Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Public Figures - Part 2

The recent Bartle controversy caused a huge amount of comments here and on other blogs, as well as lots of blog linkage, not all of them very nice. Of course I freely admit that my remarks about Richard Bartle were not very nice either. But there are still degrees between calling somebody bitter and irrelevant, or calling somebody a fuck and asshat in an underhand "professional" way. I had a few of those insults in comments on this blog, and I deleted them. That makes me vulnerable to charges that suppress dissent, but in reality it is language that I suppress, not criticism. I left all comments that disagreed with me, even strongly, as long as they were polite.

I didn't feel like going around to all the blogs that attacked me and justify my words, like Dr. Bartle did. I very much enjoyed his comments here and elsewhere, because they made his ideas and point of view much clearer than his original provocative remark. But the only comment I can say about the people writing over me is that they have a point that I shouldn't have reacted that strongly and emotional to the provocation in Bartle's remarks. And they shouldn't have reacted that strongly and emotional to my provocative remarks.

What the whole thing taught me is that I'm a public figure now as well, in the small universe of MMORPG discussion, of course of lesser importance than Dr. Bartle. Massively had a Richard Bartle vs. Tobold headline. The thought frankly scared me a bit, because as a public figure you can get away with less. This blog is a non-commercial venture, a labor of love. I write because there are things that I feel strongly about, there are things that make me angry, and there are things I have totally subjective opinions of, and I want my opinions to be heard. The whole process of loving or hating a game is not very rational. Me writing not very nice things about a game I don't like, or about a person who said something provocative (intentional or not), is me being human, being angry, being emotional, being irrational. I have neither the superhuman willpower nor the editorial oversight necessary to prevent that from happening. I write what I think. And I hate the thought process where I catch myself thinking "Oh no, you can't write that, its going to cause too many angry comments". It is a perverse system in which the more you have the means to express your opinions, the less you have the right to do so.

So now I'm a bit at a loss what to do. I could pull a "reverse Lum" and turn into "Tobold the Mad", with an angry rant blog, and not care about all the comments with foul language that would undoubtedly attract. But that isn't really my style. I could write much less, or shut down the blog for a long period unless I'm out of the public eye and thus regain the ability to say what I think. Or I could shut down the blog completely and open a new one as "Dlobot", without telling anyone, and escape scrutiny that way. But I think the most rational is a mix in which I use the current summer MMORPG slump and holiday period to write less, try being myself without self-censorship, and wield a heavy banstick if that causes the language in the comments to deviate from my Terms of Service. And blacklist the kind of blogs that tend to call me names. What I don't know can't hurt me, because the internet is just words.
Doesn't it just suck when too many people pay attention to you? =/

Don't worry about it too much Tobold. The best people will recognize that people are simply voicing their opinions. The worst people don't matter. And the rest? My bet is most of them will forget about the last few posts inside a month. Because it doesn't matter that much.
I just want you to know mate, that as far as asshats go, you are the nicest asshat I've ever played with *grin*

Keep on going mate, and don't take the criticism to heart.

Oh, and have fun at Blizzcon :)
if you play with fire you will get burned someday.

still, don't stop, just accept you are a growing public figure in the world of mmorpg's.

stay honest to yourself and others and all will be ok.
Go on writing the way you did.
Your blog is good.

If you censor what you want to say just to be everybody's angel, you weaken your blog.

Criticism happens. People like to disagree, argue and insult. Especially on the internet.

Keep going!
I'd like to think you have a core group of readers who comment often and try and keep Tobold the Mad in check without insulting you big T =P
Stop feeling sorry for yourself!

You have a great blog and if you carry on in your usual style it will stay great.

In general you have always written about the subject matter... that is why you have always been a head and shoulders above most bloggers.

I didn't think your personal attack was justified and I am sure many others did either. If folk disagree with you, they are going to let you know.

Just do what you do best and keep it up!
You have become a public figure BECAUSE you have something personal to say, and you are good at expressing it. Do not buy into the logic that would have you second-guess your approach because something you said caused a controversy. It's like the old management principle, "if you never piss someone off, you aren't doing your job."

