Page One: Is that your horse in your backpack or are you just glad to see me?

When Veteran Rewards were first introduced to Ultima Online, it was a way of saying “Thanks for sticking with us and not leaving to play EverQuest” to the premier players. Instead, it became a way of saying thank you to the premier exploiters, who were able to garnish far more rewards than they were entitled to.

Oh Ye Generation Of Vipers.

So rewards were quickly yanked while OSI figured out a way to make it entirely an undeniably exploit proof. We only had to wait about a year. Thank you, Doctor Twister and Company. The good news is that as a way of saying “thanks for waiting so patiently for us to fix and deploy our original way of saying thanks,” they are awarding all veteran accounts (of every level) and additional reward to be used at whatever level they choose.

Just to fill in some of the newbie veterans, rewards are divided into ‘tiers’ as your account ages every 12 months. Each tier offers different, and for the most part, better rewards. When your account is 1 year old, you can cash in for a Year One Reward, or save it so when you are eligible for the 2nd year rewards, cash them Both in for two 2nd year rewards – and so on.

This part is VERY IMPORTANT so I will use ‘the sky is falling’ font:


Sorry if that scared you.

Let us call it even because, quite frankly some of you scare me, as you’ll find out on the next page…

Page Two: There are enough complaints about localization to fill a book.

Localization is something OSI had to do to make gobs and gobs of cash. At first, it sounds like a Scroogeism, but when you consider that the more gobs of cash OSI pulls in, the less attention EA pays to them, you have to appreciate why it needs to be done. I need not remind you of what happens whenever EA starts paying attention to Austin. Privateer Online anyone? Wing Commander Online anyone? Ultima Online II anyone? The sign outside of EA HQ reads “Electronic Arts and Marley” because Jacob died a few winters back and EA is too cheap to pay for a new sign. If you want find a codgerly villian to hate, you shouldn’t need a better roadmap than that.

The latest localization change came last week (or so) with modifications made to in-game books. Probably the most promising feature to be entirely ignored by OSI, in-game books had become something of a curiosity for most players, and for a few of those players, it became a new niche character. I myself have a character on Chesapeake in the role of a hermit author (think H.D.Thoreau) whose home is furnished by a desk, a chair, a bed, and books stacked to the rafters in every corner and on every inch of space. I would write short stories and then transcribe them in game and sell them on venders at player run taverns. I didn’t make a ton of profit, but once in a great while, I will still get an email from someone in UO who found one of those books and will say, “that was great. Have any more?” My response is, “I have the next chapter ready. If you want a copy, bring 50 books to my house on Saturday.”

Fifty books sounds like I’ve put waaaaay too much time into writing. Well, just bear in mind that UO books are about 20 pages long, and each page can hold an average of 20 words*. The American Declaration of Independance takes 8 books. The Magna Charta takes 9. Neither document is considered ‘long’ as far as documents are concerned. They are mere pamphlets. In UO, they would fill a strongbox. But the silly size restrictions weren’t the most frustrating part of this character. What really torqued my jaw was finding copies of my stories, with my name removed as the author, and the url changed to the url of some guild or player I never heard of. So basically, I had a writer character who couldn’t display books in his own home (books secured inside homes can still be rewritten. One day I logged into find that someone had over written 65 of my books – probably took him two hours to do it, for no other purpose but to ruin my day. Cool deal. I eventually gave up on that character although he still exists. After asking time and time again for such a simple and easy change as making a book in UO with 200 pages (call it a ‘tome’ even), or use a font whose letters weren’t one third of the entire page, I realized it was too small of a niche. It wasn’t going to happen.

Well finally books have been updated by OSI. But they ignored all the requests from library owners and writers like myself. What motivated them to change the books was the concern that players in Korea might not be able to read them. So the font was changed to a smaller one, a more generic one rather than the pseudo-caligraphic font previously used. That I found a good thing, actually. Unfortunately, you still only get 20 words per page because the margins are set to allow you to use roughly 50% of the space available. Oh, and titles were made shorter. The name ‘Arcadian Del Sol’ is now too long to be a title of a book. You get 14 characters. So I’m changing all my books to ArcBook 1pt1, Arcbook 1pt8, Arcbook 3pt9 and so on.

Very nice OSI. Very ‘suspension of reality’. That’s what I call a game world with some depth and personality. And this paragraph is what the rest of us call sarcasm. Hate to sound like a ‘scary roleplayer crybaby’ here folks, but this is just another straw to place on the camel’s back. Straw by straw, Ultima Online is moving away from being a ‘realm’ to being ‘a map’. I’d say that the journey is already complete, but I keep saying that only to find yet another little tiny bit of color and live and flavor that is Sosaria eliminated so that the rest of the world likes UO. News bulletin to OSI: The rest of the world knows Eurpoean History, too. They know what “Olde English” is (hell, some of them even know what “Olde Anglish” is). So if you’re going to adjust UO books in order to make Asia enjoy them, instead of changing fonts, you might consider making them read from top to bottom instead of left to right.

Don’t worry, your 5 year veterans will learn to adjust. We always do, right? And as for 5 year veterans, I’ll tell you now what reward I want. For my 5th year veteran reward, I want Ultima Online the way it was during my first year.

Just a quick note. Calandryll informs me (and you as well, if you’d read the discussion) that UO books can be made to a maximum of 40 pages and in his test, was able to hold about one thousand words. Also, a change made previously allows writers to make books uneditable. As my writer character has been logged off for several months, I am unable to confirm this but Cal hasn’t lied to us before.)

Page Three: Exit Poll at Electronics Botique – UO scores well with teen girls.

I’m not a predatory pervert or anything. I mean, high school girls are cute, but so are kittens and babies. Doesn’t mean I’m a sicko/psycho (I am, but for other reasons) or anything like that. Anyway, being a man on a tight budget now, I haven’t purchased a new computer game in about 5 months. Instead, I drop in on the EB and check out the previously owned shelf for anything cool. I found Soldier of Fortune last month for $4.99! Anyway, hoping that for some strange reason, a damaged copy of Arcanum might be there, I stopped in. I heard the sounds of flip-flops popping and chewing gum snapping and suddenly I was surrounded by a gaggle of high school girls. It was like a remake of The Sound of Music only more ‘radical’. Just to interject this comment: I dont know when they came back in fashion, but to all the young ladies reading this – the folded “Rosie the Riveter” bandana hair thing? Very cute. But then, I always thought gypsies were cute. Anyway, I picked up a pre-owned copy of Black & White ($29.99 folks. Which means your trade-in value on this is premium right now!), and listened as they sifted through some games.

“Hey, I have this. Its alot of fun.” – The Sims

“Get this for your brother. He’s into war stuff, isn’t he?.” – World War II Online

“I know some guy who has this. Looks uglyl to me.” – Anarchy Online

“I wish I could afford those.” – EverQuest

At this point, I said excuse me and reached past them to pick up a copy of Ultima Online, holding the box so they’d see it and maybe offer comment or something. Didn’t work so I dropped it and excused myself to pick it up. One of them grabbed it and handed it to me and said,

“They still sell this?”

I said as i put it down, “yes. I’ve been playing it for years now. I write a website about it.”

It was like I just opened my jacket to reveal wired sticks of dynamite. “cool,” and they slowly backed away and then left the store.

It is good to know that even though I’m getting older in years, I still have that all-powerful ability to scare away high school girls.

Page Four: RastaKitty checks in with his assessment of localization.

“We and I be thinkin that the English is same-same to all and they who done to use it.”