October 1999

A MODEST PROPOSAL [Author: lum]

Well, things are calming down a bit… we’re starting to count exactly how much supplies our guids need to throw away, St. Twister is jumping up and down in the corner wanting everyone to know how persecuted he is, and I’m getting set to turn the web site over to a small, cute puppy for the weekend. Time to dredge up old ghosts.

Origin vs. Macroing – an old song. The latest stanza is the now-confirmed rumor that Origin is actually implementing macro detection code on its servers – and using it as an investigative tool.

I think this is precisely the wrong thing to do. Here’s why.

Look at why people macro. They don’t do it because there’s some illicit thrill in playing the game incorrectly; they do it because they want their character to be where they want them to be. Be it the 7x GM Tank Mage of the powergaming PvPer or the merely adequate survival skills of the casual monster basher; it’s no secret that without macroing, playing UO on the standard shards is well nigh impossible.

Why is macroing in UO a problem as opposed to, say, EQ? Well, macroing is actually *possible* in UO. If it were possible to macro the main tedious “play” of EQ, namely camping spawns, you can damn well bet everyone would be doing it within mere seconds. Unlike EQ, UO is actually a somewhat well-behaved application that can multitask, thus it’s possible to write robots such as UO AutoPilot and datastream parsers such as UO Assist for UO.

Here’s an interesting anecdote, totally true. A programmer friend of mine from work, whom I recruited into the UO cult, and who has no conception of the “community” or the “controversy” surrounding UO (he’s barely aware that I write this website, I think) actually wrote his own macro bot program, simply because he was tired of hitting his Spirit Speak in-game macro key to raise intelligence. He had no idea such a program would get him banned. He saw it as the logical thing to do… he had better things to do then sit in front of his keyboard mashing a key every 30 seconds, but he wanted to participate in the world. Thus the macro bot.

Designer Emeritus Dragon said it best: No matter what you do, someone is going to automate the process of playing your world. Everything else is reaction. The question then is; what will the reaction be?

Origin is opting for the punitive approach, and is wholly unapologetic about it. Gordon Walton, aka Tyrant, the friendly face of online fascism, has stated in no uncertain terms that everyone who “macros unattended” (the code words for macroing in a fashion that can actually be proven) will be banned from the game. The GMs have, in violation of their own stated guidelines, gone after otherwise unintrusive macroers with a vengeance, driven to a great degree by reports from other players seeking to gain advantage by eliminating their opponents in a more permanent fashion than any Corp Por. (This happens on a regular basis to my guild and I personally; until recently I thought that we were targeted because of this site. Alas, no St. Lum here; an enemy guild uses macro reporting as an alternate form of warfare.) UO Assist, the only approved third-party macroing utility (you have to seek out an unapproved third-party addon to force it to continue macroing repetitive tasks), has as its tip of the day “TIP: Don’t macro unattended if you value your account.” And, in case you forgot, Eurasia is at war with Eastasia.

When a corporation goes to war with its own customers, it knows one of two things: either it has its customers addicted to crack, or its customers must be cowed into submission to keep them. With Origin, it’s both. UO is trapped by its own design cycle; to attract new players, the playing field must be level, yet the virtual world model requires that player skill usage be below a certain level for those new players to have a hope of skill gain. Macroing defeats this, since it relies on overloading the skill curve for personal gain. Macroing must be stopped. To do this, player behavior must be changed. Thus the police actions.

The fact that, in the face of this, the entire UO playerbase has not quit out of disgust, speaks miles about the game itself. However, Origin would be wise to not wholly count on this. As UO matures and more online games come out, UO will recruit less and less new players, and become more and more dependent on its veterans. Banning someone does not encourage them to give you money.

