(This is long, but important, so please take the time to read through it.)
Some people have asked me just what I meant by malicious, regarding Tsar Hoikas(aka Adam Johnson) and Diafero(aka Ralf Jung). So I'll try to summarize some of the things that I personally have witnessed over the years. (Appropriately enough, I've begun writing this on Remembrance Day.)
I'll start in 2005 when Almlys released Pyprp, which enabled people to create fan Ages for Uru. I saw that there was no tool for actually sharing the Ages and getting them into Uru, so I made such a tool and called it UAM (Uru Age Manager). I also made the first publicly available Age, simply so there would be something for users to download and play with. (And it was gloriously ugly :D) But in 2006, with about nine Ages available, Cyan started clamping down on folks. I would later learn that they had plans going regarding GameTap and MOUL (Myst Online: Uru Live). It took the fun out of things, and I eventually left.
Sometime during/after this was all going on, Almlys was being treated poorly on a variety of fronts. (You see, he had also created Alcugs, which enabled people to play Uru online, and had received backlash for making it possible to login without using Cyan's login servers.) But he also saw a group of people fork Pyprp away from him, and go elsewhere with it. (They gave reasons for this, but they were disingenuous; it seemed clear to me that it was simply a case of them wanting control, and not Almlys.) They took it to guildofwriters.com, a new one of *many* Age Writing websites, such as Cobbs, Alcugs, The New Tree, and Age Builders. Right from the get-go, guildofwriters.com had a bad feeling to it for me, due to its not-so-nice origins. It was and is run by Tsar Hoikas. But due to lack of interest at The New Tree, Cobbs' technical problems, and the Age Builders' admin leaving, it became more major. And during Cyan's comeback, they were given yet more luster, when due to their name and promotion, Cyan seemed to recognize them as some kind of community-made analogy to the D'ni Guild of Writers. (Cyan did this with a number of guilds, trying to find analogies in the 'community'.)
Cyan closed MOUL in early 2008, and I became active again, making a tool called Drizzle to enable people to play the new MOUL Ages offline, alongside the original Ages, and the fan Ages. Someone I had never heard of named Diafero contacted me and was interested in this for his private shard. (The shard was basically the offline game plus Cyan's stuff from Until Uru.) I helped some, and improved some things in Drizzle, etc. My initial impression of him wasn't great, and he seemed like what I regarded as stereotypical for people running shards: underhanded and none-too-virtuous. (Not all shard admins are like this I'm sure, but I had seen a lot of it in the previous years.) I even ranted a bit at the Cobbs forums about it (without using his name though), basically asking why it was that shard admins always seemed to be such bad apples!
But I kept helping him anyway, because hey, he seemed par for the course. I made Drizzle convert more stuff, including Crowthistle and Myst5, so those Ages could be in Uru too. And I contributed a bunch of features for the KI (e.g. custom covers on the Relto bookshelf, custom linking images, crash detection, the volcano link to Myst5's volcano, sparklies, some fan Age integration, making the Delin/Tsogahl puzzles work offline, image importing, and tons of little things, including my favorites: /getzandoni and /quit!), which he would package together with the UntilUru stuff, the UserKI/AdminKI stuff (from UntilUru shards), GPNMilano's stuff, Haskin's flymode, A'moaca's stuff, and other customizations. This is what the Offline-KI is. And this was all fine and dandy, and I enjoyed teaching him about a lot of the technical aspects of Uru that he wasn't familiar with yet, and just chatting about stuff, even if I wouldn't trust him with anything too important. I also brought back the UAM stuff as a part of Drizzle, and figured I could trust him enough to store the UAM files on his server, as I didn't have a spare one to use. I recall considering the possibility that even this was trusting him too much, but I thought if things ever went sour, the worst he would do is to say "move them elsewhere."
A number of issues came up as time went on, and I saw him and his co-admin Old Wolle acting tyrannical on several occasions. (e.g. banning someone for some minor misbehavior, then banning the banned person's friend, because Diafero and his co-admin imagined that friend would be "spying" on them, to report it back to the first banned person.) That sort of thing. There was a public shard (the *only* public shard) called Pelishard, and he was frequently very angry at them. This wasn't too strange, especially since the people running Pelishard had themselves been involved in some bad behavior that I won't go into here.
