April 2001

I GUESS I JUST MISS MY BOYS [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Once upon a time, There was Ultima Online. There was no Second Age, there was no Renaissance, and no Third Dawn. There were no “safe lands” and there were no shortcuts to the GrandMastery of any skill. A grandmaster was exactly what the term indicates: someone who devoted themselves to a specific skill and becoming one of the best in that skill. It was the equivalent of leveling 50 on EverQuest: something people looked at with empty hopes, striving for that goal that always seemed impossible, improbable, and a million miles away. Ultima Online was a harsh, cold, and dangerous world full of adversity and relentless toil. Becoming a GrandMaster scribe was laughable – very few players had the bankroll to even attempt such status.

I read Fear’s lament and it reminded me of that first year of Ultima Online. The bank of Britain was a marketplace of players trying to sell items to one another, and if you needed something, you’d stand a good chance of finding it. One of the things I most often needed in those days were mark scrolls and recall scrolls. Why? Well because you see, raising magery was next to impossible. Scrolls were the way to fly in those days. Every friday I’d head to the mage tower in Britain and there they would be, the Scribes. It was always the same five or six, and I can almost hear the scribbling sounds as they drifted from my speakers. For about ten gold apiece I’d buy my weekly stock of recalls. It always took a few minutes for my order to be ready so I’d stand around and listen to the bantering. The scribes all had their own spots staked out, always standing in their usual places, and always it was the same group of five or six. Friendships and bonds developed as players honed their skills and once in a while, gained .1 in the skill. Communities are not formed by sign-up sheets, and they are not formed by searching google.com for “Ultima Guild Chesapeake.” They aren’t formed because you are in the same faction, and they aren’t born because you both have houses next to one another. What makes a community? Adversity. Yes, Adversity. Shared adversity binds people together against a common ail, and creates bonds that last lifetimes.

Yesterday something occurred to me for the first time. It had always been there, but I had never taken note. There was a non-descript “something” going on in Ultima Online that I felt inside, but never could identify; or rather, it was something not going on. I identified it for the first time last night as I was rushing past the mage tower of Britain.

It was the silence.

Void of all players, and quiet as a gravesite was the mage tower of Britain. But much more than that, the community that I saw and often envied had packed up and moved away. No more was the playful banter back and forth, and the rare but festive celebration when somebody actually managed to raise a skill by one tenth of a point. No more was the chirping of quills on parchment as they scribbled out an endless string of scrolls. I can’t even remember what I was doing that day; I only remember the sudden feeling of loss, and something inside that was as empty as that once crowded streetcorner in Britain.

They say you can never go back home again, and largely that is true. The house where my father grew up was torn down decades ago and a factory was planted. We’ve become a society without our touchstones, without anchors that hold us firmly in place and give us a feeling of belonging – of community. Perhaps that’s what has troubled me about Ultima Online the past year; not that there haven’t been grand improvements badly needed, but some of the changes have come at a price. It is great to be able to log in and raise a skill from 89.9 to 92.2 in one hour, but that has come at the cost of our familiarity with one another, our bonding together against the overwhelming adversity of GrandMastery. It has come at the cost of our community.

So as I sit here tonight pondering my upcoming review for Ultima Online: Third Dawn*, I’m excited about many of the new features, dissapointed in a few of them, and all the while, I’m just missing that community it once represented to me. In the words of Frank Sinatra, as he took the stage for his final concert, “I guess I just miss my boys.” Dean was gone, Sammy too. He was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack, and I suppose I know how he felt. Sometimes, being the last survivor isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

I miss Dunston, Ed, Kyrren, and the others. Alot.

Hope you’re doing okay, guys. Email me sometime.

-Arc

*it looks like I might not be able to come through with that for those of you who have been waiting, and the reasons will become clear with the passing of time. Trust me.

CARLY “LADYMOI” STAEHLIN LEAVES OSI, RICK HALL TO TAKE OVER AS UO PRODUCER [Author: Lum the Mad]

Rumors have been flying about all morning about this, and we just got word from Susan “Leilo” Kath, OSI’s online community head, that Rick “Stellerex” Hall will be taking over for Carly “LadyMOI” Staehlin as Ultima Online’s Producer. Stellerex was previously the producer for the recently released “Third Dawn” expansion.

