December 1999




I have to confess some things first:

1) I have NOT read the enitre thread. I stopped at page 22 and glossed over the last page.

2) I canNOT see what the big deal is. (Don’t jump on me immediately for dismissing your concern!)

Ok, that second one will induce some controversy. Here’s what I mean.

I understand Leitgardis’ original post, its entire intent, and her feelings about the dress’ addition into her safe environment.

I do NOT agree with it.

I play almost exclusively female characters. Yes. It’s true. I just happen to LIKE women more than men. Playing a female character is NOT some bizarre manifestation of some latent homosexuality, nor some cry of need for a mother I never knew or any such nonsense. I just like women better than I like men. (Sorry guys!)

So from the get-go when dresses were requested by women because they wanted an option to look more feminine at times, I complied. It was a side project, and it took some time, but last month, we had some time, so we did it. I didn’t do the textures, Mike Sheidow did. And he did a great job. However, most of the art team were present during its many stages. We resisted any suggestion of adding “enhancements” to the current design. We made sure it was tasteful.

Let me tell you the history of the dress requests. It had little or nothing to do with bumpfuzzling. Yes, some vocal females (who I happen to KNOW are real feamles (R U a grrl IRL? – YES!) did spend the better part of this year requesting them, but the request goes back. Way back.

To the first wedding I ever attended in Dereth. During a very small Beta, two players got married, and several dev characters attended. The bride’s biggest lament on her happy occasion was that she didn’t have a dress to wear.

I took that to heart. (Yes, the player was female.)

So we designed four dresses. We did three conservative dresses for the women who, while wanting to look female and feminine, did NOT want to look overtly sexual. Then we tossed one in for those who did.

And let me make this clear. THERE ARE THOSE WHO DID!

To eliminate this choice from them made no sense to me, just to ensure that the women playing who did NOT want to be taunted were secure in their non-sexual roles. Please. Go ahead and continue to be secure in your non-sexual roles by not wearing that particular dress.

Let me also say this: I have been harrassed by morons in AC. Yes. I have. I play a female, and have had several people say inappropriate things to me. BEFORE the dress.

We added a wonderful @squelch option to eliminate that kind of harrassment.

If a player seems to think that this kind of behavior will get worse if she’s wearing that dress, do not wear the dress. I think that’s pretty simple, while not dismissing your concerns outright.

Somewhere recently it a great quote came to my eyes “A Puritan is someone who has a deadly fear that somewhere, someone is having fun.” Sorry, but the anti-dress argument seems to be puritanism at its height, if you accept this definition.

If you are not personally being gawked at by some hormonally over-sufficient male, someone else may be. We had better put a stop to that.


What you do is choose not to partake. Let the others fend for themselves. They’re adults after all, aren’t they? (Well, perhaps not, but they are as capable of using @squelch as you are.)

This “tempest in a D-Cup” as my colleague so humorously put it — you really should get to know this guy, he’s a hoot! — will blow over.

I also highly suspect that BECAUSE of this thread and its uproar, more people in-game are now more likely to approach someone in that dress and say “Hey, nice tits.” I seriously do. Because they know they will be upsetting someone. Those people exist. Sad but true. Any hint of controversy brings them out. And this is one STINKER of a controversy – over nothing.

I have not polled all the women at Turbine about the dress. There are around nine women here. Of them, only one I know has seen the dress doesn’t like it. I have not yet discussed it at length with her, but of the ones who have seen it, every one of them likes the dress. All are somewhat taken aback at its reaction.

Some feel that by “hiding” the dress and handing out only one color (red — uh-oh!) we were trying to pull a fast one. Not true. We intended to more widely distribute it.

I’ve heard quotes like “I LIKE the three dresses, I just don’t see the need for the fourth.” Well some do. Hell, I like all four. My character usually wears the Sho dress, as she’s Sho, and it looks very nice on her. But she pulls out the red one at times. And she’s looking for someone who will dye it green for her.

The way leather crafters work we can’t have a dress made to the color of the one handed in. The crafter can only hand back ONE color at the moment. However Eri, the lead designer of AC, wanted to put these dresses in shops alongside the other ones. Which is probably what will happen.

I kind of liked the need to pro-actively alter the dress myself. Like passing in your old Olthoi Helm for the new one, it gave you a bit of something to DO to get this version. It lent a kind of exclusive air. But I also want all colors available, especially the white one for weddings. We seem to have a few of those.

So how the dress will be distributed is not yet fully decided, but it WILL be distributed. Why? BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE THEM.

I have publicly stated that this is NOT the thin edge of some slippery slope/wedge. I will not be adding chain-mail cast-iron g-strings any time soon. Not while I’m the lead artist.

AC was designed from the ground up to be a game that is friendly to women. We actively seek that under-represented market. Yes. We do. We did NOT do so by just wrapping it in a pink box. (Which seems to work wonders for Mattel)

As an aside, let me bring up Pac Man. Not a game played by a lot of women. But guess what those clever programmers and designers did? THey added a BOW to the head, with lipstick, and called it Mrs. Pac Man, (adding some game features as is the norm for the “next version” of any game) and suddenly it’s the most popular video game among women in history to that point. The fact is that more female players will play a role that is overtly feminine.

That said, the dress was NOT a marketing ploy to attract more women, or to piss off “feminazis”. It was not a move AGAINST our female players.

The inclusion of the dress was another step FOR women. Not against them. WOMEN want this dress. For every leering testosterone-overcharged idiot who makes a snide comment about this dress, I’m willing to bet there are far more females who will gladly wear it and smile. IF they want to. For those who don’t, there are three other stlyes that are more conservative.

What I object to, Lietgardis, is your seeming “Me me me” attitude. “I like choice, but only ones pre-approved by me.”

Am I putting words in your mouth? Yeah. But I’m simply paraphrasing your argument as I see it. And as others are apparently seeing it. Your original intent is lost within your reasoning and follow-ups. As I stated before, I fully undersand your original intent, but your words have belied it. There seems to be something far more deep and emotional about this dress that distresses you, not just the fact that you think it’s going to pollute your safe environment.

Why is this thread so long? Because every time you jump in to defend your position, you (and your handful of vocal supporters) simply restate your original argument, adding nothing, but getting more and more upset about it. And people enjoy getting your goat. THey see you are stubbornly unwavering in your resolve, and are just bating you.

And you
ave shown that you cannot support your argument in a way that will sway the other side. At which point you are simply dogging the issue, and getting ever-more frustrated.

To you we have somehow made AC something less than it was. Au contraire! We have ADDED something to it.

This dress is far from offensive in any way. I have shown it to as many people as I can. With perhaps one exception, everyone loves it. I love it. I was in-game last night, and five female characters were wearing it. Not the others, though they had them on-hand, as we did a bit of a fashion show, showing each other the various colors we had found, but when it came down to the end, we were all wearing the red low-cut dress. Why?

BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE IT! I heard nothing but praise for it in a crowd of perhaps thirty people. And not one leering comment.

I think the dress is worthy of discussion. In the same way the heaume was. However, it is certainly not worthy of some of the posts that appeared here. I’m actually rather shocked that we received space on the LUM site. I check occasionally for news here, but rarely does AC show up.

