WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS [Author: Lum the Mad]

  • So why is lumthemad.net closing?

    Because I said so.

    More to the point, because I’m working in the industry now, and not only that, on a game about to release next month. There will always be the perception that it’s either being handled with kid gloves here, or that it’s being slammed to create the appearance of not being handled with kid gloves, or even more infinitely recursive fits of paranoia. (My favorite: that Sanya and I were hired by Mythic solely to hoodwink the French. Because, you know, I am so popular in France. Especially among role-playing elves.)

    So blame me for selling out. Or blame the French. Or blame me for selling out to the French. But the real reason is that I probably need the seperation from the site more than the current owners did. It’s been over 2 years of spewing drool into a web page, after all. Habits die hard.

  • Did Mythic tell you to take the site down?

    Uh, no. In fact I’m sort of worried that, since everyone at Mythic is such utter LtM fanbois that I’m going to get in trouble. “Oh yeah, that’s the EX-founder of Lum the Mad. We have him cleaning the toilets now.” If Mythic really were engaged in a conspiracy to subvert the pure ranters of the Internet, they’d have me write for the site again, telling everyone how wonderful Camelot is. Right after I put one over on the French, of course.

  • So what do you think of #insert_game_here?

    I think all massively multiplayer games are kind and handsome and gosh darn it, people like them. Even if they are all getting bought by the French.

  • What is the deal with you and the French, anyway?

    I was abused by a mime as a child.

  • So why haven’t you said much about 9-11?

    Because I don’t know what to say. Because this is a site about games, sort of. Because it had nothing to do with Shadowbane. Because the world frightens me now. Because I can no longer see my stepson because we don’t want to risk putting him on an airplane. Because people are broken in ways I don’t want to think about any more.

  • Can I write for Slow News Day?

    Damn if I know. Can you?

  • So, what do you REALLY think about Dark Age of Camelot? No, REALLY. Your REAL opinion. You can tell us.

    Are you people on CRACK? What, do you expect me to go off on a tear about how I hate the game or something? It is a GAME. It isn’t a religion, it isn’t a way of life, no one is asking you to forsake your parents, it’s just a GAME.

    And for the record, I like it. I liked Everquest. I liked Ultima Online. I like MMORPGs in general. That would explain the whole putting two years of my life into writing about them thing.

  • So you’re saying “it’s just a game” now?

    Well, yes. And no. And yes. No. Yes. Um, it differs.

  • If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

    I would have stuck with mmognews.com. The past few months were just a rotten, lousy thing to do to my friends. “Here, here’s my baby. You take care of it now. Be sure not to screw it up, and I’ll be watching right over here. Oh, and it keeps the name I gave it, just in case anyone thought it was YOUR baby.”

  • You’re not making any sense.

    Hey, YOU were the people who insisted I make the final post.

  • What’s going to happen now?

    Well, there’s a question.

    The Internet is in flux. It can’t be free any more. Advertising doesn’t work. Yet community sites – like this one – are probably as ‘tar baby’ as you can get on the net – wildly loyal readers who don’t contribute a damn thing to the upkeep of the place. Except, well, you guys did, and that alone shocked the hell out of me. I mean, NO sites of this scale run off of donations. Except, well, this one. There’s something to be said for just throwing everything in a corner and trusting that God-As-You-Understand-Him-Or-Her Will Provide.

    And now it’s being handed off to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Except, as far as I know, Eldin’s not bald, and I have no plans of appearing in a movie with him where I run around in a funny uniform and emote in fine rollplayah style while fighting Malcom McDowell. But the experiment in voice isn’t over yet – and if anything can be predicted, it’s that the future will be wildly unpredictable.

    I’ll be reading, anyway.

WHEN RANTERS GET TIRED [Author: Eldin]

We yearn for the golden years of Neverwinter Nights, or Meridian 59, or the Legends of Kesmai. Those were the Golden Years of graphical online gaming, the time when we were all newbs to the genre, and every peek around the corner was a practice in awe and wonderment.

