Announcement Addressing Recent Community Events

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The Crew

TLOPO Staff
Introduction

Hello, everyone.

Before we start, we would like to thank everyone for their patience as we prepared this post, it has been a very stressful week for us - but we would like to emphasize that things have been in motion even before members of the community came forward publicly, and this post has just taken us a long time to fully compose.

This post is going to act as our full response to all the recent commotion here on the forums and in the community at large. We also recognize that there are a lot of questions and concerns about what has been accused recently, and we would like to try and bring closure to the situation and resolve any concerns players have.

We would like to acknowledge that we were internally aware of this incident before any form of community post went up. Furthermore, by the time any post was made by a community member, we had already addressed the situation internally and had begun actively discussing new ways to help prevent something like this from happening again in the future.

We have been working very hard this past week to come up with a proper and meaningful resolution for the community. There have been discussions in motion about how to properly respond to this situation since the day of the first post, and considering this had already been handled internally weeks ago in accordance with our policy, we had to approach it remaining impartial and try to find some form of proper solution that’s respectful to all parties involved.

We wish to remind players that TLOPO as an organization strives for integrity.
We are not an organization run by employees on a payroll. We’re passionate friends who are working together for a common goal. We learn from each other and laugh together every day, but we also hold each other accountable for our mistakes.

We have always been a community project run by the community members, for the community. So many of our staff are long-time dedicated hard-core POTCO players with just as much passion for this game as all of you. When situations like this come up, it is difficult for all of us.

In light of recent questioning of the integrity of TLOPO, we wish to explain various parts of our team structure and how our team functions and responds to incidents like this. We do not normally discuss internal policy and procedure to address every kind of repercussion on our team, but it does exist and has been exercised privately over the years. Similar to bans and mutes with Moderation, we do not talk about disciplinary action against Staff Members publicly - and this is something we will continue to be doing going forward. But with that, let’s move into the bulk of the post.

Administration and Leadership
The Legend of Pirates Online is a department-based team with a representative from each Department who holds a seat in the team’s Management Board. Additionally, each Department Lead maintains their own department’s policy separately from Management.

For example, the Moderation Department has its own unique policy that applies only to moderators; but at the same time, there is also Management-level team policy that applies to every member on the team regardless of which department they’re in.

When a violation of the rules occurs, it is brought up in the specific department as per the level of where the rule violation occurred. It is also customary for Department Leads to notify the team’s Management Board of their administrative actions within their own departments, as well as requesting a full management vote on department-level decisions in an effort to remove bias from any decision making.

Any rule violations are always discussed at length and investigated to the fullest extent by our Leads. Following these discussions, a vote is conducted in that department and a decision is formally made. Upon finalizing a decision, a formal discussion is initiated with the subject of the vote and they are notified of the decision and, if the individual is found to have violated the team’s rules, their repercussions as directed by internal policy.

Repercussions
Privacy is one of the top concerns at our organization. We have taken significant efforts to secure our game and protect the privacy of our players. We are proud that we have been able to protect the game from many exploits like Python injection, a major issue that badly haunted the original game.

Naturally, this same level of care for privacy applies to all aspects of our project, not just what a hacker might be able to try and do with the code we develop.

We ask that you read Stephen’s personal apology linked below. No staff member on our team was aware he was going to make this statement; the same moment the community read it was the same moment that we read it.

Stephen’s personal apology.

We have worked with Stephen for years and know him at a level many other people in this community do not know him at, and we know how this situation is affecting him personally just like the stress of this situation is also affecting the managers of our team personally. At the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that people are people and mistakes happen. This does not condone the mistakes he made, and action was taken against him internally regardless, but we need to acknowledge that at some point we are going to mess up as individuals. It’s easy for us to focus on the mistakes themselves, but what ultimately matters is how you learn from them and grow as a result.

Our willingness over the years to actively change moderation policy to try new methods of discipline that are not as impactful to players, but yet still appropriately disciplined, is one manifestation of this learning. Early on, we were much more strict with bans and inadvertently created a very negative culture against our moderation team. Our warning point system introduced in 2017 with mutes has worked out incredibly well for us.

We built our moderation system on forgiveness so players can change and come back. We learn from our mistakes, and giving players and staff alike the opportunity to redeem themselves and be better people is the intention of our moderation. And this is the exact intention of our internal policy on Staff Member discipline as well.
 

The Crew

TLOPO Staff
Internal Response
Leaking chat logs is against our moderation policy and is not tolerated. This incident was reported to us by Stephen himself before anyone else in the community came forward.

At that time, his actions were heavily scrutinized by our Senior Moderation team and other high ranking members of the team, and he was disciplined in accordance with internal moderation policy.

