RAPH TAKES A VACATION, REDESIGNS HIS WEBSITE [Author: myschyf]

At this rate we are going to need an icon for Raph. I figure a GM robe with a guitar in one hand and a quill in the other ought to be just about right.

You know the majority of us go someplace when we take a vacation — like E3, UO Faire, the Mediteranian — you know, some place nice and sunny. If you are Raph Koster, however, you redesign your website and put all sorts of cool and nifty game design stuff on it. So go check it out. Its well worth a look and it will keep you busy while you are waiting for us to actually write something original for this site.

DAWN PATROL [Author: arcadian del sol]

As the HoC is only hours old, there is no posted text yet. But I’ve skimmed my channel logs and managed to extract enough viable material to give you a feel for how inspired this session was.

(Tuesday) any details on the specs of tatooage?

(GL-Jeff) We won’t have tattoo specifics until the release of the game.

That was how it all got started, and sadly, it coasted gently downhill from there. I used to think that Dawn was an elaborate hoax being pulled on the all-too-eager-to-trust gaming community. A few questions later, and I was praying I was right.

(Lupgarou) How will assassination work if it exists will there be one hit assassinations, furthermore, what types of skills will there be associated with assassins?

TRANSLATION: How do I one-hit kill other players? What skill does that require?

(GL-Jeff) There will not be any built in skill for assassination… you simply have to kill the person.

(Crush) How far are you in Graphical Implementation so far?

(GL-Jeff) The engine itself is about 75% complete now. As far as graphics collection, because we have opted to redo much of the graphics we are only about 25% of the way complete with graphics production but we are well on track for the spring deadline.

(Turow) will there be anal sex in the game

(GL-Jeff) There won’t be a special command for it, but if you are hell bent on achieving it you can always do some sort of emote. /me has anal sex with so and so.

Well there you go. Emoting “assrape” in Dawn will NOT get you banned. This will be good news for members of the guild MDK, who doesn’t play games to bake bread, but plays them to have anal sex with corpses.

(DakkonG) Will there be organized systems of gov’t available in towns? Or will it have to be manually enforced at all times?

(GL-Jeff) Will there be organization? hopefully, but it wont be engine based. Its up to the players to make and enforce laws, there is no built in system.

TRANSLATION: NO

(JuViR) what about pks? how will they be delt with? will there be one server where pks are allowed and one where they aren’t like in everquest?

(GL-Jeff) We are all “pk’s” considering the animals you are fighting may actually be controlled by players.

At this point, I was beginning to suspect that the Glitchless team was working out of a mental ward.

(Joemc) Can we did or not? 🙂 i really think digging tunnels is needed. if it takes an extra year i will wait

(GL-Jeff) You will only be able to dig vertically.

CAT ASS ALERT. Somebody might want to explain to Jeff that the act of digging is, by it’s very nature, a VERTICAL ACTION. The question is regarding whether or not you could dig a tunnel through a mountain for example, or create a system of tunnels. I am curious personally what function digging has, if all you can do is dig a hole to China.

(ArcadianDelSol) Is the beta going to be free, or will you use the Red Dragon method of paid beta testers getting advanced accounts on release?

(GL-Jeff) The beta will be free.

Well, you knew I’d get at least one question in there, right? All I ask is some credit for slipping in a Red Dragon reference.

(Lobber) About armor: Will it take more than one person and a quite a bit of time to put on plate mail armor as it is in real life? Will salt air and especially salt water increase the degradation of leather armor? Will it be possible to tan leather with the brains of the beast you slew for the leather?

(GL-Jeff) I can’t go into the details of armor preparation.

This significance of this question might be lost to those not familiar with the ambitious nature of Dawn, but be sure to read it as it was certainly meant to be read: dripping with syrupy sarcasm.

(Elena) much discussion about PKing, Can you tell us the status on it. Many will not go on a game with pkers. thanks

(GL-Jeff) There are no restrictions on PvP combat. This is the only way to allow players to enforce laws and rules.

