “we can’t rat and make money” to “we are tired of losing our damn Jackdaws”.

Is it possible that this is a direct result of attacks on Goonswarm?  Absolutely.  The more poignant and relevant question is, is this likely?  Not by a long shot.  Changes in game mechanics require changes in how the players play and act; and while Gevlon will gladly tell you how much MoA and TISHU have destroyed, he conveniently leaves out how much they have lost.  He makes no distinction between kills of GSF members that have only those members on it: as long as one person is on the kill—whoring or otherwise—it counts.  If the same metric were used, there’s a good chance the opposite would be true.  But we’re not here to debate years of killboard statistics, because that would require time to go through individual killmails since 2014.  It simply shows the lack of specificity in his claims (this is a trend of Gevlon’s).

Second, Sion being banned from the CSM: no, that hasn’t happened.  At worst, he’s been ostracized, but that isn’t the same as being banned.  More to the point, it call into question CCP’s commitment to the players, because it seems anyone who has a disagreement with CCP’s decisions is similarly ostracized, with CCP even blatantly saying the CSM was not the “normal channels” for communication with developers, despite that being one of the core reasons for having the CSM, especially in lieu of the Incarna debacle.

Okay, now on to the loveable claims made by Gevlon, about TMC losing views.  What metric does he use for that?  What site does he base this on?  Well, his post on 18 November 2015 linked to Alexa, which showed a decline in visits, absolutely.  However, checking that site 23 February 2016 shows that they haven’t kept track of the site’s traffic at all since October! (Source).  However, a different source shows only a slight downtrend beginning 01 August 2015 and ending 01 January 2016, 640,000 hits to 630,000 hits, for those respective dates. (Source).  So while a general viewership loss of 10,000 might be a loss, it’s really nothing in the scheme of things, especially when you consider that the numbers seem to fluctuate depending on the month.  01 November 2015, for example, saw 520,000 visits, so obviously those numbers continue to go up.

So the claims are either fabrications, untruths, or impossible to quantify and qualify because of missing information.  In any of the three possibilities, it shows the bias and the blinders being worn by Gevlon.  Is he getting his money’s worth?  The return seems to be saying he is.  But is the end game being achieved?  Not likely.  What is being lost is a pittance in the grand scheme of things, and the facts Goons continue to run strong two years after this began speaks volumes towards this point.

Now, let’s look at his demands, which are laughable, at the very least.

First, he demands a complete stoppage of suicide ganking by Imperium members.  That isn’t going to happen, and he knows it.  There’s a lot of ISK made with Burn Jita, a lot of tears generated.  It actually helps the economy.  Also, what’s to stop those people who engage in it from dropping to NPC corporations, or dropping to CODE. and continuing the fun and games?  He knows there’s ways around it.  What’s he going to do, complain some more?  Blow more ISK to kill a bunch of -10 pilots?  He essentially wants high sec to become safer, when it is already incredibly safe.  If anything, right now high sec space is safer today than when it was when I started playing in 2009!  People don’t want to watch their monitors when hauling through Niarja and Uedama, let them pay the price for complacency.  Suicide ganking has a plethora of punishments already attached.  Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean that it isn’t something that is valid, and CCP has said this multiple times.

Second, he demands that Goonswarm make the Imperium five alliances instead of the current 11.  He demands Mittani pick and choose who to keep in the coalition, which means if you’re not chosen, there will be hurt feelings.  When Gevlon expects is that if a group is kicked, they’ll be required to hand their sov to other Imperium members, and then Gevlon can go to those alliances and say, “You were slighted, you should totally join me in disbanding Goons!”  It’s a clever metagame, but it’s easy to spot.  More to the point, earlier in this post he said that Goons already tell people what to do, that autonomy in the coalition is impossible to gain.  He claims Goons run the show, and he doesn’t like it.  But he’s okay just this once if Mittens flexes his muscle and tells people what to do here.  It falls into his metagame.

Finally, he demands an apology to Mordus Angels, among others.  That’s not gonna’ happen, again.  He claims they are the “best PvPers” around, but the truth is that in an engagement of similar numbers and similar ship types, Imperium forces usually come out on top.  Mordus Angels and Psychotic Tendancies. tend to run from fights in which they do not control the field via numbers or larger, more expensive, and/or better ships.  That’s fine, no one wants to risk their ship and pod if they aren’t going to get some kills.  But what comes out at the end of the day is the self-delusion of Gevlon.  If anything, the fact people are upset over words said on forums, on Reddit, and over propaganda and have seen fit to generate content over it should be commended, because that is what null sec needs: more fights, whether good or not.