We understand that since the community has no access to our private channels, it is easy to jump to conclusions about why a decision was made or even question whether any repercussions occurred at all. We sincerely hope that this post can clear things up as we continue on and shed some light on our internal processes and how we conduct Moderation oversight within the team.

The Reporting System
In this section, we will be outlining to you exactly how our report system works internally.

In order to close a report, a moderator must physically assign themselves to said report. This certifies that they have indeed looked through it. Once closed, the report is filed in our archive and available for Senior/Lead Moderation review at any time.

Several of the accusations raised the claim that Stephen (or other moderators) are able to bury reports made against their friends. This is absolutely false. Every report ever made is logged and locked in our files. They cannot be deleted, and when a moderator closes it, that moderator’s account is permanently linked to that report.

Additionally, in the event that a player submits a ban appeal via support, the support department will directly involve Senior Moderation and request their decision. The Customer Support team also has no administrative say in any moderation appeals decisions, that is a power of the Moderation Department; not Support. Stephen is not involved in this loop at any part of the decision making process and physically cannot suppress any support email appeal claims. We have made a few additional comments on support below.

Regularly, our Lead and Senior Moderators conduct inquiries to make sure all of our moderators are performing their duties properly. If a moderator were closing reports in an effort to hide a friend’s misconduct, it would have been found out. This has never occurred in the history of this game’s lifespan.

As an aside, in reviewing information as we constructed this post, we ran an analysis on our database and can state in the entirety of The Legend of Pirates Online’s history, out of every single account registered, only 0.002365% of all registered TLOPO accounts have been muted at any point in their entire account history. Of these accounts, the vast majority never had a repeat offense.

This shows us the average player has never had a single encounter with a moderator.

Support Emails
Additional accusations were made against Stephen claiming that he is running in the management of our customer support team, this is untrue. We have several points we would like to make regarding this.

First and foremost, Stephen has never been a part of the support team at all. Further, he has never answered any email from support@tlopo.com.

Secondly, support is a completely separate department from moderation with entirely separate leadership and structure.

Lastly, this seems to imply that there is a bias that exists within the support team itself; this is also untrue. Much like every other part of our team, all customer support responses are logged. Almost every single email that isn’t a standard correspondence is reviewed in a chat room shared by all customer support agents, members of the management team, and a select few game developers who may offer occasional technical support as needed.
 

The Crew

TLOPO Staff
Name Changes
As a general rule, we do not offer name changes to community members. Exceptions are allowed in some occasions and the infrastructure to do so is there, but we make sure to do this sparingly, as it can cause some bugs within the system, both internal and external. In-game, we’re sure you’ve noticed various problems with temporary names like “Seadog” still appearing in chat history, guild lists, and on pirate profiles.

Despite these issues, on extremely rare occasions, we have allowed for renames of some pirates in the past for various reasons on a case-by-case basis. This is not a common occurrence, having only been done no more than a handful of times in the entire history of our project.

The instance of a rename mentioned in one of the allegation posts claims that Stephen renamed the pirate of a person he was friends with. As said above, every rename of a pirate MUST be approved by Management/Senior Moderators before occurring. This rename was no different from any other.

Furthermore, every name that is ever approved, rejected, revoked (a name that was previously approved, then found to be inappropriate), or renamed, is logged. Every single TLOPO staff member has a log of every action they make within our control panel. Here is an example of one user’s event log:

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Any member of our management team is able to see these logs when inspecting the account of a moderator. This is done regularly within our moderation team inquiries. It’d be abundantly clear if a moderator were secretly renaming friends’ pirates.

Conclusion
We sincerely hope that this response is satisfactory to the community. This whole ordeal has been incredibly taxing on us as a team. We apologize that many of you feel like there has been a breach in trust. We will do our best to rebuild it. We hope that this post has given you some reassurance in us again, and helped you better understand how we operate.

Lastly, we feel there is a very fine line between accountability and slander. This was a constructive response from the community by many, and we always have and always will welcome constructive criticism with open arms; and that is what many of you have done here and we thank you for expressing your opinions to us in a respectful manner. But it does need to be said that we will never condone any slander toward any of our staff members in the event of its occurrence.

We will be taking a step back from the spotlight for the immediate future as we regroup and re-evaluate our policies, community interaction, and other aspects of how our team operates.

Thanks again for your patience while waiting for this response. In the end, we all are just players like you. Just like you, we also want our beloved game back. We will continue to strive to become better just as we continue to strive to make the TLOPO experience better, and look forward to sharing this journey with you through the game.

~ The Crew @ The Legend of Pirates Online
 
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