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 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 Publish 70 – World Release is Tomorrow, April 1

Tomorrow is a very big day for a lot of us – Pub 70 will be live on all production shards tomorrow, April 1, 2011. It’s been in testing on the Test Center and Origin, but the rest of us will be receiving it. From UO Herald:

Pub 70 will go live on all shards during the next maintenance. European shards will be the first shard to receive this publish at 12am EDT. You can find the complete publish notes as well as the notes for the Classic Client 7.0.13 and the Enhanced Client 4.0.13 below.

I’m not going to repeat all of the previous patch notes, you can find those here:
* Publish 70 on the Test Center
* Publish 70 Patch Notes for Origin

These are the differences between Origin’s patch notes and the world-wide patch notes:

Bug Fixes
* The issue with the Gargoyle flight no draw tiles in the atlas was fixed.
* Scalis should leave the correct art for the corpse and the correct hues.
* Ship runes should now function correctly when recalling from the Abyss.
* The MTX ship dyes are no longer account bound.
* The imbuing gump materials list now displays the correct resources.

Enhanced Client
* Cliloc updates
* Art updates

Classic Client
* Moving Mobiles should now show the damage take over head in the classic client
* Players will again be able to see equipped Jin-Baori on both the paperdoll as well as the avatar.
* Art Updates

So get ready to start bidding on the various plots in New Magincia.

Cal Talks About Classic Shard, UO Developer Video Diary, Announces Video House of Commons for March 1st, 2011

If you are curious about the long-desired Ultima Online developer video diary that was first mentioned back in December, the one that was originally planned to be shown back in January, we have a lot more information. We have a long-delayed answer to the question of a so-called “Classic Shard”, and the answer is, not right now. We also have a reference to some major thing or things that happened between January 3rd and late February. Cal also mentions that the video is still coming.

To see these comments in their full context, as well as all of Cal’s comments, please read the the full UO.Stratics thread.

Here are the comments from Cal Crowner, the UO Producer, to start the thread off:

Yes, it’s done. So why isn’t it out? The answer to a “Why” question at the Academy is “No Excuse.” So let’s just go with that.

The intent was to frame several subjects about what we are doing for the remainder of the year in a few short minutes. Between editing and all the things that have happened between January 3rd and now, the answers have not changed, but the method in which we broadcast has many times.

Anyway, you are only waiting for one answer so here I am with flame-retardant mutant suit to field questions and avoid pitchforks.

The answer is: not right now.

In constant review of the threads and other fansites that cater to Ultima Online, we realized that the classic shard comes down to a checklist. It becomes about if you have X rules then this is what a classic shard is. The problem with this is, when working inside this constraint it’s impossible to please everyone.

Also, we DID look into the possibilities of different rulesets and took a look at what had been done in the past, and there was no viable answer that works for everyone.

Finally, it’s about opportunity cost. The more resources and time we spend on developing a classic shard… that is ONE single shard, that means other things get neglected. It would be many months of work at the expense of the wider game.

We are planning a Video House of Commons for next Tuesday, March 1st to field any questions about the coming months, Magincia as a player-driven town, Spring Cleaning, faster/simpler story arcs, arenas, UOgamecode store, shard hardware, and other topics of note.

The reason I did not want to put this in writing is because it doesn’t allow you to “see” how we feel about the game, and this answer is only part of what we want to do with Ultima Online.

Well, there you go. Have at it.

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