A Correction on my Critique of the Producer’s Letter
In my Thoughts on the Producer’s Letter: The Top Secret Edition, I said there were only three new things or ideas that we learned about UO from Jeff Skalski in his January 2012 producer’s letter:
#1 Increasing champ spawn difficulty
#2 Adding value back to plate armor
#3 Addition of reincarnation tokens.
I’m not wrong in saying that all three of those could be accomplished in one or two publishes and don’t tell us anything about UO’s future. But I was wrong in stating that two of those are new, and somebody I know in-game and somewhat out of game pointed out my mistake. It’s really bad since I had written articles that covered both of those things.
#1 Increasing champ spawn difficulty: this was mentioned back in the May 2011 Developers Video, that mobs/spawns would be updated.
#2 Adding value back to plate armor: This was an idea also discussed back in the May 2011 Developer’s Video. No firm plans at the times, but they wanted to do something in the future. There were also references to ideas revolving around changing the mobs/spawn difficulties and wearables in other developer discussions both prior to and after May of 2011.
So that leaves us with really only one new idea out of Jeff’s entire producer’s letter – the reincarnation tokens.
Apology to Mesanna
Also in my thoughts about the producer’s letter, I made a comment about how everything UO producers do seems to have to go through Mesanna and that she has the power to silence her bosses. There was a bit of humor intended in that, which is why I left it out of the summary of things we learned from the producer’s letter. Producers and Associate Producers do have to work pretty close and let’s face it, you don’t want an associate producer who agrees 100% with you, aka a “yes man” or “yes woman” as it were, otherwise you could find something yourself in a bad situation that would have been avoidable if you weren’t surrounded by people who agree with you. Steve Jobs was famous for surrounding himself with people who would argue with him, and it seemed to have worked out okay for him.
However, I did phrase it rather tartly. I have no problem with Mesanna, she is critical to the team, because she’s one of a very small group of people who have a decade or nearly a decade of working with UO, and I believe that is very important. If you lose those people, you end up with a lot of people who have no attachment to UO lore and history. I like Mesanna a lot in fact.
Anyways, Mesanna, I apologize for giving people the impression that you pull the strings.
Non-Apology to Furries
I really pissed off more than a few people over my comments about how Blizzard should be ashamed of adding pandas to World of Warcraft. I never knew that there were so many WOW fans who read UO Journal, and I never knew how many of you have unhealthy attitudes about relationships with animals. Hey, if your friends on Facebook encourage you to think about such relationships with animals, or in this case moving images on a computer display since we aren’t even talking about real pandas, you should just delete your Facebook account, get rid of your computer, and move to Australia. At least in Australia, most of the animals can not only fight off your advances, but probably do you the kind of harm that would seriously discourage your views on human/animal relationships in the future. I’m just going to leave it at that.
On to the fan/hate mail. The three that I’m answering, I just picked a few highlights because either they were as long-winded as I am, very explicit, or were just better off being paraphrased.
Email #1: “Jeff is new and still finding his way around UO”
He’s been around long enough to push out the same fluffy producer’s letters that are chock-full of vagueness that have been a staple of Mythic producers for many years now. Now in Jeff’s defense, he hasn’t played UO continuously since the early days and so maybe he doesn’t realize how many broken dreams and promises and vague comments that have been thrown at us to make us shut up and stop demanding more, but he’s been a part of other Mythic MMOs for several years prior to his stint at UO. On some level he has to know how the players feel.
Email #2: Jeff doesn’t have a choice about what he can say
I agree with this.
I do believe that Jeff does a very good job giving the constraints that he has to operate under. It’s not helped by the fact that MMO players as a whole have too many drama whores who are ready to virtually cut their wrists over changes they don’t like. Those same drama whores tend to hold game development back at times.
