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An Open Letter to Skotos Players

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  • An Open Letter to Skotos Players

    From Christopher Allen
    President & CEO Skotos Tech

    Friends of Skotos,

    To start with I want to thank everyone who has supported Skotos over the last few years and who I'm sure will continue to do so for years to come. It's only been two years since we launched Castle Marrach, less than a year and a half since we went pay-for-play, but the number of talented, creative, and fun people who have come to Skotos in that time has been inspiring.

    Though the community is more lively and creative than we ever might have imagined, its numbers are still much smaller than we had hoped when we started releasing games. As a result Skotos has not become profitable in the year and a half since we started accepting subscriptions and now our initial funding is running low. The releases of our newest games haven't generated the large surges in users that we were hoping for, and now we are faced with a situation where we still need to at least quintuple our user base if we don't make other changes. So, we're going to make changes in order to make things work.

    These changes are things we'd prefer not to do, but are required given the economic climate. We've had a solid business plan in place for the company since day one, and had hoped to receive external investment long before this point to aid in our continued growth. Unfortunately, the stock market began its plunge in March of 2000, at the exact same time Skotos was taking its first steps. It's been harder to attract players because of the economy and it's been harder to attract investors because of the stock market. (And though we know that some players might have some interest in investing in Skotos, to do so requires them to be accredited investors.)

    To sum it up: bad timing for the creation of an Internet game company has thus far left us a distance from the membership goals we need to reach.

    Despite these problems we believe strongly in Skotos and know that we've got great potential here. We want to fulfill it. We want to continue advancing prose-based games in a way that no one else does on the Internet. We want to advocate real online roleplaying in a way that no other online game does. And, we want to give you, the players, the ability to continue expressing your creativity in a way that no other gaming community ever has--we want to give you the ability to plot games, code games, and create totally new games of your own. We're still very excited about all of these ideas and WILL ensure that they continue.

    However in order for us to be able to expand Skotos and to continue to offer a superior level of support, we have to draw our expenses and income closer together. To do that we need to ask you to pay a little bit more, and we also need to ask you to help support us in other ways. To be blunt, this is not a "callous money grab" -- Skotos currently costs considerably more to run than we are receiving from players. We are in the process of reducing our costs, but we need your help to bring us toward break-even.

    To start off with, we're introducing new fees as of October 1, 2002:

    REGULAR ACCOUNTS WILL BE $12.95 MONTHLY. We will offer quarterly subscriptions at $34.95 and yearly at $129.95. We've long tried to avoid this increase, even though other online companies like Sony (Everquest), Mythic Entertainment (DAoC), and Simutronics (Gemstone, Dragon Realms) have already begun to charge this subscription fee. However, unlike those companies, who charge this fee for access to a single game, we will continue to offer access to all of our games for a single price.

    Please note that we will accept the old payment levels ($9.95/$25.00/$100.00) until the end of September. If you find that the higher costs are more difficult for you to afford, send us a check for yearly payment and make sure it's postmarked prior to September 30, and you'll be able to lock in the old rates for an entire extra year.

    WE WILL OFFER PREMIUM ACCOUNTS FOR $29.95 MONTHLY. We'll try to offer quarterly ($79.95) and yearly ($299.95) payments here if possible. Premium accounts are intended for the more hardcore players of our games. They will include more character slots, higher levels of access to some games, and other exclusive opportunities. We hope that our most ardent players will be able to afford the increased level of support that a premium accounts allows, as it will benefit not only you, but will also be of considerable help to us, as discussed further below.

    (continued in next message)

  • #2
    As loyal players of Skotos you can also help us out in numerous other ways:

    REFER AND MENTOR PLAYERS: On average 100 new people try out the Skotos games every day. That's great, but if the number were 200 or 300 or 500 instead, we'd be growing a lot faster. So, tell your friends about us and their friends and their friends ... Even more important, however, is getting people to actually become subscribers of Skotos after they've tried us out. Right now only a small fraction of players stick around past their first 30 days. If we could dramatically increase that number we could fairly quickly increase Skotos to the size we need. You can help us out here, with the only cost being your time, by making an effort to really mentor players and help them become part of our community, so that they'll stay. If all of you mentored just three players each, we would be in the black. We will continue to expand our StoryPoints program, so that we can properly reward people who do help bring new players into the fold; we greatly appreciate it. It's one of the best things you can do for Skotos.

