An Apology on Behalf of Cantr Staff

By   August 4, 2020

This apology is late in coming, but I wanted to do it right and have something to show so that my words aren’t meaningless.


Cantr Staff has made a lot of serious mistakes. I feel sorry that I didn’t do all I could to stop it as soon as possible, and that emotions have been deeply hurt while I’ve been a member of staff and also in the Game Administration Board. We have the records and I’m ashamed of what staff members have said to players in the past, as well as our approach for dealing with players who make mistakes. I cringe as much as anyone at the kinds of things that staff members have said both privately and publicly, myself included. I did help improve our messages on occasion but this was not a global change, and I can’t make up for the mistakes of the past.

I also understand the pain that comes with restrictions from Cantr and the loss of your characters. Sure, it’s a game, but our characters are a part of us, like a great work of art we created, or a book we authored and hoped to finish. For those who do want to return, please know that there’s only one person to whom a permanent ban may still apply (as far as I know), and it’s not for PD issues. Send a message to (or to Joshuamonkey) and we’ll get you back in (see Banning at the rules page).

The mistakes are not just against those players who are not members of Cantr Staff, but those in volunteer staff positions have been wronged as well in many ways, including favoritism, the attitude of GAB members, and being ignored.

In an effort to be open and properly acknowledge what happened in the past and what we’ve done about it, I’ve gone through specific complaints and list them at the bottom of this post as an appendix.

Moving Forward

My goal is to treat everyone right and with forgiveness, staff and non-staff. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Cantr and Cantr Staff, it’s that everyone has value, the disliked and the popular, the criminals and the peace-makers, and everyone deserves to be treated appropriately.

Yet we have made great strides this past year and this is just the beginning, the preparation for what’s to come. Also, I don’t consider the problems to be about specific people as much as the established ways of doing things (or having no specific way).
For those who don’t know, I became the owner of Cantr in April of 2019, so I took this opportunity to rethink how we do things.

The Problems

There are a number of things that players have complained of and that I personally have found appalling in regards to staff. To acknowledge them and make sure we stop them from happening in the future, I categorize them below.

  1. The Players Department
    • Punishing players inconsistently
    • No written policies!!! (other than the explanation of the Capital Rule)
    • Punishing players based on their attitude or how they respond to PD
    • Not responding to or even doing anything with some player requests (due to lack of staff work)
    • Lack of proactively identifying or stopping rule breaking
    • Lack of clear guidelines or examples on what is acceptable and what isn’t
    • Punishing players for mistakes made years in the past
    • Not letting idled out players access to their accounts (reactivation) until they resolve old problems with PD
    • Players afraid to report to PD or not being listened to by staff
  2. The Game Administration Board
    • Making most decisions about the game or organization in private
    • Favoriting some staff members who are included in private discussions
    • Little accountability
    • Department chairs (members of the board) making all decisions for the department
    • Department members stopped due to waiting on department chairs
  3. The Human Resources Department (previously Personnel/Administrative Support)
    • Arbitrary approval of staff applications by GAB based on perceived attitude or personality of the applicant.
    • Lack of proper tracking of staff activity or removal of inactive members
    • Rejection of many staff applicants who would have been (and now have been) excelling staff members
  4. Staff
    • No formal agreement to take proper care of personal or private staff information
    • No code of conduct
    • Not discussing GAB decisions among all staff before announcing to the public
  5. The Resources Department
    • Making decisions (usually GAB) without input from players
    • No consistent or written game principles used to make decisions
    • Focus on adding new items instead of fixing major game problems
    • Unorganized tracking of suggestions and decision-making
    • Lack of prioritization and strategic roadmap
  6. The Public Relations Department
    • Not allowing public complaints against staff
    • Being too quick to ban from the forum permanently, and at all
    • Players of some language groups not being heard or understood
  7. Many more, but I won’t bore you with the details. šŸ˜‰ I believe these are the most public facing ones for Cantr players.

The Solutions

First, we defined Cantr’s organizational mission.

Secondly, the solutions we’ve carried out are mainly focused on the following:

  1. Being open
  2. Improving the way decisions are made
  3. Having consistent and specific policies
  4. Ensuring that policies are carried out
  5. Organizational workflow (for tasks and decisions)

Here’s what we did:

