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YOU MEAN PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIKE PVP?

There was this server, called Tallon Zek, which was intended to be Everquest’s answer to the problems and pitfalls of PvP in EQ. It went up the same day that Siege Perilous went permanent in UO.

I had planned on checking out Tallon Zek sometime, but I was pretty busy on Siege, and at any rate, it seems I didn’t miss much. Apparently Verant (a) has no way of actually limiting how many people log into a server, (b) over 5000 people logged into Tallon Zek, and (c) Verant, um, didn’t think people would want to play on Tallon Zek. Of course, (d) ensured with thousands of very pissed-off would-be race warriors flooding the EQ chatrooms when Tallon Zek was taken back down. John Smedley, Verant’s President, went online to announce that “we had no idea it would be this popular” and that a new server was on order, but until then Tallon Zek would stay down.

Meanwhile, that sound you hear? Lord British in his castle, laughing.

This is just completely pathetic, and points out one of the primary differences between Origin and Verant. As much as we like to flay GMs and mock the programmers, Origin listens to the community. They have people whose job (Hi Neve!) is to monitor the various community web sites, to find out what the UO players are concerned about and to relay those concerns to the development and management teams. Verant, on the other hand, reads EQ Vault once in a while. Verant ignores their community, and in fact actively discourages it, by changing key elements in gameplay without notice, specifically to “neuter” “spoiler” sites. It’s an ugly thing.

EQ is sure pretty, but I’d be very surprised if anyone that began playing EQ at its launch is still playing after a year (the time Verant estimates it would take a dedicated player to reach level 50). Meanwhile lots of folks are still playing UO, 2 years after launch. There’s a real difference here, one I am busily writing about (you may notice those unlinked rant titles to the left).

But this TZ fiasco is just inexcusable. Verant just displayed how completely, unutterably clueless they really are.

Not that I care, I’m having a blast on Siege Perilous.

WARNING: ACTUAL NEWS STORY

As most of you already know, Designer Dragon and a few other folks were transferred off the Ultima Online project. Since then, speculation has run rampant on what new, non-ultima project he was tasked with. OSI of course wasn’t telling, since, you know, they’re a large evil corporation and large evil corporations aren’t supposed to just give away information. It’s in the Large Evil Corporation Handbook.

Well, I put on my snoop hat and commenced a-snooping. Everyone’s first guess was Privateer Online, called by most “Wing Commander Online” (OSI, however, apparently has a better idea of how most folks will spend their time in that universe). However, Origin has a different team working on that project; speculation has it that it is now being lead by Andy Hollis, the Janes-Skunkworks programmer who was just pulled off the now-cancelled A-10 Warthog flight sim.

Plus, come on. Designer Dragon does Wing Commander? I don’t THINK so.

So I snooped around the InterNIC records that Origin filed recently and came up with this entry:

Mythos Online.

Scoot over to Altavista, favored search engine of geeks, snoops, and corporate spies everywhere, and the first entry was the background for a Call of Cthulhu campaign. Hmm. Don’t think that’s it.

Tried to find some other game connections. There’s a game company called Mythos Games which recently published a fairly rank X-Com fantasy knockoff, but they don’t seem to have any connection to Origin or EA. A closer connection may be Chaosium, which issued a “Mythos CCG” (collectible card game) based around… H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories. Seems to be a whole lot of Cthulhu going on.

My speculation is that this is simply just a completely new fantasy MMRPG, unfettered by the “Ultima” baggage of UO. We’ll see soon enough, I wager.

SOMETHING TELLS ME THE NOTE ON MY ACCOUNT READS A BIT DIFFERENTLY

I know, I said no more smurf stories. Well, this one is only parenthetically about smurfs. As you read this, bear in mind that I haven’t been able to confirm this (obviously) but it’s certainly interesting enough. Not many people say “you know, I should have been banned, but I wasn’t…”

Im part of the “l33t pks” community on LS. On that shard all the movers and shakers are in total disgust of the counselor program and we dont care about it much, but some of us have gotten somewhat counselor respect from GMs because of some reason.

