Fatbabies is reporting that EA.com is having some problems. Supposedly AOL has already divested themselves of EA.com’s “premium offerings” such as “Bunny Luv“, “Poppa Zoppa” and “Ultima Online Third Dawn“.

We asked Origin if this would affect Origin Systems’ AOL-related offerings, including the “AOL Legends” AOL-only shard. After saying “Huh?” a lot, they confirmed that EA.com would continue to lovingly support AOL-native lich lord harvesters. EA.com also still has all of its AOL-ist trappings intact, for what it’s worth.

Fatbabies quoted an anonymous AOL exec as saying that “the core business model is no longer being serviced” for the AOL-EA.com partnership. (In other words, ad banners suck now. This is why executives are paid millions of dollars and you’re paid $5.50 an hour to “service the core customer relations area” – mopping the lobby.)

EA.com, chipper as ever despite yet more rumored layoffs (again from Fatbabies), spun it as a victory for continued massively multiplayer development. You know, expanding the Ultima Online franchise. Whoops, maybe not that particularly. OK, maybe branching out to “Harry Potter Online“? Uh, no, not that any more either. So what the hell is EA.com going to do in the MMO arena, anyway?

Well, to answer that question, Fatbabies, in a total sweep of today’s “actually sort of interesting” rumors, is also repeating the rumor that EA.com is about to fully borg the UO Live team and “encourage” UO users to “upgrade” to $14.95 combination UO-EA Platinum accounts. You know, for all those potential Ultima Online-Majestic crossovers. Which actually makes sort of sense – while I’m not nearly freaky enough to take Art Bell’s faxes at work, I would have KILLED for real-time notification of something to the effect of “hey stupid your houses on great lakes are about to collapse – k thx bye EA AUSTIN”.

Never fear though, for if all else fails, the Sims will save us all! And if all else fails, I’m sure Megaputt is available. Megaputt has saved more gaming networks than we can count. Surely it can save EA.com too. Save us, Megaputt, save us! For the children and peace!

Many folks dropped us a line about the recently announced Dune: Generations MMOG. Let’s not get too excited folks – it’s being designed by the FRENCH. Not only that, the same Frenchmen who came up with Mankind: The Only MMOG That Actively Encourages You Not To Play. I eagerly await landing on Arrakis to be confronted with a snooty Harkonnen bureaucrat who promptly fines me for not having fully Galactic Union-compliant enviro-friendly spice containment vats.

Lineage’s beta is still going on – you just have to pay for it now. Well, that’s a more honest way of releasing your game, I suppose.

In case you thought Anarchy Online was the only MMOG with unrest among its beta testers, we’re getting rumblings of discontent from Dark Age of Camelot as well. Here’s an anonymous mail we were sent of two posts that were swiftly nuked off of the Vault Network DAOC boards:

Didn’t know if you saw this post. I’m gonna paste it here in the letter in case it gets wiped from the boards.

A lot of beta people are becoming more and more frustrated by the way the game is going.

This may be the only way to get them to fess up to lying about a lot of this.

(LIE) Monster spawning will be random.

(FACT) Its static and camping is a HUGE problem in beta.

(LIE) Downtime is low.

(FACT)Downtime is HUGE as you level. Way higher than EQ in fact.

(LIE) Dying will not be as bad as EQ.

(FACT) Its worse.

(LIE) Quest will be dynamic.

(FACT)They are all static.

(LIE) Soloing will be feasable.

(FACT)Its not… it takes 2-3x the time as it does in groups.

(LIE) Characters will not be cookie cutter like EQ.

(FACT)They are now.

(LIE) No class will be a “MUST HAVE” in groups.

(FACT)Cleric and Minsteal are.

The list goes on… I will close wth a quote from someone who is well respected that has had enough.. remember I am not him.. I am posting it without his permission.

All right, the past week or so has given me a lot of time to mull over what’s going on in DAoC, not just in terms of a specific topic but in its overall direction. I first came to this game a long, long time ago – can it be over 2 years now? Back in those days even Mahrin wasn’t a Mythic employee, and we knew little more than the fundamental principles that the game was going to be founded on.

So we all got optimistic, and I like many other people flocked to the message boards to find out what I could and to try to persuade Mythic to make the game into my ideal vision of a MMORPG. Just last night I went back looking through to old posts on the CamelotVault Boards, looking for a practically ancient post which held a little cartoon that one of the denizens had drawn up. I went through a lot of my old posts, and it got me to thinking about how much things have changed.

