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1 Year Anniversary: A Letter to the Community

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Owyn

Administrator
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Dear Community,

I felt it was due time to write a letter to you for our 1 Year Anniversary! This is an incredible milestone and we are doing what we can to revel in our accomplishments! I have done enough gloating about what we have done over the last year via our Developer Debriefs and other outlets, so I felt this was prime time to address another facet of our world: the community.

The last year has been tumultuous and exciting to say the least, but the last month has been particularly challenging for us as a shard and team. We often feel we are at the end of our rope dealing with a variety of issues and policing members of the community.

Outlands has been DDoS’d in some capacity almost every day since we launched one year ago. These attacks started in beta and haven’t let up since. Between our game server, web server and patch server, we see some malicious attempt at bringing the shard down every single day. This is costly, both in actual funds and our personal stamina. I have been on call for the last month to move servers around the world when necessary, reboot as needed, on countless phone calls and email chains with our hosting providers and law enforcement – all in an effort to keep the shard running. Our uptime record hasn’t been anywhere near what we want it to be in the last month. Daily disconnects resulting from DDoS attacks, albeit usually brief, are damaging to the shard and our population in general. What you see from the outside looking in is nowhere near what we’re dealing with in the background.

We would like to thank everyone for their generous contributions to the shard in recent months as well. It has been an expensive endeavor to constantly move servers and afford the best protections we're able to. Funding also goes towards all aspects of running Outlands, like server/web/hosting costs, staffing costs, design costs, graphic and image acquisition, storage and many more behind the scenes costs. A few concerns have been raised in regards to donations being used to fund PvP Tournaments (and potentially award players who you don't ideologically agree with), but please note that the PvP prize purse is put up by one player, and has been since we began hosting cash prize tournaments. This player specifically donates to foster the competitive PvP community and that is what his funds are for.

When I decided to launch Outlands I didn’t imagine it would be anything like this. I created a world and just imagined that players would love it and play within it - grateful to have a shard of this caliber to call home - but unfortunately what has come to the fore has often been disturbing and dark. Recently, the community hit fever pitch over Discord moderation (or perceived lack therefor) and the presence of certain players expressing bigoted views beyond our "walls." The saving grace of this issue is that 95% of our community pays no attention to these troubling narratives. If I had any choice I wouldn't involve myself with it, either, but unfortunately as community leaders we are often dragged into these issues, and dragged I was. Luckily for us all, I am determined to hold this community to a higher standard. I have learned so much, not only about UO but people in general.

To be clear, I have zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind. I am a proud Canadian, born and raised in a country where identifiable and targeted hate speech is illegal and not tolerated. The foundation of our country is a melting pot of ideas, intellect, culture, identity and appearance. The staff I have hired and chosen to represent the shard stand behind these values as well.

Outlands stance on these issues echoes my personal views, which are clearly outlined in our Terms of Use. This has been an upstream battle to police in a historically toxic online community. My views on these issues have not wavered. I have been criticized for over-moderating and on the backhand criticized for not moderating enough. We moderate within our walls heavily, but moderating outside of them is not within our jurisdiction. It is impossible for us to verify the legitimacy of all complaints, yet anyone who is abusing our rules from within our walls is dealt with swiftly. I am critically aware of the necessity of "shit talk" in a competitive PvP environment, but I am a firm believer this can be accomplished without bigotry.

I will remind you that each of the services we use for communications have their own policies on racism, hate speech, doxing, etc. Policing private message, Scribble channels and private communities is not the responsibility of the shard, so please be mindful of who you accuse of being some kind of bigot enabler when these venues are not acted on. The fact we even need to have this conversation among a bunch of adults is disappointing at best, but I can assure you that you have all the tools you need to manage your interactions with others. Please, use them.

Thankfully, and I have to remind myself of this as I can clearly get trapped down the rabbit hole, we have a TON of amazing players and communities within our broader, global, community. I enjoy my daily interactions with people I have grown quite fond of, and a Staff team I am proud of. It has been my pleasure to get to know so many of you. I was recently sent photos of a player's newborn baby, and another of an engagement ring post-proposal. This game has a way of bringing people together unlike any other I have encountered. These personal relationships - some now multiple years old - have the potential to last us all a lifetime. That is the magic of Ultima Online.

Moving forward, we are excited to be refocused and working on tons of new PvM content, which we outlined in our Development Pipeline. We have a multitude of events and celebrations lined up for the shards anniversary, including the incredible Field of Souls event. The PvP community is thoroughly occupied with hourly PvP events and it has been wonderful to see that content eaten up. As developers, we get a lot of joy of thinking of inclusive content for the majority of our players, so it's enjoyable for us to be back on that side of development. We can't wait for that content to be eaten up, too.

Outlands first year has been a rollercoaster of sorts. It is something I am immensely proud of but also, a times, deeply frustrated by. I hope we can all do our part as members of this community to elevate it to the level it deserves to be at, instead of feeding into the hate and ignorance which does nothing but bring us down. Our goal is to make this next year better for our players and for our staff. We want to spend more time making content for you to enjoy, and less time intervening in unnecessary issues. Be kind to one another.

I am sorry that this letter isn't terribly uplifting, but fear not: this isn't the end by any means, but simply a not-so-gentle reminder that just because you're hiding behind a keyboard doesn't give you the right to disrupt something wonderful. Here’s to another year!

Owyn

(this thread was locked upon posting.)
 
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