September 1999

YEAH BUT TRY PAYING FOR THAT IN GOLD PIECES [Author: lum]

From a recent interview with Richard Garriott on CGO about Ultima 0, the first game which he “hand-manufactured”:

But I hand manufactured one more the other day because I’m on e-bay all of the time, checking out Ultima Online accounts that are for sale for thousands of dollars, and I wondered, “How much would an original Akalabeth go for?” My account is Lord British so I’ll get on there and see what it’s worth.

Needless to say, this piqued my interest. However, the account “lordbritish” is apparently owned by someone else, and in any event there’s no auctions up right now for “Akalabeth”. Well, we’ll keep monitoring this one, in between dodging the odd rocket-propelled grenades from Jessica Mulligan fans.

WUH OH [Author: lum]

Some of you may be aware that there’s a new Austin player luncheon at the Texas Renfair in two weeks. Some of you who actually know me know that I tend to show up at both of these.

Guess who else is showing up.

Folks, I need bodyguards. LOTS of bodyguards. And screw the swords and maces shit. We need guns.

BIG guns.

THE INTERNET – IT’S NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANY MORE [Author: lum]

Two quick links to send you on your way –

Old Man Murray finally sold out. But only because IGN didn’t. Note to self – never buy any Psygnosis game, ever. Instead I’m buying Dance Dance Marvin, over and over and over.

Mourne posts a story I only vaguely understand, but it involves the spectre of the juvenile idiot who spammed my message board being brutally sodomized by hulking NAMBLA members. Two thumbs up to Mourne!

CALANDRYLL INTERVIEWED, ADMITS TO TAMPERING WITH FOOD [Author: lum]

Our scary partner in ranting Jinx has posted his interview with Calandryll, who, if he were a Magic: The Gathering card, would be the following:

CALANDRYLL
0/9
Summon Calandryll
2W/1

Calandryll counts as a wall, and may not attack. (“No, really, I value all of your opinions!”)

If Calandryll is sent to the graveyard, return Calandryll to user’s hand (“he’s off to consult with the Dev Team on specifics”)

Studies of the first Ultima Online have revealed tales of one called Calandryll, who, while not as known to history as the Lady of Moi, appears to actually have been more effective at deflecting the anger of the “Dev Board Mobs”.

— Urza, “Tales of the Twentieth Century”

MORE FROM QUEEN DURGA OF THE BLUE PEOPLE… AND GREEN PEOPLE, TOO [Author: lum]

Apparently Ms. Mulligan had a somewhat stormy meeting with the rabble last night. Here’s a recap, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. (The salient points in the letter have already been confirmed from two other sources.)

===

As I’m sure you’ve already heard, there was a meeting in the Seekrit E-Leet OSI IRC Seerz channel last night. Well, there’s one every Monday night, but there was a special guest last night. Yes, Durga, aka the Super Top Ultimate Professional Interest Director (you find the acronym).

Only two things were actually going to be discussed, first one, they don’t want seers working on the shards they spent years getting to know, since that might actually make them more effective and useful to the community and we can’t actually have seers that do something to help the shards that inspired their love for the game. It also brings up that dreaded ‘abuse’ word, which, being the honest and trustworthy sorts we happen to be in the seer program, we don’t really worry about. BUT, it comes down from above, that our newly-less-esteemed leader has been doing this for many systems, and that this is the only way to do it. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Of course, that’s the minor issue. A little fluff to spice up the real meaty question. Open applications for Seers. Yes, I said it, they want to put a public application on the web, and should someone apply (only have to be over 18 for this one folks, have to be over 25 to telestorm, but you can spawn drakes and gold at 18) they are now run through the hoops.

Hoop 1 – Someone actually reads the apps to remove well known losers. So if your account was flagged for something, you can give up now. Or you can get another account, that one will be clean.

Hoop 2 – Take the r33t Seer IRC Training courses, with such advanced topics as “IC and OOC : What it means to me”, and “Event Design for Dummies vols 1 and 2”

Hoop 3 – ingame tool training on the TC! Yeah, give them powers with no experience. Bah, who cares, it’s just TC anyway… right?

Hoop 4 – Group and Individual event… on TC. If you cannot find players to play in your event, players will be provided by the Interest program at no extra charge. (Note : There will be more and vastly different classes of players on normal shards, this is really only to teach you that .pl != .ps)

Hoop 5 – BS your way through a personal interview with an IGM, who has a large number of interviews to do after yours, and probably is tired, hungry, or just sick of interviews.

Hoop 6 – Congratulations, should you pass, here’s your robe, diploma, and full access to all Seer powers, have fun on _____ shard.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the current seers were a bit nervous about something so blatantly idiotic as this. I mean, look at the companion program. To quote, there were only 20 incidents out of 1200. This statistic provided by Durga him/herself, it may or may not be completely accurate. That’s only one out of 60! Wow, .66 percent is a pretty good rating… until you consider that even one rogue seer with full powers will be an abuse incident the likes of which hasn’t been seen yet. It’s like setting a balloon full or red dye in a kindergarten classroom, and telling them not to touch it… then after they behave for a week, leaving them alone for a few hours. Remember, these are some of the most creative – and creatively dangerous – people in UO.

