June 2001

NEWS FROM YE OLDE FAN FAIRE: GANKING IS GO! [Author: Lum the Mad]

First the character move thing. This comes from Everlore, and also reprints a message from EQ Customer Support:

Greetings,

We are in the process of setting up a system that allows you to move characters for a fee. However, I am afraid that I do not have any details about it yet.

Keep watching patch messages for any news.

GM Therdar – E’ci

Rick Alvernaz

Sony Online Entertainment

Word from the faire is that said moves will be “naked” – no money, no equipment. Would still come in handy (for one thing, my wife and I both play on different servers). And hey, it makes Verant money. Being Republican and heartless, I’m all for that!

Speaking of heartlessness, Kytelae clued us in to the scoop on PvP – apparently Rafine at Ralloszek.net talked to Gary “Lady Daegarmo Grobson at the fan faire on PvP’s future and got all sort of Zek scoopage.

  • When Sullon Zek goes live, ALL PvP servers will have Sullon Zek’s rules. Or lack thereof. Train on, monks!
  • ShowEQ – going buh-bye. (presumably this would be on all servers, not just the PvP ones)
  • Crossteaming on Tallon/Vallon – going buh-bye. No co-guilding, no co-buffing, no co-anything. Pursuant to this all guilds on Tallon/Vallon will be wiped. This is scheduled for 2 months from now.
  • Common on Tallon/Vallon/Sullon – going buh-bye. Learn those languages.
  • Tallon may be changed to a 2-team good/evil server reflecting its current state now, while Vallon may become a 3-team server.

Yowza. The elves are playing to crush! More news to come from the Fan Faire as it develops. If no new news develops we’ll just make up something juicy involving Mennix and Firiona Vie.

GAMESPY: STYLISTICALLY CHALLENGED? [Author: Lum the Mad]

This has got to be one of my dreams come true. Gamespy and Stratics in a deathmatch to the death. I mean, one of them has to lose, right? It’s pretty much win-win all around!

OK, seriously, sit down and brace yourself, because I’m (gasp) actually going to agree with the fanbois here.

Anarchy Online isn’t done. It’s in beta. If it were released in its current condition (not that anyone would ever do such a thing) it would suck. We would be among the first to say it sucked, and we would in so doing attract the ire of about 60,000 Holy Sacred and Apostolic Defenders of the One True Rubi-Ka. We’re used to that. Lately no matter what we write someone gets pissy. We write that Verant does something cool and we get bitched at for being suckups looking for a job. We write that Verant does something that sucks and we get bitched at for being whiny bitches that are bitter because we didn’t get a job. WOPR tells us that the only way to win is not to play, but then we get bitched at for not posting enough. It’s enough to drive you to Scientology!

But here’s the thing. When I bitched about World War 2 Online, it was because, you know, I had paid $50 plus god only knows how much shipping since all the local EB people know who I am just from my goddam credit card and you people are freaking the SHIT out of me! STOP IT! LET ME LEAD A NORMAL LIFE! There, I’m back. Anyway. The point being that I paid money for it. As far as I know no one has paid anything for Anarchy Online yet, thus being pretty much assured of getting your money’s worth. Unless of course your Windows 2000 got zapped, but, um, you know, that sort of stuff can happen in betas. Ask me about the time my Windows Memphis (now 98) beta decided to convince my motherboard that the onboard Winmodem didn’t actually exist any more. Betas aren’t supposed be a road test for the consumer.

Of course, they are now. And that in and of itself is probably an interesting thing to think about – at what point did gaming betas become marketing tools? From what I’ve seen, however, AO’s long beta (and it HAS been long, I have a Beta 2 CD from over a year ago) has been less a marketing tool and more of a road test for Funcom itself. While their maintaining seperate code bases is somewhat odd (and we’ve commented on it in the past) it does mean that anyone already writing the reviews for Anarchy Online are, um, wrong.

I’ve made the same mistake. When I read that Anarchy Online had a firm ship date just after E3, I posted to the website that this was a profoundly bad move – based on what I knew from my experience with Beta 3. Then, at E3, Funcom demoed a client that blew Beta 3 out of the water. More content, better framerates, much better stability. Not release-ready, but getting there. And until E3, very few knew that it existed.