Okay at this point I did stop paying attention. Why? Because I realized that glitchless, the developers of Dawn, were also not paying attention. They were not paying attention to the potential customers, they were not paying attention to the voices in the community, and they were not paying attention to the three years of mistakes and recoveries made by the various online game developers and producers. One need only look at the history of changes and updates made to Ultima Online to see why the proposed system called Dawn will fail and will fail hard. Anyone who ignores precedent and established industry history is a fool – plain and simple. Dawn will either learn the costly lessons learned by OSI, or they will fail.

One last question, because the answer to this one really takes the cake:

(Drackill1) I am from England and I am just wondering will people outside of america still have no lag. Because i have read somewhere on your site that the netcode is superb. So people outside of america should still have a good connection?

(GL-Jeff) our code eliminates about 500ms worth of lag. anymore than that and you may experience a little lag, but it shouldn’t be anything detrimental.

Yes, that’s right – Glitchless has created MAGIC CODE that has eliminated lag. While I might not purchase an account for Dawn, I am looking forward to other implementations of the lag-free code – such as email, web browsers, IRC, FTP and of course, imagine what Napster would be like if this MAGIC DAWN CODE was implemented. Forget making gimped PK fests, guys – you should really sit down and have a discussion with CISCO.

CRIME AND NON-PUNISHMENT – THE FALL OF ASHERON’S CALL [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

The oldest known tablets of actual human language are all about the same thing. They have been discovered in the mountains of China, the sands of Egypt, and the crags in South Dakota. From the moment he first learned to speak, and to record his words into clay, man realized that without a code of law to govern, and without elders capable of enforcing this code, there could be no tranquility. As the world is chaotic by nature, without the relentless infliction of order, he was destined to return to the caves and caverns of his early ancestors.

Today, we live under a enforced code of law that attempts to legislate ethical and moral behavior. It remains virtually unchanged in the entire history of human development, from the moment the first cuneaformic runes were pressed and baked into tablets. We have the whole of history to look to for examples of what happens to even the greatest of empires, when the law is not enforced and the people are left to their own accord. Every fallen nation and every defeated empire shared the same pattern. They started out with a clear and direct code of ethics, and it was enforced without reservation. With time and luxury, came complacency. Complacency bred apathy, and once apathy has it’s grasp around the throat of a civilization, it’s statues are destined to topple. Those who have no problem violating the law, will do so with abandon. They will run amok in the streets, and those who choose to adhere to the law regardless of any lack of enforcement, will either move away, or die.

Nearly every large city on the Earth today is suffering from the same disease that toppled the Roman Empire. Crime unpunished has so rotted the inner cities, that those who are able to move out, do. As crime spreads “to where the food is”, people move further and further away from the inner cities, leaving behind only those who simply cannot leave, and those who choose to remain and enjoy the life of crime without consequence. There are portions of every major city where the local law enforcement does not go – they have surrendered these territories, and have taken the struggle to the suburban regions where the war against crime has not yet been lost.

The great boast of Asheron’s Call was the fact that they didn’t punish bug abusers, publicly stating that bugs that remain in the code are the fault of the developers, and efforts should be put into place to fix the bug, rather than spend time addressing the bug abusers. This is the equivalent of letting bank robbers walk free with their lucre, because you’d rather invest your efforts into improving the security measures of the bank vault than putting the thieves in jail. After all, could you not argue that had the vault been properly secured by it’s “developers”, the robbers wouldn’t have been able to steal any money?

What this does is issue an open invitation to the “ethically challenged” members of society, be it online or real. As we’ve seen in our inner cities, this will ultimately destroy any sense of security and protection the honest players ever had. They will feel vulnerable, and inferior because they refuse to break the law. Ultimately, they will pack up and leave, surrendering the territory to the lawless. Ultima Online came closer than most people realize, to turning out the lights and locking the doors. Cheating was unbridled and unpunished, and the “victims of crime” were moving out. They realized that in order to remain in operation, they would have to be proactive against exploitation and bug abuse. This decision was difficult, but it was one that saved Ultima Online.

