When I made my posts back in May about the future of the site, I inherently was still exhibiting the same habits that I even point out in them; I let myself take on all of the burden to protect others from having to bear it. I didn’t want people to attack content writers on my behalf, and I naively thought back then that they were just victims of circumstance.
The future of SaltedXIV isn’t based on my willingness to continue, nor is it on my ability to find someone willing and capable of taking it over. I claimed it as such both to protect those who wrote for it from any backlash, and because the place I was in at the time I couldn’t even think about the future. The reality is that there is no site without content writers, and my rapist and his close friend conspired to destroy the working relationships I had built and to shut this project down.
I do not make this claim lightly
But let me first divert to what the project needs. And then, I want to bring to light the corruption going on, that the community should be aware of.
Writing is a bitch. It’s hard to do, it’s even harder to do well, it takes a lot of effort, and not many people want to do it – especially for no compensation. That is the situation SaltedXIV is in. Without guide writers and content writers, the site won’t have any true relevance for Endwalker. And no matter how I try, I can’t do it all alone. I couldn’t even do as much as I was doing before.
Both the site and the discord community needs more people involved, but writers are the biggest ask. You do not need to be good at the game, nor do you need to be all that great at writing, but you do need to have the initiative to take it on to yourself to research something well, and write about it. In my day job I work with a team of editors who take research from scientists and translate the gist of it into something that non technical readers can comprehend. That is what I need people to be willing and able to do here. I can steer the writing and the format, and editors can help polish it, but if there is no writing, there is no site.
I don’t expect nor plan to be able to develop extensive 40+ page theorycrafting heavy guides like the Balance has produced. But I do think there is high demand for accurate and concise guides for jobs that inform players of the basics at the level cap, without all of the complexities. That’s what I’m looking for if you’re interested.
I also need folks interested in writing guides and content on other topics. Encounter guides would be the next biggest one, but there are new player guides and ideas I have that I just need people with the acumen and gumption to manage themselves enough to get a draft done.
If you’re interested in this, or in some of the other roles I really need, please fill out this survey:
It may seem silly to ask for a writing sample – but it’s not because I want to judge the quality of your writing, it’s because I want to see who is actually willing to put one forward.
Some of the other roles that are needed: editors, developers, WordPress experts, discord moderators, community event managers, etc.
I can’t promise you’ll be paid yet – I don’t know exactly how much revenue will be generated to be able to say. All I can say is that I want to get to that point. And I hope people want to right because the community needs it – not to line their pockets.
As I said, I don’t make the claims I do lightly.
It’s important to note that in February (before the assault) I had sent out a poll to every. single. writer. who has content posted on SaltedXIV, expressing my intention to start monetizing the platform with advertisements and asking for their inputs and thoughts on doing so and where the funds should go. I wanted full transparency, I wanted to know what they thought I should do with any profit made. I wanted to give them a chance to pull their content if they disagreed with monetizing the site. I wanted to know who wanted to get paid if the site was successful enough.
The current list of content writers on this site is about 95% of Balance staff. All of the Balance staff responders (in fact all but one person polled, who I only polled because they were potentially going to post their content) were overwhelmingly in support of monetizing the platform.
This is important, because this means all of the Balance staff knew the revenue potential in a site like this.
The other piece to this puzzle is that one of the Balance’s head admins, Zyrk, is close friends with my rapist Blake. I introduced Blake to Zyrk and fostered the friendship. Zyrk and Blake share a rare medical condition. When Blake was first diagnosed, I asked Zyrk if he’d be willing to be someone Blake could reach out to, to talk about the struggles. They became fast friends and had a lot in common. To my knowledge, they still frequently communicate with each other.
Just how close are they? To the point, when Zyrk had COVID-19 back in 2020, he ghosted the entirety of the Balance discord, including the staff who were all collectively worried about his wellbeing. We honestly weren’t sure if he had died. Not a single message was sent from him or anyone who was in direct contact with him, not even a line in the admin channels to say, “I’m alive.” And I get it, sometimes reaching out to people can feel like a burdensome task. Except, the whole time he was still talking to and checking in with Blake. When I found out they were talking, I actually encouraged Blake on multiple occasions to try and encourage Zyrk to at least post a tiny message in the staff channels to say he was okay, because people were worried. I think the third or fourth time — months later — Zyrk finally did. I don’t mention this because I think Zyrk had some obligation to check in with the staff, he didn’t.