When Anarchy Online is released, we’ll take a detailed look at it. If it sucks, we’ll say it sucks. If it was released too early, we’ll say it was released too early. And if it rocks, we will definitely say it rocks.

Until then, getting worked up over a beta being incomplete and buggy is kind of pointless. I mean, you can get worked up over, say, UO being incomplete and buggy. They have no excuse. Until next month, Funcom still has an excuse.

Is that the style of writing you’re trying to avoid, Spacial?

TODAY’S OSI PERSONNEL UPDATE [Author: Lum the Mad]

Dwight “Melantus” Spaulding just posted on the uo.com boards that he had resigned his post as UO Community Coordinator.

Stellerex\’e2\’80\’99s comments about the UO team being larger than ever before are definitely true, and there\’e2\’80\’99s more momentum here now than there has been since I can remember. UO will continue to grow and improve, and there are some really good ideas being considered here. Calandryll\’e2\’80\’99s Event Design team is moving in full force and has only just begun to really shine. More great things are coming from them in the future. Evocare is heading up the Design group, and is a very capable Lead Designer. Prophet is showing his talent and abilities in his Lead Programming position. Cynthe has been working to see that communication with the players remains a vital part of the service, and is stepping up as Community Manager.

I asked Melantus what his next job would be, and he had no comment on his final destination.

FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK [Author: Lum the Mad]

OPTION ONE: DEPLOY GAY PORN This could possibly drive our traffic down dramatically as the massively multiplayer demographic scores highly in the Homophobic and Teenage Male Unsure Of Own Sexuality But Strangely Curious sectors. Unfortunately it would also bring in new users that would make me feel vaguely uneasy about myself. It would also, paradoxically, probably result in an increase of stories involving pro wrestling.

OPTION TWO: CHARGE MONEY This would certainly result in an increase of revenue, as people would be forced to pay money to get their oh-so-necessary MMORPG gossip. This would also drive our traffic down dramatically since no one would actually pay money and thus stop visiting the site. It’s a win-win!

OPTION THREE: DEPLOY ANNOYING POPUP ADS We’re told that people still pay money for the privilege of shoving advertising literally into your face. After all, Crossroads of Dereth deployed annoying pop up ads and their problems were all magically solved! Unfortunately, this solution relies on trusting the sort of people who expect you to click an ad banner to mystically optimize your internet connection while buying miniature cameras to spy on attractive women. Note that there is no link to Crossroads of Dereth. This is for a reason.

OPTION FOUR: JOIN UGO I’m told that UGO is a wonderful, happy network of sites all about gaming! And all you have to do is put up an ad banner and people will send you money! Lots of money! The problem with Option Four is that UGO only pays Fictional Money and Fictional Money only pays server bills in the Land of Make Believe.

OPTION FIVE: DEPLOY ACTUAL PORN Option One was a joke. Option Five is not a joke. I am told lots of people pay money for Option Five. Option Five frightens and confuses me. Let’s not speak of this again.
OPTION SIX: THERE IS NO SPOON None of this is really happening. If I don’t think about the ever-spiraling costs and the fragmenting crash of the Internet that is mirroring the sudden breakdown of our illusionary economy, I become a much happier person. Option Six makes me happy.

Note that, despite the SCREAMING PANIC that these options imply, (and let’s just get it right out front – WE ARE SCREAMING IN A PANIC LIKE LITTLE GIRLS. And I for one am not ashamed of this.) thanks to continuing donations we’re not about to close up shop. However, there may come a time when we start getting really annoying about begging for money. Just pretend we’re NPR, and change the channel over to Stratics or something when we start our Summer Madness Pledge Drive.

If you have the Magic Secret of Surviving The Internet Crash and haven’t already made a zillion dollars off of it yourself, kindly comment in the forums, k? THX.

ANARCHY ONLINE: WINDOWS PAIN [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]


Funcom [has] released patch 11.2 that has the sideeffect of corrupting the Win2k registry meaning you can’t even boot Win2k.

They released a fix on their forums

The fix is basically a guided tour through an emergency recovery operation:

You must boot from the Win2K CDRom and go into the Repair mode [R] . Click the C button to go into the repair CONSOLE..

