December 2000

FREELANCER ONLINE CANCELLED? [Author: lum]

The fallout from the recent departures/firings/appearances on milk cartons at Digital Anvil continues. Adrenaline Vault today is reporting that both Chris and Erin Roberts “are no longer with the company”, to use that oh-so-neutral turn of the phrase, and, to quote AVault,

Word is that Freelancer will be scrapped, or in the least scaled down so that it will not resemble the game that won over the press at 1999’s E3. The source cited technological problems, suggesting that what Roberts envisioned is not possible using current PC technologies. Press agents at Digital Anvil declined to comment.

Doesn’t look good for the persistent online component, which was one of its most promising aspects (and the one that, you know, makes it something we’d report on, as opposed to, say, Deus Goat Secx). If we learn more you will. If you learn more tell us.

CAMPING CDS IN LITTLE ROCK [Author: Lum the Mad]

As I mentioned on the message board, I decided to try and hit Electronics Boutique today during lunch (they of the elite 0-day distros) and pick up my own copy of Scary Velious.

When I got there, there were about 9 guys, all adults in their twenties and thirties, hanging out by the counter waiting on the clerk. I looked on the shelf, saw no copies of Velious, and figured I’d wait for the clerk too, to see if their UPS shipment from their elite 0-day distro had run yet.

The guys next to me said something to the effect of “yeah, I play on Veeshan…” and my blood ran cold, mah memory haaaad just been sold…

I looked up, fearfully, laughing nervously. “PLEASE don’t tell me you all are here for Everquest…”

All nine guys nodded eagerly.

The clerk, harried, came back, and without even asking why I was there, pointed and asked if I had a reserved copy. He didn’t ask what I had a reserved copy of, mind you.

I shook my head. No, I hadn’t placed a reservation for an expansion CD to an Internet-only game that was over a year old.

“OK, well, I’m calling my supervisor, and we’re going to try to get some more copies today, but…”

I told the guy it was OK, I really could live without Scars of Velious today. HONEST.

I then ran. Quickly. Some things you just don’t want to experience outside of your email client.

BRING DEM ‘PUTER PLAYERS TA BALMER, HON! [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

EverQuest fans, grab yourself a crab mallet and a jug of Natty Bo and come on over to “Charm City”, known to the rest of the planet as Baltimore, Maryland. Formerly famous for being the birthplace of Babe Ruth, the burial site of Edgar Allen Poe and the place where Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem, Baltimore welcomes all youz guys to come on downie ocean, hon!

Where: BWI Airport Marriott, 1743 West Nursery Road, Baltimore, Md.

When: February 2-3, 2001

Anyone who plans to attend and is visiting Baltimore for the first time, I strongly urge you to pick up a handy English-Baltimore dictionary. If you think I’m joking, Read This!

For Faire details, visit the EverQuest website.

REALITY IN GAMING [Author: Bono Vox]

Until recently, all MMOG\’e2\’80\’99s were set in a fictitious world: Britannia, Norrath, Dereth. Most upcoming titles follow similar lines, creating a completely fictitious world in which the players live out their virtual lives. Recently, a couple of new games were announced that are not set in fiction. World War II Online, and to a lesser extent, Dark Age of Camelot.

WW2O is set of course, on Earth during World War II, somewhere in the European Theater. DAOC appears to be set in Britain, in the distant past. One of these is of concern, the other less so, although the same standards should be applied to both.

Both games have developed a community following, as most online games have been doing. There are some stark differences however, between these two communities.

DAOC appears to be gathering the same sort of \’e2\’80\’9cmedieval period fantasy\’e2\’80\’9d community, similar to the existing \’e2\’80\’9cBig Three\’e2\’80\’9d: Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call. All three are set similarly, despite the vast differences between their worlds. Since none of these worlds is seated in reality, the ugliness of reality hasn\’e2\’80\’99t quite as easily spilled into them. Yes, there\’e2\’80\’99s racism and various forms of hatred, but such has been brought in by the players for the most part, and further discussion of the issue is beyond the scope of this writing.

