Cryptic Marcom Malreported, Verify Ungood, Rectify Candygive

There’s been some movement on the Cryptic poaching City of Heroes players thing F13 turned up. Mainly, we have an Ivan Sulic sighting!

Ivan Sulic was the TOTALLY AWESOME community manager for Hellgate: London who memorably told angry players in the aftermath of a lack of LAN play, “who the fuck cares.” Given that Hellgate: London servers no longer exist, I would expect “anyone who owns a Hellgate: London box” the fuck cares. However, clearly, telling your customers to man up and deal is your path to being a straight shooter in Cryptic’s Department of MARCOM.

What’s a MARCOM? As the form letter Sulic wrote which impressed the hell out of Eric Schild until he realized it was a form letter explains, “Marcom is basically Community, PR, and Marketing.” Or, another way to put it, “Marcom is what happens when you’re too cheap and too clueless to hire seperate people for marketing and community.” But hey! Sulic’s off to a great start, explaining to Schild:

I think I know what you’re talking about now. I’ve been reading up on recent press and some news aggregates have picked up this story. Maybe I can help clear things up a bit?

Or, in other words, “we were going to ignore this but now actual news sites are talking about it, so we have to appear as though we’re doing something!” I’m not sure if that’s the Mar or the Com of Marcom talking, but there’s definitely talking happening now, with Cryptic people flooding into the F13 forums to make absolutely sure that Unsub (the user who whistleblew the whole story) absolutely positively no really has his Champions Online beta access back. I’m pretty sure that’s the Com of Marcom. Because the Mar of Marcom managed to get this closing tag for the actual-news-site-talking-about-this:

It’s refreshing to a see a gaming company not only own up to its mistakes but to publicly apologize for them, isn’t it?

Well, yes, it would. In fact, I’d like to see that public apology. Note to Wired: There wasn’t one. Edgy “aw shucks, we didn’t mean to do anything BAD!” wisecracks don’t really count. Although there was a mistake owned up to in the Marcom Minitrue Pressrelease:

So, we’re currently running the closed beta test for Champions Online and a few of our employees thought it might be a good idea to contact avid MMO notables and various guild leaders floating about to see if they wanted to test. I’m certain this wasn’t meant to be a malicious attack on a competing product, nor did anyone intend to steal players, violate user agreements, kill babies, or knife hardworking farmers in the back. We had invites to send and the folks who send them figured people who play MMOs most might want them most. If a line was crossed, it was totally inadvertent and no harm was intended.

In case you’re keeping track, that admission is dead center in the middle of the paragraph, as part of a distant “well, from a distance, I don’t think any of this happened, as a disinterested observer” passive voice. Well played, Marcom, well played! Reading is hard, and it takes effort to stay with it all the way through the non sequitors about knifing agricultural workers and protestations of innocence. Note to Wired Deux: Protestations of innocence generally tend to nullify public apologies. “I’m really sorry BUT I DIDN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING WRONG” only works when you’re an AIG executive being asked gently to return bonuses.

I wonder if AIG has a Marcom department.

EDIT 7:30PM Central: Note FROM Wired: They agreed that upon reflection it wasn’t much of an apology to speak of.

As this gets traction elsewhere on the Intertubes (including links here since I’m apparently one of the more mouthy of the MMOGerati), I’d just like to make a few final points:

– I was at one time an employee of NCsoft, and although I didn’t work directly with the NCNC/City of Heroes team we often sent each other mash notes. No, really, it was kind of pathetic. “I love your website! I read it every day!” “I love City of Villains! I have a little Kim Jong Il mastermind!” So, I’m not entirely unbiased (which you should always assume of me) (and, really, which you should always assume of everyone) in this matter. (Although I’m pretty sure I’m not high on NCsoft’s Christmas card list any more, either.)

– I would point out that in the grand scheme of things, Cryptic using the official message boards to recruit beta testers is a bit of a smaller sin than letting your publisher handle your being sued by Marvel, and then once the lawsuit ends promptly turning around and signing a deal with that same Marvel, minus the publisher. Legal? Sure! Ethical? Hm.

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25 Responses to Cryptic Marcom Malreported, Verify Ungood, Rectify Candygive

  1. Muckbeast says:

    Wow. The knifing farmers in the back comment reminded me so much of Roger Clemens’ and his “if I took steroids I’d have a third ear” comment. When people have to get that absurd in their denials, it usually means they are guilty and KNOW they are guilty.

  2. Muckbeast says:

    Reading that Hellgate thread is totally hilarious now.