But they are getting powers second only to GM’s with 3 IRC classes, a TC class, two mini-events on TC, and an IRC interview. Just wait, there will be one smooth-talking imbecile, and they’ll float through the classes. Maybe it’ll even be everyone’s favorite Doctor… Access Granted… self destruct in 5… 4… 3…

And let’s not even mention… oh wait, let’s mention it. These decisions were already final before the IRC chat even began, and the entire ‘discussion’ was a sham, built out of pretty sparkles and pixiedust to blind us and make us smile and think happy-thoughts. The meeting fell victim to Volunteer PR. Everyone got a nice song and dance, and seers dropped out of the chat like they were being hit with RAID – Green Robe formula. Although it was amusing to see one mis-statement almost get a good 70% of the seers to quit on the spot.

But, she is much more experienced, and better in every way – so that means she knows best – that was pointed out several times. Of course, after 2 months in UO as a player, she easily outranks the seers that have been doing this on the only game of this scale ever created to this date. It’s not like they’ve been filling a new and unique role or anything, we’re just insta-DM’s, ready to provide simple canned quests for the mass public. Well, at least we are in her eyes.

YOU BROKE IT, YOU PAY FOR IT [Author: lum]

As can be expected, any time I post a story with the word “counselor” in it, my in box fills up. The latest story on Queen Durga of the Blue People is no exception – right now it’s running about 50-50 between people taking me to task for mocking a brave, brave woman and counselors saying Damn, I bet we’re gonna get some interesting calls now…. More on this later.

Right now the subject is eBay sales and the game companies who love them. Specifically, an article in a trade publication about real-world spinoffs and what OSI is planning on doing to facilitate them, available here. A salient quote:

“It’s one of those exciting, humorous, scary things we didn’t anticipate,” says Ultima’s creator, Richard Garriott. “This is the first truly tangible, measurable liquid exchange between a virtual and a real economy.”

Parent company Electronic Arts was concerned that Origin didn’t try to get a piece of the auction action. But, Garriott explains, the “total amount of money exchanged compared to our business is negligible,” and he didn’t want to alienate players by “trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of them.” Instead, Garriott’s programming team plans to add a feature to Ultima Online (UO) that would enable further e-commerce by letting players evaluate their virtual holdings so they can set fair real-world prices.

Another interesting and false snippet from the article is the description of a typical hardware setup for a shard – “7 high-end PCs plus a RAID hard drive array”. Um, yeah, I’m sure that OSI goes to Costco and picks up a few Pentiums off the shelf any time they want to install a shard. In truth the last shard that ran off a standard PC was Abyss and we all remember how high-performance THAT was.

On the subject of eBay exchanges, I read elsewhere that based on the going rate of sale on eBay, the UO gold piece is worth more on the market than the Italian lira. I’m sure this amuses the Italians to no end to know that their currency is outpaced by a virtual construct.

LOOK, DOROTHY, IT’S THE QUEEN OF ALL SMURFS! [Author: lum]

The new required reading for all of us rude homophobes and spineless bottom feeders at Lum the Mad, Inc. (LUM on NASDAQ) is Biting the Hand, by Jessica Mulligan, aka Durga, aka the Most High Senior of Senior Counselors (MHSOSC to use the current pseudo-military terminology in fashion at Origin), which is mainly a somewhat off-key variation of the lamented and presumed late BitchX.

Ms. Mulligan has been remarkably quiet, save a puff-piece interview on CoB, notable only for a brave announcement that hundreds of new Seers were due to be enlisted (which is pretty hysterically funny, considering that OSI can’t find the time to support the 20 or so they have already), but his/her column (apparently she switched genders at some point, which, to quote Seinfeld, there is, um, nothing at all wrong with that) has run for quite a while now, and it has a few snippets of interest. I’ll quote them for you here, since happypuppy.com has been scientifically proven to, after long periods of exposure, turn you into a Pokemon. Take notes, class, there will be a test later.

First, of course, there is the warm glow of her hiring:

In one sense, there is some news in my personal life that will have some small effect on my writings here. If you haven’t heard already, I took a job with Origin Systems, Inc. Yep, that’s right, OSI, the folks who publish Ultima Online, the massively multiplayer game that I’ve taken to task more than once here and elsewhere. My own personal task at OSI will be to reorganize the volunteer programs, institute new ones and generally bring my experience to bear to help UO’s customer service become a world-class operation.

Don’t think I’ve missed the delicious irony of the situation. It’s one thing to be separated from the situation while making pertinent, if pithy, comments; it is quite another to be told, basically, to put up or shut up. So now I am ensconced in Austin, Texas, Live Music Capital of the World, working with my crew to figure out how to make it a reality. Hey, how the heck did that happen?

I was seduced, I tell you. Gordon Walton, VP online services, and Jack Heistand, formerly CEO of TEN and now the head of OSI, sang me a siren song of support and glory and hope. They raised me to the mountaintop and tempted me with visions of incredible game service, intelligently and compassionately managed. They painted a glorious picture of what could be, if only we worked together.

