PROVE YOUR NEED, WIN A UO: THIRD DAWN BETA CD! [Author: Lum the Mad]

Simple. You need to simply prove, WITHIN ULTIMA ONLINE, in a screenshot, why you should get a CD. Post your screenshot to the comments thread of this message, and in 10 days (12/30) we will decide, based on creativity and SHEER DESIRE TO WIN, who gets a magic UpgradeCD.

Post with your screenshot your email address so that we can contact you if you win. Only current UO account holders are eligible (which, um, you would need to take a screenshot anyway, I’m pretty sure. NOT AVAILABLE IN BHUTAN.

FROM THE “SUCKS TO BE YOU” DEPARTMENT [Author: Lum the Mad]

Valtron responded, seemed helpful enough, asked me if I knew some people, asked me if anyone had my password(one person, my RL best friend has the correct one, and he was at my house the night I got hacked). He tells me the names of those people who had my items. He then tells my he cannot get them for me, because I had told one person my password. One person. I’ve known for 8 years. Who wasn’t available to be the culprit. Apparently if it is family, its fine. So if my long lost sister in Nantucket has it, they’ll restore no problem, but since its my RL best friend, who couldn’t have done it, I’m ****ed. They admit, my account was hacked. They admit, they know who has my items. But they will do nothing to help me.

AND NOW A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT VELIOUS REVIEW [Author: Lum the Mad]

This is the kind of review of Velious I would do, if I were reviewing Velious, which I’m not. However, Mark Asher of Quarter to Three, who’s as permalowbie as I, did. Thus we have a review of Velious now from the “shouldn’t have been there” perspective.

If you go up the ranks honestly, getting to level 25 is not trivial. You will spend weeks if not months to get that far, so my being a weak girly man in Velious irritates me. I wish there was something I could fight besides a little bunny rabbit that would probably rip my throat out. It’s really a weakness of the Velious expansion that it only is aimed at level 30+ players. The box is a bit cagey about that too. Nowhere does it explicitly warn a potential buyer that the new lands are essentially unplayable if you don’t have a high level character. It mumbles something about dozens of level 35+ quests, but that’s it. Sony should have made that more explicit.

He does have a point. I just checked my elf-finally-out-of-bondage Velious box and sure enough, nowhere on it does it say “HEY LOWBIE! Don’t buy me if your highest level is laughed at by Emporer Crush!”. The only level limits referred to are, as Asher noted, a line on that back that says “Dozens of quests for levels 35+”.

But hey, you get TRANSLUCENT INVENTORY SCREENS! Surely that counts for something?

YEP. I DEFINITELY WANT A FAT PIG. [Author: hedron]

I remember thinking the same thing when Wing Commander first came out. There you were flying around in this cool interface fighting alien ships, but when your ship was docked, you were stuck in a two dimensional picture of a ship-board bar. What the hell? Why not put a real game into the thing for walking around the carrier ship?

Then there was Doom. At the time I was playing that game, I was already in an MMORPG (the original Neverwinter Nights – oNWN), and I really started to see the whole future of gaming in terms of persistent shared games. And yet here was this cool skill-based combat system with multiple players competing against each other that wasn\’e2\’80\’99t persistent, wasn\’e2\’80\’99t massive, and didn\’e2\’80\’99t have any non-combat areas.

I kept thinking to myself, \’e2\’80\’9cWhy don\’e2\’80\’99t they just hook Wing Commander to Doom, make some sections of the Doom maps where you can\’e2\’80\’99t fight, throw in a chat system like oNWN and persistent tracking of character development and then track the ownership of ships like in that SSI game and allow ship upgrading with money made from interplanetary trading? Now THAT would be a game.\’e2\’80\’9d

It seems simple enough. Heh.

Ok, maybe not so simple. But you have to admit the combination of game genres would make a helluva powerful game. Of course we\’e2\’80\’99d need a new acronym for it. MMORPGs wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t cover it anymore, the game would be too broad to fit in that definition. It would have gone far beyond that. You\’e2\’80\’99d have to call it a \’e2\’80\’9cPlayer Interaction Game.\’e2\’80\’9d Yep. A PIG.

And yes, any of you game designers out there are thinking to yourself, \’e2\’80\’9cHell yeah you better call that idea a PIG. Do you have ANY idea how long it would take design code and produce that monstrosity???\’e2\’80\’9d

Yes I do. So what. Make me a PIG. What the hell, I mean the trend is already in place. Look at the games that keep coming out.

How did FPS games like Doom get better? They added strong internet support (Quake), and then capture the flag support (Quake plus mods), and then built in team support and capture the flag with flying vehicles and \’e2\’80\’9cequipment\’e2\’80\’9d (Tribes) and then ground vehicles and restricted servers that will centrally manage player win/loss records in a persistent way (Tribes 2).

