MULLIGAN ON ‘CRAPPY LAUNCH SYNDROME’ [Author: Lum the Mad]

I’m thinking World War 2 Online is a litmus test for the basic honesty of scriveners in our little community. I mean, it’s as if Battlecruiser 3000 AD were released again this year and a large group of reviewers glossed over the whole totally unplayable and crashes after five minutes thing. Oh wait, it was. And they did.

Unlike myself, Jessica Mulligan is actually able to stay on topic for more than 3 sentences, and has a few things to say about WW2OL’s release and other signs that game companies just aren’t ready for adulthood yet.

Players found themselves in the position of having to download a mandatory 67.3 megabyte patch. That is not a misprint; players were basically forced to download the game they had just purchased. If you happen to be stuck with 56k or lower dial-up Internet access, that means several hours of download time. I don\’e2\’80\’99t know about you, but that would cause me to become mildly annoyed, in much the same way Jehovah became mildly annoyed with Sodom and Gomorrah.

She goes on to note that doing effective QA work on massively multiplayer titles is somewhat difficult, but that game companies should do it anyway.

(We won’t mention that her two last industry jobs were at Interplay and OSI, both of which have difficulty spelling QA. That would be rude.)

LONG IN THE SOOTH [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

…as this market starts to become crowded with more products, each game will need to come close to achieving most of the goals on this list to grab a decent share.

You can read the entire article for yorself, or just Mr. Long’s contribution here. If you’re not so inclined, his list of “survival skills” for any MMOG, ranked by importance, are:

1. Performance

2. Accesibility

3. Fun

4. Consent

5. Social Interaction

6. Customization

7. Expandability

ACCOUNT INSECURITY AND SOCIAL ENGINEERING [Author: Lum the Mad]

We just got a new update from him.

Just wanted to update you on the situation at hand. After Verant thoroughly investigated my claim, it turned out the “hacking” occurred because I shared my password with several members in my former guild, which gave them access to my account. I can now appreciate the point Verant is trying to make with their Account Security statement.

I wanted to leave you with a warning of sorts. Lots of big guilds share account info, usually for when someone is unavailable to play and their character is needed for a raid. Although you may be needed badly for that raid, realize that everything you have could be lost all at the risk of receiving another phat lewt or helping the Guild out. As you can see, my account got terrorized and I lost most of my items, even my No drop stuff. Hours and hours of work gone because I was foolish and shared my account info. According to the new policy, sharing of account information is risking your own account, and if compromised due to this, it is your own responsibility to deal with it. I know a lot of people that share their account info, and I don’t want them to lose their items like I have. So please change your passwords before this happens to you, because trust me, you won’t regret it. But thank you for all the support you have shown me since this happened, I really appreciate all the tells offering to help.

*hugs everyone*

Sincerely,

Uumpaa

58th Halfling Stabber

Kaphorian Waylander

56th Luminary

As every oldschool hacker knows, the easiest way to “hack” someone, bad Hollywood movies to the contrary, is by what hackers call “social engineering”. In other words, getting people to give you access to whatever you desire. Whether cracking a corporate account by calling an overworked secretary posing as an imperious network manager, or by scooping up MMOG accounts by posting copies of Gear that are really trojan horses, hackers follow the path of least resistance. It’s a lot easier to convince you to say the secret word then to buy time on a Cray to crack the encryption on your network traffic.

Of course, you probably still shouldn’t page a GM in EQ and tell them your account was hacked.

PVP IN EVERQUEST: SOME MODEST PROPOSALS [Author: Lum the Mad]

This is going to be long. You may as well go grab something to drink.

This, is about PVP. Specifically, PVP in Everquest. If you are not interested in some of the theories behind PVP, I won’t blame you for not giving a shit. If someone posted a rant on here about the wonderful dynamics of soloing in AC, I probably wouldn’t care either. This deals with some of the real BASIC theories behind the concept of Player Versus Player conflict, battle, and friction. Enjoy.

Ultima Online… Having gone through several stages of failed PVP and moderately successful pvp, and having failed specifically in dealing with mass killings, it has taken the coward’s way out and nixed the issue through UOR. Easy, certainly, but dealing with unrestricted PVP in any online environment not specifically suited for it is a very hard task. I can understand how they could have gotten sick of the issue.

AC. It is ok, truly good for some, truly bad for many. In between, for me.

Everquest. Started out bad, got a little better, got a little worse. From what I can see, though, Everquest, out of each of the games out now, has the most potential to be an excellent PVP game.

Why is this? Everquest, as an engine, can be changed sufficiently to actually become a real light hearted and enjoyable game based on the most direct form of competition; player combat. Its dynamics and tricks and quirks and very very hard-to-peel layers of strategic combat have a hard time thriving in such an environment. But they do.

Many players of Everquest, and it seems, the developers of Everquest, seem to find the whole theory behind the game set-in-stone. The Vision, many would call it, is as firmly stamped into the minds of many of the players as it is the Developers. And the way the Vision works, it doesn’t allow much room for PVP.

Now first, I challenge myself to two things. First, I challenge myself to state changes that could be made to the Everquest engine that would further accomodate PVP. Second, I challenge myself to further state how it would all work in an environment of practically unrestricted PVP. No level restrictions. At the most, religion/race restrictions.

I shall begin.

The way EQ PVP works now is based entirely on a few practically unchangeable solid concepts:

Level: There is no way anyone could kill someone 10 levels higher than themselves without incredible situational and class based advantages over the higher level.

Class: A necromancer *will* kill a rogue, and a Druid will kill a monk, nearly always, unless Level or Situation accomodates that rogue or that monk. This is one of the dilemmas that would never truly be fixable and would be rather a challenge to correct to a good degree. More content would have to be added to make REAL pvp class balance a reality.

Situation: In some fights, having the first hit can change the entire course of the confrontation… Attacking unseen from a hill may lead to an easy kill. Or, attacking a target that is currently fighting a creature or meditating will lead to a very short fight. If your target is outnumbered, unless they’re higher level or a good class, you have a considerably higher chance of winning.

Knowledge: This is a player’s personal skill with the dynamics of the game. Knowledge can easily dictate a fight’s outcome. Someone who doesn’t only know more about the game, but also knows more about PVP in the game, will win over another person who doesn’t. Proper knowledge can manipulate situation to a player’s advantage as well. Ideally, combat should be most based on knowledge and situation.

So, the first changes will be made based on the BAD things that the combatants don’t want, and the good that combatants want more of or would rather keep the same.

THE CAUSE FOR CHANGE

DISLIKES:

Very few who want to fight player versus player want to…

Wait for an inordinate amount of time. For anything. Especially in a game.

Deal with excessive corpse recovery.

Bite the bullet upon death and have to deal with setbacks in the normal routine of conquest and battle.

Spend a lot of time killing monsters.

Be forced to rely on others in order to be successful in PVP. Maybe in monster killing, NECESSARY grouping is recognized as something that drives the game. Often, though, a PVPer would rather not be limited in their fun by the availability of others. I may venture to say that many who center on PVM probably feel the same. Teamwork is good. But punishing lack of teamwork is especially bad in PVP. This means that more specialized classes like Wizards, warriors, and enchanters have to have methods of effectively going one on one without the help of someone else.

Deal with others who have the time to acquire excessively powerful loot.

Die to wild class imbalances added so players can defeat hard epic encounters.

Die to someone else because they are wildly higher level than themselves.

Die without a glimmer of a chance of succeeding when fighting back.

Have their class radically changed or have their power decreased in ways that could seriously overturn their tactics.

Lose to a tactic that has no counter

THE GOOD:

Things EQ already does well, and sometimes, could do better. Most combatants like, enjoy, or want…

Long fights, giving plenty of opportunity for thought, tactical manuevering, and more chances to exercise ability, skill, judgement, and personal knowledge. The current state of EQ pvp is good for this.

