David Maddaluno, station owner and show host of Beyond The Horizon Radio offered to help provide substantial information used in this article to point out some inconsistencies with the way Roberts Space Industries and Cloud Imperium Games handle bans in relation to using their services for the crowd-funded game, Star Citizen.
Agreeing to an end-user license agreement or a terms of service to participate in specific activity for a product or service you paid for usually comes with stipulations about proper conduct and behavior when using said services. But what happens when what you do outside of that company’s domain potentially results in getting you permanently banned from utilizing some of the company’s services?
David Maddaluno was one of the backers banned within the past couple months for what he feels is inconsistent behavior from the staff at RSI and CIG. Maddaluno states he was banned from using the Star Citizen forums and from interacting with the community on the Roberts Space Industries website for being “toxic”.
According to Maddaluno, he expressed that CIG handed out his ban for being “toxic”, even though he felt that the ban was handed out because he was questioning their progress on the development of Star Citizen…
“I started to pull funding in August. After GamesCom, I called CIG on their lack of progress. I forget which live stream it was, but I was banned for being toxic.
“In reality, I was questioning their ability to properly manage this project. I have a background in project management.”
Maddaluno was permanently banned on October 10th, 2015 during the CitCon live-stream, with his account being locked out the forums permanently. It’s almost equivalent to user No_Forum_Jokes_Allowed, who ended up with a 10 year probation on his account for “misconduct”, which stretches all the way to 2025, as evidenced in the screenshot below.
After being banned, Maddaluno requested a refund and asked for his account to be closed. He still has access to builds of Star Citizen and can play the game just fine, but he’s no longer welcome on the forums or related community services.
Maddaluno began posting about his perma-ban and his experiences with CIG staff on the Something Awful forums. After posting about being banned on October 14th, 2015 on Something Awful, Maddaluno received an e-mail from Cloud Imperium Games head of marketing, Sandi Gardiner, on October 14th, who had been monitoring his activity on third-party websites and forums, after he was banned.
What’s more is that he was later contacted by Gabriel via SMS/text message who mentioned he had inside knowledge of CIG, as evidenced in the images below.
[Edit: Part of this information was requested for redaction]
I did reach out to Gabriel to ask if Maddaluno’s ban was justified and if he was actually a “toxic” member of the Roberts Space Industries community. Gabriel made it known that the following quote is him speaking personally [Edit: Due to a miscommunication some of this information had to be redacted following publication]…
“[Dave] seemed to become disillusioned with the project and as is his right stopped being a fan. However he seemed to fall into a certain crowd that tends to associate itself with the Something Awful forums. For whatever reason they do it the group including certain antagonists such as Derek Smart who continue to disparage the Star Citizen. In my point of view Dave was a really nice person to meet, talk, and drink with at PAX East 2014 however it seemed that he only became “toxic” to the Star Citizen community after he started associating with specific people on the Something Awful forums.
“Dave unfortunately wasn’t the nicest or most civil commentor on the Star Citizen project and it most certainly took me by surprise that a person who in 2014 was so excited to post such negative, hateful, and hurtful views. In my opinion yes he had become toxic to the community in what he was posting however I can’t comment on the specifics of if he violated the TOS however I can certainly understand how what he posted upset a good part of the community.”
According to Dave Maddaluno, he was not aware of what rule he exactly broke in the terms of service and was not notified about the exact rule, stating…
“I never violated any rules. They just didn’t like the fact that I was vocal about questioning their abilities to produce. Again – my background is in project management. So they tagged me as “toxic” and banned me.”
It’s true, the current terms of service does not state anything about “toxic” behavior. The word isn’t used in the TOS, and in regards to chatting about Star Citizen, the TOS only states the following reasons for potentially getting warned or banned for disruptive behavior…
“Disrupt the flow of chat in chat rooms with vulgar language, abusiveness, hitting the return key repeatedly or inputting large images so the screen goes by too fast to read, use of excessive shouting [all caps] in an attempt to disturb other users, “spamming” or flooding [posting repetitive text]”
Gabriel noted that after seeing the messages and finding out about Maddaluno’s ban he decided to text him, stating…
“I ended up texting him after I saw to see what happened as I hadn’t seen him since PAX 2014. As a friend I wanted to reassure him that everything was going well and not to fall into the naysayers. Personally I think it was a matter of circumstances that lead to him posting toxic comments.”
Maddaluno didn’t appreciate that his off-site conduct was being monitored by the Cloud Imperium Games staff, and made note of it a few times on the forums he frequented.
The micromanagement of the community doesn’t end there, though. Another financial backer who goes by the Twitter handle Beer4TheBeerGod was also permanently banned from using the Star Citizen forums.
There is a very expansive set of e-mails that have been published between Beer4TheBeerGod and the CIG staff over his perma-ban dumped within this Pastebin file. Some names and contact information have been removed.
Beer was banned back on October 8th, 2015, permanently. He wrote to them about the ban, stating…
“I can only consider the information that has been provided to me, but a permanent ban does not seem to have been an appropriate action given my history. As I understand it given the length of time since my last warning the September 25th infraction should have also resulted in a warning, and subsequently whatever specific infraction occurred on October 8 should have resulted in a 24 hour probation. That infraction should also have been specified along with the moderator initiating the action.”