About a year ago, there was a rash of One-Hit weapons appearing on LS. They were mainly hvy xbows and they would do over 100 dmg per hit. My guild at the time was the largest PvP guild on LS and we were fighting numerous guildwars at the time because this was before order/chaos wars started. So one guild we were warring pulled out these hvy xbows and we were the first to experiance them. Well i had a long talk with i think it was darwin or ironone about it and they looked into it, and had the bows taken up and destroyed. This was the main reason for the huge wep patch where when you picked up the wep it would reset the dmg info to the current standard. On LS they couldnt get all the weapons by just looking for them so they decided hey why not patch the whole damn system. Well about three weeks later i was cruising with a freind who was basically quitting and he was using one of the bows as his going out party. A counselor started to follow us so i paged him and asked him what was wrong. A freind did the same thing. The counselor then jailed both of us and left us there. He claimed we were in big trouble and i was of the opinion that he had over reached with his perceived power. But during the conversation he brought up that i had a huge record for exsploiting. Now this might br true but i dotn know, i looted a lot of houses during the res bug house loot thing, but i had thought i had never been caught. The next morning i page a gm to get me out of jail and he apologized and the counselor was kicked out of the program. The counselors name was Soloman II, and no one has heard of him since.

But what he said got me to think a bit. I had tons of freinds get banned back when teh house loot bug was going on but i and my freinds never got caught. All during this time i used to talk to GM Carnox and Ironwill over the qeue and we always had an amicable relationship i guess. Since that time i have admitted openly to using UOE and have used last target in front of GMS yet nothing has ever happened. And i still talk to some gms over the qeue.

Now you might be wondering what this all means to me and why i typed this long letter up. Well this game does not require you to be part of the system to be one of the elite. Ive done to much illegal stuff on UO to still be playing, and i know the GMs know it. I talked to Darwin after he got banned, told him i would have done teh same thing and invited him to come to my shard if he ever came back. I told him id help his ass out, but what i got out of that was strange. He was the GM who had bailed me outa jail way back so i sorta owed him a debt, but he claimed that my account had a note on it about not being touched unless i did something really bad, such as duping. Some how i had gotten on the GMS favor, and im still not sure how i did it. So in retrospec it has helped me tremendously, I have always gotten quick support from GMS and they have always been courteous with me. So i havent had to become a smurf on my shard to get any sort of protection, i just got lucky i guess. This is totally on the record and you can print any of it you like and use my name also, but i bet my story is the same as thousands of others.

KillaX, former GM of HoS, LS

MORE ON THOSE ANGRY LITTLE BLUE PEOPLE

And just when you thought we couldn’t have any more Hell Smurf Updates, the Invisible Counselor writes in with this. It’s a long letter, but read it all anyway, because there will be a test later. My comments afterward.

First off, I don’t condone what happened with the jailings. In fact, I think that’s one command we as counselors can do without. Since we are supposed to ask permission to imprison before doing it anyway, there’s no reason we can’t get someone else with more authority to do it for us. Why not just let them take the blame for it instead of some lowly blue guy? Actually, since we have had these commands available to us, I have not used the jail command, nor do I necessarily ever feel that I will since I have more intellectual ways of dealing with problem players. Nuff said about that issue.

I personally came into counseling because I love what this game can do for some people. There are some home-bound or closed off people who can get a great deal out of it. I’m not one of those people, but I can still get the same enjoyment from it. I lead a pretty normal life, I hope, but UO gives me a nice diversion to take me away from that life for a few hours. I’m not the secret police, though, and I refuse to be taken on that path.

I do my shifts as a smurf because people recognize me as someone who has the necessary knowledge and knows I will not PK them as soon as I finish talking to them. In fact, it saddens me when I read the macro discussions in irc. I can tell that the majority of the smurfs in there don’t mind macroing. We just want to help answer questions, but we’re powerless to do anything but turn in a player if another one has reported it. I for one, will not turn in a macroer if I see them unless it was reported to me from someone else. About the only policing I will do is when it comes to managing harassers or bigots. Those are the people I don’t want in this game and I will do what I can to eliminate them.