I mention it because it underscores that Zyrk’s friendship with Blake was more important to him than his friendship and relationship, professional or otherwise, with the entirety of the Balance’s team. He was more willing to talk to someone he knew for a short period of time, than any single member of the staff who he had known for years. Please remember this as I continue.
In the wake of my mental health crisis following the rape and the betrayal, Blake too was having his own mental health crisis — just, fewer people knew about it. Those close to the situation also couldn’t seem to wrap their head around the idea that even after all he had done to me, I still cared about his wellbeing. That’s all I’ve ever been after. I reached out to Zyrk — someone I thought was a close friend to both of us, and pleaded with him to keep an eye on Blake. To be there for him. To support him. That me coming forward was likely to make everyone else abandon him and he would need someone looking out for his best interests. I explicitly said to Zyrk multiple times that I could not be involved in Blake’s life anymore, but that I didn’t want to see him destroyed by his own actions.
Initially Zyrk was responding to me. Blake was unresponsive to just about everyone (including me, obviously), and he had expressed being suicidal in the past. So, I asked Blake’s roommate to do a wellness check on him, rather than me trying to check on him personally. He was there that night. And then the next morning I later found out Blake had taken off driving for 10 hours straight, which I can’t stress enough just how dangerous that is with his condition. As I got wind of it and in my already fragile state, this is when I panicked further and I reached out to his mother on Facebook hoping she could be a reassuring presence to him.
This whole time I was sending him messages on discord and… that’s it. I wasn’t spamming his phone; I didn’t call or text. I didn’t head over to his place. I didn’t demand from anyone who was talking to him to know his location. However, he was messaging Zyrk about me. Even trying to claim I was sounding like a “red flag” for asking to meet up to talk to him.
The only thing I was asking people was if anyone knew if he was okay, and, if they were talking to him, to support him. Unsurprisingly because of their close friendship, Zyrk confirmed to me he was talking to him. Zyrk became the one person I could talk to who still knew if he was okay, and could still get him to check in. And so I poured my heart out to Zyrk. I trusted him, and thought he was being supportive of me. I told him everything I thought of the situation and his relationship with Rachel. That I had no idea what was going on. That based on how well I knew Blake, what I thought was going on to get him to the path he was on. And what he needed to get back on a better path.
And no point did that path involve me. And that was clear.
But apparently that didn’t matter.
Sometime after all of these exchanges, Blake holed up in a hotel. And then, Blake retaliated against me, for coming forward about his actions and the assault.
He wasn’t upset at what he had done. He was upset that people now knew about it.
And as you all know, I broke the rest of the way. Not because he blocked me — as I’d later find out people assumed — blocks can be reversed, and hell I had blocked him the first night. I broke because he destroyed hundreds and hundreds of saved memories that weren’t his to destroy. Because he blame me. For all of it. I was doing my best to sever myself from someone I cared about deeply, but who was horribly toxic from me. But that didn’t mean I was ready to say goodbye to those memories, either. I was already so fragile after everything that happened. Is it really so surprising that destroying all of those, making it clear he thought I was at fault, broke me the rest of the way?
But that’s not the story here. This is just the background context. The story is what they were doing while I spiraled downward.
As I’ve mentioned, Blake collected all of my DMs I had messaged to him and sent them to the Balance team. But why would Balance staff need to see those? And why would they be sent to staff while I was hospitalized and completely barred from all external communication?
Supported by the narrative Blake spun, the fabricated DM snuck into the document of all my DMs, and Zyrk trusting in Blake’s “honesty,” Zyrk ultimately came to the incorrect conclusion to buy into the narrative that I was crazy and everything was a stunt to “get Blake back.” That I was jealous, and this was revenge. And I wasn’t about to open up on the fact that I had originally been leaving Blake for someone else. So, frankly, it wasn’t even a point Zyrk would know to consider, and it certainly wouldn’t be one Blake would share.
