June 2001


Listening to the expectations for tomorrow\’e2\’80\’99s premiere of Anarchy Online, I\’e2\’80\’99m reminded of something that has happened in the legendary world of actual sunshine and fresh air. Hearken back, if you will, to a few years ago, when we were paying 99 cents for a gallon of gasoline here in America. $1.30? $1.40? That was expensive stuff at the time.

However, for whatever reasons
our politicians might want to give us, gasoline prices rose astronomically. Soon, we saw prices as high as $2.20 a gallon during the summer. Horrified as we were, we had no choice but to accept the mafia hit to our pocket books. As is human nature, we immunized ourselves to a reality we could not change.

Recently, I\’e2\’80\’99ve noticed the prices at the pump here in Chicago delving as low at $1.55 a gallon. \’e2\’80\’9cAstounding!\’e2\’80\’9d I gasp, as I rush to fill my car, feeling like a thief in the night so cheap is the price.

Hold on a second. $1.55 is not cheap for a gallon of gasoline. Not when compared to what we were paying a scant few years ago. Yet, so used am I to having the oil companies physically lift money from my wallet that I barely notice the conditioning in my brain which makes me feel as if a buck and a half is terribly cheap.

And so it goes with Online Games today. We are so used to failure that a game being an utter disaster for the first few weeks or months (or years) after release is perfectly acceptable to us. Think of any other piece of offline software you have purchased in the past year or so. If that software crashed every thirty minutes and half the features didn\’e2\’80\’99t work, would you continue to use that software? Most people would be at the store the very next day demanding a refund.

Allow me to go on record as saying I like Anarchy Online. It is looks to be the most ambitious online game since UO. However, my experience in beta 4 was one of constant crashes, bugged missions, and lag of the magnitude I have not seen since the first days of UO. If the message boards are any indication, most players expect those problems to continue for the first few weeks.

Shouldn\’e2\’80\’99t we expect a bit more than crashes and bugs from a product we\’e2\’80\’99re spending our hard-earned money on? I have images of what today will be like. I will go to the local computer store, plunk down my $50, then come home to discover that the software I just spent cold, hard cash on is barely playable. However, because I\’e2\’80\’99ve been programmed by the industry to expect an unplayable game out of the box, I will think nothing of it. It will merely be par for the course.

\’e2\’80\’9cHey, at least it isn\’e2\’80\’99t as bad as WWII Online,\’e2\’80\’9d I\’e2\’80\’99ll mutter to myself as I close the game and seek out a nice Scrabble match.

I know, I know. Creating Online Games is HARD. Yet, I implore you to think about this. Imagine if you are at work one day and your boss hands you an especially difficult project. You are expected to complete that project without mistakes, no? And, if you mangle the project or fill it with errors, you are accountable for it, no? Why is the Online Gaming Industry exempt from this kind of accountability? Why do we cut them so much slack? Because making games is HARD? That excuse doesn\’e2\’80\’99t work for the rest of us who also have jobs.

This type of shoddy product management should be unacceptable to the discriminating gamer. We should demand more. We should send a message to companies that they cannot release products until they are a completely finished piece of software. Of course, the only way to send that message is to not buy the game until it is smoothly playable.

Unfortunately, people won\’e2\’80\’99t do that. They will buy the game upon release for that extra edge.

And, I\’e2\’80\’99ll be right there at the counter of my local computer store today, buying a game I don\’e2\’80\’99t expect to work very well for a while. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with us?


So in Anarchy Online we saw the following:

The world is coming to an end.

All characters in the database have been upped to experience points equivalent to level 75 and credits to 10 million. This should get you a long way. To become level 75 you need to acquire at least 1 experience point on your own. Once you get your first experience point your character will level to 75. Have fun and remember that there are no PvP limits above level 75 so be careful on whom you trust. Omni-Tek is not always YOUR friend!

On behalf of the AO team and all of Funcom, thank you for making our beta a success.

– Tommy Strand

Producer and Lead Designer

High level? Enough money to afford lots of toys? Sounds like fun. Many agreed. Too many. Way, way too many.

Here’s a wrap up of what’s been in my mail (I personally didn’t have time to try to log in):

The majority of us that had to work rushed

home to find out that we couldn’t actually play the Final Beta because we were “Locked” into what ever zone we happened to be in when the game came up. We had the 10 million creds, but we couldn’t spend it on anything. We couldn’t test the upper level stuff we we’re curious about or anything. That really blows. Some of us die hards like myself waited up till 10pm (5hours later) and we “Still” were standing around waiting to get a ‘Couple’ of minutes in on the final beta. It didnt’ happen.