So what should Origin do? The answer is obvious, and will make many people furious – implement Siege Perilous’ Rate-over-Time skill gain model to all shards. A tweaked model, to be sure, which would be far more forgiving of skills below 50, but I can tell you from personal experience, it is a delight to be able to actually have control of your own skills, and not have to macro night after night trying to make GM Anatomy. By firmly removing the reason for macroing – overloading the skill gain curve through constant use – you turn over enforcement of the game’s systems back to the game, where it belongs.

Yes, people will continue to macro trying to defeat the system, but in far fewer numbers. And the GMs might have to find something else to do with their time then checking with their stool pigeons to see which players to penalize for actually playing the game they paid for. And you know what – we’ll probably find something else to bitch about. Lord knows, from the looks of it, we aren’t ready to run out any time soon.

Just some random thoughts, from a guy who can’t ever macro again.

DETAILS ON NEW SECURE STORAGE POSTED [Author: lum]

As the subject states, check the Update Center for hard numbers on what you’ll be able to keep in your house. Owners of small houses will probably be happy, owners of large houses will probably be pissy. Groups who own large houses communally are especially left out in the cold by these numbers (8 chests for a large brick? Gee, thanks, guys! I guess we’ll just store sheep in all the leftover room.)

ST. TWISTER – THE MAGICAL MYSTERY MEDIA TOUR [Author: wirehead]

Check these otherwise reputable media sources out.

Gamespot News:

For about a week, a small Web site was posting character illustrations, maps, logos, and background information about characters, game data, and cities in Origin and EA’s upcoming massively multiplayer online sequel Ultima Online 2, and it seems that very few took notice. Well, all that changed Tuesday morning when the webmaster of that site was served legal papers demanding that all UO2 information be removed from the site.The webmaster of the site, remaining under the alias Dr. Twister, says that a legal document delivered to him claimed that he had “illegally published certain confidential and proprietary information concerning our client’s development of Ultima Online 2.” He had obtained loads of Ultima Online 2 information from an anonymous source.

GameSpot News called Origin representative David Swofford to confirm the suit. “We believe that confidential and proprietary information has been received without the authorization of Origin,” said Swofford. He went on to say that the company would take any legal action necessary to protect its properties.

The information posted on the Dr. Twister site has prompted Origin to make certain demands. The company will determine what legal avenues to pursue if these demands are not met. The demands, as stated by Dr. Twister, include the halting of publication of the confidential UO2 material, the naming of the source(s) from which the site obtained the information, and a written apology stating that the site would no longer post the confidential material.

So far, Dr. Twister has removed all the questionable UO2 material from his site, and he is waiting to find out what Origin will do next. Dr. Twister says, “Officially, I would like to state that I have done nothing wrong. I feel that I have exercised my rights as a news reporter to present factual truths to the public. At no time did I obtain information illegally, nor was the information that I published marked as being confidential… I did nothing more than display information that I received. I didn’t alter it, I didn’t claim that it was mine, I didn’t sell it, I didn’t steal it.”

For now, it appears that Origin will make the next move.

And a reaction from the person I stole the line “your friend in space” from, Redwood at stomped.com:

Origin has sued an Ultima Online 2 website because of it posting news of what they considered to be confidiential material. Not only did they sue to get the info removed, but they are trying to make the maintainer of the site, Dr. TwisTer, to reveal the source of his information. They are also asking for a written apology. He maintains that his info was found out legally and it was not marked as confidential. Origin, if you are going to play the part of evil corporation, at least act like one and put “Confidential” on documents like real corporations do. Go visit Dr. TwisTer’s page and send him your support. Great way to treat fan sites Origin. NOT!

MORE FROM OUR FAVORITE DREAD LORD [Author: wirehead]

Dread Lord Calandryll had this to say on the Dev Board:

Aquaman was by far the lamest superhero in the Justice League. I mean, they had to go out of their way to get him involved. 1,000 deadly robots would be attacking a city and suddenly some dolphin would get hurt so Aquaman could have something to do. πŸ™‚

Not getting into any value judgements on whether or not Aquaman is a development-related topic because (a) do you think they’re really going to ban Calandryll? and (b) for all we know, from what we’ve heard, Aquaman’s probably in UO2.

