i-Novae's community management is a disaster #3

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Just to clarify not a single item listed in the many posts in this thread has been adequately addressed or resolved in any way yet.


If any, the only answers came from the Chief Technology Officer, not the CEO.


The open letter and subsequent arguments between the dev team and members of the community on Discord have underlined the need for a community manager.

The CEO of I-Novae has stated that they cannot afford to hire one, but I think that is a failure of imagination. I’m sure there are ways they could find some money or compensate the person in the role in other ways. A healthy community will evangelise the game and actually make money for the company.

I’m going to recommend that Lomsor be considered for that role. By some amazing feat of social skills he has come out of the recent dispute still friends with everybody on all sides. That is the kind of skill that I-Novae need right now. Whoever eventually gets the role, because one will be needed sooner or later, they will need such skills of diplomacy.

When the role is filled, the community manager should be given full authority over the community. The dev team should only interact with the community with the community manager’s approval at specific times allocated for such interactions. The current developers have displayed poor skills at dealing with community problems and they should not undermine the work of the community manager, even if they outrank him.

The community manager should be a full member of the I-Novae team, only a full member can properly represent the company. Representing a company is a big responsibility and it is unfair to expect unpaid volunteers to have to do this. Being a full member of the team means that they should have some stake in the company, either as a paid employee or with a nominal amount of equity offered. That equity option can be dependent upon some conditions being met such as a minimum time in role and level of measurable success.

Get this right and a lot of the other problems will go away.

Community and I-Novae - An open letter

From the other thread:

As I said to Mattk ( and now to critic ) on the Steam thread, after taking some time to investigate, I have found no traces of a private warning sent to critic for his past behavior in the last major drama, a year or two ago. I stand corrected and apologize for that, as it has clearly added confusion and got everybody emotional about us “lying”.

Critic - I still stand to the fact that you received a public warning by Keith himself a year or two ago, that we didn’t like your behavior, and that we wanted you to change it and to stay away from flame wars.

You’ve been involved in numerous incidents since then. We ignored them most of the time, shrugging it off and hoping that you’d eventually understand, but you did not. Yes, you did not always instigate these incidents, but you often refused to back down, contesting our authority at every chance. During Chee’s / TheCoach incident, you were asked to back down multiple times ( I counted 4 ), and refused to do so at every step - I get that you got angry and emotionnal at Chee for attacking you, but he instantly redacted his comment while you did not; in fact, after Dan had warned you to stop, you resumed your personal attacks against Chee after Dan left, at which point TheCoach continued to warn you - until it degenerated into a public argument with a moderator. This is not okay.

What was also not okay was how you were slandering Keith, attributing him a hidden agenda of self-sabotaging the company for a quick cash out and how you stated as a fact that we had made “a million dollars” from the Early access, using that to prove your argument. I was busy crunching on a patch at the time I saw it, and again shrugged it off too quickly, thinking “critic is doing critic things again”, but although you are entitled to your opinion, posting that on a general channel was definitely crossing a red line.

There has been other incidents like that over the past year, so we collectively decided that it was time to let you go. I do not deny that we could have handled it better, that we haven’t been perfectly procedural, and that it could be considered harsh by some.

Community and I-Novae - An open letter

I do appreciate the apology, just gonna put some points down.

  • Whole Chee incident was manufactured by Coach, it was dealt with, he came and instigated
  • Keith gave a ballpark figure of around $1mil himself
  • I might have been warned once or twice in public
  • I was responsible for about 70% of the activity on the Discord, you are bound to find incidents
  • I think my character is an issue, because if you were to actually look for all these incidents, you will find they are nowhere near what you remember them as

So, continuing the discussion specifically about the critic ban here as @INovaeFlavien requested:

There’s been some digging through logs and i can dispute this:
First of all, about “attacking chee from the moment he joined the server”. Critic asked him to explain what he mentioned about being a pro gamer. If anyone it was coach who mocked him with the “ooo, we’ve got a professional over here” (though coach didnt really do anything wrong here)

Chee is someone who has had difficulty getting along with many other community members, not just critic so it’s not somehow just critic’s fault he left. I received some odd pms from him myself… To be clear i do think chee should be welcome to be in the server, he should just stop with the insult-delete thing.

