… And Reconciliation

World of Hogwarts Quidditch Pitch
After World of Hogwarts was formed there were many changes in Hogwarts Reborn. I worked in the admissions department alongside Merlot Zymurgy and others trying to restore some order there, and a few of us took turns to become the new role-play lead. We had long discussions with Harry about sim structure, we expanded the builds, gained new teachers, but having two Hogwarts sims took its toll and Harry’s fear of recreating the same monster that had bitten him before caused him to keep the new role-play lead firmly in check. Hogwarts Reborn quickly drifted towards being a less formal role-play and the World of Hogwarts became largely what Danton had built before. Admissions were now called the New Members Ministry, and the drama department became the role-play department but it was essentially the same thing.

Some players, such as myself, Sidonie, and Sirahal Rees played in both sims, although we perhaps all had varying degrees of mixed feelings about that. Splits are never clean and never easy. My own biggest regret is that we lost so many wonderful players to that split.

World of Hogwarts began with the same scenario as Hogwarts Reborn, but with new characters. You could not just turn up at World of Hogwarts with your old character and start playing – you had to start over. That was galling to many. Quite a few players simply rewrote the same character, and then played that character as before, minus the history. Others, such as myself, created brand new characters. Some of us actually created a new SL account just to run the new character, which is how Trystan Trevellion was born. I played my old account, Gwion, in Hogwarts Reborn and Trystan was my World of Hogwarts alt.

World of Hogwarts wanted to be a player democracy so in the first GMC elections in World of Hogwarts, I stood along with Sirahal and some others, for a place on the GMC. I was quite well qualified, having chaired the writing the first Hogwarts Reborn spell list, and having plenty of previous experience in writing and playing MUDs (Multi User Dungeons, the fore-runners of online role-play). The first hurdle in getting elected was to be approved by the existing GMC, and my application was approved, and I was duly voted to the GMC alongside Sirahal and Flo Writer.

The next year of my life seemed to be a constant drama fest! GMC was not exactly a well oiled machine. We were all trying to do our best for the sim, but with some very different ideas about what was best. Danton resigned because he was feeling drained by the demands of his position, and then we elected a great replacement who promptly vanished. On joining the GMC I became privy to past discussions that revealed that there had been some large disagreements already that saw two former GMs resign. Some of those disagreements remained.

We had problem players too. All those problem players from Hogwarts reborn did not just stay put. Of course they came to World of Hogwarts too. Calling them problem players is maybe unfair. They were players who had different views on how the role-play should run. They were loyal fans of Hogwarts who wanted to make it an enjoyable experience. They were the players that the gang of three detested and this caused huge angst to the GMC.

The mistake here was that the World of Hogwarts GMC attempted to introduce a grievance procedure that would ensure disruptive players would not be dismissed by fiat but would have a fair hearing, and that players could bring grievances to the GMC to act as a kind of tribunal. If you have been following along, you will see that this was a genuine attempt to learn from the way Harry had summarily dismissed players and to provide a better procedure to deal with such things.

Good intentions but two big problems:

  1. Just having the procedure encourages players to use it. In Hogwarts Reborn, if a player acted like an idiot, you could try to resolve the situation yourself in IM, or else just ignore them. Annoying, but we were all grown adults so usually it was possible to settle things amicably.
  2. In an effort to protect the innocent, the process guaranteed anonymity to the complainant. This was an error as it made the process one sided and wide open to abuse. Suddenly everyone could complain about anyone, shout at the GMC until something was done, and face no come back because their complaint was anonymous.

This procedure was used deliberately by the gang of three to target what they continued to think of as the poor role-players. In at least one case I discovered that log files we were being provided to support a permanent ban of a player had been falsified.

Sadly World of Hogwarts in those days descended into something approaching a witch hunt. (ironic I know). Personally I tried my best with what I thought was a broken system to be fair to all, and was frequently criticised for being too soft.

There were other frustrations on GMC. We tried to become more transparent, and more responsive to the players, but it was tough going. We slowly evolved procedures and ways of working but it was not exactly the most rewarding thing I ever did.

Indeed much more rewarding had been my time before joining GMC when I had got hold of the quidditch tech that CJ Grosso had begun but never completed. In the five or six months from the split up until I joined the GMC I finished the code for quidditch, tested it with Miranda, Riko, Jadzia, Prescott and Sidonie, and built practice brooms and other equipment that eventually led to our first actual games of quidditch.

I also wrote the snitch from scratch and Miranda designed its shape.

I released the tech to both Hogwarts role-plays, and both began having matches.

Quidditch save World of Hogwarts I believe. The sim had a full sized ground level pitch and people practised and practised. We had many a great roleplay on the pitch, and some good games too.

Quidditch Practice

Some players, including Jadzia Decuir, Prescott Blackburn, Claik Hax, and Proxima Saenz took to quidditch in a big way, not so much for the match play as for the chance to role-play and have fun together. Falling off our brooms or hitting each other with bludgers was always so much more enjoyable than simply shooting hoops anyway.

I always said, from the day I took over coding the tech, that SL is not a video game and perfect tech was impossible. We saw the truth of that when people, mostly in Hogwarts Reborn, started to use scripted followers to catch the snitch. I was able to partially defeat those with some clever tech in my snitch that detected the use of a follower and let referees know if anyone was cheating.