I guess we must be doing something right, if the only news is about a tasteful (yes!) dress.

I’m not here to defend myself or Turbine. There is no need. We responded to a long-standing request from many many players, ourselves included, and I am extremely satisfied with the overall response it got.

When you make a change that can be seen by this many people, I expect not only to get many different types of responses, but EVERY SINGLE TYPE of response possible. That’s just how it is with large groups.

But I have to say this one took me aback somewhat.


— Sean Huxter, artist who designed the infamous Daemondress

Please get over your paranoia that Turbine developers are in the pocket of online temptresses. I can’t believe you’re fixating on .01% of the last month’s content as proof of this wild assertion.

The low-cut dress was a little bit of nothing that took about two minutes of Sean Huxter’s time. We thought it’d be a fun addition. Instead we get this accusation leveled at us that we’re all in the thrall of a small Discussions board clique that moved on from the issue months ago.

Frankly, I find the assertion offensive, ridiculous, and an unwarranted attack on some very smart, hardworking, and dedicated people.

I guess we really have seen the death of common sense.
— Crowley @ Turbine, responding to accusations that the Demonic Dress is a result of improper bumpfuzzling influence, from the LtM HellThread

These are my personal feelings. They are opinions, tastes. According to some, my taste is wrong. That’s pretty neat, I didn’t know that could happen.

I am going to break it down, Reader Rabbit style:

  • I do not like the red dress.
  • I am disappointed that it went in to the game, it feels very unnecessarily sexual in light of the very feminine Kireth gowns. Yes folks, showing half your breasts is generally considered sexual.
  • I do not want the dress removed, since it would be unfair to those who already got one.
  • I do wish it had not gone in originally, but such is life.
  • I firmly believe that Turbine will not add such racy things in the future, because the people asking for them (a small minority or a large minority, it depends on who you ask) got what they wanted, and no longer need to be pleased.
  • I am not mad at Turbine. At all. I appreciate their efforts, even if I consider it a poor choice of things to add.

That’s about it. For the people complaining that “it’s just a game, who cares”. I’d like to throw that right back and agree, it is just a game, so why does this so desperately need to be in it?
— Ely, from Maggie the Jackcat’s Boobie Page

If EQ suddenly gave Female Wood Elves a CHOICE on how they could look, Lietgardis would be falling all over herself to say it was a good thing…..yet AC gives players a choice, and she’s saying it’s a bad thing?

Um, Lietgardis…..people have a right to choose a clothing style that you might not personally choose yourself. It was good of Turbine to listen to players, and it was good of them to give players a choice of clothing styles.

So, Lietgardis should get over this odd fixation she has with in inequity in traditional male/female gender roles, and should congratulate the AC Dev Team on responding to their customers and programming in options for everyone.
General Zang, from LtM HellThread

And why, pray tell, should we insist this game has to be a haven of non-sexuality? How do you know female players even WANT a haven of non-sexuality? The dresses aren’t especially slutty or that titilating; most people who have been playing computer games for any length of time have seen far worse than this and wouldn’t bat an eyelash. The idea that females want a nonsexed environment and males don’t is insulting to BOTH genders; both with the implication that women are perfect sexless beings unless they’re major sluts(madonna/whore complex anybody?) and that men are drooling useless walking bags of hormones (despite the fact that the AC userbase doesn’t have much of a phat lewt crowd to begin with).

You have managed to insult both genders, impose your beliefs on sexuality on your own gender and the other, and argue that not only that people aren’t smart enough to get over it but that female players are too fragile to deal with this potential situation and too rigid to simply play a male character if it becomes a problem. Good job! Oh, and you made us AC players look like whiny idiots.
— Demosthenes, from LtM HellThread

This is the lamest article I’ve ever seen on Lum. And that’s saying a lot.

The “against the dress” people are just whiners who have nothing to do but find *something* to bitch at. I bet they’ve been following AC for months to find something to rant about. And this is it? C’mon!

At first I even had a hard time believing the article was even real, I thought it was a dumb troll. I’ve been laughing my ass off reading this thread. It’s funny, weird, but in the end, lame.
— Dalar, from LtM HellThread

Good Lords, now I have this strange image of some foreign festival…the Festival of the Mammaries. Everybody’s dancing around the streets without shirts, going “Festival! Festival! Viva la Mammarie!” Little children are eating boobie-pops and cleavage candy. Men buy souvenier T-shirts with women’s breasts airbrushed on them. Confetti falls from the skies from hot air balloons that look like huge tits. The confetti gets trapped in women’s cleavage and everybody goes “Huzzah!”
— Slyfiend, from LtM HellThread

So Liet, for all your insinuations that this is about respect and making the world a better place, you have inadvertantly lumped yourself in with all the other “haters” who don’t really hate you see they just want to make the world a better place and that means taking away someone else’s liberties to enhance their comfort. They too are “just disappointed” as they explain that the right to work and hold a job are “special rights” when extended to gay people and single moms.

I’m sorry your feelings are hurt and that you’re disappointed. Life tends to present the same challenges to us over and again untiul we get it right. Fortunately this is your privilege, but maybe also you are failing a recurring life challenge as well.

I wish you’d dig a little deeper into the ramifications of an AC that is only “decent”. Exploring the motives of people who behave badly is focusing on the wrong part of th

e problem. One simply forces them to live with the consequences – only real change, real growth, comes from inside.

Actually my personal opinion is that this entire thread is more click whoring to take advantage of the new banner ads.

The real definition of maturity remains: learning when to clench your jaw and walk away. Insisting that we have the right to impose our will on trivial, even just by being a Disappointed Moderator on a Popular Industry Chat Site, is precisely the best way to lock in society’s ills.

Oh you aren’t using your bully pulpit to effect change? Oh, you are “just disappointed”? Liet, genuinely mature people clench their jaw and walkaway when they are “disappointed”. They don’t run to their employer and use their employer’s facilities to organize a “we’re disappointed too but in a nice way” gang.

I’ve watched you and Arc just plummet into the yellow journalism hole several times recently. Lum somehow manages to present genuine controversy without sounding petty in the process. Myschyf often does as well even if she too has had her moments, and LoH often comes across like Myschyf which adds a nice symmetry to things.

And Hedron bless his heart has managed to provoke significant discussion without once pointing at boobies and snickering about how mature HE is because HE’s not fixated on silly immature things like boobies (teehee boobies “oh I’m so disappointed!” teehee boobies)…

Uh huh… yeah I’m disappointed too.

The downside to being a public figure is that your entire maturation process is laid open to the world – cheap therapy but effective I know.
— Dubious Advocate, from the LtM HellThread

— Lum the Mad, responding to the parenthetical accusation in the last post

Lum! This whole thread was an attempt to whore for a soda? My god man! I mean, I could understand if you were seeking hits for a Guinness, but a Pepsi? The horror!
— Daeven, not quite understanding Lum’s Diet Coke addiction

Whether we acknowledge it or not, in most online games (right now) there is this sub-game that exists. I choose to call this game ‘How much ph4t lewt can i get by whoring myself out as a chick in a l33t skirt’. As people have already brought up, people (men?) will use female avatars dressed up as ‘cute’ as possible to get on the good side of, well, men. Handouts, free portals, whatever… It’s stupid, it’s infantile, it works. (It doesn’t work on everyone, obviously, but there is no denying that it *does* work.)

