January 2001

GOODBYE, ECONOMY, WE KNEW YOU WELL [Author: Lietgardis]

Each of these platinum scarabs exploited out of vendors are worth just under a D note, or 50,000 pyreals. Burdened players left them on the ground in stacks of 100. Most of Dereth’s new multi-millionaires didn’t need to exploit, they needed only to scrounge.

As of this morning, pyreals are officially worthless. While they’ve never been worth much in trades between players, all supplies from NPCs are essentially free. There’s no need to loot monsters, there’s no need to trade items for D notes; all spell components, mana charges, healing kits and stamina potions are paid for until the Zone shuts down the last server. Risk and reward theory dictates that this is a bad thing.

Assuming that that’s the problem, there’s no simple solution at this point. The damage has been done. The servers should have been brought down last night, rather than the posting of a noncommittal revert warning. Delete all platinum scarabs? People have already sold quite a few, and already have their money. Delete all higher-value trade notes? People made legitimate money last night, and it’s not fair to take theirs away. Delete all high-value NPC purchases, like master robes? People bought those with legitimately-earned money last night, too. Ban the exploiters? Few people actually exploited, it was the passersby that profited.

Despite the protests from those that did play fairly last night, the servers should be reverted to yesterday. No words about quality assurance — bugs are a given. No words about the punishment of exploiters — exploiters started it, but regular players got rich too. Words about fixing reported bugs? One could comment on the frequency of game updates, as that’s the issue there. For now, all most would like to see is a return to normal. A return to normal for the pyreal economy means a revert, and the pyreal economy is frankly more important than a few players’ night’s worth of powerlevelling.

Update, 11:15 AM CST: New server lobby message reads All AC Worlds are coming down in 45 min 9:45 am PST as we prepare a hotfix for a severe bug impacting the economy. We’ll be reverting all character to a point late Wednesday night to mimimize the impact. C State Network for more info. [sic]

HAIL TO THE GREEN, BABY (GUIDEGATE PART DEUX) [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

We do not like unofficial strategy guides, Said 3Drealms Owner and Partner, George Broussard. Regarding online strategy guides, Broussard added that …as long as they aren’t doing an entire 200 page hint book online that is. Then that cuts into book sales.”

However, The Register reports that Broussard announced plans to prevent websites from using “unapproved screenshots.” What does that actually mean? George explains, I don’t like reviewers taking shitass ugly shots. Use the official ones. I don’t think they should have the power to cost me money by taking lame shots, or over-exposing the game, or giving away weapons, bosses, etc…”

So let me see if I read that correctly. George, who has a 911 Strosek Porche, and a Lexus for a “practical car”, doesn’t want to lose money because a website might take a shot of his game from behind the big green curtain? For me, these comments do more to steer me away from Duke Nukem Forever than any lo-res 8bit screenshot. I have to wonder what it is about DKF that Mr. Broussard is afraid we might see.

So lets say we want to use these official screenshots. Well, you have to sign the EULA. Yes. You heard me. There is a contract agreement to use the official screenshots that contains the following clause: trademarks such as the name of the game cannot be used in a derogatory or defamatory manner, or in any negative context.

Scott Miller has reportedly stated that this clause would not be used to censor critical reviews. Yeah, that’s legally binding. Judges always allow you to use the “yeah I know what the contract stipulates, but he said….” defense.

Comment from 3DRealms has been requested.

EBAY EATS NERF STICK, SMEDLEY REJOICES [Author: riprend]

First of all, I’ve always taken a different view of selling virtual property than most. Let me propose this to you:

Say Jim, Bob, and Joe all have a traditional Sunday afternoon golf game. All three are relatively low-maintenance fellows (read: rednecks) and have the same quality clubs, carts, and whatnot. After all, with over half their income devoted to the pursuit of drunkenness, that doesn’t allow much room for improvement. Not to mention the fact that they all share the same 50 hour a week job at the construction plant, and the greens close right after work.

