Shroud of the Avatar stymies insider trading at the perceived expense of backer privileges


Yesterday, Shroud of the Avatar’s Starr Long announced a change to its testing forums that has ruffled more than a few backer feathers.

“Due to the potential economic and gameplay advantages of access to the QA server, QA Bug Forums, and Release Instructions prior to a Release we are no longer going to make those exclusive to Dev+. Starting with next release (Release 45) access to the QA server, QA Bug Forums and early drafts of the Release Instructions will be available to ALL paying backers regardless of level. This will put everyone on a level playing field and remove any potential advantages. […] Dev+ Forums and access to them will remain unchanged. Only access to the QA servers (and associated bug forums) is changing.”

Long apologizes for the fact that the “previous policy has allowed some players to gain advantage over others” — according to Reddit, those amounted to insider trading and economic advantages akin to those enjoyed (and exploited) by Guild Wars 2’s secret tester program.

But some long-time backers are annoyed, arguing that they’ve now lost one of the perceived perks of their support and will now see more competition for the bug reports they were incentivized to lodge. However, in statements to Massively OP, Long pointed out that QA access itself wasn’t part of any pledge purchase and that Dev+ forum access will remain intact.

“You could say there was a value associated with Dev+ that was temporarily increased due to a temporary policy that has now been reset to its original levels,” he clarified. “QA access was actually never part of any pledge or bundle purchase description. The only thing that they actually purchased was access to the Dev+ forums. For a time we limited access to only those who had Dev+ forum access, but it was never in any package description; it was only a policy which we are changing. The backers who are upset are not having anything they paid for removed (even if they clearly feel differently).”

Long also told us that he understands the frustration and is engaging in discussions with backers, both those who are miffed and those who believe the move is in the best interests of the game.

“Many players bought very expensive bundles and pledges to get to that level for a reason,” writes one player, one of the more reasonable ones on this side of the argument. “I know, I did. Slowly, things like Daily Standups were moved to General, and posts about things to come (with discussions on them) just did not happen anymore. We do get previews to Update of the Avatar posts, but Dev+ is no longer what we bought into.”

“After four years of having Dev+ I don’t feel the remotest sense of loss, devaluation of my pledge, or depreciation of my overall experience,” wrote another.

Source: Official forums via Reddit. This article was updated with corrections and clarifications; we’d like to thank Starr Long for the extra information.

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Vagabond Sam

This has been an issue since persistence in July 2017.

I first saw egregious advantages in the live server when the Dev+ forums recieved patch notes early on a change to the premium currency.

The freely tradable Gold Crowns of the Obsidian (COTO) are sold at a starting price of $1 with discounts at bulk purchases. Prior to November they were used to pay rent, buy potion boosting effects and just trading for items or US $.

So the demand was visible to everyone. In November however, the dev+ forums were shown patch notes at least one week early introducing the ability to fully repair your equipment to as new status using COTO. We are taking about repairing equipment that can take 100+ hours of gathering and crafting to make.

This allowed dev+ players the chance to go and buy up COTO that was about to shoot up in demand using info only a small percentage had access to.

A currency that is tied to us$ directly.

In November a few threads popped up asking questions about the fairness in this advantage and they were deleted our moved to dev+ even if the authors weren’t dev+.

I spoke to the community manager as well directly but nothing came of it.

So yes, congratulations oon finally cutting off the advantages of dev+ in a game steeped in RMT over half a year after it started to undermine confidence in the ‘player driven economy ‘

This us all without mentioning the nerfs to xp in zones that gave dev+ a heads up to really stack up the xp grind before it was removed giving them power advantages in a game with no skill cap.

These are the reasons why in the interview on MassivelyOP they weren’t clear on their intentions in having mechanics in place for new players to ‘catch up ‘. Until now even day 1 pledges were behind if you were a sub $400 backer.

Can you imagine the outcry from this community if they did as they alluded to and gave new players some exclusive benefits?


Who buys into a game just to have exclusive access to report bugs? Wouldn’t you want more people to test out the game to ensure that the final product is actually improved?

Silly whales..