Will a sexy red skirt automatically start this trend in AC, I would venture to say probably not… Is the red dress a good thing, I suppose it has it’s uses. Will it effect Liet’s gameplay, probably not. Does it lessen the community, barely (if at all). So you would ask me, and rightfully so, why bitch about it if it only effects the person wearing it (if it even effects them)?

Two reasons :

Because it should be bitched about.

To keep it from going any further. As long as it is only a dress with a lower bust line, it doesn’t change much about the game. The problem becomes the direction in which it takes the game. Lower bust line today, Xena armor tomorrow. It’s a large jump, but it could happen with a few lesser jumps in between the two.

So that people in charge of future projects know we dont need (want?) this shit in our games (ok, some of us do… but do those people make your game better or worse?).
— Blain, from the LtM HellThread

I’m a female player and I find comments like this funny. Thank you for speaking for all women everywhere, I especially appreciate the psychoanalysis, Dr. Freud. We all know that men know what it is like to be a woman more than women do. I’m so glad you stepped forward to speak for us.

Women are more than just breasts, and saying that feminity, or even sexuality boils down to cleavage is stupid, and a very simple answer to a very complex question. Being a mature, intelligent, strong woman does not mean that I get off on flashing my breasts to “prove” my power, which seems to be the type of feminism you are branding as “real”.

You’ve also completely missed the point of the article, at least how I saw it.

This industry is sexist, it does pander to the “lowest common denominator” (which I may note is not all men, or even all teenage boys, but a concept the game designers have of the typical “teenage boy”) and frankly as a woman gamer, it’s hard not to notice the fact that all women characters are good for, by and large, is to spread their legs, show off their gigantic breasts, and sell products. It’s offensive. I can see how the author would feel that Turbine was “selling out” in this dress.

I am freakin tired of having to discuss women’s sexuality all the time in the context of the computer game industry. I want to just play a game, damnit, I don’t want to have it thrown in my face what certain men and women think women are all about. It isn’t that I’m too “fragile” to handle the situation, it’s just that I don’t want to, and I get more upset the more I see it. I’m sure more men would understand if it was THEIR bodies and THEIR worth boiled down to their genitals in 95% of the games they played.

I don’t want to have to “hide” as a male character, and frankly, I think that it is ludicrous that this poster even hinted that was the answer to harassment. So it is MY fault that other people react to the sexist image of my character, some flaw in me that keeps me playing a female character (I’d like to note that women almost always choose female characters while men choose 50/50. I would tend to think that reason is because we identify more with our character on the screen)? I think it is more the fault of the developers for creating an environment that brings out these kinds of comments, and the immature players who react to them. I should not suffer for it.

I just want to play a game where I can play a female character and have something other than my breasts/ass/sexuality be my defining factor.
— Aleia, from the LtM HellThread

Ok, so seriously Lum and co., get a friggin grip. If you people are THAT sex obsessed that you see a dress that doesn’t come right up to the neck as a sexual issue, maybe Lum and Leit need to spend a little more time in the bedroom to get their minds off of it.
— Dust, from the LtM HellThread

That this site, which within the last month decried Verant for bannning a player for RP is now “asking” for the player base to be protected from “bad seeds.”

Additionally, this site frequently refers to Tweety in positive tones… and Tweety’s most recent rant makes reference to *gasp* Oral Sex, kind of more risquee than a low cut dress?

I’m sorry, this article and it’s follow up clarification smacks of hypocrisy in many ways.

A RP story with some extreme graphic detail shouldn’t be touched since it occured on an outside forum (and for the record, I was pissed enough at Verant over that and other things to quit EQ), but god forbid a dress that shows cleavage… which is NOT REQUIRED APPARAL is somehow horrid?

Tell the truth, you just got back from lunch with Tipper Gore and some of her absurdity rubbed off on you, but it’s gone now right?
— Nicophorus, from the LtM HellThread

Actually, I think it’s a sad attempt to bring attention to the site since Lum has been occupied with RL responsibilities (which are of course more important).

What I find pathetic is that I expected Lum’s attitude to be more like everyone else’s ins

tead of his weak ass, noncommital comment. This used to be a rant site but it’s quickly becoming a whine site.

For crying out loud, BITCH about something!! Quit with this “kinder, gentler” crap (that reminds me of the “new and improved” Dr. Twister) and actually BITCH about something!!
— Lisset, from the LtM HellThread

Actually, all of the IRL women I know in AC are wearing this, nyself included. We had a guild meeting last night and every female player there (5 of us) had a great time prancing around in the red dresses, holding up mangled pumpkins and wearing tusker masks!

I like being able to choose what sort of clothing my character wears, from modest gowns to conceiling armor to bare-skin harlotry. It’s fun to be sexy sometimes.
— Sorrow, from the LtM HellThread

MMORPGs are not going to become some androgynous nirvana where everyone – not just hermaphrodites – get to be all things with not a nickel’s worth of difference between them. They’re going to get more immersive. They’re going to get more realistic. And the complimentary differences between the sexes and the tension (good and bad) that that causes is just going to become more and more a part of things. I’m OK with that. Pretending that gender and sexual differences don’t exist, that you can have some world where our hardwiring just ceases to exist is playing ostrich. They’re just avatars, after all, and there is a man, woman, or hermaphrodite behind each and every one. Or a skript kiddie, but that’s another story.

In an MMORPG, you finally have an even playing field. Completely equal abilities, and the women’s split of the phat lewt from the last Drolvarg raid (or whatever the heck it is that you people in AC hunt) isn’t 60 cents on the dollar compared to the men’s share. I repeat: You get a fantasy world where there is no substantive difference in ability between the sexes, unless you make one up yourself. In other words, risque formal wear that exposes a little cleavage is not going to change anything for you unless you imagine it does.
— Trelemyst, from the LtM HellThread

Anyone else noticed that the number of posts on this thread will at this rate soon exceed the number of people most Lum posters are willing to acknowledge that play AC?
— Vexorg, from the LtM HellThread

Obviously the majority doesn’t agree with you Liet. So, get Lum to post even more stories telling us how we are wrong and misunderstand you.

Whats tomorrows post? How Liet lost her virginity?
— Necrox, from the LtM HellThread

She gave a pathetic little whine and you [, Lum,] followed it up with a wishy-washy milquetoast response. From here it didn’t even look like your heart was in it and you came across more like the poor schlub of a press person from the pentagon who has to explain that we got our ass kicked in the last military operation but like a good soldier, you’ll take one for the team. That is simply how it appeared.

One thing that I thought set you apart from most other rants is how you combine being articulate with passion. Without the passion you look like a sap. In this case, you had no passion it seemed.

— Lisset, from the LtM HellThread

Lum, admit that if anyone NOT writing for you had started this thread, you would have mocked them mercilously. If verant, in the last patch, put all females into full body suits that covered everything from neck to ankle, you would have written pages about verant caving in to right wing puritanism. Well, you would have tried to blame the left, but you know what I mean.

