BRITFEST 99 [Author: lum]

“My God! The puppy is updating!”
— Designer Dragon

“I can’t believe I paid OSI $20.00 to go eat at a restaurant.”
— Murmandamus

“I can’t believe I travelled 1000 miles to pay OSI $20.00 to go eat at a restaurant, only to not be allowed in and have to go next door to buy drinks, only to be let upstairs and fed luncheon meat.”
— Lum the Mad

“So, are you the Lum the Mad who chain lightning’d me on Pacific?”
— Anonymous

Well, I spent much of this weekend in Austin with my posse Murmandamus the Evil Bastard and Crimson Ghost the Malicious Bastard. We had all heard a vicious rumor that some dude who styled himself Lord British was going to show up, so of course we had to go laugh at him. After an hour of warming up (which consisted of drinking tequila and muttering “yeah, I can take ’em” to ourselves in an apparently lesbian bar) we were all shepherded upstairs and proceeded to sit at tables and stare sullenly at the pale-faced geeks who were staring sullenly at the pale-faced geeks across from them.

Richard Garriott and entourage showed up (note: not in frilly cuffs), and after a bit he sat at our table. I figured I’d be cool and be, like, undercover (plus I really didn’t have a whole lot to say since I was busily struggling with my low alcohol tolerance), which lasted all of three seconds…

Sir Fragmor: So, Richard, have you ever read “The Rantings of Lum the Mad“?

Lord British: Actually I was warned about him…

Sir Fragmor: That’s him, right there. (points at Lum, sitting next to LB)

Lord British: (looks down at Lum) Oh REALLY.

Lum: (tries to look innocent, but only succeeds in looking like a gimp) Hi.

After that bit of unpleasantness was ended, he held forth about his new castle for a while (he’s building an escape tunnel to the sea now, or something like that), and also had a few things to say about the future of UO. Basically, the next set of enhancements will be designed to make the game more accessible to newbies. This includes newbie training areas in game (such as a newbie dungeon), developing an automated quest engine that one or two people can use for quests, and a greatly expanded offline component, similar to the current demo on the T2A CD. Also in the far future are enhancements to the game engine for advanced users, including a plugin to allow for a 3D view of the world and eventually UO2, which you will somehow be able to move your current UO characters to.

We were all pretty impressed with LB; he seemed a great deal like a “cool boss”… someone who has kind of a vague idea of where he wants the company to go, but actually delegates the details to the people responsible for implementing it. Any questions about UO’s specifics he almost always referred to Designer Dragon or Dupre (Rich Vogel, the UO project leader). Plus, he really wasn’t that much of a gimp, so it was hard to make fun of him.

After all, despite being the object of scorn and hatred for UO players everywhere, he actually had the cojones to meet those players, as opposed to the “Sullen GM Table” where about 8 GMs, all in various stages of body piercing, none of which were old enough to order drinks legally, stared morosely at each other, radiating waves of “they-told-me-to-be-here-they-didn’t-tell-me-to-like-it-goddamit”. Every so often we pointed and laughed at the sullen-GM-table and made them feel even more uncomfortable. It was our job, after all.

Soon there was a Q&A session between the assembled players and the dev team. Here’s the notes I tried to take (my PDA didn’t work well in the darkness, so many of my notes read “dd said pxyl1$achg2.,qe as well as boards”):

