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How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies
March 7, 2012 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I remember with crystal clarity when I realized I was making more money from this enterprise than I was at my full-time job. I quickly decided to expand and hired four guys in Singapore to play 24/7. I paid them unreasonably well for the time, almost 3x as much as they would for other re-sellers; this bought me loyalty, and in this enterprise, loyalty is everything."
How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies

Great anecdotes over at HN.
posted by Foci for Analysis (165 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess that's supposed to be an in medias res lede, but it's a quite confusing start to the article.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


what is this I don't even
posted by George Lucas at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2012 [47 favorites]


If real life was a game, nobody would pay to play it.
posted by edguardo at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Somebody ought to sell tickets.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2012


So he supplied good services at a convenient location which was stocked and helped players advance more quickly because traders were there with a decent amount of liquidity. Sounds like a good capitalist.
posted by jaduncan at 1:57 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, come on. He didn't "help" destroy nothing. If anything, he destroyed his own vision of what the game should have been, as well as skewed the economy on the servers he was playing on.

He even admits the game died "...when developers turned their backs on the gamers who had spent the effort and instead listened to the lazy, whining voices who wanted it all given to them." I agree with that. But I don't agree he contributed to the game's downfall at all.

Decent story of MMO market-playing and its consequences, rotten and misleading angle.

Signed, a SW:G player back when the Game Was Good and you could train pet rancors and put up souvenir stands by the Sarlaac Pit
posted by Spatch at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What happened in game is very similar to what Henry George described in California, post gold rush. In the beginning of opening a new territory, many people can do well for themselves. But as land becomes more valuable (certain areas are valuable because of proximity to resources) then a few people are able to monopolize that, and reduce everyone else to poverty.

It's also funny that the game devs said they'd let the economy "grow organically." Pretty funny to see how people who think they're smart seem to be relearning the lessons of classical economics.
posted by wuwei at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Occupy Coronet!
posted by Debaser626 at 1:59 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Besides, what SWG player wouldn't have liked to know that the economy was genuinely manipulated by slightly dodgy businessmen under the effective control of a Dark Jedi Master?
posted by jaduncan at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


Now obviously I did my share of exploiting the game, and your share, and his, and hers. But I put in the work to holo-grind. I put in the work to move my way up endlessly grinding on banthas in Naboo, cats in Corrilea, and rancors on Dathomir. I didn’t buy my personal Jedis; I earned them. I knew the game, I knew the struggle, and I knew what it took to get them.

And in the end? On my last day playing? You could start a new toon who was already a Jedi. I walked away and I never looked back.


If the process of making a fun character in a game is such a long, annoying grind that most people pay money to skip over that part of the game, it's probably a sign that the game isn't designed very well. Why make players waste a huge amount of time doing something that isn't fun?
posted by burnmp3s at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Dog days of duping.


I thought about it at work. I remember hearing stories of people who found dupes in EQ1 and used it to make bank on Ebay (back when Ebay wasn’t taking orders from Sony). Maybe this was my opportunity to make a couple bucks. When I got home that night, I duped like a fiend with Mr. Pink. We duped and duped untill our eyes bled. We moved on to high dollar paintings that sold back for 4g. It was slow moving. We had 10pp when we were done; a massive amount at that point in the EQ game. We were laughing the whole time. Occasionally we stopped to say, “We should just get some for ourselves, then report the dupe,” but I never really meant it. Like Chris Rock says about organ donation, people just say they’ll donate organs because they think they should say it. We had no intentions of stopping, at least not any REAL ones.

Suddenly it started to feel alot like Goodfellas. You know, that scene where they rob the airport, then all the mafia members are told to lay low and not spend any money. The one guy shows up with a fur coat and a cadillac and Deniro goes ape potato peeler crazy. Well, we bought horses. Not just any horses, we bought the most expensive ones available. Not only that, but we bought sweet houses, upgraded our spells, bought the best gear we could equip. We started buying all the collection quest items and just finishing them for fun. We bought all the illusion eyes, all the best furniture, hell, I even bought stuff and then just destroyed it. I had a crazy idea that the more I spread the money around, the less chance I would get banned.

Ray A Kroc style, we started franchising. We’d pay 20 bucks for the minimum amount of gold on a server, then by the end of the day we’d have about 100 times more than the next highest guy selling platinum on PA. To anyone with half a brain and a list of our feedback history, it must have been obvious we were duping. Fortunately, nobody seemed to care. We were on 4 servers by the end of day four.

We started buying more everquest boxes. We needed more accounts, more mules, and some fresh accounts that had never been touched. We had totally tapped into the dark side now, and felt there was no way to return. Onward we went, pushing and selling and buying and duping and laughing the whole time.

We were getting on more and more servers, buying 5 gold, making 2000 by the end of a couple hours. Half the time we didn’t even remember what server we were on. I literally had to /shout “What server is this??” more than once a day. You wake up on Kithicor, you wake up on Unrest, you wake up on Oasis……
posted by Sebmojo at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


And this article illustrates why MMO games are now all in the style of amusement parks. Today player experiences are individually encapsulated, played each in parallel, functionally private. Even when players work as a team, team members have a minimal effect on the play of the others. They may be able to sabotage a day's work, but not everything they have built. You can all race the same race in Disneyland, but you can't touch. You can all play the same Buzz Light Year shooting game and share a score, but you can't steal kills.

This encapsulation eliminates the shared space. The shared, public space is what allowed what this article describes. It was the public space; the impact of every player on every other player that resulted in such extreme varieties of play. Varieties which result in imbalance, and preferential treatment of the older over the younger. It is no surprise that we moved away from this in the game industry. Developers don't want their game to become less playable over time. Or perhaps, developers don't want their game to have a life of its own. They would get all the blame for the unplayability, and have none of the control. But maybe, it is just because we play games to leave reality, reality is where we pretend to be alone but really aren't, reality is where a neighbor or a stranger on a train can ruin our day, while a game is where we can pretend to be with others and really not be.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:05 PM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


And then the game makers realized they could cut out the middlemen in the virtual economies created inside their games and pocket all the money for themselves....Zynga!
posted by humanfont at 2:07 PM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Related
posted by Bookhouse at 2:08 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a douchelord.

He set up a very lucrative system to sell virtual credits to someone who would sell them to gamers (for real money) -- thereby enabling those gamers to circumvent the need for working hard to earn their accolades and advancement in the game -- and THEN turns around and whines because the developers made it easier for people to advance in the game without working so hard?

Hypocritical, whiny jerk.
posted by darkstar at 2:08 PM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


After almost two years, I could see that this would not last. Player counts were dropping; the game was being mishandled more and more. When they did away with the holo-grinding, it wrecked a large part of my business model. And again, when the Jedi-village went live, it was the final nail. No one needed to spend vast amounts on anything any more. You could just become a Jedi from a quest chain.

I started shutting down my enterprise. I had bought and sold dozens and dozens of accounts, billions of credits; for the remaining players on my servers, my accounts were fixtures. They were how they functioned, they were how they survived. Most had no clue it was one person pulling all these strings, and in the end, I liked it that way. I stopped “playing” the day I was killed in Theed starport by a fresh new Jedi who didn’t understand how to even play the game.

I couldn’t even bring myself to fight back. I just stood there. I was one of the few true Dark Jedi Masters, and I let him kill me. That very act illustrated perfectly what SOE did wrong. Those of us who had faithfully put in the hours and weeks and months required to earn those lightsabers were spit on and betrayed by the very architects of the game we loved


I hate this crap. It's the type of thinking that wants to substitute practice with tedium. SWG was a skill based game. In order to become a jedi, you had to level up the right skills for your character, which were random for everyone, and difficult to figure out after the first several. So most people randomly leveled up skills in the hopes of finding the right ones. This didn't make having a jedi a badge of skill, it made it a badge of having enough free hours to grind out random professions.

And of course all measurements of status and power are relative so it's not enough that they have a lightsaber, other people who don't go through the same arduous tasks can't have them. This makes sense when we wish to use this tasks to winnow out people, like firefighters, or navy seals. But we don't measure most other status's by how much time is put in. Players of football, soccer, and starcraft 2 put in countless hours, but we do not celebrate them for that, we celebrate them for the skills and abilities that come with those hours. They want a prize for sitting in one place and clicking the same button over and over, with very little skill.
posted by zabuni at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the process of making a fun character in a game is such a long, annoying grind that most people pay money to skip over that part of the game, it's probably a sign that the game isn't designed very well.

The idea is that other characters should be fun to play, and Jedi would have been something on top of it. Everyone likes to say that X is good or bad design; frequently however they don't consider the larger picture.

It's a version of the politician trick of asking a leading question like "Don't you think that everyone has a right to live?" and using it as a way to get people against abortion or even birth control.
posted by JHarris at 2:12 PM on March 7, 2012


I kept thinking at what point did this guy have fun or actually "play" the game?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:15 PM on March 7, 2012


This was interesting, but can someone define "holo-grinding"?

Also undefined: EQ, UO, and NGE/CU, but they seem less important.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think this is bad, what about Zynga games?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2012


I prefer the games over at Zombo.com
posted by not_on_display at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Apparently I'm the only one here who actually read Neal Stephenson's latest, "Reamde", since this is almost exactly the subplot concerning some of his characters.
posted by hincandenza at 2:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anything is possible, so I've heard...
posted by Windopaene at 2:22 PM on March 7, 2012


EQ is Everquest, UO is Ultima Online, both early MMOs. NGE and CU were two major changes made to Star Wars Galaxies some time a few years into its tenure, which upset a bunch of people. "New Game Enhancement" or something like that and "Combat Upgrade", I think.

I never played EQ or UO or SWG. Apparently I just know this stuff by osmosis.
posted by cortex at 2:23 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]



If the process of making a fun character in a game is such a long, annoying grind that most people pay money to skip over that part of the game, it's probably a sign that the game isn't designed very well. Why make players waste a huge amount of time doing something that isn't fun?


The trouble is that unless you want everyone to have everything from the start you need to have some form of gating - skill development, levelling, currency generation; whatever - to "earn" the powerup.

It's all a form of grinding, one way or another - and various stages of it won't be fun.

And if "having" is more fun than "getting" then you won't enjoy it, anyway.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2012


Also undefined: EQ, UO, and NGE/CU, but they seem less important.

