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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Warhammer Online - The Legolas Factor

Posted by Daedren Friday March 28 2008 at 3:38PM
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The r1ft crew and our future Warhammer Guild has been trying to decide which faction to play in the upcoming and now delayed Warhammer Online. Here are our thoughts on Order - and something we call "The Legolas Factor".

legolas.jpgOne note - though I'm a fan of the books and the films, I've developed a disturbing hatred to all things Orlando Bloom. I'm not sure if it's because of incapability of acting in a role that doesn't require him to either shoot a bow or be a fruity swashbuckler (and usually ruining the movie) or the fact that you can see his 5-oclock shadow in the LOTRO movies - there is something about him that almost personifies the idea of the "Legolas Factor".

The Legolas Factor is defined as follows:

Role Playing Games are more often than not portrayed from a Good vs. Evil point of view, which usually puts the player-character in the shoes of a good-type player fighting against a perceived force of evil. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, throughout gaming history, games have been played from the "good" side and could be considered the industry standard in this regards. This holds true in other forms of media as well such as film, books and television.

In fantasy based games, or in this case - MMORPG's - the good side usually has humans and some sort of Elf or Fairy-like creature that could be said to be inspired from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and associated books. As most players are used to playing the good side in games, the default reaction is to play this good side and combat the forces of evil. Thus, in general, a larger portion of the player base is by default playing the "good side".

The best example of this, of course, is World of Warcraft. Server population statistics shortly after release showed a horrendous population balance on most servers. This can be attributed to the above factor and also the fact of the Horde having much less visually appealing characters. Rough estimates showed that the population was roughly 2:1 - 2 Alliance for every Horde, or roughly 66% of the population drawn to one side. This was mitigated in The Burning Crusade expansion, as the Horde received a visually appealing and quite fruity playable race in Blood Elves while the Alliance received some Space Goats whose females were disturbingly attractive as well.

The most disturbing part of the Legolas Factor and World of Warcraft was the Horde playable race addition of Blood Elves, as mentioned above. This introduced a Legolas/Elf playable race into an already existing faction demographic. The results followed the Legolas Factor reasoning quite well - as any long-time Horde player could tell you - that the influx of immature and otherwise idiotic players to the Horde faction was immense. (see graph below)

graph.jpg

Anyway, the fact remains: the majority of people chose to play the good side because they were either good or they looked better.

This, in effect, is the Legolas factor. If the good side contains both humans and an elf-like race (which is usually the case), the majority of people that chose to play the good side for the above reason (visual and they want to play the good guys) - they are inexplicably drawn to this elf-like race by default. The problem is, in most lore, elves are visually appealing, often accompanied with homo-erotic overtones. In most games lore they are considered the "free-spirited" , Chaotic-Good, free-thinking heroes of the world. This induces a magnet like effect for people, mostly idiots, to play this race and faction.

The most famous elf of recent years is indeed Legolas from Middle Earth lore. Ten years ago, in Everquest for example, the Legolas factor was much lower than today. While it's true that Elves and Half-Elves were popular in this game, the amount of people that knew and abused the Middle Earth lore were much smaller. It was hard to find anyone with the name Legolas, and even harder to find people with slightly modified versions of the name. The popularity of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, while completely deserved as this was a great adaptation, is fully to blame for the huge influx of Legolas Factor lameness post 2002.

The Legolas Factor, in a nutshell, is this:

- A majority of people tend to play the good guys, and if given the choice, prefer to play elves. (with humans a close second)

- As this draws the most amount of people, it also draws the biggest number of complete assholes.

- It's the smaller number of unoriginal assholes who then decide that *they* are Legolas, reborn.

- Conclusion: to maximize the amount of time you spend killing inconsiderate assholes in a game, choose the opposite side of the side they are more likely to be on. As Hannibal Lectar would agree, killing and eating rude people is just more fun.

This theory, of course, is not an exact science and can be countered by the "Drizzt Factor" (coming soon!) on the opposing faction.

(end of Legolas Factor)

Why is this important? Because in any game where PVP is important, choosing which side to be on is the first decision you'll make, and the one that will effect future gameplay the most. If Warhammer holds true, the Legolas Factor on the Order side will be high. How high is a matter for discussion - and don't think Chaos is off the hook either - we'll be covering the Drizzt factor when we get to that.