Multiple options of approach and tactics to employ in counter to tricks pulled by opponents. This field is slightly lacking in Everquest, and would be rather hard to improve without adding new content. This isn’t necessarily the most important thing on the list, but if there were ways to add complexity to battles, implementing them would be a good idea for any PVP environment.

Massive battles. Nuff’ said.

Territorial significance. I personally take vast enjoyment out of striking popular leveling areas of opposing teams and forcing them to fight for the right to continue leveling there.

A lot of the hardcore PVPers really enjoy being outnumbered or being put at a severe disadvantage, but still having just enough chance of victory to pull the proper tricks and strategies and come out on top with all the glory. Some, like myself, can’t stand a “Fair” fight and would rather be at disadvantages in most fights.

The chance to pull a “Whoa,” on someone else and come up with more clever tactics. As it is, most classes are predictable in their available strategies and tactics, and can be matched spell for spell or blow for blow by someone who has the dynamics mastered. This is another hard thing to improve: New stuff would have to be thrown into the soup for this. Despite what many think, PVP in EQ is a lot more than just hitting ‘a’, but it could still use some added complexity. UO currently rules the field with combat complexity. At least, it did before some noted changes. I won’t get into that, though.

PROTOCOL FOR MAKING CHANGES

Balancing the classes isn’t the most necessary job for POSSIBLE unrestricted combat, but for truly intriguing unrestricted combat, you need to make sure each class can match each other class in some way or another, based on player skill.

To do this though, Verant often applies the scalpel. Removing, debuffing, or reducing effectiveness of certain abilities works very well for balancing PVM interaction. This is not so for PVP. Good PVP balancing means, instead of removing the overly powerful spell that 0wnz v3r1ly, you add a counter to it. This kills two birds with one stone: You have more complexity and more balance if the changes pull through properly. Some may agree with me when I say that this is all very basic stuff, but someone has to come out and say it all eventually.

THE ACTUAL CHANGES

Now for the nitty gritty. I will list the changes, and I will list the reasons, the positive outcomes, and the possible negative outcomes, for each. Even if only half of these were implemented, any PVP server would become better. If specific ones were implemented, unrestricted PVP in everquest would be excellent.

MAJOR CHANGES. These changes would make pvp more enjoyable.

ISSUE NUMBER ONE. DOWNTIME. Downtime must be, at a minimum, cut in half. The longest anyone should have to sit, alone, is five minutes. I’m thinking a sort of “Super” meditation could be achieved when sitting still and unaffected by any debuffs or DOTs. During this state, HP regen and mana regen would triple.

CHANGES:
1. Allow players to go into a “Super Regeneration” state after several seconds of uninterrupted concentration (With no debuffs or DOTs active.) This will triple mana regeneration, and health regeneration.

2. Allow the Healing skill to heal beyond fifty percent for all levels, and increase the HP each bandage heals.

WHY: Downtime is very bad for PVP. It reduces enjoyment by a very large degree.

POSITIVE: Players would spend more time actually playing the game, actually having fun. Fights would be more common and battle would be more intense.

NEGATIVE: Possible “Get up and fight right after death” phenomena, and similar problems. The required state of concentration with no debuffs or DOTs, would prevent players from sitting down and healing themselves halfway to full in the middle of a fight, though. Further restrictions would possibly need to be applied.

2. LEVELING. Say this were for an EQ PVP server, we wouldn’t want our players to spend more time leveling than actually pvping. As it is, this is what it is like, and it will be even more so once pvp becomes unrestricted. The level 60s will rule the battlefield, then, and that means high levels will be the only ones who will actually truly enjoy the server. That means Average Joe who wants to pvp a little bit will find himself obsolete without being at least level fifty, preferably with Kunark and in the mid fifties. Everyone else will be too busy dying. Hey, it happened on Darktide. It’d be much much worse in Everquest.

CHANGES:

1. DOUBLE experience given by ALL mobs on death. If a 25% increase in EXP gained can be applied to dungeons by Verant, then they could apply a 100% increase in exp gained in ALL zones on a pvp server.

2. HALVE all numerical values associated with mobs statistics. HALF hitpoints, half mana, half attack/damage done, half damage done by spells, half magic resist, half EVERYTHING. Make the mobs easy to kill. To do this, all mobs could cast a spell on themselves

immediately upon spawning that would do this to their statistics.
WHY: No pvper likes to be forced to devote unnecessary amounts of time to leveling in any game to be able to compete. This would essentially make reaching the cap much faster and easier, and would leave your casual player who enjoys combat to, well, actually pvp, instead of level indefinitely.

POSITIVE: Everyone would be motivated to actually engage in player combat instead of level with the occaisional conflict. Currently, a problem seen on PVP servers are people who do nothing but level and never help their teams, simply because they feel that they’d only be of any use at very high levels. If the leveling process were sped up, this would no longer be a problem.

NEGATIVE: Literally two-week level 40’s and 50’s. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but this does mean that the server is devoted to PVP, obviously, and not to killing monsters. If a player played to b3 l33t h1gh l3v3l on a pvp server with this ruleset, he would find him/herself quickly disillusioned and disgruntled.

3. ph4t l3wts. Everyone knows that half the reason most people play Everquest is to acquire the ultimate in equipment. Well, I have an alternative idea for this on a PVP server.

Changes:

1. Remove all items designed for level 45’s and up from mobs.

2. Put all of these items on special vendors in guild halls, based on class. For sale. At extremely high prices.

3. Replace all high level mob lewt that would normally consist of those incredible items, with high amounts of platinum and/or special tokens that could be sold to vendors for high amounts of platinum

4. Watch the players fight to the death for money.

WHY: Camping, like leveling, takes a lot of emphasis away from PVP. This would totally eliminate that.

POSITIVE: This would eliminate camping, and would still make killing those high level monsters necessary. This would prevent high level territory from becoming unimportant. People would fight over high-EXP and high-money yielding creatures in those big ass hard zones. Most of those excessively hard things would become platinum mines for the insane equipment going for thousands of platinum per piece in the venders in guildhalls. This would also make money very important.

NEGATIVE: Really serious twinking problem. Possible restrictions may need to be applied to prevent really bad twinking.

Those three changes would make any PVP server a heaven that I would personally love. The following changes are less important.

The most necessary change for unrestricted PvP: SHAVING OFF THE LEVEL BARRIER. Impractical but necessary for very good PVP. Probably the hardest change to devise.

Currently a lower level will almost always die to a higher level. This would have to be changed for unrestricted PVP in EQ.

Changes:

1. Make lower levels stronger (A level ten on this pvp server should be twice as strong as a level ten on a normal server.)

2. Make higher levels weaker. (A level sixty on this special pvp server would have to be half as strong as a level sixty on a normal server.)

3. Change the skill curve, HP curve, and mana curve for all classes. A level thirty here should be as strong as a level thirty on a normal PVP server, and thats where they should get more powerful very slowly.

WHY: In unrestricted PVP, without some sort of measures taken to prevent this, NO one will have the chance to get higher level due to being killed by anyone higher all the time without a chance to fight back.

Positive: This would make the perfect pvp server.

Negative: This would be excrutiatingly hard to do. Every minute detail of mob strength and the small quirks of the leveling curve would have to be changed. Unless some sort algorithm could be designed to handle all of the changes automatically. I’m not a coder, so I can’t really go into the very specifics of HOW I would make such sweeping changes to the system.

Final specifics.

Corpse recovery. Players, upon death, could be given a small box allowing them to choose to resurrect with all of their equipment equipped already, for a fee depending on their level automatically deducted from their bank account. Five gold for someone below level ten, a platinum for someone around level fifteen, ten platinum for someone over/around the twenties.