Gevlon reminds me of those people in World of Warcraft, who talk a big game, but when push comes to shove there’s no real consequences.  You can be an ass all you want, but there’s safety in those games, there’s no fear of losing what you have earned.  As I said, maybe he has a PvP character outside of his character that is in no way affiliated, but who knows?  He is no different than the people he tries to vilify, and is guilty of projecting his own shortcomings on others.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Diary of a Sad Man (not me, I'm mad)

If there is one thing I have always been good at, it’s putting rumors to bed.  This requires having the facts, and I think I do that well-enough.  You don’t get to work at Massively by being a fear-mongering rumor whore, and I routinely critiqued games and communities based on the facts at hand.  Sure, there’s always some tinting in your position, because an opinion is always there, but overall I do a good job of being rather objective, even if I color my pieces with some profanity.  That’s why I do what I do: I want people to learn, be it from games, or drama.

This drama is not of my own design, and in fact I have found myself engulfed because I hate people who lie.  I do.  Part of it is also my own silly belief in loyalty to friends, even those you don’t know.

Ark has many servers, and like EVE Online Ark admins can do what they want to meet their goals.  Most of these people want a highly popular server, which is all well and good.  No one wants to play as king of nothing, right?  But you have some that go too far, and this is the story of one of them.

Meet Novahaze.  He’s a rambunctious, angsty pre-teen whose sole solace in life is maintaining an Ark server.  That’s fine, it’s okay to run a server, and I encourage good people to do so.  However, Novahaze is a classiv example of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  He was known to the admin of the server I play on since the game came out, when said admin played on Novahaze’s server, and since leaving said server, Novahaze has been upset.  Angry.  Pissed.

You see, Novahaze was caught doing something that a good admin will never do, even in the toughest of circumstances: cheating.  Because Novahaze is a terrible player, he relies on admin commands to bolster his chances of winning, and even with such an advantage he can’t seem to do it.  This was discovered early in the game’s life, when he raided a tribe on his server, that recorded him using commands to escape their highly-successful defense.

The admin of Skull Island is Unk, or Ertosi on Steam.  His friends Denium and DayMan played with him on the server, alongside another player named Keith.  During the attack on their base, Keith recorded the adventure, complete with teleporting and no-clipping on the part of Novahaze.  Of course, Novahaze claims it is doctored, but that’s a pretty incredible doctoring, I have to say.  The video can be found here.  As you can see, Novahaze falls from the bird, taking no damage and the rider is killed by the fall.  The discrepancy could be HP, but it’s doubtful.  You’ll then watch him run to a wall with Plant Species X shooting at him, then disappear.  Keith is able to crouch and get a look through the ground to see Nova on the other side of their wall, running away.  This is referred to as “no clipping”.  Later, you’ll see him running along a mountain edge to escape a pursuer and “fall”, looking as if he’s fallen off a cliff.  However, Keith quickly shows he’s actually teleported, not fallen.

The defense wasn’t successful.  There’s no real way to defend against an admin who is abusing admin commands to get an advantage during an attack he instigates.  Unk and friends left the server, and Unk started Skull Island.  I will say that this has been the best server I have been on: Unk prefers to build, and while Skull Island is a PvPvE server, he does not get involved in PvP.  There’s no worries about the possibility of admin abuse.  Unk runs his tribe, The Wild Hunt.  Denium created his own tribe, The Starks.  DayMan created The Forgotten Tribe.  That leaves me, joining several months later, and creating the tribe Happy Pappy Puppy Pals after several forays on official servers, and one on a non-official EU server.

The harassment from Novahaze has been extensive, mainly located on the forums for Steam and Reddit.  It usually consists of a copy-pasted message, detailing how Denium tried to extort him for real money when he played on Skull Island, and used admin commands to spawn dinosaurs into the middle of his base to wipe him when he didn’t pay.  The problem is, the only admin is Unk.  He refuses to allow people to have server admin rights to prevent specifically that type of activity.