Warhammer is almost too perfect of an environment to put these theories to test. We have a good faction with both Humans and Elves (as usual) - and a bad faction with both Dark Elves (Drizzt Factor) and a goth-like evil race (Chaos - the Goth Factor). World of Warcraft was actually a pretty bad petri-dish for these theories as the good faction had Elves that looked like Dark Elves and the bad faction, though having the Goth Factor high were slightly offset by the inclusion of docile War-Cows.

In conclusion, the Legolas Factor (and others herein) will be looked at and referenced in our upcoming Race and Class previews for Warhammer Online.

This article appeared originally at the r1ft gaming blog at http://www.r1ft.com and is mirrored here with permission of the author(s).

I Blog! Hire me to make a MMO!

Posted by Daedren Friday March 28 2008 at 9:50AM
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With the recent influx of writers and bloggers (are those the same thing?) talking about upcoming games such as Warhammer Online and Age of Conan, I've seen quite a few comments regarding people having "good ideas" and wanting to work in the gaming business.

stickman.gifI'm going to try to take a constructive and productive approach here instead of pointing out that most people that do this sound like little whiny bitches. I read stuff all the time like "They should give ME X $USD to develop an MMO! I'd do it right!" and "I have all these great ideas - if only I could develop them..." -- here's a tip: if you haven't done the legwork to even research on how getting these ideas developed, you fail. Wait - I just pointed out that they sound like whiny bitches, when I said I wouldn't. Damn!

Attention to readers and other writers: if you think that you can copy and paste news from another site, put some witty comments on it along with pick apart some game mechanics and expect someone to stumble across this and exclaim "Wow, this guy has some good thoughts. Perhaps we should hire him!" -- you are wrong. Not only is it extremely difficult to get hired as a Dev from the outside, there is fierce inside competition for them. My experiences working for Blizzard were complicated because I was working for their EU branch in Paris: but even there, even mentioning you were potentially going to look at going into game development was enough to get snickers from people that had worked there for a while.

On to the constructive part. Here is the deal: if you want to get into the gaming development business, you have to work your ass off. If you really are interested, take a look at Sloperama's excellent advice to doing this. It's a serious reality check, so be warned. Highlights include:

How do you go about getting it made? First step: write the game design yourself. Then you can either make the game yourself (DIY) or use the design to get a job as a game designer (DIFTI).

apartingshot.jpgWriting a game design is a huge task. It's all like... business-like and stuff. You need models and graphs and projections and tabbed sections and concept art. Even then, when you pour your life into it for months or years: chances are, no one will buy it. The most you can hope for is using it in your portfolio to get some sort of position in a design company. Or you can do it all yourself - and venturing to make a game yourself, much less an MMO - the beast of them all - is no small task.

Anyway, there is a nearly epic amount of steps and things you need to do to really get in the market. A basic outline is:

- Transfer your idea from your beaner to paper - make a real game design document.

- Apply for jobs in the game industry, even lowly ones like QA testing and level designing.

- Learn the process of making a video game. Really, really learn it. All the steps. Not just the idea step.

- If you don't want to work for a game design company, prepare to go indy. You should either be rich or have some sort of useful skill in making a game - coding, modelling, AI / level design, etc. Oh, and if you're heading this project up, make sure you at least know about all these things from a project management level.

- Be prepared for long hours, not being appreciated for your work, and bad job security. Such is life in the gaming industry.

If you read through the above site, you might be thinking to yourself that MMO design and development isn't like this old-school type stuff, console games and the likes. That's correct - it's not like it - and it's considerably harder to make, plan, design or get hired to be a part of a MMO. The problem with MMO's is that they are very expensive to develop - practical behemoths - that have many layers in development that a normal game won't have. MMO might be the "buzz" on the gaming street, persay, but with recent failures such as Vanguard and Tabula Rasa, investors and companies are becoming even more skeptical in developing them.

