January 2001

ONE SHOT. ONE KILL. [Author: Lum the Mad]

Right about that point, I went schizoid.

Literally. Into three different people. We’ll call them Ego, Id and Agape just to pluck random names out of the either.

“Oh, that’s terrible!”, Agape cried. “That poor child! 9 months old… just a baby!”

“Hm, this could be a pretty big story,” Ego mused. “‘Evercrack Takes Another Life’. Or maybe ‘Baby Failed To Zone In Time’, that would attract the more morbid segment.”

“Oh, WHATEVER. Another kid bites it,” Id yelled. “LIKE YOU CARE. His dad was a FUCKING LOSER who couldn’t KEEP A JOB AT McDONALDS and BEAT HIS KID FOR KICKS. It’s all here in the other story. GET A GRIP. You could as easily blame Milwaukee’s Best Beer as EQ for this ‘oh so horrible tragedy!'”

“That’s HORRID!” Agape screamed back. “Life is precious, and that child did NOTHING to deserve an early death! We must all take responsibility for our part in this disas…” She broke off, as Id had begun mockingly mouthing her platitudes, head jauntily rocking to and fro.

“Stop arguing, you two.” Ego was lost, deep in thought. “This could have pretty serious ramifications for the MMOG industry. Obviously, MMOGs by their nature are addictive, both for the social aspect and the gaming aspect – the combination, when done well, for many personality types is like pure liquid heroin. So how can we capture the essence of this — make our readers understand the ramifications of what a truly immersive experience entails? I mean, those same readers are the target market for that pure liquid heroin. Like attracts like.”

“Well, it’s our job to educate…”, Agape begun.

“FUCK THAT, BITCH!” Id screamed. “It is our *JOB* to *AMUSE*. To be FUNNY. TO MAKE YOU GO HA-HA. You know, we just fucking SUCK right now. Go read OLD LUM. HE ROCKED. NEW LUM SUXORZ!”

“He grew up.” Agape responded icily.

“He-grew-up”, Id mocked. “And you know what? Growing up SUCKS! NO ONE wants to grow up! THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY FUCKING COMPUTER GAMES! JEEZUS KEERIST! YOU PEOPLE HAVE STICKS SURGICALLY IMPLANTED UP YOUR ASSES!”

“SO WHAT ABOUT THE CHILD!”, Agape screamed. “He will NEVER grow up! EVER! EVER! And WE ARE RESPONSIBLE! WE ARE!”

“DON’T GIVE ME THAT SHIT!”, Id shouted back. “WE AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR SHIT! YOU WANNA KNOW SOMETHING? KIDS DIE EVERY FUCKING DAY, BITCH! THE WORLD FUCKING SUCKS! PEOPLE ARE FUCKING BROKEN! WHO SAID THAT BEFORE, HUH? THAT WAS YOUR FUCKING MANTRA, WASN’T IT! WELL GUESS WHAT! THEY ARE! DADDY COMES HOME AND RAPES LITTLE MOLLY BECAUSE HIS WIFE WON’T GIVE HIM ANY! MOMMY SELLS LITTLE BILLY TO THE PUSHER DOWN THE STREET FOR MORE CRACK! BOBBY’S LEFT HOME ALONE TO FEND FOR HIMSELF BECAUSE MOMMY AND DADDY ARE BOTH AT WORK PUTTING IN NINETY HOURS A WEEK FOR THE DOT-FUCKING-COM REVOLUTION! THE WORLD FUCKING SUCKS! FUCK YOU! I’M PLAYING A GAME!”

And with that, Id pulled up a desk with a computer on it and booted up Deus Ex.

“OK,” Ego said calmly. “Obviously we have to say something about this.”

“Obviously.” Agape added icily.

“We really need to hammer home the addictive nature of online entertainment. Not just MMOGs… online in general. The Internet really fills a niche in the lives of many…”

“BOOYAH! HEAD SHOT! One shot, ONE KILL! Mastery of Pistols, BITCH!”

“…and really, since MMOGs are just simply the most advanced form of online interaction available, we’re seeing what could be the cutting edge of the results of that addiction…”

“YEAH, BITCH! EAT IT! ONE SHOT, ONE KILL! TO THE HEAD, BABY!”

“…and since society in general encourages the development of addictive personalities with the development… the refinement of capitalism, isn’t this really the end point of the development cycle?”

“ONE SHOT! ONE KILL!”

“What responsibility do gaming companies really share, in a society, a culture that DEMANDS ‘extreme’ entertainment? Is Everquest and Jerry Springer really that far apart on the spectrum? After all, both pander to a lower common denominator, and both bring the lives of others into the homes of those where none would otherwise…”

“Hmm. Does this work?”, Id asked, pulling the 10mm Pistol out of the screen. “One shot…”, he said, thrust the pistol into his mouth, and fired.