Camelot is set in Britain hundreds of years ago, set in a time and place that are/were real. Britain\’e2\’80\’99s history is not exactly \’e2\’80\’9cshiny clean\’e2\’80\’9d. I\’e2\’80\’99m no expert on the British/Irish conflict, but what little I know suggests that the beginnings of that long-standing hostility began back then. This has little impact on most people (assuming that Americans make up most of the online gaming audience), but there is the distinct possibility that real-world issues between the two sides being brought into the game. An English or Irish patriot might not be quite so happy with what a particular town is named. It\’e2\’80\’99s easy for Americans to dismiss this out of hand as \’e2\’80\’9ctheir problem to work out\’e2\’80\’9d. Regardless, so far I\’e2\’80\’99ve yet to see players bringing real-world baggage into the DAOC community (I may be blind to it, but I can only keep up with so much).

WW2O, on the other hand, has sprung a community that makes one lose hope in humanity. The game\’e2\’80\’99s setting, World War II, surrounds some of the most atrocious events in human history. Dozens of teenagers are being drawn to this game, pulled in by the prospect of being a virtual Nazi or SS soldier. There is a distinct lack of understanding of what the Holocaust was. Yes, according to the publisher, players will not be able to play as concentration camp guards or executioners. That doesn\’e2\’80\’99t change the fact that giving players the ability to play on the Nazi side still associates them with what happened.

World War II and the Holocaust that went along with it are not an appropriate setting for a game. The players will bring in that disturbing baggage. Playing on the Nazi side of this game gives the players a reason to hate real people in the real world. Should players be able to distinguish between the real world and the game world? Yes, of course, but the MMOG community has shown many times that are many people who cannot, or will not.

I do wish that the developers and publishers would take a set back and look at what they are doing. They are building a game, that despite what they intend, will have the same characterizations about it as the period it is intended to reflect, including the pieces that are being left out. WW2O will end up being a \’e2\’80\’9chate\’e2\’80\’9d game.

Will DAOC pull it off? Possibly. Their setting is quite a bit less controversial, at least to the world at large. The same questions should be asked daily of it, however.

Setting a game in reality is an interesting idea, setting a MMOG in reality is also an interesting idea. Not all ideas, interesting or not, are good ones, however. MMOG\’e2\’80\’99s in general thrive on various forms of conflict, so it is natural to seek a real setting with conflict: the British/Irish conflict, a major war, and so on. It is my opinion, however, that making a MMOG out of a real-world conflict is very inappropriate. The MMOG audience tends to degenerate into the lowest common denominator, and that is typically someone who will gladly embrace any reason to hate someone else. There’s enough problems with hate in the world as it stands without a game making it worse.

IT’S THE DAWN OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, AND I FEEL FINE [Author: lum]

Since we’re apparently a Dawn fan site now, here’s your daily dosage of Dawn desperation.

Someone spotted this dragon (originally from this online art gallery on this “screenshot“. You know, original artwork is HARD and all that.

Gravis of the “Reviews ‘N Rants” site interviewed both Brisk (the “rogue webmaster” of the formerly Dawn fansite Dawn HQ and myself about the week’s Dawnish happenings.

For those who just want to believe, fawning and unconditional coverage about Dawn from sites you’d think would know better is still available. For the rest of us, Scars of Velious is coming out next week for EQ… strap yourself in, boys, we’re about to be in for some chop.

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT COULD NOT POSSIBLY GET ANY WEIRDER [Author: lum]

It all started when I went into the #dawn chatroom over at Stratics on a whim. I had heard that the Glitchless folks were present and, um, none too happy with the coverage their site had recieved lately (can’t imagine why) so I figured I’d, you know, talk to them about it. The helpful Stratics folks +v’d me when I arrived to confirm that yes, I was that EVIL LUM PERSON, and immediately thereafter Jeff Friedman, Glitchless’ most visible representative on the net, arrived in the chatroom.