Novahaze has also had a habit of harassing other people on Reddit, to the point that no fewer than five accounts have been banned, and he continues to make new ones to continue the harassment.  In classic sociopathic fashion, he regales you with tales of harassment from Unk, of cheating on Unk’s part, and how his time spent on Skull Island was terrible.  The problem being, all of that should be reversed: all of that has been Novahaze’s actions, and he’s never played on Skull Island.  In fact, he’d be allowed to, even after all of that, because Unk is that kind of a guy.

In November of 2015, Novahaze began spamming the Skull Island forums with a copy-pasted message. That is when I found out about him, and was made aware of the video.  Unk and I were then made aware 08 December that Novahaze had created a Steam thread with the exact same message, and we refuted it, providing evidence.  At that point, I created a character on his server, and intended to view his server settings, as well as how long it took him to ban me.  Arkservers.net said Novahaze was on the entire time I was, and for over 90 minutes I played the game, bullshitting with Unk and DayMan on Teamspeak while just observing.  There wasn’t much chatter, I said nothing and didn’t interact with anyone.  After 90 minutes, while AFK to take care of the dog needing to go outside, I came back to having been banned from his server.  Not for hacking, not for talking smack, not for breaking any rules.  I was simply booted without any reason, though I assume it’s because I stood up for Unk as a neutral party.

That video can be found here.

So here we are, with a deranged child running a server, creating drama to make himself look more important than he is.  Comments were disabled on the arkservers.net board to stop him from continuing the libel.  You now need to be a certain rank on the Skull Island forums to see many of our posts for the server.  Novahaze continues to run his mouth on the forums.  No one on Skull Island has attempted to be antagonistic, but we haven’t laid down to be kicked, either.  We refute him every chance we can, because that is what we do: you don’t allow someone to lie and get away with it.  And being a Marine, I don’t allow some no-name scrub to dictate such libelous claims without a vigorous defense being put up.

You see those videos.  Those videos alone are far more proof than Novahaze has ever given to substantiate his claims.  He won’t both to do so, because he has none.  He has no recordings of Unk hacking, or breaking any rules.  All he has is a hurt ego, and the need to be validated.  That’s why he changes his name on Steam, often enough to the names of women.  He even took the name Ertosi once to try to fuck with people and claimed he was Unk.

But he wasn’t done.  As the harassment continued, Unk and I continued to report his posts until, last week he received a nice suspension from the Steam forums.  While it wasn’t permanent, we hoped it would shut him up.  After getting off of it on Sunday, he immediately added me to his friends list, and started a nice little conversation, the text of which can be found here, unedited.

And it continues.  The spam on advertisement and recruitment threads, the claims of hacking where none existed on our part.  Outright lies about admin abuse, and not even knowing who the admins are or, more than likely, embellishing the admins.

Novahaze’s threads for his server are even full of lies.  There’s no admin logging to keep him honest.  He’s never had it on.  His coliseum is a direct rip-off of Unk’s coliseum, complete with a skull in the middle as a blatant “fuck you”.  His “legendary server events” are non-existant, the “most recent” being three months ago.  His community is nothing.  Skull Island may have fewer players on it than his server, but the chatter in global and on Teamspeak is constant.  We love chatting with one another.

But Novahaze is a small man, not sure if he’ll be remembered.  And he won’t.  He knows he won’t.  And no one will care that he’s absolutely nothing after all is said and done.

This is being put up, because every time he starts his bullshit I want to link to this instead of typing out new posts to counter his claims.  I will always provide evidence, even when the enemy refuses to do so.  The truth is an absolute defense, and when it is on your side you’ll eventually win.

Novahaze is more than welcome to show the proof he constantly claims to have, but it’s been over four months and he hasn’t shown a thing.  I’ll let you figure out why.

Edit: I guess it was inevitable, but 31 December saw me get a suspension from the Steam forums over the issue.  This isn't so bad, I barely use it to begin with, but it looks like Novahaze receieved a similar penalty for his shenanigans.  While I hope he does learn, history says he probably won't, and more to the point Ertosi gets a one-week reprieve from dealing with this narcissistic personality and compulsive liar.  His server advertisement thread can continue unhurt, and not an issue any longer is Novahaze.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Commander's Intent

Recently, the Rules Committee for the Magic: The Gathering format “Commander”, more commonly referred to as “EDH” (Elder Dragon Highlander) made a controversial change to the rules, one that upset a lot of the more avid players.  This ruling completely nullified a way in which players could prevent problematic commanders from going stupid very quickly; at the same time, it made people wonder where the hell the logic for such a change existed, if it did.