BANG.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t any blood, any gore. He simply flickered, and lost resolution, scan line by scan line.

“Wow…”, Agape breathed. “Like in Tron.”

“This introduces… complications,” Ego mused, as he began slowly to de-rez as well.

“I forgive you”, Agape mouthed, as she dissolved completely.

“NO! I MUST EXIS…”

I sat in front of the monitor for the longest time. Then I grabbed my coat and went outside, into light.

AND ANOTHER ONE GONE, AND ANOTHER GONE… HOLY SHIT, THAT’S *US* [Author: Lum the Mad]

VoodooExtreme is reporting that C-Net is closing its “Gamecenter Alliance” affiliate program at the end of this month, which spells the end of advertiser revenue for huge sites like Stomped, Allakhazam’s, CounterStrike.net and, um, er, ah, others as well.

Overheard on VoodooExtreme’s talkback thread: This is the beginning of the end of of “everyone having their own site and making a living”. That sucks, because I was one of them…

Update: Stacey Roach, aka ‘Marduk’, general manager at XRGaming, had this to say: CNet started the Alliance program in order to bring more awareness to Gamecenter. According to Jason Fischel over at CNet, the program was a huge success and has really increased Gamecenter numbers and awareness.

Of course, if some of you remember, CNet bought ZDNet. ZDNet owns Gamespot. After this purchase, CNet really has cornered the market on their share of gaming entertainment coverage.

The program wasn’t losing money by any means and in truth wasn’t being fully pursued as it *could* have been. I wouldn’t blame CNet for anything other than good business sense.

  • They don’t need to grow their numbers anymore now that they have ZDNet.
  • The UGO and IGN price wars (where they were charging insanely low amounts for ads when they would lose lots of money by taking ads) hurt the banner market and it’ll take a bit for it to shake out to acceptable levels (and yes it likely will).
  • It takes a lot of effort to try to work on target advertising (CNet did a great job, but didn’t want to dedicate more resources to it after the ZDNet acquisition)

Will networks like ours go by the wayside? I expect not, though it is entirely possible. We have a number of offers already and with our network’s size, we are a good asset to companies looking to reach a much larger readerbase. And companies who know advertising can really do well if they use networks like us, Stratics, etc.

We’re not planning on falling off the map though, so I wouldn’t count us out just yet 😛

BATTLE.NET FEELS ICY CHILL OF DEATH; BLIZZARD PUTS FREEZE ON RESET [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

The first indication that something was wrong appeared on the ladder forum on Sunday 12/31/2000:

Both characters, #1 and #4 on the USEast Realm ladder were hacked today and I have reason to believe Battle.net or its ISP(s) were involved.

After he was first hacked, Eros contacted blizzard by phone and

was given BS, to be brief. He was then pointed toward a site with

a free firewall software. When he changed his password, he made

sure it was unique (not convinced? the password was random enough

to simulate a Unix-generated pass [ex. t2Ac43Xa5]) enough to

prevent a similar scenario.

Unfortunately, hacking happens all too often, and those who fail to protect themselves against invasive intrusions into their online devices, have nowhere to point but themselves for not taking proper precautions. But the message has another destination for his express package of blame, and he delivers it right back at the front porch of Blizzard and Battle.net:

With the impending ladder reset occuring after midnight tonight,

I can only point to Blizzard/Battle.net/Exodus(USEast Realm host being responsible.

Well that was how it all started. As more and more hardcore characters fell dead and naked, the posts on the ladder forum gained momentum. Then this cryptic and all-too-uninformative announcement was posted by a Blizzard Op:

The Diablo II realms will be down until 7:30 PM PST for emergency maintenance.

Translation: We are shutting down Diablo II because somebody is hacking the FUCK OUT OF IT!

Players were not pleased with the situation, and anyone who called tech support to find a shoulder to cry on were told “check the FAQ, specifically the parts about where we don’t care if your characters get hacked. Thanks. Call again. Bye.” Angry and brushed aside, many characters started forming organized boycotts of the upcoming Diablo II expansion.

Yesterday, Blizzard released the following statement:

During the past week, some players have experienced character

losses. Instances have ranged from hardcore characters dying, to

the loss of items, skill points and experience in normal

characters.

As of this morning, we can confirm that the problem causing these

losses has been fixed. We recognize that the loss of a hardcore

character or unique items is a cause of great concern to players.

To remedy the situation, we are taking the following steps:

1. Monday, January 8, we will be reviving all hardcore characters

who died between December 19th and January 1st. The restored

hardcore characters will be revived with the experience, skills

and items possessed as of Tuesday, December 19th. This restore

will be automatic and players do not need to contact Blizzard to

request that their character be restored.

