December 1999

THE RAMBLINGS OF RON THE BORED [Author: wirehead]

Ronald McDonald is having an existential crisis. Not normally the sort of thing you expect from someone whose writing repertoire mainly consists of discussing which hand he uses when masturbating, but the man sat, and thought, and sat some more, and thought some more, and decided that games and the web and all that just kind of bit.

He’s right in that we’ve reached a breakthrough point in our ability to coalesce as a community and discuss down to minutae what is important to us. Take this site for example. It gets about 5 to 7 thousand visitors a day. More when I mention sex and/or counselors, less when I get all wordy and shit and decide to tell people how to design their games.

I do think there’s enough interesting things going on to justify a daily updated web site of news and commentary on the online roleplaying game scene (hey, you’re soaking in it!); but there are slow days and fast days, like anywhere else. We’ve hit a slow time, I think.

Asheron’s Call hit, and it wasn’t much different from Everquest and UO when they launched (with the possible exception that, unlike both EQ and UO, it actually ran somewhat correctly the first day). The UO dev team is soliciting information on how to fix the game. The EQ dev team is finally starting to figure out their game may be broken. The UO2 dev team is cowering in a corner and praying people forget all that crap TwisTer posted about Meerlings and Jukas. Stuff like that.

If this site has any guiding philosophy, it’s pretty much borrowed from Seanbaby – let’s all get together and laugh at the stupid people. I mean, we’re talking about grown men and women obsessing over what level their Shadowknight Troll is. The only logical response is laughter. It’s pretty funky that a community has grown up around all this, and you’re a part of it, by virtue of reading these words. Doesn’t matter how many times you wash your hands afterwards, either.

So are our mutual obsessions, you the reader and I the writer, are they born of futility or of longing? I would like to think the latter; that in the disconnected society at large in which we reside, where I just spent FOUR FUCKING HOURS in a meeting room with people I don’t happen to like very much discussing the results of our Birkman Personality Profiles (I know this will probably be a shock to all of you, but I pegged pretty low in Empathy), that the mere act of belonging to a community is in itself an enriching achievement, no matter how whacked it is.

I think the Net is a preview of how we will deal with our environment globally in the years to come — too much information rushing past us, and we sort of grab randomly, childishly, at the odd bits and pieces of stuff that zoom by, and if we ever happen to actually see anyone else in that massive stream of stuff, it means more than you’d ordinarily think.

So, hi.

HEY KIDS, LET’S PLAY AI DESIGNER! [Author: lum]

Got this via email. OK, you heard the man. Discuss!

Just hoping that I could enlist you and your forthright, profanely opinionated bunch of Lumophytes for some discussion and even brainstorming. (Although that may be a lot to ask, so I’ll look forward to some colorful and creative cussing about the state of the game in general.)

Anyhow, I’ve seen it many times in many threads: monsters are too dumb. You’ve seen it in our posts: we want to make them smarter. What things do monsters need to do to provide the challenge players want to see?

(Standard disclaimers apply about this being a search for discussions only. No official word about when or if any changes will appear is being given at this time. Blah de blah de blah. Etc. Etc.)

Firedog
UO Dev Team

THE GREAT NERFING DEBATE [Author: wirehead]

All the action lately is here. Brad “Aradune” McQuaid, with an assist from Gordon “Calandr…Abashi” Wrinn, started with a detailed list of what he thought the EQ team had done to every class. (It’s right at the top of the thread.) Most pointed out that it was a little odd that bug fixes such as pets being attacked from across the zone and cosmetic changes such as necro pets being a different color were somehow making up for kiting and feign death nerfs.

McQuaid hung in there, and made an impassioned plea for the future of his game. Here’s some excerpts.

I’d like to address what I perceive to be a common theme throughout this thread, and that’s a resistance to change. I think some players, while they want the game to change in general, and for new and exciting things to be added, don’t want change that affects their character, especially if they perceive that change to be negative. I understand this and have been victim to ‘nerf’s playing MUDs and other similar games. Some players also don’t like the fact that earlier players were able to use tactics, exploits, etc. to progress in the game, but by the time they would have had the opportunity to use similar means, we’d changed the game.

I understand this, and this is why this thread has grown with many long and passionate posts.

I must submit to you, however, that the administrators and keepers of an online, persistent game MUST continue to make changes to the game in order to preserve balance and to address areas of the game that become contrary to design, balance or intent. There is no way one can launch a game like EverQuest and then simply sit back and let it go. The game changes on its own, the knowledge base increases, the average player advances from low level areas, to mid, and then to high — the entire game dynamic is altered through natural evolution. And it is our responsibility to protect the long-term health of the game and unfortunately this is at times at the perceived expense of a group of players. Unfortunately, sometimes the good of the many must outweigh the good of the few…

…the EverQuest team here at Verant has quite simply created and designed the most popular, successful (and in my not so humble opinion the BEST) MMORPG to date. It continues to grow (yes, we’ll be launching another server soon), and it continues to sell like crazy over 9 months after its release (mostly by word of mouth, by the way), and honestly if all of you were not so addicted to this game and overall having a blast, you’d not be so passionate, playing hours and hours a day, and responding to this thread’s original post with over 200 detailed responses in 24 hours. You have my pledge that the game will continue to overall get better, and I really believe that as the game matures we will need to do fewer and fewer ‘nerfs’. And you also have my pledge that our communication to our players will improve radically. We are very guilty of not explaining adequately why we do things, or what we’ve changed, and I apologize for this. We WILL do better (go Abashi, go!). If we have to make a hard decision and make a change that negatively impacts a class or some such, the very least we can do is let you all know the details and the how and the why.

