Respect and honesty. Two basic, universal tenets of ethics that should apply even in the world of computer games. I expect to receive some negative backlash from writing this story, but it’s one that needs to be told. Tripwire Interactive is solely responsible for the death of the Red Orchestra competitive community, including the longest running community website which hosted competition for the RO community for 8 years. More disappointing are the unethical, childish actions of one Tripwire representative in particular that lead to the closure of that community, ROLadder.
I Swear, Tripwire Interactive, your president should be impeached.
ROLadder was a community of gamers devoted to organizing and hosting competitive events for the Red Orchestra clan community since 2004. After 8 years of supporting the RO community and Tripwire Interactive, from the mod (RO: Combined Arms), through the retail game (RO: Ostfront 41-45) and even into the early post-release months of the not-so-spiritual successor (RO2: Heroes of Stalingrad), ROLadder finally suspended operation on February 3rd, 2012. Simply put, the reason for their closure was due to the non-existence of a competitive clan community following the disappointing release of RO2. But there’s much, much more to the story than what Tripwire President John “Ramm-Jaeger” Gibson has tried to spin in attempts to avoid the reality of the state of RO2 as well as silence those who experienced first hand the childish antics of a delusional, border-line psychotic gaming developer.
Quite obviously, RO2 was not ready for clanplay (or really even public play) upon release. Even almost 6 months post-release, the game still lacks essential components that are necessary for hosting competitive matches. This of course, is all in addition to customers still waiting for advertised features that were supposed to be included in the game (but later changed to be added post-release). To further complicate the situation, the existence of numerous bugs, performance issues and gameplay design flaws has so drastically driven players away from the game that it has taken its toll on the clan community. Without people playing the game, servers aren’t filled, clans feel no need to waste money hosting empty servers, clans cannot recruit new players, and new clans cannot be created. Thus far, RO2 has been the perfect storm for the ultimate letdown to the many followers of the RO franchise who anticipated a sequel that would be a smashing success.
Over the course of the past 5 months, Tripwire Interactive representatives, primarily Gibson, have tried their hardest to save face in the midst of failure. The official community forums are filled with nothing but excuses, false hope and most shockingly, undeserved condemnation of a once loyal fanbase who have lost faith in and respect for the developers they formally held in such high esteem. I could write more about the current state of the game itself, but that’s really not the main purpose of this story. So for more about that, please take a look at a brief review that I wrote a little while back. However, it’s time to address the truth behind “ROLaddergate”.
The truth is that two months earlier in December, it was a well-known fact to those involved that ROLadder would likely be closing in the new year unless the state of RO2 and relations between ROLadder and Tripwire Interactive drastically improved. As neither of these conditions happened, the inevitable occurred. When ROLadder closed, the admins of the site left a message on their homepage to explain the reasons behind why they chose to shut down. Within a few hours, discussion was generated on the official community forums. In an odd move, Tripwire President John Gibson ([TW]Ramm-Jaeger on the forums) decided to lock the two initial “ROLadder Closing” threads. Only then was Gibson’s agenda revealed in that he felt the need to create an official thread. The opening post made it quite obvious that Ramm was not pleased with the (valid) jabs that ROLadder took at Tripwire. In his attempt to spin the story, he claimed that the ROLadder statement was full of exaggerations and lies.
Some users saw through the false defense of the opening of Ramm’s post. Probably the most hilarious thing was that Ramm’s opening post received so many “dislike ratings” that shortly after it was made, the site admins disabled the “Helpful Answers Mod” (aka the “like” feature). Well, at least it’s hilarious to me since I “crusaded” against it during my last year on the boards before being excommunicated. Ramm was only slightly truthful in one aspect of his attempt to play the victim, and ironically enough that quasi-truth was his opening of a can of worms that exposed his personal vendetta(s), dislike of and intimidation attempt towards ROLadder. It was subtle (well, not really….it’s just that people seemed to not want to focus on it), but some users caught it.
Apparently somebody at Tripwire told Ramm to stop posting and digging himself into a bigger hole. Since he never responded to the various users who asked for more details to be given about the “Ramm Hate Group” or who the ROLadder staff member(s) he referred to, these details were leaked out. Slowly, more people started asking questions about this portion of Ramm’s response, and once some truth started coming out, the forum gestapo stepped in (as usual) to lock the thread. Well, here’s the facts coming straight from the mouth of “that member”.