At one point critic said this, which lead to a discussion without warnings:
And he apologized a few days later with this, to which flavien replied with “no pb” rather than any kind of warning:
But not before coach went after him like this:

And this:
And for the record i thought that criticism was wrong at the time, but it looks ‘in line’ to me, its not nice having someone doubt you but it shouldnt be against the rules. The response by coach however was certainly out of line. This also establishes the history of bias coach has against critic, he was willing to break the rules to attack critic just because he disagreed with him.

I’ve noticed a pattern in the logs i’ve read that @cybercritic only sends an insult in response to someone else attacking him. Coach attacks him, critic responds. Chee attacks him, critic responds. Its better not to respond, but it’s worth understanding the pattern.
I’ve said this before: When a lot of people attack one person with insults and then they respond, it’s very easy to blame the one person who responds as being more guilty because they ‘fight’ other people more. But that is just group bullying, and eventually means anyone can get banned if people dont like them.

I’ve been trying to find the public warnings but have not found them in the logs yet, i tried “warning” and “ban” sent by anyone from inovae for example with no luck . (i know i am missing at least one though, i just can’t find it, anyone who finds them please post) though i have found two instances of keith accusing critic of spreading misinformation (without an associated warning).

Oddly enough one item keith accused critic of “misinforming” people about was under NDA and had to do with the other employees that were not kept on since the kickstarter. Since then, the NDA on crayfish at least expired and we got some updated information that makes it look like critic was at least partially right. Given my own experience with keith accusing me of misinformation for something true i do not believe it is reasonable to hold these misinformation accusations i found against critic.

Edit: i only saw your response flavien after writing all this

Just to clarify, chee didn’t redact his comment as an apology. The order of events were

  1. Chee says “get fucked critic”
  2. critic responds
  3. chee deletes the message, but writes a new message asking why critic is attacking him out of nowhere and asks hutchings to ban him
  4. other users post saying they saw chee’s original deletion and others suggest that seeing deletion logs is probably possible (even though it wasnt)
  5. chee realizes his plan didnt work and deletes that comment, and posts another one something along the lines of “oops” , he also deleted that.

Chee’s deletion wasnt a redaction, it was part of his attack. The whole motive was to get critic banned. I understand it’s hard to grasp the context with all those logs deleted, but thats also why we needed a discord log bot!

If you look at the timestamps on the logs, that conversation was already “cold” for a long time and long-over before coach came into the channel and restarted the mess. The situation was not that critic kept going on until coach had to intervene, coach intervened hours later. Just to make it easier:
The last related comment critic made was at 5:20 AM then the convo moved onto population and guild wars. Coach made his comment at 12:04 PM . 6 hours and 44 minutes later, Flavien! Coach did not step in or stop anything!

Many who read the logs from the TheCoach incident people believe that coach was incorrect in his approach. If a moderator tells suddenly starts poking you in public 6:44 later and asks you to back down when the moderator is plainly wrong, biased against you and has a history of breaking the rules to attack you (as previously pointed out by the screenshot where coach calls critic a giant piece of shit unprompted), i dont believe the expectation to just follow his orders is reasonable, especially while also taking heat from one other user insisting everyone be banned.

Coach is quite literally as famous as critic for his discord arguments, though maybe not as well known to the dev team for his criticism. If you do not want to see public arguments with moderators it is up to the I-novae not to add moderators who will avoid this…


Wow, that was a pretty good summary. Thanks.
I didn’t know for example that chee pulled that s**t. :exploding_head: WHAT THE HELL??!?!

Probably the reason why TheCoach didn’t get banned despite his numerous outbursts and unprovoked name calling is the simple fact that he was not a dick to the devs like critic was some of the time.

While Critics criticism are IMO valid 97% of the time the way he voices them seems to be super lacking in the niceness department (stating the obvious here), but that should not be permaban worthy, especially when he apologized unpromted the next day! and the rules on what is ban worthy weren’t established and he was not clearly warned beforehand.

Whats left to recognize is that this whole thing was a failure on multiple fronts, from us users as well as the devs and especially from that person that tried that dirty trick and it unfortunately working out as intended.


hey, that information is already in one of my walls of text further up the thread! :stuck_out_tongue:

This just shows me i need to get better at making my posts readable though… I know the walls of text are hard to get through, lol.


