THAT’S WHY THEY CALL THIS AN ALPHA, BOYS AND GIRLS [Author: Lum the Mad]

I finally got a chance to play UO Third Dawn this evening. Too bad I didn’t wait for the psychotropics to wash out of my bloodstream first, as evidenced by these screenshots (click on them for full size shots if you’re exceptionally masochistic):

I tried hitting the “UO3D Bug Board” button from the logon screen, pretty sure that pulsating green spotlights from Gehenna were some sort of bug, but got an Access Denied error. Clearly, access for me tonight was DENIED.

By the way, these screenshots are, of course, all copyright © 2001 Stratics. All rights reserved.

SPEAKING OF SCREENSHOTS… [Author: Lum the Mad]

Rosh, the drunken

Riley, unclear on the concept but still amusing

Howdy, on a sacred quest

Frizz, lost in the seventies

Ian Greycloak, because we can all relate

Stretch, literary critic

Hermes, slayer of lummies

Flux, confused about what game he is actually in

Alf, proving no man is an island

Ithaqua, part of the anti-elven jihad in good standing

Rothgarr, going where no gump has gone before

Tyron, proof that politeness is important

Alyssa, goddam tamer

Goo the Lowly, rich beggar

Geryak, bringer of headaches

Drahcir, method actor

Nethin, another goddam tamer

Imes O’Manley, small and insignificant

Glendor, baker of cookies

Egor, laying down the smacketh

DUDE, OF COURSE IT’S REAL! THERE WERE *SCREENSHOTS!* [Author: Lum the Mad]

Last weekend we were emailed this link.

While at first I was, um, somewhat doubtful about whether or not the GMs at OSI really do sit around the workstations and rename everyone to “a homosexual” while getting pissed on Everclear, I did actually try to confirm the “story” by asking someone at OSI, who immediately made fun of me and threatened to rename my own character to “a retard”.

For those of you who still want to believe, though, this one’s for you.

In a related story, N’Sync terrorizes young children.

FAMOUS AUTHOR NO MATCH FOR SMALL CUTE KITTEN [Author: Lum the Mad]

Stratics, the network that wants you to be sure you understand that they have a “royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use, copy, modify, display, distribute and reproduce all such materials in any form, media, software or technology of any kind now existing or developed in the future” when you post your screenshots in their forums, has posted an interview with Raymond Feist, author of the Midkemia series of novels (basis for, among other things, the Krondor series of CRPGs.) Among other things, he was asked his opinion of current MMOGs.

Ultima [Online] was rich in imagery, but chaotic. It made no sense that as soon as I entered the game, a cat attacked me, until I read about “PKs” and discovered that if you took the skill “pets” and had a cat or dog that killed some character, you got the points and goodies.

ph33r the PK KITTENS. Biyotch. Be sure to check out the rest of his incredibly informed opinions on MMOGs (according to him, storytelling in MMOGs is really hard, so we probably shouldn’t bother) here.

AND THE ENVELOPE PLEASE… [Author: Lum the Mad]

OW! I MUST OW! QUIT OW! SHOOTING MYSELF OW! IN THE OW! FOOT AWARD: To Verant Interactive, for trying to save themselves from their own bad publicity. From the strange and terrible visionquest of Abashi, to the Terrific Trio of profane Tweety, sadistic Mystere, and pathological Sheyla, in a year where Origin decided to go about working on quietly screwing up behind closed doors, the guys at Verant bravely stepped up to the plate and kept us in stories all year. Then, in a publicity coup at year’s end, they invite the editor of this somewhat notorious website into their lair and manage not to kill him in an impromptu “GM Event”. Thanks, dudes!

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, WE THINK AWARD: Ultima Online’s faction system. One of the big features of UO:Renaissance, which hit store shelves in April, finally delivered in December – just in time for the next expansion. Complete with weird bugs like guards that suck up faction resources even when dead and “features” like blue vultures that no one really wants to talk about. Woo woo! On the other hand, we all can now say “Designer Adrick” and not snicker uncontrollably. Growth is good.

WE’RE SMART, WE’RE PRETTY, AND GOSH DARN IT, PEOPLE LIKE US AWARD: Asheron’s Call, which spent 2000 as the Avis of MMOGs. Sure, bugs that cripple PvP are explained away as “features” or ignored entirely, it took them almost a year to implement basic secure trading, and the developers seem easily distracted by pretty young things bearing Twinkies, but, you know, they mean well. And really, isn’t that all that’s important in life?

THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES AWARD: The UO ex-Volunteer lawsuit, three months later and still winding its way slowly through the courts, kind of like the faction system. Only when the courts res-kill you, it hurts.

WE’RE NOT DEAD YET! WE’RE FEELING MUCH BETTER! I FEEL HAPP-PY! AWARD: To the Vault Network, which has so far outlived the October obituary we printed, whistling merrily in the dark.

THERE’S NO GAME HERE. THESE AREN’T THE DESIGNERS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. YOU CAN GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. MOVE ALONG AWARD: To the Star Wars Galaxies team, which really, honestly, truly would like to tell you something, anything, anything at all about their game, but so far haven’t, yet. You can just see Raph Koster jumping up and down in his chair, sort of like our old mascot the butt-hopping Jesus, dying to talk nuts and bolts about quest psychology or monster ecology balancing or …well ANYTHING. And you can just see the stormtroopers standing by either side of his chair. With blaster rifles.

THIS IS MY GAME. THERE ARE OTHER GAMES BUT THIS ONE IS MINE. I MUST DEFEND MY GAME FROM OTHER GAMES WHICH ARE TRYING TO KILL IT AWARD: A tie between Shadowbane, Horizons, Anarchy Online, Dawn, Dark Age of Camelot, Atriarch, World War Two Online… did I miss any? I’m sure my email in five minutes will let me know. The truly frightening thing is that no game that you can actually, you know, play engenders this level of psychotic fanaticism. Perhaps virgins do make the best lovers.

SPECIAL ACHIEVMENT IN TECHNICAL BRILLIANCE AWARD: Dawn, for capturing the attention of the massively multiplayer community for much more than their alloted fifteen minutes, despite not actually having the faintest prospect of ever producing, you know, a game. Proof that hype does matter.

MICHAEL JACKSON LIVES ON IN ALL OF US AWARD: The Whatever the Hell It’s Called Now Game, which managed to, despite by all appearances mating a state-of-the-art 3D graphics engine with a truly persistent world and complex player interactions beyond mere levelling, manage to get everyone to talk over and over about various iterations of BIKINILADY. Some of us, apparently, really do just want to Play to Dance.

BEST IMITATION OF A MILK CARTON IN THE MMOG GENRE AWARD: Have you seen this man?

GODDAM, I AM SO FUCKING GLAD LUM DOESN’T PRINT SMURF SCANDALS ANY MORE AWARD: SLC Tigger.

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM: When EQ Vault’s database puked and barfed up stories from a year ago, they immediately appeared on Everlore as current news, and hundreds of EQ players wondered why John Smedley was threatening to change the EULA to scan their hard drives again. We’re told that, um, they don’t do that any more. Really. They now get their news straight from Whineplay like everyone else, goddamit!

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM, PART DEUX: For some reason, Stratics now thinks that every Stratics site now needs an End User License Agreement just as insanely prohibitive and legalistic as the ones you ignore every time you install a software program. So if your computer crashes, it’s not Stratics’ fault, OK? Rumors that Stratics management had their sense of humor surgically removed unconfirmed at press time, but it just sort of makes sense, so we’ll believe it anyway.

THE FINEST MOMENT IN ONLINE JOURNALISM, PART TROIS: “Shut up and give me my ten bucks per month, little man. My Porsche needs some performance upgrades.”

ZUT ALORS! YOU THEENK YOU WILL PLAY OUR LEETLE GAME? VEE VILL SHOW YOO! AWARD: Mankind, which in possibly the most insanely screwed up attempt at “play balancing” ever seen in MMOGs actually took away from new players any starting funds to, you know, play the game with. This added an entirely new level of complexity to the game, which forced newbies to beg for money from French people. In a surprising coincidence, the developers of Mankind are French! The metaphors are just… spellbinding.

KEEP FEELING FASC-I-NATION AWARD: To us, for being ever so fascinated by something almost every woman has two of. And to the gaming industry, for feeding our most maternal of addictions.

BUT WE THOUGHT NO ONE WOULD NOTICE! AWARD: To KoC, thrown out of duping in UO, currently roxx0ring Darktide on AC, and in between duped the Neverwinter Nights website.

THE FUNNIEST BUG OF THE YEAR AWARD: The day Origin just cut out the damned middleman and duped gold for you.

THE DAY THE ULTIMA DIED AWARD: So bye, bye, Mr. Garriot, bye, took his Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry, all the good ol’ boys back at Origin Systems were drinkin’ whisky and wine and saying “this’ll be the day we’re laid off“…

CATCH PHRASE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Verant Interactive, who after discovering that shipping CDs was HARD early in the year discovered that, yes, many other things were hard too.