I don’t know if you are taking up for a friend, or an “employee”, or a girl, but it is pretty obviously that your normal scorn for such things has been colored by something.
— Rhandom, from the LtM HellThread

But, NO, we can’t forget that in the eyes for Lietgardis WHOSE EVERY WORD IS FINAL “choice = bad” because she LIKES enforcing totalitarian beliefs on us.
— Hatedmachine, from the LtM HellThread

Whats next… bikinis and mini-skirts? How about some hot ass leather stuff like those Wood Elf Druids in EQ wear?

I believe that anyone with even half a brain could figure out that Lietgardis is one of the stupidest, most ignorant and overly sensitive fucking cunts on the face of the planet. That is a fact that she makes painfully clear, and requires no elaboration whatsoever from me.
— Greybeard, WTFMan?

Great. I hope you’re really sexy, because maybe it’ll get you laid and you’ll stop bitching about tiny insignificant things that showcase your pitiful sexuality.

Drop the dildo and find a man.
Azaroth to Lietgardis, trolling for a date

I think Lietgardis is being very unfairly targetted with some vicious attacks. Sure she could have presented the argument a little more skillfully, but it was heartfelt and I must say that I agree with much of what she says, if not all.
Maggie the Jackcat, posted to CoD Discussions

— Chris “Stormwaltz” L’Etoile, designer for Asheron’s Call 2: Project Mayhem

Lum = Dr. Laura = Rush Limbaugh. All are just after as much attention as possible. In the DJs’ case, it’s getting listeners. In Lum’s case it’s drawing as many hits as possible. In all cases, these people will say anything to get your attention. They’ll say something they know will be very controversial so they’ll be inundated with opposing views. Here’s a suggestion: Ignore em. That’s right. Remember, Lum’s site (if not Lum) was involved in generating some of the worst nastiness this board has experienced. Why does anyone give him the time of day? He’s clearly not worth it. *vows no more hits for Lum (the obnoxious)*
— Gregor, posted to CoD Discussions

I logged on to AC last night expecting the females I know in game to be all up in arms. What is the first tell I get? From a woman I know in RL asking how to make that dress. So, I have one of them dresses made for her. After about 15 minutes go by, the wife of another RL friend sees the dress. Was she angery? Nope, I ended up getting 2 more dresses for her characters.

And you would think that these would be immature 15 year old girls. Nope, one is 45 with 2 kids and the other is 24 and married. Hell, I’ve seen girls on the street showing more skin then them dresses. Maybe you should just relax, play the game, and stop worrying about some dresses that look like something my prom date wore.
— Adam, in email to Lietgardis

The fact that so many people take issue with your articles on Lum the Mad’s page only serve to better accentuate your points. As a female gamer (which, even as a title, is becoming cliche) I applaud your articles. And yet, I fear the future when an ORPG IS created with the female population in mind. I get the idea that it’d be an Online Barbie world, 10x as offensive as some games already in existence with stereotyping. Blah.
— Katie, in email to Lietgardis

I have written articles similar to this one on another web site and it’s interesting to see how you got so many of the same responses that I did. The minute you start talking sexism all the idiots come out of the woodwork to spout their irrelevant and often offensive ideas
about how women should be. I stopped writing my articles because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

— Farah, in email to Lietgardis

No one understands, because losing isn’t a big deal when you’re on the winning team.
— Rachel, in email to Lietgardis

Finished trolling at lums, lol – NT
— Various authors, CoD Discussions

Climb ev’ry mountain
Search through Nanto
Try on every outfit
till your boobies Show
Climb ev’ry mountain
Walk ev’ry street
travel ev’ry portal
Till you see some teat
A dream that will need
All the love Turbine can code
Virtual Breasts for men
next, scratching and farting mode?
Climb ev’ry mountain
Search through Nanto
Try on every outfit
till your boobies Show

— The Hanged Man, channelling the spirit of Baron Von Trapp


Personally, I think people (that would include both women and men) should be able to wear whatever they please or even walk down the street in the buff if that is what floats their boat. I also think that the workplace, (and restaurants, etc.) has a right and good reason to restrict dress. But I’m not one of those who see a tight mini skirt and fishnet stockings and immediately start denigrating the wearer for being a whore.

However I can understand Liet’s desire to play a game without having to look at boobage all the time. I was at the Ren Fair last weekend and let me tell you after one day of looking at flopping tits on every man, jack and woman I was damned sick and tired of cleavage. I didn’t even want to look at my own.

Then of course there’s my own disdain for people who are so hard up that a little boobage on blocky pixelated piece of bad art will get them aroused. This is coupled with my disdain for those who are threatened when someone says she would rather not be subjected to boobage in every goddam game on the market. It is coupled again with my disdain for those who would give phat lewt to someone just because of displayed boobage.

This leads me to wonder about that parent who was responsible for Mystere being banned. Or Shahrressa. Is this boobage ok for their kids to be exposed to? Will they sue Verant and Microsoft for exposing their children to the awful reality of cleavage? Have these people so protected their children that, upon seeing boobage, they will come all over the keyboard and ruin their computers? If this last bit is true I’m thinking boobage could be good for the world.

However I know that sex sells. So does boobage. I guess that I can’t blame Turbine for bowing, just like Verant, to the lowest common denominator. They do, after all, enjoy the lowest number of players among all of the big three. Exposed boobage is bound to increase those numbers. Just look what it did for UO and EQ. Wood elves or Enchantress Emily anyone? I could make some other nasty, unfair comments about how Turbine is owned by Microsoft and how Microsoft is all about money and boobage makes money but the point, I think, has been made.

I started to wonder, in the face of a thread that will shortly exceed 400 posts, if we will ever see an RPG of this type completely devoid of boobage. Or if we will see corresponding exposed male parts. No way. Because there is no reason for it. Because no one would believe Turbine should they say to the unwashed masses that many men wrote in requesting provocative outfits for males. Because that would be, you know, gay. For lack of a better word. It is, on the other hand, completely believable that many women wrote in asking for provocative outfits for women. There’s something fishy going on in Kansas, Dorothy and it isn’t your ficticious or very real desire to display pixelated cleavage to the world.

You folks need to get a serious grip on some reality. Liet has a valid complaint when a boobage-free game becomes artificially well endowed. I also think those that play this game and want to display boobage should be given the opportunity. What I don’t know is how to reconcile the two. However her complaint doesn’t make her a whore nor does it make that of those who want to display their avatar’s selves. Does this sort of thing cheapen the image of women in some people’s eyes. It sure does. Now I’ll grant you that those eyes in whom women were cheapened didn’t have a lot of respect in the first place. Nonetheless it is usually not good to perpetuate a bad stereotype.

IN CLARIFICATION [Author: lietgardis]

Asheron’s Call is a good game. After playing for two weeks in January and disliking it, I returned in June with a more open mind towards accepting the game as it is — a big part of this was in learning about the ongoing story. The playerbase seemed much more mature than that of Ultima Online, which I had recently quit playing because of my irritation with the rampant grief players. It was friendlier. I felt like the game was especially kind towards my larger-than-you-think segment of the market, female players.

A large part of this was in the way the game was presented. There was no EverQuest-esque modelling, and players didn’t have nearly the range of options in impacting others that Ultima Online did — no chainmail bikinis for females or clearly defined musculature for males, and no ways for a non-PvP player to be hurt by others. It was a haven, and I was much more comfortable playing the game than I had been in UO. I have never played EQ, but from what I know about that game, I’m sure it would have made me unhappy as well.

