I have several problems with Simutronics Corporation, all of which pertain to their business practices, not their products. First off, they rely heavily on volunteer help who accept either little or no pay. This wouldn't bother me nearly as much if this company didn't try to gouge as much money out of its customers as they do. At first, you might think that the $9.95/month charge for their online games is reasonable, and it is, but for extra cash, they hike up the benefits considerably. They have a "premium" version of at least Gemstone III and Dragonrealms, although I wouldn't doubt that the billing package extends across all product lines. For an additional ~$20/month (for a total of about $30/month), you can get a considerable amount of perks that either alter the balance of gameplay (access to special items, access to certain areas) or that can be sold for ridiculous sums of cash (most commonly USD). At least for Dragonrealms, they had the audacity to create a "platinum" version--a version on a separate server that receives extra attention and care--that they sell for $79.95/month, which they probably intend on hiking as soon as their contractual obligation expires. The fact that they charge more than good satellite TV doesn't piss me off nearly as much as the fact that it diverts GM attention from the normal server, thus devaluing the other services.

The icing on the cake to Simutronics' billing policy has to be the quests/weddings. First off, when I was still playing Dragonrealms, we were promised that quests (run by GameMasters) would never be sold for money, but they obviously broke that promise. Prices for quests started out at $20 per quest (they were held ever week or so), then they rose to $30 and $40, and finally, in-game, GameMaster-assisted weddings hit. For roughly $100, you could get married in an on-line game. I think that's when I quit.

Players started selling characters and items for real cash sometime in the second year of the web-based game. Although it's difficult to track these sold accounts, virtually nothing has been done to curb the rampant selling (if you're an Evercrack player, you can relate) of in-game items for real life cash. Although I left before this really got popular, it still makes me a bit disgusted. Seeing this stuff just makes me glad that I stopped long ago.

I know, you're probably thinking "if you don't like it, just boycott them," but it isn't that easy. Seeing a company with products that you love act just so brutal makes you stop for a minute and think, "If I were a business person, could I actually do this kind of thing?" I don't wish the company any ill will, but at the same time I can't help but feel a little cheated, as if I let a lie have a bit too much power over me for a little too long. I just know that now, you have to look before you leaper. Err, leap.