[l33t_McClown> hola jeff hows it going tonight, How was school?

[GL-Jeff> school was great, we had a pop quiz in pre-algebra tho and i dont know if i passed

[GL-Jeff> anyway basically i wanted to congratulate the l337 hackers for exploiting our UBB…which is about the equivalent of netbussing your grandmother.

[GL-Jeff> we’ll have them back in working order shortly. honestly we don’t mind attempts at security like that as long as they are non-threatening. we like to know where the weaknesses are.

[GL-Jeff> And Glitchless will be moving to a commercial headquarters soon, which is obviously what every company needs in order to be legitamate.

Since the channel was thrown into moderated mode, Jeff and I were effectively the only ones who could speak. I decided to, um, take advantage of this situation. Basically, I wanted to find out for myself if “Glitchless Jeff” was a con artist seeing the MMOG community as a great place to sell T-Shirts and ad banner impressions, or simply someone who had no clue.

The ensuing conversation was humorous at times, sad at other times. Jeff questioned my integrity, my knowledge of the gaming industry, and what I did for a living (at one time he implied that since I “just did data entry” I had no clue what managing a coding project would entail). Here’s some excerpts.

[00:14] [GL-Jeff> see lum, you are a parasite.

[00:14] [GL-Jeff> we are making a game.

[00:14] [GL-Jeff> we’re not asking for anything

[00:14] [GL-Jeff> except for people to test it for free.

[00:14] [GL-Jeff> you on the other hand

[00:15] [GL-Jeff> have a site who’s sole purpose is to generate revenue via web hits caused by controversy.

[00:15] [GL-Jeff> and you have a whole lot of sheep that eat up what you say.

[00:17] [GL-Jeff> yes we’re spending a lot of time and money on our eleborate hoax are we not?

[00:17] [GL-Jeff> unlike you we actually registered the names we claim to have trademarks for

[00:18] [Lum> It’d be hard for me to trademark “Lum the Mad”. TSR beat me to it, the rascals.

[00:18] [GL-Jeff> actually i was referring the the lumcopr that has the fancy TM after it which indicates a trademark

[00:18] [Lum> Jeff… that’s HUMOR.

[00:18] [Lum> You know, satire.

[00:18] [Lum> Jokes.

[00:19] [GL-Jeff> no you lost me

[00:19] [Lum> LumCorp is not really a huge multinational congolmerate owned by Time Warner. Honest.

[00:19] [GL-Jeff> really? i had no idea

[00:19] [GL-Jeff> but you do realize the TM after lumcorp means something official

[00:19] [Lum> Yes, it means I used the “TM” tag in HTML

[00:20] [GL-Jeff> see i could explain to you in detail HOW, but don’t you think that might give our competition a little edge?

[00:20] [Lum> How do you seriously plan to carry off coding an MMOG with features above everything else coming out, with one coder and 5 artists?

[00:21] [GL-Jeff> i’m glad you asked

[00:21] [GL-Jeff> basically what it comes down to is that you are not a developer

[00:21] [Lum> Actually, I am. But thanks for asking.

[00:21] [GL-Jeff> you dont know what it takes to make a video game

[00:21] [GL-Jeff> oh you made a VB rpg when you were in highschool too?

[00:21] [Lum> No, I code terabyte-scale database applications in my day job.

[00:21] [Lum> So I do have something of a clue about how large-scale coding projects work.

[00:22] [Lum> Which is why I’m curious how you’re going to pull this off.

[00:25] [Pizza_Guy> SOMEBODY SHUT THIS FUCKING PRICK UP ALREADY!! im tired of lums shit!! THESE ARE REAL FUCKING LIVES HES MESSING WITH

[00:25] [Pizza_Guy> A FUCKING COMPANY IS AT STEAK

[00:40] [Lum> You’re saying you’ve made a very ambitious MMORPG about to enter beta. I’m asking how with so little visible support.

