Sam_Ursu, The Reader
I live in Tiraspol, PRM (don't look it up on Google)
Recent PostsSam Ursu's Big Adventure on 6/14/2021 12:42:06 PM
Yah, that one was a little weird even for CoG.
It was in the middle of a fairly innocuous thread, i.e. nobody was angry or shouting, but one poor guy (alas, I forgot his user name) dared to say something that JSH didn't like.
So instead of deleting it or whatever, JSH then went and logged in as this guy (again, a regular user, not staff/moderator) and wrote a message saying something like "Be careful before you say such things - JSH". Then, later on in the thread, the guy in question said "hey, I didn't write that! JSH logged in as me and wrote it" and then, of course, it was breezed over as usual.
As for my bio, my apologies, but my life is practically impossible to explain to anyone, even to me, and I'm the one who lived in.
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 6/14/2021 12:34:28 PM
Yah, you know the funny thing is that yesterday, when I wrote my little jimmy of a post on CoG, I did sit there for a minute and ask myself "Should I take a screenshot of this?" But I said, "Nah" because drama isn't much my thing. I said my piece, and the chips were gonna fall when they were gonna fall.
Frankly, I'm probably aware of only 1% of what the CoG founders have been up to, but the bright, Las Vegas-style neon message coming through over there is that neither DF nor JSH actually like what they do for a living. Which seems really strange, coming from an outside perspective, because why not just sell it or move on?
I guess I'm quite naive, as I imagined that it was a 1970s-1984 Atari type situation in which everyone who gets to work on cool games actually is THRILLED to be paid to work on cool, fun games. But all I ever see out of the CoG heads is "I'm sick of the fans, and I hate fucking reading IF." Which considering what a tiny niche it is, seems even more of a head-scratcher.
What prompted my death sentence was a thread about some poor soul who wanted to post a thread on a WIP (Work-in-Progress) he or she was writing using a different format than CoG. And JSH went ballistic saying something to the effect of "This forum costs way too much money to run, so no way in hell am I gonna allow a non-CoG WIP thread on my site."
A few other folks then timidly suggested, for what felt like the millionth time, that since CoG was kinda integral to the IF world, and pretty darn rare in that it's been a profitable business for a decade, the company could maybe, possibly, think about stepping up to the plate and take a bigger, long-run view of the situation, which is to say that being welcoming and embracing diversity would actually make the company money, and if not, at least garner a little respect and admiration amongst the fan base, a huge percentage of which are clueless kids who have no idea whatsoever about all the inside baseball stuff and just want a place to hang out and talk about their favorite romanceable character in a story.
And that's when JSH started whining about how gosh darn expensive operating the forum was, which is run on open-source free software (called Discourse). That made my bullshit meter ping because this is the same CoG gave Patrice Marxist Cullors ten thousand Simoleons last year, so I highly doubt that a $5/year hosting fee moderated by volunteers was in danger of bankrupting the company.
I then pointed out, rather succinctly if I do say so myself, that JSH was exhibiting all the signs of an abusive parent who perennially blames his kids for exacerbating his post-bender migraines, and that maybe, just maybe, if he's spent years complaining that the FANS (which, let's not forget, are responsible for providing most of his income) are all assholes, then he clearly isn't happy and really ought to find something else to do with his life.
Obviously, telling the truth made his migraines worse :P but so be it. One day, he'll be sitting there in some shrink's office with tears down his face realizing he threw away his life arguing with teenyboppers over how to properly manage a subreddit, ffs.
Sam Ursu's Big Adventure on 6/14/2021 12:04:41 PM
I must say that, this afternoon, I discovered somewhat to my surprise that I've gained a tiny, tiny bit of notoriety on this site, which is both humorous and distressing at the same time, but a nice change of pace to my normal Monday. Therefore, let me go ahead and introduce myself so that I am not universally known as a "based COGite" or whatever other in-world CYS appellations I've yet to master.