Hologrind was the way to unlock a Jedi character. You had to master several professions in order to unlock your Jedi. It was terrible, which is why they changed it.

UO was Ultima Online. Essentially the original modern MMOs. It was truly amazing in the "wild west" sort of way. Nobody had any idea how to actually design a real MMO, so it was pretty much do as you wish.

EQ was Everquest, a first person MMO, that came out a while after UO. This is what World of Warcraft is essentially based on/ripped off of.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2012


Apparently I'm the only one here who actually read Neal Stephenson's latest, "Reamde", since this is almost exactly the subplot concerning some of his characters.

I figured "Reamde" referred to the page count.
posted by pwnguin at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can tell you EQ is EverQuest, and UO is ultima online. I never saw the appeal of Sw:G so I can't tell you what holo grinding is. NGE/CU are New Game Experience and Combat Upgrade, which I believe are the major patches to the game that changed them so drastically, apparently for the worse.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2012


This was interesting, but can someone define "holo-grinding"?
 bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated


OK, it's like a lapdance without actually being a lapdance, you see?
posted by not_on_display at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, am I supposed to sympathize with this guy or something? Because I'm having a bit of trouble relating to his anguish and sense of betrayal at the end of the whole thing. The whole piece has an oily patina of douche.
posted by LMGM at 2:27 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nobody had any idea how to actually design a real MMO

Apparently they still don't, since all they can do is copy World of Warcraft, which is itself succumbing to the demands of "the lazy, whining voices who wanted it all given to them."
posted by yath at 2:31 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


EVE Online players laugh at this guy.
posted by Splunge at 2:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


UO was Ultima Online. Essentially the original modern MMOs. It was truly amazing in the "wild west" sort of way. Nobody had any idea how to actually design a real MMO, so it was pretty much do as you wish.

Can I just take this opportunity to note that, the few months I played UO was the worst online gaming experience I've ever had. The rampant PKing on the outskirts of town, the looting of corpses, the lagging servers...

It took me years before I delved back into online gaming after UO.
posted by darkstar at 2:33 PM on March 7, 2012


Apparently they still don't, since all they can do is copy World of Warcraft, which is itself succumbing to the demands of "the lazy, whining voices who wanted it all given to them."
posted by yath at 11:31 AM on March 7 [+] [!]


Segue! Wow's new scroll of resurrection lets you boost a re-subbing friend to 80, gives you both mounts and lets them change servers and factions for free!

Desperate genius. I mean damn, I'm tempted.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:38 PM on March 7, 2012


EQ was Everquest, a first person MMO, that came out a while after UO. This is what World of Warcraft is essentially based on/ripped off of.

The chain of rip-offs go much further back than that. EQ was so blatant a rip-off of DIKU that EQ devs had to issue a sworn statement that they hadn't used DIKU source code.

Nobody had any idea how to actually design a real MMO, so it was pretty much do as you wish.

Kinda true. A lot of the UO devs were old hands of the MUDing scene, so they knew how to run an online game. What they didn't know was how to run an online game with tens of thousands, then eventually hundreds of thousands, of players.
posted by kithrater at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can I just take this opportunity to note that, the few months I played UO was the worst online gaming experience I've ever had. The rampant PKing on the outskirts of town, the looting of corpses, the lagging servers...

Survival of the fittest!
Did you play on Atlantic? I might have killed you, or pick pocketed you at the bank in Yew! Heh.
I prefer games like this, the "carebear" style ones just... reward failure, and I burn out almost immediately on them. Like in WOW, you get slightly less points for losing the PVP battle than the winner does. I don't see how anybody can enjoy that.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:41 PM on March 7, 2012


I worked on both UO and Galaxies.

UO I worked on for 2 years until it shipped, and for another few years when we did Rennaissance.

I did a lot of work on core dynamics, the spawning system, dungeons, etc.

I worked on Galaxies for around 6 years.

I've said my serious bits about Galaxies already, but there are some funny things about holocrons and jedi grinding.

I did most of the core work on a big portion of Galaxies launch systems. I did the Spawning, Mission and Combat systems as well as the Skill trees, in addition to the bounty hunter system.

And the original Jedi System.

But that wasn't pre-launch.

In fact, we didn't have jedi before launch. It wasn't until a bit after launch when a producer (a really good guy actually, who was a huge positive in shipping the game), told us we needed Jedi in a few weeks.

The original jedi system was a monster. Hundreds of pages of unimplementable amazing features.

I was given a list of things to work worth.
1. A great programmer who busted ass on the system with me
2. A bunch of lightsaber animations and artwork.
3. 2 weeks.

So we freaked out for a bit, threw out the old jedi system, and figured out what we could track, and how we could use it to give the impression of depth.

So we did. We randomly picked the skills for your holocron, made the items that gave you a "peek" into the path, and then spent the rest of our time getting lightsaber, notoriety/death and force abilities working.

And that's why you had to do the holo-grind.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2012 [102 favorites]


RE: hologrinding

At some point after players in SWG started whining that there were no Jedi, the Devs, apparently on some cannibis or LSD-soaked haze, came up with the brilliant notion that by having players get these "holos" you would "unlock" the Jedi. Once unlocked, you could choose to play a Jedi (or Sith). But to unlock the "holos" you had to (among other things) complete X number of "classes". So what happened was everyone stopped being whatever they were before; medic, smuggler, TKM, I barely remember anymore and started doing whatever they were not, because that was the only way to unlock the holos.

And it utterly destroyed the player-based economy.

Someone in some economics school got a degree writing about the monumental stupidity of that decision. Anyone who even bothered to pay attention to the economics, including that jerk who wrote the article above (and I call shenanigans on, I think he wrote it after the fact in some narcissistic-fueled fantasy) would have realized what the benefit and the perils of a completely player-based system and understood what would occur.

The game failed because of hubris. Well, that and lack of any real content.
posted by elendil71 at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also I think Raph lurks around here sometimes, so he'll probably post something way more eloquent than my rambling "Still getting over being sick" post.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:43 PM on March 7, 2012


darkstar, I agree. Whenever UO is mentioned, people start talking in wistful tones about how it was "wild" and "completely open". What they mean is that, if you didn't have a large group to move around in, you would be killed and stripped instantly as soon as you left the city. The people who enjoyed this time most were clan members who spent a jolly few hours every day killing noobs who hadn't spent the hours necessary grinding their Magic Resistance to 100 (and hadn't even started with it at 50, what a fool!).

On preview, I see Threeway Handshake was one. Which is fine, but don't be surprised when the victims all go play WoW instead... leaving the devs an unprofitable game that leads to 24/7 "carebear" systems. As we said back in the usenet days- if you want to kill with skill, go play Quake.
posted by Maxson at 2:43 PM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Elendil - The player economy was rocking along well after the holocron system. There were problems with the system and idealogies, such as punishing people who wanted to be Jedi, but the economy wasn't a casualty of the system.

In fact, it was humming along nicely until combat upgrade/nge. A bit inflationary, but still had a player economy.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2012


Re: CareBears

People bitched about Renaissance in UO. It's when we split the world into a pvp/non pvp section.

Huge outcry over catering to the wimps, etc, etc.

Renaissance doubled our subscriber base.

Fuck the hardcore PK folks. They're a net negative to the community. It was a product of it's time, and I'm glad we made it originally, but never-ever-ever again.

Hell, For the original jedi system, I got to put in permadeath.

I'm glad I got a chance to work on such esoteric and broad reaching system. I'm glad I got to push the envelope on design choices, but let's never every do that again.

Or if you want to do that, make a smallscale game with a focused team. Hardcore games for small hardcore audiences, done on a small budget.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:48 PM on March 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


On preview, I see Threeway Handshake was one.

You did not need a large group. Although I did have a tryical Dread Lord energy bolter and archers and later "dex monkies," I preferred to go solo on my (I believe it was called this) Soundrel-ranked thief. I would steal from people and they would attack me, counter-attacking them was allowable in town, so guards were never called on me, and stealing never made you bad enough for kill-on-sight.

Usually my targets did run in groups, so I'd be fighting more than one person, so it was pretty neat trying to kill/avoid being killed. Recall runes were my friend.

Also, thank you Lord_Pall for that one little spot in Yew's bank that wasn't under guard protection. Entire cities were paid for by our spoils.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Renaissance doubled our subscriber base.

I never understood why you didn't just make a "no-pvp" server, all the PVPers would have stayed playing it instead of running our own private servers, and the Trammel folk would have been happy too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or if you want to do that, make a smallscale game with a focused team. Hardcore games for small hardcore audiences, done on a small budget.

Realm of the Mad Sith?
posted by cortex at 2:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Usually my targets did run in groups, so I'd be fighting more than one person, so it was pretty neat trying to kill/avoid being killed. Recall runes were my friend.

It's a sure bet that most of your targets weren't sitting around thinking "I hope someone pulls me into a PvP fight right now". It was exciting for you, and a loss of upcoming adventure for the guy who was planning on raiding a dungeon with the stuff you looted.

People came to UO with very different expectations- some wanted to be the Avatar, some wanted exploration, some wanted to fight dragons, and some wanted to kill other people. The problem with early UO was that those who wanted to kill other people could pick anyone, at basically any time, and force them to play their game. It turns out the number of people seeking open-world PvP is far smaller than the other three groups combined.
posted by Maxson at 2:56 PM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I never understood why you didn't just make a "no-pvp" server, all the PVPers would have stayed playing it instead of running our own private servers, and the Trammel folk would have been happy too.


Maintenance nightmare. We'd have had to split the codebase and maintained 2 different sets of servers/configs.

1 unified things is much easier.

Plus we didn't really lose that many PVPErs, and the ones we did lose were REALLY expensive to cater towards.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:56 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lum the Mad on how to do pvp right.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:57 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or if you want to do that, make a smallscale game with a focused team. Hardcore games for small hardcore audiences, done on a small budget.

The problem you encounter trying this is that 80 per cent of the "Hardcore PK" crowd magically turn in to carebears after their first good perma-death ganking. There are a lot of "Hardcore PK" posers, and watching them cry to the heavens for justice after having their day ruined is a true pleasure. Not good for player-base retention, though.
posted by kithrater at 3:00 PM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's a sure bet that most of your targets weren't sitting around thinking "I hope someone pulls me into a PvP fight right now". It was exciting for you, and a loss of upcoming adventure for the guy who was planning on raiding a dungeon with the stuff you looted.