Suddenly, Jim wins the lottery.

At first, everything’s still the same for the boys. But gradually, Jim realizes that his clubs really do look a little shabby. And that seminar by Jack Nicklaus is looking pretty appealing too… before you know it, Jim is on his way to being a golf pro, not because he’s spent extra weekdays practicing his game, but because he’s invested more money into it.

Bob and Joe begin to resent Jim for this, and start sneaking away every Sunday instead of picking him up in the 1973 Ford. Jim, however, doesn’t care. He’s moved beyond them. He is, so to speak, on the next level.

This, to my mind, is very comparable to online game property. All players have a desire to excel, but not all players have the time and resources to perform that. Brad McQuaid said it best himself when he said (ugly paraphrase): “The main resource in MMOGs is time.”

In fact, you could almost look at eBay as another path of advancement, the next resource outside of time.

I don’t think it’s possible for game companies to harness money as a resource and remain popular. But some have tried and some are still trying.

I can’t refute the fact that eBay breaks the EULA of EverQuest. But I can understand an argument that it’s based on an invalid philosophy.

NINTENDO SUES DAILY RADAR [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Daily Radar has announced it will suspend coverage of Nintendo products due to a lawsuit filed in Federal court on December 22, 2000.
According the the complaint, Imagine Media does not have the right to publish screenshots from Nintendo’s games in the course of [their] coverage, or to use its trademarks, such as the Pokemon name, in that coverage.

The specifics seem to focus on what Daily Radar called it’s 100% unofficial Pokemon Trainer’s Guide, which included guided tours through Pokemon Gold and Silver. It also contained various Pokemon logos and game screenshots, which were specifically listed in the papers filed in December.

For the Daily Radar story, click here.

We will continue to update you on this story as details become available.

I ADMIT IT: ULTIMA 9 MADE ME HOPPING MAD [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

As reported by Gamespot.com, the online prequel to each month’s edition of Computer Gaming World, scientists conclude that violent movies and games make children more violent. Considering the long history of scientific conclusions, take this with a grain of salt. It is only a matter of time before another study comes to an altogether different conclusion. I have a set of encyclopedias that once belonged to my grandfather. It states that the Earth’s moon is covered by seventeen miles of space dust, making any hopes for a lunar landing impossible. It goes on to speculate that the core of the moon is a block of ice created by atmospheric radiation from our own planet. It also dates the Earth as being twenty thousand years old. The job of a scientists is to come up with “new conclusions”, which means every fifty years or so, we get to look back and laugh at them. Sometimes they are right, and they just may well be on this one.

Nothing in my whole life, be it frustrations at work, relationships gone sour, or cars that up and die in the middle of a monsoon at four in the morning, has been more frustrating than playing Ultima Online. Even when I’m peacefully mining for ore, there is still a sub-surface layer of frustration boiling like the throat of a dormant volcano. I’m sure if one were to attach various components and gadgets to monitor these levels, the facts would support me. I’ve never been instigated or angered by a movie, but then I don’t like movies as much as others. Yet there is no denying that Ultima Online does find new and imaginative ways to frustrate and anger me. Each day is a new discovery in angst and palpitation. But is this the fault of Origin? Certainly the violence content in UO is minimal. Yes there is murder in UO, but not the dismembering, disemboweling murder that one can waggle an accusatory finger at and say, “UO bad!” There are at most, a few peals of ringing swords on armor, and the hauntingly familiar ‘brzt-zap’ of lightening before it is all said and done. But does this qualify as a violent game? Considering the mountain of FPS shooters currently available, each sporting new and improved levels of graphical dismemberment, I would have to say no.