    HELP US GET LISTED ON WEB SITES: We have a very active program that we run to try and get Skotos, its articles, and all its games listed on as many Internet sites as possible. However, the net is very big and it's impossible to find all the relevent sites. You can help us out by doing what you can to get Skotos references proliferating on the net. If there's a game directory, portal, or other similar site which lists games, press releases, or articles, and we're not listed, tell us about it at and we'll work to get listed. If there's a smaller site where it might be appropriate for Skotos to be mentioned, then please feel free to contact the webmaster yourself ... and later tell us about your success. We don't want to spam anyone, but we do want to get the word out as far and wide as possible.

    CONTINUE SPREADING THE WORD: There are many other ways to spread the word, including writing reviews of our games, talking in other forums about our games, and other more creative possibilities. This all helps us a lot, as we find that word about Skotos from our players is even more valuable than us saying the same things. Very soon we'll be resurrecting our old Friends-of-Skotos mailing list in order to suggest some possibilities. We hope you'll participate.

    SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM ACCOUNTS: We haven't yet solidified our list of features for premium accounts, though we will in the next month. We expect to have some totally new features but also to restrict some features that we currently offer to regular players to those who purchase premium accounts (such as the ability to play more than one character in some games). We don't want to take anything away from you folks who have already shown great support for our community of games, and thus we expect to grandfather you into any of the old privileges that will be restricted to premium accounts in the future. Despite that, if you're able, we hope you will sign up for a premium account when they become available, even though you'll have access to some of the features due to grandfathering. I said earlier that we needed to quintuple our user base to make Skotos work. If all current users went over to premium accounts, we'd need to less than double it, even if we weren't making other changes -- which we are.

    FILL OUR TIP JAR: We'll soon be creating a tip jar on PayPal so that players may decide, if they wish, to send us a donation. (If you're instead just paying for your account, you should submit payment via one of the normal methods.) We plan to create a public list of Skotos Angels who help in this way (although you may remain anonymous if you choose), and expect to also go to these people for advice as we move forward.

    As I said, we will continue to support Skotos in any case. We're not going to let this community of great people go away. However if we can't make some large turnarounds in income we're going to have to cut things to a bare minimum. We'll continue to support and fix bugs in our existing games in that scenario, but it would probably become difficult to add new games or to add notable features to existing ones internally; such expansions will then fall under the purvue of Skotos volunteers.

    I should note that in no way does everything fall upon the shoulders of you, our players. We are cutting costs. We are still working very hard to market our games and pull in new users in every way we know how. We've just signed a deal to run ads on for the next year. We're developing ad exchanges and bounty deals with a number of different web sites. We're talking to magazines about reviews, interviews, and articles, such as the one that recently appeared at We'll be at GenCon once more this year. However, there's only so much that we can do ourselves -- and to date it hasn't been enough.

    We hope you'll understand the necessity of the changes we're making in our subscription prices, and also that you'll be able to help out in whatever way you can. We believe that this service is worth the effort and cost to many of you. We know that our average player spends 60 hours a month on their favorite Skotos game, and thus we hope that you'll think about Skotos in the same way you might a premium cable service -- worth a higher fee for the considerable amount of entertainment it provides.

    We have two games currently in the early development stages: Lovecraft Country, a new Grand Theatre based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Chaosium; and Galactic Emperor: Merchant Kings, a new strategic game similar in look and style to Hegemony, but instead expanding to the world of trade. We also have two externally developed games that we want to continue supporting at the high level we do right now -- Devil's Cay and Lazarus Sleeping. Finally, we want to be able to work with Worlds Apart to build upon the success of Grendel's Revenge, either in the form of continued expansions to The Eternal City or Grendel's Revenge, or in the form of a totally new game.

    But, to be able to do any of that we need to put our own house in order.

    We hope you'll be able to help.

    -- Christopher Allen
    President & CEO, Skotos Tech

    JOIN the Friends of Skotos List:

    FILL the Tip Jar:

    DISCUSS the Letter:


    • #3
      Well I couldnt expect the fun to last forever, and 2.95 is a small increase. I dont know if i can pay it, but it is small. I do have one(yes only one) spot that I worry about.
      WE WILL OFFER PREMIUM ACCOUNTS FOR $29.95 MONTHLY. We'll try to offer quarterly ($79.95) and yearly ($299.95) payments here if possible. Premium accounts are intended for the more hardcore players of our games. They will include more character slots, higher levels of access to some games, and other exclusive opportunities. We hope that our most ardent players will be able to afford the increased level of support that a premium accounts allows, as it will benefit not only you, but will also be of considerable help to us, as discussed further below.
      I really dont mind the extra charicter thing, but the higher level access and "exclusive opportunities" worry me. I guess I will have to wait to find out what is offerd, but as long as it doesnt take away from the RP envierment, and make it a more (as a CM example) Pay to be in the IB, be a HG, be a courtier, then I am ok..