But for the DEFINITIVE answer as to Aquaman’s usefulness, let us consult the Book of Seanbaby:

Aqua Man. Jesus, I don’t even know where to begin. He was the one who talked to fish, which was sometimes even less useful than you might think. Aqua Man spent most of his days at the Hall of Justice in a wading pool hoping the the next adventure might include some water to justify his existence. And when there finally is some sort of underwater emergency it’s usually just a dolphin with a broken fin, and Aqua Man can only use his amazing ability of projecting yellow fish brain waves to soothe it. That’s how good he is when he’s in his element. Get him on dry land, and he has trouble vacuuming the house. He’s not exactly someone you call when a talking gorilla is taking over someone’s backyard. Aqua Man is someone
you call when you can’t figure out what your goldfish is trying to tell you.
FAVORITE SCENE: The Eternal Fuck Up

No matter how he’s travelling, whether it be on a giant seahorse, on two leashed flying fish, or on his custom “A” jet ski, you’re going to laugh. But Aqua Man’s finest performance was when he was trying to put out an mid-ocean oil fire. He cleverly called a group of whales to splash it out with a wave, but accidentally flooded the entire Western Hemisphere. The coolest part is that this was all an elaborate plan by the Legion of Doom to cause the flood. They counted on him doing something that stupid.

SUPER RATING: 1

I’d give him a zero, but even Aqua Man is better to have around than Marvin and Wendy. Please note that I would still pick Aqua Man for my kick ball team after my grandma.

“Fine. I’ve had enough. If you assholes don’t stop laughing at me,
I’ll… wait for you to fall into the ocean. Because then you’re mine, baby! I’ll stick an electric eel up your ass!”

So THERE.

DREAD LORD CALANDRYLL [Author: wirehead]

From Jinx’s Calandryll interview:

When you were Dread Lord Calandryll, how many people did you kill? πŸ™‚

A lot. Except, despite some rumors to the contrary, I wasn’t a PK. I became a Dread Lord because the old Notoriety System allowed you to go “red” from noble acts, such as killing a looter or defending yourself against a mage who cast a firewall on you. Basically there were those of us who refused to let the system stop us from doing what we felt was right, so we became Dreads. It took me along time, posting under the name, “Dread Lord Calandryll, Virtuous Fighter” to convince people on the boards that some Dread Lords were not PKs. One of my favorite past-times though was walking to the cross-roads or in a dungeon, minding my own business and waiting for an NPK to attack me. Or walking up to an Order Guard and asking him to name 4 of the 8 virtues. Hehe. We spent a lot of time giving dirt-naps to NPKs. *laugh* I don’t think I ever actually initiated an attack against anyone, except during a war. Being a Dread Lord, I didn’t have to. Hehe.

Well, if the thought of Calandryll taking time off from massaging the inflamed egos of Dev Board regulars to whack noto PKs amuses you as much as it does me, you may find these old essays found by J., written by Calandryll, pre-UO Spin Doctor days, of interest.

The Dread Lord Calandryll (note that the links at the top of the page lead to in-character stories as well)

Dedicated readers of Stratics will also note that Runesabre was a role-playin’ smith before he was a role-playin’ coder.

WE POST FACTUAL TRUTHS. AS OPPOSED TO THOSE OTHER KIND OF TRUTHS. [Author: wirehead]

The war between Dr. Twister and the EA combine continues to heat up. Well, actually, it hasn’t, and it’s hard to call someone complying with an order a “war”, but it looks good in news releases, as otherwise lame news sites that merely copy and paste the latest spoon-fed PR propaganda are finding out. Dr. Twister had something slightly different to say to AVault:

I feel I have exercised my rights as a news reporter to present factual truths to the public. At no time did I obtain information illegally, nor was the information that I published marked as being confidential. I simply published what I was given by an anonymous source. I will cooperate for the time being until this situation is rectified.