It seems funcom is doing a trial run to identify possible opening day problems. Kind of clever how they did it, too… they jacked up everyone to level 75… so of course everyone is trying to login to try out thier buffed chars before the beta is done.

Additionally, a lot of things went in the past couple of patches, making the game seem more complete…stuff like trade skill items, less crashes (tho they still exist) lag meter, combat indicator, pets that ZONE WITH YOU, more weapons, etc.

Alot of peeps say that the UO and EQ betas seemed more complete than AO, but I must disagree…AO is shaping up to be a complex world system, and I’ll be hitting reload on your page all day tommorrow to see what new comments arise due to Funcom’s servers being strangled. 🙂


At noon today, they shut down the server for an hour to bump everyone up to level 75 and bestow 10,000,000 upon us. They also threw in a new client patch, which apparently messed up a LOT of people’s installations (not mine, thank god). Here’s how it went for me:

Logged in, stuck in a shop. Didn’t want to buy anything because I had to get 1 experience point before it would bump me from level 2 to level 75.

After a few minutes, the door started working again. I ran out to Omni-1, ran towards the gates to find something easy to kill. Just before the gate, I crashed to the login screen, and upon re-logging, I was standing back outside the door to the shop. Ran to the gates again, and made it. Killed a leet, got my levels, ran back to the shop. Got inside on the first try, amazingly, and started browsing the weapons and armor and deciding what skills I needed. Found a few nice things and started raising my skills (which takes forever when you have over 70 levels of IP to distribute). Crashed in the middle of raising the skills, came back in by the door inside the shop. Server had forgotten everything I did since I walked in, again.

Raised my skills again, bought some stuff, then I logged out and back in to make sure I wouldn’t do the timewarp again. After one more crash, I finally had what I wanted and headed out to take the whompa to 4 holes, where the big omni/clan battle would be. Stepped through the door and zoned pretty quickly, but it took forever for my framerate to recover when I got to the other side, due to the large amount of players and whatever bug is in the client that makes everythng pause for a second when a new player enters your view. Ran out to find the main battling area, crashed near the exit of the little town, timewarped back to the whompa. Ran out again, crashed, timewarped. Happened 3-4 times before I managed to make it anywhere. Got fairly close to the bridge where the battle was supposed to be, crashed out and got an error dialog for the first time. Back in and I actually didn’t timewarp- must have been a real client crash instead of whatever is causing the other problem. Finally got to the battle site, and crashed out again…

This time I couldn’t get back in, because apparently the servers just decided to crash entirely. Either that or Funcom thought they should probably sneak in a server-side patch as quick as they could.

Anyway, other than the crashing, everything seemed to be pretty good. After the initial pause to load up a player’s image, the lag was not bad. Some of the areas had literally a couple hundred people in them, all moving around, emoting, dancing, fighting, etc. without any noticable problems on my 56k dialup line. I don’t seem to rubberband at all anymore, but maybe it’s because I crash out before it lets me. Usually, if I sat perfectly still, it would take 3 or 4 times longer for it to crash.

I already have a retail copy, and i know it’ll probably be just as buggy on release, but I’ll be there anyway, crashing my evenings away.

Anarchy Online is already in some stores, and the servers are set to be cut on tomorrow. No one knows what it’s going to be like – but everyone is agreed, it’s going to be messy.

It’s traditional, after all.


Page One: Spelling OOoOoO just got a whole lot easier.

I have to be honest with you here. There are SO MANY CHANGES COMING SO FAST, that I honestly am worried I might accidentally report something ludicrous like first circle spells getting a substantial increase in damage and higher level spells become far less expensive to cast. waitadamnminute… that IS what they’re doing. Sample the following from Our Lady of Updates, the lovely Cynthe:

Spell Changes

Several spells will have their power increased, particularly low-circle spells. Spells such as Magic Arrow, Fireball, and Lightning Bolt will do noticeably more damage then before. The energy bolt, explosion, and flamestrike spells will be given a small damage increase. In addition, some spells will have lower reagent cost(note: until players receive a client patch these changes will not be visible in the spellbook).

The Harm Spell

The “Harm” spell will have its damage scaled based upon the caster’s distance to the target. The closer the caster is to the target, the more damage it deals.

Pardon me while I shake my head and make brblde-brblde-brblde sounds. Mages are getting stronger. Well that’s just great. Why not just up and make lumberjacking and anatomy do substantially more damage while we’re at it.