I have recently stopped playing World of Warcraft and shut down my blog. This is Amanna, and my blog Adventures in Azeroth, was moderately popular. Certainly not as widespread as you, but I did have a couple similar instances where something I wrote caused a bit of controversy. And certainly anyone with passion, conviction and empathy will normally react as you did (and I did), questioning themselves and wondering if you need to "take a break".

I think you only need to ask yourself one question, and that is "is Tobold okay with what he wrote?". You only need to answer to yourself. If you're okay there, then as a blogger in the public eye, you simply have to let all that other stuff roll off your back.

I looked at it this way. If I really was such an asshat, then why did so many people read my blog?

Forget the trolls and the angry mob for what they are, and concentrate on the positive people.

I've read your blog for a while and enjoy your perspectives and insightful comments. I look forward to provocative statements here and there - they make me think.

Keep up the good work. If YOU want to take a break, then by all means do. But please don't take a break just because there are some jerks out there that haven't grown up yet.
Tobold I've been following you around for awhile since I stumbled on Grimwell's forums. I find your posts insightful and through provoking even if I don't agree with them I can usually understand the angle you're coming from. You're a great communicator (much better than myself) and I hope you keep doing this for a long time to come.

Things get discouraging from time to time, but don't let them turn you away from what you love to do!
I have a significant suspicion that this all boils down to a language issue. I worked for some years on a joint German/English project, and found that Germans by and large just don't get British humour. (This is hardly surprising - the cultures and languages are different. I doubt I'd have much luck with, say, Chinese humour in the original tongue.)

Bottom line - you took Bartle's comments far more literally than they were intended, and therefore your comments appeared unfairly insulting and disrespectful. You'll note that the people who flamed you are all English speakers and so understood more instinctively the humour underlying Bartle's writing.

But now you're famous. Welcome to the big time. ;)
Yes, there are degrees in 'not making very nice remarks'. Hurling expletives doesnt score very high in my book though, since it is usually evidence of underdeveloped verbal skills, vocabulary and more in general, intelligence:) So i wouldnt worry too much about those.

I blog myself (for a significantly smaller audiance though) and couldnt care less if someone is apparently angry because of what i wrote and want to vent that anger in a comment. I even enjoy the cleverly written vents. The others are more a reflection on the poster than on me as a writer or my published opinion.

And as someone already said : Have fun on Blizzcon! (i'm very curious about their mysterious announcement...)
Baldrake writing here reminds me that I forgot to add "Hire Baldrake as editor for all I write" as one possible solution. :)
Heavy is the weight of the blogging Overlord crown.

Every time you say 'I'm going to write less' a kitten dies. True story.

Being serious now, it's very clear to anyone who has been around this part of the blogging world that while you have many fans (myself included), a few bloggers just don't like you much, and jump at the chance to slam you. Who knows why (jealousy would be a good place to start), but then again, who cares? Like you said, the best thing you can do is ignore them, and continue to do what made this place great, write with passion.

Plus you can't stop now, who will I refer to as the voice of the carebear in Warhammer?

Enjoy Paris asshat.
Keep going the way you always have, Tobold. A lot of people went from zero to pissed waaay too quick over the Bartle thing. This, too, shall pass.
It's a blog tobold. The fact that people are getting that upset and passionate about it means you are at least poking around in the right places.

You cant be right all the time.
Honestly we all make mistakes and go over the line from time to time it's called being human. And your line and someone els'es line may be in different places thus all the stupid name calling.
My take is the minute someone starts throwing around the F words its because they have no real ammo or have just decided to be an irrellevant part of the conversation.

Keep doing what you do. And if someone gets upset because thier entry gets deleted because they cant' be civil. To hell with them.
You're bound to encounter this type of thing from time to time tobold. You've done a great job so far imo with giving fair and balanced reviews as well as keeping up with many of the wacky stories which circulate in this business. You just said somethings that either A, you didn't realize would have the impact that they did, or B, didn't care. If A is true, then I wouldn't worry too much about the criticism of others since it will blow over in a month anyhow, and you should just continue doing what you have always done so well. If B is true, then you shouldn't run from what you said, nor should you delete posts from people who strongly disagree with you because they may have dropped the F-bomb once or twice, as you are guilty of the same thing from time to time.