And I was a weak vessel. I saw their visions and I was tempted. I wavered. I contemplated and ruminated, I anguished over it night and day….

Okay, okay; I lie like a cheap rug. I went for it like a taxi-dancer getting a marriage proposal from the Aga Khan. I caved like it was sale time at Christian Dior and they were dangling a platinum card before my eyes. I put up the same amount of resistance that a gold-digger does in accepting a diamond necklace, i.e., none to speak of.

Come on; how often does a professional get a chance to work with the largest online game community in the known galaxy? Or to work with some of computer gaming’s top-tier designers and innovators, people of the likes of Richard Garriott, Raph Koster and Rich Vogel? Or skilled online veterans such as Gordon and Jack?

Ah, memories. Too bad she doesn’t work with Raph and Rich anymore; presumably Richard still puts in a day or two at the office occasionally. The honeymoon was shortlived of course, once she discovered homo dewdicus on the message boards:

And somehow, I just know this column is going to have little or no effect on them. Far from it; they’ll take it as a badge of honor. After all, these people think nothing of being foul-mouthed, dishonest, racist homophobes on a daily basis. What’s a little criticism from a transsexual columnist who’d like to think most people aren’t foul-mouthed, dishonest, racist homophobes? I guess I’m just gay that way

Ms. Mulligan has been gay that way for a while, judging from her column on the same subject a year ealier:

And why is online gaming such a wasteland, Jessica, when just three years ago we all expected to be rich as Croesus because of it? I’m glad you asked, my friend. There are several reasons why, but certainly one of the most poignant has to be the way the disgustingly low class of today’s online gamer drives away the people who might actually spend some cash to play.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by “low class.” Drop into any of the free online gaming sites, such as mPlayer or Microsoft’s Internet Gaming Zone. Just entering a chat lobby at one of these sites garners you a significant chance of viewing some variation of the following exchange:

Player One: Shut up, you pussy faggot!

Player Two: Eat sh**, dumba**!

Player One: F*** you, faggot!

Player Two: No, f*** you!

Player One: No f*** you, sh**-eating faggot-dork-loser!

And so on. Granted, you could sit in a lobby for half an hour and not see such. Or you could hit several lobbies and see it in every one. I see it happen often enough to grate on the nerves. I also happen to be a male-to-female transsexual, so use of the word ‘faggot’ especially grates, not to mention the other Anglo-Saxonisms.

As one might guess, the players most often resorting to this kind of infantile name-calling are not very far out of diapers themselves, the 12 year old to 16 year old ‘demographic.’ They hang out on mPlayer and IGZ because, of course, those services are free. They’d probably rather hang out where the really cool games are, such as Kesmai’s GameStorm or Simutronics’ Playnet, but that takes a credit card and who wants Mom and Dad to know just exactly what they are doing with that educational Internet thingamabob, anyway?

In a way, I lay this type of behavior at mPlayer’s door. You get what you pay for, and they were the first to panic at the lack of paying subscribers and turn their service free. And, as naturally as toast falls to the carpet peanut butter side down, in rushed the unsocialized young kids who can’t afford to pay and, apparently, aren’t getting any home training in manners or courtesy. Not to say that some supposed adults don’t do this, too, but the preponderance of my experience with it has been from kids.

Again, you get what you pay for. If the consumers are willing to pay for the development of quality online games, we could see a Renaissance in the industry. If many or most of the consumers aren’t willing to pay for such development, then we’re likely to be stuck with two kinds of gaming services. Patronizing one type will be those willing to pay for quality games and a safe haven from the rude little monsters of the world. Patronizing the other will be all those unwilling or unable to pay for online games and willing to settle for second best. The digital country clubs and the cyber-slums, if you will.

And if you don’t agree with me, you’re just a great big dork-loser. So nyah!

So how has this warm and cuddly columnist/community commissar/lecturer in tolerance of alternative lifestyles impacted our fine, fine volunteer program?

Well, judging from my email in-box, by walking into situations that she has little to no knowledge of, having not technically actually played UO, I’m told — understandable, there’s a lot of kids and other folks who haven’t tried switching genders yet on those servers — and basically informing the folks who’ve been in the trenches trying to make the programs they’re involved in work that they are without a clue, and from now on things will be done Her Way.

Of course, if you have a problem with that, you’re a crude, crass homophobic male oppressor type. Oh well, I should probably quit now, since, as she put it in her very first column, As the old Croat proverb says, “Tell the truth, then depart quickly.”

By the way, Jessica, in case the happypuppy.com gig falls through, I hear TwisTer is always looking for new updaters.

PATCH DAY WEDNESDAY – EVERYONE GRAB YOUR ANATOMY [Author: lum]

Melting items down to component parts, changes to pet ownership and lockable patio doors are going in Wednesday.

Interesting note on the UO site about this:

This is the first publish that the current Development Team, led by SunSword, Toad, and Runesabre, has worked on from start to finish and we are very excited about implementing these features.

Um, sorry guys, you are not getting out of responsibility for the last abortion of a patch that easily.