It’s really become a stupid cliche, but Origin used to be known as a cutting edge company and a cutting edge studio. Now its legacy is a game that refuses to leave the 1990s. You need only look at the people who get wound up against the Enhanced Client and updated artwork. Those people act like they’d be perfectly happy if we were all still on dial-up and running Pentiums or Pentium IIs.
I had honestly hoped that with a new producer and with UO being under BioWare, that things would really change, that the UO team would be able to talk more freely and that UO wouldn’t be treated like it was a matter of national security.
For those of you around in the early years, you well remember the days when UO developers freely engaged the UO community (Lum the Mad, Crossroads of Britannia, UO.com forums, among others), when plans and potential plans were discussed with the community, when developers and producers would talk about specifics and what the big picture really. The fact that Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, and other large MMOs have serious and specific discussions with their respective communities really bugs the shit out of me.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is not only a part of Electronic Arts, it’s in the same goddamned label that Ultima Online is, and yet UO is treated with a lot of secrecy about its future while the people on the Star Wars team trip over themselves trying to get information out about future plans in order to lure new players in.
Last year, during one of the video townhalls or diaries, the developers were asked a question, then had to turn the cameras off so they could decide whether they could talk to the players about it. The UO community either collectively gasped, or collectively shat its pants over this.
Email #3 “EA is just going to shut UO down after the 15th Anniversary”
That’s a feeling a lot of us have had in the recent past. I admit to it as well, and producer’s letters that tell us nothing about UO’s future don’t help. With the new player system not even being discussed anymore, it concerns me. With simple things like BioWare not even giving a damn about making the Accounts.EAMythic.com website a little more clear, it really concerns me. We’re in February of 2012 and there is still no mention of the “_uo” addition needed for UO players.
Returning players are going to go through a lot of fucking frustration when they fail to realize that they need to add a few letters to their UO account to make it work, and for the lack of a very simple tutorial. People are trying to give EA money and EA doesn’t want to to help them. EA wants those people to contact EA support so that they can waste god knows how much of their time running in circles trying to get their accounts straightened out.
The fact that Cal and now Jeff were unable to get something as simple as a brief tutorial or mention of three characters, “_uo”, added to the EA Mythic front-end of the Origin account system speaks volumes about how EA views UO and how powerless BioWare Mythic producers really are.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say EA was trying to keep that very simple information off of the EA Mythic Accounts website to discourage returning players.
However, If UO was going to be closed this year, we would have already seen some UO developers and artists being laid off or moved elsewhere, and the high resolution artwork and UO.com relaunch would not happen. Those last two things are going to take a long time to finish.
While I don’t doubt that EA would close UO down if it was unprofitable, so far it’s still profitable as far as we know. It is under BioWare now. That is a better position than UO was at 18 months ago.
Email #4 “The uo herald web site is not as bad as you make it out to be”
You’re probably the asshole who thought it was a good idea to ditch UO.com and turn the official website into a crappy collection of broken links and very little game information that turns potential new players away.
Or you’re the asshole who hated Ultima Online or felt threatened by it, and you worked to get UO.com replaced by UOHerald.com. You’ve worked extremely hard to keep helpful information off of it and worked extremely hard to make sure that broken links are never fixed, that gameplay isn’t discussed, and that new players are confused. Good job asshole! You’ve done plenty of damage to UO! Are you happy!
#1 Keep me away from the bourbon
#2 Furries should move to Australia to interact with the animals there.
#3 Mesanna doesn’t really tell UO producers what to do
And finally, if the UO team wants to inspire confidence in players
a) Realize that you’re under BioWare
b) Tell your bosses that players are tired of this shit and that communication used to be better in the early days
c) Tell your bosses that it annoys players to see other MMO teams within BioWare talking specifics and future plans with their players while UO players are kept in the dark.
d) Look at a calendar, realize it’s February, and that you should be talking about bringing back new players and returning players. You’ll look incredibly foolish if you announce your plans a few days before the 15th Anniversary. Now is the time to be talking to us.