Additions. Each class should be given a small new special ability. Not necessarily a new spell or weapon, but new vegetables to throw into the PVP soup. Wizards could be given a “Mend” skill that would apply to mana. Rogues could have a new poison or a momentary speed increase that would drain stamina (like a dash.) Enchanters could have a “Hypnotize” ability that would work for thirty seconds to totally charm anyone, with a 50% chance of resisting. Necromancers could be given an insta-charm-dead skill, a “Dark Command” or something like that. Essentially, small abilities equivalent to the Harm Touch and Lay Hands from paladins and ShadowKnights, except for every class. Even for the ones who already have something similar (Mend, for instance).

Balance. Each class, over time, should be balanced to be able to equally lose and win against other classes. This is another hard thing to do, and isn’t totally necessary for fun pvp, but it should be included on the list as well.

WHY WRITE THIS?

Well, it only took me an hour and a half, and really, I’d like to finally see a game exercise its full potential. Call me an idealist, but I think that if a few of these changes were implemented, a PVP server in EQ could truly be a fun thing. I only want to be heard, and my opinion to be seen. Maybe someone up there in Verant will take a look at this and go “Hmm, he has a point there,” about at least a couple of the issues I’ve addressed. Maybe it’ll actually change something. I can see servers operating at maximum capacity with these rules. I can see people enjoying it.

Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

If you want to discuss this, or if I missed some things, post on the discussion thread (which I’ll be reading, of course,) or e-mail me here. Thanks.


Paradox Equation, long time battle monger and strategist,

www.lotd.org

www.pkghost.com

-=-

Player vs. Player interactions (PvP) are often considered the Holy Grail of online roleplaying games. The theory is that the most effective and interesting antagonists are often \’e2\’80\ldblquote if not always \’e2\’80\ldblquote the players themselves. In an ideal game, rather than the players controlling characters who are united against some common opponent, and that opponent is controlled by the computer running the game, the players work against one another, uniting only on a smaller scale. The challenges they overcome are not pre-constructed algorithms, but the actual machinations and schemes of real people, who have no more power, influence, or control over the game world than they themselves do. Players would, in participating in the game world, form all the alliances, empires, conspiracies, and plots that drive the dramatic plot. Rather than a simple extension of the traditional single-player \’e2\’80\’98roleplaying game\’e2\’80\’99 (a term used here in the understood sense, rather than the literal sense) where the player overcomes static challenges without ever truly existing in the game world, this ideal of PvP creates a new paradigm of roleplaying \’e2\’80\ldblquote one in which it is possible to view every player as actually existing in the game world, defining it, and creating it in the way a real world is created \’e2\’80\ldblquote consensually by the perceptions, actions, and interactions of all the participants.

The reality of PvP interaction is, however, far short of this ideal. In three major titles on the market, PvP is at best a pointless Nietzchean struggle for supremacy, and at worst an outlet for immature and antisocial aggressions that have no real dramatic content. In Ultima Online, the PvP experience was, for the vast majority of the players, so unpleasant that many opted out of the game, forcing Origin to compromise their original vision of the game to make PvP less and less attractive to the aforementioned immature and antisocial people. In Everquest, the design of the game \’e2\’80\ldblquote with a strong emphasis on equipment and invested time \’e2\’80\ldblquote meant that the only real reward that could be offered for PvP interactions was an unreasonable one. Players of Everquest were not willing to risk the equipment and time they\’e2\’80\’99d invested in their characters, and with greater and greater restrictions on the nature of the \’e2\’80\’98looting\’e2\’80\’99 system on the EQ PvP servers, it soon became clear that there was, in fact, no point to having a PvP system at all. Nothing could be gained by it, and so the struggles inevitably became futile. In Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, perhaps the best of the PvP implementations, real conflicts and alliances emerged, real factionalization occurred, and the events on the PvP server during the period when the game\’e2\’80\’99s primary antagonist, Bael\’e2\’80\’99zharon, was present in the game world, bear out that something special is taking place in AC. Unfortunately, even AC remains crippled by a lack of real ability to make gains, to accomplish anything lasting through PvP. Thus, as with UO and EQ, Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call\’e2\’80\’99s PvP server attracts those wishing to vent antisocial urges, rather than those wishing to create large-scale player driven plots.

Given all these problems extant with PvP systems as they currently exist, the inevitable question arises: Why PvP? Why do game companies continue to bother with this mode of interaction, if it never seems to function as intended, and often drives players away from a game? It is clear that this is a focus of modern game design \’e2\’80\ldblquote one potential competitor to these \’e2\’80\’98big three,\’e2\’80\’99 Shadowbane, considers its PvP interaction a primary selling point. Dark Ages of Camelot, another game on the horizon, has a complicated team-based PvP system, which one can only hope is more functional than the EQ team PvP system. In any case, PvP seems to have some profound attraction to game developers.

To understand this attraction, let us make a distinction between two kinds of games (of any sort, tabletop RPG, computer RPG, or multiplayer online RPG). There are Simulation games and Dramatic games. The latter type of game is, in its tabletop form, generally typified by a carefully crafted story arc, which the gamemaster gradually reveals to the players. The players are actors in a play written by the gamemaster, and while their actions have some influence over the story, there is a sense that they are still participants, not co-authors. This often makes for very exciting roleplaying, in the small and intimate environment of a tabletop game. It has been tried with some success in Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, with its monthly events, and with less success in Everquest, with its new content expanding and developing the world\’e2\’80\’99s history \’e2\’80\ldblquote although the real measure of EQ\’e2\’80\’99s success should be in its quests, given that they provide the game with its title. In this respect most players consider EQ a failure, as its quests are typically the least interesting and least rewarding part of the game (with a few major exceptions, such as the Epic Weapon quests). Dramatic games are universally similar in one way: they require constant gamemaster attention to function. When there is no gamemaster (or gamemaster surrogate, in the case of the EQ quests) the story cannot progress. The less gamemaster attention, the less interesting the dramatic storyline. How many people would enjoy a tabletop game in which they were sharing the gamemaster\’e2\’80\’99s time with a thousand other players? Yet this is precisely what the major, existing games propose to do, to make their games more exciting \’e2\’80\ldblquote more like, perhaps, the tabletop games they remember enjoying so much.

Simulation games, on the other hand, take the approach that a great fantasy world (or any other type of RPG world, actually) with dramatic conflicts and exciting interactions comes out of the people who populate it. Rather than (for instance) seeing Sauron, Saruman, and Gandalf as gamemaster mouthpieces from whom the plot is handed down, simulation proponents see these characters as actors in a realized world, the same as Frodo, Samwise, Aragorn, and the rest of the Fellowship. The plots happen, not because they have been ordained, but because they are directed by people. The chief argument for simulation games is the events of the real world, summed in the aphorism \’e2\’80\’98Truth is stranger than fiction,\’e2\’80\’99 and the chief design goal of the simulation game is to provide a coherent world in which the players can act however they see fit.

Simulation games can, and do, work. I have written and produced four large-scale weekend-long live action games, in which 30 to 50 people take on roles I have written, in a setting in which they are the protagonists and antagonists. The threat to the world comes from players. The salvation of the world comes from players. The middlemen whose loyalties are questionable are all players. Without exception, every single one of these games has been a tremendous success \’e2\’80\ldblquote in the sense that the players felt they were working against one another, not against the author or the gamemasters, and working with each other, not with the author or the gamemasters. The tension and drama of this kind of game exceeds anything one person could reasonably create alone, through a Dramatic style of game.