How did RTS like Warcraft get better? They added multiple race options, and internet support and team play, and centralized win/loss record keeping (Starcraft), and then really beefed up the harvesting and building side of things (AOE).

How are MMORPGs getting better? They added 3D engines (Everquest and AC). They\’e2\’80\’99re building in stronger team play and capture the flag type stuff and a kind of RTS perspective (Shadowbane).

Basically all the genres are growing toward each other like the urban sprawl that is supposed to create megalopolises. FPS, RTS, MMORPGs and flight combat games are all becoming one.

Massive multiplayer persistence, strategy, twitch skill, team play, socialization, rich interfaces for every \’e2\’80\’9cgame type\’e2\’80\’9d \’e2\’80\ldblquote these are the things that all games are building towards. But I\’e2\’80\’99d say in general that they\’e2\’80\’99re doing it badly. Take the ship-piloting interface in Tribes. It stinks. If you took that aspect of the game and pasted it into its own game all by itself it would be unplayable.

The problem is that the more the pressure to compete drives games to develop features that the last game didn\’e2\’80\’99t have, the thinner the design and development resources get spread out. And the thinner they\’e2\’80\’99re spread, the harder it becomes to deliver a complete, integrated, balanced, bug-free product with GOOD design in each aspect of game play. However, like it or not, PIGs are coming. The gaming world will continue to demand more cohesive and fully encompassing gaming concepts with each new generation. This new direction in game design will henceforth be referred to as the Feature Augmentation Trend (FAT). (Ok, I admit it. I just really wanted to invent a FAT PIG acronym. So what. Suckit.)

So how do you make a FAT PIG fly? (I\’e2\’80\’99m killing me here.)

The PERFECT platform for the development of the FAT PIG is the current MMORPG market. What has to be done is to code and deploy the first MODULE of a standard MMORPG written in such a way that it can easily integrate itself with whole new user interfaces and functions while maintaining a common data structure behind it all. The database API has to be abstracted from the interface layer. The monthly-fee model of MMORPGs is the perfect niche in which to develop the quintessential FAT PIG in pieces because the ongoing revenue and play style can pay for and support a gradual introduction of more and more pieces of the FAT PIG.

Instead of designing more land mass and more loot in expansions, you\’e2\’80\’99d design flying dragons and create a whole new interface for people to pilot them. Jumping into the saddle of a dragon could trigger a loading sequence kind of like changing zones. This would set up your new interface that still uses the same 3d engine and peers into the same data world as the rest of the game.

The key here is that you can approach each expansion with the mindset that you\’e2\’80\’99re making a whole new game that just happens to exist in the same data world. This would allow you to really focus on making something cool instead of having a bunch of half-assed interface approaches within one game. You could even have specialist designers who are really good at and focused on each play type.

For instance, the completely lame \’e2\’80\’9ctrade skill\’e2\’80\’9d interfaces in UO and EQ are forced into a user interface that wasn\’e2\’80\’99t built specifically for that purpose. And they suck because of it. Imagine that you were JUST building a game around making things with trade skills. What would it look like? How would you make it more fun?

Imagine an RTS interface to Shadowbane or EQ or whatever that was designed and progammed by Blizzard? With a common API into the database you could maybe even franchise out the creation of new game interfaces built over your database. Blizzard comes in and defines an interface for moving troops around a strategic top-down RTS map. But the troops they teleport from one area to another in battle are actual players playing in the standard EQ interface. They appear at a transfer point, get notified that the enemy is over the hill to the south, and then they fight out the skirmish not as mindless little marines but as skilled FPS fighters, etc.

Well, I\’e2\’80\’99m no programmer. I could be smoking crack on the approach here. But I predict that somehow, someway, the market will demand FAT PIGs, and that someone, somewhere will figure out how to provide them.

I\’e2\’80\’99m planning in the next few articles to talk about some of the SPECIFIC ways this crossing of genres must be applied to the MMORPG framework. Oh goodie, right?

SAVANT HELP ME – I’M BORED! [Author: Savant]

In AC news, a new server will be opening up called Wintersebb. If you’ve ever wanted to try out Asheron’s Call and just didn’t think it’d be worth the time, here’s your chance to start on a fresh new server without the baggage of unbalanced items. In related AC news, Zone held another AC Dev Chat today. Shockingly, it was more of the same exact questions as every month. You can find a transcript of it here.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank Largo over at MegaTokyo (If you’ve never read MegaTokyo, you’re missing out. Consider yourself shunned.) for turning me onto a great new game: Alice, from EA. Largo stated it better than I could:

Alice bridges that fine line between game and art…

After reading his short review, I decided to download the demo. I’m in love with this game and would like to also recommend it to everyone. I will be going out to buy the entire CD at my earliest conveniance; that’s how much I’ve enjoyed it. You too can download the 80MB demo here. This is definitely one game for you to take a chance on. Alice Online, anyone?