Many of those regulars who’d followed RO and the community forums for the past few years might have remembered a user going by the name -[SiN]-bswearer. Well if you haven’t figured it out already, that was/is me. I was a diehard supporter of Tripwire and their games since I was hooked to RO in late 2006. However by the time RO2 rolled around, I found myself excommunicated from the community forums and all of my posting activity hidden from the public view. Again for more details of how this all happened, please refer to my previous article, RO2: Far From Heroic. Moreover, I unintentionally became the universally hated troll in the eyes of Tripwire’s developers and community moderators.
When I was initially banned by the infamous moderator Zips, it was because after I got infracted for reporting a post that was in violation of multiple forum rules, I reported Zips for being an abusive moderator. In other words, he baited me into giving him a reason to outright ban me. The next day I woke up to discover hat I was also “banned” from Tripwire’s Facebook fanpage after I made a post thanking them for allowing such terribly incompetent moderators turn their forums into a cesspool.
I also opened my email to find two interesting messages. The first was a notification that I received a private message on the forums informing me that I received another infraction (despite already being banned) for “Insinuating Illegal Action on Tripwire’s Part” because I agreed with another post that suggested that Tripwire was guilty of false advertising. As I later discovered, this was done because Zips’ excuse really wasn’t a good enough one to have me permanently banned.
The second email from Tripwire VP Alan Wilson was even more interesting. In this email he essentially rebuked me for pissing off the moderators and that it was my fault for getting banned. But the following quote began to reveal the absurdity of what Tripwire was doing behind the scenes:
if you continue to escalate this on other public forums, you are potentially heading into legal territory, which will result in actions like a “Cease and Desist” order or, if you insist on trying to bad-mouth us all over the place, potential defamation lawsuits.
After a few days of contemplating my next move, I finally sent Alan a reply explaining the reasons why I was banned in attempts to show him how ridiculous everything went down. Having remembered the Alan Wilson who went out of his way to get me into PAX 2010, who was so congenial during the almost 90 minutes of our interview about RO2, I foolishly hoped that he would see the truth and no longer tolerate the abuse that was running rampant underneath his nose. I also made sure to let him know that I would have loved to see them try and sue me. This intimidation tactic was not going to work. Months later, I was contacted by another Tripwire employee who let me know that Gibson had actually contacted a lawyer even before I was banned because they thought that my posting on the community forums was worthy of being labeled “detrimental to sales”.
Fast forward to the release of RO2 in September. Around this time I was contacted by the admins at ROLadder who invited me to join the staff as a game admin for the North American section. My initial reaction was shock. Over the years, I had not made many friends at ROLadder. This was mostly due in part to my involvement in co-founding and adminning an alternative competitive website for a few years late in the life of RO:Ost. I and others had issues with certain aspects of ROLadder that kept us from wanting to be involved so we created and ran this other site where we got about 10-12 clans (mostly American) to have friendly competition. During those years, a few instances of drama gave me a bad reputation amongst some people at ROLadder because of the backroom politicking spreading mostly false versions of the truth behind those events.
But as I think most of us in the competitive community realized, RO2 was a chance for everyone to start fresh. This was an opportunity for everyone on the RO community, even old enemies, to work together to make things better for the new game. So I accepted the invitation and joined the ROLadder staff. Because the state of the game and the competitive community was so gloomy from the very start, my involvement with ROLadder really wasn’t even that extensive. All I really did was invite as many potentially interested clans to help increase the size of the American community and give some input to the main admins regarding structure, rules and development ideas. To say I was a major influential piece behind the ROLadder organization would be a gross exaggeration.
When Tripwire announced the $12,000 sponsoring of the Scorched Earth tournament which was going to be hosted by longtime RO clan TWB* and newcomers to community, Forgotten Honor, it’s safe to say that the ROLadder community rightfully felt like it had been slapped in the face. ROLadder had just completed a major site overhaul in preparation for the new game and was undeniably the only website capable and functional enough to host any major competitions. ROLadder had the experience of running competitions, this history of being the #1 community website for the RO community and more importantly, the majority of all the active clans were already gathered at this location. But this was nothing new in regards to the relationship between Tripwire and ROLadder.
