Driver 3 II: Electric Boogaloo
Once upon a time...
Official home: http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/drivergate_returns/
Last updated: 2008-06-29, v1
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There was a keenly anticipated game from Atari called Driver 3. To everyone's surprise, when it arrived in Summer 2004 it was blatantly unfinished. This did not prevent the game from receiving exceptionally high marks from the two magazines granted exclusive reviews, Official Playstation 2 and X-Box World, which caused a bit of a flap. These happened to be published by Future, also the home of magazines like Edge, which in its own later review savaged the game.
Driver 3 (aka, eugh, "Driv3r") was a burning topic in the official Future Publishing forum, Games Radar, prompting several lengthy and popular threads. During the spirited discussion one of Games Radar's unpaid volunteer mods, Eighthours, became suspicious of two new posters' eccentrically zealous defence of Driver 3 and, applying Holmesian rigour, traced their posts directly to employees of Babel Media, a company hired by Atari to infiltrate forums posing as disinterested players and deceitfully advertise the game (a practice embarrassingly described by advertisers as "guerrilla marketing" but more accurately known in colourful Former Colonial slang as "astroturfing" or "shilling" or, for Brits, "paid lying"). Babel fiercely denied everything then confessed Eighthours was in fact exactly correct in every detail.
This brilliant exposé by the Games Radar contributors was swiftly forwarded around the globe. Inexplicably, Future responded to their flagship reader community's landmark piece of game-related online investigative journalism by swiftly and clinically deleting all Driver 3 threads and assigning mod teams to erase instantly any further mention of the game, any mention of Future magazine reviews of the game, any mention of Babel Media, and any posts asking what had happened to all the Driver 3 threads; plus they permanently banned at least one poster and demoted a veteran mod for the crime of participation in such threads.
(For their part, Babel simply removed the page from their site which boasted about their astroturf tactics and have carried on shilling for whoever writes them cheques.)
Such was Future's efficiency in razing the forum that usual mirrors like archive.org and the Google cache were also bare. An effort of preservation organised by S Campbell saved the first 42 pages of Driv3r Reviews. Were PSM2 & XBW honest? Part II in Explorer-only, index-preventing "MHT" format but, as far as anybody knows, the other major thread, Atari People Infiltrate Gamesradar, is lost forever bar the few scraps collated in his follow-up article.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Idly clearing up some archives a while ago, I came across my unfinished HTML conversion of Drivergate plus 15 extra thread pages. This led to a renewed interest in the affair and facial dismay as I discovered the unappealing scandal has been all but forgotten; Google is useless unless you know to search for "Drivergate" in the first place and the Wiki entry removed Babel's confession in 2007 because the evidence had been deliberately destroyed by the culprits. (The current version does at least mention S Campbell's casebook in a footnote.) Pages on the topic from other sources are almost entirely nicked from Games Radar's investigation or are merely references back to the long-dead threads; and Games Radar's own archives provide a mini mystery of their own.
Intrigued, I then tried posting politely in Games Radar but got nowhere. (Short version: any thread mentioning Drivergate is still instantly deleted because, I've been told by a senior mod, any reference to Drivergate leads for some reason to criticism of Future and you can't criticise Future in a Future forum. Long, long version. Interestingly, as an aside, I've learned via the appeal for cache items in The Wonderful World of Bruce that Games Radar contributors at the time were terrified of speaking out because of the explicit threat of spiteful vengeance. Even now there's a palpable air of posters watching their words.)
This is a shame.
Accordingly therefore I've finally, agonisingly converted the beardy-weirdy "MHT" pages to normal HTML and have added the newly recovered pages in the hope of preserving a universally accessible version of this valuable example of game-related deceit and complicity for posterity, by a coincidence of endemic laziness just in time for Drivergate's fourth anniversary.
Along with the conversion I've lightly edited the thread pages in these ways:
1. The (long dead) MSN ads are replaced by a convenient menu.
Message contents and page coding have not been altered. This means that forum commands such as Private Message and Quote will launch forum.gamesradar.com.
2. The page number and Previous/Next links work locally so you can easily leaf through the pages.
3. The pics are saved locally rather than polled from Future's servers.
4. A few missing reader sig pics (for example because an Imagebucket-style contraption went bust) are replaced with a Pic Lost bracket.
5. The shabbily exposed e-mail addresses have been jiggered with falsebits.
6. As a result of previous steps you can download the whole thing as a self-contained zip for offline reading. (See below.)
PS. In the interests of strict impartiality and SCIENCE I bought an X-Box copy of the game during these events. I omit the analytical process lest you implode from wizendness, but my conclusion is that Driver 3 is blatantly unfinished.
Driv3r Reviews. Were PSM2 & XBW honest? (Part II)
Official long-dead Games Radar thread: http://forum.gamesradar.com/viewtopic.php?t=43524
The main thread. The editor of X-Box World briefly appears to defend the mag on p8. As mentioned above, the thread restoration is imperfect: p01-p44 are complete; only the first post of p45 survives; p46-p58 are missing; p60 is missing the last post (which is quoted on the next page); p61-p67 are complete. As far as I know, p67 was the last before the razing.
Atari People Infiltrate Gamesradar
Official long-dead Games Radar thread: http://forum.gamesradar.com/viewtopic.php?t=44192
Regrettably, none of Eighthours' catalysing thread exposing readers "billywigs" and "kingchopper" as paid employees of Babel Media (and, by extension, Driver publishers Atari) survives bar the brief quote in S Campbell's Drivergate.
"Sprouty not a mod any more?" - Locked *why?*
Official long-dead Games Radar thread: http://forum.gamesradar.com/viewtopic.php?t=44603
The two surviving pages (p3 and p6) from a six-page thread about the unexplained punishment of a long-standing and popular unpaid volunteer mod who participated in the forum's own Drivergate investigation. Interesting fact. From the context, the punishment seems prompted by Sprouty's jokey quoting of S Campbell's post on p59, itself referring to a bit in MCV. This post also appears to be the source of the "libel" excuse obliquely presented by Future with no further detail as the reason for the mass deletions.
Stuart Campbell UNLEASHES THE FURY on Driver 3
Official long-dead Games Radar thread: http://forum.gamesradar.com/viewtopic.php?t=43976
Both pages of what's essentially a mod saying, "Look at the mildly amusing thing the unemployed man nobody's heard of who isn't pensionable has written," which was nevertheless deleted, neatly conveying the way the forum was brought to heel by erasing anything containing the words "Driver," "Driv3r," "Drivergate," "Driv3rgate" or "scandal."
Everything as an offline zip
1.35mb, unzips to 6.5mb. Open "index.html" to start.
If you have any further Drivergate info (for example, you can fill some or more of the thread gaps) you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (remove the falsebit).