On a more positive note - the purpose of this article isn't to try and say you can't do it. Hell, I don't know you. Maybe you can. The purpose was to hopefully educate you - and the above link will most certainly do that. Once you're educated on how the process works, you can move on and start doing stuff. It's a long, difficult process. The good news is, though - if you're a hardcore MMO player, you already have the time to do such a thing like creating a game design document and/or learning valuable game design skills like coding or graphic design. You might have to jump off the level / item / raid treadmill of whatever MMO you're playing. If you don't have the metal to do that, then you're not cut out for the game design industry.

For the love of God, though - stop with the whiny altruistic attitude of hidden game design gurus stuck in a normal day job, blogging by night and just waiting to be found so they can revolutionize the world of gaming. The MMO world needs more creativity and original ideas - it's getting the idea down and convincing the corporate idiots that it's good that's the hard part.

This article originally appeared on r1ft.com and is posted at mmorpg.com with permission from the author(s).

5 MMO Names That Could Have Been Better

Posted by Daedren Monday March 10 2008 at 10:03AM
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Continuing our series of looking at the shortcomings of some popular MMO titles, we're taking a look at some of the more poorly chosen names in the MMO genre. Judgment has been reserved for games that are at least mildly successful and/or published by some of the "big boys" in the industry. We've unfortunately left off gems such as the World of Kung-fu and Dark and Light : as fun as it would be to wonder why people would name their games this, it's better going with established titles.

Keep in mind that this discussion is purely for the names of the respective titles, not their success or how good the actual game is.

Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa

lord_british.jpgYou have to love Richard Gariott, aka Lord British, aka General British, aka I have an ego complex and need to be the main character in every game I make. I don't want to go as far as saying he's the M. Night Shayalalalala guy of the MMO scene - but the game official game name "Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa" is a bit too arrogant douchebag-like for my tastes. It might work for Clive Barker - but you, sir, are no Clive Barker. You're not even Clive Owen. (Sin City MMO, how sweet would that be?) Anyway, with all due respect that is due from the Ultima series and Ultima Online - what the hell?

Like most gamers, we aren't fluent in ancient Latin, so we had to look up the actual meaning of this phrase "Tabula Rasa". While also learning that's it has been a Buffy and Lost episode title, and also a Neutral Zone in the Star Trek universe, we learned that it means "Clean Slate". The name Tabula Rasa is some sort of inside joke or double-meaning title having to do with, you guessed it, Richard Garriott. When he left the Ultima Online scene to pursue making unoriginal MMO's cleverly titled after himself, he wanted a "Clean Slate". Well, Tabula Rasa = Clean Slate in Latin. Obscure much?

rentonpark.jpg

Sick Boy: It's certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Renton: What's that?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: Richard Garriott, for example...
Renton: Some of his earlier games weren't bad.
Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it's all right, it's actually just shite.

What it could have been: The game, like its title, could have been so much more. Other than getting Clive Barker to produce your game (Clive Barker's Tabula Rasa - sweetness!) , stripping off the ego in the title is the first step. Tabula Rasa really isn't that catchy of a name. Using some sort of modernly popular Latin like Vae Victus or something would have been better if you were stuck on the Latin thing. I'd suggest some sort of game-related title if I wouldn't have fallen asleep playing before my 72 hour trial was up.

Dark Age of Camelot

daoc_logo.gifDark Age of Camelot was/is a great game. There are still plenty of players enjoying this game. I jumped ship like many others when Trials of Atlantis aka Trials of Endless Grinding came into play. That being said, though, when DAoC first came out, I was a bit confused on where/when/what the title was about, and this is because of the title.

Camelot, as most probably know, is the legendary castle or fortress held by King Arthur. Historians say that the word Camelot was actually invented by bards and storytellers and that the word "Camelot" is actually a metaphor for a place where justice and virtue were prized: Knights of the Round table and all of that jazz. Being an avid reader of Bernard Cornwell and his excellent Arthur series I was a bit hyped to play in the 300-500 AD Dark Ages period in what was now the United Kingdom.

kbold.jpgDark Age of Camelot, however, has absolutely nothing to do with Camelot. Perhaps the storytellers of the time left out the fact that little leprechaun Lurikeens were running about causing mischief with huge, ugly, placid giant friends, walking tree people, and Klingons and that the Viking secret weapon was the "The Thing" from X-men and Kobolds that were some sort of twisted Smurf variation created by Gargamel's more-evil twin brother with a goatee. It also seems the real power of Arthur and his Knights were Half-Ogres and some sort of shadowy undead people from the Underworld. The kicker is that the Albion faction was supposed to represent the valorous Knights, upholding justice and honor - and anyone that played the game can tell you that HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE AN ALB ZERG. Unless Arthur and his crew were a bunch of cowardly zerg-tastic kids, Mythic missed the mark on representing the Camelot name with any sort of credibility.