For reference, The Rules Committee is run by the original creators of the format, non-Wizards of the Coast employees, and the official page on Wizards’s site states that they make the rules.  This means individuals who may decide they don’t like something one week might ban it, and vice versa, unaware of the larger implications in individual playgroups.

The ruling affected sending a Commander (or General in EDH) into the library or hand.  These cards (called “tuck” cards colloquially) are solid answers to Commanders that pose a very real danger to a board state becoming something other than fair.  Many of these Commanders offer a lot early-, mid-, and late-game, and the longer the more they can be played with little fuss the more problematic they can become.

First off, though, we need to look at the rules of Commander.

Commander is a singleton format, with a 99-card deck and one card called the Commander.  In the format, the Commander’s color identity (this is, mana symbols in the casting cost, mana symbols in the cost of activated abilities, and mana symbols in activated or triggered abilities) determine the cards that can be played in the deck.  For example, if you have Rafiq of the Many as your Commander, you may only run lands that provide Green, White, or Blue mana.  Artifacts and permanents you control must cost either colorless mana to play or only those three colors, and effects they generate muct require only those colors or colorless mana.  Spells you play can only have those colors as well, and things such as “Kicker” must follow the same rules.  You can only spend your mana on those colors unless a card effect states otherwise.

Aside from basic lands, you may only have one of any other card in the deck.  In theory this tends to whittle down on the consistency that a deck has.  Under normal circumstances, a Magic deck will consist of sixty cards with a fifteen card sideboard, of which aside from basic lands you can’t have more than four of each card between the two “decks”.  Because you have exactly 99 cards in your library and can have only one of each card available, this cuts down on the deck’s ability to be consistent without outside help.  There’s loopholes to this rule, such as if a card states you can have “any number” in the deck you can run up to 99 of them in the deck, but it’s pretty much a hard-and-fast rule.  Alongside this, the format has a banned list which represents cards considered too powerful, and thus unplayable in the format.

The format adds a new “zone” to the game, known as the “Commander Zone”.  This is where your Commander sits when he isn’t in play, in your library, or in your hand.  You play your Commander from this zone as if it was in your hand.  Each time that your Commander is killed or exiled, you have the option to immediately put him in the Command Zone as a replacement effect.  However, each time you do this, the Commander costs 2 more colorless mana to play.

Overall, the format is the most fun you can play (in my honest opinion), mixing the longevity of the eternal formats with the shenanigans available in the standard and modern formats.  It makes for interesting interactions, and as it was created to be a multiplayer format, it really pushes diplomacy over brute force.  There’s variants of the basic Commander format (such as “French” or “Duel”, “Pauper”, and a new variant referred to as “Tiny Leaders”), but overall they follow the same general outline.

Now in general, there are loopholes to the rules, just as there are in the other formats.  But these loopholes have larger consequences, especially when concerning Commanders.  To give you an idea, my previous decks involved Commanders such as Glissa, the Traitor; The Mimeoplasm; Karador, Ghost Chieftain; and Brago, King Eternal.  Brago and Karador lent themselves to combo-tastic shenanigans that I freely admit required little to no interaction on the parts of my opponents, and while I enjoyed them I took them apart because they really pushed the limits on the fun of the format in the playgroup.  However, not everyone is going to view the format as something other than serious, and I certainly have my competitive decks.  My Commanders tend to be competitive, especially my Erebos deck, which is my longest-standing deck right now (given, it began as Drana, but it changed into the monstrosity it is today).

So what changed?

Previously, there was only one real way to handle commanders in any way that was considered remotely permanent, and that was by using the tactic called “tucking”. To put it in laymen’s terms, “tucking” is the act of using a card whose main objective is to put a permanent into a library, and normally they had a downside because of how strong the tactic was: Oblation allowed the player who owned the permanent to draw two cards, Chaos Warp allowed them to reveal the top card of their library and place it into play if it was a permanent, and so on, and so on.

The change that occurred was that “tucking” the commander, placing it anywhere in the library or into the hand, was changed so the commander could be placed back in the command zone, much like if it was sent to the graveyard or exiled.  This replacement effect essentially negated a large way to interact with problematic commanders, such as Derevi and Skithryx.  Using it on a commander, in most cases, will result in the commander returning to the command zone.  The caveat is that even if this happens, any other effects of the card still happen, because it still successfully resolved.  This means the negative interaction still ends in a win-win for your opponent, because that nearly permanent solution no longer applies.