The other tech also had problems. There were persistent reports of people using rezzers to rez their own quaffels and thus avoid the need to actually grab a quaffle to score. Again I made the tech check for this, but it was never possible to completely eliminate cheating.

So quidditch was rewarding and fun but also frustrating and often leading to big arguments. Many people loved it, others hated it. It was important not to take it too seriously though.

Riko and others on the pitch

So drama persisted. Quidditch, secret complaints, role-play police, the day Vezy Qinan, the chief engineer, tried to destroy the sim by picking up all his builds after he got in some argument about his support for far right wing politics, and after a GM shared private concerns about him with him, (only to have everything replaced by generous players within 2 hours), people just trying to be disruptive… we had it all but it was the repeated assault on an enthusiastic core of players by those who thought their RP was superior that led to a new rift. Danton had warned of just such a thing happening, but the gang of three would not have it and so Hogwarts United was set up by the people that they had been trying to ban… and off went the players once again, because when it came to it, those problem players were just more fun and more interesting than the role-play Nazis!

Luthien’s relative also decided that SL was a pretty poor investment and wanted to divest himself of the sim. Owning a sim would need a premium SL account and the only one on GMC who had such an account was Sirahal Rees. This was a problem for some because Sirahal was seen by the gang of three as one of the poor players and they moved to have her thrown out of the GMC. They attempted to do so in quite an underhand way, breaking our rules, and I showed my softness again by insisting the rules be followed properly. The result: Sirahal remained on GMC but the gang of three essentially quit over this.

This was the moment that one of the gang of three (speculation settles on Armen although I tend to think it would be just as likely to be Venturi) sabotaged the roleplay group by making everyone an owner of it. They could do this as they wee co-owners of the group with Luthien despite not being on GMC. They had always claimed they had the owner role to protect the group, but in their sabotage they proved the lie of that. Thus we reformed the role-play group under another name, and the original roleplay group still exists with about 100 owners.

World of Hogwarts was in a state now. Libbie Bonetto had been roleplay lead but had left when the latest split happened. I stood for and was accepted as the new RP lead, and stood down from the GMC as a consequence. I immediately appointed a deputy lead, knowing my time was too limited to do it all myself, and Kira set about running a range of new plots.

But the crisis was here. There was a new role play (and then another again). Hogwarts was being duplicated over and over. This mattered to World of Hogwarts because as our traffic dropped our renters dried up. We were not going to get enough money to pay for the sim each month.

I had paid for the sim transfer and now I paid off the last minute debt, but I insisted that this must not happen again, and we had to become viable, and so I proposed a plan to the GMC (now with Danton on it) and the plan was accepted.

Firstly we brought Godric’s Hollow onto the sim. This had been a separate sim linked to our roleplay set up initially by Grace Shepherd. Gracie left when she fell foul of the gang of three and handed the group over to me. I continued to run it as a separate RP area off sim, and we had some great activities there including the weekly “my favourite chapter”, but it was supported by rentals and we needed to concentrate rental money on sim.

Thus I let the external sim go and we created Godric’s Hollow on sim. That brought in more money at once, but we still desperately needed players.

The timing turned out to be serendipitous. Hogwarts reborn had been struggling along, but formal role-play had died there. One character, Sphincter Allen, had become a teacher there and then started to bombard the group notices with whatever he liked. He was actually doing his best to drum up support for role-play there, but he was never appointed role-play lead and over time many had drifted away from Hogwarts Reborn. It never died, it just did not regain its popularity. Harry, in the end, had had enough and proposed closure.

Hogwarts Reborn players were outraged at the closure plan after they had stuck with it for so long. Still, Harry was adamant, and Darcy had long since handed Harry full control of the group. It was going to be closed, and that was that.

My plan, therefore, was to enact a merger. World of Hogwarts, chastened by its own experiences, could see that we had not really done much better in designing a happy role-play world (although by now I had changed the grievance rules so that people now at least had the right to face and defend themselves against their accusers). Time had passed and we could see fault on both side and also we could find forgiveness.

I had the approval of the GMC so I called a meeting with Hogwarts Reborn Players and with World of Hogwarts players and proposed the merger. We would honour all history from both roleplays. We would accept that this might cause a few bumps and would just be imaginative in how we worked those out. All HR staff and positions would be honoured. HR and WOH would become one and the same thing, all on the same sim.

Not everyone was happy, but actually it worked. Our plan was accepted. Harry Prefect thanked me and wished us luck, offering his sincerest wish that people just enjoy role-playing in the Harry Potter universe, wherever they do that. Sim numbers returned, rentals went back up, plots got going again and it felt like the beginning of Hogwarts all over again

The gang of three (now with one extra, so the gang of four) were very unhappy. I was accused of being attempting to take over, which was laughable as I was, at that point, doing my best to hand everything over to someone else.

You can never please everyone, but Word of Hogwarts was saved.

I did step away shortly after that when my revised grievance process was ignored and again a player was victimised. I stepped back for several years, remaining only as an ordinary player, but I was always very proud of that reconciliation. Without it, World of Hogwarts / Hogwarts Reborn would not be here today.