A Comment on the Decay of Town / City Loyalty

There is a heated Stratics thread.

Just to give an all-too-brief background (and it’s way too brief because my spare time is devoted to another UO project), as part of the ongoing story arc, you need to acquire city or town loyalty.

For a full explanation of city loyalty, see the UO Herald page or the loyalty part of The Awakening at UO Guide.

Current Rewards
Is it useful? Besides trying to engage the players and give them a geographical sense of belonging, the current reward is a spiffy looking city banner that you can display in your house showing your allegiance to whatever town/city you prefer (UO Guide – City Banners).

The thinking is that it will be importan0t later on down the road leading up to the anniversary in September, and the hints we’ve received indicate that town loyalty will play a part, but for now it’s the banner. I certainly don’t think that the loyalty ratings are only for the banners.

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The True Story of Oceania’s Hangover

Alternate Titles:
– My descent into madness over the course of an hour-
– Fun with Photoshop batch commands
– How I’m trying to make sure I’m not added to the official fansite listing.
– Does flickr Pro really have unlimited bandwidth?

A tip of the hat to the Stratics Ok everyone empty your pockets, who took Oceania thread (from Lady Storm) for the inspiration.

Probably not safe for work.

Oceania's Hangover

Oceania's Hangover

Oceania's Hangover

Oceania's Hangover

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I Didn’t Go AWOL and There’s Stuff Happening

I didn’t go AWOL. I have a certain amount of time I can devote to UO-related website stuff, and right now that time is devoted to a website that is not UOJournal.com.

But there are things happening, big things. Here are a few of those things.

A new third party program has been approved for UO! It’s been a while.

Ultima Mapper

Ultima Mapper is the new mapping application for Ultima Online Classic and Enhanced clients that allows users to share the entire experience, rather than just their whereabouts.

UO gets its 1,623rd mention on Massive – Do you Miss Player Written Books in MMOS:

Ancient sandboxes like Ultima Online and modern classics like EverQuest II give players the ability to write their own books, which then populate player-run libraries, serve as tavern menus, explain quests, and mark the memory of friends who left the game. Later games, however, have sadly passed over the mechanic.

Another edition of The Yew Times, a break from the normal UO news.

The Awakening – Act II, Part 2 – A continuation of the ongoing story arc.

People who hare having patch issues, read this

And finally, Patch 75! There is so much going on, you just need to read it yourself.

Cheaters, Scripters, Hackers, Exploiters, and Scammers in UO

Let me start out by making this clear: We are 6 months away from UO’s 15th Anniversary – putting resources into accommodating people who are cheating/exploiting rather than banning their asses is not the way to go between now and then.

Let’s talk about Cheaters, Scripters, Hackers, Exploiters, and Scam Artists in the wonderful world of Ultima Online, shall we?

If you don’t have 5-10 minutes to read this, then read Stratics’ Petra Fyde comment about the scripters, because it boils this entirely too long post down into an simple, yet elegant statement: They don’t want to play with the other hackers, they want to have an advantage over legit players.

In watching Stratics interview with Jeff, a lot of things struck me. I was going to comment on all of them, but something jumped out at me. Well it jumped out at a couple of people I know who sent me lengthy rants and raves in emails, and one even corned me in-game about it. So I’m going to comment here so that it doesn’t distract from my main commentary on Jeff’s video, which will be posted sometime this week, I promise.

I’ve been busy on another UO project hosted elsewhere and haven’t had time to comment on a lot of stuff, but I will get to it. It actually covers a topic where I was greatly disappointed to see Jeff Skalski’s stance. I thought the interview was great except for this and for the continued secrecy and vagueness that permeates every fiber of UO’s future these days.

Most of what I say below has been covered in Stratics UHall (nice new forums by the way!), but I feel I have to say something about it.

Stratics’ user Tina Small has put together a transcript that was posted on Stratics.

First, let’s quote Jeff from the relevant part of the interview:

Watchertoo [23:26]: Well, along those lines, with the new publish coming out, is there the ongoing discussion of third-party programs and cheats, is there anything going on with that in this publish?

Jeff [23:38]: We are taking a more active approach to the hacking stuff that’s going on. Some of our players may have noticed GMs pulling them aside. I don’t want to get too much into the details of it. We don’t condone hackers. We feel that they devalue the game experience. And those players who are not, are on unfair grounds because they’re not hacking the system like the [hackers] are. So it unbalances things greatly. The bottom line is, we know when people are hacking, and we’re going to be taking a more aggressive approach against [them]: warning them and then, if need be, getting them out of the game and off those shards.

Now, speaking of hackers, though, there’s definitely…there’s some stuff that the team and I are in discussion about. We understand that some players just want to play that way, and [we’re] trying to figure out a way where we can give them a place to play like that. So, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll talk more about that towards the summer.

And by the way, I don’t place any importance on Jeff’s use of the word “hackers” as some on Stratics are doing. Jeff is an art guy and may see them as hackers. I don’t think Jeff is trying to cover up what they do or trying to confuse the issue and pretend they are something they are not.

So Jeff says they devalue the game, and they are identifying them, and the GMs are pulling them aside and they are looking at giving them the heave-ho from the game. That’s good. Most of us don’t like them. Jeff then goes on to say they are considering accommodating them with their own area. That’s bad. Really bad. It’s bad for five reasons.

You are already warning them and it undermines your GMs.
If you are pulling them aside and warning them, then there should be no need to accommodate their ways. You don’t warn somebody, threaten to kick them out, then turn around and give them their own area. It undermines the authority of your GMs. Don’t undermine your GMs Jeff. They have to put up with enough shit as it is.