In addition to all that thorough and interesting analysis of the history of this situation there is also a policy question.

Is it good procedure to go directly to a permanent ban from a warning?

Surely most procedures would temporarily ban a disruptive individual before escalating to the highest form of punishment?

I’ve heard an excuse that Discord does not support temporary bans, but that’s a weak reason. It would not be hard to manually unban someone after a certain penalty time.

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This is your interpretation which may or may not be true. I’ll address that in my upcoming reply to mattk.

I very much doubt so. He probably said that we were hoping to make a million after EA. He may have said that including the KS numbers. He may have been speaking of a gross number ( as in: including refunds, chargebacks, vat/taxes etc… ). The reality is very far from that number.


Yes, that’s where the number came from, he referenced 10s of thousands of sales or something to that effect, I don’t have access to the Discord to search for the exact conversation.

I didn’t make up the numbers.


I recollect seeing critic question chee’s pro-career on multiple occasions - and over a long period of time, not just at the start -.

Yes, it was wrong, and yes, if we had been less lenient, both would have gotten a warning. I am a bit confused though, because I seem to recall that when we launched Early access, the moderators were somehow community approved, and that critic did suggest TheCoach’s name. Or at the very least, I do not recall having received a private message from any of you hinting that TheCoach was a bad idea.

This is your interpretation and I respect that. No doubt the other side would have a different one. I have not seen any of your private exchanges, therefore I can only judge on what has been publically said. For all I know, it is possible that critic sent a provocation in PM to chee ( “hey how’s the viewership count today ?” ). I’m not saying he did, I’m saying that we can’t judge events based on private exchanges - even if there was baiting.

And in general, two negatives do not make a positive. Because somebody insulted you does not give you the right to insult back - just sympathy if you do so. The correct way to handle the situation would have been to escalate and report the comment without commenting on it.

I am not seeing this in the log history. What I am seeing is dan asking critic to stop - which he did for a period of time - and then critic again ranting at chee. Only afterwards - maybe hours later - did TheCoach called out critic for that new comment. I do not dispute that it may have added fuel on the fire, and as for TheCoach having a hidden agenda, I have no way to judge that.

Look, the root of the issue, from our perspective, isn’t who started what, it is this:

I am a new player, that found the game on Steam. I bought it, and I’m excited about it. I launch the game, I see a welcome message about “join our friendly Discord community”, I do so, and I find myself in the middle of a gigantic drama, with people calling each others, and a bunch of community members ganging on a moderator. You know what I’d do ? I’d immediately think “fuck it, I want to have nothing to do with this” and I’d refund the game.

We do care about our public image. We are a company, like it or not. Our minimum goal is to be viable, and to attract as many new players as possible, and that’s a good thing both for our finances, our abilitity to expand the scope, and of course for the players themselves to not play on empty servers.

You all failed the moment you started to argue with a moderator in public. You could have followed Dan’s warning, you could have collected evidence about TheCoach’s presumed behavior, you could have not taken the bait. Instead you kept arguing for pages in pages in public. This is what we are not tolerating.


First off I am really grateful that Flavien took the time to go over some logs and apologise about the additional emotional outbursts that were a result of conflicting information and statements.

What also stands out to me when Flavien tells the story again from his perspective is the greater focus on underlining his perception and descriptions on the issues that were present and visible to him at that time.

It came trough over the years that INS had a problem with the harsh discussions that happened occasionally on discord and especially when it was directly with INS members, more often with Keith.
There have been some pretty rough arguments and I have witnessed them and didn’t feel good afterwards. Those happened just a couple of times though and from our perspective it was really hard to react to that, as the argument most often seemed to bear truth and critic often said what many thought but were not able to voice in a good way.

I can see how the way it was communicated though was crossing a line for INS. The hard thing is to define the line and I don’t feel like that has ever been done.

I am glad you are pointing at it now and say “dudes that was too far” but it was still the situation that everyone, including the ones involved, were not able to do anything about it. I myself was wondering why Keith never said something like “Dude, I get what you try to say but it’s too far to accuse me of such things. You are free to talk stuff like that somewhere else but not here”
Instead he discussed with him … kind of giving us the impression that in fact the line has not been crossed. There also weren’t any actions taken.
Yes you said that’s because you gave some leeway but from our perspective we don’t see how many times you don’t act, we only see when suddenly you do.