What it could have been: Dark Age alone would have been better (or even Dark Age Online - DAO, how cool is that?). In my opinion. DAoC itself isn't a bad name, it's more of a mis-representation of the name "Camelot". To put it on different terms, if World of Warcraft had been named "World of Old Middle Earth" people would have been screaming heresy. I guess Mythic was lucky the Camelot name and era isn't protected under copyright laws.

Lord of the Rings Online

2md-10311.jpgNow before everyone gets upset about this one - let me say I'm a Tolkien fan - I adore the books, I loved the movies (though picking some actors to play the elves without 5 o'clock shadows would have been nice) -- and you know -- LOTRO isn't that bad of a game. I normally shy away from PVE only titles, but I must say LOTRO isn't bad. As an amateur musician myself, the music system alone is good for hours of fun. A hobbit playing Stairway to Heaven on his lute might not exactly fit lore-wise, but let's not get too picky.

The name, however, isn't great. For those that didn't follow the title, LOTRO was originally intended to be called "Middle Earth Online" which is, quite frankly, vastly superior in every aspect. When the monkeys at Turbine somehow argued that "Lord of the Rings Online" is somehow better, they were talking straight from their wallets and/or asses. This was a move that clearly said "We are milking the movie success!" with little regard for long-term vision or creative ingenuity.

sam_frodo.jpgWhat it could have been: Middle Earth Online was such a better name because it didn't force the game to be thrown into the specific time line of the Trilogy books. And honestly - we know that our little hobbits and elves in LOTRO can't be doing *real* epic stuff like Frodo and the crew are: they even throw it in your faces as you're playing the game. Here they are telling you of Frodo and his epic journey to Mordor and all the exciting stuff happening to him: the next minute it's back to grindfest as you go fetch 15 warg tails for some idiot NPC who is too lazy to go get them theirself. Middle Earth Online could have been an entirely different epic story, where players are *gasp* actually able to effect the game-world instead of playing minion to a bunch of a clueless NPC's who happen to like standing around with rings above their heads. Lastly, they've pigeon-holed themselves into following the LOTRO storyline, meaning when it ends (and it has to) - Sauron is gone, his minions scatter, and if they stick with the lore, your army of 500 level 50 Elf Hunters with some variation of "olas" at the end of their name are going to continue their epic battle playing clean-up around Middle Earth. And no, you can't go to the Grey Havens with Gandalf and Frodo. Their boat isn't big enough.

Vanguard, Saga of Heroes

logo_vanguard.jpgIn a perfect world, or more appropriately, in a world where all the cool words in English aren't already in use by either the military or trillion-dollar investment firms, Vanguard is a cool name. Its official definition is "a forward element of an advancing military formation". It's also the name of a bunch of naval Ships. Most importantly, it's the name of an investment company that has $1.3 Trillion USD in assets, also known as enough money and power to do anything in the world except stop a sub-par MMO being released with the same name as them. This inaptly chosen name is akin to having an MMO named "Microsoft: Legends of Warriors" or "Walmart: Epic Dynasty" -- that is, of course, assuming that Microsoft and Walmart both had an alternate, cool military meaning.

What it could have been: Saga of Heroes alone would have been better. It's also ironic that a game named after a successful financial company is in financial ruin.