Contrary to popular opinion, though, the anti-macroing campaign was most likely started by some suit looking at a p&l; statement and figured he could save some money by limiting bandwidth, not by some $10/hour GM. Personally, I feel that if MY pc is connected, whether I’m there or not, then I am using the service. It doesn’t matter if it’s me entering the keystrokes or a program entering them for me. It’s still my PC that’s doing it and I am entitled to use the service I am paying for.

Enough about that, though. What I really intended to write about was Counselor Crom. What Damsel did was compassionate and I feel a better choice than banning. You say she was abusing her authority, I, knowing Damsel, beleive she did what she could to save that person’s account with no malice intended toward Crom. As I said before, most of us don’t mind if someone macros and we all think it’s just plain wrong to lose an account over it. Take that for what you will, but just know that our counselors are doing the best we can with the tools we have. On my shard at least, we actually spend our time in irc helping each other out with callers. The professionalism in there is amazing. Yes, we crack jokes to lighten the mood, but when someone needs help, we shut up and pay attention.

I apologize if this is a bit rambling, but the vast majority of us are there because we enjoy the game and not for some power trip. The image that you have seems to be completely wrong. Just like any place of business, there are good people and bad people. You took an event with a good intent and spun it into the appearance of humiliation, when in fact it was a saving act. Try to take things at face value and don’t read deeper than what actually happened. The main reason we have bad press is because some people just won’t let go of the past.

I’m asking you to let it go and try to see the good that we do. I sometimes wish we could take regular players along with us so that they can see what we actually do. They’d be shocked at what we see sometimes and how well we handle it. Have you ever spent an hour of your time talking to someone you don’t know whos account was hacked and lost a placed tower? I have. We have the job of explaining that they will not likely get any recompense from us since it was their computer that was hacked, not OSI’s. The thing is, though, we have to do it and try to make them feel better and understand why we can’t help them. We don’t just say “You’re SOL” and leave. We take the needed time to talk to them and make them feel better. That’s why we counsel. We want to pass on what we know to others, not keep it to ourselves. I truly hope you can see that.

I’ve gone on a lot longer than I intended, but I am very supportive of the current program. Page a smurf sometime and I think you’ll find some great people out there who dedicate time to just helping out.

OK, where to begin.

First off, there was some controversy over publishing the Crom-Damsel letter at the Lum the Mad Advisory Board (consisting of me, my drink, the peanut gallery in IRC, and the occasional reproving stares of my better half). In the end, I went with it, not because I thought Crom needed to be banned (he didn’t) or because I couldn’t see that the letter writer had quite a nice big grudge against SLC Damsel (s/he did) or even because I just wasn’t tired of bashing smurfs (I am, believe me, I am).

I went with it because I pretty much picked that letter at random out of the 50 or so in my email bitching about SRCs/SLCs/ASRCs/SDGWPRCs. (Unfortunately, the last abbreviation is the only one that I made up.)

Ya want my opinion? Of course you do, that’s why you came to this page. I’ve talked to quite a few smurfs lately, including Papa Smurf himself (sorry, that conversation was strictly off the record), and my opinion of the program hasn’t changed from the days when every K3wld3wd guild had a pet smurf as an invulnerable teleporting scout.

Frankly, recruiting players to give support and aid to other players is a mistake.

Not because those players are somehow evil (most aren’t) or because those players abuse their powers (most don’t); no, it’s a bit more subtle than that.

No, recruiting a player support system from the player base is a mistake because it fosters an atmosphere of cliquish elitism, both among the “rulers” and the “ruled”.

I think the best example here is Siege Perilous. Here we have an expert-level shard. You have this huge sign come up when you log in basically saying “If you aren’t a hardcore expert, stay the hell out.”

Guess what — SP has Cs and SRCs and SLCs and ASRCs and whatever cool abbreviations I forgot. And my question is um, why?

