Dear Steve,

The seeds of the creation of this web site, and of the voluntary de-sanction of the Council of Five Nations SFB tournament, were planted years ago, when you started censoring posts on the ADB BBS, posts that in my opinion had no call to be censored by any reasonable person. Especially by the CEO of the company that produces SFB.

I hold up as the most prominent and blatant example the discussion around Jason Gray's "turtle" tactics that won him the National Championship at Origins.

For years, the prevailing thought regarding SFB tactics has been "speed is life". And this guy comes along with some innovative tactics that involve the opposite; a slow deliberate advance toward the enemy ship with judicious use of shield reinforcement and wild weasels. The best players in the world are not prepared for this curveball, and he wins the National Championship. Jason again uses these tactics in an online tournament, and someone complains.

This starts a debate online. Some people think this is "not fair", or cheating in some way. Jason posts to defend what he thinks is an entirely reasonable strategy.

You start deleting Jason's posts, and threaten him with being banned from the BBS if he does not cease talking about this strategy.

Steve, do you realize how counterproductive this is?

These people are debating about your game, Star Fleet Battles. These people are spending their precious time debating the pros and cons of certain tactics employed in your game. The passion of their debate reflects the passion to which they approach and play your game. They wouldn't spend the time or the emotional energy if they were not passionate about your game!

Most game designers (and sellers) would kill for devoted fans like this!
But what do you do? You silence the debate by threatening to ban anyone who raises the topic again!

And worst of all, you do not delete the entire discussion thread. You delete ONLY the posts of the people with whom you disagree! So a casual reader of the BBS who was not present before the censoring wanders in to be confused by posts presenting only half a debate.

Steve, are you blind to the harm this does your reputation as a reasonable and fair man?

This is the kind of thing that has pushed people away from the SFB community. This is the kind of thing that makes people not want to attend Origins.

I know you don't see it that way. I know in your mind you (and Jean) have rationalized that the frequent censorship on the ADB BBS is justified, and for the good of the community.

But Steve, I am telling you here, because you would delete it in a second if I posted it on your BBS, that you are pushing people away from the community. It not only harms the community as a whole, but it harms your customer base and revenue flow.

And to wrap this up, here is the thing that puzzles me most about all this...

We, the members of the SFB community, know you to be a very patriotic man. You proclaim it publicly on your web site, and we know you have "walked the talk" in service to our country.

It puzzles me that such a patriotic man shows such disregard for the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

I know it's your BBS, and you have the right to allow and disallow whatever posts you want. It is not a truly public forum, owned by the public at large.

But what about the sentiment that many of us were taught as school children, the one that is perhaps the very best example of what makes our country great?

"I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death defending your right to say it."

Steve, please stop censoring the posts on the BBS, even if you don't agree with them. Please be aware of the harm you are doing to your reputation and to the community.

-Dave Cheng

And here comes MY ban

The following exchange has precipitated an email I have sent to SVC. In the post I made that has been deleted, I replied to Shawn's immediately-previous post how things were less than awesome because the 3rd Gen SSDs were inferior to the other SSDs, but the Powers That Be have foisted this on us. The volunteers you see are largely doing this kicking and screaming.

The precipitating BBS posts:
Star Fleet Battles Online -> 3rd Generation SSD Upgrade Project
Matthew Potter (Neonpico) on Friday, October 17, 2014
[deleted by moderator]
Steve Cole (Stevecole) on Friday, October 17, 2014
And Frankly, Matthew, that's just flat wrong. The software is IMPROVED by having the count-downs so you don't miss a battery or count hull boxes.
You have been warned before not to keep posting that nonsense and no further warnings will be given before your BBS and SFBOL accounts are suspended.