Ultra brief bio: I was born and raised in the USA as a native English speaker, but I've lived the back half of my life in Europe, talking to people in a melange of English and whatever foreign languages, so my conversational American English is roughly frozen in time from the 1980s when I had a brief but torrid love affair with CYOA-type books (particularly Fighting Fantasy) before forgetting all about them in the subsequent decades.
Fast-forward to 2016, when I was hired by a local company to be their English-speaking (and writing) person and then promptly got re-assigned as the one guy who knew how to use Google (seriously, it's shocking how few people go from Step 1 "I have a question" to Step 2 "let me educate myself via Google searches) to hunt down whatever corporate fad was being bandied about on LinkedIn (universally pronounced as "Link It In" by people in this part of the world), one of which was chatbots.
Chatbots have been around since the 1960s, but it wasn't until 2016 when Facebook added them to Messenger that everyone and their brother started getting excited about them. I took one look at the architecture, and I immediately said to myself, "My god, that's the same structure as Interactive Fiction!"
So when my boss decided not to add a chatbot to the company's website, I immediately started cobbling together a primitive IF story using FB Messenger, just for my own amusement. But after a couple of weeks, I learned that 16 thousand kids were playing it around the world, including in places like Indonesia and Malaysia, which I hadn't even conceived of would be interested in such a thing, I said "oh shit, I guess the IF world isn't dead."
But... after writing a few (very short) IF stories in chatbot format, I went back to the task at hand, which was paying the bills, etc., and so it would've remained a brief cul-de-sac in the narrative of my life but for the fact that suddenly, everyone and their brother was interested in building chatbots. And so that got forked into a new career for me, and soon I was working for a shifty array of modern con artists ("marketers") trying to use CBs to eke out a few more digital pennies from suckers online.
Closing the loop, one day I got a message from a potential CB customer interested in hiring me. On the phone, it was divulged that he actually wanted an IF story, and that's when I learned that there was this huge, very very active community online of people who didn't walk away from the IF world in the 1980s and, in fact, were all still very busy and excited writing and playing new IF story games, which shocked me about as much as if I had inadvertently stumbled over an Amish farm in the middle of New York City.
This was some time in 2019, and the IF-cum-CB customer never did end up hiring me (which is a good thing, as his story writing skills were erratic as hell), but it did kick off a months-long odyssey of catching up on all that I had missed over the decades, including Twine, TADS, and Inform, wonderfully informative discussions by Emily Short and Andrew Plotkin, Aaron Reed's magnum opus of a doctoral thesis (seriously, it's a great read!), plus scans of old 'zines and Usenet group postings (to say nothing of CYS itself), leaving me to, quite incorrectly, conclude that somewhere out there in the darkness, the internet had brought together a group of passionate IF amateurs (not in the sense of quality but in literally they're not getting paid for any of their work) who were just the sort of folks I might enjoy becoming acquainted with.
But.... and it's a big one, the game that most impressed my wannabe client was "Tin Star", a sprawling 1 million-word Western epic published in CoG format ten years ago or so. And so that's how I dipped my first toe in the CoG waters, so to speak. And my first impression was "Wow, they're making digital versions of the old FF games I loved as a kid."
But, despite my ever-ranging forays into all the various communities, forums, Reddits, chat boards, and the like, at the end of the day, most of the wider "IF community," if I'm allowed to say such a thing, was hardly any different than me writing cool little chatbots on Messenger (and later Telegram and other platforms) - an amusing and enjoyable hobby, but nothing more. And since it's faster and easier (seriously, WAY easier) to build IF in a chatbot form, why in the world would I bother learning Inform, Twine, or the rest?
CoG, though, as everyone here knows, promised something different. They had (and still have) an avenue for newcomers to publish an IF work, and if the stars align, it might even end up producing some income. Woah! So yeah, that made CoG stand out from the rest, so it's where I started to spend more time. My first attempt at a game story fell rather flat, but that was because I hadn't quite gotten the hang of differentiating a standard linear story structure from an IF one, but I figured it was a learning experience and shrugged it off.