    “you could still play it at a lan party with friends with an internet connection”

    “In the age of broadband and high speed internet connections, I have no idea why you would play LAN on something like Hellgate where there will already be a top notch online network.”

    “LAN is so 90’s. I prefer secure online play”

    And my favorite:

    “OMG I SHALL NEVAR PLAY TEH HGL BCUZ IT R DUN HAVE LANZ. Yeah. Right. While an HGL LAN Party would’ve been fun to randomly have, there’s really no reason not to just Broadband it up.”

  3. Freakazoid says:

    I wonder if I’ll be removed from beta soon, because I started a thread about it on the beta forums.

    More likely, I will probably be removed for saying that I did.

  4. ManaByte says:

    Ivan was like this when he worked at IGN. No surprise he’s still the same.

  5. Jeff says:

    @ManaByte

    Yeah. He should change his name to Ivan Drago.

  6. Boanerges says:

    Protestations of innocence generally tend to nullify public apologies. “I’m really sorry BUT I DIDN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING WRONG” only works when you’re an AIG executive being asked gently to return bonuses.

    Not true. It also works when you’re trying to become the Secretary of the Treasury, explaining why you didn’t pay your taxes (you know, the ones you got reimbursements to pay).

    Whatever the case, the TOS, at worst, means their accounts can be banned. RMT guys have done far worse in pursuit of a buck. Reality is that, in the end, all’s fair in war and MMOs.

  7. Iconic says:

    I believe the worst that could actually happen is they get sued and lose all of their money.

  8. ManaByte says:

    Well Ivan admitted to doing it, so NCSoft has all the proof they need now.

  9. Rog says:

    I’m kinda having troubles getting too worked up about sniping players, regardless of who’s forums are used, etc..

    I mean, sniping employees? That I do think is pretty high on the unethical charts (in this industry at least). Yet it’s rare for anyone to bat an eye to that practice. Okay maybe an eyeroll here and there, but not much finger wagging.

    These are customers, who I assume have their own sane minds to choose with. They still have to convince them that they’ve got the better product. Not hard considering the developers for both of these games. It’s not like they’re paying customers to switch games. Bribes for beta? Hmm, okay I get a little bit of an ethics nudge there.

    I’m assuming that NCSoft purchased City of Heroes knowing full well that Cryptic would develop more games along these lines and compete.

    Normally– usually– I’m like an ethics hound dog. I’m the guy people say “just get over it, that’s business” to. I cannot fathom how people see a lot of shady practices as a-okay.

    I guess when it comes to products and customers: As a customer, I feel justified to pick which product I like best. If Google puts up a billboard across the street from Microsoft, I don’t see any problem with that. If Microsoft hands out leaflets / flyers on Google’s campus, again, I have no problem with it, although I’d expect they’d probably get escorted off the property sooner or later.

    I’ve always been critical of Blizzard for sniping raid leaders from EQ, but not because of an ethical dilemma. That’s just part of my distaste for the evolution of raid-driven virtual worlds. =P

    Violating a TOS is an extremely small thing IMHO.

  10. UnSub says:

    Everyone always gets my handle wrong! Capital ‘S’! 😉

    I actually don’t care if Cryptic didn’t fall on their sword – just getting them to say “we did it, won’t happen again” is enough. Because if MMO studios start violating EULAs in such a flagrant fashion and it becomes acceptable, the everyone can expect to see Blizzard carpet bomb official forums of new titles with “Come back to WoW and get a free pony!” offers.

  11. Rog says:

    @UnSub: True enough. Spam is spam.

  12. Hudson says:

    I’d take that beta invite in a heartbeat, its no different than Blizzard sniping EQ1 raiding guilds. Who cares…test the product I say.

  13. Mrowr says:

    Whoever wrote this blog needs to get to a doctor…Seriously. That stick up your arse is starting to get septic. Whiniest POS I’ve ever read.

  14. Mrowr says:

    @ManaByte
    Proof, for the purpose of…What?