So why would such a seemingly non-violent game make me so frustrated and angry, that it makes my midnight flat tires seem like a day at the beach? The answer is a big pudgy finger pointing right back at myself. The reason UO gets me so worked up into a froth is because I have invested a great deal of myself into my account(s). I have crossed the line willingly from “it’s just a game” to “these are my children” (okay, not quite “children”, but let’s just say I care a lot about my accounts). If I were to sit down at a Quake3 Arena box and play some deathmatch, and get my ass handed to me virtually literally (don’t ask, just keep reading), I would shrug and hit the space bar to try again (It was spacebar in Castle Wolfenstien. Is that still how you do it today?)

Unfortunately I am not your Senator. Unfortunately I am not your Governor. Unfortunately, your Senators and your Governors are going to grab this story by the scalp and shake it in your face like a medicine man’s hoodoo stick. They are going to frighten you and make you cower in a corner like undead from a level 50 cleric. They will use this to pass legislation and regulation and both of those are just fancy words for taxation.

Scientists make conclusions. Legislators make legislations. This is what they do. What do we do? We spend money on the games we want to play, to hell with scientists. What can we do? We can vote for people who don’t try to use hysteria to gather power.

I’d love to keep going but my GODDAM NIGHTMARE JUST WENT WILD AGAIN!!!

ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHH!!!!

Source: Gamespot.com

CODA [Author: Lum the Mad]

You see, in the past month or so my real life job (you know, the one I do for a living) has taken a nose-dive from “Dilbert” straight into “Office Space”. People who hang out in #lummies and hear my occasional profanity-laden diatribe have probably already figured out that I’m looking for a new job.

Well, I am. And for a few weeks now I’ve been in contact with a few of the gaming companies that we cover, trying to find out what my options are.

While no firm offer has been made by anyone at this point, I don’t feel that ethically, I can continue to seek employment from the same people that we cover. In short, I have to choose what I want to do when I grow up.

This site has always been a hobby – a labor of love, and no one who “works” here has any pretention of it ever becoming a career. Recent events in the exciting world of gaming networks certainly prove this, if nothing else. Since I’m going to get another job anyway, it might as well be something besides making spam go faster.

Yet I’ve also tried, believe it or not, to hold to a basic ethical standard of conduct in what we write. I don’t feel comfortable deciding what stories to follow up on at the same time as I seek employment from the same people.

So it’s time to step back and let other voices be heard. I hope you allow them to challenge, infuriate, and occasionally amuse you in the same manner as you did I.

It’s been a blast.

AN_ADVOCATE_OF_SATAN, PART_01 [Author: riprend]

I don\’e2\’80\’99t think anyone, even a notorious troll, could claim that there wasn\’e2\’80\’99t a problem with underutilization of space or that hybrid experience penalties were justified. But what I\’e2\’80\’99m not sold on is if outright increasing the rate of gained experience is the right path to go.

Let me pose this to you.

Under the new changes, you get a 20 percent bonus for having a full group, with now about 30 percent bonus for going to underutilized zones such as the Hole. Now, I\’e2\’80\’99ve played many a solo-capable class, so I\’e2\’80\’99m pretty firm about what I speak. I\’e2\’80\’99ve soloed at both high levels and low levels (ironically, both were usually at bird houses), both outside and in dungeons, both with crowded venues and completely vacant ones.

Does fighting alone, with noone to assist you, noone to resurrect you if you die, and accepting the downtime as the price of efficiency, truly provide less risk than taking a full group to the zone point of a dungeon?

No. Your risk vs. reward is still firmly in place. You have accepted the reward of increased efficency for the risk of death, boredom, death by boredom, etc. Now, for going with less risk, you get about a 50 percent increase in reward for grouping in zones that, in many cases, didn\’e2\’80\’99t have much risk anyway.

I\’e2\’80\’99m frankly mystified why EverQuest continues to reward one \’e2\’80\’9caccepted\’e2\’80\’9d play style. Then again, it shouldn\’e2\’80\’99t come as much surprise. Many months of patching after the blacksmithing overhaul, we still have cultural pieces that are broken (ogre splint mail, for one). It took eight months of complaints from shamen to finally make Verant Interactive understand that, surprise, the people who play the game on a daily basis were RIGHT: alchemy did not increase in skill.