Now, as we grow older, we grow jaded. Graphical MMOGs titillated the senses and offended the better portions of our minds. How can games which look so good be so bad? How could eye candy so displace intellectual pursuits in the games of today? How could so much thought lead to so little thinking? The levelling treadmills, the days of the same old uber loot, the best templates.

How could so much innovation lead to so little excitement?

When UO teased us with trade skills mixed with combat, a world for pacifists and warriors alike, we despaired when balance went the way of factions; great in concept, poor in implementation. When EQ offered us a 3-D environment, we marveled at the eye candy, but despaired when the game offered us little in innovation. Here was a non-graphical MUD put into graphic form. When Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call promised us a world like no other, we gasped at the width and scope of the world, but became crestfallen when we realized there was little substance behind the basic templates and absence of trade skills in Dereth.

Then came the second generation MMOGs, the ones we were betting the bank on. AO turned out to be a visually stunning world with auditory pleasures to match. Too bad there was little in the way of a game to back it up. WWIIOL promised us strategy in the time of patches, crashes, and systems utterly unaccustomed to handling Cornered Rat\’e2\’80\’99s type of \’e2\’80\’9cchallenge.\’e2\’80\’9d

Now we wait on Shadowbane, the hype of years destined to climax in an anti-climax of epic proportions, or DaoC, the promised land of current MMOGs, promising us a stable world without European friends or balanced character classes.

Am I alone in being unaffected by the offerings of these MMOG worlds?

When will the companies stop making excuses? When will they stop telling us decisions were made according to marketing budgets? When will we see a complete game upon release? When will we stop lambasting companies for releasing games six months too early?

Make no mistake, we are the reason the MMOG industry is backlogged with the kind of shit it is. We have told MMOG companies that we will buy their half-complete products, and we will financially support the idea of a game, not the actual game.

Do not be mistaken about the origins of the current industry. We buy half-assed products. We buy based on idea rather than reality. We pay $12 for an idea rather than an actual complete, stable game.

When devs offer their excuses for their half-assed methods, we eat them up. We say to ourselves \’e2\’80\’9cWell, they couldn\’e2\’80\’99t help it. It was those evil marketers. The marketers are to blame for all.\’e2\’80\’9d Even if, in the back of our minds, we know any gaming CEO who had a solid set of testicles would tell the marketers where to stick it.

I don\’e2\’80\’99t want DaoC this week. I don\’e2\’80\’99t want it next week. I don\’e2\’80\’99t even want it in the month of October. I want it when it is done. We will not receive a complete game. We will receive a stable game, but an unbalanced one. We will receive what the devs could throw at us on the marketing schedule.

Just once, ONCE, in the MMOG industry, I want the CEO of a gaming company to tell the marketing department where to stick it. I want the CEO to say \’e2\’80\’9cLook, this game is not done, and we will not release it until it is 100%, without a doubt, ready to ship.\’e2\’80\’9d

We will not get a complete DAoC game. We will get a game released on a marketing schedule with the appropriate red names telling us they did the best they could given the marketing schedule.

And you know what? Tens of thousands of you will buy this game based on the \’e2\’80\’9cidea\’e2\’80\’9d\’e2\’80\’9d rather than the actual game play. You will buy this game. You will love it. It could be a total piece of shit (and, let\’e2\’80\’99s face it, that\’e2\’80\’99s a 50/50 chance), and half of you will defend it mercilessly.

Marc Jacobs will show up in our forums telling us all the little reasons for releasing a game that is not 100% complete. And most of you will buy into it. You\’e2\’80\’99ll excuse him. You\’e2\’80\’99ll defend his game, even though there should be no excuse for releasing an incomplete game.

I like Marc Jacobs, personally. From other sources, and what people tell me, I really like this guy. When I read what he says, I almost bend to it, excuse it, back him up on his words.