But that’s its own point — if it wasn’t one worth mentioning, why does Blake specifically make a point to bring Jam (the person I was leaving him for) up? His notes in the document do so, as does the fake message he created. Except, it discredits the claim that I was “leaving him for someone else” before I could even consider making it. He was future-proofing in case I decided to expose Jam to all of this mess. Maybe I should applaud him thinking that far ahead.
As a result of Blake’s machinations, Zyrk (and another former admin, Lyra) composed a text document “summary” of their findings about me. Enforcing the claim that this was all just to get Blake back, that I was just a jealous ex-girlfriend mad about his new relationship, that I was “playing victim” to get what I wanted (I don’t even know what it was claimed that I was after??) and that this was ultimately why they made the decision to remove.
In short, citing the no witch-hunting and harassment rules, they claimed I was witch-hunting and harassing … my rapist.
Please read that again.
Trying to get my rapist help. Demanding his (and Rachel’s) removal from the server (in a private, staff only channel). Trying to leverage what I could to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. All of that was distilled to witch-hunting and harassment.
And any attempted communication of how incorrect this was, was just me “playing victim” and ignored. Most of the staff blocked me outright.
Here’s Balance admin Bongo’s official response to the reasons I was banned:
All of these moves and conclusions happened while I was in the hospital. It was so expertly woven that no one was even willing to listen to me on my release. They literally took the word of my rapist over my own, and didn’t bat an eye – and are still doing so.
“Witch hunt on the server” — meaning in private and restricted staff channels where literally every other staff member vents about various users they dislike.
“Shouldn’t have been on the server” — I’m sorry? So let’s bury sexual assault incidents and pretend they didn’t happen because no one wants to talk about them? Or? What’s the rationale here exactly in me sharing with people I spent hours of every day talking to something awful that happened to me, that I thought they’d support me through?
And the “motives” — this is the most disgusting and yet pervasive piece. And every single one of the staff involved in the decision I tried to approach all spit the same claim, refused to discuss it further, and blocked me before I could try.
And when I posted publicly about all of this — they banned me. Not because I had done anything new to incur further moderation action warranting an increase, I responded in the very same way an admin had. They banned me to silence me.
I still struggle to wrap my head around how easily the team was manipulated into believing the story spun by a self-confessed rapist. And how unwilling they were to speak to me about it.
But this isn’t where the Balance’s story stops. In fact, here’s where it starts.
Just so people have an idea of what’s on the table, here’s a copy of an email from Venatus, the advertising provider for both Teamcraft and Akhmorning, among many many other popular gaming websites. It’s a quote of estimated revenue earnings were I to add their platform to the site. Even assuming it’s overestimated, there is quite literally a lot of money on the table.
Almost 17 grand a year.
And as I mentioned, the Balance staff already knew this.
Here’s one of the Balance’s recent announcements about their brand new website project:
I’ve had multiple people reach out to me after this went up, to express their concern about how the site looks like it’s just ripped from my design. But, realistically, there isn’t much I can do about them stealing large chunks of my information architecture and design elements. There isn’t a business I could sue, nor do I have the resources to even try to. They don’t have any assets yet. And by the time they do have some, there won’t be any fight left in me to have.
And, well, Zyrk already did a great job of severing all ties with the content writers who previously supplied content for my site, didn’t he? Isn’t that rather convenient…
Extra convenient that the Balance gets to control everything themselves instead of me, right? And gets to profit off of the hard work I put into the design and structure of this site. Extra extra convenient when not only is the Balance designing their own website, but they’re ALSO in partnering with icy-veins about a paid partnership to post for them as well. Grabbing for money wherever they can.
Greed is apparently orange, not green. If they’re developing a site – why wouldn’t they just make the site so good that content wouldn’t need to be found elsewhere? If they were just out for the community, they wouldn’t be posting on multiple sites, confusing users and splitting their information and how many places they need to manage it in. As a writer, it’s not remotely practical for themselves or for readers – unless of course there’s a monetary reason to do so.