Back when RO:Ost came out in 2006, ROLadder had already established itself during the mod days as the most popular website to host RO competitions. Yet Tripwire passed up supporting ROLadder and instead campaigned to move the clanscene to the likes of Team Warfare League. Obviously, that attempt to kill ROLadder didn’t work and TWL closed their RO section after only a few months. As I was told by some ROLadder people who were involved at the time, the prizes that were donated by Tripwire for the ROLadder Winter Cup were in fact originally planned to be given to TWL until RO was dropped there.
Now, the really ironic thing is that almost a year before TWB* partnered with Forgotten Honor, I was offered the chance to run this tournament by the TWB* leader ButchCassidy. At the time I was thinking about creating a new site for RO2 as things were still up in the air regarding ROLadder’s plans and progress. I eventually decided that I didn’t have the time, money or energy to create a new site and that it would make more sense for everyone to work together to make one great site (ROLadder). So I let Butch know my plans, and it wasn’t until later that I realized how much pull he had to actually get Tripwire to give their endeavor support despite the fact that it wasn’t even close to meeting the credentials that ROLadder had.
The reality is that the Scorched Earth tournament, like ROLadder, was destined to fail from the start. Granted, ROLadder was significantly better prepared to host competitions, but the game itself was just not competition worthy. Even months in, the game is still missing vital features such as client side demo recording and fully functional anti-cheat just to mention a few. Neither website was likely to succeed because of the flaws of the game which lead to a huge decline in players and bluntly speaking, the death of the competitive community. Scorched Earth saw numerous teams withdraw due to lack of activity, so much so that only about half of the matches in the North American bracket were even played. Add this to many issues with the actual game, and you had a recipe for a flop. To note, I for one don’t blame TWB* or Forgotten Honor for getting Tripwire’s sponsorship, but the fact of the matter is that they should not have been chosen over ROLadder and Tripwire should have known better.
I understand this is a long story, so I will finally try to wrap up this saga. At the start of the new year, I was informed by the ROLadder admins that during their time trying to get support from Tripwire, John Gibson specifically told them that because I was a staff member, that he would not give them any support unless they kicked me off the staff. I actually told them that I would remove myself if it meant they would get support but they all agreed that they would not be intimidated like that. So when they got back to Gibson, he told them that I at least had to make a public apology to him and Tripwire. I again said I would do so and the admins forwarded this info to Gibson and Tripwire…….nobody ever got back to them until it was announced that ROLadder would be shutting down.
The sad reality is that John Gibson’s personal vendetta against me was the sole reason (or at least his excuse) as to why he would not have Tripwire support ROLadder. I know there’s more to it than that as neither Gibson nor Tripwire ever really had a great relationship with ROLadder. Although they will never admit it, it was always a “we have to put up with them” mentality towards ROLadder. Regardless, the very fact that Gibson used his vendetta towards me as a scapegoat is quite pathetic to say the least. He claimed I created a “hate group” against him that I in fact did not create. Moreover, to withhold support to an entire organization because of one person and then go around denying that this happened is one of the most childish things I’ve ever seen from a professional.
Gibson and possibly Tripwire in general, sees the video game industry as not being a “typical” business atmosphere. Because of this, these middle school dramafests have been allowed to happen on numerous occasions. After experiencing all of this firsthand, I’m appalled at how professionals can lack such basic ethical principles like respect and honesty. To make everything worse, it all happens behind the scenes and thousands of costumers aren’t exposed to the true nature of the people they are supporting with their money by purchasing their products.
To close, I will say this: RO2 can still be a great game and Tripwire Interactive can still be a great gaming developer. But if they as a company, are going to continue to allow childish nonsense like this to happen, then it is only a matter of time before major controversy blows up in their face and ultimately leads to their downfall. As for Mr. Gibson, even though RO2’s failure thus far has been a rude awakening for him, I believe that he still has the potential to be successful. But an event like this needs to serve as a kick in the nuts because he has to realize that he cannot do this kind of stuff to costumers and not be held accountable. You have to man up to your mistakes and work to fix what you broke.
I realize John Gibson and Tripwire will likely deny everything that I’ve said here. I wouldn’t even be surprised to receive some nasty emails threatening me again. All I have to say is that this is the truth and it should be told, if not by them, then by somebody.
And if they don’t like the truth well……..they can SUE ME.