We drive cars on paved roads, fly across the ocean by the hundreds, and send explorers into space almost monthly. We have come a long way since leaving the crags and caverns, but not without paying a high price to enforce and protect the fragile balance between order and lawless anarchy. We have fought bloody wars over it, but survive to this day because we have our record of history as a barometer. Essentially, we continue to learn from our mistakes and armed with that education, continue to advance as a civilization. Asheron’s Call has the history of Ultima Online to look at and learn from, but for some reason has decided to ignore the costly lessons already learned by Origin Systems. Rome ignored the same lessons, and now tourists flock to look at it’s ruins.

Turbine fiddles while Asheron’s Call burns.

IT’S JUST A GAME… [Author: Lums Other Half]

Several stories lately have brought the \’e2\’80\’98it\’e2\’80\’99s just a game\’e2\’80\’99 defense out of the woodwork. This is such a handy little catchphrase, and people that for whatever reason do not care to exercise any self restraint in cyberspace, justify their own actions, look for ways to cheat without any of that nasty guilt, or just generally feel that they are the center of the universe in any of their amusements trot it out early and often. But then \’e2\’80\ldblquote some people are just broken.

This isn\’e2\’80\’99t about the community vs. game argument. Many people feel the social nature of MMORPGs make them more virtual communities \’e2\’80\ldblquote but the word community brings with it a different natural set of expectations and personal rules. True enough \’e2\’80\ldblquote it IS a game as well, but when did we start hanging aside our morals and ethics when playing games?

When I was growing up, games were supposed to do many things. Teach you teamwork, fairplay, sportsmanship, how to lose gracefully \’e2\’80\ldblquote as well as how to win gracefully, discipline, self-confidence, respect for the rules of play (law) \’e2\’80\ldblquote and a host of other interpersonal skills. Do they not teach this anymore? This was all in addition to the activity being enjoyable and for \’e2\’80\’98fun\’e2\’80\’99.

There are many games we play. Can you imagine what a football, soccer, bowling or chess tournament would turn into if common social rules weren\’e2\’80\’99t adhered to simply because they weren\’e2\’80\’99t \’e2\’80\’98in the written rules\’e2\’80\’99? Actually \’e2\’80\ldblquote we don\’e2\’80\’99t have to imagine, there have been riots both on and off the field on occasion over \’e2\’80\’98just a game\’e2\’80\’99. On occasion, people have lost their life over \’e2\’80\’98just a game\’e2\’80\’99. There has been mass property destruction by fans over \’e2\’80\’98just a game\’e2\’80\’99. Suffice it to say \’e2\’80\ldblquote what game really doesn\’e2\’80\’99t matter \’e2\’80\ldblquote some people take their entertainment and commitment to their chosen sport seriously.

Humans are not unique to playing games. Many animals engage in what can be anthropomorphized as \’e2\’80\’98games\’e2\’80\’99 when young. This trains and prepares them for later life. Small kittens (well, all the cat family) have very playful young with hunting games that will train them later in preparation to be hunters. We may be more unique in that our \’e2\’80\’98games\’e2\’80\’99 carry thru to adulthood \’e2\’80\ldblquote and we engage in them more for the entertainment than training value. The truth is \’e2\’80\ldblquote humans never stop absorbing and learning. Any parent can tell you \’e2\’80\ldblquote children tend to learn more when lessons are wrapped inside a game. Throw a little fun in the mix \’e2\’80\ldblquote lessons tend to stick better.

So \’e2\’80\ldblquote what are MMORPG players learning?

It\’e2\’80\’99s ok to screw someone over just because you don\’e2\’80\’99t know them.