…the maximum damage bonus for anatomy will be increased to 30% upon reaching 100.0 skill (the damage bonus will still be 20% for players with less then 100.0 anatomy skill.


Lumberjack Damage Bonus

The lumberjack skill will now add a damage bonus to axe weapons using the same formula as described for the anatomy damage bonus. The bonus is 20% of the lumberjack skill until 99.9 skill and 30% for 100 skill.

And if that fails to upset your concepts of “delicate balance” in UO combat, toss a pinch of this action into the big update stew:

Players will no longer be required to equip their spellbooks while casting. They may continue to do so if they so choose (holding a spellbook will not prevent you from casting a spell). Players will be able to gain wrestling and/or tactics skill while holding a spellbook if the appropriate skill is marked to go “up”.

See, I told you I might get a little confused and be prone to hysterical confusions and insane assumptions. Lets’ just move on to page two before they decide to give grandmaster tailors a 30% damage bonus.

Page Two: Love Publish Number Twelve

The Publish that Shall Not Be named has been named Publish Number Twelve. This is super secret double-agent crypto-masked gyro-doodle code-speak for “Veteran Rewards Update”. The reason that they are not calling it “Veteran Rewards Update” is because the code is being installed in a state of dormancy. This does not mean it is attending college. Possibly borrowing from the WW2Online anti-Gear code, this update is being installed but not “turned on.” Kinda like that mysterious “fun code” in Anarchy Online. Here’s a sampling of green text to hush the AO fanbois looking for something to point at and shout “MADE UP” (something the Shadowbane fanbois used to do, but have sadly taken a backseat to the “AOvicates”)…

Once all shards are running Publish 12, and we are confident that the veteran rewards system is functioning properly, we will begin to activate veteran rewards systematically on pre-determined shards. Please note that this means that players will not be able to choose rewards immediately once the publish is received.

So there. On to page Three…

Page Three: UO:3.5th Dawn coming soon

Ultima Online: Third Dawn is slated for a laundry list of updates that read like a “to do” list for Tugsoft, developers and distributors of Ultima Online Assist (UOA). Dilate your peepers on this little hunter paste…

1) An toggle has been added to the “Interface” subcategory of the options gump that lets players use the old-fashioned style container gumps instead of the new versions.

2) Sound effects play when you open and close container gumps.

3) Shopping gumps should now be much, much faster.

4) A zoom slider has been added to the quick menu.

5) NPCs should no longer continue to walk in place after they’ve stopped moving.

6) Players can now turn off object handles under the “Interface” subcategory in the options gump.

7) Object handles now stack in a certain order – more commonly needed items tend to be on top. For example, handles for corpses stack above all others.

8) Object handles are now color coded re: red/blue/grey for mobiles depending on notoriety, other objects have gold handles.

9) Speech and All-Names are now clickable for targeting, use, and attacking.

10) The player can now disable having the paperdoll model animate.

11) An issue whereby health bars would not update has been resolved.

12) Objects dropped in a container should now show up at exactly the location they were dropped at.

13) A problem where players would not be able to pick up objects has been resolved. This should also resolve problems players have had looting their corpse.

14) Skills are alphabetically sorted for players using languages in the ASCII character set.

15) Skill lock toggles will no longer go awry when a skill is moved from one group to another.

16) Command macros should now save properly.

17) The location of speech text over players’ heads has been adjusted.

18) This patch also includes several fixes to resolve numerous other bugs and crashes reported by players.

If you ask me, sounds like the beta might be over. Oh wait a second, what’s this I forgot one?


Sorry – I made that one up, but if you ask me, it should be on that list somewhere. Page Four, please.

Page Four: The Savage Frontier


Remember those nasty Orcs waging war on our towns. It appears there is a reason for it. Pictured top right on this report is the Savage, a curious breed of orc* featuring more tattoos than a Red Hot Chili Peppers video (For those of you with any level of taste in music, allow me to translate – they have “a lot” of them). Savages have been spotted this very evening on Oceania and are expected to reveal themselves on other shards any moment now. They are hell bent on driving the orcs from their forts, thus the orcs have opted to pack bags and head to the big cities. jeepers creepers. I could really use a nice kitty picture right about now.

* Late update: It has been discovered that these tattooed Savages are not orcs, but are in fact, humans. Word is that KoC is attempting to recruit them.

Page Four Redux: And now your moment of zen.

Oh NOOO. Not another patch day!!


Richard Garriott’s new lords and masters, NCSoft, made the news again, oh boy.