Again, the entire thread is here. If there was something about your class you think is being ignored (like, say, rogue pickpocketing nerfs destroying their chance of ever being accepted in a group, for example) now is your chance to be heard. Unlike most Internet forums, it seems Verant is actually paying attention to this one.

THE POLITICS OF PVP [Author: wirehead]

Here’s my answer to Sunsword:

PvP is based on the guild system. If PvP is to be revamped, the guild system needs to be revised as well.

What do people fight for in real life? Geography and ideology. Let’s establish a base for both of those.

Establish factions – basically, types of guilds. Here’s my suggested guild types:

FELLOWSHIP
What all guilds currently are. A group of players, without political affiliation. Not inherently attackable without penalty by anyone save specifically declared enemies. No special benefits or penalties. May loot anyone. Subject to stat loss.

ORDER OF THE SILVER SERPENT
Pledged to defend Britannia and the virtues, and to save Britannia from its current chaos. May only attack REDS (no grays) or hostile factions. May only loot members of hostile factions. All members of the Royal Militia recieve 10% discount from all merchants in Britain, Trinsic, Minoc, Jhelom and Serpent’s Hold. If a member of the Royal Militia goes RED they are removed from their guild (which is theoretically impossible).

FREE PEOPLE’S ARMY
Pledged to overthrow the tyrannical rule of Lord British. May only attack hostile factions. May only loot members of hostile factions. All members of the Free People’s Army recieve a 10% discount from all merchants in Occlo, Nu’Jhelom and Buccaneer’s Hold. Members of the FPA are KOS by guards in other cities. Members of the FPA automatically have 5 murder counts added when joining (in other words, they are all red). Does not suffer stat loss.

SAGES
Neutral guild that seeks knowledge and wisdom (and some rumor, power over the world). A guild may only join the Sages if ALL members have a Magery skill over 70. If a member of the Sages drops below 70 Magery due to skill loss, they are removed from their guild. May only attack hostile factions. May only loot members of hostile factions. All members of the Sages recieve a 10% discount from all merchants in Moonglow, Cove, and Wind. Does not suffer stat loss.

MERCANTILE CONSORTIUM OF BRITANNIA
Neutral guild that seeks only to make a profit. A guild may only join the MCB if ALL members have one or more of the following skills above 70: Blacksmithing, Carpentry, Bowcrafting, Tailoring, Fishing, Alchemy. If a member of the MCB at any time does not have greater than 70 skill in any of these, they are booted from the guild. Members of the MCB may not attack or loot any BLUE player. All members of the MCB recieve a 10% BONUS when selling items to any merchant. Does not suffer stat loss.

BARDIC COLLEGIUM
Neutral fellowship of bards. A guild may only join the Collegium if ALL members have over 70 in Musicianship. If a member of the Collegium drops below 70 Musicianship due to skill loss, they are booted from their guild. Members of the Collegium may not attack or loot anyone save members of hostile factions. All members of the Collegium recieve a 10% discount from all merchants in Yew, Skara Brae, and Vesper.

Now, we have four different factions (five, if merchants are counted) and a presumed geographical base for each of these. What are we to do with this?

Vendor control/discounts. How many times have you said, “I wish my vendor wouldn’t sell to X guild”. Well, set that up. Each public house can declare itself allied to a faction. (Its sign would change to the faction’s flag). Hostile factions would be automatically banned from that house and from transacting with its merchants. Members of that faction would get a 20% discount from those vendors. (Another reason to join the faction system).

Integration into ingame events. People would be quite a bit more interested in the ingame fiction if it directly affected their character/guild. Say, an invasion by the OSS of Occlo. If it succeeded, the FPA would no longer have Occlo as a safe haven. I think that would attract some attention among the players.

Ranking of guilds within each faction. The most successful ones would have a say in how the faction was run. A ruling council for each faction. The nicer ones would be democratic, with elected officers. The not as nice ones would be dictatorships, ruled by the most powerful guilds.

How would this affect the non-faction player? Only that they are excluded from this part of the game; a guild could continue on as before, PKing freely if they so choose. They still get stat loss of course, and factions could possibly declare their vendors open only to members and allied factions, which would lock them out of concievable resupply.

Thoughts?