R0X0RED! [Author: Lum the Mad]

More news from the as-incredibly-stupid-as-it-sounds “Cyberathletic Professional League” tournament (you know, CYBER athletes. They do the clean-and-jerk with COMPAQs.) In addition to the controversy over the championship match between Blue “Not The News Guy” and Excaliber “I Meant To Spell It That Wey”, it seems that the judges are getting, well, frag-happy.

He then pointed to a row of systems and said, \’e2\’80\’9cYou\’e2\’80\’99ll be playing on this row.\’e2\’80\’9d I asked, \’e2\’80\’9cAnywhere on this row?\’e2\’80\’9d He replied, \’e2\’80\’9cYes.\’e2\’80\’9d At this point I said only, \’e2\’80\’9cexcellent.\’e2\’80\’9d Next he squared himself off so we were face to face in very close proximity and said, \’e2\’80\’9cOne more thing, I don\’e2\’80\’99t want to hear any more shit from you!!\’e2\’80\’9d I was somewhat stunned, and again, it was 10 in the morning which is not a time I\’e2\’80\’99m normally up and about. I said, \’e2\’80\’9cExcuse me?\’e2\’80\’9d He repeated his sentiment a bit louder. I requested to know what the deal was and he explained, \’e2\’80\’9cI can kick you out of here for complaining, it\’e2\’80\’99s against the rules.\’e2\’80\’9d Now at this point I\’e2\’80\’99m not even sure what he\’e2\’80\’99s talking about because I haven\’e2\’80\’99t lodged any complaint \’e2\’80\ldblquote when I complain, it comes on paper. Now however, I have something to say to this person, so I carefully and calmly said, \’e2\’80\’9cExcuse me. I\’e2\’80\’99m not sure what the problem is, but do not curse at me.\’e2\’80\’9d He insisted he didn’t curse at me, and the gentlemen to my left informed him that he had. When he realized what he’d said he seemed taken back by the situation. Next he shoved me in the left chest with his right hand and insisted I apologize to him. Can you imagine this? He curses at me, assaults me, and now I am supposed to apologize to HIM!?!?! I just stood there trying to grasp this situation while the gentlemen to my left requested simply, “Hey man, take your hands off him.” After a moment I uttered only, \’e2\’80\’9cChill man, it\’e2\’80\’99s only a game.\’e2\’80\’9d He then went around the rope between us off to my left walking quickly saying, \’e2\’80\’9cThat\’e2\’80\’99s it!\’e2\’80\’9d proceeding to go get his two off duty Dallas Police Officers to have me ejected from the tournament. This witness to this was as baffled as I was, none the less, we were both ejected. At this point I’m trying to grasp the fact that I’ve just been kicked out of the competition.

Check out the guy’s web page for the full recap, complete with annoying wizard that pops up in the middle of your screen and offers helpful commentary. You know, I can’t make this stuff up.

WIZARDS WERE NERFED? WHATEVER! I’M OVERHEATING HERE! [Author: Savant]

If you’ve ever wondered why your class is being carelessly nerfed, or why there are so many bugs, look no further…

Croak> First off, I think you have a plot going with the guys at Turbine to impact EverQuest development. All of us guys here at Verant/EQLive are spending WAAAY to much off time playing Mech 4..Great Job! Looks like AD and Thontor asked my questions, but…

David@MW4> That’s strange. I just got my druid to 42.

You can find the entire log of the Mech Warrior 4 Dev Chat here.

BABBAGES TOURNAMENT CONTESTED – DIFFERENCE ENGINES AT THE READY [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

As reported by Adrenaline Vault yesterday, the results were protested specifically in a match where ranked incumbent “Blue” was upset by a player over seventy seeds his junior. Those who viewed the captured replay of the contest had varied opinions, but the presiding conclusion was that something was clearly amiss and Blue’s hits were clearly not a miss.

Much cavorting and debating ensued, turning various online communities into a verbal fragfest, until the official ruling was handed down from on high by the Lords of CPL. It was decided that due to some bugs in modifications used in the tournament (I still claim that a Difference Engine was somehow involved. Never buy a computer built in Europe, K.THKS.INSERTPUNCHCARDHERE), that “Blue” would be awarded the victory in that particular duel.

The ruling overturns the result of the match, but not the conclusion of the tournament itself. I blame this man entirely.

HOLY MONGBATS, BATMAN, IT’S ANOTHER GAMING MERGER! [Author: Lum the Mad]

First it was NVidia gobbling up 3DFX like a tasty mint (woe betide any of you who still have a PC without an AGP slot), and now, somewhat closer to home, Gamespy yelled “GET IN MY BELLY” at MPlayer. From the ever-more-appropriately nicknamed Mark “Bastard” Surfas, One of Nine at the collective,

Does this mean we’re all “corporate money grubbing whores”? Not yet.

You know, we’re pretty sure someone, somewhere is making money off of this whole “internet” thing. I suspect it’s lawyers.