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I've never made a secret of it. My crime? They called it cross-teaming. The real story is different.
My previous MMO not only allowed having characters in all factions (SWG, COH), they positively encouraged it. And since I always liked seeing how both sides lived, I used that opportunity. When there was a discussion in the Beta for PotBS about whether or not it would be allowed, devs strongly came out saying they didn't see a problem with it. Beltpouch posted links to the relevant articles in the beta archives in this epic thread:
What made me decide to make both a Spanish and a French toon? Two main reasons:
1) - Exchanging goods in the game was a pain, even between your own alts. No item mailing, no shared warehouse. Having a second toon would make that a lot easier, for all of the guild. She could serve as the guild transfer and storage point, permanently stationed in Havana. But having two toons in the same nation would be dull. I would have loved to take the other pirate, but then reason 2 came in.
2) - I chose Spain for the guild, because it had a starter port layout that was friendlier to our PVE people, and joining the biggest nation just felt too zerg. We already knew in beta however that the British would have the same population as France and Spain combined. France and Spain would be natural allies. Making sure there were diplomatic channels from the start would serve us both in the end
As soon as my Frenchie could communicate in nation chat, I made very sure to tell everyone what she was. I told them not to tell her secrets, not to give me vent or forum access. I didn't want to betray trusts, and they knew my loyalty was completely with Spain. It became a game, where I bantered with the French from the Spanish point of view, and they called me Sita the Spanish pig-dog, and tried to feed me misinformation.
Many things happened, but long story short, I had a long, involved history with the French nation, and was in a weird way as much a part of that community as I was of the Spanish. I never sabotaged them or griefed them, never even spied on them much. The worst thing I did was very rarely warn someone a gank was waiting for them at such-and-such port. I even levelled up a NO to help them when their nation collapsed at one point, to help them defend against the British.
Then FLS introduced insurance, and with it some horrible ways to exploit dual nationalities. These had been pointed out before they went live, but the warnings were ignored. Once in live, they DID happen. And in a kneejerk reaction, FLS decided to change the TOS, and make having two nationalities on the same server bannable. I was devastated. Spain was already in a bad shape at that time, and the fact I could also play alongside French friends was one of the few things that kept me going in trying to keep Spain together. I petitioned FLS to grandfather in my accounts, since I was provably not guilty of any wrongdoing. They replied I could transfer one of them off the server, but they would not allow one person to have accounts in two nations. My husband and I cancelled all accounts.
In a last ditch attempt, since having 2 nationalities in the same household was NOT forbidden, we asked how about I transfer ownership of my French account to my husband, and he transfer ownership of his Spanish account to me. That way I would own all Spanish accounts, he would own a French account, and we could go on, business as usual, without breaking the new rule. Trading between the accounts would go on the same as before (and what the hell is the difference whether I trade between a french and spanish toon, or my husband is behind the keyboard of one of them??). And no, nothing fishy in the trading either. Sita had oak in Port St Joe, wine in Tampa, some odds and ends, which I could have gotten on a Spanish account as easily - in the case of oak even easier.
The day before the cancellation went into effect, I got a reply from Aether that they were satisfied that this solution would be within the rules, and that they were glad we found a way to make it work. So we uncancelled. Aether said in a brief follow-up that he had instructed the CSR staff that he'd had my account flagged, so that if anything ever came up, he would be contacted to straighten it out.
Two months or three months later, Spain was slowly recovering, France was near death. We were two cripples holding each other up. One day a guildmate wanted to PVP scuttle a ship. I had a brand new sleek mordaunt on my French NO, that I wanted to test in actual combat. So we flagged and had at it. I won the fight, and then we managed to find another frenchie who wanted to try.
Keep in mind that at that point, PVP scuttling had become the norm. Deleting would be boring. I burned 3 ships trying to help a British player PVP scuttle his Valiant the week before: these were real fights.
One Spanish player who had jumped into our instance on a fallback reported us for lord-knows-what. And next thing I know, I get a letter from Aether saying that I had violated the deal made when he grandfathered in my accounts (the word GRANDFATHERED was literally in that mail. Look it up. It means the OLD ruleset applies to you, not the new one). I was confused, sent him a reply that no rules were broken, and that this was a genuine fight between two people, not one of my accounts farming my other account. His reply was that I was guilty of cross-teaming, that the decision was final, and that my choices were deleting my French toons, or transferring them to another server. Which simply wasn't an option: I'd never play those toons again, I'd lose all the work that had gone into levelling them, and there really wasn't a point in making yet another Spanish toon. Apart from that I was furious about the broken promises. So I replied that in that case, I'd be cancelling.
Three days before the accounts expired, I suddenly couldn't access the forums. The message said I was under a one week forum ban. One of my toons was on line, and I smelled a rat, so I transferred everything I could off of her to a friend and tried to log in my main. And got the message I had been banned from the game.
And no, it was not just one of my accounts. They banned 3 Spanish accounts, including the one originally paid for by my husband, and the French account, 4 accounts in all. They didn't even bother to check the account status. We never got a mail explaining the ban. I still don't know why the forum ban happened, as I am not exactly a notorious flamer.
Two weeks before this I'd been corresponding with Rusty about the state of Rackham Spain
Two weeks before this, I'd been helping out on Test, and was told how much my work with Rackham Spain was appreciated by FLS staff.
Did I expect special treatment? Maybe a little, as long as I stayed within the rules, and steered clear of exploits.
My feelings about the entire mess are a complicated jumble. I am still both sad and outraged. What they did amounts to theft. They sold me multiple copies of the game under one set of rules, and then changed the rules in such a way that it became illegal to play the way I and many others did. And by far most of us 'multinationals' never even thought of exploiting. The worst thing is that I KNOW from my professional background that it is, indeed, very possible to detect exploiters by data mining the server side databases. A shipbuilder ID on each ship built would soon show if one shipbuilder lost all their ships to pirate captures. A program counting MOV earned over time by players could easily show abberations, where someone got abnormal amounts of MOV in too short a time. In both cases, further investigation would soon out the real exploiters.
All this aside, this doesn't mean I go running around spreading blatant lies about the game. I don't initiate flame posts either. But I WILL point out the many ways in which FLS made a mess of things, and are still making a mess of things.
And I will never forget one of Misha's replies about the situation with my Frenchie, about how I could always use MSN to chat with my French friends even if my toon was on another server. Nothing ever made it more clear that they have no idea how gamer communities work.
PS: they apparently never found out about my pirate account, bought 2 weeks before the rules changed (I wanted to play alongside some pirate enemy/friends), and cancelled before its free month was ever up, because I DID try to stay within the rules. But at this point, even a formal appology and restitution would not make me play again. My guild left for other games, my nation and server are both broken, there is nothing left.