SEE? He’s a REPORTER. With, like, freedom of the press and other amendments and stuff. Oh, just leave him alone and go back to your dancing gorillas. The man has a FAMILY!

TRASH BARRELS TRASHED [Author: lum]

From UO’s FYI

Due to issues with the ticket system, the ticket system will not be active on any of the shards at this time. We would like to thank the players who reported some rather serious bugs in the system and apologize for the delay. The previous communication on Shard Issues has been updated to reflect this.

Do not throw items in trash barrels that you wish to get tickets for, you will not get any tickets at this time. We will update you again after we determine when the system will be active.

From Calandryll on CoB

Yes, I know this really stinks, but we’d rather put it off a bit than risk not fixing the newly reported bugs. All I can do is offer my apologies to all of you, I know that probably isn’t worth much at this point though. πŸ™

From Tyrant on our own little den of iniquity:

You ever have one of those days where nothing goes right?
At least I will finally get to make the changes I have been wanting to make and asking nicely for since I got here to the publishing process. It will make publishing a little slower, but if we cut the problems down it will be worth it.

Sigh.

My sincerest apologies to all players of UO.

From Runesabre in Austin:

!@#$ #!#$@ it… !@#$ing !#$*@$ server code… #!#$%* weasel !*&#$ !$*$@!* Atlantic !#$$**& #!^&*! need a beer. !#$&.

(Poor Runey still hasn’t figured out where the Obscenity Filter toggle is.)

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT [Author: lum]

Here’s an interesting take I was emailed on the Twister story. Certainly something to think about. Sure, it’s fun calling him “St. Twister” or “Hero of the Stupid” but as always, there are people behind those funny looking pixels.

Just thought of something. OSI’s been waiting for Twister to screw up, and now they’re going to bring the Fires of Heaven down upon his head.

Post maps? OK. Post stories? Sure. Those things just spark interest (or kindle hate… I’m one of those “Ultima Purists”). However, he really went too far with posting those internal timelines. That’s a no-no. As Capt. Hook would say, “bad form.”

Why did he do it? I mean, its obvious that OSI knows who he is. If rumors are true, the guy was a Counselor once upon a time (of course, if other rumors are true, he works for OSI, is Lord British, Lady MOI, Designer Dragon, or all of them at the same time). In any case, whether or not they knew his secret identity before, they do now. Lawyers have a way of getting things done. Twister had to have known this. I mean, he isn’t as brain dead as he may seem to some people. So again, why did he do it?

Well, I think that he panicked. Think about it. Here he is, finally getting the respect that he thinks he deserves. All these new multiplayer games are going straight to Twister to spread their gospel, or are at least encouraging him and his cohorts (Atriarch and Shadowbane, for example). As visions of TwisterVault.com dance in his head, he gets this UO2 information.

Yes, I have no doubt that it was real UO2 information. Of course, that doesn’t mean too terribly much. I mean, once upon a time Ultima IX was going to have a dual scale map, a party, and it would fly on a Pentium 100 with 32mb of RAM. So, he posts it. He is very careful in what he posts too. He knows what is dangerous and what isn’t, and stays well inside the safety zone. All is good. On some level, OSI is pleased. They’re getting customer feedback.

However, things went wrong. People mocked and ridiculed Twister. “What,” they said, “do you expect us to believe this line of bull?” Of course, I doubt they said bull, but you get the idea. Twister was crushed. His dreams of credibility were slowly drifting into the gutter. He might have acceptance from the exploiters and the anti-social player killers, but what he really wanted was respect from the average joe – the person who has never seen an animated lava tile on a vendor or a looting ‘shroom. Above all else, Twister just wanted to be loved…

So, in a last ditch effort to prove that he wasn’t lying, Twister published those internal timelines. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. He had to. He rationalized it by editing out some of the juicier parts. Perhaps, he thought, if he left out some of the specifics, OSI would show mercy. That wasn’t his primary concern though. He had to prove to the world that he was a real journalist. He had to prove that he really cared, and was a viable and important part of the UO community. Unfortunately, his plan failed.

