Fuel Drought Advertisements

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In February 2021, a series of post-game advertisements began to appear complaining of the latest, and longest, fuel can search rate shortage in Malton. This page is to document and provide context for these incredible advertisements.

Background: Advertisements

After a player character runs out of AP, the player is put on a splash page with the message

Exhausted, you can go no further. or You have run out of Action Points.

To the right of this message is an advertisement, and below the advertisement is the message

Advertise to Urban Dead players here for just $10 CPM - click here to find out more.

Clicking the message brings the user to this splash page, which explains the cost ($10 USD per thousand runs of the ad), plus how to submit the files (via email to Kevan) and pay for the advertisements (using a PayPal button).

Typical advertisers have included other zombie games or zombie-themed media, plus more general advertisers, or occasionally no ad.

Background: Fuel Shortages/"Droughts"

The first advertisement, spotted February 5th.

Over the later years of the 2010s, survivor players began to notice that, on occasion, search odds for fuel cans in Auto Repair Shops would seem to decline precipitously for short periods. These irregular occurrences normally lasted anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, after which the fuel rates would return to "normal".

Although no major systematic search rate information was collected (the latest such was in 2009), it seemed based on anecdotal evidence that

  • Search rates would decline from a typical 2-4 cans per 50 AP searching in a lit Auto Repair to much less than 1 per 50 AP
  • Search rates would decline across the whole city & for all survivor players (i.e. not influenced by local ruin-rates or zombie-presence, or the game's zerg flags)
  • The droughts were seemingly not influenced by the survivor-zombie ratio at the time, since that ratio had remained relatively stable at a bit under 2:1 H/Z since 2012 or so (declining towards 1:1 only in late 2019 and 2020); and these droughts occurred during both peaks and troughs of the citywide ratio
  • Sparse anecdotal evidence indicates that search rates for fuel cans might correspondingly increase in Factories during these "droughts" (some saying unlit Factories were the place to go), but never as high as the normal search rate in Auto Repair Shops

Despite the fact these droughts had been discussed by the community since at least 2016, and had occurred at least a couple times a year since, no Bug Report has been filed on them and little specific documentation or investigation has occurred (largely because the droughts would occur without regularity and end as abruptly as they began).

2020-2021 Fuel Shortage

An advertisement shows US politician Bernie Sanders asking for fuel.

At the end of December 2020 another citywide fuel drought began. Although players had, by this point, come to be used to these shortages, this drought lasted significantly longer than the typical 1-2 week period. As the fuel shortage stretched through January, effects began to be seen, particularly as many generators began to run dry.

The ratio of lit buildings declined in many survivor-occupied parts of the city, and External Military reports indicated many long-safe suburbs in the south & southeast of the city (e.g. Kinch Heights and Vinetown), that were usually at least at a "B" or "C" ratio for lighting, had dropped to "D" or "F" by late January. The lack of lit buildings reduced search rates for other useful items. As the EMR reports of mass de-lighting shifted many suburb statuses from "Safe" to "Intact" (alongside the large zombie-occupied swath of ghost towns across Malton's west), the number of Safe suburbs dropped to just 19 on February 8th, lower than had been the case in recent recorded memory (and possibly since the last Big Bash).

In some parts of the city, survivors began to ration fuel, using it only to light the most important TRP buildings. This led zombies to better detect which buildings were occupied, and attacks by zombie groups were documented against the Knights Templar, BAR, THEM and RCC during January and early February.

Appearance of Advertisements

Another advertisement following a typical meme format.

On February 5th, user Flint posted a screenshot to the UDWiki Discord server of an advertisement that had begun appearing on the out-of-AP splashpage. It followed a meme format of singer Drake refusing "Fuel Can" and approving of "20 spray cans, 8 bottles of beer, 5 crowbars, and a toolbox," a typical inventory result from searching in Auto Repairs during the drought. Players quickly began to discuss the possible souce of this advertisement.

Reports of two other meme-format ads soon arrived, one of Bernie Sanders saying "I am once again asking for a single freaking fuel can," and a third of the distracted boyfriend "Searching in a lit Auto Repair" looking away from his girlfriend "Fuel Can" at another woman labeled "20 Spray Cans" which was posted the following day.

All the advertisements link to the invite for the UDWiki Discord server, a common place for players to complain or compare notes about prior droughts, and initial comments on the ads and screenshots of them were collected there. The advertisements did not appear on every load of the splash page, and one user reported having to refresh several times to see it, which means the user probably paid $10 per advertisement (for 3000 total runs). In all, the ads seem to have attracted about 15 new members to the Discord server in four days (compared to about 20 for the entire preceding month), although it is certain that many who saw the ads were already on the Discord, which had around 500 total members at the time.

Advertiser Identified

Initially, speculation centered on who listed the ads and for what motive. Was the goal to reach out to & coordinate with other players suffering from the drought, to signal to Kevan that the drought was a problem for the playerbase, to advertise the linked Discord server, or to provide a laugh to UD players who had just spent their 300th AP that week searching for an elusive fuel can?

User Thisisbright posted briefly in the UDWiki Discord on February 5th, and over the coming days it filtered through that they were the responsible party for the ads. Thisisbright, who had previously run ads for the group The Fortress, designed the ads in conjunction with other members of the group Fort Perryn Defense Force and listed the ads to signal to Kevan that something was up: "Passive-aggressive memes and cash is my love language. Hopefully, it's Kevan's too." The UDWiki discord was chosen as a link "because worst case, it'd grow the community and remind Kevan that we're still playing, and best case, it'd also get us some laughs and fuel cans."

Aftermath & Theories on Kevan's Involvement

On February 8th, reports began to come in that the latest, longest drought was ending, and Auto Repair search rates returned rapidly to normal. As of that date, the ads were still running for at least some players on the out-of-AP screen.

It is known, based on the procedure for running an advertisement, where the image & link must be sent by email to Kevan (and "Adverts will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis before being run"), that Kevan almost certainly saw the advertisements. However, it is not known if the running of the ads had any effect on the end of the fuel drought, which occurred about three days after the ads first appeared.