WHAT REALLY WAS HARD AWARD: All three of the current MMORPGs tried to have a plot. Some did well. Others, well, didn’t.

UM, IT WAS A NICE GESTURE, BUT I HOPE WE DIDN’T WIN FOR THE SAME REASONS AWARD: Brad McQuaid, who shared an accolade as one of the “New Gods of Gaming” with Stevie Case. One of them designed the largest selling MMORPG ever, the other has really large breasts. Can you pick which is which?

FOR ME, THIS WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF 2000, BUT YOU PROBABLY DON’T AGREE AWARD: Ogres are funny.

And finally, a big sincere thank you to the online gaming community, without which this website would be really, really boring. Thanks, and let’s hope we all continue to lurch amusingly to and fro next year.

TWO STATEMENTS FOR THE RECORD [Author: Lum the Mad]

You know, sledding around the ice-strewn pathways that our interstate highway system has become, I came back (before checking my own website, mind you) this morning to check my email and found the following statement in my email:

Just for the record… We/g.o.d., employ not one, not 2, but 5 women.

Jeff Smith

Preacher of the Word

Gathering of Developers (godgames.com)

Well, that’s nice, I thought to myself. Someone must have posted about breasts. And you know what? They did!

The second statement for the record is by me, on behalf of gamers everywhere – if a half naked woman handed me a free game, I’d be all over that. I mean, what, nudity, free stuff, women empowering themselves through the proud display of their natural beauty, what’s not to like?

Anyway, I obviously just don’t get it, so I’ll be quiet now and read the rest of my own website to see why people are emailing me about how many people with breasts are on their payroll and whether or not they are asked to display them to drooling fanboys at trade shows.

BOOBIES ARE BAD! [Author: myschyf]

“Gathering of Developers would like to extend its apologies for offending anyone with its T-shirt giveaway at the recent CPL event. Though we hired security to check IDs for 18+ during the length of the giveaways, Gathering does acknowledge that the giveaway approach was inappropriate for the event. None of the CPL event’s sponsors had any prior knowledge about the giveaway and Gathering extends its apologies to them as well.”

Ummm……. bullshit. Being under or over 18 years of age had nothing to do with this. You’d think we were all complaining that defenseless vulnerable underage geeks were being tempted by bare tits to sell their souls to the dark side. I believe no one has mentioned age, with the exception of G.O.D. Games.

Above and beyond that though, this type of behavior is par for the course for this company. They’ve never worried about offending anyone before, why worry now? I don’t especially care if the company if full of misogynistic sex addicts that jerk off to Penthouses strategically placed in the men’s bathrooms during their breaks. But if that’s what you are (and that’s about what they’ve demonstrated so far) — then be proud of it and don’t feed us some type of lame apology. They aren’t sorry. They’ve never been sorry. Hell they’d forgo having their games on display completely in their E3 trailer in favor of showing pornographic films or, better yet, live sex shows, if they thought they could get away with it.

Is it inappropriate? Hell yes its inappropriate. Does it make a genre already somewhat unfriendly to women even more unfriendly? Yeah but we’ll get over it, we always do. Women will probably outnumber men as players of computer games in the near future (oh wait — we already do) so our dollars will probably go to more women-friendly companies but hey! — don’t let that bother you. If sex is what you want to be known for then go for it. Don’t send us apologies. Stand up and be proud of what you are. Proclaim it loudly to the world. Demonstrate it on every street corner and have newspaper articles written about it. If I were a game developer I’d rather be known for making kick-ass games. Games that didn’t need some topless chick to sell. Some folks are different — to each his own. I guess its a matter of what one wants to spend his or her money on — topless chicks or developers who can design decent games. I know what I’ll be spending my money on.

We join our regularly scheduled comment thread, already in progress

AND G.O.D. SAID, LET THERE BE TITTIES [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

First let me be very clear about breasts: they are not evil. Without breasts, very few of us would be alive today. For the overwhelming majority of humans, the breast was our first sentient meal; our first independent act, and the first contact with another human outside of the uterus. The cool thing about breasts is that putting aside the biological marvel that they indeed are, breasts are kinda fun. They are the physical embodiment of all the intangible aspects of womanhood which society holds highly (or used to, at any rate). So make sure to read and absorb this testimonial: Arcadian Likes Breasts.