Once in the Console go to your /WINNT/SYSTEM32/CONFIG directory and rename the SYSTEM file to SYSTEM.OLD

Then go to your /WINNT/REPAIR folder and copy the SYSTEM file form there to your /WINNT/SYSTEM32/CONFIG directory..”

Of course after I did this I still had to reinstall my network and sound drivers.

Word to the wise: Being a beta tester means you need to have your OS installation CD and your registration key code handy. It also means that when this happens, you are supposed to say “awww shucks” and then rebuild your system.

Oh, did I mention that AO went gold recently?

“FUNDAMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS” AND THE FIRST POST-COD AC PATCH [Author: Lietgardis]

That “few weeks ago” is a nice line, but I was of the impression the process was longer. Last month at E3, Jesse “Nei/Devilmouse/etc.” Kurlancheek told me that a white board had been erected in Turbine’s office several months before, with a list of everything that “wasn’t fun” about Asheron’s Call. If you’ll recall the last few month’s patches, you’ll see they’ve been able to rub quite a few entries off that list, and this month continues the effort. It brings allegiance chat improvements, automated component buying, and a “boot and ban” system for Gear. Also, in a movement unprecedented by other MMORPGs, all characters have been provided with new underwear. Some people have been asking for that for years in Ultima Online.

The Zone’s June build notes slate all those as “functionality improvements” (except for the underwear, but I wanted to include that in the second paragraph as an honor). See some “miscellaneous improvements”:

  • Peas are now spell components. They appear in the F6 panel in the client. Handy!

    If they weren’t, the component buyer would be much less fun. This way, I’ll be dancing in Celdiseth’s cottage the next time I go shopping. Hooray!

  • Level 7 Creature Magic is in. ph34r.

    The life and creature-specialized mages of Dereth are now kicking themselves for training arcane lore. Score: 1 for me and the other mages that didn’t, 0 for the continuing usefulness of arcane. With these spells and last month’s attribute spell duration increase, the little skill isn’t looking too good anymore.

  • All vendor buy/sell rates altered to prevent \’e2\’80\’9cmoney running.\’e2\’80\’9d It’s no longer possible to make three million weightless pyreals in an hour by schlepping items to and fro.

    Two days ago, Amid, of “Pre-Patch Build Notes” fame, posted this information all over AC Vault’s boards. One day and 23 hours ago, everyone panicked. Last night, Nik Davidson’s “Pages from the Producer” was posted, which was supposed to be the first news of the change — twelve hours before the patch. Today, Chris “Stormwaltz” Le’toile decided to stop respecting Amid for releasing “trade secrets” a day in advance. This deserves a lot more attention, but for now, I’ll just say I’m happily moving to Tou Tou, glad to finally feel like I could move out of Ayan and have someone to blame other than myself if I go bankrupt.

  • All level 1-5 spells have had their durations extended.

    Characters without VIs are fun now! And we thought it was too late for that.

The “minor details” list includes the underwear and some other things.

  • Danby’s Outpost now has its intended Lifestone.

    Who cares about Danby’s anymore? It’s a dires town. Let’s move a lifestone into the middle of Shoushi!

  • @r and @rp now map to @reply, while @rt now maps to @retell. @reply and @retell still work as usual.”

    After 19 months, I’d imagine many of us will never break the habit of using “/reply.” Two thumbs up anyway.

  • It took five years, but vendors now wear aprons to make them visually distinct from players.

    I never had a problem distinugishing yellow dots from white ones. This change must benefit those that can’t, so I’ll cheer for their sake. …

  • Underwear is now ivory/off-white. Let’s never speak of this again.

    Okay.

The June rollout article also promises a fix to the problem of the last few months’ patches: a complete and utter lack of fiction.

Organized groups of marauding \’e2\’80\’9cBlack Claw\’e2\’80\’9d Drudges have appeared in the northern and southern mountains of Osteth. Rumors speak of their involvement with a cabal of Virindi, whose hidden leader, known only as the Inculcator, is reputed to have been the true mastermind behind the takeover of Ayan Baqur. Perhaps the time has come to take the battle back to the Virindi.

Are we done with the virindi yet? I’m so ready for anything else. Glibly, though, “some fiction is better than no fiction.”