NCSoft, a Kosdaq-listed online game developer, has established a powerful user base fairly quickly in the last few years thanks to the enthusiastic game buffs willing to pay a subscription fee for the popular network-based game, Lineage.

In other words, NCSoft is one of the key beneficiaries of intellectual property on the Web. Unfortunately, the company did not live up to its corporate identity earlier this year. The reason: It was caught using unlicensed and pirated software, including Starcraft, another popular online game developed by Blizzard of the U.S.

NCSoft’s actions, particularly given that it’s one of the few highly profitable game makers in Korea with enough cash to buy licensed software, highlights the depth of the software piracy problem.

Now, Lord British, don’t copy that floppy. Thanks to Quarter to Three for the headsup.


Hey, now that I’m unemployed, I can post more updates! In comemmoration, Turbine is announcing a new expansion, introducing the new continent of Marae Lassel and, significantly, the first player-owned housing in a 3D MMORPG.

Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty builds upon the epic, evolving storyline by paving the way for the return of an old nemesis. “We don’t want to give everything away,” says Nik Davidson, producer of the Expansion Pack, “but suffice to say that the name of the expansion pack is a big clue.”

Turbine also posted a Q&A with Jeff Anderson, Turbine’s CEO and one of the UO2 refugees.

One of my first goals when I came to Turbine was to start developing an Expansion Pack. The Expansion Pack team (under the experienced leadership of Chris Foster and Nik Davidson) have been focused on making it a reality ever since. The Expansion Pack’s key features (real 3D housing on the landscape, item storage, and a new land) firmly establish AC as the leader in MMP’s. We are excited about bringing this and other innovative content to the original game \’e2\’80\’a6 even while we are hard at work on its sequel.

The package will include the original Asheron’s Call, retail for under $20.00, and be available this Christmas.

In other news, Turbine is still not purchased by Microsoft.

YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK.G’BYE. [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Senior Companions and all the robed staff of the Ultima Online Companion Program have been given the heave-ho. This comes as a huge surprise to anybody who has been in a coma the past year.

As of 1:45 today, I was told that my robe will be gone at 2:00. I was Regional Senior Companion [*SNIP*]. now I am just [a] companion. All AC’s, RSC’s, and SC’s are losing their robes. Normal companion issues will be resolved by, get this, paging a GM. Why we didn’t lose our robes when [counselors and seers] did, I do not know. Figured it might be worth note that there are no volunteer robes at all anymore.

My guess as to why the actual player/companions still have powers? OSI is still struggling with a way to remove the code without breaking blacksmithing. Newsflash to OSI: It is already broken. For all we know this will fix it. I’m sure it wont be long before we start seeing new companions from India. The good news is that this means we will have full time in-game support on the Fourth of July.

I wont bother with a discussion thread. Nobody cares what you think about this. If you want to chat about it, you can play “lock-a-thread” here. The rules are similar to whack-a-mole. When you pop your head up and speak, an admin tries to whallop you with a foam mallet of thread lockage. Enjoy!


As seen on Quarter to Three, Derek Smart has a new product out. I’m hesitant to actually call it a game, with instructions such as these:

You are going into a combat situation, so you want to activate the ship’s Passive Target Acquisition system, which controls its turrets. So select the PTA icon (the bottom one) and set its charge to 50%. Now that this system is activated, the ship’s turrets will automatically track and fire upon any targets which come within range of the ship.

But an arcane control system is nothing when you are modelling the entirety of space. In real time. On your PC. With magic missiles.

And I think that I can say, without even batting an eyelid, that it leaves the Tribes 2 terrain engine in the dust. Besides, while T2 is chugging along with an area that is, indeed, quite large for the standard FPS, BCM renders *entire* planets – some the size of real world Jupiter. In real time. All 200+ of them. And hardly breaks a sweat. Complete with different climate effects, weather effects (rain, snow, thunder, lighting etc). As well as the ability to fly, drive, run around in first person, swim, go deep sea diving etc…..then climb back into your craft and head back into space.

In case you’re wondering how exactly this is relevant, remember that the mad scientist’s next project is making a Battlecruiser MMOG. YOU! Stop laughing! It looks more feasible every day. As Rodney “Stop HITTING ME” Hodge of Playnet says,

We did the best we could with the resources available to us and unfortunately we did fall a little short. C’est La Vie! There is no sense in dwelling on it except for keeping the lessons learned with us, and putting all of our focus on what we can do today and in preparing for the future.

So they’re French. Now it all comes together. I’ll be over here in the corner, gibbering quietly, wondering if the Battlecruiser demo will actually physically destroy my hard drive.