      • #4

        Price change happens in October... I pay by Money Order, and my account at it's current pay doesn't run out until April... Now, when the price goes up, is the fee going to still be the same for me until April, or do I have to send in the additional amount (however much it'd be with the new rate) to have it run until April else get it cut off prematurely?

        AKA: Will the price change half-way through my current payment and cut me off a month or two, or will I end up starting paying the new price in April when/if I send in my next Money Order?

        ~Janwin's Player


        • #5
          All payments made/postmarked before September 30 will be at the old rate. Thus, you're fine until April.



          • #6
            Okay..the extra character thing..I wish clarification. I want to make sure that the premium account would add to the number of characters and the regular account not take away from.

            I'm really sorry to see Skotos having money troubles, and I fear for its future. I know I can't afford a premium account right now, or I would be there. I'm scraping together my money now for a year of what will be a regular account..

            *sigh* And I worry about my Canadian friends too..
            I went to a 7-11 and asked the clerk for five dollars worth of gas. She farted and handed me a receipt.

            Originally posted by kamikazehiker
            Or. . .
            We can all acknowledge that Jolee is right, get over it, and shut up.

            A thief burst into a Florida bank one day wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun. Aiming his gun at the guard, the thief yelled, "FREEZE, MOTHER-STICKERS, THIS IS A ****-UP!"

            Unwary: "Jolee rocks!"

            "Of course she does, she's related to me. "



            • #7

              For new accounts I expect most games will limit characters to 1 for regular, 3 for premium.

              However, we're marking everyone who had an active account this morning with a special "grandfather" flag. We'll do the same, again, on October 1 when we do the switchover.

              All grandfathered accounts will get to keep their current set of characters, so no worries about losing what you have.

              We need to make these sorts of changes to make the company more viable, but our plan is to make sure that we don't take anything away from our current customers who's support to date we greatly appreciate.



              • #8
                Upon reading the open post from Skotos I am appauled. Sorry to state but I really don't think we receive much of anything in and around rewards for paying to play. If it were true that your running red, how again are you running? I wouldn't mind personally paying a bit more if customer service as far as per game basis were upped. Ex; TEC, The GM's there are over worked, under paid (if they're paid at all) and really reluctant to help, matter of factly I find some recent changes in TEC's player system problamatic, why pay for that I ask? I would love to see per game customer service rise from "you pay, uh, so what" attitudes to "you pay and we're happy to serve you." I would pay a little more for that. Thanks for letting me voice my opinions, Sincerest wishes and I really hope I don't have to find another gaming hoster please... Wildhorses.


                • #9
                  Well, I am out.

                  I am editting this because I need to better explain myself.

                  I am horrified that you are raising prices. Why?

                  Continually laggy service. I know it's not always your fault, but I am not going to pay to not be able to log in at times. It doesn't seem that you are doing enough to try and prevent this from happening because it happens over and over.

                  Secondly, while I have had decent customer service from the Skotos people, the customer service from the TEC staff still leaves a lot to be desired. And while I generally like and respect them, they suck when it comes to customer service. And I am not paying to play Skotos games. I have been paying to play TEC, though I have dabbled elsewhere.

                  The state TEC is in also makes me not to pay to play either. While I appreciate that changes need to be made to the game - fixes and such - the GMs there have a tendency to build from top down. They add perks like patricians and pets and new areas, without really looking at a lot of the problems. We don't need more stuff, we need the old stuff to work.

                  With the creation of Grendel's Revenge, the GM attention to TEC has been lacking somewhat. And when that happens, they bring something else out to mollify us. It's beginning to feel more and more like a patch, not an actual game.

                  I have played the Eternal City for over two years, and I know for a fact I have spent time playing it that I should have spent doing other things, like going to school. That is how addictive the game WAS. Now, it is like carebear hugland. Because of a few powergaming players the mobs that you need to fight to be part of the society there require hours a day of training. It's unfriendly to new or casual players.

                  I've made a choice before this announcement came out to leave Skotos and TEC, not because of the suckiness of the game (though it helps), but because I have to focus on my classes this upcoming fall. At times, though, I would have liked to have come back. But it's not an option now, because you are charging more for a decaying service.