Previously, white had the strongest amount of tuck effects, with blue coming up next, followed by red.  Red got a boon in the form of Chaos Warp, which many people felt was too powerful given its drawback normally hit a land.  This was an important card—a staple, in fact, in any deck running red.  Red is considered the weakest color in the entire format by far for many reasons: starting with a higher life total makes red’s cheap direct damage spells weak, and the format is slow enough to allow creatures with high toughness playable, even if under normal circumstances (read: modern and standard formats) they wouldn’t be viable.  Green is similarly placed as a weak standalone color, however it makes up for lack of control by posing a lot of questions (playing large creatures faster than other decks under normal circumstances).  Generally, green has a lot of creatures that are hard to get rid of (green makes use of a lot of creatures with shroud or hexproof, requiring board wipes to deal with more potent threats.  Or more frightening in nature is that creatures like Vorinclex and Omnath allow for large beaters that simultaneously control the board, and also giving you access to large amounts of mana.  Green also has a wide variety of cards that can tutor up creatures and put them directly onto the battlefield, which can cause havoc if the spell itself isn’t stopped in some way.  Green’s main control is via destroying non-creature permanents, which it can excel at.  Black’s variant of tuck is to either kill the creature, or to kill the player.

So that leaves us with white and blue.  Blue isn’t necessarily affected by the change, since it does a lot of countering.  White, however, took the brunt of this decision, and it sucks for the color because a lot of its control tends to revolve around tucking or exiling.  In fact, many of white’s exile effects (such as Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere) are essentially a free trip to the command zone, unless they have a way to handle the enchantment/spell/creature.  With such exile effects having returns that can make a commander more expensive, in general people played these cards to handle other threats as well.

That’s not to say that the tuck cards are now bad in the format, it just removes a lot of their power for dubious reasons, at best.  Cards like Terminus are still highly effective for removing board states revolving around overextension, and sending multiple commanders to the command zone is certainly a big boon; however, in a situation where only one commander is on the board and/or opponents aren’t overextending, its power wanes significantly.

But we’re here to discuss the reasoning behind the decision, so let’s get into it, shall we?  And keep in mind, this is going to come directly from the original EDH/Commander page.

1.       We want to engender as positive an experience as we can for players.  Nothing runs the feel-bads worse than having your commander unavailable to you the whole game.

The format itself is supposed to be open and interesting.  Like the legacy and vintage formats, very few things are actually prevented from being used, and because of this is has made the Commander scene rather vibrant.  New cards routinely come out to make new commanders viable: it wasn’t long ago that mono-black was nearly unheard of, but the addition of Skithryx, Drana, Sheoldred and Erebos made the color valid.  Black had a lot of power, but it had little interaction with combos, especially those that involved artifacts and enchantments: it had to go outside the color for this to happen, usually in the form of artifacts and artifact creatures.  Additional spells like Sadistic Sacrament made black a powerhouse, and in many instances black has the capability to ramp mana as fast—if not faster in many cases—as green can.

Before I enter into my second point, however, I need to mention the second “reason” they give for the rule change.

2.       The presence of tuck encourages people to play more tutors so that in case their commander gets sent to the library, they can get it back—exactly the opposite of what we want (namely, discouraging the over-representation of tutors).

Black has always had an overabundance of universal tutoring, from Vampiric Tutor to Diabolic Revelations.  Black’s ability to mana ramp has allowed various power changes in the tutors over the years, and while in Standard and Modern such cards might not be run, a format in which Cabal Coffers can be copied by no less than two other lands and several black and artifact mana expounders being present, these tutors are only seeing more play.  Anecdotally, I have had 23 mana on turn 6, which is a severe outlier for the deck itself, and many times I find myself not getting close to that amount.  Black is never going to give up many of the cost-efficient tutors, ever.  Tuck made it so that a tutor was required to search up the commander if it was so integral, rather than looking for a win condition, unless said win condition ended the game then and there.  If anything, tuck allowed for a bit more in terms of control with regards to any black deck.  With commanders such as Skithryx and Erebos being present, removing such blatant threats and forcing them to spend mana and a card to get them back meant that players might be safe for at least one more turn.