Before I continue to cast these things in terms of black and white, I will argue that the best game combines elements of both these approaches, and most multiplayer online roleplaying games attempt to do so, as well. For instance, in the live-action games I describe, there would be no reason for conflict were it not for the characters I wrote \’e2\’80\ldblquote the demented cultists, the inquisitive students, the mysterious powers behind the scenes \’e2\’80\ldblquote and to the extent that I wrote those characters, the game was a Dramatic game. On the other hand, once the preconditions for conflict were in place, the actual story played out according to the interests, actions, and reactions of the players themselves. The game became \’e2\’80\’98hands-off\’e2\’80\’99 for the author at that point. When the demented cultists failed to come to an accord with the immortal sorcerer who posed as a wealthy millionaire, when the students learned terrible secrets from ancient tomes that allowed them to forge alliances with the mysterious spirit wandering the school grounds, and when the world nearly ended and was saved at the last minute in a kind of Pyrrhic victory, none of this was planned, none of it was scripted, and none of it was anything but a Simulation game.

The simple truth of the appeal of Simulation style games is that the best drama comes from real motivations and emotions \’e2\’80\ldblquote and no author can match that level of involvement. Defeating the Evil Overlord is a great accomplishment, but how much greater is it when you know it was not a result of a gamemaster\’e2\’80\’99s planning, but rather your own efforts overcoming those of another player with as much vested interest in victory as you have? When another player is your enemy, the outcome is never certain.

Which leads inevitably back to PvP, and the sad fact that no PvP system in action to date has managed to capture this sense of terrible conflict. At best, PvP provides for action on a local scale \’e2\’80\ldblquote one battle, one zone, one hilltop, one town (Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, Everquest). At worst, it becomes random, pointless violence, without even a short-term goal to motivate it (Ultima Online).

How do we make PvP work for the game, rather than against it?

My contention is simple: To construct a worthwhile PvP system, you need conflict which has meaningful, lasting results, results that strike not at the players\’e2\’80\’99 characters, but at their resources. I argue that the first part is necessary to lift PvP out of the realm of \’e2\’80\’98mindless violence\’e2\’80\’99, and the second part is necessary to prevent the loss of the active roleplayers to the perception that they could become a victim, rather than an actor.

Presentation

I am going to frame my conception of a functional PvP system in terms of Everquest, as it is the game with which I am most familiar. It also presents a certain challenge \’e2\’80\ldblquote the static EQ world is particularly unsuited to dramatic PvP conflict. For those not familiar with EQ, I hope that these examples remain intelligible.

Every NPC in EQ is associated with a \’e2\’80\’98faction\’e2\’80\’99. This faction determines their reactions to the players \’e2\’80\ldblquote hostility, indifference, or friendship \’e2\’80\ldblquote and is a static value. All of the dark elf guards belong to one faction, all the druids of Surefall Glade belong to one faction, all the farmers in the Karanas belong to one faction. Players can increase their standing with a given faction through killing the faction\’e2\’80\’99s enemies and completing tasks for the faction. They can decrease their standing through killing members of the faction, killing their friends, or accomplishing tasks for the faction\’e2\’80\’99s enemies. What is not generally considered, however, is that faction is a powerful tool for meaningful PvP.

Suppose that a group of PC dark elves decides, in a PvP environment, to attack the human town of Freeport \’e2\’80\ldblquote a reasonable supposition, as it happens relatively often on EQ\’e2\’80\’99s PvP servers. They mount a large force, advance to the town, and possibly meet defenders. They overcome those defenders, make their way to the city gates, and overwhelm the NPC guards, whose faction information is such that they attempt to kill dark elves. Once the gate is secure, the town taken, and the dark elves have won, what happens?

The guards reappear (\’e2\’80\’98respawn\’e2\’80\’99) with the same orders: kill dark elves. No matter how many times those guards are overcome, the supply will not diminish. The dark elves have lost before they begin \’e2\’80\ldblquote because they cannot take the town, they cannot truly declare victory. Instead they are forced to acclaim themselves victors if they keep control of the town for a short period of time \’e2\’80\ldblquote after which they leave, and the town reverts to human control.

Now imagine how this scenario should play out in a realistic world. The dark elves overcome the guards, execute the rulers of the city, and declare it a holding of their nation. Freeport becomes a new dark elf city, and humans are looked down upon \’e2\’80\ldblquote if not executed. High elves and wood elves, the traditional enemies of the dark elves, are slain on sight. The new guards hired by the ruling dark elves share their masters\’e2\’80\’99 faction views, and Freeport becomes a haven for those aligned with evil.

Let\’e2\’80\’99s deconstruct what\’e2\’80\’99s actually happening in that latter scenario: the dark elves attack, and overcome human and computer defenders. When they\’e2\’80\’99ve overcome enough of them, they make their way to some center of power, some seat of government, and take action to make themselves the new rulers of the city. While they cannot instantly sway the hearts and minds of the newly-conquered, they can take the important step of hiring new guards to replace the old \’e2\’80\ldblquote guards who are loyal to their empire, rather than to the city of Freeport. Those guards become the enforcement, in game terms, of the new regime, in the same sense that they were the enforcers of the anti-dark-elf regime that existed previously.

In other words, the major and significant game system change that occurs is an alteration of the faction of the guards.

Before continuing, let\’e2\’80\’99s ask what sorts of objections to this kind of scheme might arise \’e2\’80\ldblquote and, in fact, the objections that arise from any mandatory PvP scheme. The first, and most important, is: "I don\’e2\’80\’99t want to participate in PvP. Why should I be penalized for the success or failure of others?" The second is: "What if someone \’e2\’80\’98wins\’e2\’80\’99, conquering the whole world and leaving no opportunity for revolution and the retaking of territory?" The third is: "What about the people who want only to hide in the wilderness and kill passer-by?"

Also, as a basic premise, let\’e2\’80\’99s assume that on your character\’e2\’80\’99s death due to PvP, you suffer no loss of equipment, money, or experience. You are simply returned to your bind point, naked, and must recover your corpse, as current EQ death stands (less the experience loss). You can kill, or be killed, without any consequence to your character. I will argue that a game system can offer much more significant consequences to PvP, without the undesirable sacrifices of your time and effort inherent in any looting system.

Objection One: Non-Participation

When you create a human character in Freeport, and select as your deity one of the \’e2\’80\’98established\’e2\’80\’99 temples there, you are assumed from that point to have a certain amount of loyalty to the city of Freeport. You can, for the most part, come and go as you please, and the merchants and commoners in the city are generally friendly to you. (I am simplifying the faction situation in Freeport considerably for this example; I am well aware that it is more complex than that.) That assumption of loyalty would then make you subject to the vagaries of any PvP system which could alter the basic rules of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99s factions. Uninvolved, you might find yourself hunted, and hated, in the city where you grew up.

The obvious solution, then, is to not assume that loyalty. Rather than making one\’e2\’80\’99s loyalty to a given faction or set of factions automatic, as part of the character creation process, make this loyalty something which must be actively given. One is not a \’e2\’80\’98Defender of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 until one chooses to be.