Note: Only dead hardcore characters that died between December

19th and January 1st will be revived.

2. In the event that players believe they have lost items, skill

points or experience, we will be providing a mechanism by which

players can manually flag their character to be restored as well.

The restore will occur on Monday, January 8, and will rollback

characters to the way they were saved as of December 19th. Please

check this forum on Wednesday January 3, where we will be posting

information on how you can flag your character to be included in

the rollback.

We apologize for any inconvenience or frustration that this

problem may have caused players. We believe that these solutions

address the majority of losses that have occurred. Please contact

support@blizzard.com if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank You,

Blizzard Entertainment

They wont admit that they were hacked.

As I understand the situation, an update is now available that prevents this colossal “whatever”. Time will tell.

DENSELY DAILY DOSAGE OF NEWS FOR A DENSE NEW YEAR [Author: Lum the Mad]

UO News: Factions, factions, factions… [source: Battle Vortex] Stratics, being able to actually run the damned thing, posts their continuing adventures in the new UO Third Dawn expansion [source: UO Stratics]… …it’s the twenty-first century now, can you follow the bouncing updaters… [source: UO Powergamers]

EQ News: Verant out for the holidays, nothing much to report… …one stalwart on duty, though, as Ester the Tester answers where the Plane of Myschyf went off to (she hinted broadly that it wasn’t online yet)… [source: Caster’s Realm]

AC News: Bael’Zharon slain on Solclaim, Leafcull and Harvestgain amidst reports of phat lewtage [source: CoD]… …Darktide would have killed BZ by now too except, well, there’s PKs on Darktide, and, y’know… [source: DNN]

Other News: In what looks like a beta leak, AO Basher posts a complete list of skills for Anarchy Online…. [source: AO Basher] …VosX posts literally everything that happened to the Shadowbane community the past twelve months… [source: Crossroads of Shadowbane] …CNN discovers MMOGs, decides they are nifty… [source: UO Stratics]

THE NEWS, CUZ THIS IS LIKE A NEWS SITE AND STUFF [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

HEADLINE:

The legend of HAT has found purchase within the polygonal land of Sosaria. In a kingdom without its king, the hat may actually rule.

Niobe and The Search for Arcadian’s Hat 3D.

In other news, Jinx has a super duper sexy new look. Kinda like Something Awful, but with more typos.

Meanwhile, the good doctor fell victim to the Y2K.1 bug. You know, the one that doesn’t let you update your site more than once every three months.

Finally, a few of our more active Samizadata participants are already demonstrating why they deserve consideration in the 2001 Lum Awards.

I’m Arcadian Del Sol, reporting from the newsroom deep within the bowels of Vault 13.

Back to you, Lum.

PREVIEW OF LINEAGE: THE BLOODPLEDGE [Author: Lum the Mad]

Not
only is she speaking a foreign language,

she has little dudes protecting her.

Lineage
is a Korean MMOG that is anime-inspired, specifically by "the famous comic
books of Ilsook Shin". That means absolutely squat to me but may mean something
to you. Then again, a quick search on Google turned up 17 entries for "Ilsook
Shin", all of which were from Lineage previews that said "Lineage
is based on the famous comic books of Ilsook Shin." This may be the first
sign that if you speak English you may not be the target audience for this game
yet. However, at an awfully popular price (free), it may still be worth
a good look.

Lineage
supposedly has over 2 and half million (that’s MILLION) subscribers in Korea,
or more than UO, EQ and AC combined. It’s so successful, in fact, that it now
plans to conquer the world, expanding first to Taiwan, and now with a single
American server, which had over 600 people on it. And, much like Hokuto has
quite a few American UO players, most of those 600 people were Korean as well.

So what’s
game play like? Think a bastard child of Ultima Online and Diablo, only while
having only a vague idea of what you’re doing at any given moment, while being
hectored to buy things in foreign languages. That pretty much captures the Lineage
experience in a nutshell, at least for the new player.

On deck in the Character Selection screen, a Knight, Prince
and Elf. The Elf is glowing because, well, elves glow. Plus

I selected him. Pikachu I CHOOSE YOU.

Lineage is class and level based. Characters have the standard AD&D-type
stats, and during character creation you can click a little dice icon until
you get the stats you want – or, more likely, become heartily sick of clicking
on the little dice. You cannot simply assign stat points, but must pray to the
gods of randomness for a good roll. Classes include the warrior-type Knight,
the wizard-type Magicians (who know no magic at the game’s start which is more
than a little frustrating), the hybrid-cheater-type Elves who can also see in
the dark, and the play-to-crush Princes who can lead other characters on jihads
to seize the castles of other Princes and do other cool things.