The day that I realized that Diafero was far worse than I had thought, was the day that he told me he had put code in the Offline-KI to bring down Pelishard. Yes, he had put Denial-of-Service trojan malware in the Offline-KI, and told me all about it, expecting I would be proud of him, because I disliked the behavior of the Pelishard admins too! He seemed confused as to why I would be willing to speak against them, but not willing to attack them. He told me that he made it appear as a bug, so that they wouldn't be able to prove that it was on purpose. Pelishard was unusable for many days, until Diafero was finally convinced to fix it and release a new version of the Offline-KI, pretending to the Pelishard admins that it was just a bugfix. (At other times, I had seen the Pelishard admins rant against Diafero and Old Wolle, and I saw it from the other side... and the Pelishard admins were usually right about Diafero and Old Wolle's motivations.) Now, I have come to expect not much goodness out of most people, but now I knew not to trust him in the *least*. My job in the following months felt like damage control, to convince Diafero to calm down when he would start scheming, trying to politely tell him that he was being villainous. His schemes were typically of an underhanded, and technical nature; sometimes making sure he could deny them later. (One example that comes to mind, but was pretty tame by his standards, was to require authentication, just to make things a little more difficult for Pelishard.) This all began at the start of August, 2009.
Some time after all this, I gradually stopped hanging out in teamspeak with him much, and so I was less in the loop with regards to his motivations behind things.
In June 2010, I set up a private shard for a Cyan-approved educational project. Some of the team were under NDAs, and it was all kept under wraps. ( It is no longer being kept a secret though, and several announcements were made, including here: http://forums.openuru.org/viewtopic.php?p=4738
) I made all kinds of server improvements and customizations to facilitate the educational project, and the people who would be using it: i.e. players not experienced in Uru. (I also kept up work during this time on the regular things, such as enabling Drizzle to convert the Magiquest Ages for Uru.) Things were going quite swimmingly, and because Pelishard had closed down (perhaps due to all the attacks directed at them; I'm not sure the exact reason), I wanted the regular people to have a shard they could go to. I had previously asked Diafero many times to make a public shard, but he never got around to it. So I made the educational shard ready for public use, renamed it "The UAM Shard", and PMed two people to ask their opinion on it. One of them responded, and the other did not. I later found out that this person who didn't respond got together with the gang from guildofwriters.com (including Tsar Hoikas), and they planned to get a shard out quickly, I imagine to try to pre-empt me. If this seems like a weird motive, keep in mind what they did to Almlys, and also how they would frequently try to take credit for things they did not do, on other forums. (E.g. making it sound like the fan Ages are produced by them, as if they were the real D'ni Guild of Writers.) The funny thing was, a part of my plan was to make it super-easy for other shards to use all my work, and get their shards running quickly, using largely the same files. I didn't particularly want to run a shard, but rather wanted to have a public shard available for people to go to! Anyway, those people talked to Diafero, and asked him to make their shard for them. This was all going on in private, but they told me about it later. Unfortunately, they probably never told Diafero about The UAM Shard, and thus he told me in passing, that they had asked him to make a shard for them. I told him to go ahead if he wanted, but it should *not* be a guildofwriters.com shard, as that group is untrustworthy. (And in the older days, Diafero entirely agreed with me about them.) Shortly thereafter I made The UAM Shard public, and received a ton of backlash, because one of the gang thought it was the other way around, and accused me on the forum! When I started rebutting him, they asked me to come discuss it in IRC instead, and I went there, but they were, for the most part, angry and offensive to me, basically just trying to get me to shut it down, presumably so that their (not yet made) "Deep Island" shard could have prominence. (A little bit of what went on can still be seen here: http://forum.guildofwriters.org/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=4593
but I see that some posts have been edited.)
This event with the shards marks when Diafero joined Hoikas' gang, and also when Diafero turned his anger and maliciousness towards me. (Previously, it had been towards other people, and I had been the one trying to get him to behave well.)
On a sad side note, I saw another person I knew get pulled into Tsar Hoikas's gang. (I won't mention his name.) I knew he had some serious emotional and stability problems, from talking to him and his fiance. (I often saw it myself, when he would work himself into a rage over something unimportant that Cyan had said or done. I would often try to calm him down, and show him that it was a pretty unimportant thing.) And he had a strong desire to belong somewhere, that was clear. I hadn't seen him in a while, as I hadn't been in teamspeak with him and Diafero for a while. I found out now that he too had been pulled into the gang. (And I say 'gang', because it is truly the same thing as a street gang: the members are mostly there to experience the sense of belonging, and a sort of familyness. But a gang is malicious and uses that to do bad things to people not in the gang, while helping the gang members themselves. I've seen first-hand, members of Hoikas' gang plan, and then go egg other people on (often people at the mystonline.com forums, not me) just to get a fight or reaction, and cheer each other on.) There was a very sad point, when I was discussing what had really gone on, and he could see that it was true and that he had been lied to. He was teetering between the two... trying to decide between what was right and true, and his new family... but he went with the gang, and understandably so. And I saw it corrupt him yet more over the following months, but I have a sincere hope that he's gotten out of it all since then. But it's hard... I live in a town with a lot of street gangs, and have unfortunately seen this precise thing happen far too often... the good feelings of belonging and family are intertwined with malice and bad deeds towards outsiders, providing a powerfully addictive experience. And their parents and grandparents (especially their mothers and grandmothers) have difficulty understanding how this came to happen, since they didn't used to be this way... But sometimes they do get out! There is always hope, fortunately.