Well, they didn't have to fight back. And he wasn't going to go raid later, he was probably just wanting to get back to his house, but now couldn't with the key that I had just stolen from him, so he's got nothing to lose at this point.

Anyway, I didn't mean to be projective when I said "they didn't know how to design an MMO," (because you clearly did: you made the Greatest Game Ever) but what I really meant was: they made something where you could kill and loot everything from everybody. Even take people's house keys directly from their bags in the middle of town. You further made house keys the lightest item in the game, and in a game with stealing based on weight, the easiest item to steal. There was little else to do except "role-play."

What did you expect people to do?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:02 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is EVE, and there are other MMOs. Galaxies, which I played for a while, was in the latter category.
posted by valkyryn at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The game failed because of hubris. Well, that and lack of any real content.

Based around the theory of player interdependence, some of this "real" content (as far as I was concerned) involved the player settlements, eventually to become organized cities with all the amenities of NPC cities, and the groups that created 'em.

The item crafting and skill system was great and tied into the economy so nicely. In many cases you not only gained skill experience points when you created an item, but when someone else used it. So instead of the crafting grind in World of Warcraft, where you spend hours dinking out vendor trash items, you could actually create and sell useful stuff quite early on, and be rewarded accordingly. Basically, the game did provide a lot of fun on its own, but the real attraction was that you got to make your own fun in-world.

There were no pre-defined classes originally, if I remember correctly. You picked the skill sets you wanted to work on and they levelled up as you used 'em. Want to be a pistoleer creature-taming weaponsmithing chef who plays the Slitherhorn on the side? Go right ahead, man.

If you wanted to immediately play a Jedi and run around slashing people up with your lightsaber, the pre-NGE game wasn't for you. If you wanted to live in the Star Wars world (as much as one can), being a regular dude in the big world (instead of the Hero that MMO players end up being), picking up whatever jobs you could, that's where it was at. The shame lies in the fact that this wasn't the most popular option with regards to the player base, and they are the ones to whom those concerned with the Bottom Line listen.

I stopped playing a little while after the holocrons went in. I went and searched and searched and searched for mine, which was fun, but stopped cold when I was told I'd have to master the Armorsmith profession, the hardest craft skill in the game to grind. I felt sad cause it meant I couldn't be a Jedi, but hey, I was having fun with that Slitherhorn.

The best part of the game, as far as I was concerned, were the Ewoks. True to the universe they were savage, vicious little killers, and running into just a few of 'em on Endor could ruin your entire group's day. So much fun hanging around the shuttleport watching high-level folks fleeing to safety, two little Ewoks bounding behind in hot pursuit.
posted by Spatch at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, they didn't have to fight back. And he wasn't going to go raid later, he was probably just wanting to get back to his house, but now couldn't with the key that I had just stolen from him, so he's got nothing to lose at this point.

So after he lost everything, he cancelled his account. You got a lot of neat stuff out of it. After doing this several times... people kept cancelling accounts, and you ran out of easy loot. It's no wonder UO was forced to create Trammel/Felucca to retain player base, especially after EQ and AC showed up.

Simply put, you were enjoying an untenable game system, which is why no one makes games like early UO anymore. As kithrater points out, a system like that needs winners and losers, and even PVP players don't like losing everything because of bad luck or a glitch they didn't know about.
posted by Maxson at 3:08 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and while I'm at it: The Unbearable Darkness of Ultima Online.

The “evil player”, when called on this behavior, then claims to be an integral part of the game world. Evil needs to be fought against. It makes the game interesting to have someone to hate, right? I mean, they’re so altruistic! It’s a public service, being an asshole. Hard work and all that. Lost your house? Stupid newbie, everyone knows to carry 30 boxes and 20 furs to hide your key under so it takes a thief at least 10 seconds using a 3rd party macro program to steal it. Killed while hunting? Stupid newbie, suck it up and deal. Learn to fight and maybe someday you can be one of us.

But, for Surly Bob and the other “old school evil players” nostalgic for the glory days of Ultima Online – it won’t happen again. Ever. That moment in time was unique – and it’s gone. Because there will never again be a time where there is only one MMO. The market has matured to the point where there will always be choices. And in a dog-eat-dog PvP game, there will only be the PvPers, not the targets. Because now people actually have the choice of selecting which game to play, which game suits them best. If a person is targeted for the tender mercies of “evil players” – they simply will cancel and move on. The days of UO’s One World where many mutually exclusive play styles are forced to interact, on the terms of the more socially maladroit, are over. The market has fragmented, and cannot be put back together. People, when forced to play the role of “sheep” or “stupid newbie”, will simply leave.


posted by Sebmojo at 3:09 PM on March 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


It's weird how much I've always disliked playing MMOs and yet how much I enjoy reading this kind of story about them.
posted by notmydesk at 3:25 PM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


The idea is that other characters should be fun to play, and Jedi would have been something on top of it. Everyone likes to say that X is good or bad design; frequently however they don't consider the larger picture.

Making being a Jedi in a Star Wars game some sort of special prestige class that most players aren't expected to get to is an incredibly dumb idea. That's like making Wizard a prestige class in D&D and forcing everyone to grind out 50 levels of Fighter before they can learn some spells. Or buying Modern Warfare and finding out you have to spend 30 hours punching rats before you get a gun.

The trouble is that unless you want everyone to have everything from the start you need to have some form of gating - skill development, levelling, currency generation; whatever - to "earn" the powerup.

It's all a form of grinding, one way or another - and various stages of it won't be fun.


With grinding you are exchanging time for some sort of resource in the game. People who buy credits or high level characters or whatever are basically trading money for resources that have been paid with someone else's time. If for most players, having the resource is significantly more fun than spending time earning the resource, then in my opinion it's a badly designed game. It's possible to play a game like Pac Man with the entire focus being to earn points, and spending a huge number of hours being bored of the game and not having fun while you chase a high score, but it's not designed around encouraging that style of play. Once you start putting in unfun grindy achievements in a game, or structure it in a way that a player has to spend huge amounts of time doing tasks that are not actually gameplay and aren't at all interesting, you are actively encouraging people to endure a negative experience for a meaningless virtual reward. If playing your game feels like sitting in front of a slot machine that spits out fake money, it's not really even a game at that point.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:31 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did you know that the kid from that Sinbad movie First Kid founded IGE? Neither did I.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, for one, thank Threeway Handshake and his ilk for making UO such a wonderful memory to me and some of my friends. That's not sarcasm. And we played honorable characters.

No, we didn't go around hoping we'd get ganked or ambushed by PKs. But, when it did happen, which it frequently did, we never felt truly helpless. Even in the beginning, you can quit in frustration or you can learn to run. And then you learn to run more effectively. After a while, you don't feel boiling anger so much when attacked, because it's not that hard to get away and do something else for a while... not surefire, though, which kept it exciting.

A while after that, you got good enough to fight back. To organize defense. PVP wasn't why I played the game, but I was good enough (with my combat character) to hold off one very good attacker, or a few unskilled. And then the fun begins. I still didn't focus on that aspect, but suddenly there were moments of getting ambushed... and turning the tables. My attackers fleeing.

Yes, and frequently I would still have to run. But there was so much to do. Sometimes that meant coming back with friends, later. Or just forgetting about it.

So yes, their actions could be annoying, especially at first. However, they DID create gameplay for the "good" players. It was thrilling and gratifying to spot an attack on a new player, or a crafter, and rescue them. Escort them home. Offset their losses with cash if we'd come too late. The feeling of community, virtue, heroism amongst the honorable players would not have been possible without those evil PKs!

So, cheers Threeway. At least some of us enjoyed it as much as you did.
posted by gilrain at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


You got a lot of neat stuff out of it. After doing this several times... people kept cancelling accounts, and you ran out of easy loot.

I either got the stuff he was wearing, some reagents, or just another key to put in one of my full key bags in the bank (which probably caused much of the server lag people complained about).

The loot never dried up, though. It did get more difficult, because after a while, people caught on to the whole thieving bastard killer thing and many players formed anti-PK guilds that patrolled areas where people would mine or hunt. A player-ran police system. People would make websites with kill-on-sight lists of thieves and PKs. It was a lot like Eve Online is now, basically. It was amazing.

I guess what you're saying is that I, personally, helped destroyed Ultima Online, and maybe I should write a blog post about it?

But I think it is kind of silly to blame the PK players themselves for what transpired. If you had asked me back in 1996 what UO was for, I would have told you that what I was doing was exactly the purpose of it. There was always the whole virtue system in the other Ultima games (I played them all, except that weird Mars one...) where you got to do whatever you wanted. Iolo would get pissed off if you stole, so you could even make him go and hide so he didn't have to see you do it. Now, just other players were thrown into the mix. Players that you were able to attack, kill, and loot, just the same as they could do to you.

None of this was outside of the game rules. I didn't rob people's houses by exploiting a bug, I robbed the house because I killed its owner, by shooting him with crossbow bolts. Or by taking the key out of his bag with the "Stealing" skill, the skill that you could be trained by NPCs for. The skill, that, once I reached 100, I attained the title "Grandmaster Thief." All within the confines of the game. Everybody else also seemed to know this, and adapted. It was amazing, and I don't see why any of that was bad or wrong.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess what you're saying is that I, personally, helped destroyed Ultima Online, and maybe I should write a blog post about it?

Never have I claimed that you, personally were responsible for the entire "destruction" of UO. That sort of grandeur is reserved for the article writer, who could use a little deflating. Frankly, it grants too much credit for something you agree was merely a gameplay system.

What it comes down to is what Sebmojo linked to: for a short period of time, UO was the only game in town, and that's why the PK system turned out the way it did. Nowadays, PvP has been turned into a sport- two opposing teams agree to fight, they fight, someone wins and someone loses. UO PKing was nothing like that at all- it was about hitting the unwary, taking advantage of ignorance about game systems. It was like stealing a soccer ball from players in the park and getting away with it, because there were no other parks in town- except this was completely legal and the soccer players really should just have never come in the first place. Nowadays, they go to the field to play, and the old PKers complain about how everyone's a carebear.

Anyway, it was fun for those who liked it, and crap for everyone else, which is why you have to sign up for that sort of thing now. EVE Online is a perfect example of how all's fair when you know what you're getting into.