[00:40] [GL-Jeff> the point is video games have become incredibly easy to create through the use of advanced API’s. Carmack had it so incredibly hard making doom and quake because he didn’t have these things (for the original version of quake) to work with.

[00:41] [Lum> You have an MMORPG API?

[00:41] [GL-Jeff> what is an mmorpg?

[00:41] [GL-Jeff> its a quake type game with advance netcode

[00:41] [GL-Jeff> well you’re the expert with data entry under your belt right

[00:42] [Lum> Data entry?

[00:42] [Lum> Um, no.

[00:42] [GL-Jeff> what do you do now lum?

[00:42] [Lum> I told you, I code databases.

[00:42] [Lum> But we’re not discussing me. You were telling me all MMORPGs were were Quake with spiffy netcode.

[00:43] [GL-Jeff> but you see this involves your credentials because you are making claims that you know what i say to be false.

[00:43] [Lum> You want credentials? What credentials do I need to ask “How are you going to pull this off with one guy”?

[00:44] [GL-Jeff> what it all boils down to in the end is what i’ve said time and time again

[00:45] [GL-Jeff> we’re going to make a game. you dont understand how we’re going to make it. you want to know how we’re going to make it. we obviously won’t tell you that.

[00:45] [Lum> I don’t want to know how you’ll make it, I want to know IF you can make it.

[00:45] [GL-Jeff> and only time will tell

[00:46] [Lum> Surely you understand how there is some doubt of that.

[00:46] [Lum> Making MMORPGs does not mean simply coding around a mythical MMORPG API

[00:46] [GL-Jeff> and i’m not asking you to believe we can do it! i’m just saying shut the hell up and leave us alone so that we can.

[00:49] [GL-Jeff> and i’ve told you, ALL of your questions will be answered in spring. that is the only way either of us are going to know whether or not the game is do-able.

[00:49] [Lum> Then come Spring obviously many people will be very surprised, if you’re correct.

[00:50] [GL-Jeff> its not as if we disagree on that point

[00:50] [Lum> And with that, since you obviously don’t care for me personally, I’ll leave you to your chatroom.

[00:50] *** Lum (Lum@sdn-ar-004mdelkrP048.dialsprint.net) Quit (Quit: Leaving)

[00:51] [GL-Jeff> i should like you though shouldnt i?

[00:51] [GL-Jeff> i mean all you’ve done is ask serious questions right?

[00:51] [GL-Jeff> you have no alterior motives of inciting contorversy right?

[00:51] [GL-Jeff> you dont run a rant site or anything right?

[00:52] [GL-Jeff> i wish he didnt have to go

[00:52] [GL-Jeff> well that was fun

I had originally told Jeff during the chat that I wasn’t logging it since I was using Stratics’ Java IRC client — however, quite a few others DID log it, and shortly excerpts began showing up in various places, including DawnHQ, one of the main Dawn fansites.

This apparently didn’t make Jeff a happy camper. After the first DawnHQ post about the chat went up (which actually was very pro-Glitchless in its intent), Jeff wrote Brisk, DawnHQ’s webmaster, the following note:

Your VERY unprofessional you would NEVER see a post like that on Stratics or IGN. If you do not change your ways I will remove your link from our main site.

He did in fact shortly thereafter remove the DawnHQ link from glitchless.com’s site. According to sources at Vault Network, he’s also tried to get folks “fired” from their Horizons site (!) as well for making sarcastic posts about Dawn in the Horizons forums.

Brisk, now somewhat unhappy with Glitchless for some reason, posted another excerpt from my chat with Jeff, this time being far more critical of Dawn and Glitchless. In response, Jeff sent the following note to Brisk’s host, the HQ Gaming network:

This is a friendly request from Glitchless, the makers of Dawn, to remove completely your page concerning our title. We at first supported your effort in full and linked you from our main page, but the people who run the DawnHQ site have shown repeatedly that their only interests lay in stirring up controversy which in the long run does not help your network nor our company. At the very least you will be required to remove all Dawn media from the page. This includes all pictures and game statistics.