                  There are reasons why the old playerbase of TEC is filtering off and it is because of all the changes. Sometimes, things not broken should be left alone.

                  I wish Skotos the best, as well as Worlds Apart, but come October when my account is up, we shall be travelling different roads.

                  Least likely to train: Govan.. actually, I should say her player. Accompanied an alt of hers training once and after she had spent fifteen minutes deciding on the wardrobe, we got all of two minutes in before she was bored.


                  • #10
                    just a note
                    For new accounts I expect most games will limit characters to 1 for regular, 3 for premium.
                    you might want to make it 2 for reg, 4 for prem.. min..
                    the reason is a lot of people (CM again) make charicters for a plot/test/general abuse. And that charicter isnt ment to last.. or is ment to do some dungen time. Without an extra charicter eaither you will get less villans.. or lose players who get locked up to long.


                    • #11

                      Thank you so much for that fast response. I know you all are doing every thing you can. Of course, I'm not any happier about it than anyone else, and I worry others will follow Govan's suit, which will put us in a bigger bind.

                      I understand if the money isn't there, it isn't there. We lost a lot of folks when it went to P2P, and I feel like we'll lose more now. Oy. This worries me.
                      I went to a 7-11 and asked the clerk for five dollars worth of gas. She farted and handed me a receipt.

                      Originally posted by kamikazehiker
                      Or. . .
                      We can all acknowledge that Jolee is right, get over it, and shut up.

                      A thief burst into a Florida bank one day wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun. Aiming his gun at the guard, the thief yelled, "FREEZE, MOTHER-STICKERS, THIS IS A ****-UP!"

                      Unwary: "Jolee rocks!"

                      "Of course she does, she's related to me. "



                      • #12

                        Be assured, we are running in the red. We've had initial funding, but that'll only go so far.

                        To be frank, without increases it'd be impossible to pay many of the costs of keeping Skotos running, such as Internet connectivity, administrative staff, system administrators, folks to keep new players coming into the community, etc., etc.

                        You could look at things from the viewpoint of service not being at the level you'd like, and I can understand that problem. But there's also the other real viewpoint of the community costing more to support than we're currently bringing it. And, clearly, we can't run things in that fashion.

                        So we're doing what we can to make the Skotos community sustainable, so it'll continue to be here for you for years to come.

                        To a very real degree we need to make these financial changes first, to get our house into order as Christopher said, before we can move forward with new initiatives, whether those be new games or additional support for existing ones.



                        • #13
                          Well, despite my loud rants on occassion I support skotos and TEC and am willing to "do my part" so to speak....perhaps even going for the premium account if finances allow. As well, everyone I know will continue to hear about the good parts and good experiences I've had in any Skotos game.

                          I bring my rants and issues to the staff, but believe it or not when I talk to others, I'm a walking billboard.

                          Good luck, and I for one am in for the long haul. <and I'm a poor Canadian art student so all the working yanks have no excuse >
                          LOTS of people in the US are mentally retarded - Miriam

                          Iridine's finest gladiator stable:


                          • #14
                            Well, if you fix the lag, I'll stay.

                            But I'll only pay for a normal account.

                            And I want my three TEC character slots.


                            • #15
                              Govan (and Marnev),

                              Just to briefly touch upon laggy service, rest assured that we're doing just about everything we can to resolve the problem whenever we see it.

                              The Internet is a big and complex place. As often as not the lag is occurring somewhere that we have no control over--most frequently an ISP one removed from our own ISP.

                              Despite that we still very aggressively attack the issues.

                              * We have software constantly running that alerts us whenever it sees network slowdowns.

                              * We have partners, associates, and friends located all across the world who can often see network problems that our software doesn't, and who report it to us.

                              * We very actively report these problems to our ISP, and keep updating them (and prodding them) on what we see regarding the issues ... until we have a resolution.

                              * We're currently in the process of acquiring an alternative T-1 from a different provider to see if it offers better accessibility than our current one.

                              * Whenever a customer is having a problem we try and provide good advice about diagnosing the routing issues, so that even if it's an issue with THEIR ISP they know how to procede.

                              I understand that it can be very frustrating. Unfortunately the Internet is constantly growing at a huge rate. Much of it is being built with web page access in mind more than interactive game access--and lag just doesn't show up as much when you're surfing.

                              Internet storms are an unfortunate fact of life, made worse by the fact that many are human-initiated denial-of-service (DOS) attacks.

                              We're aware that connectivity is the lifeblood of our business and it's always one of our top priorities.




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