I didn't rob people's houses by exploiting a bug...

You yourself said otherwise:

Also, thank you Lord_Pall for that one little spot in Yew's bank that wasn't under guard protection. Entire cities were paid for by our spoils.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:50 PM on March 7 [1 favorite +] [!]

posted by Maxson at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


i agree with SANAFABICH SANAFA
posted by nathancaswell at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2012


Do you remember when UFC came about and everyone was jazzed because it didn't really have many rules. If you go back and watch, there were a couple of really good fighters early on that were taken out simply because some idiot punched them in the nuts. "Oh shit! I'm getting choked out!" POW! Dick shot. Ding ding ding. Match over. Asshole moves on. Now by all means, hitting someone in the nuts was fully within the rules, but it pretty much undermines every other persons (how should I say this) "enjoyment" of what was actually supposed to happen the in that ring. If you can't understand why fucking over other people for your own enjoyment is generally not a good thing for everyone, then I could see how you would think why a 'No dick punching' rule was a bad idea for the UFC.

I mean I can kick really good, but that doesn't mean I go around looking for puppies to punt.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


These games are popular because they are ways for people to find meaning in a Western world where people are systematically atomized by post modern life.
posted by wuwei at 4:24 PM on March 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


I mean I can kick really good, but that doesn't mean I go around looking for puppies to punt.

So, that makes you a potential puppy punter.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maxson: You yourself said otherwise

That's not an exploit, it's just a little out of reach of the guards. You know, it's interesting because I used Yew all the time and didn't know there was a blind spot like that. And I never had trouble with thieves after the first few days of playing... because they were so, so easy to avoid.

When you have something valuable on you, or especially when you're banking, you just don't let someone you don't trust get within one step of you. A thief couldn't steal at more than a pace away. If stranger stepped right next to you, you just moved a couple steps away: viola, complete immunity!

I actually liked the thieves best of all, way better than PKs. Most of the thieves I knew made at least a pretense of roleplaying a character, and some were quite good... more like amusing, bantering scoundrels that the locals knew but tolerated. They had to enjoy and roleplay their characters, honestly, because there wasn't much money in straight-up thieving due to the ease of avoiding them. The occasional careless player gives up a big-ticket item, maybe, but it wouldn't have been as much if they just PVEd for the same time.
posted by gilrain at 4:26 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(The only characters more fun to be around than thieves while you're idling at a bank or just hanging around town were the beggars. Yes, there was a dedicated skill for begging... but it was just an excuse to play a beggar. They were a very proud group of players, those that took that road. They had detailed characters, were hilarious, and were generally the jesters of the game.

I know it's partially nostalgia, but gosh... now I'm remembering how even [or especially] the beggars were awesome, in UO! In modern MMOs, they're a scourge. "yo dud give me sum gold im new lolol".)
posted by gilrain at 4:31 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cities were supposed to be under the protection of the (magically teleporting) guards. That particular spot was well within "city boundaries" but, due to programmer error, wasn't protected- a magic blind spot no one would reasonably expect had that problem. In short, it was a bug, and people exploited it. This happens all the time in modern MMOs too, but the difference is that the GMs will generally do a rollback or address the problem directly.

When you have something valuable on you, or especially when you're banking, you just don't let someone you don't trust get within one step of you. A thief couldn't steal at more than a pace away. If stranger stepped right next to you, you just moved a couple steps away: viola, complete immunity!

That wasn't possible when the wall was crowded with people and you needed full stamina to "push someone out of the way". Sure, you could just play on off-hours, but some people didn't have that luxury.
posted by Maxson at 4:31 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You yourself said otherwise:

At first, it may have been arguably considered a bug/oversight, possibly, but:
Instead of "fixing the bug" they literally put a sign in the bank saying that this part of it was not guarded.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2012


Maxson: That wasn't possible when the wall was crowded with people and you needed full stamina to "push someone out of the way". Sure, you could just play on off-hours, but some people didn't have that luxury.

I played during the busiest years, and I never remember the bank at Yew being even close to full. Yew was frequently deserted almost entirely... Even banking in Brit, the busiest by far, you could always run inside and bank in the relatively empty interior.

I preferred Trin most of the time, but I used Yew if I felt I needed some privacy. Brit was a zoo, but always good if you needed to do some quick buying or selling, or have some armor custom made. God, now I'm remembering crafting... especially repairing. We would repair just for tips and hope for a commission for new armor. You could have a fun time just hanging out with the other crafters all day, gossiping and servicing the warriors who came and went.
posted by gilrain at 4:39 PM on March 7, 2012


I know it's partially nostalgia, but gosh... now I'm remembering how even [or especially] the beggars were awesome, in UO! In modern MMOs, they're a scourge. "yo dud give me sum gold im new lolol".)

This is what I really miss in MMOs, random people willingly roleplaying (beyond something like ERP, anyway). In City of Heroes, there was one person who would have hilarious one-way telephone conversations at the train station (usually with his mom or his agent). Of course, we now have RP servers and even RP MMOs, so I suppose people who like doing that went over there instead. Even the City of Heroes guy was probably there because it was the only superhero MMO in town.

On preview: the parts you mention you enjoy about UO, gilrain, mainly existed because there were people who wanted a whole world to have fun in, not a battlefield to get ganked in. Those people still exist- they just went to places where you don't have to constantly watch for a dagger in the back.
posted by Maxson at 4:43 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The quality I liked the most about early UO was not that my decisions mattered, but how they mattered. Many game decisions matter, for instance do you take the silent crossbow gun or the rocket propelled grenade launcher, spec as support class or a tank class, so on. But during early UO, the decisions were more like those in a physical sport. You knew you had decisions to make, but the value of the decisions are never known for certain until after they have been made. Over time, you eliminate decisions you know to almost never play out, but ultimately even the right choice can still be the wrong one. Often, just like in real life, the only wrong decision was the decision to hesitate. But what decisions am I talking about? The decisions that involved other players. Do I trust this player, or is he a scout for his friends on the hunt for miners? Do I press my luck and hold these ingots for another few minutes or do I hit the bank now? Is that ghost by that corpse really in trouble or is he just a decoy? Can I make it to the moongate on my horse? Does the value of this armor as protection offset the cost of it being lost to opportunists?

This element produced a sort of curious depth. The game, although promising to be about skills, dungeons, exploration, conquest, became in fact a game about judgment calls. The skills, dungeons, items, houses, and so on, were all a macguffin. The real story, the real game, was the caravan of strangers struggling forward toward it. Once the struggle was removed, the game was doomed, UO became EQ. The decisions became mechanical. While before decisions were made in relation to other people, and the threats and promises they represented; afterward, they were in relation to the game world solely and only. The game itself became the only obstacle to playing. Which, if you think about it, was also the case just before. But I do not stand down from my first position. After involuntary PvP was removed, you could know the values of every decision you make-- before you made it. On the matter of getting to your goal, you no longer mattered. A certainty that provides a certain enjoyment, certainly.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:46 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


TwelveTwo, don't you get the exact same uncertainty from games like Darkfall Online?
posted by Maxson at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2012


We can agree on that, Maxson... the environment of spontaneous roleplay was great, in UO, and wasn't just limited to the often-too-intense dedicated groups.

And I understand your frustration with pre-Trammel UO. I'm just trying to provide a counterpoint.
posted by gilrain at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2012


I've only played EVE, no other MMOs. It's hard to understand how those other games work.

How do you keep inflation in check without ubiquitous PVP? Don't you need to have the same amount of "stuff" destroyed as created?

How do you have famous players or important events if the player base is scattered across many isolated servers? Do people blog about important stuff that happens on their shard? Does anyone care?
posted by ryanrs at 4:49 PM on March 7, 2012


ryanrs: How do you have famous players or important events if the player base is scattered across many isolated servers? Do people blog about important stuff that happens on their shard? Does anyone care?

UO was multi-shard as well. In fact, UO is where the term "shard" came from, since that was the lore they used to explain multiple servers. The answer is simply that notoriety was really per-server. If you were a hardcore player and followed the community online, you might here about people on other servers, but that was rare. Adam Ant was one, because he published his exploits rather hilariously.

The single server is a huge boon to EVE, of course.
posted by gilrain at 4:53 PM on March 7, 2012


Lots of people played UO to have fun PKing, and I understand (and understood that).

It wasn't why I was playing the game, though. So yeah, players who derailed my evening of hoped-for adventure exploring the caves and battling dragons, etc. by laying in wait on the outskirts of town and lightning bolting me into ash really ruined the fun. And when it was by FAR more advanced players who have been playing much longer than I had, and just so they could steal the few spell components and adventuring equipment I'd just spent a half-hour organizing for my outing, it was more than a little irritating.

When that happens and your corpse gets looted, even the robes and shoes you were wearing are stolen and then you have to go back to town to spend another hour getting re-equipped, running all over town and re-buying all the stuff you need and then heading back out into the woods only to meet another PK that's been playing a few months longer than you, you pretty much decide you're done playing for the night.

Half a dozen nights like that -- added to the massive lag on the server while you're (1) either trying your darndest to run away from the PK or (2) trying to run all over town to purchase all your gear again and I got fed up with the hassle.

I don't doubt I was the source of some merriment and entertainment for a number of folks during that time. But it came at my expense, and after a while, that wasn't a game I was interested in playing anymore, much less paying for.
posted by darkstar at 4:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a good counterpoint too- the fact that all these different types of people were squished together into one MMO made for a certain wildness. The problem I had with it was that UO was supposed to be a game, and that for one particular group, that meant ruining it for other people. It's hard to justify $10/month (heh, that seemed expensive back then) when it was "mine/craft for hours, make some money, get some equipment, head out, die instantly, repeat" and you didn't have the time for a clan or the chance to play when the griefers were sleeping.

On preview: what darkstar said.
posted by Maxson at 4:56 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hell, For the original jedi system, I got to put in permadeath.

MMORPGs lost something when they lost permadeath. Oh, sure, you had to work at it a little to actually permadie. But it was at least possible which added a little edge of tension any time you came even remotely close.