You only have to look at twitter to see the swath of support and communication from the Balance to my rapist. Here’s his tweet trying to claim I somehow hacked his account and deleted his character:
Hey @FF_XIV_EN My account was very obviously compromised, with my account accessed from another IP address, and all my characters and items deleted, customer service has been no help after waiting over a month for my ticket. Can you help me? pic.twitter.com/AWLHI6LJlU— awesomeuno (@awesomeuno1) October 10, 2021
Here’s a mentor and moderator chiming in:
And don’t forget to check the retweet and like list, including mentors: Ahri, Furst, Dook, Sheenda; moderators: Bec, Ellunavi; and head admin Skye.
I’m not just making it up when I say the Balance is actively supporting my rapist. Remember, again, the guy confessed.
Now take a look at Bongo’s message again, there’s an incident cited in there that I mentioned in one of my previous posts: the issues that arose with former Scholar mentor Yuni Azure. Notably they cite this as my “repeated” history of creating issues. Except, you know, how she actually was a problem, how they gave her a final warning and effectively pushed her out of the server for her behavior. So, somehow, she was wrong as a mentor, but I was wrong for pointing out the issues with her?
But that big ticket issue with her that occurred in the Balance server, actually occurred with someone whom I thought was a close friend, Nonowazu (redshadowhero). Nono is whom I collaborated with to make the cool action tooltips you see all over the site.
Nono was directly and aggressively harassed by Yuni in one of the Scholar channels. At first Nono didn’t want it addressed; he was trying to let it all blow over. But it wouldn’t, and he decided to do something about it. I asked him if he wanted me to go to bat for him, and he told me to.
So, I did. I put my neck and reputation on the line to call out Yuni’s offensive behavior. And I got a lot of flack for it. And I expected nothing from Nono in return. I didn’t do it for a return favor. I just stood up for what was right, because it was right. Her behavior was pretty deplorable.
So, I don’t blame Nono for the tension of being around me being too much to bear after everything that’s happened to me. It’s a lot for anyone.
But boy if it isn’t a fucking slap in the face that the person I stuck my neck out for, the person who’s incident is cited in my reason for being banned in the server, is now spearheading the very project that’s a direct competition and replacement to my own, down to ripping off my design and features.
Convenient for all involved, isn’t it?
Thanks Nono. Fuck you too.
What’s really upsetting to me is that I designed SaltedXIV to not be exclusive in its content ownership. It was supposed to be a site where anyone and everyone could provide content for players provided it boasted a net benefit to the community. I didn’t want Final Fantasy XIV to dissolve into content warring factions like WoW has between icy-veins and wowhead and whatever else is out there.
And that I tried so fucking hard to get more people on board to help me with it. For years. And it wasn’t until money was on the table that suddenly I was conveniently pushed out so something else could be brought it.
Do I think Nono is in it for the money? No, I knew him well enough to know he just wants what’s best for the community. And I know he’s vulnerable enough to have that ideal manipulated against him to someone else’s end (many people, in truth) who is too lazy to put in the work themselves.
Do I think Zyrk is in it for the money? Not really. I think Zyrk is out for his best friend, my rapist. And my rapist wanted everything I had worked on destroyed out of revenge, and used Zyrk to further that action.
Zyrk is terrified of talking to me.
It could be because I reached out to him multiple times after my release from the hospital. I was so sadly desperate for someone to talk to. I wanted him to be for me what I had already pleaded for him to be for Blake. I really didn’t have anyone else. There’s some pretty sad spirals in my DMs to him, though nothing truly frightening.
Or maybe I spike his anxiety because he can’t face the truth that he’s sided with a rapist’s lies to further that man’s goals. Maybe that’s too painful to be reminded of.
I also want to address the actual design of the Balance’s new website to address the concerns about how similar it is to this site. And also lovely claims like this one:
Oh what wild accusations. Can you list which parts are a rip-off? Your website isn't even your own design.— A Spider with 7 legs (@7legspiderjpg) November 12, 2021
As for the disgusting cesspool, that's strong coming from someone logging onto others' accounts to delete their items and characters. Please get help.
Where apparently somehow the site now isn’t my design (I can assure you, it is).