Since I'm on the topic of this gang, here's a story that tells something about Tsar Hoikas. I don't recall when precisely this was, but it was before this incident with the shards. I had been talking with Nadnerb and Paradox about something. (They are friends of Tsar Hoikas, but seem not to take part in the gang, or at least somehow seem not to get caught up in the meanness.) And I don't recall what we were talking about, but I mentioned that Tsar Hoikas was "Dickens", a pseudonymous character who had popped up some time before. They didn't believe it. I was surprised that they didn't know, but I guess they had never gotten involved in the Slackers' "secret" forum (the secrecy was mostly just for fun, I think, and everyone had an alternative "secret" name). Now, to show that I wasn't lying, I offered to let one of them use my account to verify it, and see that Tsar Hoikas was indeed Dickens, doing the things Dickens was doing, and having Tsar Hoikas' email and on occasion being referred to as Adam ("Adam Johnson" is an earlier alias, but he later changed his forum name to "Tsar Hoikas".) They said that: Adam is our friend, and he wouldn't lie to us. (And thus, they didn't bother to verify it, but quite a few people in the community know this.) And this faith in a friend is a great thing! But it's sad when such faith is placed in the wrong person. (It wasn't my intention to create a fight between them and Hoikas, so I let it be, and said to nevermind.) I was sad after that, as I usually am when I see someone lied to or used by their friend.
Okay, back to Diafero. After the shard incident, things were very strained between us, but I made an effort to stay friendly. Now, ever since he had put the malware in the Offline-KI, I had been checking it before uploading new versions to UAM. But after this shard incident, Diafero decided to change the contents of UAM himself, putting his new Offline-KI in himself. This was possible, because as I mentioned earlier, Old Wolle was letting me use their server to store the UAM files. But rather than make a fight out of it, a couple days later, I said I would like to start moving the UAM files to another server, and only mentioned the other reason. (The other reason was also true: that I had set up a system that would allow me to do updates more easily, and this couldn't be done over ftp, which was how I had to do updates on their server.) So I said it all very nicely, and asked what they thought. I got back snarky messages saying that I should do so, and they don't care, and this was expected, and a hint of a threat of maybe forking. So I went ahead and released the next Drizzle, which used the new address. They then hijacked UAM, locking me out so that I could no longer change the files, and removing the new Drizzle that would allow people to have the new address. They then presented the lie that UAM was always Wolle (I imagine that they thought people might believe this, because I had credited Wolle with "Age Collection and Mirroring", because he sometimes helped get the Age ready for me to put on UAM, and because I was using their server to store the files.) After they hijacked UAM from me, I was upset at them, and asked how they could justify this. Their answer was that because I had put the files on their server, they could do anything they want to it! Yes, this was actually the justification they used. Then they began the extortion: they said they would instead help with the transition to the new server... *if* I would do some things for them. Well, the things they wanted in exchange weren't too bad: remove Wolle's name from the credits, remove the links to the-ancient-city.de, move the UAM shard thread to another subforum, etc. So I agreed to their demands, and did those things. But as extortionists often do, once they got what they wanted, they changed their minds and decided to keep what they had stolen/hijacked. (And in Diafero's usual approach, he continued to deny everything, and pretend he had done no wrong, asking: why I continue to see evil in all of them! As if all these terrible things he's done over the years aren't evil, and he has every right to them!) They kept their fork of UAM going, and most people were unknowingly using their stuff thinking they were still using mine. And this was the biggest problem of all: people using Drizzle and UAM are trusting me, and they don't even know it's been hijacked and in control of someone else, let alone someone so bad as those who were now in control! Anyway, they had the new Drizzle in their list, so that was something, but they were still running their fake-UAM rather than removing all the Ages except the ability to upgrade Drizzle and thus use the new server. And they were encouraging some people to even change the new Drizzle to use their server instead. Their new demand was never stated as a demand, but I did it to try to make them happy: they wanted NetworkAccess in Uru (but more on that later). I was getting pretty upset by this point, and was telling them upfront that they were deceivers and dishonorable. Eventually Wolle gave up on wanting to have their fake-UAM, and made it the way it was supposed to be. And thus this problem was resolved finally.