The servers have been down for most of the day, fixing some dire server crash issue, so few have actually gotten to see this patch yet. I’m okay with servers being down to fix dire server crash issues. No other reports of serious bugs have come to my attention.

Finishing up, I’d provide a summary of community responses to the patch news, but I can’t. I spent at least six months reading CoD’s Barracks, Collegium Arcani, Sage Tower, and the variously-named dev boards on a daily basis, learning which posters to trust and which to ignore; today I would have spent two hours or so reading the posts on Game Issues by people I’m fond of, and scanning the rest of posts from non-regulars to pick up some general idea of how the community is feeling. I didn’t today — I neither know nor trust non-CoD regulars on the Vault boards, and the other sites don’t get enough traffic to give me any good overview.

Let’s all hope some new incarnation of CoD is back in time for next month. Allow me to plug Brash Endeavors’ CoD replacement for now. I just want to quote people on the next patch.

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE BANNED? I CAN HELP!” [Author: Lum the Mad]

Logging on today after work, I notice a quick note regarding Account Security, if only I knew how much this would affect me.

Without even a second glance, I noticed some items were missing on my main character, Uumpaa, a level 59 Rogue for those who do not know me, as I got to the character selection screen. After logging on, I found myself in East Commons, Anonymous, with most of my items missing, even those that are No drop. I panic right away, and start asking around if anyone saw me between 10:30am EST (That’s when I left for work) and 6pm EST (When I logged on after work). No one said they saw me, and a friend said he logged on at 3:30pm EST and has me on his friends list, and never saw me online. Therefore I must have been hacked between 10:30am EST and 3:30pm EST. If anyone saw me in EC at that time, please let me know, maybe with your help I can find who did this.

Not only was most of my equipment sold, I even had my Ragebringer destroyed, along with all of the Quest armor I have completed in Kael.

So I petition, and GM Slayness immediately asks me if I have read over the new Reimbursement Policy and the Producers Letter, I said yes, but I had one question to ask, here is my log:

You told Slayness, ‘One thing I wasn’t quite clear on..once investigated and it is found to be a true hack, or atleast not confirmed I was at fault for it, I won’t be banned, correct?

Slayness tells you, ‘No. Any and all acocounts that are confirmed as hacked are immediately banned. At best, we can investigate to find out where the items went (i.e. if they were traded), and tell the user what happened. Then they will be banned without debate or question.’

You told Slayness, ‘So even tho I might have been hacked and I was not at fault in anyway, I’ll still be banned?’

Slayness tells you, ‘Correct.’

You told Slayness, ‘May I ask why?’

You told Slayness, ‘Doesn’t that rule give people a better reason to hack? Knowing they cannot be caught?’

Slayness tells you, ‘Because the EULA crearly states that account security is the responsibility of the user. If it is compromised, we can no longer be held responsible for what is done with it. Thus, it is banned.’

Slayness tells you, ‘So I might ask you again. Do you wish for me to proceed with an investigation, fully understanding the Account Security Policy?’

You told Slayness, ‘I guess not. Sorry to bother you.’

So there it is, someone, on the DAY of the change, hacks my account for all I’m worth. After losing 3 months of work, I’m not sure if I will try to rebuild what I once was, or delete and leave the world known as Norrath.

All together I lost my Kael armor except for Arms, some of my Blue Diamond resist gear, my Silken Cat Fur Girdle, Chetari Bonecrafted Shield, Defiance and my Ragebringer. Not to mention someone took the time to log on my Cleric twink and take my Fungi Tunic, GEB’s, TBB and Sarnak Battle Shield. That is just wrong. Droppable Items I can replace, but destroying my Kael armor and Ragebringer, is just cruel.

Either way, just wanted to let everyone know to be very careful. I’m not here to recieve pity, I’m here to warn others of what happened to me, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. And be careful of those people you see in EC selling CoF’s and other Dragon loot, as you never know how they recieved it, and since you’re tied in, you could be banned as well.

Farewell.