Instead of opening their eyes to the possibly outdated but nonetheless authentic bits of UO information, the people laughed as OSI descended on Twister with the Wrath of the Gods. Was it for real? Is it just another joke? I think the general consensus is that he got what was coming to him – not what he wanted, which was just a little bit of love.

COMMENTS ON OSI vs ST. TWISTER [Author: lum]

As reported by GameDaily.com:

OSI: Electronic Arts and Origin Systems, Inc. have stated in regards to taking legal action against the Dr TwisTer Network that it has “made several demands in connection with the unauthorized disclosure of Ultima Online 2.” According to David Swofford of OSI, “compliance with those demands of that site will determine whether Electronic Arts institutes any legal proceeding.” Swofford also added, “The site did post confidential and proprietary information on UO 2 and that this information was disclosed unlawfully and without Electronic Arts or Origin’s authorization.”

Dr. TwisTer: I’ve done nothing wrong here. I have not posted anything that is not true. I have received the information which someone told me was official UO 2 information. I’m going to cooperate for the time being until this situation is rectified.

However, we at lum.xrgaming.net, the ONLY news source you need on UO, EQ, East Timor, Kosovo, and Buffy’s new college career, have infiltrated the holding cell in the Rampart district of Los Angeles, where Dr. Twister is currently being held. Here’s what we heard before being taken away…

TWISTER: Yo, like, Jojo, is it all set?
JOJO: Hell yeah, it’s ON baybee!
HUGGY BEAR: Guys, shut the hell up – if anyone gets wind of this we all get busted for talking after lights out and I dont want no more solitary shit
PACO: All yous guys shut up!
TWISTER: Hey, it’z cool – me and Jojo got it all covered – you GOTTA know me, man, I’m the one who got busted for busting open Origin’s shit on that UO tip – bugs and shit – you know, sploitz!
RYU: Hell yea, he did – so you shut the hell up punks, he rox and u sux! Peace out!
HUGGY BEAR: What the fuck is this “Peace out” shit?
DOZER: Man, I’ve had about enough of these weird ass bitches…
(RYU is dragged into a corner. Low moans and high pitched squeaks are heard throughout the rest of the conversation.)
PACO: So what? I been in here for 20 years on that goddamn drunk driving thing, I dont know what no UO is – what the fuck’s a sploitz, anyway? Is that some damn Jewish thing?
HUGGY BEAR: What the fuck is all this bugs and shit? You jackasses should have been deloused when you got here, dig?
TWISTER: Well, here’s the plan – if you die and then turn into a ghost, you can walk through the door and then I can res you and you will be free to escape but then you got to res all of us. But before you do that you got to overload your pockets with stuff and pile up all your cells with stuff so we can dupe it all. This way when I res you on the other side of the door we will have plenty of smokes and cash for our return to the real world. I need cash or Fool will kick me in the nads.
HUGGY BEAR: Whats this guy talkin bout – ressin and shit – oh wait – OMG you’re *Dr Twister*? Shit, homes, why didn’t you SAY so? Aight, I help you lets get the freak on outta here.
PACO: I dunno what weed you weirdo anglo shits be smokin – but if it gets me out of here, I’ll help. 20 years for drunk driving is just wrong, man.
TWISTER: OK, but when you get out though you got to agree to keep my new site updated. Don’t worry, its easy, any 2 year old can do it.
(RYU squeaks from the corner.)
PACO: Let’s go, man, you’re starting to scare me.

(GUARD teleports in.)

GUARD: Thou shalt regret thine actions. swine!

HUGGY BEAR: I don’t know these fools.