And my reply Email:
Mr Cole,
I am emailing you in reference to your October 17th, 2014 posting in the BBS forum "3rd Generation SSD Upgrade Project" about "...not to keep posting that nonsense... your BBS and SFBOL accounts are suspended." I wish to convey to you that I am taking your words very seriously. Indeed, I am emailing this to you, rather than posting it publicly, because I do not wish to raise the emotional temperature between us by holding this in a public discourse.
I am puzzled, however, by your response. I had made a post on September 19th, 2013 in the forum "Star Fleet Battles Online -> General Discussion" where I mentioned that I had withheld my comments to that point, "...because I feel that disagreement with you (SVC) in any fashion would result in my ban from this site". I then posted several reasons why this 3rd Generation SSD project was a bad idea. Your response, 7+1/2 hours later, was "[N]obody has ever been banned for disagreeing with me or telling me you think I'm wrong...You get suspended for rules violations such as personal insults, and banned for a LONG pattern of such misbehavior." As today's post was the first to mention I would be banned for my comments of the nature of disagreeing with you, I was very surprised, since I had been lead to believe the opposite.
I do honestly believe that the 3rd Generation SSDs are inferior to the SSDs they replace. I have heard less than 5 people (and all of those are posted on the BBS) state that the 3rd Generation SSDs are superior. I have heard more than 30 people (posted on the BBS and uttered in the SFBOL Client chat-function) state that they dislike (or stronger wording) the 3rd Generation SSDs. I have acted in good faith on the matter and personally created over 170 of these new SSDs (some of which are represented several times as there is a version for each race). I believe I have some credence when speaking about public sentiment and the technical aspects of the 3rd Gen project. As a customer who has purchased more than 30 individual products from your company and has shown my commitment to the expansion of your company by contributing to your recent products, I feel a moral obligation to caution you against actions that I believe will harm your company.
I do not wish to be banned from the BBS, nor to have you relieve me of the benefits my hard-earned money has given me by ending my subscription with SFBOL prematurely. I do wish you would reconsider the possibility of silencing dissenting opinions from your customers.

The posts cited in the email, before Steve deletes them too:
Star Fleet Battles Online -> General Discussion
Matthew Potter (Neonpico) on Thursday, September 19, 2013
I haven't done this for quite a while, because I feel that disagreement with you (SVC) in any fashion would result in my ban from this site. But for better or for worse, I don't feel I can let this continue to go on without saying something.
1) There are many reports on this BBS (and elsewhere) of players who found SFBOL and purchased huge stores of ADB's products so they could play with the other players online. These same players have said that they would not have done this if SFBOL had not existed.
2) There are fewer public reports of players who do not like the "countdown SSDs" (on this BBS). Mostly those stopped coming in after a (since deleted) september 3rd 2011 post from SVC that any more negative posts about the 3rd Gen SSDs would result in an immediate shutdown of SFBOL.
3) I have it from many of the players I have more than a passing contact with, that if the 3rd Gen SSDs come to pass on all of the non-tourney ships, they will quit SFBOL.
4) Active player numbers has been dwindling in the tournaments. Two years ago, many tournaments had well over 40 players. Except for RAT38, no tournament since then has had more than that. These days, it's hard enough to get the minimum 32 players together.
A) My understanding has lead me to believe that SFBOL is a money-maker for ADB. The direct licensing fees may not be much, but it generates sales. I don't have any numbers, but I feel confident that it generates more than $100 per player in sales. That number is probably closer to $300 per player in sales.
B) I also believe that the 3rd Gen SSDs will "kill off" SFBOL. In the face of dwindling numbers of players, doing things that players dislike will not increase your numbers.

Steve Cole (Stevecole) on Thursday, September 19, 2013
Minor point of information, nobody has ever been banned for disagreeing with me or telling me you think I'm wrong. That's either a total myth or deliberate misinformation.
You get suspended for rules violations such as personal insults, and banned for a LONG pattern of such misbehavior.

EDIT: And his reply:

I never silence dissent.
I silence trouble making bombthrowers for the good of the company, and I do not do it lightly.
Just don't post that bullshit again and you'll be fine.
You're welcome to your opinion, but when it's contrary to facts, you're just making trouble for your own amusment.
I cannot suggest strongly enough that you do not email me again on this subject. Whatever art you need, fine, but not this constant gripe about your personal taste.
Not again, not ever.

And he has *just* silenced dissenting opinions from THIS customer. Take a bow, Mr Cole.