According to the rules there’s supposed to be a five-step process leading to a permanent ban. Throughout December Beer had a discussion with president of marketing, Sandi Gardiner, who explained to Beer that she could not overturn his permanent ban from using the RSI services…
“Regarding your moderation, there is no way I can overturn this. I am completely outvoted by everyone and I have to respect that I am outvoted.”
In a later e-mail when Beer argued on behalf of overturning his ban, Sandi asked why he would want to be a part of a community where he didn’t like the executives or many of the staff…
“I still don’t understand though if you are not fond of the executives, and how the company is run, why be part of the community? The executive group isn’t changing any time soon and certainly not Chris. You are not going to be well received constantly disparaging the executives and most certainly when Chris is concerned.”
After some more back and forth e-mails, Sandi Gardiner later turned the case over to Patrick Probst from Cloud Imperium Games after she could not provide Beer with details on why he was permanently banned.
In the e-mails that Beer shared, Patrick Probst states that Beer was permanently banned due to his off-site discussions with Derek Smart that could be construed as “corporate espionage”…
“I’m honestly a little surprised that you are not aware of what caused your permaban. I am not prepared (nor do I think it is a good idea) to discuss this in great detail but the final straw which caused the permanent exclusion from the forums was your collusion with one Derek Smart Esq.
“You seemingly cooperated with him to spread secret information gained by questionable means. This could be construed as aiding and abetting corporate espionage”
Probst points to the following tweets as reason for Beer’s permanent ban from the RSI forums.
@dsmart You'll need something more impactful to convince people of your authenticity, like the name of the ship they're going to reveal.
— Beer4TheBeerGod (@Beer4TheBeerGod) October 6, 2015
— Beer4TheBeerGod (@Beer4TheBeerGod) October 7, 2015
— Derek Smart (@dsmart) October 8, 2015
Apparently, Beer was banned for having discussions with developer Derek Smart, who has been at odds with Star Citizen‘s development and Chris Roberts for more than several months.
According to Probst, the reason Beer didn’t receive an answer about his actual terms of service violation was because it was circumvented to enact the ban…
“Your opinions and associations are, of course, your business and certainly your prerogative. Preventing your toxicity and malcontent being spread on the forums is, however, ours. All things considered we felt the forum is better of without you. As you are aware the normal 5 step process was circumvented given the serious nature of your actions.”
Beer stated that it was disappointing off-site behavior could result in a permanent ban.
According to one member of the Star Citizen community, Liam, he stated that Beer’s “days were numbered” regardless of what the CIG staff did.
@istheguy @BTH_Radio @sh00ter_d Give scrutiny to the banned too. Beer's been a problem on the forums well b4 Smart. His days were numbered.
— Liam (@mulletalchemist) January 5, 2016
I reached out to ask Cloud Imperium Games if it was true that off-site behavior and communication with certain individuals such as Derek Smart could result in a permanent ban. According to director of communications, David Swofford, he mentioned the following in regards to Beer getting banned…
“I can tell you that the person in question violated our TOS and was banned for his behavior on the SC forums. Any further particulars for that ban are between CIG and our support staff.”
I notified Beer that he was permanently banned for violating Cloud Imperium Games’ terms of service. This seemed to be at odds with the e-mail from Probst, where it was stated that Beer’s ban was due to “corporate espionage” in relation to off-site behavior.
Beer decided to ask CIG’s president of marketing, Sandi Gardiner, about the ban and the conflicting information between what David Swofford mentioned and what Patrick Probst mentioned. Sandi stated the following…
“[…] looking at Patrick’s email, that is not why you were permabanned. I will have to track down the moderator who banned you and get the real reason.”
Part of the problem is that there is nothing in the stated terms of service, as published on the site at this moment — or at the time when the bans took place for the above individuals — that state that off-site behavior can result in permanent bans. In fact, as of October 2nd, 2015, before both bans took place, the terms of service makes it clear that accounts are terminated based on a breach of the rules in relation to on-site conduct or RSI content…
“RSI may immediately suspend or terminate your Account(s) (and access to all related entitlements) or any subscription for an RSI Service after notifying you of your breach of these Terms of Service, or any illegal or improper use of any of your Account(s), or your illegal or improper use of the RSI Services, products, or RSI’s Content.”
I did ask the director of communications, David Swofford, about any recent changes to CIG’s policies regarding terminating accounts for off-site behavior, but Swofford states that it was all on-site behavior that resulted in the ban…
“Just to reiterate…this individual was blocked for behavior on our site. How that transpired exactly is strictly between our [customer service] and this individual.”
This is something to be wary of for potential backers because what you say or do off-site could affect what access you have on the Roberts Space Industries website, such as communicating with Derek Smart.
And speaking of Derek Smart… he was actually refunded and banned from using the RSI services not necessarily for breaching the terms of service but, according to CIG’s Ben Lesnick, for using “Star Citizen as a platform to gain attention”. Smart’s particular case was covered in detail in an article back on July 14th, 2015 by PC Gamer.
If you’re okay knowing that your access to some of the Roberts Space Industries services can be revoked based on off-site behavior then proceed as normal.
Star Citizen is currently in development right now for PC. For more information feel free to visit the official website.