GMs I can barely — just barely accept on SP, mainly because getting stuck on T2A with no way of moving is a very real possibility. But smurfs? I mean, jesus, who the hell is going to call a smurf for help on SP? What, “Hey, Mr. Counselor, I can’t sell anything to these NPCs, what up wit dat?” I mean, this is an expert shard. With expert players. Do they really need a hintbook?

I don’t think so. And I think Siege is getting the usual buttload of Helpful Ultima Online Monkeys because, well, Siege is a cool shard. The same reason we had 10 GMs running around banning macroers the first couple days it was up.. they thought it was cool, too, and their own, special way, they thought they were helping.

I mentioned “rulers” and “ruled” before, and the metaphor bears repeating. I can’t begin to count the number of emails I’ve gotten from Cs and SRCs, some well written, some not, that made the case that C/SRCs were hard working devoted servants of the people unjustly slandered by what I write.

That’s the same thing a Congressman says when the press catches him with the intern. “I’m just trying to do the people’s business!”

I’m sure there’s lots of folks who are Cs and SRCs because they want to help people and help the game that’s eaten far too much of their life already, and I’m sure many, many newbies have appreciated personal tutoring in the vast and bizarre complexity of the Ultima Online gaming system. But ya know what? There aren’t many newbies on Siege.

Unfortunately, and this is a fact that is going to be powerfully argued against by those smurfs reading this, a great many Cs/SRCs get into the program because It’s The Next Step. You know, they got the GM Tinkers, they rocked the enemy guild in PvP, they did the townwars, now it’s time to get the robe and get the kewl powers. And once they do that, the Next Step beyond that is to get more letters in front of your name. SLC? ASRC? There’s so many acronyms in the support program, it makes the US miilitary look like a paragon of clear speech. But those acronyms are important — it’s a tangible reward. Along with that goes access to GMs (although why people would fight over access to barely-street-legal glorified tech support clerks boggles my mind), access to news and updates not given to everyone else… you know. Access. Juice. The part and parcel of being inside.

Communities foster this raging elitism… I’ve gone on before about the “Test Guild” and the “Shardies”, and this is another, more openly visible symptom thereof.

But you know what pisses me off, why I keep raging about all this?

Not that the people themselves are imperfect… the last perfect person got nailed to a cross and left for the crows a couple thousand years back, and we’ve been pretty short on perfect people since. No, what really trips my flamethrowing pineal gland is that OSI, and to a much lesser, much less organized extent Verant, have hit on the possibilities of exploiting that elitism for their own corporate gain. Because when you have hundreds of people willing to work for you for free supporting your product, why the hell would you ever need to pay anyone?

And that’s why this will never change, and why this is the last rant on this particular subject. Because human nature, and the nature of greed, are not things that can be easily fixed. Merely pointed at, for easy recognition, while we whistle in the dark as we pass.

SMURFZAPOPPIN

*starts with a newbie in orc helm* This is the true story *blinks away to murderer in a black dress with two daemons following him* of 40 strangers picked to live in a jail cell *blinks away to an almost dead person lying on the ground* to see what happens when people stop being polite *blinks away to two players, one looking rather gruff and in full plate (sitting) and the other in his lap in a kilt (and nothing else)* and start getting real. The Real (?) World. *blinks away to an almost nude thief running from someone’s pet nightmare* Ultima Online.

And just in case you thought smurfs could macro with impunity, we have this;

I have inside info that on the Atlantic shard there is a Counselor by the name of Counselor Crom, who was caught macroing, on the SP shard, rather then banning him, and removing him from the Counselor program, they decided to treat him as a dog, and make him wear a tag on his Counselor char that says “-Suspend” he cant council for 2 weeks, but has to be in irc during his shift. Shard Lead Counselor (SLC) decided to humiliate him, publicly, rather then banning him… Treat a volunteer like a animal, rather then being quiet about this, and let it slid just this once, or rather then letting him go… This was SLC Damsel’s decision as to what to do with him, as far as punishment went…

Just thought you may want to know that, being this is totally a case of a Powertripped Shard Lead Counselor, using her powers, rather then doing what was stronly said about Counselors, which was, they will be banned if caught, unattended macroing…