Thoughts on the Producer’s Letter, the Top Secret Edition

So we have the January 2012 Producer’s Letter. Producer’s letters are the kinds of things that can give us insight into how a corporation or a studio views a game, and for quite a while, UO’s outlook was pretty bleak, because the producer’s letters were quite generic and full of buzzwords and a certain type of vagueness. Very odd when compared to the producer’s letters of other games, where the producers would get into very detailed specifics and were willing to talk about future plans.

With so much secrecy around UO’s future plans, you’d think they were adding goddamned panda bears to UO. World of Warcraft is adding pandas, and not only are they not ashamed of it, they seem quite proud of it and want to tell you about it every chance they get. I guess when you bring in so much money, crazy shit like adding pandas as a playable race starts to sound good.

But UO? Far more simple things than a new continent or giving the furries what they have apparently been wanting for years is shrouded in secrecy. There have been too many times where things were kept secret, and when they were finally revealed, we were like “You kept this a secret from us? And here we were worried you were going to add fucking panda bears.

I went on a rant a few days ago about things that need to be addressed, such as UO and its community as well as UO and its future and what I wanted to see in the producer’s letter.

Sadly, not much has changed over producer’s letters from previous years. Things we already know about from the November 2011 producer’s letter or other posts on UO Herald, or past UO producer’s letters have now been repeated in the latest version of the producer’s letter.

Things that didn’t need to be said again, but were repeated anyways:

#1 2012 is UO’s 15th Anniversary and there are events planned.
#2 Pub 73 and 74 have been released and pub 75 is in development.
#3 The dungeons are being revamped, one at a time.
#4 UO devlopers, artists, players, etc. are great and deserve pats on the back.
#5 The Origin store needs work.
#6 They want to deal with hackers (do you mean cheaters/exploiters?)

Things that we already know about, and that are useless to tell us about anyways without specific examples:

#1 is being relaunched, with fan spotlights.
Is MyUO functionality, guild and character pages, coming back, yes or no. This is a simple question, it bothers a lot of players, and it represents much that is wrong with UO – UO’s website went backwards when they removed functionality. Most games are actually adding functionality, not removing it. Also, I’m sorry to say, as badly as I want to come back, and as badly as I want a new design, I don’t have much confidence in it happening. I’ve watched the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning redesign drag on for almost a year now. The top story on, the first page somebody sees when looking for the official website, still has as the top story, an article from August of 2010. Dark Age of Camelot got a redesign, but it took forever, and the functionality that was removed last year has not been added back.

The same person or persons (no more than 2-3) that are responsible for the WAR and DAOC websites are also responsible for, and they have said that Warhammer is up for a redesign after DAOC. That means UO is behind Warhammer. Based on what we’ve seen with the DAOC and Warhammer work, will not relaunch this year. We were shown tiny screenshots of the Warhammer redesign I think 5-6 months ago, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m not betting on being done by the time the 15th Anniversary rolls around. The person or persons who work on the BioWare Mythic websites do not have enough time to highlight fans for the other websites, I don’t see how that will change with UO.

#2 The high resolution artwork update for the Enhanced Client
Now Jeff is saying it’s supposed to be better, not different, and that it’s going to take longer as a result. This worries me, because so far they aren’t even showing us anything outside of what we’ve already seen with the terrain and a few wall tiles. Even then, it’s hard to understand where they are going with this. At this point in Kingdom Reborn’s development, we had seen quite a bit of information. Jeff, show us some screenshots and concept art. EC users deserve it, we’re beta testing the client, this is sorely needed if you want to bring in new subscribers. Past dev teams and other MMO teams have shown players things that are being worked on. Drop the shroud of secrecy on this stuff. You’re not adding panda bears or anything.

The only new things that we’ve heard out of Jeff’s producer’s letter are:

#1 They want to make the champ spawns more challenging
This could be done in a single publish and has no bearing on UO’s future.

#2 They want to bring value back to plate armor
This could be done in a single publish and has no bearing on UO’s future.

#3 Reincarnation tokens are coming that will change gender, race, and name.
This could be done in a single publish and has no bearing on UO’s future.

#4 Bonnie “Messana” Armstrong apparently has the power to silence her bosses.
This actually confirms a long-held belief of mine. Being that she may be the senior member on the team, she has special powers to keep producers (her bosses) from discussing certain things with the players. Last year, she appeared to have clamped down on Cal when he was going to mention something new in a video town hall, and in the first paragraph of this producer’s letter, she apparently clamped down on Jeff when he was going to mention something new. Why she tells her bosses what they can and cannot say is a mystery. When Jeff, and previously Cal, said they had to get their producer’s letters cleared with others within the company, I guess they were talking about Mesanna.

Now in the November 2011 producer’s letter, Jeff mentioned wanting to breathe life back into older areas, kill bugs, and increase the communication.

Jeff you get an A to an A+ on the first two.

But on communication? D-

Once again, we get another producer’s letter that is for the most part vague and doesn’t actually say a lot because too much of it is spent on things we already know. Those who complained that Cal’s producer’s letters were too vague at times and filled with “fluff” now see that the problem is related to the institution, and not the person. It’s great that you’re on twitter Jeff, but you really need to talk to us about the future of this game, and stop being vague. You’re not adding Pandas for Lord British’s sake.

You’re not adding pandas are you?

In summary:
Increasing champ spawn difficulty, adding value back to plate armor, and reincarnation tokens do not actually tell us one damn thing about the future of UO and how you actually plan to grow it. All three of those things could be accomplished in one publish.

Apparently UO’s future is too secret for us to know about.

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