We wish your network the best of luck, but we are not in a position to allow the use of our copyrighted media for a site whose interests are not in accord with ours.

-Glitchless Staff

Meanwhile, the faithful continue to be, well, faithful. As one told Delusion during my chat with Jeff,

us true believers dont have to believe or be led to believe what the non-believers are trying to make us think

ON THE NAMING OF NAMES [Author: Lum]

The SWG dev board is already seeing an influx of blue names (well, they’re not blue YET mind you) dropping oh-so-coy hints on actual, you know, gameplay. Well, one blue name. But he’s an awfully productive blue name, OK? So it counts as an influx.

From Raph “Holocron” Koster, who’s “Creative Director” (I guess that means Verant pays him to sits and thinks deep thoughts, and can you think of a better job for him?), we learn that grouping isn’t going to be required like That Other Game (necros don’t really fit into the Star Wars mythos, either) and that not much else not listed in the exceedingly general FAQ will be revealed for a while (“Suspense is good”). He then closed with the following Yoda-esqe turn of the phrase,

I strongly suggest you read through the FAQ phrase by phrase, there are more answers contained within than you are perhaps realizing. 🙂

(Translation – look guys, this is all LucasArts is gonna let us tell you! PLEASE find the hidden clues! And don’t forget to watch for our interview video on ZDNet later, when Rich “BoShecky” Vogel blinks out details on our faction system in Morse code with his eyelids!)

Still, knowing Designer Dragon… er, Holocron, I’m sure we’ll see some interesting design theory discussions soon. As UO vets can tell you, the man is absolutely inhuman when it comes to an ability to work the boards.

NOT QUITE DAILY, BUT IT’S STILL AN AWFULLY DENSE DOSAGE [Author: lum]

UO news: Everyone’s talking about the new proposed stat system, so you may have missed the reannounced veteran bribes… …Melantus posted his notes from the UO World Faire, and from the looks of it he went through a few pencils… …rumor has it G. Money Bob‘s notes from the UO World Faire was simply a long list of 1s and 0s. Then Neo kicked his ass…

EQ news: Scars of Velious is set to hit the stores next week… but if you’re a guide, you already got your free copy (and if you’re not, dashing to be the first to get the mad lewtz0rz just got even more pointless than it already was)… …rumors are flying about a “free XP exploit” involving resurrection bugs (again) that some ubers are exploiting to get, well, more uber… …Absor checks in with the raging shamans (or, in this case, the shamans who can only rage for 4 seconds until their mana drains) and shows dignity, calm and respect in the fact of player rage. In related news, penguins are showing up in Brazil… …and just when you thought we ran out of savage weirdness, old GL vets from UO will fall out of their chair, because in Morrell Thule, there’s a guild that got an ubermob KSed from under them by a too full of themselves uberguild and got told they’re not worthy enough to even be on the same server, to everyone else’s dismay. That wronged guild? SiN

AC news: The defense of Harry, the One Shard of the Herald, continues apace on Thistledown despite a server crash which briefly frightened everyone into thinking Microsoft “intervened“. (In fact, “Harry” was changed back to his pre-crash state to preserve the ongoing event.) Azraphael, antiranter (you know, like matter and antimatter) turned AC producer, showed up, said “Yee!“, left, all was well again…

Other news: Chris Roberts, Wing Commander and Digital Anvil founder, continues his crusade to be mistaken for Richard Garriott, gets fired from his own company… …the merry men of Origin held a chat last night, the transcript of which leads me to suspect they are having entirely too much fun and should be cranky and lashing out at their fans and the press like REAL developers… …J WANTS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SHADOWBANE, DAMMIT despite his probably knowing more about the game then the developers do…

Stupid news: Wanting to give up that nasty fast food habit? This should about do it.