Whether you are in the \’e2\’80\’98just a game\’e2\’80\’99 camp \’e2\’80\ldblquote or the virtual community camp \’e2\’80\ldblquote I think everyone can agree that there are other people than ourselves in these worlds. That\’e2\’80\’99s like what the MM stands for in MMORPG. We SHARE these worlds with other PEOPLE. Every one of those little pixilated people we see running about that is player controlled has a PERSON standing right there over their shoulder. True, we usually don\’e2\’80\’99t know them personally \’e2\’80\ldblquote although friendships can form. True, we may not know this stranger \’e2\’80\ldblquote but then \’e2\’80\ldblquote do you usually know the folks sitting around you at a football game past those that might have come with you? I am sure my perception of this comes partially from the fact I\’e2\’80\’99ve never known a stranger in my entire life (something that worried my mother no end when I was very young). A stranger is simply a friend I haven\’e2\’80\’99t met yet. But common social decency says I do NOT mistreat a person simply because I haven\’e2\’80\’99t met them yet. And you know what \’e2\’80\ldblquote I expect that same courtesy extended back \’e2\’80\ldblquote usually it is.

It\’e2\’80\’99s ok to screw someone over as long as it\’e2\’80\’99s just digitally.

Then of course there is the popular argument that this is cyberspace \’e2\’80\ldblquote it\’e2\’80\’99s not REAL. Ummm, excuse me \’e2\’80\ldblquote I am VERY real, every person online is VERY real. The medium I choose to interact with you thru is just as \’e2\’80\’98real\’e2\’80\’99 as if I sent you a letter \’e2\’80\ldblquote or picked up the phone. If you are in the camp that truly thinks cyberspace isn\’e2\’80\’99t real \’e2\’80\ldblquote how do you feel about getting harassed in the mail or on the phone? You aren\’e2\’80\’99t face to face with that person either \’e2\’80\ldblquote it\’e2\’80\’99s merely thoughts being conveyed in a non face-to-face manner. The fact that the world and interactions are thru a digital interface and therefore somehow don\’e2\’80\’99t count is rationalization at it\’e2\’80\’99s best. Here\’e2\’80\’99s perhaps a better example that may hit home. Banking is done almost exclusively electronically in this day and age. Yes, we may still carry paper \’e2\’80\ldblquote but banks themselves do the majority of their business \’e2\’80\’98on line\’e2\’80\’99 by transferring information thru bits and bites. You pick up the phone one day to call your bank (gee, electronic communications again \’e2\’80\ldblquote see how far threatening to blow up the bank gets you cause \’e2\’80\ldblquote you know \’e2\’80\ldblquote you aren\’e2\’80\’99t face to FACE with the teller) \’e2\’80\ldblquote you KNOW you have money in your account but somehow now it\’e2\’80\’99s empty. The bank representative on the other end of the telephone tells you \’e2\’80\’9cSorry, I cannot help thee with that\’e2\’80\’9d \’e2\’80\ldblquote and you are expected not to be concerned since it\’e2\’80\’99s just electronic information you know \’e2\’80\’98not real\’e2\’80\’99. Yes, I realize it has an equivalent in real world paper money and time invested to earn \’e2\’80\ldblquote so do things earned in these \’e2\’80\’98games\’e2\’80\’99. If my chosen entertainment is X \’e2\’80\ldblquote and I invest time in X doing Y \’e2\’80\ldblquote I expect my earned rewards to be respected as my property to use as I see fit and as outlined in the rules of the game. If the game says I can be stolen from I won\’e2\’80\’99t like it, but I can accept it. If you use an exploit to steal \’e2\’80\ldblquote you have breached the rules and yes \’e2\’80\ldblquote I expect something to be done about it. You\’e2\’80\’99ve taken much more than electronic pixels and data \’e2\’80\ldblquote you have taken my time.

The it\’e2\’80\’99s not real camp usually tells folks that bring up these annoying details that they are somehow living in a fantasy world \’e2\’80\ldblquote or are out of touch with reality. Truth be known \’e2\’80\ldblquote who is the one really out of touch? Someone that includes a digital domain as part of the whole of our current existence and realizes there are people at the other end of the connection, or someone that conveniently excludes it to justify actions that their core self knows as wrong in any other setting? As someone recently pointed out NASDAQ is entirely electronic \’e2\’80\ldblquote if you think it\’e2\’80\’99s ok to steal or manipulate THAT game \’e2\’80\ldblquote the Feds will soon educate you differently.