However, just this once, just this one time in MMOG history, I want Marc Jacobs to tell his marketers where to stick it. I want him to say \’e2\’80\’9cThis is MY game, and I will not be ruled by your god damned schedule. I will make this game to be my vision, and I will not release it to be anything less than a 100% complete game with balance, content, and eye candy. Until then, your marketers can blow me.\’e2\’80\’9d

Will that happen? Of course not. But, I can dream, can\’e2\’80\’99t I?

Hey, this is the new LtM.net. After this weekend, we\’e2\’80\’99ll be slownewsday.net. We\’e2\’80\’99ll have no credibility. We won\’e2\’80\’99t know what the hell we\’e2\’80\’99re talking about. We\’e2\’80\’99ll be riding on a popularity that isn\’e2\’80\’99t ours. After all, the site has gone downhill after Lum left. Hell, we have sucked ever since Myschyf left.

But, you know what? We\’e2\’80\’99re players here. We know what we want. We know what we deserve. And we will not rest until an MMOG company gives us that.

Until then, you\’e2\’80\’99re stuck with me and everyone else. You\’e2\’80\’99ll just have to deal. If you can deal with the crap the MMOG serve up, you can deal what we have to say in tow.

Happy final Lum The Mad September weekend to you.

Eldin

GRATUITOUS LARP LINKS [Author: myschyf]

Well because I can and because Eldin told me he didn’t mind and because many of you have written and asked and I haven’t answered, I am now going to shamelessly plug the LARP I’m involved in, a LARP organization I belong to, and a LARP convention I am helping to plan. Don’t care about LARPS? Don’t hit the damn links.

LARPA — A Worldwide LARP Organization

Intercon XVI — Lets do the Time Larp Again

1936: Horror — Theatre Style Larping Done very very well

DON’T WORRY, IT’S STILL GOT A LOT OF POTENTIAL, RIGHT? …RIGHT? [Author: Teirlap]

First off, if you still haven\’e2\’80\’99t heard, Funcom\’e2\’80\’99s last major patch, 12.6, self-destructed their game. You don\’e2\’80\’99t really need to know more than that, but if you\’e2\’80\’99re ignorant to this turn of events and are curious, look here and here.

Secondly, although its not a major sticking point, the company which hosted the US servers for Anarchy Online recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy (shout out to Shepherd for the linkage). Note that while chapter 11 bankruptcy technically isn\’e2\’80\’99t bad at all, just the fact that the phrases \’e2\’80\’98Anarchy Online\’e2\’80\’99 and \’e2\’80\’98bankruptcy\’e2\’80\’99 are in the same sentence works out to be some pretty somber foreshadowing to me.

Finally, like Mys pointed out in an earlier update, Funcom nerfed its boards today, throwing them into a state of 100% moderation. Now, there are many reasons why this course of action was chosen by FC. In the end, however, it\’e2\’80\’99s never a good thing when anything is censored. I myself have read the official AO boards many times, and there were always more well written posts than mindless ones.

Which all lead me to speculate\’e2\’80\’a6

Remember when you were a teenager, and your mother or father would ask you to clean your room up before you could go out, or watch TV, or play video games? Remember how sometimes they\’e2\’80\’99d just do that to be bastards (or good parents, it\’e2\’80\’99s debatable)? But do you also remember how most of the time they wanted your room spotless because relatives or guests were coming over and they didn\’e2\’80\’99t want anyone to see your bedroom in its natural state?

Mm-hmm. Do you remember how most of the time you just ended up putting away the big stuff and shoving the rest of it under the bed and into the closet?

Mm-hmm. Well, guess what, kids?

Funcom just shoved us under the bed.

Do they not think the European gaming audience can handle an official message board with OPINIONS on it? I\’e2\’80\’99ve met a few Europeans in my time, and they all seemed reasonably intelligent enough to form their OWN opinions, let alone listen to someone else\’e2\’80\’99s without snapping and killing someone with a wiffle bat, or whatever it is European kids play with.