Siege and Mugen players, and others
You have Siege (and Mugen!) players who aren’t happy and who are getting ignored and not getting EM events, etc. If you put resources into a new shard for the scripters, while your Siege Perilous players are not happy, you’re not inspiring confidence in them. Thanks to Siege’s one-character rule, a lot of Siege players have multiple accounts. This is not an area where you should be playing the game of pissing off or continuing to ignore one group of players in the hopes of trying to keep another group of players, because you’re liable to find yourself weighing how many accounts this group of players has versus how many accounts this other group of players has and that’s a game that you will always lose, because no UO producer has ever mastered it. And it’s not just Siege players, it’s players that may never even consider giving you subscription money because they find themselves totally fucking confused for reasons explained below.

New Players
You have a new player experience (NPE) that is horrible. The NPE is very important in light of the fact that UO will be celebrating a major milestone in September, namely that of the 15th Anniversary – a milestone that no other mainstream MMO has ever reached (Meridian 59 players: Go fuck yourselves and stop sending me hate mail because you think your MMO has been around the longest – 3DO shut your asses down for a while back in 2000, you lost your chance at having a continous 15 year Anniversary milestone). New players are going to be coming in. If you are wasting resources on the scripters while you have a lot of new and returning players coming in who are confused as fuck, it really calls into question your priorities and whether you have a handle on UO’s future.

I still don’t see any tutorials prominently mentioned on the UO Herald about returning players reactivating their accounts. And “Support” on Accounts.EAMythic.com takes you to fucking Warhammer help. Remember that “_uo” stuff? Where is it?

You’re trying to herd cats that want to defeat your measures
The scripters are by their very nature going to push boundaries. They already know they run a very tiny risk of getting banned. As Stratics’ own Petra Fyde said best: They don’t want to play with the other hackers, they want to have an advantage over legit players.

The scripters are not going to let you confine them to a shard where they have no advantage. Telling them they have to play only with other scripters, you might as well tell them to save their $12.95 and go play on a free shard, because either they get bored and leave, or they are going to wait for the next release of their scripts or scripting software that does a better job of covering up their scripting, so that they can continue playing on the regular shards, where they have an upper hand over non-scripting players.

UO’s reputation has suffered enough over the years when it comes to exploits and scripters. Giving them a place to play, and we are all just pretending that they would allow themselves to be confined to such a place, is in fact condoning their behavior. It’s labeling UO as a game that accommodates the script kiddies. Does UO deserve that in its 15th Year?

Jeff, do you want to be the producer who came out and said you’re going to accommodate the scripters?

In Conclusion
Perhaps Jeff does not have a say in the matter and the accountants at BioWare believe the scripters have to be kept around for financial reasons. I can understand that. Well I can’t, but given that UO probably has to stay profitable to stop EA from pulling the plug, and given that we don’t know how well UO is doing, somebody has clearly decided they have to keep the scripters.

We are six months away from UO’s 15th Anniversary. This is not the time to be thinking about putting limited resources into accommodating cheaters. If you want to build some exile shard for the script kiddies, fine, but do it after you fix the new player experience and do it after you take care of some other folks like the Siege/Mugen players, and maybe even the PvP/Factions players. Plenty of them do not script, and they deserve to see their areas or shards improved, more than the script kiddies.

UO and Community Relations, a Primer

This stems from a few conversations I’ve had in the past day or so, and is also a follow-up to an article from a few weeks ago as well as about half a dozen articles I’ve posted over the past year. There is a lot of redundancy here if you follow UO Journal. I’m just going to break down my thoughts on this, for the 15th time in the last year, maybe 20th, who knows.

Hire an actual community representative who can work on UO.com
As many of you know, UO shares a community representative or two with three other games, and possible four other games. The only person we really see doing anything is Kai Schober. You see him updating UOHerald.com with patch notes. If you play Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), you see him on the official BioWare.com WAR forums interacting with players. If you play Dark Age of Camelot (DAOC), he also posts patch notes on DarkAgeofCamelot.com. Kai also handles community relations stuff for Warhammer: Wrath of Heroes, a spin-off of WAR, and he probably handles some work on the Ultima Forever project. Kai is also in charge of updating the websites for all four games (three MMOs, Wrath of Heroes).

As long as UO is sharing a community representative with three other MMOs and an additional one-two games, I don’t see good things happening on this front. It’s more than a full-time job for just one person, but the one person we have doing this happens to be dealing with communities from other MMOs, each of which deserves their own community relations person. If we are as “widely profitable” as the head of the EA Games Label has claimed, and if the BioWare Mythic Vice President is truly proud of being over the studio that develops UO, this should be a no-brainer.

Why is it that smaller games have dedicated community representatives, but UO, a “widely profitable” game doesn’t? Look, UO Event Moderators are contractors, and there are dozens of them. A dedicated community representative can do more for UO than a few EMs. A lot more. That’s not a dig at EMs either. A community representative could take care of broken link, bringing back UO history, highlighting fan sites, highlighting EM events, etc. If EA/BioWare can spend money on EMs that they don’t even bother highlighting their events on UO Herald, EA/BioWare should be able to hire at least one full-time person.

As long as we only have a part of a person that we share with other MMOs, we’ll never see the kinds of things mentioned below taken care.

Bring UO.com back.
For the majority of UO’s life, and given that the majority of UO players who have left, left long before UOHerald.com, UO.com was the official website. It’s iconic. This is supposed to be happening, but I’ve mentioned this week that I don’t think it can happen before the 15th Anniversary. I hope I’m wrong, but UO is behind WAR when it comes to website priorities.

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