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

ageofconan_logo.jpgEnding our list is the highly anticipated Age of Conan title. I'm looking forward to AoC - it might be second to Warhammer Online, but it's still coming out first and should offer at least a few months of some original gameplay before some jump-ship to the Mythic beast that will be WAR.

conan-arnold.jpgAge of Conan's biggest problem (other than catering to an already saturated fantasy MMO market) is its title. This problems lies in one sole fact: for me, and my generation, Conan = a half-dressed Arnold Schwarzenegger chopping heads off. When I first heard of AoC I thought to myself - damn, they're making a MMO based off that damn movie? Oh yeah, I think it was a book. (for those that don't know, the game is being based off the books/lore of this series)

This stereotype has been hard to overcome. Even now, as an avid follower of the game, I have problems with the name. "Age of Conan" just doesn't sound very epic. I like the lore and everything, and even Conan in the lore sounds like a pretty bad ass guy - sort of a mercenary, Chaotic-Neutral Warrior / Thief / King / Ladies-man / Gladiator type that kills who he wants for what he considers a good reason and could crush your head by just looking at you. I like the fact that they've taken a realistic approach to the game balanced with mythical beasts and some cool sounding races / classes.

The uphill battle that AoC is fighting against Warhammer Online started with this title. They are using a weird IP to promote an otherwise really cool game. I think that either a fresh/new IP would have been a better choice, or pick a more generic title that fits well within the Conan lore but sets it apart from other fantasy titles.

What it could have been: Age of (anything other than Conan). Age of War. Age of Kings. Age of Heroes. Age of Limbs Flying Off. You could still even use the Conan lore, if you want: just don't put it in the title. It's a tough job to find a good, catchy and marketable MMO name. The game and lore itself is not like the pansy 80's Arnold films, and is much more like a graphic comic such as Sin City / 300 and deserves an equally gritty and mean sounding name. Choosing one that doesn't evoke images of the Govenator would be a start.

This article was original posted at the r1ft gaming blog at http://www.r1ft.com and is copied here with permission from the author(s).

Corporate Asshattery: If you can't beat them, buy them

Posted by Daedren Monday March 10 2008 at 4:42AM
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An article over at TheGreenskin that I wandered across recently is quite possibly the biggest example of MMO corporate asshatery that I've ever read.

Buying a company up isn't anything new, but the reason for them buying is almost mind blowing. From the article:

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick: "We don't think that even if we made the USD 500 million or billion-dollar investment to get a product out [to compete with WOW] that we would even be successful doing it," he said.

Perhaps if you spent a little less time and money worrying about your new horribly optimized homepage (here's a hint: use flash sparingly) -- you might be able to actually contribute to the gaming industry rather than just buying the Microsoft Windows equivalent of a MMO game.

I find it disheartening that the head of an entertainment/gaming company would go far as to just give up like that. He's basically saying: we suck, I love World of Warcraft, and we bought them to milk this cow to it's fullest potential. He even went as far as saying:

"When we first started looking at it, it appeared to us like a game in an insurmountable product category... EA, Microsoft, Sony and scores of venture capital investments had been put to work unsuccessfully in trying to develop massively multiplayer games as a product opportunity,"

Perhaps if EA, Microsoft and Sony didn't produce heaping piles of dung for MMO's, you'd have something to go on. If you're putting yourself in the same ballpark as the people that made and ruined SWG and clusterfucked Vanguard into a catatonic state; well, you're kinda setting yourself up for failure, I would think.

I don't know what kind of monkeys you have running the show over there at Activision, but they are absolutely wrong. In fact, I'd bet my left nut that it could be done with a budget short of $100M USD. Here's my short guide on what the hell you could have done other than selling out. It involves seeing why WoW was successful:

  1. Use an already established IP.
  2. Cater to both hardcore and casual gamers.
  3. Combine proven concepts already existing in today's market.
  4. Market your product correctly, preferably to another demographic of online gaming.
  5. Above all - and I stress this - make sure your game is technically sound, doesn't need a Cray to run it, and is STABLE.

thumbs-up.jpgGee, but is there ANY established IP that could even compete? IS THERE? I'll give you a hint: it starts with an F and ends with a ALLOUT. That's right, this little blonde-haired punk to the left would have been the key to you actually creating a good product for the MMO market instead of blowing your wad on Vivi's back. Not only is it a huge cult-classic of a video game, but it has a scaringly active following on the mystical internets (example 1: No Mutants Allowed) and to top off the proverbial cherry cake, it even caters to a different demographic than the current fantasy-overloaded MMO scene.