Of course they also became crappy when you stopped having to pay by the hour. Not that I could or would go back, obviously, but it's undeniable that having to pay by the hour solved virtually all of the problems with online games that are present today. All of them! It also meant the "massively" in "massively multiplayer" meant maybe a hundred people online at once instead of a hundred thousand, but that was also a plus.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on March 7, 2012


When that happens and your corpse gets looted, even the robes and shoes you were wearing are stolen and then you have to go back to town to spend another hour getting re-equipped, running all over town and re-buying all the stuff you need and then heading back out into the woods only to meet another PK that's been playing a few months longer than you, you pretty much decide you're done playing for the night.

What were you carrying that was so irreplaceable? How broke were you?
Did you not know that there was a bank in town where you can put things that can't ever be stolen. Did you not know that what you carry on you outside of town can easily be lost?'

MMORPGs lost something when they lost permadeath.

Diablo 3, which will be out soon, will have hardcore mode that has permadeath. I can't wait.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:05 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Me neither. Of course Diablo 2 destroyed my wrists to the point that I couldn't use a keyboard for 2 years. So....
posted by Justinian at 5:07 PM on March 7, 2012


Maxson, probably. I don't know. I am just charting the motion across various modes of game mechanics.

First, the raw position. A game mechanics where the value of a given action is found in the full network of actions of all players. Where the problems with the game are identical to the problem with the players. That guy being a douche can ruin my play. Everyone plays the same game, but experiences it differently.

We ran from this as fast as we could

Second, toward a system in which every action is valued in relation to one single entity, the game world. Where the problems with the game are cleanly encapsulated from the problem of the players. That guy being a douche can not ruin my play. Everyone plays each their own game, in invisible parallel, but each experiences it identically nonetheless.

But what was lost was slowly recognized

Third, as the second position reached its limit. The limit being obvious and obscure. If you want a hint, think single player games with socially visible unlockables. So, from this third there is now a return to the First. But not the same as it was, for it is a march through all that has been gained of this escape to the Second.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:11 PM on March 7, 2012


Maxson and darkstar... did you guys get up to 7x GM on any of your characters? Particularly a combat-oriented character?

I'm wondering if that's the difference between my experience and yours. I remember it being challenging, hair-raising, and sometimes annoying... but not a constant, helpless string of endless ganks. I had a 7x GM combat guy, a 6x GM crafter, and something like a 5x GM, ever-shifting Mage/Bard/other stuff.

Maybe I don't remember the annoyance from before I worked all those skills up. I do remember I stayed a lot closer to friends and my guild before, after maxing out my skills, I could spend time solo when desired. Hm.

The biggest difference, IIRC, was GM healing and GM Parry. That increased my inconceivability by a ton. Hehe, I remember having a guildy cast Blade Spirit on us over and over to increase parry, and it still took ages.
posted by gilrain at 5:15 PM on March 7, 2012


gilrain: That increased my inconceivability by a ton.

Er, my survivability, that is...
posted by gilrain at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2012


Inconceivable!
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2012


That word you keep using...
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you not know that what you carry on you outside of town can easily be lost?

I think you're missing the fact that THAT was partly the point. PKers meant that, essentially, you couldn't carry anything out of town without it at risk of being lost. Which meant that you either went out of town with minimal gear (and therefore at minimal readiness or diminished flexibility) or you went with stuff you felt you needed and then were likely to lose it to a PK.

Not to mention the hassle of having to run back and re-kit just because someone ganked you, REGARDLESS of what you were carrying. Even if al I lost were rags, the fact that I had to waste my time, deal with the lag, etc. to run back to town, get healed, re-equip, etc., all while dealing with the lag, the HORRIBLE LAG made it unpleasant.

Your mileage may vary and, evidently, did. I'm glad you enjoyed the game. For me it was as fun as a root canal.
posted by darkstar at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


What were you carrying that was so irreplaceable? How broke were you?
Did you not know that there was a bank in town where you can put things that can't ever be stolen. Did you not know that what you carry on you outside of town can easily be lost?'


You started off with 100 gold and a newbie dagger, right? Some other stuff depending on where you put your points, but nothing huge. That meant that, if you were starting from scratch, you'd spend several hours building yourself up to getting decent armor.

Now, the prudent player would proceed to spend several more hours building up an emergency stash, but that stash would disappear from deaths unless it was constantly replenished. No offense, but if "Entire cities were paid for by our spoils" you were probably never in the situation where you were stuck looking at your depleted earnings and really didn't feel like mining for a few more hours. At this point, the game becomes a chore.

On preview: the First still exists, for people who want it. There will always be niche games like Darkfall Online and Haven and Hearth. Many people enjoy the Second, and its built-in shortcomings, just fine (the "casual" market is going strong). As for the Third- the future of the MMO industry- we'll just have to see where it goes... in my opinion, it's not heading back to the First.

Further preview: when you said "guild" I understood a lot of the differences in our experiences. I never joined a guild beyond a brief stint in the Skara Brae Rangers, so I never managed to level myself up that far. Back then, I just wanted to wander around and look at things- classic explorer archetype- and man was UO bad for that. Other MMOs serve that purpose now.
posted by Maxson at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be honest, gilrain, it's been so long I don't remember what my levels were in anything. I was working a grueling job at the time so I wasn't able to spend much time to level up a lot the way I later did when I got immersed in WoW (whew, that was addictive for a while!). So I'm sure my low level had something to do with it.
posted by darkstar at 5:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't play MMORPGs for the same reason I don't play pen and paper RPGs with random strangers at the local hobby store. Reading this thread has only reinforced this.
posted by moonbiter at 5:24 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also funny that the game devs said they'd let the economy "grow organically." Pretty funny to see how people who think they're smart seem to be relearning the lessons of classical economics.

Raph Koster is kind of a moron. The same type of thought led to the crazy dystopian UO launch they have spent the rest of the lifetime of the game trying to patch away. He is more interested in the social experimentation side of an MMO than actually making a fun game.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:24 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maxson: Further preview: when you said "guild" I understood a lot of the differences in our experiences.

Aha, that completely explains it. For all that I almost only play solo in MMOs, these days, I doubt I would have fond memories of UO without the guild my friend introduced me to. It wasn't a big guild, or a very powerful guild (only about six people), but it sheltered and taught me and my friend while will built up our skills and savvy.
posted by gilrain at 5:25 PM on March 7, 2012


Definitely, gilrain. I didn't learn about guilding until WoW. It would have been a different scene had I been in a protective guild, I'm sure.
posted by darkstar at 5:26 PM on March 7, 2012


you were probably never in the situation where you were stuck looking at your depleted earnings and really didn't feel like mining for a few more hours.

I started with a robe and a dagger, just like everybody else.

It was not difficult to make some initial money. There were skills that you could make fortunes in, only staying in town, like tailoring. Just with the 100 gold starter, you could make infinite money, provided you had the patience. Many of the things that tailors made sold to the vendor you bought the supplies from for much more than the cost of supplies. Much faster than mining. You could also lumberjack in-town and sell the wood (and then also make your own arrows). There was also tinkering (which, since nobody did it, you could max out your STR in like 30 minutes) and fishing (which maxed your DEX). All 100% safe, in-town activities.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:28 PM on March 7, 2012


He is more interested in the social experimentation side of an MMO than actually making a fun game.

For me, the modern state of MMO gameplay minus socialisation is a glossy Skinner box: grind mindlessly, randomly get awarded prizes. It's only the addition of other people to the formula that makes it bearable, whether it's grinding as a backdrop for socialising with friends, grinding in groups where you've got semi-complicated sub-grinding tasks that could maybe qualify as "gameplay", or dealing with the bizzaro-world sociology of a persistent-state online environment.

I don't see how a MMO can be more fun than any non-MMO format without socialisation, because there are countless more fun games I can play on my own. And a MMO designed to shake up the GIFT can be especially fun.
posted by kithrater at 5:48 PM on March 7, 2012


I've actually been thinking about the story he tells. And one part stands out to me. It just does not ring true. And that's the part where he is killed by a noob. That is just so wrong. It sounds like the perfect end to a perfect story. But no. I just don't see that happening.

This guy is an A-Type throughout the story. And then he decides to just stand there and die for some kind of point? Long before he even considered writing about it?

No. I call bullshit.
posted by Splunge at 5:49 PM on March 7, 2012


Trust me, I knew all about tailoring. I spent a lot of hours making various skullcaps or shirts or whatever was the most economic return at the time. But I never got beyond making money, spending the money on equipment, getting ganked, and repeating. Sure, I spent the time whacking small creatures to raise my stats and my Swordsmanship, but that doesn't help when it's three Corp Pors out of nowhere.

Looking back on it, I know I should have taken that money, spent it on reagents, and set myself on fire constantly until I got 100 Magic Resistance. I should have done the 7xGM thing. I shouldn't have tried to help some grey guy get away from a "noble" blue PK. I should have done a lot of things, but I wanted to have some fun alongside all that grinding and getting my stats up to the level to go outside and stay there. So I guess that made me a bad player, but it also made me the standard player of UO, which is why everyone like me left it like a burning building when we had the chance.
posted by Maxson at 5:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maxson, well, what I meant by a return to the First is I guess misleading. I don't mean a return as a simple fashion trend throwback, a simple repetition, but more of a trying again. Recognizing it was a failure, but that there was something there. The collectivity of those games, the meaning they generate, the social-generative dimension, and so on. We can see it is possible in the experimental designs such as LOVE, or to a much lesser extent Minecraft. There is a real possibility of a game in which every action matters to every other player, but, surprisingly, is not immediately shattered into those who have fun at the cost of others, and those paying that cost. There is a parallel to this project in politics. It is an important problem, and such problems may find their solution in the strangest places.

In retrospect, I should have coined some terms for my First, Second, Third. Referring to them as such is awkward. Unfortunately, I can't think of what to call them. Dynamic, Discrete, Distributed? Divergent, Parallel, Mutual? Gas, Solid, Liquid? Horizontal, Vertical, Curved? Not sure.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:54 PM on March 7, 2012


I played early UO from the day it launched. I started out as the sheep type and moved on to be a very good thief. My best friend was some dude I had stolen a bunch from for weeks and eventually stole his house. After that he decided it would be better to be friends.

I could never get into the PK stuff, it just depended on hurting people too much. At least with thieving you usually didn't get a house, you got random stuff and ended up running for your life. With PK, you go and kill some guy farming lumber for an hour who has no fucking interest in combat but the game is new and unique and there is nowhere else to go. Stupid.

Early UO taught me to never trust another human being, that was a valuable lesson it was better to learn in a game than in the real world.