As such we were really conflicted as between supporting the big voice of (sometimes too harsh) reality and reminders and protect you and the climate on discord. Especially with the lack of feedback on what is ok and what not and where the limit is.
It is related with the “pushing” thing I mentioned in another post. Where does feedback stop and when does harassment start?

Up until now it was very unclear how much you care about that image and how much danger you see from certain and which vectors. Without knowing it we can’t support creating an optimal environment where the devs and the community feel comfortable … as such we didn’t have one for quite a while, mostly to the determent to you guys it seems.

I myself am sorry that this has happened, we all had some power to do our part beforehand and we still do have that power, that’s why we are still discussing, not just because of our own interests.


I dont think there should be doubt about what was said in the public channel, there were multiple witnesses. I saw what happened, i think hutchings and a few others in the log must have as well. As for PMs yeah you are right that we dont know for sure, but considering nobody has even accused critic of sending chee a provoking PM that day i dont understand why we would consider it a possibility? Surely by now if that had happened, someone will have brought it up? Chee has still been here on these forums trolling by posting and then deleting his comments, like he’s had the opportunity.

I don’t know why critic recommended coach. I dont think he holds grudges the same way other people do. Personally i didnt feel like it was my place to start sending out PMs asking to demod people until we saw how they did even if i thought it was a very bad idea, i believed in the possibility he would be a new person with the mod position.
Once i saw him doing consistently poorly over a long period of time culminating with this drama i did speak out.

I understand caring about your public image and not wanting that to be new players see, we can meet this goal and the needs of the community at the same time though.

Considering the context where the discord is very quiet thesedays, and there was been no established policy for how to react if a moderator is acting poorly, i think that instance is very forgivable.

So while you seem to see the only solution being critic’s permaban, you could have removed coach and warned critic not to do that. A statement “we find coach’s mod style not to align with our intent, however we also cannot accept giant arguments, so please come to us if there is an issue with a mod”. Like there are so many solutions here that don’t stir up an even bigger mess in the community. We understand that you might not respond perfectly but you must also understand that the userbase may not respond perfectly! There needs to be slack on both sides, but in this case the appearance is that you expect a lot of slack even with relatively poor handling of the situation, but are unwilling to give that slack back in turn.


One thing that we certainly are guilty from is inconsistency and jumping from warnings to a a harsh ban. That’s because - and retrospectively it could be a mistake - to give some slack about old community members.

This is the spirit of the message I had posted a while ago - which was turned against us - when I said we were “weighting” people’s contributions.

We do not have a calculator in hand, and we are not counting points as to who contributed what. What I was trying to say with that quote is this:

In a typical video game community, heavily moderated, or with a full-time community manager, violation’s response typically grows very gradually: soft warning, hard warning / kick, official warning, 24h ban, 1-week ban 1-month ban, permaban.

We do not have such a system in place, for the good or bad. We do not have time for that. In comparison to a pro-moderated community, we keep sending our warnings, over and over and over. Then it reaches the point we’ve seen in February, and we’re just tired of it, and it results in a permaban.

Keith is currently in lockdown in his family, wife and 2 crying babies, and I’m always crunching on patches. So we cut off slack, a lot of slack, on a lot of things. We see comments which we think are bad, nearly crossing the line, probably worth a warning… and we ignore them. We’re still trying to trust the community to “moderate itself”, and that’s one of the reasons we hired a team of moderator around the Early access, because we didn’t want to deal with that. Of course, the moderators team - this is pretty clear from Lomsor’s comment above - simply extended the old policy, and I admit that we never communicated clearly that the lines had moved. Personally, I thought it was kind of obvious. We had mentionned it in the general channel a few times, that once Early access came, there would be more people to moderate, and that it’d probably have to be harsher. We failed at that so do share some responsability in this whole drama.

I want to make it clear we are at “maximum bandwidth” for a lot of things. Whether it is for communication, production, addressing the thousands of little problems running a company - and which you’ve never heard of -, both Keith and I are absolutely busy. We only react on major issues and try to let other people handle the smaller ones. We don’t really have a choice. As it is clear now, we’ve made nowhere near as much money from the EA as even the Kickstarter, which is why we are not in a hiring frenzy, and all this talk about a paid community manager or full time game designer makes us sigh.