I’m most comfortable in games with downplayed sexuality in these worlds. While most female characters in UO didn’t go for the specialty girl armor, a good number of players were abjectly immature, and they created an unfriendly atmosphere. AC’s more mature playerbase and lack of girlie options made me happy — I feel that girly options negatively affect the feel of games. They cause players — not specifically male or female ones, just players in general — to start treating female avatars differently, to start harassing them with negativity or, equally bad, treat them as if they need help.

The inclusion of dresses in this month’s event was not a bad thing. Regular store-bought dresses are elegant and respectful; while they clearly define female characters, they don’t introduce overt sexuality. The altered dress is a different beast. It’s not about the image of the dress itself — it’s about what it symbolizes. It’s showing a movement from the comfortably low-key feel of the game in the past to a place that accepts more, that invites a more defined difference between male and female characters. This point is quite specific to Asheron’s Call itself — it is not a reflection on real life, nor on other games.

What the dress stands for is a betrayal. I feel betrayed by the people who made it. While I’m fairly sure at this point that the developers will think more before including content of its type in the future, I’m still concerned about the game’s image evolving. I’m not worried about UO-like gangs of morons infiltrating the game — I’m afraid of the playerbase as it is changing. Moving towards a more sexually charged atmosphere. And I think that’s a bad thing.

Sexuality is a big part of real life. I’m not denying this. What I am denying is its necessity in online societies. If I was to go off and live under a city bridge with nothing but a computer, an ISP, and an MMORPG subscription, it would not feed or clothe me; I don’t expect it to fulfill all of my social desires either. When sexuality rears its head in these communities, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to see people treated differently because of the forms of their avatars. Things were good in Asheron’s Call before the discovery of the altered dress. And while it may not change things much for now, I’m afraid of what could happen with more content in the same vein.

If I was truly angry, it would be obvious. I start swearing a lot. I make liberal use of capital letters and highlighting, bad habits I picked up in IRC. And I am not feeling anger towards AC’s developers, only disappointment. It was the responses that accused me of saying things I hadn’t that made me angry, people trying to demean my opinion by reading things into it that weren’t there, people trying to explicate my real-life psychological motivations behind having such opinions — a low tactic, one that I had not resorted to in my own writing. If I’m talking about real life, I’ll say so. When speaking within the context of a game, a single game, things are different. I was not talking about real life. And I’m angry that people try to interpret it in ways that it was not written.

To placate the masses, I’ll go on and say that, in real life, I’m a twenty-year-old female college student, and have been gaming since I was twelve and had my parents buy me Ultima 7 for the family 486. I’m not a conservative dresser — I haven’t worn pants in probably three years, and favor tank tops no matter what the weather. I own two pairs of shoes — a pair of twenty-eye steel-toed boots, and a pair of two inch-heeled sandals. And I have a very active, experimental sex life with a real, live, attractive male partner, one I’ve been happily engaging in such activities with since the age of fifteen. If I was uncomfortable about my appearance, I would not be attending next month’s UO World Fayre in Austin — why set myself up for embodying the assumptions people make about women who stand up for fair representations of our bodies? I don’t fit that stereotype, and if I thought that I would even come close to it, I wouldn’t be going somewhere where all of the people who know me online would get to actually see me, would get to videotape me and put it up for everyone to see. The last laugh will be mine.

To clarify some other assumptions, I’d also like to note that I have never before published an article on this site concerning representations of characters. I did a short piece lambasting Origin’s Enchantress Emily promotion, which was in good fun, and didn’t focus on the endowments of the spokeswoman. And I’ve supported Myschyf and Lum’s Other Half’s pieces on similar subjects, but only on the boards. It’s really not fair to accuse me of constantly going off on the topic on the front page of this site, because I haven’t.

It also seems to be a common thought that all of Lumcorp spends considerable time hiding away in a conference room in a large, imposing building, whispering, rubbing hands together, stroking fluffy white cats, smoking cigars, looking for new and devious ways to get more hits. In actuality, all of the writers simply write about what they’re concerned about. I would not publish a troll purely to get hits — I’d see maybe one or two dollars out of that, and I wouldn’t say things I didn’t believe in just so I could get enough money for a pack of cigarettes next month. It doesn’t work like that, and I think I can speak for all of my fellow writers with that sentiment. It shows a colossal amount of ignorance to accuse any of us of making things up to anger people, just so they’ll continue to visit the site and make us pocket change.

I’m sorry if my intents in expressing concern over AC’s newest content were not clear. I should have learned in August that one must be overly explicit in expressing points that could be interpreted incorrectly, that one must clearly state what one isn’t talking about, and to still expect people to think one is discussing things he or she isn’t. It’s too much to expect people to read carefully, and to take what’s said at literal value. I appreciate those who do read in that way, and I hope those who don’t at least attempt to see where the perspective is coming from, without making up content that isn’t there, and assigning motives to it that don’t exist.

Now can we have some nice uniformish dress coats for men next month, Turbine?


The Pimp Dresses on one level are not the best example for this. They’re practically an easter egg… you have to take a pre-existing item, run it to a merchant, and have them alter it (“I’d like about six inches torn off the front, K? Thx”) I’d like to think that Asheron’s Call is not going to be immediately overrun with bearded men with their tits hanging out begging for portals and motes.

I’d like to think that. I’d be wrong, but y’know, I still would like to think that.

And that’s really what Liet was saying (and what many of you ignored – why? Probably because, you know, she’s female and vaguely threatening to have your pixellated tit show taken away which tends to irk some folks.

But that’s not the problem. You want to see tits? Knock yerself out – this is the internet, pixels that arrange themselves into images of naked people are usually about 2-3 clicks away from any page you find yourself on. Or hell, here’s a concept – go on a date, be charming and suave and maybe just maybe you’ll get to see them in real life. Try not to drool.

No, the problem is that Asheron’s Call was considered a more mature, upscale habitat and a large part of that was that everyone basically looked like identical lumps of polygons. I mean, in UO you’ve got women running around in metal thongs and whips and leather and whatnot, and in EQ, well, you have w00d elves. And UO has Brit bank, and EQ has, well, EQ. Places you just don’t want to go if you don’t care for your brain attempting to crawl out of your ear out of self-preservation.

What a difference a simple piece of equipment makes. Yes, now the bumpfuzzlers are in Nirvana – they can sidle up to someone and heave their chest meaningfully! Whoo hoo! And the powergamers can all cast huge buff spells on their dresses and run around hoping someone will be horny and give them free lewt on the off chance they might actually be female! Yee haw!

No one is saying that Turbine is forcing you to run around with your tits hanging out. God forbid any company should do that. No, it’s far more subtle than that. This is just a small step in the journey of Asheron’s Call to be just like every other MMORPG, with hordes of dewds infesting the landscape harassing everyone for any reason that comes to them, up to and including anatomy.

And some people got a problem with that.


Giving a dress to a leather crafter results in some creative alterations. A clean, respectful design gives way to an “optional,” “historically accurate” low-cut piece, dyed red. A piece virtually exposing the areolae. After some angry comments, designers responded with lines about how “women had asked for it.” People had complained “the women were ugly.” They “weren’t feminine enough.” Apparently, showing some tit makes women both more beautiful and more feminine.