A Fallout MMO is, or was, actually such a good idea that even Interplay knew it when they sold the Fallout IP to Bethesda. We're talking about a company in utter financial ruin here; they've been bankrupt for nearly 5 years now and are a cautionary tale of the gaming industry. Instead of cashing on even more money to launder into an offshore account, they decided to hang on to the IP rights for a Fallout MMO. They then preceded to propose a $75M USD plan for a Fallout MMO, hoping that investors would forget that they were in fact a broke company who just had to sell their last IP to pay off their debts and make sure they had enough for some hookers and blow on the weekends. My overall point is that you throw these Interplay guys a bit of green, and Fallout MMO IP is yours.

If you can't make a successful MMO with enough money to run multiple African or South American countries, something is wrong. Maybe the gaming business isn't for you.

I wonder if any of his corporate monkeys told him he's going to lose at least 30-40% of his market once AoC and Warhammer are on the shelves?

This article was original posted at the r1ft gaming blog at http://www.r1ft.com and is copied here with permission from the author(s).

Hello Kitty MMO: Apocalypse Cometh

Posted by Daedren Friday March 7 2008 at 9:50AM
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The problem with the internet and consolidated news is that you hear about pretty much everything. While this might be good in most cases, it can also lead to situations where you would have been better off not knowing something.

The Hello mofo Kitty MMO fits into this category nicely.

hello-kitty-color.GIFI'm not ashamed to say I didn't know too much about this silly little feline. As I'm just short of 30, and have a little sister, I do remember these things hanging around the house when I was a kid. Being the geek I am, I had to look at the Hello Kitty wiki page to get a clear answer. What I found out was exactly what I expected: this little pussy is just a broke ass cartoon.

Level 8 Kitty LFGThat in itself is no big deal. I suppose it's the equivalent of having a Mickey Mouse MMO or a Ducktales MMO. Not really much of a story to build on, but then again, you're marketing towards 8 year olds who want to dress up and run around as a kitty. They can do that damn fine in a non MMO, I would think. MMOing an obvious children's game can be dangerous. Hello Kitty world is going to become a pedophiles dream. Of course there are the furries in us all that all throw caution to the wind and go fur on fur every third Friday of the month, but for an adult (especially male) being able to run around as a cute kitty-kat with a bow while chatting up 5th grade girls has all sorts of crazy written all over it.

I digress. This information alone isn't enough to cause any alarm. What is cause for alarm is this horrendous Hello Kitty beta development blog (click at your own damn risk - auto loading videos, horrible pinkness, etc) . Apparently there are tons - like shitloads - of people trying to beta test this MMO. Quote:

"We have gotten applications of all sorts in Dream Studio. Our subscribers have used possibly every imaginable reason why they should be picked as beta testers, and so we’d like to feature that diversity a bit more. "

 

They highlight a video done by a user who describes themselves as "I like Hello Kitty and Rocky". Ah, yes, the healthy cornerstones to any stable life - Boxing and Japanese kitty cartoons.

I can see nothing good coming from this game. (pun not intended, you sick bastards) I'm not one to stifle creative freedom - but what is the point of this? Do pre-teen girls really need an MMO to occupy their time? Is the Hello Kitty universe so vast that it needs an MMO to display all of it and it's glorious wonder? Or is this just trying to push the MMO brand name as far as it will go?

In any case, I'm in the beta. Screen name Pinky on the server Pedosaur.

As always, this post can be found in it's original context at the r1ft gaming blog -- http://www.r1ft.com

First love: A tribute to the magic that was Ultima Online

Posted by Daedren Friday March 7 2008 at 8:10AM
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As I'm trying to get more and more involved and educated in Mythic's upcoming Warhammer Online - I've been bouncing around community sites such as The Greenskin -  I've noticed that a lot of "old school" gamers are really keen on the game. Funny thing is, that when I saw that the author(s) obvious respect for the game that was UO, I had immediate respect for the author.