It\’e2\’80\’99s ok to be an ass if someone isn\’e2\’80\’99t in punching distance of my nose.

Grief players love to use the rationalization of \’e2\’80\’98it\’e2\’80\’99s just a game\’e2\’80\’99 to turn loose all their antisocial tendencies. They say \’e2\’80\ldblquote but I\’e2\’80\’99m really a nice guy in RL, and turn into perfect assholes online. When it is observed that such desires and tendencies do not spring forth full grown from a vacuum they get quite upset. They are also at the forefront of the \’e2\’80\’98it\’e2\’80\’99s not real\’e2\’80\’99 crowd, and therefore justify their actions to themselves.

No matter how good a roleplayer you are \’e2\’80\ldblquote no matter what your online persona is, it comes from YOU. You can\’e2\’80\’99t make a silk purse out of a sow\’e2\’80\’99s ear \’e2\’80\ldblquote if the raw materials aren\’e2\’80\’99t there, they aren\’e2\’80\’99t going to manifest magically in a digital media. With the occasional exception of someone else scripting (like a movie or a play) what we do online is extremely revealing of our true inner self. Who and what we would be when the normal social mores aren\’e2\’80\’99t present. This presents two options \’e2\’80\ldblquote as an opportunity for positive growth, or an opportunity to wallow in base instincts. While this may not turn anyone into a criminal, or a mass murderer \’e2\’80\ldblquote it\’e2\’80\’99s really not psychologically healthy in an immersive longterm environment. This is especially critical when it comes to younger players who are still all the more impressionable and forming their worldview. Especially in \’e2\’80\’98games\’e2\’80\’99 where direct head to head competition is not the prime or sole focus. I won\’e2\’80\’99t debate here about the psychology of FPSs like Quake \’e2\’80\ldblquote at least in Quake everyone is there FOR THE SAME REASON. That is not true of MMORPGs.

Anything goes as long as I don\’e2\’80\’99t get caught or stopped.

Those that maintain it\’e2\’80\’99s ok if the rules let me do it are relying solely on the letter of the law, not the spirit. This is especially true of exploiters. This is totally abdicating personal responsibility to what developers are able to foresee and prevent in hard coded rules. Unfortunately \’e2\’80\ldblquote the developers of these are still human, they really aren\’e2\’80\’99t Gods. As humans, they are going to miss things. If common sense and the spirit of the game says I cannot walk thru a wall \’e2\’80\ldblquote but somehow I find a way to \’e2\’80\ldblquote the only thing stopping me is my own personal ethics and sense of fairplay. To many in this medium \’e2\’80\ldblquote they justify their actions as acceptable because the game mechanics allowed it.

People bemoan that these worlds are static, that they have no real impact on them. I humbly submit, we all DO have an impact. We impact each other thru our interactions both good and bad. We can make another\’e2\’80\’99s time a little more enjoyable, or a little more miserable.

So, the next time you log onto your favorite MMORPG take a second to consider what you may be learning \’e2\’80\ldblquote but perhaps more importantly \’e2\’80\ldblquote WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING?

STATISTICS [Author: Lietgardis]

First, the definitions. I called articles that praised or otherwise supported actions taken by developers and/or administrators “good,” including opinions implicit in news reports (like this or this). “Bad” essays disparaged actions taken by developers and/or administrators, including opinions implicit in news reports (like this or this). The “neutral” tag went to bits that expressed opinions both positive and negative about actions taken by developers and/or administrators, ultimately balancing out (example here). “Community news” expressed no feelings on actions taken by developers and/or administrators (like this), and “other” pieces addressed AC, but were not posted with the AC icon (like this update, or this example).

Out of a total of 57 updates devoted to AC, the majority consisted of “community news” — 42%, or 24 updates. The next highest percentage went to positive coverage; “good” came in at 25%, or 14 updates. The lesser count of 16% fell into the “bad” category, with 9 updates. Only two articles fit the “neutral” definition, taking 3%, and eight were left in the “other” bin, with 12% of the total.