I don't see how a MMO can be more fun than any non-MMO format without socialisation

There should be social elements, but Koster puts them behind gameplay as a priority, which is why some people ended up the sheep. You try and have your group gaming night with your friends and end up wasting it getting ganked all night.

UO started with some weird formula to try and spawn wildlife/monsters organically as well, which just ended up meaning nobody had anything to kill. Total mess.

I've actually been thinking about the story he tells. And one part stands out to me. It just does not ring true. And that's the part where he is killed by a noob. That is just so wrong. It sounds like the perfect end to a perfect story. But no. I just don't see that happening.

I left WoW forever after never taking much of a break after years of play because of one bad night in one raid when I just knew it was over and I would never be coming back. It's weird but single incidents can really be the catalyst to get the addicts to quit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I just stood there and didn't heal until we wiped, same kind of let yourself die)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:55 PM on March 7, 2012


Triple post, okay done.

There should be social elements, but Koster puts them behind gameplay as a priority

What I meant to say is he puts the social experiments AHEAD of gameplay. This is not social elements, this is "What if everybody can just murder and steal from each other and lets have a totally unregulated free market economy?"

Do you want to spend your gametime in Libertopia?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:58 PM on March 7, 2012


I expected to just skim this thread and move on, but I've been completely sucked in by the reminiscing over Ultima Online. I have, like, no experience with that game and kind of negative interest in actually playing MMO games in general, but I find listening to people talk about them sometimes fascinating. Most gamer conversations bore me to tears, because they're usually about the mechanics: skills, items, stats, zzzzz. What's different about this is that people here are sharing real stories and experiences; that's totally enthralling, and I don't know if it would have been possible without exactly the kinds of hands off design that's being debated.
posted by byanyothername at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


TwelveTwo, the increased emphasis on collaboration in modern MMOs is definitely cool. We've got examples like Lineage sieges or the Minecraft creations you mention... Guild Wars 2 is introducing realm-wide situational changes based on successes or failures at quests, and a lot of smaller F2P games are pushing voting for players and giving the victors special abilities (usually as "mayor").

If that's what you mean by "trying it again" then I agree that it's the future of MMOs- an attempt to allow interaction beyond "LF2M someone respond plz" without also reducing everything to a deathmatch. Frankly, I think watching the development of MMOs and gaming in general has told me more about political systems and social relations than any professor ever could have.
posted by Maxson at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kept thinking at what point did this guy have fun or actually "play" the game?

When he bought a car and paid for his house? I know it's simplistic, but as someone who will probably never play anything more complicated than Baldur's Gate, the idea that you could make a huge whack of money and pay for your house is really exciting. Plus he worked his ass off to do it.
posted by sneebler at 6:12 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"LF2M someone respond plz"

Ironically, the level of interaction between players in the more modern MMOs is really pathetic. I have tried to play tons of them, and yet none of them reached even 1% of the level of interaction that I had with people in UO (and even EQ at first). WOW, with its 8 million players, has a dungeon finder, and if the people grouped up for the dungeon said more than "WTF Occulus again" during the entire encounter, it was a miracle.

SWTOR, which frankly, sucks, has no dungeon finder, but instead of making more players interact with each other, it ends up that nobody does anything together at all, except discuss who is a bigger "faggot" or if they'd rather fuck Mako or Jaessa. The level of discourse in these newer games is sickening: utter contempt for everybody.

In UO, the only time I ever heard the word "gay" was when somebody I knew in the game said that he was gay "IRL." In these early, "antisocial" games, people were more easily able to form better bonds, somehow. It wasn't that people were all "Hark, hark! Harkend he!" roleplaying, though some did, but people had to meaningfully interact with each other in order to do anything.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:24 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


elendil71 at 4:42:
the Devs, apparently on some cannibis or LSD-soaked haze, came up with the brilliant notion that by having players get these "holos" you would "unlock" the Jedi

Lord_Pall . . . also at 4:42:
It wasn't until a bit after launch when a producer (a really good guy actually, who was a huge positive in shipping the game), told us we needed Jedi in a few weeks.

Only on Mefi . . . can we have a someone posting how he/she imagines some fairly obscure feature of a ten-year-old game came to be and SIMULTANEOUSLY, down to the minute, have one of the developers in question posting exactly how it actually did come to be.

And isn't the reality at once far more mundane than the drug-addled hazy random decision making we were all imagining--and yet at the same time, far more interesting in its own way?
posted by flug at 6:29 PM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


My understanding (don't play much now, and it's solo when I do) is that most of the meaningful communication now happens via voice, in private Vent and TeamSpeak servers. That's expeditious, and probably fun if you're in that group, but it does seriously decrease the observable level of discourse in the game, and almost eliminates any feeling of real, server-wide community.

I've always, always felt that going to a chatroom-like interface at the bottom of the screen for communications, rather than UO's actual speech bubbles, irretrievably separated the player from the character and increased the feeling that you're playing a game rather than playing a character (whether you were roleplaying or not).
posted by gilrain at 6:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't see Lord Pall denying Dev drug use!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:34 PM on March 7, 2012


What I meant to say is he puts the social experiments AHEAD of gameplay. This is not social elements, this is "What if everybody can just murder and steal from each other and lets have a totally unregulated free market economy?"

I think MMOs are first social experiments, and only second games, and the game element is usually so poor that all it does is serve to shape the social experiment rather than truly existing in its own right.

Do you want to spend your gametime in Libertopia?

I know it's a rhetorical question, but yes. Escapism in to a dangerous realm is something I enjoy, even though I don't expect everyone to enjoy it.
posted by kithrater at 6:39 PM on March 7, 2012


Ironically, the level of interaction between players in the more modern MMOs is really pathetic. I have tried to play tons of them, and yet none of them reached even 1% of the level of interaction that I had with people in UO (and even EQ at first). WOW, with its 8 million players, has a dungeon finder, and if the people grouped up for the dungeon said more than "WTF Occulus again" during the entire encounter, it was a miracle.

Pre dungeon finder I used to be a master at pulling together a WoW instance group fast.

/who priest 45-55
/w (priest) Hi! We're doing (instance) - would you like to come along?
/w (priest) We have (confirmed group members). And pancakes!

Rarely took more than five minutes. And generally produced group members who were nice and chatty and willing to push on through the occasional wipe.

That said, pressing a button and getting fun is also really nice...

This Daztur post on 'Combat as War, vs Combat as Sport' seems relevant.

People who want Combat as Sport want fun fights between two (at least roughly) evenly matched sides. They hate “ganking” in which one side has such an enormous advantage (because of superior numbers, levels, strategic surprise, etc.) that the fight itself is a fait accompli. They value combat tactics that could be used to overcome the enemy and fair rules adhered to by both sides rather than looking for loopholes in the rules. Terrain and the specific situation should provide spice to the combat but never turn it into a turkey shoot. They tend to prefer arena combat in which there would be a pre-set fight with (roughly) equal sides and in which no greater strategic issues impinge on the fight or unbalance it.

The other side of the debate is the Combat as War side. They like Eve-style combat in which in a lot of fights, you know who was going to win before the fight even starts and a lot of the fun comes in from using strategy and logistics to ensure that the playing field is heavily unbalanced in your favor. The greatest coup for these players isn’t to win a fair fight but to make sure that the fight never happens (the classic example would be inserting a spy or turning a traitor within the enemy’s administration and crippling their infrastructure so they can’t field a fleet) or is a complete turkey shoot. The Combat as Sport side hates this sort of thing with a passion since the actual fights are often one-sided massacres or stand-offs that take hours

posted by Sebmojo at 6:46 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Random interaction is less, but I raided with 40 (later 25) players a night in WoW. There was way more meaningful interaction and friendship than in UO.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:52 PM on March 7, 2012


I've always, always felt that going to a chatroom-like interface at the bottom of the screen for communications, rather than UO's actual speech bubbles, irretrievably separated the player from the character and increased the feeling that you're playing a game rather than playing a character (whether you were roleplaying or not).

Good point!

But the voice chat... I wouldn't exactly call that meaningful communications. The horrific things said in general chat are still there, except there is more people audibly burping and farting into microphones.

Combat as Sport

Except there are no combat-as-sport MMO-fantasy-style games. Even the ones like WOW Arena play, which purports to being an "E-Sport", there is actually very little of that going on -- to get to that point (which is, to have top PVP gear) is such a tremendous grind, that I find it unfathomable that I could ever put up with doing that, assuming I had the playing skill to go along with it.

But people sure live their shiny purple pixels, I don't think anybody would actually play if you always had equal gear as everybody else.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:53 PM on March 7, 2012


This guy is an A-Type throughout the story. And then he decides to just stand there and die for some kind of point? Long before he even considered writing about it?

No. I call bullshit.


BRB, cat's on fire...
posted by atomicmedia at 6:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


One MMO that embraced Combat-as-Sport was Guild Wars; admittedly, it did so by basically creating two different games, but that's another reason for the admittedly exaggerated level of hype around its sequel.
posted by Maxson at 6:57 PM on March 7, 2012


When he bought a car and paid for his house?

So playing a fun game and working a job are the same things to you? I'm sure the unemployment rate would be non-existant if that were true.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:06 PM on March 7, 2012


It is the New Economy we've been hearing about!
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:07 PM on March 7, 2012


See?! Obama did do something right!
posted by P.o.B. at 7:10 PM on March 7, 2012


Threeway Handshake, WoW battlegrounds are the epitome of combat as sport. And a lot of fun, too (though I'm a bit wistful about 9 hour Alterac Valley battles...)
posted by Sebmojo at 7:11 PM on March 7, 2012


Threeway Handshake, WoW battlegrounds are the epitome of combat as sport.

No they aren't. There is PVP gear with resilience. The guy with more resilience will win 100% of fights against an equally skilled opponent that hasn't grinded as much res gear as him.

There is a level of this "e-sport" in the 2400+ (or whatever it is now) ranked arena teams, where everybody does have equal gear, but the number of people at that level are only in the few dozen per server group. Unless that has changed a lot recently.

The day that WOW boosts all players in a BG or arena to have exactly equal gear is when it becomes an actual sport.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:29 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Early UO taught me to never trust another human being, that was a valuable lesson it was better to learn in a game than in the real world.
really?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(though I'm a bit wistful about 9 hour Alterac Valley battles...)