Probably
the first thing you will notice in Lineage is that you look like everyone else.
EXACTLY like everyone else. There is absolutely no character customization in
Lineage – no matter what armor or equipment you have, a Knight looks like a
Knight looks like a Knight looks like a Knight. If you’ve been dreaming about
a game where you can blend into the crowd and fulfill your dream of becoming
an anonymous part of a horde, well, you found your game. Others might find it
a touch disconcerting.

As long as you possibly can.

Once you
begin, in true MMOG fashion you wander around the starter town, completely clueless
until you find the newbie area. In Lineage this is the Training Dummy Kennel.
Yes, those old friends from Ultima Online are back, and you can get all the
way to level 4 simply by monotonous clicking on a training dummy. I cannot express
to you exactly how much fun this was. Mainly because it, well, wasn’t. But it
beat the snot out of getting beat the snot out of. Again, in true MMOG fashion,
high level monsters (in the Knight town, giant spiders called "shelobs"
run amuck among the newbies and splat anyone within range, so levelling fast
may be a good idea.

My name is Slim Shady. Biyotch.

While you
are whacking your dummy, you can watch the conversation going on throughout
the server to get a good feel for the community and roleplaying that you’ve
come to expect from these games. Lineage is no exception. In fact, once you
get to level 10, you are thrown in the "veteran" chat channel. From
then on you see everyone’s /ooc equivalent, server wide. And you can’t turn
it off. Ever. This is probably why many become PKs. Or at least you’d think.
Yes, that’s right, you can PK in Lineage. I didn’t run into too many, but that
probably was because I never strayed too far from the newbie towns, where helpful
guards pound red-named characters into goop.

Eventually,
though, you’ll want to stop pounding on a training dummy. I don’t know why.
Training dummies are actually quite helpful – they give you experience points
when you hit them, and the level of their conversation usually surpasses the
chat you’ll see in the game. So I went and talked to NPCs. True to form, the
NPCs in Lineage were more fun to talk to than the other players. I wonder why
I edit a web site about massively multiplayer games and then do my damndest
to actually avoid other humans when playing them. It probably had something
to do with my childhood.

And after that, you must bring me…. a SHRUBBERY!

Most NPCs
appear to center around the age old Heroic Quests of Gimme Stuff So I Give You
Stuff. Apparently this is so Lineage has an economy, and to its credit it does
appear to have one, if the constant spam in the chat channel was any indication.
Of course I had no idea what they were saying, most of the time it was in Korean,
and the few ads in English were for 20k and 30k. I had I think 5 coins. Again,
not quite the target market.

Oh yeah. It’s all right.

After wandering
in the wilderness for a bit, I decided to do the heretical thing for a member
of this site and actually *gasp* rolled up an Elf character. Elves in Lineage
rock. You start with a bow. Bows just rock. You can shoot things from far away
and they die. This is sort of on the level of cavemen discovering the joys of
AK-47s on the hunt for my limited Lineage skills. Elves also can see in the
dark. Lineage is serious about its darkness – you have a light radius of about
3 inches from your nose when you leave town, but elves can see the entire screen.
Albeit in some strange flourescent green, but that’s a minor detail. Elves also
can cast spells and probably get all the girls.

Hoowah THIS!

So my next
hour or so in Lineage was as an Elf. Eventually I ran out of arrows, and then
I discovered the dirty secret of elves. Namely that they can run out of arrows.
A bow without arrows is, well, kind of, you know, useless. I went looking for
new arrows or helpful Ent Faries that dispensed AMMO but never did find out
how to make more. Since I wasn’t yet a high enough level to cast spells or otherwise
know what the hell I was doing, I logged off and made yet another new character.
So far, again, par for the course in my experience with MMOGs. I’d have read
the manual, but there wasn’t really much of one and most of it dealt with PvP
seizures of castles – admittedly a cool concept but when you run out of arrows,
you’re pretty much out of the whole combat scene.

The player economy of Lineage, alive and well.

However,
you can still talk to people. So it’s not a total loss.

 

I’m reminded
I may have been pretty hard on Lineage. Mainly by my wife (who looked over my
shoulder while I wrote this and said "You’re being awfully hard on them!
They’re trying!"). In Lineage’s favor, it is actually free which
does forgive a great many ills. However, actual documentation for the game would
probably be nice at some point. In the mean time, please post in the comment
thread where the hell I can find some goddam arrows. Oh, and some Ilsook Shin
comics.

To download
Lineage and try it out, start at the American distributor’s site, NC
Interactive
. You can also try to decipher the
Korean site
(knowing Korean would help here).