For personal attack ammunition, I’ve also tallied writer scores. Lum wrote the most updates: 21. 14% (3) of them were “good,” 9% (2) were “bad,” 66.6% (14) were “community,” and 19% (4) were “other.” He dealt mostly with general issues — the writings I’ve labelled “good” and “bad” were implicit news pieces, not manifestoes, with one exception I’ll get to later. Delusion came in second with 19 updates, 47% (9) of which were “good,” 5% (1) “bad,” 31% (6) “community,” and 5% (1) “other;” nearly all of the opinion pieces are about game content. I’m next, having written eleven pieces: 18% (2) “good,” 45% (5) “bad,” 9% (1) “community,” and 18% (2) “other.” The majority of those opinions have been recent, and have dealt with exploitation (to go further, three on exploits, one on content, and two implicit “bad” pieces of “community” news). And Myschyf wrote three: two “community” notices, and one “other.”

These findings can’t be understood in vacuum — remember changes here, follow the arc of public opinion. Lum started covering the game, while not playing it, earlier than I started the tally; Delusion came on as staff in late January, when everyone was hailing AC as the next best thing to the second coming of Christ. He started playing and writing less as time went on, and then I started playing in June, after an aborted attempt in early January.

While writers’ beats were changing here, the AC community was undergoing a fundamental change in thinking on their own. No longer seeing the game as the next best thing to the second coming of Christ, but without words to explain it, they coasted through the summer and early fall, discontent and mostly silent. As the game’s content continued to follow the patterns they disliked, the vocal masses became more articulate, coming to a head this month — thank Musashi for giving words to many, but don’t give him credit for revolutionary ideas.

It’s no conspiracy that AC’s flaws are being exposed with a greater frequency now than in the past. Look at the difference between Delusion’s early writings and what he’s saying now — there’s emotion there. It reflects what I see in the game’s community at large, and it’s not an attempt to smear a company or scandalize events for hits. It’s a genuine attempt to communicate. The 24 HOUR NEON HOUSE OF LOVEY LOVEY POSITIVE COMMENTARY wouldn’t contribute to any solutions; it would contribute only to continuation. The time to ask for continuation is over.

To return to a more expected tone and to the original pace, note that the very first article posted about AC this year was by Lum, and addressed the banning policy. I put it in the “bad” cagegory.

For the full count, complete with links to each and every update, their categories, authors, and cute titles devised by me, see my notes. If you’d like to do a recount, feel free; no court will slap your hand and tell you to stop. Math corrections are encouraged. Thank you and good night.

UPDATE ON THE BATTLE OF PRINCIPLE [Author: Lietgardis]

“First, to address the NPK issue. It has always been our policy ever since shipping Asheron’s Call that if players make use of a bug that we did not catch, or did not have time to fix before releasing the game, we would not punish them for our mistake. Instead of spending our resources to crack down on the offenders, and do an uneven and arbitrary job of it, we direct our efforts instead toward fixing those bugs as soon as possible. The exceptions to this are with those bugs that significantly affect the performance or stability of the game.

“… The bug that allows NPKs into the Soul Stone’s dungeon has been known about for quite awhile [sic], but until now, has not had a far-reaching impact. Unfortunately, now it could potentially have a negative impact on the group of players who are pulling together to defend the last Soul Stone. While we feel it would be unfortunate and disappointing if a player or group of players would decide to exploit this bug in order to ruin the original intent of this quest, we simply do not believe in the selective punishment of players.”

For more context, check this IRC log — it appears as though the stalwart defenders are exploiting to their hearts’ content as well.

The entire process is corrupt.

Let me know when the Zone gets its own Tyrant.

“FOUNDATION’S CRACK” or “HOW HIGH IS YOUR CEILING?” [Author: delusion]

I feel obligated to post disclaimers here: I love Turbine. I love Asheron’s Call. I respect the way Turbine’s addressed some sticky issues, and I have a lot of respect for the creativity of the dev team: there’s some inventiveness, some quirkiness, and some real passion for the game.

I just want to be able to, you know, do something, but I can’t.