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T MENTION THE WORD “SWITCH” [Author: wirehead]

Here’s a post from Sunsword on the “ultima” onelist (which is about 50/50 Ultima lore and Irish politics):

PvP! So, now’s the time to talk about it…

Here are the conditions: Assume that players can indicate whether they want to be involved in PvP by the area of the game in which they play. Assume that these areas are of roughly equal size and value (housing, NPCs,
etc…).

How would you change the way PvP works in the lands where it is acceptable?

Some thoughts: No stat-loss, faction system including ranks, track last time of death and place on the profile…

Fire away!

So what are your thoughts? The man wants to know (and I have it on good authority that Origin visits this site every month or so…)

I’ll post my view on the subject shortly.

OLDMANMURRAY DISCOVERS ULTIMA 9, THREATENS TO KICK LORD BRITISH’S MONKEY ASS [Author: wirehead]

Yes, those loveable potty mouths at OMM made the same mistake the rest of us did.

As a result, guess who payed for Ultima IX?  Me.  And guess who’s going to pay for making me pay for Ultima IX?  Lord British.

This is the point where I would normally take a phrase and cleverly turn it to make it more foul-mouthed and punch-centric.  For instance:  I’m gonna put fifty bucks of fat into your fucking lip, British.

If there’s one thing funnier than punching, it’s punching a forty year old man wearing a crown.  And if that man just stole fifty bucks from you and everyone you know, including sick children, then it might just transcend mere comedy and become something magical, like vigilante justice.

You GO, girl.

GODDAM, LORD BRITISH IS EVIL [Author: wirehead]

In the “We’re Not Saying A Damn Thing About Ultima 9” publicity tour, Richard Garriott is hitting all the usual suspects giving interviews on his Next Big Things, the still deep in production X and the somewhat closer to release UO2. Here’s comments from his Well Rounded Network interview:

While he’s not directly involved with Ultima Online 2, Garriott says he’s keeping an eye on things and is thrilled with what he’s seen so far. Todd McFarlane (Spawn) is designing all the creatures for the game, which Garriott describes as simply amazing. To accommodate McFarlane’s detailed drawing style, the graphics engine on UO2 has been given a hearty dose of steroids. Ultima Ascension offers breathtaking visuals. Garriott says UO2 will blow the current game away, utilizing T&L lighting, and deforming meshes.

So, instead of getting 5 FPS, we may get 2 FPS. But only with a Voodoo 4.

But what’s REALLY scary is THIS quote:

And, for the first time, you’ll be able to earn a real-world living in an online world. UO2 will allow players to run virtual shops, selling products that can be used in the game to other players for actual greenbacks. “I want to put the ability to put real money in a virtual world,” he says, with a proud smile on his face.

You know, this is quite possibly the most clueless statement ever made by any gaming industry figure. I mean, did he just buy ten pounds of crack while he was in Times Square? Because that’s about the only way I can explain someone actually advocating making a RL living off of UO2. You think we’re seeing duping scandals NOW. Wait until a PK keeps someone from making a weekly paycheck. No, better yet, wait until someone figures out that the GMs make $10 an hour.

For an example of how screwed up money can make an online game, look at Simutronics’ Gemstone III. There a brain trust figured out that instead of having players sell things on eBay, they could make more money by cutting out the middle man. Everything is for sale on Gemstone III. Just have your Visa or Mastercard handy.

You know, somehow I suspect I’m not going to be a stop on the Lord British Magical Mystery Tour. Which is a shame, cause he’s obviously got the GOOD drugs.

AND YOU THOUGHT THERE COULD ONLY BE ONE CALANDRYLL… [Author: lum]

Verant updated their “Comments from the Team”… er, “Letter from the Producer” with yet another Not-Producer, Gordon “Abashi” Wrinn, Online Community Coordinator… er, Internet Relations Manager for Verant. I bet you thought Verant’s version of Internet Relations involved lawsuits, Glocks and nasty JPGs involving Lady Vox, Lord Nagafen, and Fippy Darkpaw. Not so, grasshopper!

My job here is to know everything there is to know about EverQuest, represent the player-base in our meetings, and keep in touch with the public.

Maybe now they’ll know when things don’t work?

GODDAM, MARKETERS ARE EVIL [Author: wirehead]

Sage Thunderlips pointed this ad to the right out to me, and I have to agree, it is the most deceptive ad banner I’ve ever seen. Here, here’s some quotes they took from the review, and some quotes I took from the same review. You be the judge!

Adrenaline Vault review
Ad copy: “…Nothing less than breathtaking.”
Review copy: “Origin and EA should be ashamed for releasing such an anticipated title in this condition. Their decision is irresponsible and unforgivable.”

Next Generation review:
Ad copy: “Worthy of a place in game history”
Review copy: “Ultima IX: Ascension is a testament to the poor decisions of game publishers everywhere.”

Game Revolution review:
Ad copy: “…Destined to be a classic.”
Review copy: No actual review. Go to http://www.game-revolution.com and see for yourself.

Gene Shalit died for your sins, bastards.