In late August or early September 2010, there was talk of having Ages make web connections. (This was made possible by a file that had been included in the Offline-KI to update the list of Ages on the Relto bookshelf.) However, this was a serious security problem (and I've done a lot of work in computer/network/software security, in my line of work, so I have quite a bit of expertise in these things.) The problem is that it enables any Age author to spy on players, whether playing offline or on a shard. The Age could even enable viruses to be put on your computer. This could in principle be detected, but it would be hard to tell. And the spying, couldn't be detected, even in principle. So of course, I said that Ages couldn't do this. There were okay uses: someone wanted to use it to update journals without having to release a new version of the Age, so this would be a lot easier for them. But what surprised me was that the most vocal person who wanted this ability was Diafero. Seeing as how his bad deeds had often taken the form of technical attacks, and ones that could be denied to some extent, this seemed like a perfect fit. I don't know if he actually had plans to misuse it, but he was definitely strongly for it, and I was worried. In the end, I made it so people could enable or disable this feature, with the default being disabled, and warning the user in Drizzle if it was enabled. But Diafero even hated this, because he wanted it to be enabled by default, and not to warn you if you had enabled it.
Things were relatively quiet for most of 2011, though now I was hated by Diafero more than ever, after they had tried to hijack the UAM thing. (Possibly because I had become upset, and let him know what I thought of him.) And he was now more entrenched at guildofwriters.com (Tsar Hoikas' website).
In August 2011, Almlys (the creator of Alcugs and Pyprp, if you'll recall) announced that he was going to make the forums and wiki read-only in November. Now, every Age needs a SequencePrefix, which is a number that uniquely identifies the Age. To make sure no-one picks the same one, there is a list at Alcugs. (People at guildofwriters.com had previously wanted to move it to their site instead, as they didn't want people to have to go to another website, especially not Alcugs, which they had previously been fighting with.) As the manager of UAM, it has been my job to make sure the Ages in UAM all have a unique SequencePrefix, so I copied the current list to the UAM wiki, and put a link on the Alcugs wiki too it. I said a person could just email me with the number they want, which is easier than editing a wiki anyway. And I had plans to make a simple form to register SequencePrefixes, without requiring any kind of registration. When I came back in November, to add the link to this form I had created, I saw that Diafero had removed all my stuff, and instead copied it again to guildofwriters.com. (He put a disingenuous reason on the Talk page saying that my solution was unacceptable, because no-one else could edit the wiki, which was just his red herring to distract from the fact that it said for Age authors to email me, not edit the wiki.) Anyway, rather than make a fight, I found a compromise and diplomatically put links to the simple form and both wikis. And I also put these links on the guildofwriters.com wiki, and everything I put was entirely true. But Tsar Hoikas (probably after being told by Diafero, but I'm not sure) removed it and permanently banned me, saying it was for "inserting false information", when what I wrote was entirely true and quite fair. (I sent a mail to Hoikas, but it was probably ignored, as I received no response, and I recall that happening before with him.) (You can see the changes I made here: http://guildofwriters.org/w/index.php?title=TPOTS_Sequence_Prefixes&action=historysubmit&diff=4725&oldid=4722
) (You can also see the changes I made at the Alcugs wiki: http://alcugs.almlys.org/?title=ListOfSequencePrefixes&action=history
) Fortunately, because of how wikis work, you can verify what I've said is true. Oh, and you can see the talk page, where you can see for yourself the attitudes involved: http://alcugs.almlys.org/Talk:ListOfSequencePrefixes Fortunately, Almlys came and reverted Diafero's mean-spirited things, and put up a quite fair one of his own. Consequently, Diafero then posted at guildofwriters.com essentially saying everyone should ignore Alcugs (i.e. Almlys) and that they must use the guildofwriters.com version of things. (You can see that here: http://forum.guildofwriters.org/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5455
) When I made the announcement on UAM about the simple form, I added "(There are some malicious people on some forum saying otherwise, but the people in question (mostly TsarHoikas and Diafero lately) have had a history of lying and manipulating others, including malware and hijacking. Please do be careful around them! )" which I can see I probably shouldn't have said. But people are starting to speculate that I was lying, and so I wrote this account of some of the things they've done, especially Diafero, whose degeneracy I've seen from both sides of the fence.
Indeed, I've wanted to leave Uru for over a year now as they have taken the fun out of it, but I have a strong apprehension about what the malicious people would do... I feel like I can't leave without letting people fall prey to them. (The bad attitudes and anger and maliciousness I've encountered is why I don't participate in any of the forums anymore.)
I had originally thought to include some things I had heard about them from other people, but I decided it was better to have only things that I had personally witnessed, so that you may be sure that I am not basing any of this on rumors.
Uru has been, for me, a sort-of testing ground for trying to be good, and to observe how others succeed or fail at this, and to learn from that.
I swear that this is a true account of what has happened. Some will believe it, and some won't. It is my hope that this will help some people to not fall prey to them.
Dustin Bernard, November 2011.