Funcom\’e2\’80\’99s last stand is Europe. If they can\’e2\’80\’99t win over Europe, they\’e2\’80\’99re finished. Period. You can quote me on that. I have full faith in that statement.

But how do they expect to win over a new audience with a broken product? Easy. Same way you get $10,000 more for that house you\’e2\’80\’99ve had since the Dark Ages. Fill in most of the cracks with a caulking gun, slap a new coat of paint on, give the nudist next-door neighbors a free week\’e2\’80\’99s vacation somewhere, and pray for a miracle.

The more I think about it lately, the more my mind drifts back to the same conspiracy theory-like conclusion\’e2\’80\’a6

\’e2\’80\’a6Were we all just another beta test for Europe? Were all the bugs supposed to be worked out by now, thanks to the hours of \’e2\’80\’98testing\’e2\’80\’99 we North Americans put into our beloved (and unbalanced) characters? Did Funcom even want our money? Or was it just supposed to keep them around long enough to spring their \’e2\’80\’98surprise\’e2\’80\’99 on the unsuspecting European public?

This would explain why they released the \’e2\’80\’98R.I.P. Patch\’e2\’80\’99 (12.6) on a God damned FRIDAY.

This would explain why they never really cared about any of the major requests of the current community.

This would explain the lack of customer service.

Speaking of which\’e2\’80\’a6 Hey. Funcom just hurled their boards into 100% moderation. Isn\’e2\’80\’99t their CS staff already lacking?

Huh. Then who the hell\’e2\’80\’99s left to moderate the boards?

I looked into it. Apparently Funcom is turning (literally) to their farm team of staff, and are promoting the guy who feeds the goats which power the servers to a customer service position, specifically to Lead Bulletin Board Moderator.

\’e2\’80\’a6Sad. Now handfuls on innocent goats are going to starve and die just because YOU people couldn\’e2\’80\’99t behave and use the AO boards as intended. I hope you all rot.

So, here we are, nearing the end of what may be the beginning of a new end; the first major shutdown of a retail MMORPG. Did we expect this? Maybe, maybe not. Is it a sure thing? No, not yet.

Still, I\’e2\’80\’99m never one to miss out on a shining opportunity.

I\’e2\’80\’99m starting a pool. Whoever correctly guesses what day Anarchy Online finally sputters out and dies, wins half the pot, a pony and a year\’e2\’80\’99s supply of lemons.

\’e2\’80\’a6And I know what you\’e2\’80\’99re thinking, so forget it.

I get first dibs on whatever day DaoC comes out.

MASS BANNINGS AND WEIRD PATCHES [Author: Tick]

That and they seem to be keeping a remarkably level head about it.

The situation was summed up pretty well by Warlight Du’Xaviere, a Cleric from Tribunal:

In the past few days, there has been an undetermined number of individuals who have all received the form letter stating that their account has been suspended pending review for banning. The form letter states that their account was found to have attempted to hack into EverQuest multiple times and in multiple forms.

As we put the pieces together, a common bond between the players starts to form:

1) That during the days preceeding the suspension, each player found themselves forced to download an unscheduled patch a number of times over a number of days. It’s possible that the corruption of this file on their machines is a sign of what was going on.. or could be the cause of the flags going up in Verant.

2) Each system, as stated by the each person, is free from 3rd party software normally associated with “hacking” EverQuest.

3) Each system, as stated by each person, is free from viral infestation. Personally, I can vouch that upgraded Nortons and McAffee don’t find anything on the machine.

4) That ALL of these problems originated around the 11th of this month which lead up to the suspensions.