Uumpaa

58th Halfling [censored]

WW2 ONLINE PROMOTED TO “NO LONGER COMPLETELY UNPLAYABLE”; FIRST PANZER ARMY HALTED IN BELGIUM MYSTERIOUSLY; “WAS IST DER ‘GEAR’?”, VON RUNDSTEDT ASKS CONFUSED STAFF [Author: Lum the Mad]

That proponents should demand a story whose headline would essentially be “WW2 Online No Longer Completely Unplayable” is a sad comment on how low the standards being proposed are.

— Evangolis, in an otherwise unassuming Anarchy Online thread

As demanded, we feel it our duty to note that as of now you can actually log in to WW2 Online occasionally. The gameplay problems in the game still persist, mind you – players can take up to 20 minutes to find a battle, the mission structure is still broken, and, just in case your online battles were not completely futile already, someone discovered that Gear works really, really well in WW2 Online. So well, in fact, that it makes you basically invulnerable. People posting to the official WW2OL board before posts were wiped reported invulnerable soldiers, moving as fast as airplanes, killing tanks with one shot.

You know, you’d think that someone at Cornered Rat, before slapping the title “Massively Multiplayer First Person Shooter” on a game box, would have done some basic research on problems experienced by the most popular online FPS. But then again, I guess we shoud be thankful that the game is “no longer completely unplayable”.

Forum Jihad Warrior Update: Sir Bruce, noble defender of maligned massively multiplayer games set in Southern Belgium, posted on our forums earlier:

The code to detect and boot those people using Gear is already in place; it just wasn’t turned on on the servers yet.

Which begs the question – “Um… OK… and it was left off why?”

MSNBC DISCOVERS L33T SPLOITZ! [Author: Eldin]

MSNBC has an article detailing exploiting and its effects on the online gaming industry.

I thought this quote was interesting:

\’e2\’80\’9cWe will try to stop cheating, but we know we can\’e2\’80\’99t,\’e2\’80\’9d says Mark Jacobs, CEO of game developer Mythic Entertainment in Fairfax, Va. \’e2\’80\’9cAnyone in this industry who tells you they can deal with hacking is a liar.\’e2\’80\’9d

This quote frightened me:

Online gaming is expected to grow from 39 million players in 2000 to 74.7 million in 2004, according to market researcher International Data Corporation.

And this quote confused me:

. . . since cyber contests on the scale of the National Football League are expected to generate huge ad revenues in the future.

Thanks to SuperMikey for the heads-up.

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GODMODE [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

So I log into the US Test Server for Anarchy Online after using one of ALMOST TWENTY activiation codes that the folks at Funcom were kind enough to send, and I find myself standing in a room full of naked people who look like they are made out of taffy. After some careful selections, I was able to create a character that looks like the chaplain to an infantry division of borg scouts. I am now a level three Nano Tech, but I still think I look like every country parson from every Clint Eastwood Italian western from the late 1970’s.

So far, most of the reports and discussions about AO revolve around “wow, is Rome like the most amazing graphics ever, or what?” and “Rome is probably very lovely, but I am unable to leave my zone to go see it.” So I talked myself into installing the 600+ megabyte download and having a look for myself to answer the burning question: ‘what exactly is it?’

Amazingly enough, it installed like a breeze and I played about 8 hours solid without a single crash, lock-up, bug, or other such “bustedness” being reported by so many others. What I encountered was even more frustrating.

Remember your first days in Ultima Online when you would die to a little rat that you probably should have been able to step on? I ran out into the “training zone” and was killed not by a rat, not by a mole, and not by a mouse: but by a GERBIL WITH NO ARMS.

oh, I had a gun, too. I guess I should be happy I didn’t shoot MY OWN FOOL SELF. Don’t worry – by the time you reach level three like me, you’ll be able to go round-for-round with these little armless rodents.

First impressions? Well the interface is probably identical to the interface on every computer in HELL. The camera controls are taken directly from ancient Chinese texts on torture. Granted, they are not quite as bad as World War 2 Offline, but they are bad enough. The graphics? Remember the movie Bladerunner? Well this isn’t anything like Bladerunner. It is like a cheap Bladerunner knockoff where instead of looking “techno-punk”, it just looks, well, kinda wierd. Take another gander at what I look like in the game. I have yet to hear a conspiracy theory in which the future is threatened by rogue, cyber-enhanced MATADORS.

Or bionic circuit riding parsons. But very shortly, perhaps you will.