Green was probably second in being better off, in that the more cost-effective tutors put the card in the hand, and green’s tutors specifically target creatures.  This made it possible to have cheaper tutors for the same objective—namely, finding a tucked commander—because of the restrictions, which black had nothing of.  More to the point, many of green’s creature tutors had the ability to place the creature from the library directly into play, meaning they had more versatility: what’s more, some of those cheats are at instant speed, so there’s even less time to interact with them!  So green’s not lacking in its ability to recover a tucked commander.

Blue?  Blue has oodles of card draw, which restricts how much time the commander may be in the deck.  Cards like Blue Sun’s Zenith are even instant speed, so you don’t really lose out on much.  Sure, of the five colors blue tends to be more combo-centric, but they have ways to control the board state until they can recover.  So, while blue might lack tutors, the card draw can and often does make up for this shortcoming.

White?  While lacking tutors and card draw, white had control to maintain a very powerful board state.  Some commanders even fall into the artifact category, so they have some tutors to get them but not many.  What’s really powerful is enchantment searching in white, but there are very few commanders in mono-white that are enchantments: Heliod is the only one I can think of off the top of my head, currently.  White also has some card draw, generally with a drawback (the addition of Armistice certainly helps mono-white players).  Their main defence was and is to send things back into the deck, or exile them, so white can maintain a very powerful presence while waiting to find their commander again.

In truth, the weakest has always been red, but that is because on the whole, red is the weakest standalone color in the format.  Usually, red’s very cost efficient burn spells will wreak havoc throughout the game.  But in other formats, the starting life total is 20, and so a 3-point Lightning Bolt will be felt all the time, unless their opponent has gained an insurmountable amount of life.  Because EDH begins at 40 life, that Lightning Bolt loses a lot of potency, and with only one copy in the deck, it’s not like you can back-to-back chain those burn spells for a huge advantage.  Commander is also intended to be a multiplayer format, thus reducing the effectiveness further, and really putting them to creature removal spells.  Red, however, has a solid tutor in the form of Gamble: tutor up your commander, but discard a card.  Oh well if it’s your commander, you can play him next turn—or this turn if you have the mana.  Chaos Warp provided a lot of power for red, and yes, it became a staple in any deck that splashed it, much like Oblation was.

So was tuck increasing the amount of tutors being run?  In general, no.  Green and black ran them because of their strength, and the other colors ran them for utility.

3.       While we are keenly aware that tuck is a great weapon against problematic commanders, the tools to do so are available only in blue and white, potentially forcing players into feeling like they need to play those colors in order to survive.  We prefer as diverse a field as possible.

In a debate, this would be referred to as a “slippery slope” argument, among other things.  It is taking one thing, and making a judgment without reason because the cause is true.  In this case, the Rules Committee assumes that because tuck is admittedly a strong mechanic, more and more players would feel forced into blue or white to deal with commanders that are problematic.

The problem with this is that there is no proof that it is the case, and that there are a lot of powerful commanders outside those colors being run in a competitive sense: Omnath, Locus of Mana, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, Erebos, Ulasht, and a multitude of others outside those colors see a lot of play because of their strength.  There is no proof that people feel forced to run blue or white because of tuck being so strong.

Skithryx, Derevi, Shaarum….there are a lot of commanders out there requiring a more permanent answer before they become a problem.  Simply sending them to the Command Zone is not going to work to stop them: it becomes more and more useless as time goes on, especially with Derevi.  Commander is a multiplayer format, is it not?  That’s what the Rules Committee has said previously.  So there will usually be a blue or white player sitting at the table to deal with that problematic commander while the rest of the table plays around.  The format is supposed to develop more diplomacy than anything, so why is the rules committee making decisions that affect the power of diplomacy in the format based on weak analytical reasoning?  Blue and white have routinely been the most diplomatic of the colors—until, that is, it’s time for them to win.  You can always expect decks to do what’s best for them first, and blue and white have always been more diplomatic than the other colors.  In the case of white, you’ve told them to run more boardwipes, and for blue to run more bounce.  In either case it’s going to piss off the players, isn’t it?

Or better yet, white will now run Armageddon effects more and more, to make sure those problematic commanders are dealt with in a more permanent fashion.  How long until we see Armageddon banned because of “how powerful” it is?  And will the reasoning above be used as justification for that ban as well?

MMOs routinely understand that power creep is an issue.  That’s why they look to balance rather
than remove.  You can always make a justification that the new flavor of the month is too strong and demand it be nerfed.  That just makes something else too powerful by comparison, and overall it will lead to constant complaining until everyone can only play with sticks, or in this case basic lands.