Being ex-military myself, I think that old UO players have the same sort of bond that two military veterans have for each other: a mutual, unspoken respect, hopefully sans post-traumatic syndrome. There was an unsaid magic about Ultima Online that hasn't been recaptured in any MMO. While it's true this could be first-love syndrome or some sort of newness based thing, it could also be that the pure coolness of the game was just too much for us to handle at the time.

Without much further ado, I bring you my short tribute to Ultima Online, and why I loved it.

Ultima Online was raw. A good testament to this is ImaNewbie and his infamous ImaNewbie (at least for UO'ers) adventures in Britannia. This guy was about as famous as you could get in UO due to his comics popularity. While it might be dramatized, it was completely conceivable to have situations like this happening (that is, getting your face melted for no apparent reason) . It can be argued that this line of gaming evolved into the Lineage-type games that plagued the market later, but that's another subject.

The Free-For-All PVP made people accountable for your actions. Meaning, if you were a royal asshole, you either had to befriend a bunch of other assholes and run around in a group killing everyone, or you had to be damned sure to watch your back.  At the release of UO, there was no system for punishing killing - so it was pretty much as FFA as you can get. Later they implemented the murderer system, where if you killed 5 "innocent" people your name became red (and therefore, a murderer) which only time could take away.

This brought more problems, though, as people once again claimed victory over a rigid black/white system of good and evil and spit a triumphant grey-area, in your face! into the vastness of Ultima Online. Attacking players meant your player went "grey" and was open to anyone to kill, penalty free. This of course lead to drama and baiting, which  most of the time worked, for good reason. The mere fact that you could no longer openly attack someone who was before your sworn enemy was enough for many players just to say "screw it" and not care about the penalties. The long term effects of being a mass-murderer were that when you did die, you incurred a horrific skill loss that would be the equivalent of going from level 60 in WoW back down to level 50 or so. Being as a players murder count lessened while not playing / not killing, it limited Red's from being really "free" in the game. And, as you might have guessed, plenty of assholes stayed "Blue" or "Anti-Player Killer" and only attacked people that were grey or red.

This system wasn't all bad, though. It did provide the framework for a good social environment. It also encouraged people to travel in packs - the MMO zerg, to say, was born.

This social environment encouraged things like Alliances throughout the servers. (Screenshot to the left) Now, for those that have never heard, played or seen a screenie of UO, your first impressions might be "EEP horribad graphics!". Yeah, yeah, whatever. It was 1998. Anyway, what you'll notice in this picture is that all of the players are standing in a nice orderly fashion. In fact, if you had a movie of the event (it was a guild coalition ceremony) you'd be surprised to notice that the players, for the most part, pretty much stood still. Recreating this situation in a newer MMO, say WoW, would take everyone standing in a particular spot and then having the server lag for like 3 minutes due to half the players seemingly having ADD. It is surprising how interesting a game still was, even having the overall content of the equivalent of a newbie zone in WoW.

A good portion of the game was spent either running after players or running from them. The game world itself was incredibly buggy, to the point where a boat ride either meant seeing a lot of blue pixels or being stuck in the middle of the Ocean until a GM got you out. The housing system in UO was immense. When it first came out, the most insecure place you could probably be (if someone wanted to kill you) was your house due to the fact that people could shoot through walls, come up through the floor and generally X-men their way through obstacles. House and Castle sieges were an every-day event, and when your arch-nemesis guild's Castle got taken over or otherwise disabled, it was server-wide news. Tactics included everything from hiding behind house walls to wait for your enemy to come out, trying to quickly run in the door before they locked it, persuading your enemies friends to obtain a copy of the house key, and even on rare events - enlisting the powers of the God's  (GM's) to disintegrate your enemies property.

In retrospect, it was the danger and instability of this game that truly made it epic. As a player you had everything to lose by just existing. This made surviving that much sweeter and in the end, more rewarding. The industry, for the most part, has bowed out of this mentality and taken a strictly politically-correct approach to gaming. In the end, while we might get a better visual and audio experience, we're actually losing out on what originally made MMO gaming so damn cool: an interactive experience where something (other than annoyance) is at stake. That's my two bits, anyway.

Thanks for the good times, UO. I might have got laid more if I hadn't have found you, but at least you didn't give me VD.

You can find the original post at the r1ft gaming blog - http://www.r1ft.com