I hope you don't decide to move your blog because of a little negativity, and to be honest, I think the flame war that errupted over your former guildies was much worse; At least the comments were.

Whatever you decide to do, fight, flight, or pacify, I wish ya the best.
Do not - stop writing here.
Do - delete the foul-mouthed comments from morons.

Keep up the great work and pay no attention to the critics off in the distance.

Your blog is a highly valuable piece of the MMO gaming community.

Maybe you could leverage this into fame and fortune!
(J/K -- I get the impression you'd rather not.)

"Provocative words" is a tool that is double-edged. I know that you've used it yourself at times and so you've been on both sides of that coin. Still, provocation generates discussion - at a risk. And, as we all know, it can be tough to tell whether an Internet post or written interview contains "provocative words" or an idiotic rant. Sometimes we misinterpret, and just have to back up and try again.

Hang in there.
I enjoy the blog and the discussion.
The internet is a funny thing, an exchange such as this would most probably be much less likely to happen in the real world. I know it's easy to take things personally, but really, everyone on the internet generally cares much less about what they are saying than they pretend to.

Basically, if someone insults you on here, they don't care. That means they haven't spent the time to find out if they actually agree or disagree with you, they are just pissing about. So don't worry about it.
there you go tob,

you get legions of fan defending you and beggin you to continue posting. that gotta feed your ego for a while.

if you criticize and judge other person , then you know you will reap criticizm in return. thats the way it is. do you DARE to insult richard b face to face ? i dont think so.

You can write all you want in this blog. yet filtering opinion that dissenting from yours is not right. (no bad language in this post i remind u)

if you really true to your word, then continue posting and take all criticizm in stride. If you cannot face criticizm then its time to be anonymous again.


That's hardly relevant, common courtesy is generally lost on the internet anyway. And that's from all quarters, including yours!
So I’m confused… did Richard Bartle just slay the Blog Overlord? Because I didn’t see anything, just all this text scrolling on my screen…
Would Richard Bartle have said "I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft" into the face of Paul Barnett? Would mahir have said the things he said in the posts of his I deleted into my face?

I totally accepted Dr. Bartle's explanation that he was saying that phrase in a developer's conference, and much of the fuss was about the comment being taken out of that environment and into the environment of Massively. Not that Zenke misquoted him or anything. It is just that a snarky remark which sounds funny to a specific audience can be quite insulting to another audience.
My last comment was in the first Richard Bartle post. I did not like that post not because I agreed with Bartle but because I did not think you took your usual clear thinking view of the subject. I think it is proper that I also praise you for your more recent posts. The Atari post looked at the issue well from both sides. The mass market versus hidden gems post I found to be one of the most interesting and insightful posts ever. So I want more Tobold not less.
I just think Bartle said what a lot of people are thinking (and also saying on their blogs).
War is WoW personified...even if WAR did it first, and WoW copied them.
But, due to the nature of Bartle's "Popularity" (or lack thereof according to many. But, if that was so, why does anyone care..), it really turned some cogs, and made the MMO blogging scene of the WAR fan contingent turn on their heels and scream "Bloody Murder".

For me, all that I was bothered with was the double standards. It is ok for you as a "popular" figure to have your say about a game, and make assumptions but for others it is not.

Personally though, I will always be here, as you are quite entertaining in your method of delivery for this blog, and usually anything controversial is WAY more fun than a boring "News" based blog.

So, I say..."Bring it on", write something else that is scathing or against someones beliefs, or makes people take notice of someone else thought processes...because that rocks!

BTW, I didn't call you A "fuck"...I just said whatever comment I made on that quote from you would have contained the word 'fuck'. And hey, asshat isn't really THAT offensive of a word. I still have nothing against ya Tobold.
Well, I suppose one *could* take that a bit further.
What IS the big deal?
WoW = (EQ + ‘polish’)
EQ = (MUD + ‘graphic animation’)
MUD = (D&D + ‘computer Dungeon Master’)
D&D = ('Arthurian fantasy' + 'dice and probability tables')

I would guess that various Public Figures have argued for or against all of those propositions...
Keep up the good work, and don't let the haters get you down! If you start throttling or censoring yourself, then that's going to screw up a lot of why I avidly read your blog daily in the first place.
I think everyone just saw what they wanted to see with the initial remark

I wonder how many times the penny arcade strip where tycho calls WAR world of warhammercraft got linked
It's been said already, but deserves an echo: The reason you've come to where you're at today is that you haven't shied away from speaking your mind. I'm sure you know by now that you can't please everyone, so who really gives a sod?