  1. The Players Department
    • New Game Rules page and PD policies:
      • Examples of what is acceptable and what isn’t
      • Players can’t be punished for anything that is not specified
      • PD can apply the restrictions or punishments specified
      • Warning system, and requiring a related warning before punishment
      • Specifying under what circumstances someone can be banned
      • Clarification of what is considered erotic or graphic role-play and how consent must be given
    • No responsibility for rule-breaking committed more than 6 months ago
    • Banning lasting only 6 months unless there is rule-breaking during this time, or in extreme circumstances
    • Simple process for previously banned players to return
    • Written PD procedures both for training and for consistency
    • Template messages to ensure that PD provide the player with the required information and so that messages are kind and respectful
    • Players can discuss in-game issues with Player Advocates who keeps their communications confidential (not shared with staff without their permission).
    • Moving towards automated stopping of CRBs (with programming help) instead of letting it happen and then reacting.
    • New PD training quiz. Required to reach 100% before beginning PD work.
    • Returning players do not need to resolve old PD issues to return to the game. In fact, we are soon releasing a change for account reactivations to be automatic.
    • Paid staff member who responds to player requests (and manages staff work)
  2. The Game Administration Board
    • All GAB decisions (called proposals) that aren’t about individual people are available to all staff first and then to all players. See them here:
    • Most decisions are made by individual departments, in which every active member has a vote and the chair decides ties (instead of the chair deciding by themselves). The chair’s opinion is not needed for most decisions, as long as at least two department members agree.
    • Department chairs must be voted in (sustained) by their department when they are nominated by the GAB, and they should be sustained again every 6 months.
  3. The Human Resources Department
    • Now the Human Resources Department decides who is hired in most cases, and everyone who meet specific requirements is hired.
    • Heavy recruiting of staff members from current players, and staff applications are processed quickly in most cases.
    • Duties of each department defined, and each staff member must report on their staff activity every 3 weeks; otherwise, they’re to be removed after 2 months.
  4. Staff
    • All staff members must sign a Volunteer Agreement requiring confidentiality and appropriate staff behavior.
  5. The Resources Department
    • All proposed changes are made public on Discord at the #proposed_changes channel.
    • The Player Board can veto changes proposed by staff, and vote on changes to be prioritized by staff
    • Game Principles approved by staff and the Player Board
      • Staff votes on changes to game mechanics must be justified by at least one of these principles
    • Approved major changes to improve game mechanics such as skills, combat, and decomposition (mostly waiting on programming).
    • New tiny version of Cantr called Genesis for all players to interact and where new players start before account activation.
    • Streamlined decision making, where voting ends after one week (for other departments as well).
    • New Product Owner position who is elected by all staff and is now a member of the Game Administration Board (recent change). They prioritize work by both the Resources Department and the Programming Department.
  6. The Public Relations Department
    • (The forum isn’t used much now due to our active Discord server)
    • If you’re still banned from the forum, please let me know so I can unban you.
    • This was a change made years ago: A forum for staff feedback. There is also the unmoderated #vent Discord channel.

So what?

I don’t doubt that there is more that people have complained about, and more problems, but I hope this at least shows that I’ve been viewing all of Cantr Staff with a critical eye. If there’s anything else you believe needs to be addressed, please let me know!

I also want you to know I see a lot of potential in Cantr. Why would I go to all this effort otherwise? This is just the beginning, and we’re preparing for a large number of new and returning players as we start reaching out more.

Cantr’s future is in your hands as players (and more particularly those players who step up and help). What will you do with it?

Chair, Game Administration Board

Appendix – Specific Examples

I’m using the comments under this reddit post as a source of past problems not biased by a staff member.

Example: Axiom, 2015

  • Link
  • Summary: PD asked Axiom to have her character stop an attack. Axiom’s character sent an OOC message in-game explaining this. PD didn’t approve of Axiom’s responses, and Axiom didn’t approve of PD’s final restrictions. Axiom’s PD case went public, where there were complaints about staff, and staff responded by removing posts and forum bans.
  • Revealing the tale:
    • One of Axiom’s characters was a pirate, and another one of her characters proactively investigated the actions of this pirate group, plus another character in the same town as the pirate, and another character in a bandit group, which bandit group was recommended to someone by the pirate character, and warned about by another character. Other similar things as well. PD considered this to be an unfair influence over the events, and unfair knowledge (e.g. setting the stage to help her characters get away unharmed).
    • Axiom responded very respectfully.
    • PD asked Axiom to propose a solution.
    • Axiom’s solution did not involve stopping the attack, for RP reasons. PD did not accept this response and requested that the attack be stopped.
    • Axiom’s character agreed to do this but mentioned and complained about the PD case in-game.
    • Axiom’s account was locked.
    • Multiple players complained about the case publicly on the forum.
    • Axiom decided to quit the game, but was persuaded by others to only remove some characters.
    • Forum messages complaining about staff were removed, even if they did not include sensitive in-game information.
    • Axiom was given many additional restrictions for complaining about the PD case.
    • Axiom left the game, account still locked.
  • Accusations: PD
  • What staff did wrong:
    • Judged Axiom for suggesting that the rules be clarified or are uncertain on some points (very true).
    • Told Axiom that her discussing the PD case in-game was her worst infraction so far (Combat-related breaking of the Capital Rule is a major infraction, not complaining about PD).
    • Locked Axiom’s account for complaining about PD, without a warning about this first, or only locking one character instead of the whole account.
    • Kept Axiom’s account locked for more than two weeks.
    • Not having policies to define what PD should do in regards to any of the above, making it hard for PD to be accountable or for Axiom to predict what will happen.
    • Judged Axiom more for being a staff member, and communicated this to her on behalf of PD (PD treatment should be the same regardless of staff status, and someone should not be punished for joining volunteer staff).
    • Applied extreme restrictions, including only allowing keeping two characters, as a result of complaining about the PD case in-game.
    • Increased the restrictions due to leaving (1 character allowed instead of 2; this was not public knowledge, since Axiom didn’t return).
  • What’s different now:
    • Axiom can return to Cantr without any restrictions. The same applies to anyone else with only Capital Rule breaches older than 6 months ago.
    • The Game Rules have been rewritten and clarified to specific examples and policies.
    • A player’s account or characters may be locked for a maximum of two weeks without GAB approval, and the written standard now is to lock only the characters involved for 1 week, after which the lock is automatically removed. I’ve been carrying out this standard.
    • We don’t punish players for anything that has not been specified and published in written form (in the case of character actions, on the Game Rules page of Terms of Use). The same applies to the forum and forum rules.
    • We do not punish players differently depending on how they respond to PD (they do not even need to respond, though they can to help staff understand the situation- we judge their actions).
    • Proper warnings must be given before banning from the forum or Discord:
    • We separate staff status, including acceptance into staff, from cases with PD. These things are treated completely separately except in the case of PD and GAB members.
    • We don’t ban players from the forum or Discord for complaining about staff, agreeing with others who do, or saying what we consider to be false, though we may moderate named accusations against specific people as this is best done in private or in the #vent channel.
    • It has been a long time since we have banned anyone from the forum (and according to Sherman Discord bans have only been for spam accounts). Not once since I’ve been owner. If you are still banned, please contact me. We have also not banned anyone from the game since then.
    • Players are not punished for quitting, and do not need to resolve PD cases before having their account reactivated to start making characters again. As stated previously, charges are dropped after 6 months.
    • Only the Communications Team (who approve messages) or myself speak publicly for staff. If I see posts like that of EchoMan’s immaturely defending staff (and I have a lot of respect for EchoMan), I will remove the posts and warn them. If I see posts of staff member gloating about their authority, I will remove the posts and warn them.
    • Staff accountability via a signed volunteer agreement and a warning system.
    • I’ve told Axiom that she may return with no restrictions.