I actually work in information architecture and web content design for a living. It’s my day job. So, for a quick lesson in web design, a wireframe is something usually put together in the draft page to lay out the content presentation. This helps content owners, developers, and designers see the general layout before more complicated pieces are added. It’s the bedrock of a webpage design and for UI/UX this step is crucial because it established the content flow a user will participate in, when navigating a site.
But, given the nature of a wireframe, it’s pretty easy to reverse engineer one from a finished design, since it generally is just a plain content layout.
I put together some rough wireframes of some popular XIV content sites, this one, Akhmorning, the new Icy Veins XIV site (though their design has been established for years for other games), and of course the new Balance designs.
All of these sites are presenting roughly the same content. So when we make claims about design theft, it’s not tied to the content itself being similar, it’s tied to the layout and presentation of the content.
I’ve color-coded content sections that appear on more than one page so you can quickly see how each site approaches presenting a certain piece of content.
Here are each site’s respective homepages:
You can see Akhmorning takes a very square card approach to their content, and Icy Veins’s landing page for XIV is truly just a catch-all list of everything they’ve put out. You’ll notice these two approaches are very different from the layouts of SaltedXIV or The Balance. Frankly in my personal opinion it looks a lot like the balance just took my general layout and shuffled the order so they can claim it’s “different.”
Combat Job Landing Pages
Now let’s take a look at the landing page layouts for a combat job (the big ticket items for each of these sites):
Again, despite presenting roughly the same content, you’ll note that both Akhmorning and Icy Veins take very different approaches to how they present the content. Akhmorning again uses square tiles, and Icy Veins uses a small button sub navigation style. When it comes to SaltedXIV I took a particular amount of time curating the “above the fold” layout – this is what designers call the area that appears on a user’s screen when a page first loads, before they scroll. I intentionally put the big ticket grab items front and center because it’s what people are most often looking for: main guides, gearing info, and their opener.
This design is actually really really a-typical in the web design world. Generally you shy away from adding too many different types of content in one area, because it’s usually detrimental and confusing to users. If you look around at other websites you frequent, you won’t find very many who lay out CTAs (“Call to Actions” — things like buttons and blocks that are designed to make a user do something, like click a link) in this manner. Most will follow a linear single column flow down the page, or in cases where you see columns of items, it’s because it’s the same type of item being repeated. For example, in Akhmorning’s case, each if the boxes all link to subpages with relatively the same layout. This is like some news and blog sites, where obviously each post differs, but they’re all still a “post.” For SaltedXIV each item I list on a job landing page isn’t presented in the same way, guides are a long form content, gear and opener info is printed right on the page, as are FAQs with their own layout, and so on. This was a concious choice I made in the design, breaking from standards, because it makes sense in this unique case.
All of that is a really long way of me saying SaltedXIV’s site design is intentionally unique and rare. So when you see the Balance’s site leveraging more or less the exact same layout but just in different orders — it’s not a case of standard web design that just happens to look like mine.
But there’s more to a site than it’s layout. Another extremely important feature is the sitemap. This is how the content hierarchy exists — the “buckets” each page are dumped into. And a site’s main navigation is almost always representational of the “top level” of this site map. Meaning a navigation is usually buttons with labels of all those buckets everything else goes into. Here are the four navigations of these sites, again color-coded where there’s overlap.
You’ll notice the buckets of Akhmorning are the most unique, Icy Veins is a bit hard to color code as they have a lot of overlap in what sections carry what, but again SaltedXIV and the Balance seem to have pretty similar buckets, just in different orders.
One other big piece I want to show are the branding colors. Every brand has an established color palette they use in their designs. Setting up a color story builds familiarity with their userbase, and even helps them navigate or establish expectations of certain functionality when a certain color is seen. For example if most buttons on a site are purple, and you see some text highlighted the same purple, there’s a subconscious connection in the user that the text is likely also going to do something like a button does.
Colors can also be used to associate certain content. For example blue for tanks, green for healers, etc. The game itself has unique shades of red, blue, and green precisely for this purpose. I picked markedly different shades of those colors when designing this site to leverage the familiarity players already have to the meaning of those colors, while putting a unique SaltedXIV spin so that it’s easier to identify when the content is from here, and not from Square Enix. It’s not necessary to do this, but it’s an extra design note I added. You’ll notice Akhmorning has it’s own very unique shade of red, too, as it currently only covers DPS jobs.