Be yourself and you'll continue to win some and lose some. Such is life.

If you're feeling particularly evil one day, I suggest my favourite interweb forum game. Being extremely polite to all those who flame you with obscenties. Ultimately many of these people are full of (to their mind) righteous indignation and looking for a fight. Asking them politely to expand upon the reasoning behind their outburst drives 'em nuts (well, more nuts, anyway).


"Ur a f**kin morron. PvP rockz, carebear."

"Perhaps you could explain why you think that PvP is so much better. What reasons do you have for that belief?"


Sometimes I think I have too much time on my hands.
Please let it go. Please.

I want the old Tobold back. The one who stopped posting about three months ago.
Keep writing bud. I have been here 3 years now and don't believe I can find another blogger at your level. I enjoy your thoughts and interesting insights. Screw those that don't agree and press on with it.

One day I'll finally make an identify lol
Write as if everyone and noone were reading your blog.

Enter into discussions with those whose comments interest you.

Delete the real maroons.

Be happy.

Momma Salaryn
Be yourself. Speak your mind. Don't censor yourself. If you think someone is a booger then call them a booger. If you think a game sucks. say it. That's what I want when I read blogs.
i agree with keen here, be yourself and stop pretending to be a cool/calm/collected blogger.

you certainly wrote a lot of stuff since that 'big bandwith user = pirates' post. i suspect this flurry of topics is just to cover up your own mistakes in that hasty post. yet here you make another mistake in insulting richard b. and you even take offence when other blog criticize you. talk about falling into the same hole twice.

this .. is.. you .. , the real persona behind that cool tobold is just another human being with ego/failing and its no shame to admit it. why covering up ? just do like other blogger did, be yourself.

grow up tob, this is internet where every blogger (including you) can write anything they want and should expect to receive feedback (positive or negative)

if you are starting to censor ppl and hiding behind that TOS / legalese to suppress opinions , then you should look deep inside you. did u blog to boost your ego ? or did u blog because u love to write ? if its the former then you will take offence when someone criticize you. if tis the latter then write away and enjoy it.

thats all
I think you're making way too much fuss about the whole thing, just carry on as usual and ignore the idiots.
Don't feel obliged to anything (not even this)
That's what being independent and unbound by money is about: real freedom.
You have the blog that is the most enjoyable to read, partly because of the above.
It's casual and honest (but still taking things seriously)
Some poeple have a professionnal reputation to defend and will go to lenths to save face because their financial future depends on their reputation.
Others are like opportunists thinking that if they hit their superiors hard enough on the first opening they might take their place.
You need neither, because you're free to do as you please. You're above that kind of stuff.
You can elaborate your comments to be sure everyone got the right meaning, but you don't owe justification to anyone

Keep it real like you did
Tobold>What the whole thing taught me is that I'm a public figure now as well, in the small universe of MMORPG discussion, of course of lesser importance than Dr. Bartle.

Your first broadside at me claimed I was "irrelevant". Now you say I have "importance". Make your mind up!

Even in blogs, it's not easy to be consistent, but at least you get to choose your subject matter.

>Massively had a Richard Bartle vs. Tobold headline. The thought frankly scared me a bit

Oh, it gets scarier than that. Here's a question that Massively didn't ask me, but they could have. Let's see if you can give a straight answer to it right now, as honestly as you can. The question is: "Which of today's MMOs is the least relevant".

Have fun!

I would be interested in the answers to that question too...from both you and mr Bartle, or better : as perceived from the viewpoint of a gamer and a designer.
easy answer, it's Richard Bartle's mmo
Your first broadside at me claimed I was "irrelevant". Now you say I have "importance". Make your mind up!

Irrelevant with regards to your current contribution to the development of contemporary MMOs.

Important with reference to your historical significance and how many people have heard of you because of that.