Let us suppose, in the center of Freeport, there is a stone. This stone, when activated, gives the player a dialogue box: "Do you wish to swear allegiance to this city?" If the player agrees, they are then flagged \’e2\’80\’98Defender of Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote and their factions are altered to reflect this change. This system could be further refined to allow for variations in individual factions \’e2\’80\ldblquote for instance, if the player is loved by the enemies of Freeport, and hated by its defenders, through their own actions, this adjustment-through-allegiance might only make them tolerable to the defenders \’e2\’80\ldblquote and might make a character who had demonstrated loyalty through deeds loved. If we imagine faction as a 5 point scale:

Loathed \’e2\’80\ldblquote Disliked \’e2\’80\ldblquote Indifferent \’e2\’80\ldblquote Liked \’e2\’80\ldblquote Loved

then allegiance to Freeport might carry with it the alteration: \’e2\’80\’98+2 to Defenders, -2 to Enemies, +1 to Allies, -1 to Enemies\’e2\’80\’99 Allies\’e2\’80\’99. Expressed in explicit EQ terms, this might be: "+2 to Freeport Militia, Mithaniel Marr, Freeport Citizens; -2 to all Neriak factions; +1 to Qeynos factions, Faydwer factions; -1 to Troll and Ogre factions." If I began as \’e2\’80\’98disliked\’e2\’80\’99 to the Militia (not a hard thing to accomplish, given how hostile that faction is) I might become \’e2\’80\’98liked\’e2\’80\’99; if I began as \’e2\’80\’98loved\’e2\’80\’99 to the Neriak Dragoons (which seems unlikely), I might drop to \’e2\’80\’98Indifferent\’e2\’80\’99.

More importantly, I would now carry the \’e2\’80\’98I participate in PvP\’e2\’80\’99 flag, which would single me out for special attentions by the city\’e2\’80\’99s defenders \’e2\’80\ldblquote whether those be friendly or hostile \’e2\’80\ldblquote and the defenders of all the other cities.

The advantages of being a defender could be made very concrete \’e2\’80\ldblquote cheaper prices on goods within the city, access to special merchants, and possibly the opportunity to govern the city (which I\’e2\’80\’99ll get to in a few moments). The advantages of being unaligned would be immunity from the PvP conflicts and their effects on the city\’e2\’80\’99s faction.

Now we can return to our original deconstruction: what happens when the dark elves take Freeport? Presumably, they reach the stone in the center. Then, after a period of time in which only members of their group, the Defenders of Neriak, have access to the stone, there is a \’e2\’80\’98conversion\’e2\’80\’99. New faction rules are sent out to the guards. To any participant in the PvP game, these guards now exhibit the inclinations of the Neriak factions, and respond accordingly. All the benefits once available to the Defenders of Freeport are now available to the dark elf conquerors \’e2\’80\ldblquote and Freeport just became a very inimical place for the former Defenders, who will be slain by the guards if they attempt to enter.

Objection Two: Total Victory

This objection has led designers of the current crop of games to create artificial limitations on \’e2\’80\’98how far\’e2\’80\’99 PvP can go \’e2\’80\ldblquote a hard, unrealistic limitation on just how much success is permitted any one group. This is true, at least, for Dark Ages of Camelot, where the \’e2\’80\’98homelands\’e2\’80\’99 of the three competing groups will be immune from permanent conquest. This kind of limitation brings the game back to square one, though \’e2\’80\ldblquote PvP can never be genuinely meaningful if actual victory is not possible.

Let us again ask what would realistically happen if Freeport were to be conquered by dark elves. A military force takes the city, storms its seats of governance, and asserts control. A new government is appointed by the officials in Neriak, and empowered to run the city in their stead. This makes Freeport a colony of Neriak only insofar as the new government is loyal to Neriak. What happens if they get ambitions of their own? They do, after all, rule one of the largest cities in the world. What if they decide Freeport\’e2\’80\’99s best interests lie in making peace with the dwarves and halflings?

This brings us to the next requirement: the factions of a city must be ruled by the players, not the code. That means exactly what it implies: a player-run system of government, which decides through its actions what relationships the city will have with other cities.

How the government is chosen is irrelevant, although I will present a few options. Freeport is a mercantile city, and the rich likely rule; membership in the government might thus be chosen through money. He who contributes the most platinum, rules the city. Oggok, the ogre city, is a violent place, and the leaders might be chosen through battle. Neriak is a city of machinations and power struggles, and an election thus seems appropriate. Or, for simplicity, all rulers could be chosen through election \’e2\’80\ldblquote or any of the other methods, or any method at all. In the end, what matters is that there is a player, or a small group of players, who are empowered to represent their city.

Imagine an embassy from Freeport to Neriak, to establish a peace treaty. The members of the two governments meet, and sign the treaty (which could be handled, in game system terms, through a dialogue-box interface). The factions of both cities are subsequently altered to reflect this new peace \’e2\’80\ldblquote now dark elves who are participants in the PvP system can move freely in Freeport, and humans can do likewise in Neriak. Perhaps there will not be actual good will per se, but on our faction scale above, we might be moving +1 for each faction \’e2\’80\ldblquote rather than being loathed by the dark elves, a human might now be only disliked. Conversely, imagine an ambassador from the elven city of Felwithe coming to Freeport to protest this decision. He declares that unless the treaty is rejected, his people will no longer welcome those of Freeport in their lands. Freeport responds with a declaration of hostility; now elves are no longer welcome in Freeport, dropping by \’e2\’80\ldblquote 1 or \’e2\’80\ldblquote 2 on the faction scale.

In this way, the factions become representative of the player-controlled interactions at the governance level. Lest you think this would lead to sudden peace among all cities, remember that there is no reason currently for the dark elves to attack Freeport on the existing EQ PvP servers \’e2\’80\ldblquote and yet they do it anyway. Hostility and alliance come naturally with the PvP environment, and player controlled factions will only amplify this effect, not suppress it.

We can add detail to this as much as we like; trade treaties, alliances, declarations of war, declarations of mutual assistance, diplomatic incidents where a dark elf is slain by humans deep in the wilderness. For the purposes of this example, the current level of detail is enough to illustrate the next point.

What happens when the dark elves take Freeport?

They become the government of Freeport. Those conquerors are now the rulers of an independent city. When this new government is created, it shares all the treaties and factions of the current rulers of Neriak. After that point, however, they are independent. If these new rulers choose to make alliances with Qeynos and declare war on the trolls, they can do so \’e2\’80\ldblquote and if Neriak\’e2\’80\’99s government dislikes this decision, they will have to enforce their wishes militarily. In the meantime, though, doubtless scores of dark elves are moving to Freeport, switching allegiances to the new city, and through their actions becoming the new Defenders of Freeport.

What about the old government? Perhaps the former Defenders can retake the city, restore their rule. To this end, they retain their \’e2\’80\’98Old Freeport\’e2\’80\’99 defender status. If they are able to retake the city, the factions would be restored to their original state. After a period of time, though (for this example, let\’e2\’80\’99s say a week) they lose this status, and become unaligned. Perhaps they can join with the elves, or with the halflings, or Qeynos, and from there stage an assault which will give them control once more, as a colony of that empire. Their original glory, though, is lost. Or, perhaps, they would make their way to the new Freeport, and there swear allegiance to the new government, choosing to continue to serve their city even under foreign masters.

From this set of examples it becomes clear that no one city could \’e2\’80\’98win\’e2\’80\’99 by controlling the rest of the world. No matter how many cities are taken, each one remains independent, and it is only through actual player interactions that an \’e2\’80\’98empire\’e2\’80\’99 can be built. If you, the ruler of Neriak, have ten lieutenants you can trust, and you can install them as rulers of ten cities (a probably impossible task) you may have made the world safe for dark elves \’e2\’80\ldblquote but only for so long as your lieutenants remain loyal to you, and to each other. Old \’e2\’80\’98teams\’e2\’80\’99 are replaced with new, and the new \’e2\’80\’98teams\’e2\’80\’99 are the same as the old, except for the people \’e2\’80\ldblquote which is exactly as realism tells us it should be. For those displaced PvP participants who have fled their cities in defeat, there is the option of joining one of your conquered cities \’e2\’80\ldblquote or perhaps operating independently in the wilderness, acting as bandits and renegades, a resistance building its forces for a reconquest.

Which leads neatly into the next point.