I’m not asking anyone to make any leaps of faith here. I’m just asking that you look at the situations that are common to a number of *UNRELATED* people. Too many things are similar. We’re not talking about a string of people from one guild which could hint at a shared program between them and a valid accusation that perhaps they did something wrong. We’re talking about several people, people who are well known on the server for being “honorable” and against hacking/cheating/exploiting of any sort. We’re talking about people who have hundreds of played days, multiple level 50+ characters and years of investment on accounts to what? Start trying to hack a system? Does that really make sense?

So far, the list I have of people who have had this happen recently is: Saxa, Trindle, Joppa, Corna, and Wolfgardain. Do we know of anyone else that this has happened to? Let’s get a list going of people and perhaps we should approach Verant as one voice.

And people, no. As has been demonstrated by a couple of the people involved, let’s remain calm. Screaming and harassing Verant will not alleviate any of these problems. We need to approach this rationally, intelligently, and calmly if we’re going to get it resolved.

Now we all know there’s lots of script kiddies out there, and the temptation to use some hack or third party application can be pretty strong if you think it’ll give you a leg up on the competition. That said, I don’t think it would hurt for Verant to have a closer look at this one, if for no other reason than it’d be good for people to know when they should start firing off emails to Verant Customer Service saying “hey, something weird just happened, and it wasn’t me.”

IT’S A ROLEPLAY SERVER, ‘CAUSE, WELL- WE SAY SO! [Author: Tick]

Any resemblance between this rule set and anybody else’s is purely coincidental.

We’ll begin with a quote from Aradune’s disclaimer (hey, everything’s gotta have a disclaimer):

Lastly, before I list the features, I do want to say the following again: This feature set will undoubtedly be controversial. It will also undoubtedly NOT be consistent with many players\’e2\’80\’99 views as to what an RP server or any other server should be. In fact, this is (combined with having less servers overall in the past) why we\’e2\’80\’99ve been hesitant to launch such a server. But we\’e2\’80\’99re going forward with this anyway, and we hope it will make an interesting and even possibly better EverQuest. And we hope that some if not many players will enjoy it.

So while this may or may not be your idea of a roleplaying server, it’s worth a try to see if it’s somebody’s idea of a roleplay server. Okay, with that little detail out of the way, let’s move on to the features:

\’c2\’b7 This is a new server, not a split server. Nor will there be any transfers to this server.

\’c2\’b7 This is a PvE (Player vs. Environment) server, NOT a PvP (Player vs. Player) server. In other words, it\’e2\’80\’99s a standard \’e2\’80\’98blue\’e2\’80\’99 server with the same rules and features regarding PvP as the vast majority of our servers. It is not one of the \’e2\’80\’98Zeks\’e2\’80\’99.

\’c2\’b7 Auction restricted to city zones: Qeynos, Surefall Glade, Highkeep, Freeport, Rivervale, Erudin, Halas, Neriak, Grobb, Oggok, Greater Faydark, Ak’Anon, Kaladim, Felwithe, Paineel, Cabilis, Kael and Thurgadin.

\’c2\’b7 Beneficial buff spells will not work on characters 20 levels lower than the caster.

\’c2\’b7 Very few items will be No-Drop. Exceptions will include things such as newbie notes and epic weapons.

\’c2\’b7 Each character will be assigned an “alignment” upon creation. This alignment will be described in brief on the character creation screen (in the same location the their Deity is described).

\’c2\’b7 Each character will be able to change their alignment once any time after they reach 10th level. The player will be able to chose from a list of alignments based on their race, class and deity.

\’c2\’b7 A character’s alignment will determine whether or not they can group or guild with other characters.

\’c2\’b7 A character’s alignment will determine an experience bonus or penalty when grouping with other characters.

\’c2\’b7 A character’s alignment will determine if they can cast beneficial spells on other characters (including resurrections).

\’c2\’b7 Language skills will improve only through group chat in the same zone and from /say.

\’c2\’b7 Languages will only improve 1 point each hour and will be capped at level*5+5 skill points.