Leilo also said that Ms. Staehlin would possibly be taking a position elsewhere in EA, but didn’t know more at this point. As always, if we find out more we’ll let you know.

WALL STREET DISCOVERS VIDEO GAMES, PROJECTS 25% SALES GROWTH FOR EA OVER NEXT 5 YEARS [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Wall Street City, a website whose domino in the big watch-the-internet-tumble-one-page-at-a-time festival has yet to tip, has “broken the story” that video games have come a long way since Donkey Kong.

And we wonder why the dot.com house of cards has fallen down. You can read the article for yourself but to summarize, “Hey video games are like, way cool. I can’t wait to buy a new console plus game boy is like all radical and stuff. We think XBox will sux because we hate Microsoft but beyond that we have little in the way of factual information to back that opinion up.”

The article goes on to promise more coverage of the video game industry as it relates to Wall Street. To prove it, they included a spread sheet of popular video game stocks and the projected changes over the next five years. According to Wall Street City, Electronic Arts will see a five year growth of 25% – but given that they just now discovered that Donkey Kong is no longer “state of the art”, they may not be aware of the recent “downsizing” of Origin Systems, Kesmai Studios, and a few other less popular tendrils of the EA hydra. Be sure to check back in a year or so when they cover it.

OH YEAH, AND OSI SHUT DOWN UO2, VERANT SHUT DOWN WHINEPLAY, AND DEREK SMART THINKS JEFFK IS REAL [Author: Lum the Mad]

As always, April 1 was an exciting day for news from the gaming industry.

First up, Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 got cancelled. A Canadian web site (using the @IP URL redirect trick) “got the scoop” on that one.)

Thankfully it wasn’t all gloom and doom in the MMO field – Shadowbane has a new publisher! That’s right, Valusoft, maker of fine products such as Floorplan 3D and Wild Turkey Hunt, will surely give Wolfpack Studios the support they need in these trying times. That one from the official Shadowbane forums, so it must be true!

Also, Star Wars Galaxies revealed their newest playable race: Gungans! Meesa no like dat.

And finally, Horizons went on about their quest for rideable mount design, which I’m told is considered funny if you’ve been following Horizons. If you haven’t been following Horizons, the only conclusion you can draw is that they’ve been drinking heavily while you weren’t looking.

When I showed up with his new mode of transportation, he thought I was joking; but once he got going, I couldn’t get him off – “This is awesome! I haven’t felt like this since I was eight years old!” I specifically remember him shouting out strange and unusual sentences during the first hour of testing the device, but the most memorable was “this reminds me of Debbie Reynolds!” Once he bounced off around the corner and didn’t return for five hours, I knew that this was the mount of choice.

Oh, and our moving to a new host and promptly being raped with rusty barbed wire? Not a joke. Sorry.

WELL, WE’RE BACK, KINDA, SORTA [Author: Lum the Mad]

So there’s lots of wreckage strewn about, and all, but we are in what hopefully will be our final home for some time.

You will notice a lack of ad banners. This is because, and I know this probably will come as a shock to those who have read the past 405 stories on the topic, ad banners do not work. However, we still have to pay the bills for the site, and we’re asking you to chip in. If you click the DONATE PLZ button to the right —> you’ll see how far we’ve come to our goal of this month’s hosting fee. We’re not asking for a whole lot, as you can see, but if you ever wanted to support LtM, now’s your chance. If this doesn’t work out I guess we could do pop-up pr0n banners or something.

Also during our long downtime I finally updated our long-out-of-date roundup of games out and/or in development. A few gone, many added.

Forums are being a bit quirky. If you signed up earlier and got a 404 error, that’s because of the DNS issues from the site change. I hard coded the IP addy into the board so it should email you the correct link for registration. However the server currently is groaning and wheezing and it may be the board’s fault. So don’t get too attached. EZBoard here we come!

Thanks for your patience or lack thereof.