It’s with great sadness that I am no longer involved with CubeworldForum.org. I started hosting CWF just about a year ago. Barely anyone had heard of CubeWorld back then, and they were a small community.
I had just come off a rather upsetting ordeal with Curse. We had our differences on the Minecraft Forums, so we split ways. I decided that what the industry really needed was a company that looked for small time communities and helped them grow by providing services for free that they’d normally have to worry about paying for. I gathered a few people that I trusted and we started Seed Community Development.
Seed was built on this simple idea. We provide the infrastructure (webservers, email, etc, etc) for hosting your site, give you guidance on issue’s that we’ve seen before. I wanted to be all the good things about Curse (and there’s tons!), without the corporate mindset, with the bottom line being the ultimate ruler.
It took us several months on how to exactly implement this. What we came up with is as follows:
- You never pay a cent, until you make a cent.
- The site content and data will belong to you. We’ll host it, but it’ll be yours.
- We’ll provide development services, within reason, for free to assist in creating one-of-a-kind features that make the site stand out.
When/if you do decide to monetize, we have a pretty awesome payout plan as well.
- We will bill for $0.25/GB of Bandwidth into and out of the site. This is the all inclusive cost. This includes everything that we do, not just the hosting!
- When they get paid from the monetization sources, they pay us back for 100% of their bill, UP TO 12.5% of the total income. This means, at most they’d pay us 12.5% of their income. There’d never be a situation where we’d take it all! This was extremely important to me, because it meant people would never have to worry about paying the bills.
- We also ask that after they’ve paid all their bills, that w/e is left (the profit), we’d get 5% of. This is what we’d then take and use to pay for the servers for other sites that were still “seedlings”.
This was our great plan. We worked the numbers and it was tight, but manageable. We had tons of faith in Matt and the team and we believed in the game! So we went and found investors to cover the obvious cost of hosting them, until the game launched.
Now, 6 months after we’ve started hosting CWF, I hand him our finalized contract and ask him to review it. He does and he has some obvious questions. We start the process of hammering out the details. This is probably where I went wrong the most. I should have ensured it was signed long ago. However, I trusted Matt. When he told me that he had no problems with the contract and was going to sign it (less than a week ago!), I believed him.
So, fast forward to July 2013. CubeWorld had been ramping up the weeks before and a botched public alpha launch at the beginning of the month, caused MASSIVE amounts of traffic to come through. We’re talking going from < 1k uniques per day, to 100k per day. Bandwidth on the site jumped from ~1Mbps, to 40Mbps constant on July 11th.
During that time, there was only 20 minutes of downtime. What was it caused by? One of the administrators, Gary, had his password hacked through his GMail account. By doing that, the culprit was able to get into the admin panel and modify a single file on the server. Luckily, this guy was pretty nice and didn’t harm anything else.
So the amount of traffic is significant, they were starting to make money and we’d taken good care of them for over a year. Matt told me, several times, that we’d been great and that they were just clarifying things between themselves.
So I asked Matt, “What’s taking so long? Is there something that I can do to clarify something?”. He’d answer, “Nope! I understand!”. Still, I was getting concerned. Matt had had the contract in his possession for nearly 6 months and it still wasn’t signed. I was trying to be as accommodating as possible, after all our entire mission was to make it EASY for these guys, not pressure them with a contract.
After being questioned by my investors as to why we still didn’t have a signed contract for CWF, I decided I needed to be more blunt. I came to Matt and told him that I needed a definitive answer on the contract by Friday (this was a Sunday), or I would have to pull the site off-line. So 6 days to do what Matt had been telling us since the beginning he was going to do.
I let Matt have as much time to think about it as he needed, I tried not to pester him during the time so he could figure things out. He had mentioned that he was concerned because he felt the 8 or so people he had befriended through the forums all deserved some money, however, he wanted to take 50% and he didn’t know how he was supposed to go about it. He was also concerned that his news guy who had been having some personal trouble and he wanted to make sure that he was taken care of.
I took this as him just being confused and frustrated with the sudden amount of responsibility and I tried to offer advice. It’s really hard when you start doing something for fun and it becomes a business overnight. Looking back, I’m not sure how much of that was a ruse just to drag us on a bit longer.
So that brings me to last night. Matt finally got a hold of me and apologized for the hassle with the contract and promised me that he’d have a decision for me in the morning. I apologized for the harshness I had had regarding the Friday deadline and clarified that I really just needed to know that he was working on it. So I could tell my investors that, “Yes, he’s getting it done, there’s just a ton on his plate right now.” We also talked at length about a lot of personal issues he was having regarding the forums, things that were bothering him, things that were bothering others. I tried to offer as sound as advice as I could and try to give him advice from someone who’s been in his shoes before.
Little did I know, that Matt had already made his deal with Zam, to completely remove the sites from our servers and thus cut Seed out completely, early the next morning.
I don’t really know what went wrong, what we did wrong, or if there even was anything we could have done about it. It sure does feel like this was planned for quite some time, in one way or another. Looking back I remember the admin team acting like I was intruding by making their website worry free, regarding hosting.
I woke up this morning to a message from Matt at 4AM, a mere 4 hours after I had finished talking with him, telling me that he had made his decision and that “somehow” between midnight and 4AM he was able to be contacted by Zam, agree to a contract with them and login to our servers, remove the site and put it on their servers. Also, somehow, this wasn’t what he wanted, yet it happened anyways.
It’s painfully clear what happened here. We had been used and abused. We had tried to help a community grow, without concern for technical issues and they turned around and slapped us right across the face. I won’t lie, I feel embarrassed. I know I should have had them sign the contract months ago, however, I kept coming back to the entire reason we’re doing this. We don’t want it to be about the money. Yes, we need SOME money to keep our business going, but we’re able to do that without risking the community’s health. Curse and Zam, the ones who make the decisions are the upper management, who really only care about the 0’s they see after the $.
I’m not sure what’s next for Seed. This has dealt a significant blow, as we had been planning for a year, that Matt would be a man of his word. We’d taken a hit at first, hosting the site, but that was supposed to be okay, because the site was going to be popular, we all knew it. We all believed it and it was. We’re still trying to calculate everything up, but we’ve put close to $15,000.00 into CubeWorldForum.org, that’s just in hosting costs. I have a family to feed and I’m pretty sure my investors won’t be investing any more.
I’ve learned to make sure the legal details are figured out before anything. While I think I was trying to be nice, obviously Matt and his friends decided to take advantage of that.
There was probably dozens of signs I missed. I think the biggest one that I look back on now was just a few short weeks ago. Matt was asking me if I could do something about cubeworldwiki.net. It’s a site run by another fan that I also know personally. When I asked what was wrong with it, he said he said, “I want to kill all the competition”.
It seems to me now, that he meant me.
Here’s to the future, what ever that may hold,
Miles ‘wedtm’ Smith.