No inconsistency there.

"Which of today's MMOs is the least relevant".

To which you would get as many different answers as there are MMO players.
Your first broadside at me claimed I was "irrelevant". Now you say I have "importance". Make your mind up!

Why can't you be both? On the one side you have big historic importance, and people listen to what you say. When you make an witty remark, it ends up as a headline not only on blogs like mine, but also in much bigger publications like the Guardian.

On the other hand I don't think anyone plans to give you $50 million to develop the next big MMO. If somebody made a list of people most likely to be made chief developer of a new triple-A game, you and me both would be very near the bottom of that list, way behind Rob Pardo, Tigole, Smedley, Lum, Raph, Paul Barnett or even Richard Garriott. You maybe wouldn't even WANT to be on that list.

Your huge academic knowledge of virtual worlds makes you important. Your repeatedly proclaimed inability to get the fun and mass appeal of current games makes you irrelevant in the development of future games.
Let's see if you can give a straight answer to it right now, as honestly as you can. The question is: "Which of today's MMOs is the least relevant".

My instinctive answer would be "Darkfall".

But then of course we get into a huge discussion of whether not-yet-released games do count. And of course we get into the discussion of what is an MMO and what isn't. What about games that are part single-player games, like Hellgate London? What about text muds and small browser games? And when we discuss text muds, are we talking historic relevance or only current relevance? There certainly is somewhere a small text MUD which didn't add much to the evolution of the genre and which today has only a handful of players left.

The best answer is probably that the real least relevant game is so irrelevant that I don't even know its name.

The problem people have with you is that you probably would have answered "World of Warcraft", knowing very well that this would be an answer that you can both intellectually defend, and which would cause the maximum outcry. But the discussion following that would be the same that we just had: Is a game relevant if it makes a billion dollars a year, changes the daily live of millions of people, but doesn't make groundbreaking changes to the MMO genre?
Big failures would have to be considered as relevant as the success stories. They so often proved huge lessons about what not to do.

Besides a game that is too small of a market share to get any notice I would have to choose a game that was neither a success or big failure to label as least relevant. The next criteria for me would be how long it has been out. Most games lose relevancy over time.

These thoughts lead me to name Asheron’s Call. AC1 was never a huge success nor a big failure. It is one of the older games yet others that are older I feel are more relevant because of their success or maybe just ground breaking contributions to the industry. A time frame pear of AC1 is DAoC but that is hugely relevant in my opinion because of the up coming WAR. It however will quickly become less relevant though with the release and maturing of WAR.
Some of this discussion has to make me laugh. I do think bloggers have it easy: no responsibility, no job, no professional repuation riding on what they say. They can say whatever the hell they like, as long as people read their blogs, thats the main event, isnt it?

Since blogger's aren't paid for writing a blog, I'm sure the industry largly ignores them - at least during work hours.

Whats the upshot of all this? Some bloggers have a self-important view of their own contribution in the grand scheme of things, or the importance of their own opinions. But just because a LOT of people read a blog, doesnt necessarily mean the discussion is all that important - as far as professional video-game development is concerned.

What are you qualifications? Have you ever worked for a MMORPG firm, in some top-notch position? Have you shaped the development of the industry yourself, or do you just comment from the sidelines? Do x thousand readers of your blog fool you into thinking you're a star player on the field who trains his heart out every single day, rather than an enthusiastic spectator who never misses a match?
I come down fairly strong on the free speech side of this issue. While I can understand a personal morale obligation you feel to be more responsible about your posts as a "public figure" but regardless of your status or title, you have every right to say whatever the hell you want.

I mean, I can go out and blather all I want on a street corner (with a few limited exceptions, like threatening the president or something) and people have two choices: ignore me, or listen to me. Well, they might yell at me too if they don't like what I'm saying, but that means they're still listening, ironically enough.

The same goes with your blog. You can write whatever you want, but people don't have to read it if they don't like it. And you have every right to censor whatever you want that shows up on your blog. I mean, you now have full ownership of this post as soon as I hit the "Publish Your Comment" button.

My point with this is that I don't think you should differentiate between being a public figure and not. Sure, more people see you, see your mistakes, and see your triumphs, but the number of hits does not affect your free speech rights.