Objection Three: The Banditry Problem

In addition to the city-based teams, there should be the opportunity to participate in PvP as a part of the \’e2\’80\’98no-team team\’e2\’80\’99, which is disliked by all, which has no alliances, no diplomacy. In any ancient empire, there are always discontents and the lawless at the edges of civilization \’e2\’80\ldblquote or even in its heart. In Gaul, in the Basque region of Spain, throughout the Levant, the Roman Empire faced resistance from everywhere. Its rule was never certain, and these bandits preyed on the Romans and became powerful. When Rome fell, it was not due to natural forces \’e2\’80\ldblquote it was pressure from these very malcontents, who carved the Empire up among themselves in the wake of the collapse.

In this system, a player could set themselves as a PvP participant, but not choose a city to defend. This could also happen if the player\’e2\’80\’99s city is conquered \’e2\’80\ldblquote they\’e2\’80\’99re left to wander the wilderness, either joining another city or joining the bandits. These bandits would operate in places like High Keep and the Karanas, and could strike at any member of any city\’e2\’80\’99s defenders.

The check upon this (apparently attractive, given UO as an example) option would be simply that, in addition to receiving none of the benefits of membership in a city, the bandits would receive all the penalties of being every city\’e2\’80\’99s enemy. Denied access to the resources and safety of the cities, they would never have the security of a safe place to rest, resupply, and sell their loot. For the truly antisocial killers, the people who claim that, when killing new players in Ultima Online, they\’e2\’80\’99re \’e2\’80\’98roleplaying a sociopath\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote they would get their wish. The true sociopath would be an outcast, and that\’e2\’80\’99s exactly what these bandits would be. Inevitably, I believe these bandits would seek to seize a city for themselves, and the displaced former rulers would themselves become the new bandits.

A modification to this system would be necessary to allow a renegade to \’e2\’80\’98come into the fold\’e2\’80\’99 and join a city \’e2\’80\ldblquote perhaps the opportunity to set a \’e2\’80\’98truce flag\’e2\’80\’99 which would allow them limited entry to a city for the purposes of conversation and allegiance-forming, although not for selling, buying, or making use of the city\’e2\’80\’99s resources. This same \’e2\’80\’98truce flag\’e2\’80\’99 system would also permit the previously mentioned ambassadors from Freeport to visit Neriak for peace talks.

Summary and Conclusion

In Everquest terms, I\’e2\’80\’99m really proposing a kind of \’e2\’80\’98super-faction.\’e2\’80\’99 When active \’e2\’80\ldblquote and it would only be active by any given player\’e2\’80\’99s choice \’e2\’80\ldblquote it would supercede the normal faction system for the cities and the guards and citizens of the cities. Every NPC associated with a city would be given a new parameter: the \’e2\’80\’98super-faction\’e2\’80\’99 information, which would tell it how to interact with players who also had this parameter set. By imposing a super-faction across the world, PvP could be made to have real, lasting effects, while leaving those who wished only to \’e2\’80\’98play the game in peace\’e2\’80\’99 \’e2\’80\ldblquote a common sentiment on AC\’e2\’80\’99s PvP server \’e2\’80\ldblquote totally unaffected by the wars.

It seems to me, though, that given the opportunity to participate in something of this scale, few players would want to be left out. The added benefits of participation \’e2\’80\ldblquote whatever those are defined as, although I suggest they be aimed at merchant pricing \’e2\’80\ldblquote would convince all but the most dedicated of the powergamers to join.

The result? A system which creates a worldwide conflict, which gives players reasons to participate, which has meaningful and lasting effects, and which does not affect the characters themselves, but rather their access to resources.

And, I hope I\’e2\’80\’99ve argued, a Simulation-based plot which no gamemaster-coded static quest could ever approach.

 

Addendum: Mechanics of the Attack

Lord Dazin Drakenblade, level 59 Necromancer and ruler of Neriak, decides it is time to take Freeport, and wipe out the human plague to the south. He gathers his lieutenants, and announces that the attack will happen in two days\’e2\’80\’99 time, on the weekend (so that the maximum numbers of dark elves can participate). They all begin their preparations; Dazin then opens his \’e2\’80\’98City Leader\’e2\’80\’99 control window, and sees that he has 2 \’e2\’80\’98war declarations\’e2\’80\’99 left in his supply for this month. He uses one of them now, knowing that he has to declare war at least 24 hours before the actual conflict can begin \’e2\’80\ldblquote the declaration sets the Freeport Control Stone to \’e2\’80\’98vulnerable\’e2\’80\’99, meaning it will respond to his team\’e2\’80\’99s efforts. This gives the Freeport Defenders a chance to prepare for the attack. In the past, Dazin has sent declarations of war and not attacked, and he hopes the Freeport Defenders will think this is another feint, and not take it seriously. His declaration sends out a message automatically to all the Neriak Defenders: "We are attacking Freeport in 2 days."

Nyktos Spindleshriek, level 60 Cleric of Innoruk, sees the message flashing on his interface, and reads the announcement. He then sends a /tell to Dazin: "Am I leading this attack, as you promised?" Dazin replies a few minutes later: "I was hoping you would, if you\’e2\’80\’99re going to be free." Nyktos grins and tells his group he has to go /afk for a few minutes, and then starts planning strategy with Dazin and the other lieutenants over the /govern channel.

Lord Valryn Darkhammer, level 60 Warrior and ruler of Freeport, is on a Hate raid when he sees a \’e2\’80\’98message\’e2\’80\’99 icon appear on his interface. He checks with the pulling team and finds out he has a few minutes to spare, so he opens it and reads it. Probably another peace offering from the Gnomes, he thinks; he\’e2\’80\’99s been trying to get the elves to go to war with them for a month, and it hasn\’e2\’80\’99t been working. In his \’e2\’80\’98City Leader\’e2\’80\’99 control window, he sees that Freeport will be at war with Neriak in 2 days. Great, another false alarm. Well, I guess I\’e2\’80\’99d better tell people back home. He announces the war over the /govern channel, and also sends a /tell to Invidious Putrifex, a member of the Neriak Defenders, and a traitor for the Freeport cause. "Is this for real?" The answer comes back immediately. "Looks like it; Dazin just sent out the announcement, and everybody\’e2\’80\’99s talking about it like it\’e2\’80\’99s going to be a real attack this time." Damn, Valryn thinks. But he probably thinks we\’e2\’80\’99re going to ignore it again. I should keep this quiet. He sends out another announcement on the /govern channel: "Keep this quiet; let\’e2\’80\’99s surprise them." He then sends a /tell to Dazin: "Not again. Are you actually going to show up this time, or should I just let the newbies fight off your nonexistent army?" Dazin replies: "I don\’e2\’80\’99t talk to human scum. =)"

Two days later, Nyktos and 45 dark elves are in Neriak Third Gate, organizing into the teams for the raid. When they\’e2\’80\’99re ready, he gives the word, and they move out. Buffs are cast, binders are prepared, and everyone runs across East Commons to West Freeport. As soon as they zone in, the binders start binding everyone to the edge of the zone, for quick death recovery. The zone is dead silent, though, except for the occasional non-aligned person looking for a SoW or a bind. It\’e2\’80\’99s too quiet, he thinks, knowing that\’e2\’80\’99s a cliché.

Inside the gates, Valryn and the 40 Defenders he\’e2\’80\’99s picked out are observing strict silence. They hear the dark elves enter, as they all start /shouting in the Dark Speech. Good thing I had that troll teach it to me, he thinks. As the dark elves spread out and advance on the gate, Valryn gives the word, and the battle is joined.