Commander has been a healthy format with the tuck rules for years.  Only now it is being seen as unhealthy?  That brings to question if it’s the effects, or the new legendary creatures in those colors that are the problem.

4.       It clears up some corner case awkwardness, mostly dealing with knowing the commander’s location in the library (since highly unlikely to actually end up there).

This is the oddest one of the lot.  They use the fact that Fate Reforged brought about the Manifest mechanic, and if your commander is manifested, even face-down attacks by the commander still count as commander damage.  The only corner case I can recall was with Praetor’s Grasp, in which if you pulled the commander with it, you had to reveal it to your opponent despite it being exiled face-down (because they had the “right” to send it to the command zone).  I can understand, for a bit, the issues that would come from manifest.  After all, if you were attacking, you had to let them know commander damage was incoming, and they had the right to block it.  But if it’s such open knowledge, than the commander being manifested doesn’t really create much of a corner case in the classical sense: you still know which one to block, though it tells people what creature not to waste a kill spell on.

Sheldon Menery goes on to claim in an article on Starcity Games that this affects very few commonly-played cards, and that overall it shouldn’t have a deleterious effect on the format.  So, if the numbers are truly so few—or rather if this fact needed to be mentioned at all—why did it need to be changed?  This isn’t a case of a format being dominated by one or two colors, or one or two commanders.  Almost every color combination has a solid, healthy representation via a number of viable commanders—mono-red being the sole exception as it is very weak overall.  There are other cards and rules that have been a source of contention for years, and the Rules Committee has either ignored them or given similarly bad excuses as to why they haven’t modified anything.  Examples include:

-          Several years ago, the Rules Committee said they would be looking into “split mana” cards, and if the color identity issue should be modified to allow them to be played in decks running only one of the colors (for example, Shattering Blow could be run in either red or white).  Some players said this would break the color pie, others said it was necessary to bring colors up to snuff.  The Rules Committee said they’d be looking into this, but to date has not made a ruling one way or the other.

-          Players have begged for years for Infect and Poison Counters to be increased in Commander, because it was felt 10 Poison was too few in the format.  Defenders of the current rules point out that they card pool for Infect is pretty subpar: there’s only one commander for a true Infect deck, and beyond that not many cards that are very powerful for it.  The Rules Committee stated they wouldn’t change this rule for a variety of reasons: they didn’t want to change the base rules (despite the format beginning at 40 life), the further we move from seeing a new Infect card, the better they feel about the decision, and that Commander is a multiplayer format, and infect tends to be bad in it.  Which leads to the obvious question of, “If it’s a multiplayer format and there are so few cards and you’re unwilling to change the rules, why are you banning a mechanic and using those reasons to do so?”

So what is the general conclusion?

It is quite hard to say whether the entire playerbase actively agrees or disagrees with the changes.  You have several camps, ranging from the “Fuck yeah, this decision rocks and it’s about time!” camp to the “What in the fuck are you idiots smoking?” camp, and everything in between.  I generally fall into the “WTF” camp, I’ll admit.  I don’t agree with this rule, I think the excuses for changing it are spurious at best, and overall I feel like there were other rules they should have been looking at because they are more important than this.

More importantly, potentially problematic commanders just became even harder to deal with in any form of permanency.  Who became even worse?  Let’s list them!

                - Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
        - Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
        - Shaarum, the Hegemon
        - Any God card
        - Brago, King Eternal

Let’s just say it: any commander who had a negative effect when put in the library or hand is no longer weakened.  Skullbriar, especially, has become stronger, so expect more decks with him as the commander showing up.  Derevi completely nullifies two rules, one of which is specific to Commander itself.  The God cards are indestructible, and sometimes not even creatures, thus making them that much harder to deal with.

Combo decks are now able to worry less about losing a combo piece so easily many times.

Heavy agro decks have lost a substantial weakness, since now the commander—many times the win condition in and of itself—can’t be tucked.

Control and tempo are slowly being weakened in this format, which is sad because of how healthy it was.  In time, people will grow annoyed, and I can see the prevalence of land destruction decks showing up.  Boros Charm on Isochron Scepter, and get ready to start the board wipes with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Day of Judgement, or just simple Armageddon.  As something becomes more prevalent, we risk the likelihood it will be banned because people are tired of playing against it.

And then it truly will be, “You can only play Grizzly Bears as your commander and 99 Forests” in the interest of being “fair”.