You should be ashamed, Turbine. What was in the game was more than good enough — I was overjoyed when I logged in a few weeks ago and learned the regular, store-bought dresses were so respectful. And when I first saw a screenshot of the altered design, I truly believed it was fake. You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t go down that road towards attracting the immature male audience, you wouldn’t start objectifying female characters. You wouldn’t encourage people to start sending /tells “r u fem irl.” But you did.

Historical accuracy is not a good point to argue in this world. Unless you’d actually like to come forward and say yes, Ispar is a direct parallel to some point in Earth’s history, “historical accuracy” should mean nothing. “Historical accuracy” only has a place in games that purport to be a recreation of history — and even then, designers are still able to make decisions like “all women at this time were wasp-waisted and had D cups.” Pick and choose what you want from our own real-world past — you have even more freedom than the Camelot designers. Pick and choose.

Pick and choose. Pointing out that this dress is optional isn’t good enough either. Who would choose to wear this? I’ll be brave and abrasive: those who choose to play characters cloyingly feminine, with extremely feminine names and clothing, are doing it for attention. They want to be the ones that are given portals to wherever they ask within minutes of the first request. They want to get everyone’s change in the mage and healers’ shops. They want to be treated differently, as if they needed special help to get by in the world. That’s what being “feminine” is in these games.

These playerbases aren’t mature enough to handle this. “Optional” “feminine” clothing only results in one thing: the sexualization of female characters. Instead of being considered regular people, they’re considered sexual beings, with women behind them — over and over again in UO, I was asked various versions of “r u fem irl.” No one has ever said that to me in AC. And I expect that to start, should I “alter” my dresses. People are not mature enough for it — it’s not “looking nice,” it’s looking like you’re on the prowl for “r u fem irl” or “here, have a free MATTY COAT/PORTAL 2 TETH/SPARE C NOTE.” When being feminine does not equal being treated differently in a negative way, then bring on the Xena armor. Until then, it’s better not to have the option.

The position of women in gaming is too precarious to risk by making their avatars sexual beings. Male characters feel uncomfortable and foreign; female characters in other games feel like prostitutes, where gifts and special treatment are showered upon them for no reason at all, along with harassment. Making characters shapeless white blocks? You know, this might be a better idea. Until female players are given some respect and equal treatment in the industry, it’s best not to make female characters significantly sexualized at all. And I’ll tell you — if Asheron’s Call was advertised with an image like that new dress, I would not have started to play.

WHAT? MORE NPC CRAP? [Author: hedron]

Whew! You ARE masochist, aren’t you? Alright then. This stuff (if you’re into it) will deepen your understanding of oNWN PVP. For better or for worse. (laugh)

The amazing and beautiful contents of the link I’m about to give you consist of:

PvPman.doc – A pvp manual written by Azmodion and Tyo.

Enc_pvp.wri – A pvp manual written by Neurosis of NWN.

Cool Blow by Blow Description of Fights
rell v master.txt
rell v sylphee.txt
rell v zammi.txt
xylina v lilyth.txt

Happy reading you sick sick puppies.

OSI JUST DYEING TO PLEASE YOU [Author: arcadian del sol]

Get a load of these new rewards, posted tonight by Cal:

Special Dye-bottle. This dye-bottle has colors that players currently do not have access to and can be used on clothing just like a dye-tub. The exact shades/colors will be available to see once this is put on test center. This bottle has unlimited uses.

Banners. These banners are hueable (to match personal or guild colors) and can be placed and locked down in houses.

Flaming skull. This is a house decoration. It is a stone head that that belches flame. The flame is purely aesthetic and does not damage players or NPCs.

Ethereal Ostard and Ethereal Llama. Basically the same an ethereal horse. We are currently working to resolve the issue with these mounts not being able to be ridden in Britannia. More on that later.

YEAR TWO OR THREE(undecided at this time):
Leather Dye-bottle. This dye-bottle can dye leather or studded leather in similar colors that are currently used for armor (copper, agapite, valorite, etc.) This bottle has unlimited uses.


I personally was a fan of the idea that different types of monsters might yield different shades of hides that GM tailors could then create various leather colored armors with. But you know what? No rant here today. No mean spirited editorials from me. Why have I undergone a self induced de-fanging? Because I think anytime any company, in any industry, pulls back a product in order to evaluate and assess the feedback of it’s marketplace – you just have to stand up and applaud.

However, this newly improved rewards program does have a serious flaw, one that I simply cannot ignore. I can only choose four rewards. Before these new additions, I think I was easily going to get myself four ethereal horses. Now? God only knows. I want them all.
Good job guys – consider this news update a gigantic pat on the back
(and a shameless petition for an extra vet reward).

NPC WHAT? [Author: hedron]

Three reasons. One, I love to make you suffer. So just suck it. Two, I know you love it when I make you suffer, don’t pretend. And three because I wanted an article that focused on it in order to give it the attention that I feel it deserves.

Ok, I said we’d talk about it, so let’s talk about it. NPC manipulation. What is it? How do you do it? And what has it got to do with good combat?

NPC manipulation is just one method of implementing a principle of strategic combat. But it’s the only method I’ve actually seen work in MMORPGs. I’ve had various other ideas for satisfying the principle without using NPC manipulation, but those ideas are conjecture. NPC manipulation is fact.

So let’s start with clarifying the principle before discussing NPC manipulation specifically.

I explained in a previous article the idea of combat based on Options and Consequences. Let me dredge up the roots of the concept again to make sure it’s clear. If you want a refresher on the other types of combat, go back and re-read the old stuff.

Here’s the core of Options and Consequences.

The human mind thinks about combat on two levels. One is breadth or options – how many different options can you consider the results of in order to choose the best one among them. The other is depth of consequences – how many “moves” ahead can you think.

The archetype example is chess. You have sixteen pieces or options on your side of the board. You have 16 more pieces on the other side of the board and many consequences for every move. The player who can think about the most number of pieces with their different styles of movements, and for the most moves ahead has the edge.

Setting the bar for this complexity in terms of breadth and depth to a sufficient level to challenge the human mind is what creates the opportunity for skill and mastery of a game to shine. Tic-tac-toe, for example, has options and consequences too, but they’re so limited that any adult mind can see from the beginning to the end of every game, and they all end in a stalemate.

So the question is in an MMORPG how do you create an environment that provides enough options and consequences to challenge the human mind. I talked a little in the last article about using environmental effects, and not doing things like EQ’s limiting of the spells available to eight. Those are some good basics, but to get deeper into the specific spell types or melee moves is somewhat useless. There are many possible sets of spells and/or abilities that could feed successfully into this equation, and having or not having any one or several of those will not make or break the system. So while it’s profitable to look at an already built system to see what’s missing or what’s broken, there are no “you have to have X spell, Y weapon, or Z move” statements to be made about ALL systems.