I’m not a career MRPG gamer. I’m what some would derisively call a “casual gamer”. Early in the game, I eagerly powerlevelled to the extent that a non-draining non-lifemage could, and got into the 30-something levels when that was still considered “almost, but not quite, high level”.

Now as my “main” character walks past a group, the “level 38” tag isn’t anything to look twice at. In fact, it’s rather mundane.

And that’s a key word: “mundane”. It’s taken as an article of faith that any character in the 20-levels (and higher, these days) is played by someone whose “main” character is in the 60s or 70s.

Go into #asherons-call and strike up a conversation. Go ahead and try to discuss anything other than the month’s latest super-high level content. Talk about content ideas that would benefit all players regardless of level.

Talk about the benefits of the game-within-a-game concept, giving players ways to “compete” that don’t involve 12-hour powerlevelling sessions, the addition of items that aren’t designed to make stuff die faster, and there’s a fundamental disconnect in the chat.

It’s like walking into an elementary school in Georgia and screaming obscenities in Basque while gesticulating violently. They raise an eyebrow, back away, and continue their discussion about the best template to beat the game, and how to get it to 40th level through twinking, when it finally becomes playable.

Turbine, here’s a news flash: most of your players haven’t made it to the point where they can fight diamond golems. The players you’re spending all of the time designing content for are a small minority, and nobody else can touch it. Furthermore, most of your players don’t play Darktide, and while those who do tend to log in more hours than those who don’t, they represent a small slice of your userbase. I’m not suggesting that they don’t have needs and desires to be filled – not by a long shot – but balance changes that address the immediate concerns of 3% of your playerbase but guide 90% of the development work are inherently lopsided.

I’m not suggesting Turbine stop raising the ceiling, either. That’s not bad, in itself. When the only way to experience the content of the month is to have the template of the week, that is bad. Note I didn’t say “beat”, because I’m all for monsters that you have to group to kill. But the casual player is left out in the cold entirely, with the option to maybe do BDC for the 705th time. The new content for the last several updates might as well not even exist for most players.

Casual players aren’t the ones who cry “foul” on the CoD Dev board within minutes after finding out that, yes, new 200th level monsters are hard, and can’t be killed solo. Casual players aren’t the ones who give the fan sites pictures of the latest dungeons by 5:00pm the day that they’re enabled. Casual players just get to read about all this stuff and hope that, since they don’t log in 20-40 hours of game time per week, they might be able to kill a diamond golem with three of their casual player friends by December 2001. The vocal minority, the powergamers, the people who log 40 hours of game time per week, the people 20 hours of active IRC time per week, they’re the only ones benefitting from the patches every month, and something as “mundane” as a diamond golem is derisively called a “legacy monster” in their ranks.

Catering solely to the highest level gamers has a price – you lose the people in the cheap seats. AC isn’t going to sell 50,000 new copies in 2001 because they added monsters that some 80th level player actually needs to bring a friend along to defeat. Again, I’m not suggesting that the template-tweaking powergamer community is playing “wrong” or that they don’t deserve notice, but – and this is critical – there are other people playing this game, too, and a continual supply of new gamers is rather crucial.

Casual gamers are patient. They’re forgiving and they want you to address their concerns, too, but they won’t wait forever.

Zure ama emagaldua da, alu hori! Zoaz popatik hartzera! * rude, vaguely sexual fist-pumping motions *

COFFIN NAIL #1 [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

From the LucasArts website, comes the following Press Release regarding the progress of the anticipated game, Obi Wan:

Following an extensive review of the project and a great deal of deliberation, LucasArts Entertainment Company has ceased development of Star Wars: Obi-Wan for the PC. The expected breadth and scope of the Obi-Wan project could not be met given limitations of technology and the company’s recently heightened quality standards. LucasArts is now planning to bring the game and its assets to a next generation console platform. Further announcements will be made in this regard next year.

LucasArts remains fully committed to developing games for the PC platform, as evidenced by its current development alliances with Verant Interactive, BioWare Corporation, and other soon to be announced projects.