\’c2\’b7 Common will not exist. A Human language will be added and only made easily available to certain races.

\’c2\’b7 One character per account per server.

\’c2\’b7 The Trivial Loot Code will be in effect in all zones.

\’c2\’b7 Bind Affinity will be restricted for all characters to locations where melee characters can bind on other servers.

\’c2\’b7 /emote will be language specific

\’c2\’b7 All characters will be /roleplay.

\’c2\’b7 /alignment will display the alignment of your character and probably a more detailed description of that alignment.

So in summation, you can talk to, group with, buff, heal, teleport, and resurrect people from your own realm- er, faction, but no one else. Further, while you are technically in some sort of conflict with beings from other factions, you are not in a postion to do anything about it, as PvP is verboten. Still further, the trivial loot code that was found to be rather, er… unpopular is in force in ALL zones.

It’s an interesting rule set, but it seems primarily devoted to splitting a typical server population into a few large groups of players that can’t do much more than look at each other. On the other hand, since /roleplaying is largely a mindset versus a rule set, perhaps it will attract those with the roleplayer mindset who don’t wish to be ganked.

Especially since there’s already a game where you can’t talk to a player from another “faction,” but you can kill them.

HEDRON’S TEENY TINY RANT 2 [Author: Hedron]

Warning: this is a teeny tiny rant. Very little attempt will be made to justify the following statements, but remember, it’s not the size of the rant, it’s how you use it.

What the hell is up with the in-game survey concept? Is it the result of a sekrit skweril plot that every option on their little surveys somehow be just twisted enough that you don’t want to pick any of them? Is it some kind of deliberate torture? Does anyone else feel like the choices are usually shit, chocolate covered shit, or a shit sandwich?

And why, in an industry fueled by the smarts of programmers and database designers, is it so difficult to ask questions in a manner that meaningfully identifies who’s answering them. Cross-tabulation anyone? If you’re going to ask question A, then ask questions B and C at the same time and then figure out which segments of your customers are answering how!

And display the results. What are we, chopped liver? We’d like to know how it turns out too, you secretive bastards!

Every single time I see one of these surveys I’m struck by what a wasted opportunity it is. Nice job. You have collectively pushed the standards of how to do effective customer/market research back to a level first achieved by the infamous 5th grader’s note:

—————————-

Do you like me? Check one!

( ) Yes!

( ) No!

—————————-

This teeny tiny rant was brought to you by the letters E, Q, U, O, A and C. Oh yah, and F and U.

(charming smile)

Hedron

The False Prophet

Gratuitous RP Signature

WONDER IF THEY’LL HOLD THE NAME FOR ME… [Author: Tick]

Yes, you too can soon (okay, next year) go off to smite evildoers with the rolled-up newspaper of JUSTICE:

Cryptic Studios proudly announces City of Heroes, a massively multiplayer online world home to an entire universe of super-powered, comic book style adventure. When the game releases next summer, thousands of players can take on the roles of superheroes, fight villains, and help create the story in a stunning, 3D graphical world, courtesy of the San Jose-based developer.

The story will no doubt involve running around in tights and looking for one of the many bands of villains that will be running around fair Paragon City (the setting of the game), hopefully managing to find one before some other upstart in tights finds him or her. Why are you gonna have to look for villains to fight? Well, because you can’t BE a villain, according to the FAQ:

There is no player versus player (PvP) combat in City of Heroes. As superheroes, the players do not fight one another to the death. However, should they want to get out their aggressions against one another, or just spar a bit, they can do so in the Arena System. In the Arena, players can fight against one another in a variety of environments and even place wagers on the bouts, all without risk of in game death or experience loss.

Cryptic Studios just got started on this one in July, 2000; with a scheduled Summer 2002 release, that just doesn’t seem like enough time to get together the technology they’ve promised. Then again, their screenshots don’t seem to feature any flying helldwarves (at least for the moment), so we’ll just have to wait and see.