However, all MMORPGs do inherently share one challenge by nature. They are all conceptually 1st person games. Even if the point of view of the interface isn’t 1st person, the IDEA of the game is 1st person. The whole concept of the game genre is to become your character, to experience a virtual life through it so that you can get into the role and have some fun with it. That means that a model like that of chess doesn’t translate very well into RPGs because there aren’t 16 pieces on a side. There’s one. You. Suddenly having options and consequences becomes a much more difficult prospect. Layered on top of that is the fact that today’s MMORPGs are real time games, whereas chess is a turn-based model. These two facts, one strategic piece (you), and a real time interaction have severely limited the depth of combat.

That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been some attempt to create combat depth. The major methods of trying to add interest to MMORPG combat has followed three paths:

1. Diversification of character classes/types to make group combat interesting and 1on1 combat less predictable.

2. Inclusion of various buffs and debuffs that need to be worked against each other.

3. Minor inclusion of twitch based skills (specifically in AC).

But none of these methods have worked to any successful degree, because although they add variety to combat, they can’t add true options and consequences. It’s a very linear model. Each move (for instance buffing against heat spells) has a direct counter (debuffing your opponent, or switching to ice spells). The “thinking ahead” in terms of consequences typically doesn’t last for more than one or two “decisions” during the course of battle.

These methods have instead resulted in the six ways of determining a winner that I listed in my last articles. And all of those are boring and unworkable.

There are two central problems with what’s been done so far.

1. The very direct and uncomplicated way in which the buffs and debuffs interact fail to add any challenge to the game. An Ultima Online example of this is that you put on magic reflection, and I choose to cast a weak spell (harm) on you to remove it before truly attacking. The interaction is now over. Not exactly a taxing thought process.

2. The limitation of strategic considerations to only what your opponent is doing is too basic.

It’s all a linear set of actions and responses.

So how, in a 1st person system, did the original NWN overcome this? It didn’t. The players did. Neverwinter Nights had several things going for it that increased the skill necessary to fight successfully which I will describe here, but ultimately even the oNWN combat system was boring once you knew the ins-and-outs of it. What added true interest to the process was NPC manipulation.

First, let’s talk about the inherent combat system options that oNWN carried that today’s games don’t.

ONWN combat was turn based.

Yeah, I know, this is a tough one. The reality is that today’s MMORPGs are real time. It’s a standard that people have come to expect, and it comes with a lot of advantages that a turn-based solution can never address. It’s more immersive, it allows smoother and more efficient interaction of large numbers of people without slowing progress down to an absolute crawl, etc. etc. But the truth is that any turn-based system inherently creates an opportunity for the thinking opponent to come to rational decisions and thoughts that there just isn’t time for in a real time system.

I’ve seen some proposals for creating turn-based COMBAT within real time systems, but I haven’t liked any of them. There may yet be a turn-based proposal out there that makes sense, but I haven’t seen it. In the meantime, I’d say that you have two choices in real time combat for adding skill. You can crank up the pace of combat, and invent the technology to do true twitch-based combat in an MMORPG, or you can crank down the pace of combat to allow time to think while adding options and consequences. So in short, in real time combat, for options and consequences based combat, barring being able to create turn based combat, at least slow combat down.

ONWN had a separate combat screen

This also breaks immersiveness, but in oNWN when a fight was triggered launch a separate combat screen for the combat to play out in. It was a top-down view that allowed you to roam your “eye” over the entire battlefield, which was several screens of territory. This was do-able because of the turn-based nature of combat. But this system contributed several things to combat. First the fact that a top-down view
f combat allows a much more strategic vision of how the battle is playing out because you’re making decisions based on information, not based on guessing what’s going on behind you. Second, it created a defined boundary to the fight that made it very clear if and when a participant fled the fight rather than leading to an endless straggling battle. And third, and most important, it provided a contained area that assured the fact that the fighters would remain targets of the NPCs that existed in every fight screen. More on this last one later when we get down to NPC manipulation.

ONWN had a finite grimoire of spells for each fight

Unlike the general manna based systems that the current games sport, ONWN followed the grimoire system where you could prepare yourself by choosing pre-fight to memorize a set number of spells in each “level”. This enforced a certain discipline during fights in that squandering the single teleport spell you had memorized at the wrong time could cost you dearly later in the fight when you REALLY needed it.

ONWN had complex spell interactions

In EQ there is no decision to make about buffs. The bottom line is to put on as many buffs as you can reasonably handle without getting bored of re-meming spells, and without pissing away all of your manna before combat. In UO similarly, there’s not a lot to think about.

In NWN, many of the buffs were no-brainers. But there were four principal exceptions.

1. Minor Globe of Invulnerability – protected the wearer from all lower level spells, INCLUDING low level buffs that you might want to throw onto yourself.

2. Invisibility – made the wearer invisible to NPCs, but PCs could still see you. Any attacking action broke the invisibility. It was not castable on someone who was Minor Globe.

3. Mirror Image – created up to 4 false images of the wearer so that any attacks stood a chance of merely destroying an image rather than doing any real damage. It was not castable on someone who was globed.

4. Haste – doubled your movement during each round.

All of these spells were vitally important at the right times during the fight, but casting them was often mutually exclusive. If you cast a globe on yourself, you entered into 11 rounds of being protected from all but the highest level spells. This INCLUDED the two major defensive spells, mirror image and invisibility. While globed, you could not go invisible and you could not re-cast your mirror images. While invisible, any casting at all would break invisibility. Mirroring could be done and THEN go either invisible or re-globe, but in a turn based environment, this was a clear announcement to your opponent that you were not CURRENTLY globed. Essentially that meant that for your opponent’s next turn, he was aware of the fact that his options for damaging you had just expanded to a rather nice list of VERY damaging but lower level spells, that you normally had to spend the whole fight protected from if you expected to win.

This dynamic set up a fairly strategic set of decisions about what you used and when. This was ESPECIALLY true because of the finite grimoire that you walked into each fight with. You only had so many to cast – casting them at the wrong time meant death. Ideally, you’d like to be hasted, mirror imaged, globed and invisible at all times. And in a system like EQ’s, for instance, you could be, thus removing all need for making a strategic decision. But in oNWN, you had to pick and choose. Nonetheless, without NPC manipulation in the equation, even this dynamic became too simple over time.

NPC Manipulation

Ok, here’s the big one that made it all work.

Now I’ll confess right now that I have had limited success conveying the full scope of the effects of this system to people. I’ve explained the basics in the past to people, only to have them say things like, “it just sounds like an exploit of bad AI. So what?”

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok. Ok. I’m alright now. (takes a deep breath)

First, let me try and buy some of your attention by asserting that everyone who understood combat in NWN to this day still agrees that because of NPC manipulation, it was/is the most engaging combat yet to be found in any MMORPG. But somehow, if you never felt the impact of an ass-whooping via these methods it’s difficult to grasp. Hell, even in NWN itself your average newbie got slaughtered on the battlefield and regularly said things like “this game is all luck.” It was only after they’d been systematically smashed AGAIN and AGAIN by the same people that they started to think to themselves, “Hey, there might be something to this… nobody is THAT lucky.”

Let me be clear up front. This is ONE EXAMPLE of how to break up the linear pattern of combat by involving an outside vector. That vector forces due consideration of spell choices, tactics, movement, geographic placement, use of terrain and DEPTH of thought. Because of the NPCS you must think FORWARD in the fight beyond just the NEXT move. Instead it’s the next several moves. There may be other ways to breakup linear combat. I just haven’t seen them in action, although I’ll admit to having played with a few alternatives conceptually.