A half hour of constant fighting later, and the defenders are starting to show fatigue. Some of the members were still bound elsewhere, and one unfortunate guy was bound all the way in Firiona Vie \’e2\’80\ldblquote he was looking for a port back, but Valryn couldn\’e2\’80\’99t spare any of the Defenders to do it for him. They\’e2\’80\’99d been pushed back to the gate, and with the guards down, Valryn knew he couldn\’e2\’80\’99t expect any more NPC help until the dark elves made it to the militia house. During official wars, the guards didn\’e2\’80\’99t respawn. A couple of newbies were standing nearby, and as he ran past them looking for a target, he hoped this would get them over to the Stone to swear in. Even folks in their teens could still distract the attackers for a few moments.

Just then Nyktos burst through the lines with one of his teams, and sprinted for the militia house. At the same time, one of the newbies sent a /tell: "Hey, my friend says they\’e2\’80\’99re coming in through the sewers in EFP, too."

Damn.

Valryn sent a /govern: "Fall back to the stone; they\’e2\’80\’99re in the sewers!"

Ten minutes later, the last of the defenders were standing shoulder to shoulder in the hall outside the Stone Room in the militia house. All the NPCs were dead, and only 6 of his men were left \’e2\’80\ldblquote the rest were looting their corpses, trying to get some mana back, or running back to the fight. Once the dark elves pushed through here, it would be a tough struggle to get them out; they\’e2\’80\’99d start binding everyone to the room.

Nyktos knew he was within a few moments of victory, and personally led the final push. He knew he was no warrior, but sometimes when he got this close, he\’e2\’80\’99d pretend he was a wizard, unloading his mana in direct damage spells that weren\’e2\’80\’99t efficient, but were a lot of fun. His lieutenant, a necromancer, was summoning a new pet behind him, and on the other side, his Shadow Knight aide was getting ready to try a Harm Touch. It won\’e2\’80\’99t work, Nyktos grumbled to himself \’e2\’80\ldblquote Harm Touch almost never worked.

Valryn, barely able to type in the fighting, sent a message to his group: "need heal!"

And then the harm touch hit, and he died.

The Defenders went down a few moments later, and while the rear-guard held the hall against reinforcements, Nyktos bound himself to the room, and then clicked on the Stone in the middle. "Do you wish to declare this Stone captured?" He clicked Yes, and knew that a message was going out then to all the Defenders of Freeport: "Your stone has been captured by Neriak! You have two hours to retake it!"

Two hours. I only have to hold them off for two hours.

As his group all clicked on the stone to register themselves as captors as well, Nyktos thought about his defenses. They could let up to 5 of the Freeport scum in \’e2\’80\ldblquote once 6 Freeport Defenders had clicked on the stone, the capture attempt would fail, and the war would end. He sent tells to his raiders to keep the entrances to the Militia Building courtyard blocked, and use direct damage on anyone trying to use Levitate or Dead Man Floating to run over their heads.

Valryn saw the message and started swearing, sending /tells to everyone he could think of. The leader of Qeynos wasn\’e2\’80\’99t logged on, but the leader of Felwithe was. He promised to tell his people to get over to Freeport, and start porting defenders over as soon as he could. Valryn thought it wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be enough. He was surprised, then, and filled with hope, when the group of 12 gnomes arrived in West Freeport, where he was waiting for a corpse recovery from a friendly Necromancer. "Hail," he said, and when the first of the gnomes started casting, he thought it was an incoming buff. And when he died, he saw a /tell from the Gnome leader, Smollet: "Guess you wish you signed that trade agreement, huh?"

Two hours later, the city belonged to Neriak. Or, more specifically, the city belonged to Nyktos and his 5 group members. Valryn and the other Defenders all got the message: "Your stone has been lost! Your team has been unseated, and you have one week to mount an attack and retake the city!"

In the Stone Room, Nyktos directed the recovery efforts and sent a message to Dazin: "Now I rule in Freeport. Let\’e2\’80\’99s talk trade agreements." On his interface window, he saw a new panel: "City Leader." When he opened it, he saw the title, "Lord of Freeport," and grinned.

In the sewers under West Freeport, Valryn sent a /govern message calling off the assaults. "We need to regroup and plan \’e2\’80\ldblquote and get some allies to help us retake the city. We\’e2\’80\’99ve got a week; let\’e2\’80\’99s make use of it." His City Leader interface window now read: "Lord of Freeport \’e2\’80\ldblquote In Exile." He knew that in a week, it would change to read "Unaligned," and his ties to Freeport would be gone. And I\’e2\’80\’99m not going to let that happen; I worked too damn hard for that city.

— Isuldir

TODAY I CONSIDER MYSELF THE LUCKIEST FAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” -Terrence Mann, Field of Dreams

A neighbor friend of mine had what we might refer to today as a “hyper-active” child. He was obstinate, defiant, and prone to tossing fits. His worst outbursts usually came at the dinner table – he hated vegetables. Sure, what kid doesn’t hate vegetables, but not every kid would take them in hand and throws them. You can discipline a child, but after a few years without any improvements or breakthroughs, you could understand a mother’s surrender.

He had one passion, the passion that once-upon-a-time was shared by every small boy in America. He loved the game of baseball. This concept may be foreign to some of you, so let me explain. A generation ago, maybe even two, we were not quite the “enlightened” society we are quickly becoming. There were no support groups and no Doctor Spock’s Baby Book to teach parents how to be parents. As a result, most father’s failed to recognize the importance of spending quality time with their kids. They spent an average of twenty minutes a week playing with their sons – twenty minutes of baseball. So for many of us who are now entering their mid-thirties, and some raising sons of their own, baseball represented something more than just a game or a competition. It represented, in a very real and quantifiable way, the bond between father and son. In an age where a father and son were not supposed to have emotions, baseball became a comfortable way to say “I love you, son.” and “I love you, too, dad.” Today, we as a society are better parents and better families – and the willing sacrificial lamb has been our game of baseball.

For my father and I, it was Brooks Robinson. I couldn’t get enough autographs or baseball cards, or newspaper clippings. We went to games at Memorial Stadium and witnessed some of the greatest moments in Baltimore Orioles history together. For us, that old ballpark was more “home” than the house we lived in. And we shared it with thousands upon thousands of fathers and sons across the country. He was an athlete, but moreso, he was someone my father could point at and say to me, “There son, is one hell of a guy.”

I remember the day I had dinner with my neighbors and the anticipation for another fist of thrown stringbeans hung in the air like a fog. “Eat your beans,” she said. “NO!” And then I saw something that might sound corny and may even sound funny, but represented exactly what Cal Ripken Jr meant to Baltimore, to the game of baseball, and to us, as a people. “Cal Ripken eats his vegetables.” Without further protest, that little brat ate them. It was a monumental victory for motherhood that is not likely to appear in any almanac or lexicon.

Cal Ripken eats his vegetables.

1994 was the year we almost lost Major League Baseball. There was a strike that cancelled the season. A cancellation traditionally reserved for moments of great national tragedy from the outbreak of war to the death of a president, there was no World Series. Nike flooded television with commercials featuring a lone fan in a ballpark shouting jeers and critiques at a lonely groundskeeper tending to the empty field. “You call that a sprinkler?! C’mon! My grandmother can mow better than that!” Fade to black with the words: “Play Ball. Please.” In the spring of the following year, they did exactly that. The season began and baseball resumed. But they were missing an important key element: the fans. Montreal held a game for a mere 11,000 fans in a stadium that could seat six times that number. Players said if felt like they were playing in a funeral home.

The players were more accurate than they may have realized. Fans were angry and injured by the strike, and were not coming back to the game. They no longer trusted it. A record seven franchises prepared to file for bankruptcy after leveraging huge loans in order to pay their players. Desperate for an answer, it would come in the form of a marginally above average short-stop playing on a team whose fall from grace made the mythical deafeat of the Greek Titans look insignificant.