Now, this is going to sound harsh and maybe a little bitter. I just have that knack with people, I suppose. It’s not really personal, just critical. And I hope that it’s constructive criticism, though since Mythic pretty much ignores anything I have to say anymore I guess the only purpose it might serve is to get my fellow players thinking about my points. Guess we’ll see – I suspect that Mythic is just about out of patience with my disagreements. But here goes…

When I first came to this game, I was very optimistic. I mean, Mythic was promising something that was very nearly a utopian MMORPG. I loved the game in its early days, even after they lost the ability to work with the Rolemaster system. I loved to hop into the world and play the game, even if only for a short period of time. I thoroughly planned to snag this one the second it came out and pay till Mythic’s pockets bulged to pay it. Then things changed. And now, after looking at our (and especially my) idealistic old posts on the CamelotVault DevBoard, I recognize it’s turned into almost exactly the same nightmare that I was so adamantly opposed to it becoming.

I’m not sure when it began happening, exactly. I suppose at some level I always knew what was going on, and as things went more and more down the path they have I became more loudly opposed. It might be the case that I’m just the only person of my philosophy who’s lasted in the community long enough to see the changes. Certainly some of the other long-time testers seem to embrace the development with no problems at all. But I think I’m not the only way who feels this way about the system…

The soul of this game seems to have completely disappeared. Once upon a time this game was about a fierce war waged between three realms, with roughly equal sides. It involved a good balance, but allowed the individual to define themselves to amazing levels. The world was a rich place filled with mystery and a hint of danger. Group or solo, a player could advance pretty well in the way that they wanted to, with skill meaning more than level. In those days the world was considerably smaller, but the way it operated meant a lot more. Areas had very distinct characters, and even inside of each zone there were very specifically populated areas. The individual was supposed to matter a lot, and we roamed all over the land in closely knit groups, with no artificial reliance on others. Quests were the heart and soul of the design, and we were going to get a truly dynamic system to work with. And best of all, a working economy, which stopped rampant deflation of currency until little things were worth obscene amounts, with a rich system of trade skills. And best of all, a company that cared and responded to its player base, unlike the other companies in the MMORPG business.

What do we have left? A system which has completely destroyed every trace of that list of beneficial elements. About the only things to be said about what we have now are that there is more stuff and that we have more choice in the number of classes. Theoretically the economy might work someday – or so what’s on paper claims. The rest might as well just be a passing dream.

Now, the player has almost no individuality left. We’re all cookie-cutter clones of each other, with only the most superficial differences standing between us. The only real choice that you’ll ever make is what class you’ll take. After that, it’s just a question of what gear you’ll use to take an action. Even then, every other person with that gear is precisely identical to you. We get 5 colors and a single word name to make us any different than another person of our class. No more, no less. It’s sad that more people didn’t get to see how much more flexible characters were even at the start of Beta 2, before the whole system got repeatedly overhauled. An Armsman could choose to use a longbow, or be a heavy infantryman, or many other options. Farewell to that – welcome to a system predestined spell and style sets based on an irrevocable choice made early on. Think about it – when was the last time that YOU made a choice about your character that was actually meaningful? Or are you running down a path precalculated at the time when you chose your guild?

Beta testers run amuck – it’s not just for Europeans any more!

Quarter to Three noticed that Verant snuck in an announcement that Planetside slipped to 2002, joining Sovereign in the “maybe next year” column of the ledger. However, since Everquest: My House Smells Like Cat Ass is still going strong, no one is really concerned.

(note: if you’re late joining us to the party, here’s the origin of all the “cat ass” references. Brought to you by a kinder, gentler, more newbie-friendly LtM!)

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of the Slow News Days, marked by meandering posts about the meaning of life by Arcadian Del Sol, biting slice-of-life quips from Delusion, threats to ban each and every one of you from Myschyf, Lum wondering when the new server’s coming in, and every forum poster thinking themselves witty and urbane by posting “Slow news day, huh?” to the threads or to Lum’s email.

The Slow News Days are rumored to end around the time of E3, a yearly mating ritual that happens in about 2 weeks where every employee of gaming companies congregate in one huge convention hall to hand out their resumes to every other employee of gaming companies while fanbois look over their shoulder madly to see Metal Gear 2 pr0n.

We (we meaning Lum, Lietgardis and possibly Mako) will be at E3 as well, and possibly actually finding news-related things (usually by accident, if the past is anything to go by). If you’re a game developer and haven’t already scheduled a chunk of my time, email me so I can be completely booked solid and have no time for crusing Hollywood Boulevard for volume discounts on crack vials.

Or, as a forum correspondent put it,

Look, ROAR ROAR!! CRUNCH CRUNCH!! STOMP STOMP!! JESUS, figure this out sometime, K?

I couldn’t put it better myself. I think.