TotalCowage .

Oh you can report other bugs too; you just don’t get special Whale Backer rewards for doing so. Do you know the hilarious thing? I actually typed “Whale Farm” rather than “Ant Farm” into Google by mistake… and it’s such a common opinion Google auto-corrected and got the target first try :P But yes, you can report what you like, but you didn’t get a reward unless it was done in the Dev+ area, and the Ant Farm is one of them.

Some of the reasonable, non-greed obsessed backers asked if this at least would now be open too if Dev+ was being closed; Which might be nice, considering you can also report bugs and never see them fixed because Portalarium are focused like lizards on money, money, money. That was still in game when I came to record a video review more than a year later. And it’s a direct gameplay affecting mechanic that kills you!

The game and community is bobbins.

temp starcitizen

Don’t know why they’re freaking out about it so bad, the devs that is. It’s just a thing. Why they went into damage control mode, locking threads and deleting posts makes no sense.

TotalCowage .

Because Real Money Trading is the centre of the game. And Insider Trading in real money businesses is ILLEGAL. So Portalarium were not just allowing parts of their community to get real money advantages over others, but they were quite possibly breaking the law.

Previously they would ban you if you spoke about Dev+ information outside of the forums; however someone bravely decided to risk it all and blow the whistle because he knew people were taking advantage of insider information they had from the Dev+ patch notes, which meant a particular resource was about to become 100x rarer.

Of course, that resource was ALSO tied to RMT and the Premium Currency we have in game too, which made it even more despicable. Once the information was out there however, Portalarium had to act FAST lest they be seen to be mocking the laws covering Insider Trading.

However to their greed obsessed community that was irrelevant; they had paid for an advantage over other players, and by god they’d better be able to use it. And even amongst those who think retiring the Dev+ forum was a good idea (which should have been done a year ago when the game went live and RMT became legal, but still), as this article notes, because it was still a perk they’d purchased, they expected compensation for losing it…

Which is why Starr Long is trying to say “Yes, but, we didn’t promise it forever…” Bit of a hard sell to make though when they’ve driven away most of the decent people and the few who are left are riddled with people who believe they’ve been sold literal Feudal Lord status.

temp starcitizen

I read some more into things, doesn’t look like this is about bug testing though; more like it’s about RMT and economy. What the hell is wrong with game developers these days, just build a good game already. I’m not touching this title with a ten foot pole.

TotalCowage .

That’s correct; the scandal is the RMT and Insider trading; the free in game rewards for bug reporting that people below that spending level weren’t given were on top of the insider information Dev+ backers had, and wasn’t even part of the Dev+ pledge level at any time it was being sold; it was something Portalarium chose to add later to encourage people to spend up to that level, whilst justifying it by claiming people that invested made better bug trackers.

They also started arbitrarily removing some of the rewards to keep the previous Whales property values high, and pressure people into becoming a Whale before the cut off dates.

Which was insulting to those of us who had genuine love for the game, but weren’t prepared or couldn’t spend $500+ to get into the Dev+ backer level or upwards, or would have to resort to getting the land deeds off the Whales via RMT later, because they also removed the ability to buy them off the NPCs.

Meanwhile the Dev+ backers also get the declared rewards from that pledge as well (at least, those they’ll put into game or can afford to produce, we’re all likely to get stiffed on something as the project struggles to remain funded) combined with the Bug Report reward scheme no one lower than that was able to take part in… But many of the community are so greedy and unconcerned with either ethics, the law, or the future of the game that they’re demanding compensation for losing access to market information a decent games developer wouldn’t have allowed them to have at all.

It’s honestly been the worst experience in my gaming life to watch individuals whose earlier games taught me so much about Virtue and trying to lead the good life (Ultima IV onwards) destroy their own legacy and any sense of belief in them with this shameless money grubbing which has sunk into turning a blind eye to literal financial malfeance in the community… and they aren’t stopping even here! Coming next is adding a crypto-currency to Shroud to try and get people playing who hope to mine it and become the next Bitcoin early adopters.


It doesn’t matter to me I got my Dev+ for free :)