Unfortunately, though, all my untimely enthusiasm and foolish belief that anyone ornery and weird enough to like IF must be at least of moderate intelligence and emotional maturity crashed headlong into a brick wall as I began to spend more time at CoG. Sure, I met and read a lot of informative postings from a lot of VERY cool people there (including some CYS regulars), but there seemed to be this dark cloud hanging over the CoG forum that I couldn't understand. And it had to be about more than the Alphabet Team stuff.
Why, for instance, were so many users sending me private messages, saying they were too scared to post on the forum, despite the fact that their communications were entirely humdrum? Why would anyone be scared to talk about 1980s IF games like Zork, for goodness' sake? Or their opinion on game structure? Every single message seemed entirely on-topic and completely inoffensive to everyone. But I know what people living in totalitarian regimes look like, and it's a kind of furtive, hangdog look that comes from years of being treated in a hostile manner by the authorities. And that's exactly what I was seeing on the CoG forum.
And then I made the "mistake" of speaking like a grown-up and objecting when the only moderator seemingly on duty over at CoG (Eiwynn? can't remember how to spell it) started calling me a liar when I said that Zork and its brethren were deliberately designed to be difficult to beat, whereas CoG's submission guidelines specifically state that even a cat randomly tapping on the screen will always get to a "win state."
Frankly, I assumed I would be terminated from the forum at that moment, but it turns out that a few of the terrified peasants on CoG weren't quite as submissive as they first appeared, and so a whole bunch of people started protesting, which ended up leading to yet another "reform" of the CoG forum, which I do believe was extensively covered here on CYS.
I then set out to deliberately push the CoG game format to its limits, eschewing the "preferred" method of creating games in which the player had supernatural, exquisite powers and always succeeds to push the boundaries of what could be both fun AND challenging, in which, no, your cat randomly tapping on the screen will NOT let you advance.
In other words, I created story games where you actually have to bring your brain online and fire off a few neurons, and that had two results: I started accumulating a tiny fanbase of people who actually enjoyed my games AND all the crusty old-timers who just want to pretend to be a dashing spy or the long-lost heir to yet another Elven kingdom got angry that my free game DEMOS were getting a tiny bit of traction. In other words, they found my games offensive, but not offensive in the modern sense of the word (such as refusing to use someone's "pronouns") but offensive in the Plato's Cave "shut up about the damn Outside Cave World already" kinda way.
After all, who was I to dare question the supreme majesty of CoG's "winning formula"? And so, in April of this year, when a CoG contest (called CHOMP) was announced, I sneakily submitted a full-ass 40.000-word game that yes, I honestly wrote all by myself in just two weeks (as you can probably tell by now, I am not altogether unfamiliar with a keyboard).
And what did I get in return? I'm not even joking - a PM with a five-page long DETAILED analysis of the thousand reasons why my game sucked, was boring and unplayable, and oh, by the way, broke all the CoG "rules" in terms of story design. About the only thing I wasn't told was to take a plasma cutter to my hard drive to ensure that no one would ever be scarred by my awful, awful game ever again.
Except... that it was a fun game, and a lot of people liked it (after the contest was over, and the entries published), and it became quite clear that the scions at CoG were taking my contest entry as something political, rather than just a fun little madcap game about a kid who gets bored during lockdown and so decides to go pull some pranks. My "political offense," not that they framed it as such, was, again, that I dared contravene the wisdom that CoG's official catalog is of Supreme Artistic Quality and that no innovations were or shall ever be needed to the CoG game structure format.
So, what did I do? I doubled down, of course :)
In the past two months, I published (for free) no fewer than 14 different game stories, all of them in CoG format, but designed and playable in completely unorthodox ways. To be clear, my "revolutionary" games were mostly simple little card and dice games (written in standard CoG script) instead of poorly spelled epics about Supernatural Wizard School or whatever.