Alterac Valley was the only battleground (and, by the end, the only part of WoW, period) that I found really fun. I could spend weeks on end doing nothing else with my spare time than logging in and hitting up AV. I just loved those massive free for all scrums at the Alliance's bridge or the narrow hill that led up to the Horde fortress. Part of the joy was the sheer bloody randomness of things - there's more luck than skill involved when there's fifty-odd people all hurling at each other in a tidal wave of swords, spells and projectile weapons. Which made it all the cooler when someone managed to stand out and do something absolutely amazing.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:00 PM on March 7, 2012


Hell, For the original jedi system, I got to put in permadeath.

This, the fact that it was so hard to become a Jedi/Sith, and the Bounty Hunter System created a really cool dynamic. Jedi ended up being pretty rare since they were so hard to get and they had some real consequences to getting caught in the open so you didn't see a lot of them. The game was set after Episode IV and V so Jedi were supposed to be really rare. There was a time when hearing a light-saber fire up was a very special thing.

The only real problem with the economy was that players added money to the system at will (from loot and quest rewards) and the things the took it out (paying for shuttle rides, building maintenance) were few and cheap so keep from pricing new players out of those services. There was some serious inflation and people needed lots of consumables so it took increasing amounts of time to get enough money for loot to keep yourself supplied. Eventually, people who had money money than time just bought the money they needed.

Had they found a better way to take money out of the system, I think the economy would have added a lot more to the game though it was pretty cool as it was. Once I realized that inflation was such a huge problem, I sunk my money into rare and high-end resources (minerals needed for crafting better items). I did the SWG equivalent of buying gold bullion.

I harbor some small hope that SOE will release the pre-CU or pre-NGE code so that some fans can run that game, or maybe they could license it for cheap or something. I, for one, would pay for that game as I was only able to play for a few weeks before the NGE hit.
posted by VTX at 8:04 PM on March 7, 2012


The best overall fun I ever had in WoW was back when Nathrezim Horde side ran 40 man AV raids during BC. We did not go for quick wins. We went for total, absolute 500-0 wins and we got them every time. So unfair, but so so fun. It was a great way to grind battleground points, but it was never a grind.




Oh God, this says 2012....no...no...don't do it...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:06 PM on March 7, 2012


Early UO taught me to never trust another human being, that was a valuable lesson it was better to learn in a game than in the real world.

Weird, it taught me that nothing can be accomplished without cooperation and trust. That what you should count in your life are not the irreparable costs of life's adventures but the experiences you have with the people you meet on that road you shared. The experiences you have walking to those places you never ended up. The paths shared, not the places. Early UO taught me that futility, finitude, and frailty were mankind's common bonds. The limit we cannot hope to bridge in our own lives is the bridge between our lives. While claims to strength may tear us apart, we are all natives of one country. Weakness is our homeland. Failure is our common language.

Actually, no. I think it just taught me never to open a bank box without hiding first.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:12 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh God, this says 2012....no...no...don't do it...

The more time passes, the more Blizzard promos look like catalog advertisements for crystal wizard figurines and commemorative plates.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:17 PM on March 7, 2012


The day that WOW boosts all players in a BG or arena to have exactly equal gear is when it becomes an actual sport.

Warhammer Wrath of Heroes?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:26 PM on March 7, 2012


Last game like this I played was LustyMUD.

At level 19 one could pester the wizards to get a quest set up. After completing the quest if one showed coding abilities one could become a wizard and start coding parts of the world.

This meant one could find npc Ford Prefect hanging out with an npc Jedi in a Seuss setting.

Never had so much fun. I leveled up to 19 a few times, and for months I would log in just to hang out in bars talking to friends and playing darts while waiting for a new quest to open up. Like IRC but way more fun.

Now I log in to urban terror servers mostly to chat with old friends while sniping noobs.

So yeah, socialization makes or breaks a game for me.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2012


Heh, I meant the thread after the splash ad that talks about running that AV strat.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:31 PM on March 7, 2012


Oh. I ... I have a short attention span. I am sorry.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:31 PM on March 7, 2012


You are not forgiven, we are now enemies for lif...oh, a butterfly!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:32 PM on March 7, 2012


If you played UO and you didn't play Siege Perilous with me, you're a carebear.

Eve Online is the only other MMORPG that has the same dynamics of PvP with risk and loss of items that UO had.
posted by Argyle at 9:16 PM on March 7, 2012


Man, did I ever wander off to eat dinner and take a bath at the wrong time. Jumping back a bit to what Lord_Pall was saying...

Maintenance nightmare. We'd have had to split the codebase and maintained 2 different sets of servers/configs.

This makes sense from a "we have x weeks to get the expansion out the door" sense but as someone who worked on the game seven or eight years down the road, I can say with confidence that it doesn't hold up. Because ultimately, we did end up having to split the codebase, but instead of having two discrete sets of code, we have a tremendous pile of special-cased scripting for frigging everything. Nightmare to design, nightmare to maintain, nightmare to document and explain to the players using small words. I ended up having to describe stuff in pseudocode in our Q&A almost every single week.

Of course, that was the beauty of UO. I started working in the industry at NCsoft, which was where all the old UO hands went that hadn't already landed at SOE. Nearly every single public-facing policy, and most of the internal ones, were based on experience with UO. Then I left to go actually work on UO, and the reasoning for all of those policies became abundantly clear. It's held together with spit and baling wire, and has the fingerprints of literally hundreds of people all over it - many of whom weren't programmers at all, but got to learn the proprietary scripting language on the spot to make the game do whatever the hell they wanted. And don't even get me started about the patching process.

It's a beautiful fucking game - all that history, all that culture, all of those random spitballed ideas that were thrown at the wall, stuck, and gradually set into something like structural concrete to hold up the next generation of random ideas. I swear there are some functions of the game that are powered directly by the faith of the players, because there's no way the code actually works. And it's still alive, people are still paying for it, and I just got an email yesterday asking me to write a bit of a retrospective for its goddamned 15 year anniversary.

That's why I always roll my eyes a little bit at the players who talk about "helping destroy" a game. There are too many hands holding it up for one person to make much of a dent in tearing it down.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


DEV FIGHT!!!!!!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:28 PM on March 7, 2012


If you played UO and you didn't play Siege Perilous with me, you're a carebear.

Oh good God Siege. Talk about special cases.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:47 PM on March 7, 2012


Farmageddon, Santa's Slay, Shard of the Dead, Shard of Screams, Winterland?
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:52 PM on March 7, 2012


I haven't played an MMO since UO, but to echo the above. UO didn't even begin to make sense until you tried to interact with people, the beggars, the thieves, the PKs, it wasn't a game until you began to see and recognize people, talk to them, get to the point where you could interact with someone you only saw from afar.

What a fucking amazing game.
posted by stratastar at 10:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The UO socialization was like the camaraderie that developed between soldiers fighting in the trenches during WWI.

Neat, but without a draft you won't find many folks who want to do it over again with you.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:28 PM on March 7, 2012


(and you might be a psycho if you liked it)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:32 PM on March 7, 2012


I think everyone on the internet at that time was pretty much a glutton for punishment.
posted by stratastar at 10:43 PM on March 7, 2012


WOW, with its 8 million players, has a dungeon finder, and if the people grouped up for the dungeon said more than "WTF Occulus again" during the entire encounter, it was a miracle.

When the head of my EVE coalition gave his State of the Alliance speech, 1600 people logged on to our voice comms to hear him speak live.
posted by ryanrs at 11:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I should have taken that money, spent it on reagents, and set myself on fire

sorry
posted by Mayor West at 6:17 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Star Wars Galaxies is ALIVE. (well, kinda)
posted by jillithd at 6:34 AM on March 8, 2012


These are the adventures of Adam Ant in UO, mentioned by gilrain earlier.

I love that these forum posts are still online 12 years later.
posted by helicomatic at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Time constraints make for wacky coding solutions, no argument there, but I'm still amazed somebody thought it was a good idea to make a Star Wars MMO and ship it with no Jedi.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:48 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you played UO and you didn't play Siege Perilous with me, you're a carebear.

Wow SP! I totally forgot about that. A bunch of us from Atlantic went back to UO over that. I haven't gone through all those pictures, but I haven't seen myself in any of them sadly. However, I might be just offscreen in your TP battle photos. (But I can't remember if we were aligned with them or not in SP.) Me and the people I was with mostly all started out in the TP guild.

I used to admin(and host) one of the servers and the hub in the big IRC network that all the PK/Anti groups on Atlantic made, the others being CC, TM, KGM, SSJ and such.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:10 AM on March 8, 2012


I'm burying this comment at the bottom of the stack of comments so that hopefully, when I get PK'd, no one will notice it on my corpse.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:12 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a sure bet that most of your targets weren't sitting around thinking "I hope someone pulls me into a PvP fight right now". It was exciting for you, and a loss of upcoming adventure for the guy who was planning on raiding a dungeon with the stuff you looted.

Purely out of curiosity, since I've never played an MMO, couldn't you overcome this dynamic by giving starting-level players the ability to, for instance, booby-trap their loot with nasty, persistent status effects? And then, to balance it as you go, slowly decrease the player's booby-trapping abilities as they level up?

So yes, you get to kill the noob, but there's a small chance that stealing her loot will absolutely cripple you against ice damage for the next month or something.
posted by gauche at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Purely out of curiosity, since I've never played an MMO, couldn't you overcome this dynamic by giving starting-level players the ability to, for instance, booby-trap their loot with nasty, persistent status effects? And then, to balance it as you go, slowly decrease the player's booby-trapping abilities as they level up?

They've already overcome this dynamic by having nobody lose anything upon death. Apart from Eve.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:31 AM on March 8, 2012


Farmageddon, Santa's Slay, Shard of the Dead, Shard of Screams, Winterland?

Those were all much smaller headaches because they were a) temporary and b) supposed to be sort of absurd. They were on test shards anyway, so even if we broke something really, really badly, we could just wipe and start over.