Now, it seems to me you try and be a good person, be responsible, ethical, and polite in what you say. This post apologizes in some fashion for the outburst over the Bartle issue, and that seems to confirm what I just said. So, retain your integrity you strive for, continue to post what you think, and give the finger to the "public figure" idea.

At the risk of telling you how to think, I think you're looking at it from the wrong perspective, and unfairly trying to limit yourself. You said before you blog for recreation and fun. So why should the popularity of that blog change anything?
Tobold>Why can't you be both?

Too late. You said something which on the face of it was inconsistent. If, 20 years from now, when you're the doyen of MMO commentators, you say two things which are contradictory, you can expect the 20-years-from-now equivalent of blogs to plaster your name and 3D photograph all over the place claiming you don't know what you're talking about, you're senile and you eat babies' feet for breakfast. The fact you didn't mean what you're being read as having meant will have no effect on this process.

Been there, done that.

>Your repeatedly proclaimed inability to get the fun and mass appeal of current games makes you irrelevant in the development of future games.

No, you misunderstand. I do GET the fun and mass appeal, I just don't EXPERIENCE it.

You may get some of the fun (the sort you experience) but do you get the rest (the sort experienced by other types of player)? You may get the appeal of MMOs to you, but do you get the appeal to the masses?

You don't get enthused by 3 styles of play, and I don't get enthused by 4. This is enough to disqualify me as a designer because why?

>My instinctive answer would be "Darkfall".

So if this were a proper interview and not a thought experiment, the headline would be: "Tobold claims Darkfall is irrelevant".

People who play Darkfall would read the headline, be outraged at what they construct as the self-satisfied, pompous remarks of a self-appointed, know-nothing blogger, and tell the whole world that's what they think.

It's not even as if you said it was irrelevant, you just said it was least relevant. No matter. They'll point to the strategy aspects and demand to know how you can say anything with this innovative gameplay "irrelevant". They'll berate you for failing to understand the flexibility of the skills system. They'll pull out their knives and stab and stab and stab, because Tobold thinks he's important and he's NOT.

All from one honestly-answered question.

>But then of course we get into a huge discussion

No you don't. People are making these comments about you on web sites all over, they're not even reading the original interview, they're just saying how out of touch you are, wondering why anyone reads your blog anyway, and turning instead to those bloggers who best describe what a jerk you are. You don't get to discuss anything with these people, because where are they? They're in nooks and crannies where you'll never find them. All of them think you're a louse.

>The best answer is probably that the real least relevant game is so irrelevant that I don't even know its name.

"Because, hey, you're so important that because you haven't heard of it is HAS to be irrelevant! Have you heard of Wind Kingdom Xing? No? That has 30m players in China and you NEVER HEARD OF IT! You're a joke!"

(I made up the name Wind Kingdom Xing, by the way, don't bother Googling it).

So, this is what happens to me. People make their mind up based on false premises, and then interpret everything I say through this filter.

This, if enough people regard your opinions as having sufficient weight that they'll interview you for a major web site, is what could happen to you. It's what could happen to any of the people who are reading this now and are tempted to comment. Throwing stones at people is only fun if you're not the person having the stones thrown at you.

Personally, I don't mind people ranting at me when they understand what I said and the context in which I said it, but when they clearly don't then I'm going to try clear up the misunderstanding. That's just me, though. Other people may not care how their words are reported and arrogantly laugh off the heart-felt opinions of others. There are a myriad ways to react. I've no idea how you would react - but the thing is, neither do you, not until it happens.

>The problem people have with you is that you probably would have answered "World of Warcraft"

This isn't a problem people have with me, because I know I wouldn't have said that. I would have said, "it depends what you mean by 'relevant'", and then gone into a lengthy explanation about how relevance is relative to individuals.

That doesn't mean there isn't a problem, though - there is. The problem is that once again you put words in my mouth and then beat on me for having said them. Why do you do that?

>knowing very well that this would be an answer that you can both intellectually defend, and which would cause the maximum outcry.

Why would I choose deliberately to make a remark simply because it causes maximum outcry? You still seem to think that self-promotion is my main motivation. It's not! I just want better virtual worlds.

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