  • In game email is coming. God only knows why since every player is assumed to have out-of-game email, but it is.
  • Good and evil is on the back burner since no one can agree on what “evil” is and whether or not “evil” should be a synonym for “PK”. Eventually there will be much discussion between all the players, and after its apparent that they won’t even be able to agree on how to spell “evil”, the dev team will do something.
  • Customizable vendors (names, clothing, hair style, sexual preference) were requested and put “on the list.” Murmandamus asked to see the list.
  • It was asked if the dev team had seen Coral’s quest engine proposal. They said that they had but thought that it would be too “human intensive”. They were working on a dynamic, automated quest system as part of the forthcoming newbiefication of UO (see above).
  • A GM asked an obviously prompted question – “When are players going to be able to filter snow in UO?” Many players laughed in unison and said that it already WAS filtered in UOA. The dev team of course ignored this and said that it was on the list, along with Arm/Disarm and Last Target and, well, anything else that they could think of that would put Tug out of bidness. Someone else asked that since Origin seemed hellbent on putting Tug out of bidness anyway, why not just buy him out and save months of reverse engineering time. Rich Vogel then proceeded to wax eloquent on how, and I am paraphrasing here as little as possible, only the OSI dev team knew the source code well and how the source code worked, and they really only had confidence in their own programmers, and, well, they just didn’t trust the quality of any third party code. In heaven, Jesus wept.
  • The inevitable Unattended Macroing question came up. The dev team said that unattended macroing was bad because it created an unfair advantage against those, like Rich Vogel, who tried to play the game the way it was MEANT to be played, dammit. Someone from the GM table yelled “and it wastes bandwidth”. Lum said a dirty word under his breath. Lum asked DD that, if the problem with macroing was that it threw the skill curve out of whack, wouldn’t the simpler solution be to just remove the effect of global skill use out of the equation? (aka not checking to see how many blacksmiths are macroing blacksmithy and factoring that into the skill gain rate for blacksmithing.) DD said No. Lum whined Why not? DD said because three day shake and bake PKs would become three minute shake and bake PKs. Lum muttered another dirty word under his breath.
  • Someone asked if T2A was ever going to be open for housing. DD said that instead a real estate economy was going to be implemented because the world was, you know, full. So instead of building new houses players would have to sell their old ones. House maintenance will probably go in some day to encourage you pinheads to sell those 30 houses you’re holding on to on your spare accounts.
  • Someone asked if forges would ever be allowed on boats. DD said no, since boats were being used too much as houses anyway, and there were some changes in store for boats to discourage this.
  • Someone asked if the server lines had been changed. Faceless was surprised that Stratics hadn’t already reverse engineered the new server line locations, and said that the Stratics guys could just email him to find out where they were, which would probably be quicker.

Richard Garriott then gave a short speech which basically sketched out UO’s long term future as a VR sort of Amway, where if you got enough “points” you could have OSI fly you out to Austin and digitize your spirit and send it into the Matrix where you could duel to the death with the Men in Black and hang with Keanu Reeves, who knows kung fu.

Afterwards, it developed that the dev team all read this page and are great fans and in fact will probably link to it from just to spite me and make me look like I sold out to the Man. (Lum says another dirty word.)

And they asked, along with everyone else, when I was going to ask Lord British THE QUESTION. The question I had threatened to ask for, god, weeks now, and held in dark secrecy. That question, as I had planned it, was this.

Mr. Garriott, I work on a UO related website, and as research for that I came upon an interview you gave for the Site, a web-related TV show on MSNBC, where you said that the key to a successful online game was the ability for the players to feel as if they mattered, by involving them in a greater plot, and key to that would be the regular appearance of you as Lord British and Starr Long as Lord Blackthorne, interacting with the world and its players on a regular basis. My question is — what happened?

Sounds noble and coherent and to the point, no? Well, as mentioned before, I had basically turned into a drunken gimp that day, and my QUESTION turned into:

Um, er, how come you’re never online?

The answer… well, here it is.

LB: I’m online as Lord British once a week.

Lum: You ARE? (goggles)

LB: Yes, but you know, I’m just one person, out of a hundred thousand players, and word doesn’t usually get out when I’m there.

Lum: But… but people have ICQ, and IRC… and…

LB: Not everyone has ICQ or IRC.

Lum: So what do you do when you’re on?

LB: I’m usually led by GMs to player establishments, to place plaques and give speeches and the like. Sometimes I like to go on adventures with players, and occasionally I’ll take a GM call…


LB: Yes, it’s very instructive. I try to do it once a month or so.

Lum: What GM are you?

LB: I show up as GM Lord British.

Murmandamus: So, is there any chance that “invulnerable” tag over your head will go away?

LB: (backs away) Well, there’s always the chance that a mistake will happen and someone will accidentally clear the flag… um, I have to go.

So there you have it. If you macro unattended, LORD BRITISH WILL BAN THEE!

It was an interesting weekend overall. Texas is very big and I drove through most of it at high speeds. The web site was in capable hands while I was gone, although rumors that Fear will be interviewing the puppy are probably false.