Now that doesn’t mean we have no money either - as we already said publically, our head is now above the ocean. If I had to sum up our situation, it’d be that we’re in an average scenario, where we can continue to operate as in the past, and with a bit of extras to expand on content and maybe hire a third programmer.

We’ve already interviewed programmers in Q4 2019, we had planned to hire at GDC and had booked our tickets, and it was all cancelled by the coronavirus situation - we even lost booking money -. Last week again, Keith was setting up a job offer on Gamesmith. It’s going very slowly because he’s in lockdown in a different place, and doesn’t have access to his main computer.


The problem with this is that the lack of clear procedure is extremely unfair to the person you are trying to rehabilitate. Remember that punishment should always be about rehabilitation, not an end in itself.

From critic’s point of view he considers himself on a warning and then suddenly he finds that he has been permanently banned, with no appeal allowed.

He’s told me that if he had been temporarily banned it would have made him change his behaviour and I’ve no reason not to believe that.


In closing, I want to add a few things before I go back to my activities.

A certain event happened last saturday, which involved a bunch of you impersonating critic in an attempt to troll us - which certainly succeeded. While we’re again here, trying to cut some slack to the whole situation, I have to say that it isn’t appreciated, for the exact same reasons that I posted above in the critic vs TheCoach incident. If a new player had joined at this exact moment, we’d certainly have lost him. Any of you that then complain that the servers are dead / empty should be ashamed. However, since everybody was emotional, we won’t issue warnings or anything, provided this doesn’t happen again. There is one notable exception though: LTrevise, who threw a pretty severe insult at Chee, out of nowhere. He is officially warned and future offenses might result in a permaban, yes.

Second thing: Keith has for a long time considered himself the punching bag of the community. He’s the bad cop, I’m the good cop, or somehow I’m sure that’s how a lot of you are seing us. Without him there would be no company and no game, and I wouldn’t be here talking to any of you. Both of us have collectively spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to forming up this company, prior to the KS. To this day, while I’m at least getting payroll to work full time, Keith is still working part time in very difficult conditions, and none of us have made a single cent back from our investments.

Last thing: Keith has been opposed to me explaining all of this to you. He thinks that for most of you, your mind is set on hating us, and that it’s a huge waste of time considering the HUD is broken in wide-screen and I’m supposed to be crunching on the next patch, while at the same time we have a bunch of people hating on us because development is going too slow, and that our roadmap slipped. He’d like to see me concentrate on my work, and I don’t blame him for that.

That’s why this is -hopefully- my last post on this whole drama. Despite admitting to having a share of responsability in this whole thing, we still stand firm on critic’s ban and will not be undoing it, because as I’ve tried to explain, his ban wasn’t for a single incident but a collection of them. If we ever have a community manager one day, we might revisit the topic but it’s not a promise, and Keith would probably be against it.

Finally, a lot of what I posted in this thread is personal. It shouldn’t be taken as the official stance of the company or anything, and it’s possible that Keith or Dan have different opinions on a number of events. It is only my attempt at explaining how we got there, and to be frank, I am very tired of it - haven’t slept in for many days -, and it’s time for me to get back on tracks, digging through the logs, investigating many claims and writing all these posts have taken many days, on which I haven’t been working on the game. And I want, I need to get back to working on the game now. So this is my closing comment.


While we understand you don’t think that saturday event was acceptable, a lot of people don’t think keith’s general conduct has been acceptable either, and it would not have occurred if keith did not insult the community immediately prior by calling everyone disingenuous for an kindly written open letter. People take issue with him directly because of his behavior, the way he says things, and a culmination of a collection of small incidents, the same way you seem to take issue with critic. I don’t think his reputation is going to radically shift when you or he or I-novae as a whole is incapable of offering the same courtesy.

The lack of a compromise is disappointing, something would have been completely appropriate. If you do ban trevise, i hope you have learned to use proper escalation with increasing temp bans now that we have the capability with a bot (crayfish has explained the correct approach already). If this is your last post while im happy you have clarified a lot, as i have said earlier i do not think the acknowledgement of poor handling followed by inaction is inherently productive, its like having a meeting about the hole in the roof without ever resolving to patch it.

We aren’t trying to sleep deprive you though and you should definitely get back to work on the game.