(Also they were a lot of fun for everyone. I joined the team just in time to help write all the Shard of the Dead documentation - it may have been the second year we ran that. Good times.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2012


Actually, in UO there was a weirder dynamic going on. Many people were killed just for the sake of killing. The looting was optional, and often optimized. You would loot things like cloth, bolts, and reagents were necessary materials for further killing. Cloth for bandages, bolts for the crossbow, reagents for spells. As for that wooden stick and leather armor, you can keep it. After houses were protected, keys too were often left on your person. New player killers often looted a body whole, but the veterans, they stuck to the basics. However, this was a little different in very early UO, before player vendors, and before they restructured the good-evil system. Back then, if you killed enough people, ate too many cooked body parts, and looted one too many corpses, you were effectively exiled permanently from the cities. It wasn't really permanent, but it was such a pain to get back to "Blue" that no one did it. Back then, killing the fresh eyed newbies leaving town for the first time functioned as the sinister parallel to buying from vendors. Without player vendors, gold was worth less to player killers than to the upstanding citizens.

In time, what I was saying before became true. The relationship between player killing and looting became and remained divided. They were two separate crimes that were not necessarily equivalent. You could kill, you could loot. Two actions. I knew people who killed but never looted. For instance, I knew some people who enjoyed driving srs business roleplaying communities crazy. They would rush a wedding kill everyone, cut all their clothing to bandages, then leave as fast as they came. Still others would kill newbies right outside the gates, give them a lecture, and then resurrect them, handing them back all their stuff. There were agreements and treaties made by anti-Player Killing guilds and Player Killing guilds to only loot each other, and not the innocents. Some shards, with strong guilds, had Hamsterdam scenarios. They would protect the easy dungeons and allow only the less populated dungeons to be frequented by player killers. I can talk at great length about the schemes put together to make "the game" safe to play. But these stories only focus on one side of this division of looting and killing. The other side is stranger. A friend of mine made quite a lot of gold looting people's corpses who had died 'naturally.' He would resurrect their ghost, and hold their stuff ransom. This sounds terrible, but the price was half the value of their goods. There were also trickster types who would trap people's stuff after they died. A strange metal box would be in your corpse, you open it, and ho ho ho, poison trap. Merry Christmas. Someone would come out of hiding and laugh.

Some of you may find this all very strange. Why would you not keep the stuff? Why not always loot? Why only take cloth and simple objects? Why not take every thing all the time every time? Well, most items in UO were worthless back then. There was no substantial hierarchy of armor, weapons, or precious quest artifacts like you find in WoW, or EVE. The rarest thing in the game were holiday gifts, bugged objects, and "enchanted" items. Things which had no real game mechanic value. In sharp contrast to the modern MMO, enchanted items such as wands and armor were worth more sold than they were in battle. There were a few exceptions, a few wands were very useful for spamming purposes, but ultimately, most of these were useless. These valuable objects, even the best of the valuable objects, did not significantly upset the PvP balance, or even the Player vs Monster balance. Later, all that I am saying was no longer true. Long after I stopped playing they started having a real hierarchy of items. Without a level treadmill to rely on for driving play, and without the incredible friction and resistance produced by the other players, UO was forced to assume a weapon/armor/item treadmill. Now that the game itself was no longer the macguffin, the perfect armor, weapon, and so on became the new macguffin. Better and better objects functioned equivalently to higher and higher levels in modern MMO. But the present game play mechanics are irrelevant to my war stories.

Killing back then was first about killing another player. Going, hey, I can do something to that guy RIGHT NOW. But the loot was an added benefit. Nonetheless, if you really wanted to make bank back then, there were faster methods than harvesting the players in dungeons. Most of the really profitable activity were purely social. I worked as dispatch for an anti-player killing guild, was a tax collector for one of the cleverer player killing guilds, and later started an interview show and took advertisement revenue. Then Trammel happened, and well, I was out of two of my three jobs.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:17 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Many people were killed just for the sake of killing.

Man, my best good-old-days PK story was when I was wandering around looking for the shrines wearing nothing but shorts and carrying nothing lootable. I passed through one of the more tightly-packed "residential" areas, and this dude comes tearing out of his house yelling "Corp Por!" (Death Bolt - imagine the sound of a shotgun blast.)

He nails me twice, I'm just about dead and there's no way I can get out of range, so I type frantically, "I've got nothing on me, dude!"

"Then get off my goddamned lawn!" He casts Corp Por again, but doesn't target it yet - the sound of the shotgun being racked echoes through my head.

"Yes sir!" I say, and dash off.

Man, I know all the reasons for the change, and I wouldn't go back to that ruleset if you paid me, but it did make for some memorable interactions.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:30 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's because I never got into MMOs, but these type of "I scammed an MMO until they patched it, and then it wasn't fun because I had to play a game I wasn't the champion of" are always a bit precious; like these guys really think they're in fucking Goodfellas or something.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:50 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had been a lifelong Ultima fan since childhood. I lived for that series of games. When the beta for UO came out, I signed up but it turned out my 9600 baud modem wasn't up to snuff.

I signed up for real later, ready to experience a new world of Ultima. As soon as I left the city gates ready for adventure some jackhole PK'd me. That happened twice more - I never made it out of the city. I got a lecture from the third one about grinding and shit before I even show my fave in public.

I decided this shit wasn't worth it. The PKers could go fuck themselves, UO could go fuck itself and I didn't bother with a MMO until my wife dragged me into WOW (which we mostly play like a single player game anyways.) I deal with assholes enough in regular life, I don't need to deal with them in my recreational time, too.

And I hope to God I never end up as the plaintiff in a case where the jury is full of PKers, because they're all about blaming the victim. Yes, this is exaggerated hyperbole over a computer game, but PKers can go fuck themselves anyways.
posted by charred husk at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Time constraints make for wacky coding solutions, no argument there, but I'm still amazed somebody thought it was a good idea to make a Star Wars MMO and ship it with no Jedi.

Or spaceships you could fly. I mean, it's not like the reason anyone would want to play a Star Wars game is to fly a ship like Han or swing a lightsaber like Luke...

The relationship between player killing and looting became and remained divided.

Not from the perspective of the victim. The PK may not take everything, but a random passerby would.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I worked as dispatch for an anti-player killing guild, was a tax collector for one of the cleverer player killing guilds, and later started an interview show and took advertisement revenue. Then Trammel happened, and well, I was out of two of my three jobs.

Am I missing something, or did only one of these jobs actually pay real money?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2012


adamdschneider: "Am I missing something, or did only one of these jobs actually pay real money?"

You can't run a protection racket if people must consent before being killed.
posted by pwnguin at 3:02 PM on March 8, 2012


Am I missing something, or did only one of these jobs actually pay real money?

It's possible they all did - it was always legal and fairly easy in UO to sell gold for actual cash. The vast majority of players never bothered to sell, though.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:30 PM on March 8, 2012


hincandenza: "Apparently I'm the only one here who actually read Neal Stephenson's latest, "Reamde", since this is almost exactly the subplot concerning some of his characters."

Nope. You aren't. But that is a game system specifically designed to allow that sort of behaviour.

(I also hope Neal gets his magic back soon. I had far more trouble finishing that than I should have...)
posted by Samizdata at 3:56 PM on March 8, 2012


"He is more interested in the social experimentation side of an MMO than actually making a fun game."

That's an overstatement. But, yeah, this is what I always liked about him.

However, I'm very unusual in that I've a long and intense interest in gaming, especially MMOs, but as objects of study more than as games. I tend to get bored pretty quickly playing individual video games; this has been true for me since I was in high-school when Pac-Man came out.

There's a weird unfulfilled desire thing going on for me, though. I always sort of feel like I'm waiting for a game that hasn't been released yet. Maybe my imagination was captured when I read Neuromancer and I'm still waiting for that true social virtual reality. How UO's ecology almost immediately failed and all the rest, stories about Eve...I keep wanting a truly organic, complex, persistent, social virtual reality. And it's like the industry has steadily moved away from that.

And for good reasons, all discussed above.

"Also I think Raph lurks around here sometimes..."

Really? I didn't know that. I'd like to see him around here. He always has interesting things to say.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2012


The vast majority of players never bothered to sell, though.

I am one of those vast majority. I figured that maybe I would come back, so I never cashed out when I had the chance. And none of those jobs paid real money. But I did buy myself some nice realty on the three servers I played, and eight hundred rabbits. If there was any justice in the world, then the rabbit islands I populated on Pacific, Napa Valley and Sonoma still house them all.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:51 AM on March 9, 2012


I did buy myself some nice realty...and eight hundred rabbits.

Woo, new life goal!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2012


Eight hundred rabbits are equivalent to a little over eight million YouTube views.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2012


The more I think about this, the more I find it odd that there is a vociferous and dichotomous idea of antithetical play espoused, with faulty reasoning to back it up.

Starting at the premise that there should be a completely open world that you can do anything you want, also seems to include the idea, for a certain set of people, that 'might makes right'. Therefore you start with a world where people come to get their game-on in a free and open environ and are immediately accosted by others who have taken advantage of that idea, and at the same time these characters who have used that advantage to their utmost simply explain it away by saying the other characters are "not playing correctly".

I'm kind of wavering between outright astonishment and a simple "Well, no duh!" experience of seeing how devs have to forcibly implement (whether that be through buffing, nerfing, or carebearing) the utilitarian and pragmatic idea of the basic societal idea of "Don't be a dick."
posted by P.o.B. at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thus, Earth.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe, but I tend to be optimistic and generally veer away from Hobbesian ideology, so I guess I'm not surprised that I'm surprised.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2012


I never played UO but played on a pvp server in WoW because that's where my real life friends played and that's who I wanted to play with. I love the idea of an open world with lots of options and possibilities where people have the capability to be dicks. The problem is unlike the real world there aren't really reasons not to besides feeling that it just isn't fair to do that. There may be some in-game mechanics that try and punish but they'll never match real world consequences so they may discourage some but will not discourage as many people from doing evil things as in the real world. The percentage of people doing asshole behavior goes up.

For people that end up being forced to deal with this larger percentage of assholes it becomes stressful. I stopped playing WoW for a year because I was in the 35ish level range and none of my friends were on for about a week and I just felt like solo leveling but constantly kept getting ganked by high level players that got absolutely nothing out of killing me. Hearing these UO stories sound pretty awesome and that that world would be a better place than WoW as far as pvp goes (both good and bad consequences would be greater but that just adds depth)

It's early and I'm rambly, but anonymity on the internet or on the games increases the percentage of assholes over the real world and that makes asshole behavior pretty damned annoying where it would otherwise be something you could just deal with.
posted by Phantomx at 7:00 AM on March 10, 2012


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