We wish to thank our fans for their continued support through this process and assure them that our number one goal is to provide them with high quality, fun games.

Coffin nail #1 has just been hammered.

ONLINE RPG WEEK: ULTIMA ONLINE [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Once again the voice of bias echoes down the antechamber of Gamespot.com, and the annual “let’s go and invalidate ourselves” festival is underway. The festival is always initiated by yet another biting review of Ultima Online. To my best recollection, this would be the seventh time they have reviewed UO. I keep holding out hope that they will one day actually obtain a copy of Ultima Online and I don’t know – maybe install it and see what the game is like. And by that, I don’t mean creating a newbie and running around Haven for fifteen minutes. Desslock has done that particular review four times himself. This is the equivalent of Car and Driver magazine winding down the window of a new Mercedes, taking a sniff of the interior smell, and composing a sixteen page dissertation on the failures and incompatibilities of it’s on-board navigational system. However, I must give credit to Andrew Park for breaking free of the Desslock Manifesto, and actually providing a digested presentation of Ultima Online, balancing the good against the bad.

Calling out Grief Players:

“Ultima Online’s free-for-all player-vs.-player combat system, which originally let any player attack any other player at any point in time, led to a population of “grief players” – powerful player-killer characters who hunt other weaker characters. These grief players would either loot their victims’ corpses or simply enjoy the mean-spirited thrill of killing another player’s character.”

Calling out Counselor Lawsuits:

“In exchange for their services, counselors would receive free Ultima Online accounts. Recently, EA repealed the free-account program for counselors, which prompted many volunteers (and ex-volunteers) to file a class-action lawsuit that claimed that counselors were due compensation for their efforts.”

Calling out Market Impact:

“…gradual improvement and progression by means of regular patching has not only become accepted, but it has become a standard practice for all online role-playing games. That’s because Ultima Online set the precedent for online role-playing games to be more than simply games, but rather online worlds…”

The full article is a fair and balanced digest of the history of Ultima Online, and wraps up with some information about Third Dawn. You can read the whole article here.

SHATTERING SHARDS AND DREAMS [Author: Lietgardis]

To explain, the quest ends with the destruction of the Shard of the Herald, the final soul stone binding AC’s most visible Bad Guy. As most would agree this is a Bad Thing, the final dungeon is PvP+ only — again, giving players the impression they can affect their game. Groups of player defenders and attackers were expected to form, conveniently creating dynamic content. On all servers save one, though, the information elite were able to go in and destroy the crystal without most players aware the quest existed.

If that wasn’t cheap enough, consider the situation on that last world. Thistledown mounted a defense over the weekend, one that’s been supported around the clock. Setting aside the true motives of the organizers, they apparently intend to protect the crystal until the next patch three weeks from now. While the storyline still requires the crystal to be destroyed, it would be something special for this one server to get away with a solid defense until the end. You know, pretending like a group of players can impact the world.

At any moment, though, a small group of players could waltz right through the dungeon and destroy the crystal with no threat from the defenders. Portal exploits allow non-PvP-flagged characters to enter the dungeon, nullifying the defense. They would sit and watch, helpless, while white dots killed what they’d spent days defending. While not as destructive as duping, it’s a serious morale issue — imagine watching that shard shatter, helpless, because of poor game administration.

And it is poor game administration. Microsoft will not bring the servers down to fix the issue, and have so far refused to devote anything to the situation — no advocates will be stationed in the dungeon. Exploiters will not be teleported out of the dungeon, will not be spoken to, and will not be banned. They’ll get away with it. It’s tacit acceptance of exploitation, the acceptance that’s been present in the game since release.

It’s not too late to change policy. Enforce ethics — this doesn’t need to be a game where deliberate and willfull exploiters are allowed to exist without sanction. If advocates won’t be stationed in the dungeon around the clock, take measures after the fact. If a band of NPKs destroy the crystal, just ban the assholes. They’ve deliberately and willfully broken the rules. They’ll have ruined the one last stand of players trying to physically affect their world in a positive way. Is there a good reason why they should still be allowed in the game?