It took them eight more months to realize that alchemy sucked.

Even more distressing is the outright ignoring of the demographics of outgoing players from the game. Being in a high-level, planes-raidin\’e2\’80\’99, Venril Sathir slayin\’e2\’80\’99 guild, I see guildmates drop out of the game on almost a daily basis from sheer boredom with the system.

What\’e2\’80\’99s the problem with it? Contrary to unpopular belief, most people do NOT like spending an hour putting together a group, another travelling to the spot, and then be at the mercy of one of two classes. If you\’e2\’80\’99re not familiar with high level EverQuest, let me make this crystal clear. If you do not have a cleric and an enchanter in your group in one of these underutilized zones, you will be dead. Quickly. If one of the two leaves, well, you have to leave too. God forbid they go away from the keyboard for a scant moment.

Now, to tie this together, how is increasing the rate at which everyone advances in the game going to fix these problems? You\’e2\’80\’99re going to see hybrids advancing faster than ever, and it\’e2\’80\’99s mana-soaking hybrids who usually need the healing of a cleric or crowd control of an enchanter more than ever – and clerics and enchanters are both classes that will receive no (or in the enchanter\’e2\’80\’99s case, very little) benefit from the experience gains.

Mark my words.

The new changes to EverQuest are good for the short term. They\’e2\’80\’99ll keep people happy until the next shiny thing. But Verant has, with these changes, shortened the life span of the EverQuest account.

In our next merry installment, we\’e2\’80\’99ll explore what they SHOULD have done.

DUDE, I *KNOW*, OK, I’M THE FREAKING PACKAGE RELOCATION *ENGINEER*! [Author: Lum the Mad]

Someone with the nick “[GOD]Duncan” appeared in the #shadowbane IRC channel on Stratics (NOTE: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT EVER VIOLATE THE HOLY SACRED WRIT OF COPYRIGHT) and started throwing down.

[[GOD]Duncan] shadowbane beta won’t be out for a long while

[[GOD]Duncan] it needs a lot of work

[[GOD]Duncan] beta could be out in february, but from what I’ve been told from people who know, it’s not going to be out in january

[[GOD]Duncan] look guys, I tried to get a copy of SB from somebody at work, they said “it will be a while before even I get it, it needs work”

[[GOD]Duncan] this was last week

Never fear, though, Belthior, ace animator at Wolfpack and wielder of a wicked mino axe, was on the case. Incognito as “Althalus”, he started pumping the so-called GOD for proof. Silly artist! Proof denies faith! And without faith, where would gaming company timelines be!

Althalus] what kind of shirts does harry miller wear?

[[GOD]Duncan] harry moved to austin

[Althalus] what kind of shirts does harry wear

[[GOD]Duncan] harry wore a dress shirt with no tie the one time I went to dinner with him

[Whol_] assistant package relocation engineer? fancy word for the shipping clerk

As Whol ably discovered, Duncan is in fact the assistant package relocation engineer for GODgames, which makes him about as qualified to comment on Shadowbane’s beta date as anyone else, I guess. Anyway, Duncan was shortly spanked into submission:

[[GOD]Duncan] whoa, looks like I was wrong on the beta date, hehe

[[GOD]Duncan] hehe, I love PM’s from Employees

[[GOD]Duncan] well, emails actually

[[GOD]Duncan] can’t tell

[[GOD]Duncan] besides telling me what I needed to know, they told me to hush up in the channel

[[GOD]Duncan] so no more talk of dates from me

[[GOD]Duncan] I am now completely ignoring all date related msgs

So whatever you do, don’t ask him for a date. Unless you’re a chick. GODgames loves chicks.

Anyway, check out J’s site for more “when the hell is beta, anyway” news (according to some Europeans, it’s May, according to Warden it’s “um, whenever it compiles without errors. Damn that Visual C! Debugging is, like, HARD!*”)

* note: Warden did not actually say that. Publically.