Example: Wiro, 2015-2016

  • Link
  • Summary: Wiro’s characters were interconnected, particularly due to the Klojt University 5000 day festival. PD applied heavy restrictions. Wiro complained on the forum and was banned from the forum.
  • What staff did wrong:
    • Applied restrictions before a proper warning and chance to act differently.
    • Wiro was judged for being a staff member, and told so.
    • What staff did wrong as expressed by Jos:
      • Wiro was warned that his account was under investigation, without providing details. Then, he was judged for “blatantly” making mistakes knowing that PD was watching.
      • Wiro was judged for “the appearance of a lie” instead of just facts.
      • Staff was patronizing to Wiro when later he returned and asked for details on what he committed wrong, to avoid making the same mistakes. Staff’s response: “To answer your question now, the rule you broke was the Capital Rule. The rule which governs our characters’ interactions. “
  • What’s different now:
    • PD warnings are required to have specific information, including which rules or policies were broken, as posted on the Game Rules page. We do not simply say “the Capital Rule”.
    • Staff does not punish players differently depending on their responses. It is based on the actions of the characters in relation to specific rules.
    • I’ve told Wiro that he can return with no restrictions, and reactivated his account upon request.
    • Wiro’s forum account (*Wiro) is not banned.

Other Complaints

  • Link with complaints
  • Enforcing unlisted rules
    • What’s different now: Rules are specified, and only those rules are applied. Where a player does something problematic not listed (and this has happened a couple times so far), they receive no punishment or warning; instead we propose an addition to the Game Rules, to mention publicly.
  • Enforcing rules differently depending on the person
    • What’s different now: Rules and punishments are clearly defined and apply to all the same. No such case since I’ve been the owner (April, 2019)
  • Punishing for reporting
    • What’s different now: There is no rule against reporting, and we have not punished for this since I’ve been owner.
  • Strict moderating of the forum
    • What’s different now: As far as I know we have not removed any forum posts since I’ve been owner.
  • “Eyes and Ears PD enforcements (except friends of PD)”
    • I admit I’m not sure what this is referring to.
  • Useless GAB, no work to get more players
    • What’s different now: We’ve done extensive work this past year in preparation for a marketing push to previous and new players, though we started with a focus on improving internal staff policies and processes. Earlier this year multiple staff members put in many hours for a Cantr marketing initiative, we wrote a marketing plan, and with help from donations we ran paid advertisements and paid a third-party marketing team for a month to help organize Cantr’s marketing. Last year, we created an Instagram account and ran a couple paid ads there. But, these efforts have been experimental. We’re focusing on ProgD work now to prepare, so that we retain players who come.
    • We have two new active GAB members since I’ve been owner, and only one other left from the past at the time of writing. One of the new GAB members was previously banned on the forum. We did remove two GAB members.
    • All approved GAB proposals can be found at this link:
  • “An owner who only turns up when he wants to inflate his ego.”
    • What’s different now: A new owner (myself) who responds within 24 hours to mentions on Discord, etc. And perhaps spends more time on Cantr staff than is healthy.
  • Link
  • Treating some languages different from others
    • What’s different now: The rules are the same for all languages, and we handle players individually based on those rules and the warnings they’ve received. I haven’t seen any inconsistency in treatment at least since the new rules.

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