Take a look at the brand palettes for each of the sites:
We all, unsurprisingly, favored a more dark-mode style design. That makes sense as that style is hugely popular to our target demographics. But that’s about where the similarities with Icy Veins and Akhmorning stop with the others. Icy Veins capitalizes on their already established palette for CTAs and emphasis throughout the site. Akhmorning leverages their strong bold yellow for almost all complementing design elements throughout the site. I use a mix of four colors, purple being the job-less one. And, so does The Balance, just with orange.
I’m presenting all of this information from my professional viewpoint in the hopes that you’ll draw your own conclusions on it. I wanted to address the claims and concerns head on because they keep being brought up to me. It’s not really my place to say if it’s stolen or not. Though you can guess what I think of the matter (and I think I even said as much in these posts).
Frankly though, there isn’t much that can be done about it. I want to say we’re all just gamers trying to put out useful tools for other players — but I know monetarily that’s no longer true of the Balance. It even looks like Akhmorning has also agreed to cash in on the duplicity with Icy Veins. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make sure players find content, and I’ve always been open to writers posting their content wherever they wanted to, and that hasn’t changed. But yes, I will judge the decision if it seems like one that isn’t for the benefit of players. Instead not only is it a detriment, it’s purely to line their pockets.
But, the only thing that would force a change is if the majority of the community demanded one — and that’s not going to happen.
I’m not writing this post with grand ideals of turning the tide or squashing the patriarchy or something. I do not expect some silly mass exodus from the Balance server. People won’t boycott their ripped off website (oh, oops, I said it). No one will raise a pitchfork for me, no did when I needed them to. This is a video game community, people aren’t here to stand up for what’s right, they’re here to escape from the weight of the atrocities of the real world. People don’t want to face those same atrocities here, even if they’re readily and heavily prevalent.
I say all of this because the community deserves a chance to form their own opinion and come to their own conclusions. I say all of this because the future of SaltedXIV isn’t up to me, it’s up to you all.
This site wouldn’t be so successful without all of the content from other players. It was a one-woman team when it came to every other aspect of the site (design, management, and more), but I was only responsible for a small corner of the content.
This site won’t continue unless a new team of people is willing to write for it. And, hopefully, if people are willing to help me out with other roles too. I mentally cannot take the toll of doing it all solo again, I know that much. But more than anything what this project needs is writers. SaltedXIV was designed with a creator-first approach, giving content creators control over their own content, ownership of it, and even design of it. And that also means that without other creators, there isn’t much left to it.
I have ideas and projects in mind to move forward with. Things to differentiate this site from others, to push it to new heights. And, I still have plans to monetize it and see what I can do with that ad revenue for writers, though I can’t make any guarantees. But people have to want to contribute and want to write and be qualified to do so. I can guide you through ideas and formats and editing, but I can’t do it all. So many hands need to be involved.
From my first post, many reached out expressing interest, but only one actually followed up showing heavy motivation to spur this on. So, I’m opening it up again, but this time more formally. I’ve asked plenty even before “shit hit the fan” for people to help out, and while many expressed interest, and I even provided folks a list of project ideas to run with, not one stepped up to the plate. So this time around I want to actively seek out those who are truly motivated.
Each of the XIV content sites out there have issues. Akhmorning is it’s own ball of horrendous, the Balance is greedy and just going to post anywhere, and I don’t even know how anyone reads or finds content on Icy Veins…
I can’t promise to do everything right. I can’t promise to be better. I can’t promise this site or the project management will be flawless. I can’t promise to always say the right things. But neither can any other site. The one difference I can point out is the transparency I have shared with everyone at every step of the process, and my commitment to providing quality content that’s a net benefit to the community. Judge me based on what I’ve said – either you’re glad to see the brutal honesty, or hate seeing just “more XIV drama” – but that’s exactly what will let me know if people are willing to keep this project going.
– And I can promise I’ll never implement ads to the degree Icy Veins has… Jeeshe.