Update: Back in October, I made a post, Three Things to start Fixing Ultima Online, which were:
1) Act like BioWare owns it.
2) Raise the level of communications.
3) Talk to us about the short and long-term plans for UO.
This article mostly concerns #3, and covers what I said last October, which was:
Don’t act like the plans for UO are to be written on a scroll tucked away in some secret vault within the Vatican. We know UO players are a bitchy lot and that some flip out if some deadline isn’t met, but we don’t need dates, just details. Right now a new or returning veteran would take a look around and assume that UO is continuing to die, and quickly leave. Talk to us, and make sure that those plans are posted in a prominent place on UOHerald.com or UO.com.
Don’t give us buzzwords or vague goals either, because that’s bullshit.
It’s 2012. UO is facing it’s 15th anniversary later this year, the first major MMO to do so.
I just want to toss this into the mix: Some took last week’s huge IDOC festival to be a bad sign. I did not. While there are bad signs out there about UO’s future, this was not one of them. It does represent players who have left the game in the last 6 months, but players are constantly leaving the game and coming back. Besides, this represents several months of players who had left, but whose houses had remained thanks to the new account system that kept the houses from decaying. If things had been working normally, the IDOCs would have been spread out over 4-5 months, and they would have barely registered to most players.
4-5 months worth of IDOCs going down on the same day distorts your perception. What you need to worry about is whether people are replacing those IDOCs in good locations with new houses. Given that some people on Atlantic are bitching about housing shortages, I don’t think it’s a problem.
I think frustration is running pretty high with UO in some quarters from some of the emails and comments I have received over the past few months, and from my own experiences, as well as threads I’ve read on Stratics and UOForums. While I had real-life responsibilities that kept me from writing a lot about UO over the past few months, I have to admit that I started feeling that familiar burned out/disappointed sensation as well.
It’s not helped by the fact that the high resolution artwork update (Stratics) has now been downgraded in importance. Even though that’s a recent development, it’s probably the single most disappointing thing I’ve read in the past 6 months. I wanted to register a Stratics account just to bitch in that thread, but I have a blog so I don’t have to worry about being censored or banned, and I know my comments won’t be heard on Stratics or here anyways.
I can’t help but think this is a huge mistake and a really bad sign of things to come. The high resolution artwork update is one of the things that was being done to attract new players and make UO look a little purtier on our big ole monitors (translation: it should look better on our larger displays). The timing is bad – we received the terrain update last fall, but the mobiles (animals, npcs, players) as well as the buildings, plants, items, etc. are going to probably be the most time-intensive components to upgrade. Given how long it took to get the terrain update out, I fear that the game will not have a complete high resolution makeover by the time the 15th anniversary rolls around.
Let that sink in for a moment. Even on the “Enhanced Client”, the resolution of most of what we see in UO right now will probably still be the same as what we had in the first five years of UO by the time the 15th anniversary hits.
There was a thread on Stratics that has since been closed (Update: Okay, it’s now open again), discussing the state of the game or problems people have with the game itself. One comment jumped out at me, not because I know the poster (Woodsman), although I do, but because I think it summed up the state of the game based on a gut feeling I have:
My problem is this:
January of 2011 – UO Producer: “Big things are promised, but we are going to be vague as Hell and can’t tell you much. And big things that were promised last year and that we started working on are now delayed.”
January of 2012 – UO Producer: “Big things are promised, but we are going to be vague as Hell and can’t tell you much. And big things that were promised last year and that we started working on are now delayed.”
That is slightly jumping the gun, because Jeff Skalski is supposed to release a producer’s letter next week and we don’t know what he will say. Like so many other producers’ letters, it’s been passed around to get the approval of whoever tells Jeff and the others what to do. In the past, this led to very watered down and vague producer’s letters.
But I wanted to post that comment, because I think it’s a very valid concern, and it’s a sentiment I’ve seen echoed numerous times over the years, and that is still being echoed today, on Stratics, UO Forums, in emails and IM conversations I have with others.
Let us hope that Jeff knows that vagueness will do UO no good.