Having said that, I think what Gathering Of Developers did was unethical and unprofessional. Having strippers rip off their shirts for leering game geeks (and face it, anyone who thinks QuakeIII is a sport, is Lord of the Game Geeks), is not the modus operandi of a successful, professional company. It is the death rattle of a dying enterprise, and an excellent way to sell used cars. For a company who operates out of a cathedral and in a fit of creativity, calls itself G.O.D. – the whole stunt feels trite, contrived, and smacks of “gimmick”. The sin here is not in letting geeky catassers grab a fistful of tit, but rather, in using breasts as a diversion and a distraction. In my opinion, a good product doesn’t need a diversion, and a successful enterprise doesn’t need to distract its clientele. If it does, that should serve as a warning about the products they want you to purchase. My personal message to the ownership of Gathering Of Developers would be simple: “Enough with the Used Car Dealer mentality and the adolescent marketing tactics. Stop spending your money on whores, and spend a little more in research, development, and quality assurance.”

What does this say about the gaming industry? It is still male dominated, male directed, and male focused. Women just step aside. What does this say about Gathering of Developers? Well, browsing their website, it is no shocker that they employ no women. While I am not a woman myself, if I were, I would probably not bother to apply for a position there, unless it was Missionary. Within the cathedral walls of G.O.D., women are sex toys.

Breasts are good. Breasts are fun.

But if you need to use naked tits to get me interested in what you are doing, then clearly what you are doing is not all that interesting.

update: Here’s a quick glimpse of the marketing wizard who brings us stripper chicks and erect nipples from a church in Texas:

Fitting the profile

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL DIABLO II FANATICS [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

On January 1, 2001 at 12:01 a.m. PT, the Diablo II Standard and Hardcore Ladders will be reset signifying the start of the new season. All characters created before January 1, 2001 will no longer appear on the Ladder. If you wish to be on the Diablo II Ladder after this date you will have to create a new character following the reset. The Diablo II Ladder reset will not otherwise affect any existing characters and no characters will be deleted. The Battle.net site will list the top 10 Ladder players on each ladder for each Realm. The new Ladder season does not have a final ending date however it is probable that the next Ladder reset will occur when the Diablo II Expansion is released.

EVERQUEST APPEARS ON THAT THING WEBTV RUNS ON THAT I USED TO WATCH DEEP SPACE NINE ON. DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT VOYAGER. JUST DON’T. [Author: Lum the Mad]

In case you actually watch TV (I don’t, unless it’s to watch Gladiator again. Maximus! Maximus! MAXIMUS!) you may have noticed the following two guest starring roles our favorite MMOG Whipping Boy appeared in. The first sighting comes from The Hanged Man:

If you get a chance check out the CNN news rotation. Everquest: Scars of Velious was actually covered in a CNN story. It was an entertainment piece about adult entertainment online but they noted that supposedly 250,000 copies of SOV have been sold in the past month and led that into a business segment about Sony and the various ways they are getting station members to play other games besides Everquest on their site. So it was an entertainment/business piece on CNN in their rotation. My jaw dropped when I turned on CNN and saw some guy with a big red sword whacking 3 gnolls on CNN.

The second sighting comes from someone who wrote in to EQ Vault with the following can’t-make-this-up newsbit (unlike other reputable web sites, we actually tell you when we steal our news from EQ Vault!):

Seems that on the latest episode of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus with Sybill Shepherd was titled “Is He Married To Me\’e2\’80\’a6Or His Computer?”. The first person they had out for the interview mentioned that he works 8 hours on a computer, and then comes home and plays on his computer for 8 hours, apparantly neglecting family. What did he mention he did at home? Everquest. EQ got some free (albeit negative) publicity on the show, which my fiancee made me watch. Anyone else catch this? You can go to their website at http://www.marsvenustv.com but there isn’t anything there that mentions EQ specifically. The guy definately did NOT make EQers look good, by the way.

Wynnie Frostdagger

Rogue of the 30th Pilfer

Rodcet Nife

And just in case you haven’t run screaming for the door yet, Miss Tweety over on corpnews.com is relaying the rumors published by one of those print mags (you know, if it’s in print, it’s GOT to be true) that not only is a new EQ expansion due out shortly (called “Shadows of Luckland” and set on Norrath’s moon, Norrath itself presumably being full now), but the much-rumored never-acknowledged Everquest 2 is actually set for a November 2001 ship date. While we love Tweety absolutely to death here at ltm.net, we should note that (a) we haven’t heard that rumor about the expansion anywhere else and (b) we’re pretty sure the Corporation is run by CANADIANS.

Just in case the tangent hasn’t been completely shattered, let’s leave the realm of EQ entirely and note that the Corporation is also giving away new UO3D alpha CDs. But only to PKs, mind you. They seem to think UO just doesn’t have enough peekays.