The Old Guard at CoG responded by creating a brand-new category on the forum just for Lil' Ole Me (called "Hobby Games"), which was then sequestered under lock and key so that Google couldn't crawl it, nobody could find it via the search function (on the forum), and all URLs to discussion threads were redirected to a page that says "This URL doesn't exist!" even though, of course, they do exist. And when I asked JSH why, he just flat out flagged my post for "trolling" and thus deleted it.
And then, to conclude this already overblown introduction, I started widening my scope to corners of the IF world I had previously set aside, including CYS and IntFiction, and that's when I concluded that the reason everyone on the forum was acting like a member of the Red Brigade during Mao's Cultural Revolution is because there actually IS a misanthrope, an IF-hating self-proclaimed "grouch" named JSH terrorizing everyone with his foul moods and unfathomably hostile "management" style that simply shouts "I FUCKING HATE MY JOB AND ALL OF YOU FANS WHO PAY MY SALARY."
All I did a few days ago on the CoG format was compile a very, very short list of examples of his malcontentment, including (and I wish I were joking) logging in under another user's account on CoG and then posting messages about himself (JSH)! I mean, that alone is insane. And when the user in question complained, the sycophants shut him down. So yeah, I knew it was a coup de grace in putting my succinct objections out there on the CoG forum for everyone to see, but if you can't tell the truth on a friggin' internet forum, where can you do it?
Anyway, for those of you who made it to the end, I look forward to mastering the CYS format (for creating IF games), and we'll see where we go from there. Oh, and nice to meet you :)
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 6/14/2021 10:31:49 AM
Terribly sorry I haven't posted more here since joining, but frankly, I was lying low in the weeds to get a hang of the culture here, which is a little hard to parse for me. Also that plus I haven't yet figured out the way to write games using the CYS engine, so my preference was to put out a game first before wading in on such weighty topics as how to properly beat your child :P
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 6/14/2021 10:26:13 AM
Actually, I have been through some shit over there. I know people here "keep it cool" by talking in a snarky, cynical way about just every topic, so I won't say more because it sounds boring even to me. Certainly nothing worth writing a tell-all book about, but considering that we're talking about exchanging comments on a niche internet forum about stories and NOTHING ELSE, it is truly surprising how deep the craziness runs over there.
Let's just put it this way: I consider this little more than a skinned knee, but a whole bunch of people contacted me over these past few months to tell me about their experiences, and most of them boiled down to "I'm too scared to post on the forum anymore."
The whole thing is farcical in the extreme because all I wanted was a chance to re-create my childhood fun of playing IF and maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the line, cobble together something good enough to publish and ask a stranger to pay for.
Oh well, not gonna happen now! :)
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 6/14/2021 10:21:50 AM
Interestingly, on an unrelated note, I saw a post by Dan Fabulich over on another website just a few days ago, talking about how "he has" an active forum going on at CoG, but also that he hasn't "checked in there" for a while.
Last I looked, he's long since abandoned the Mothership, for reasons unknown, and seems completely oblivious to whatever his "partner" is up to.
Oh, btw, apparently none of you High Scions noted that I actually got fragged on CoG for calling out JSH for bitching about the financial cost of hosting the CoG forum (estimated at $5/annum) after giving a 10.000 dollar donation to the Marxists last year, which made me ROFL.
And my exact line was "Long story short: everyone on this forum is to blame for DADDY'S BAD MOOD" which seems more or less accurate.
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 6/14/2021 10:18:07 AM
Yes, yes, I was thinking of taking a screencap of my post, but what's the point? Everything that can be litigated has already been litigated ad nauseum.
But nice to know I'm in the company of rogues here :)
Hey look at the based ex-COGite! on 5/29/2021 6:19:54 AM
jeez, so needy