One last note on why this is so far beyond what’s being done now. Try thinking about all of this kind of like a computer program. Pretend you’re writing code to describe how to win an EQ fight or an AC fight or a UO fight. IF this then THAT. Visualize the complexity of the if/then decisions. Now, try and form a mental picture of the “code” for a NWN fight based not only on all of the above interactions but also on the basis of the NPC manipulation described below. At the end of this, I’ll ask you to tell me how big the complexity gap is.

In oNWN, the NPCs were a force to be reckoned with in every fight. The essential mechanic of even “triggering” a fight which would launch you into that separate fight screen REQUIRED that you find and pick a fight with NPCs while sharing a geographic spot with whoever else you wanted in the fight. The NPCs were relatively dumb in terms of their AI, and GOOD players who understood how the game worked were quite aware of what made an NPC change focus or targets. The AI’s decision making gave priority to a target based on the following hierarchy, or at least this as close as I remember it – it’s been awhile:

1. Select among those PCs who are “visible” (not protected by the invisibility spell)

2. Select among those PCs who are in a direct line of sight

3. Select among those PCs who had taken a distinct action this round (cast, attack, etc.)

4. Select the closest PC

5. If no PCs are “visible” then select among the invisible PCs the ones in direct line of sight

6. Select the closest invisible PC

The rules were actually a little more complicated than this when initiative was considered, but that’s a good enough base.

In any given fight that you triggered, the NPCs might be anything from very weak and easy to kill to extremely powerful and hard to kill. As a testament to the power of NPC manipulation, a fight in oNWN which did NOT contain powerful NPCs was considered a boring slug-fest. Without strong NPCs to have to contend with, most strategic decisions were reduced to extremely simple formulas. Deciding when to globe and when to re-mirror were fairly wrote patterns UNLESS the NPCs were used to break up the flow.

The bottom line here is that in the right fight the MOST powerful weapon at your disposal was not X sword or Y spell, it was (for example) the 12 Mammoths who could trample a single PC to death
in one or two rounds. If you ignored this weapon in favor of the spells you could cast, and your opponent concentrated instead on manipulating the situation to use the NPCs to his advantage then you were dead as dead gets.

So what’s the difference here, right? In EQ you can train a hill giant onto a PK, and then zone? The difference is centered in several major points:

1. The way the AI was coded allowed each player to make deliberate calculated moves that could shift the NPC focus of attention back to another player without disengaging from the scene of the battle to do it. The AI did not simply lock-on and stick with you no matter what you did short of getting the hell out of dodge.

2. The players were given a series of spells that could be used in conjunction with the AI programming to cause those focus shifts. Invisibility, guided teleports, gaseous clouds that could be used to block yourself in a corner hidden from NPC view, haste spells to allow you to out-run your opponent and put him between you and the NPCs. Players were given plenty of tools that allowed them to stay one step ahead of the NPCs while trying their best to trick their opponent into falling into the NPC’s hands.

3. The environment offered elements that factored into the NPC activities. Trees to hide behind, walls to hide behind, etc.

4. Combat was paced to allow intelligent assessment of the situation and action/reaction.

5. Dying to an NPC wasn’t a major negative (experience loss, loot, etc.)

All of this was managed while trying to deliver damage via normal spells. AND while trying to properly manage your buffs to stay protected. AND while trying to stay aware of the state of your opponent’s buffs so that if he let them drop while avoiding NPCs, you could slam home some major damage. AND while trying to get close enough to your opponent to make use of some of the powerful but range limited spells available to you.

Compare all of this to your average fight in EQ/UO/AC. How are those IF/THEN blocks looking?

Now take out NPC manipulation. Cloud spells don’t matter. Teleports don’t matter. Haste doesn’t matter. Invisibility doesn’t matter. Environment (trees/walls/etc.) doesn’t matter. Geographic positioning and range don’t matter. Understanding the NPC AI doesn’t matter. Choosing to pass a round versus taking offensive action doesn’t matter. The only thing that REALLY matters is keeping your globe up, and trying to re-mirror sometimes during the fight. Simplistic. NOW how does that IF/THEN block look?

In actuality, ONWN combat was more complicated than this. Fake globes, short globes, delay tactics, initiative games, table casting, silenced NPCs, NPC dispell tactics, scroll casts, amulets, ecloaks, bottle-necks, Hold Monster, NPCs that could see invis versus those that couldn’t, NPCs that had ranged attacks versus those that didn’t, indoor fights, outdoor fights, lightning bolt bounces, etc. I haven’t touched any of these things, because – well, you’re probably already bored.

Why does any of this matter? HUMAN SKILL! In ONWN when I beat your ass it was for one reason. I was a truckload better than you. What did that mean? It meant that community was MONUMENTALLY enhanced by the creation of a hierarchy of good players. It meant that the satisfaction from playing the game was MONUMENTALLY enhanced because you felt pride in your wins and losses, not just annoyance that somebody out-leveled you, or hit first.

Why is NPC manipulation more important than team-fight tactics? Because in a team fight, you still only control yourself. While team tactics add complexity to the fight to some degree, it doesn’t add immensely to the need for each individual to make pivotal decisions during the fight. A team fight that was done in the NPC manipulation environment was much more challenging.

OK – before I unleash the gale force winds of the comments board, let me resurrect this thought in your minds.

I don’t care if you don’t like NPC manipulation itself. I don’t care if you don’t like what simplistic AI does to the PVE part of the game. What I want you to acknowledge is that WITHOUT NPC manipulation, combat in MMORPGs is LINEAR and LIMITED. WITH NPC manipulation, it is complex and demanding of skill because it plays on options and consequences and it forces the human mind to operate in combat in terms of both breadth and depth.

If you don’t want NPC manipulation, that’s ok with me. But then you had better give me a DIFFERENT method of breaking up linear combat. Otherwise we’ll all be doomed to eventual boredom in every combat system that’s out there. Of course there’s always a skill alternative – twitch. Quake here we come. 😉

The False Prophet
Gratuitous RP Signature


Excerpted from Gordon Wrinn’s recent post on the official EQ forums:

…today I am pleased to announce that Alan “Absor” VanCouvering, formerly of EverQuest Express (, has joined the EverQuest Team. Alan will be taking over my position as Community Relations Manager of EverQuest, and will be responsible for taking our community relations to the next level. Alan has been the editor of EverQuest Express since early beta, and comes to us with nearly 10 years of customer service experience…

…with Alan coming on, I’ve moved to the development team as Associate Producer of EQLive and the Scars of Velious, under Jeff Butler. I’ll be concentrating more on the “Live” side of things, with coordination of day-to-day operations of EverQuest being among my responsibilities…

And from Alan:

Until recently, very recently, I’ve been a player. I have been involved with EverQuest as a tester and a… commentator about the game since the early beta. Some of you may know me as Absor from EverQuest Express. I’m not going to claim to know everything that there is to know about the game. I don’t know where all the problems lie, and I don’t know all the good things. Of course I will be trying to absorb everything that I can from the designers here and from the players. But let me apologize now if I don’t know all the answers to your questions.

Remember, you can always consult us at Lum’s, where we know the answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.