It was a record so untouchable, that they erected a monument to it. Yankee Stadium honored it with the word, “…a record which shall stand for all time.” Dying slowly of a strange and unrecognized disease that would one day bear his name, Yankee Lou Gherig’s legacy is one that needs no reminder. Rent “Pride of the Yankees” if you need a refresher. Two thousand one hundred and thirty games without an injury, ironically a feat performed by a man who could barely remain conscious for more than 4 hours at a time. He would be immortalized by his own words:

“Today, I consider myself, the luckest man on the face of the earth.”

A man who was undeniably dying right before the eyes of a nation, and he felt lucky. Some things, I will never be able to understand; only admire.

Cal Ripken would take the nation on a roller coaster ride for two thousand six hundred and thirty two games. For over a decade he never took a sick day, and never called out from work – something very few people can claim to have accomplished. He did all of that in the face of a free agent market, by staying with the team he grew up watching from his family home in Aberdeen, Maryland. He had the opportunity to play on any team he wanted during the peak of his career. He could have played for teams where winning the world series was virtually assured on any given day. He could have gone for the big money but instead, he chose to stay close to home and give back to his local community. It was something his father had taught him, and at every opportunity for personal spotlight, he would humbly step aside and give credit to his father, who knew no other way to say “I love you, son.” than to play catch with his boys.

After “The Streak” ended, we laid Cal Ripken Sr to rest, and Memorial Stadium, silent for years, was torn down. The last page comes when the Orioles wrap up the regular season in New York, the stage where Lou Gherig made took his own final bow and faded into American History. Cal Ripken never left Baltimore, but will still close his career in New York. But not in The House that Ruth Built, but in a small town whose only true claim to fame is boasting the birthplace of Our National Pasttime. It was here that it all began and like a crusade to a Holy Mecca, fathers and sons assemble every year to watch a few more of their heroes take their place atop Mount Olympus.

I’ll meet you in Cooperstown, Dad.

Just as soon as I finish my vegetables.

Love you,

ADS

THE ONGOING COLLAPSE OF JOURNALISM IN GAMING, PART 3129 [Author: Lum the Mad]

Submitted for your approval, Games Domain’s WW2 Online preview.

WWII Online: Blitzkrieg was launched amidst some controversy, you see. To put it bluntly, pretty much nobody (not the developers, not the beta testers) thought the game was ready for prime time. However, the word came down that it was “good enough” to be enjoyed now and as they completed their planned feature set, it would simply get better!

You know that scene in Event Horizon? Where the starship crew starts trying to claw their own eyes out so that they won’t have to see any more horrors? Yeah.

CLARIFICATION FROM ABASHI ON PVP CHANGES [Author: Lum the Mad]

Hope you didn’t get your hopes up on the “new PvP changes” supposedly coming out of the Fan Faire, because Gordon “Abashi” Wrinn just posted a long message that basically said “No, we’re not gonna do that”.

That has always been one of the difficulties of having a real-time interactive discussion where one doesn\’e2\’80\’99t have the time to think about the precise wording of their answers. However, what we gain through the interactive forum makes it worth the effort, even when things appear to come out wrong like they did in the PvP panel this weekend.

For the most part, regarding the information that has since shown up on web sites, it appears that when it was mentioned that we \’e2\’80\’9cdiscussed\’e2\’80\’9d an issue, it was interpreted as \’e2\’80\’9cwe are doing this\’e2\’80\’9d. The fact is, we discuss a TON of things when we\’e2\’80\’99re driven to improve one area of the game. If you name it, we\’e2\’80\’99ve probably discussed it at one time or another. That doesn\’e2\’80\’99t necessarily mean that what we discussed has either been decided or shot down, just that we\’e2\’80\’99ve given it some measure of consideration in the past.

Check the message for the complete scoop — basically nothing really dramatic is actually happening on the other PvP servers. For now anyway.

TWEETY SELLS OUT FOR A BAGEL [Author: Lum the Mad]

Tweety, previously known for posting hilarious streams of consciousness profanity and being banned by Verant for it, has a new job: Mythic’s Internet Relations Manager for Dark Age of Camelot.

Yeah, that’s right. In one of those weird twists of fate that proves that the god of my existence has one sick twisted sense of humor, I am now employed as Mythic’s edition of Abashi. Please direct all complaints about me being a sell out corporate whore to www.I Don’t See You Paying For My Health Insurance.com.

What’s this mean for my site? Not much and everything. Not much in that I am going to keep it, and continue bitching and moaning. Everything in that for some reason, my new employer thinks it would be unprofessional to rant about the Company Formerly Identified as the Evil Empire. Since I am really, really sick of ramen noodles, and my dog needs shots, and my contact lenses are two years old, I agreed. Also, Mythic’s CEO bought me a bagel.

Yes, but did it have cream cheese? I anxiously await the first juicy Camelot scandals. Then again, Tweety is probably the first Internet Relations Manager who could beat me up.

A VERY BRADY MMOG [Author: Niobe]

Now with online games being made into TV series and vice versa we have to ask ourselves if this trend is going too far. Movies have already tapped into the success of television shows but do you really want to be immersed in the world of Gilligan’s Interactive Island? Do you think that a Dark Age of Camelot series will be innovative or a Xena: The Warrior Princess clone? We’ll have a chance to find out this fall. It’s one thing to have a cult phenomenon like Star Trek Online. Its quite another to run around a virtual world with a character resembling Regis Philbin.

So I present a list of MMOG’s that should NEVER be made.

Hollywood take heed…please.

Sunshine Day: A Very Brady RPG

Choose one of eight Brady classes, each with unique abilities, as you frolic in this entertaining game sure to bring hours of addictive fun! Want to earn gold building houses for other players? You can as you develop your Mr. Brady class which its special architecture skills. For those who enjoy playing bards you’ll love the Greg Brady class and its unique ability to shape-shift into Johnny Bravo, rock star! Although you cannot customize your look at creation, your character will change as you earn skills and level. Male characters will be able to perm their hair after advancing to higher levels, while female characters gain the ability to wear shorter skirts as the character advances. Earn money and move out of the crowded, multi-user bedrooms and into your very own attic loft!

Sunshine Day is a game based on advancing characters via quests and tasks. Don’t worry if you get stuck working on a task. There are several helper NPCs, such as Sage Alice, to help you complete them! The robust quest engine even allows for group questing. Guilds will be able to compete against others in the immersive Talent Show quest for a chance to earn both money and fame. A sure winner with the hardcore gamer!

Play 2 Crush: The National News Online

Who says companies are repulsed by griefers? This game is tailored towards their very special playstyle. The massive world of P2C:NNO is made special by the huge list of available skills. Everything from simple forgery to large-scale arson can be achieved and with over 500 skills to choose from each character will have unique qualities. Though the game is not class-based, players will only be able to specialize in a few professions. Only the most dedicated player can earn the title of Grandmaster Terrorist! The key to advancing in this world is through leadership and interaction with other players. Working together as a team may earn your group the exclusive right to a headline news story at the end of the day. Play 2 Crush does not hire bothersome GMs to cramp your style and there is no risk of banning. You decide how far is too far.

Many Friends Online

In this stunning 3d game you will be able to interact with other players by hosting parties, chatting with friends on your very own couch – each player will receive an apartment which can be completely customized – and even use the bathroom together for those private conversations. You will be able to select from several occupations for your character and the clothing options are endless. As you advance and earn money your character will be able to spend money on an increasingly large selection of items. Impress your friends with a pool table or large screen TV! Oops! Make sure you’ve excelled in the cooking skill or you might burn down the kitchen!

UPDATE: This game has been canceled in favor of a similar game with a different name

On second thought, maybe its time to shut the TV off, blow up the computer and go back to reading a good book.