  15. Logic says:

    Rog :I’m kinda having troubles getting too worked up about sniping players, regardless of who’s forums are used, etc..
    I mean, sniping employees? That I do think is pretty high on the unethical charts (in this industry at least). Yet it’s rare for anyone to bat an eye to that practice. Okay maybe an eyeroll here and there, but not much finger wagging.
    These are customers, who I assume have their own sane minds to choose with. They still have to convince them that they’ve got the better product. Not hard considering the developers for both of these games. It’s not like they’re paying customers to switch games. Bribes for beta? Hmm, okay I get a little bit of an ethics nudge there.
    I’m assuming that NCSoft purchased City of Heroes knowing full well that Cryptic would develop more games along these lines and compete.
    Normally– usually– I’m like an ethics hound dog. I’m the guy people say “just get over it, that’s business” to. I cannot fathom how people see a lot of shady practices as a-okay.
    I guess when it comes to products and customers: As a customer, I feel justified to pick which product I like best. If Google puts up a billboard across the street from Microsoft, I don’t see any problem with that. If Microsoft hands out leaflets / flyers on Google’s campus, again, I have no problem with it, although I’d expect they’d probably get escorted off the property sooner or later.
    I’ve always been critical of Blizzard for sniping raid leaders from EQ, but not because of an ethical dilemma. That’s just part of my distaste for the evolution of raid-driven virtual worlds. =P
    Violating a TOS is an extremely small thing IMHO.

    /signed

    I really wish more people saw the logic, but everyone always wants attention and people love to make a big deal about nothing.

  16. I tipped Massively.com off on this story. I’m glad to see it got some traction and a response from Cryptic. This is exactly what I had hoped for. I would’ve broken it at Massive Gamer, but unfortunately our situation doesn’t allow for it! I can’t say I’m satisfied with Cryptic Studios’ response, except to know that the alleged was apparently true. Though, to be honest, I would’ve preferred it to have been false. I’ve held Cryptic Studios in pretty high regard for a long time. After all, they developed my favorite MMORPG, City of Heroes. I can’t say I view them as positively after this incident. I truly hope they do “fly straight as an arrow” as Mr. Sulic put it from now on.

  17. geldonyetich says:

    If being a MMORPG player was the red hot requirement that caused them to invade formerly friendly territory in hopes to Shanghaing inhabitants, I have to wonder why they haven’t approved my beta app yet.

    But enough pining for these Cryptic cretins completely awesome and better than most any other MMORPG on the market if City of Heroes is of any indication games.

    (*grumble* Champions Online is probably more rife with consolitus anyway.)

  18. Technogeek says:

    A Kim Jong Il mastermind?

    …I smell gimmick Architect boss.

  19. Mercury says:

    Yeah, violating a TOS is a really small thing.

    Until you run the game after doing so, and then you’re a copyright infringer. Just clearing that part up.

  20. Tuebit says:

    What’s the big deal? Was it spammy? If it was spammy, that’d be annoying, and sure, they deserve having their accounts banned.

    For me, as a customer, I’d love a beta invite, even if it were for a competitor of the game I was presently playing. Competition makes better games for us all.

    This blog is starting to read like the Jerry Springer of MMO commentary.

  21. Pig says:

    Hey, um, Scott…Do you feel strongly about this issue? I thought I was picking up on a wee tiny bit of emotion in your post there… 🙂

    Ok, ok, I’m getting that this one is ringing your bell, but soliciting players from their old game, simply to test the new one doesn’t strike me as a gigantic felony worthy of the death penalty. Maybe in bad taste, sure, but overall, kind of a small matter.

    I probably shouldn’t talk. Every time 38 Studios pulls another of their tasteless HUA PR blunders, someone at WG practically goes apoplectic. THAT crap rings our collective bell as deeply disrespectful of gamers, and I’m sensing this does the same for you.

    Also, having a bit of hands-on time with Champions, I can say this with confidence: the idea of “stealing” players from another title is going to be irrelevant. That game is going to sell like hawtkaques.

    Of course, I cut my teeth in this industry playing Everquest, so was the victim of all of Verant/Sony’s early ugliness. I may just be jaded.

    Peace!

  22. Centuri says:

    Is this anything new? The War-Wikki page was an add for Wrath of the Lich King for the longest time. Mythic returned the favor on the WoW-wikki page. http://www.wowwiki.com/Main_Page

  23. Gx1080 says:

    Well, my question is if Champions Online is SO AWESOME, why Cryptic needs to poach players from City of Heroes, huh? Could it be that its all fluff and really is just a bugged, lagged mess? Because, although nobody remembers, WoW launch state was precisely that and sure, now they are Teh Giant, but back then they should have been very desesperate for attempting a tactic that could have result on a lawsue.

    And Ivan Sullic is still hired because either A) The guys at Cryptic have his same view of the world (i.e I pwn and all the lesser beings are shit despite the fact that they are paying my salary) or B) He’s sucking balls. Or C) All the previous. I dont know.

    But i know that if its A or C the Chapions Online forums and community are going to be SO MUCH FUN. And they are going to be cited here in the future.

  24. […] Scott Jennings has some choice words for the CM […]

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