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May 01

Faction Fixes – 03rd May 01 – nocturne
Latest Game Update :: Two New Fixes
  • The maker’s mark not appearing on legacy (older) items has been fixed. The maker’s mark will now appear on older items that are supposed to show a maker’s mark.
  • A bug was fixed that prevented craftable items requiring grandmaster in a craft skill from being crafted properly.
Latest Game Update :: Various Fixes and Changes April 25
  • Problems with the facial hair change display window have been fixed in the following manner:
    • Selecting “none” for either beard or hair will no longer remove both together but rather the one that was selected.
    • When a change is selected via the beard page, the following window display will re-open to the correct page (the beard page).
  • Problems with the thief disguise kit window have been fixed. Players will no longer be able to attempt to make a selection from the disguise kit option window while carrying a Faction sigil. The option was never applied while carrying the sigil, but was giving a “not permitted” message once the window selection was made.
  • Problems with players being eligible yet unable to join Factions has been fixed. Certain accounts had characters join the Faction system during it’s early release. During this early existance of the Faction system, some players deleted their characters that were in Factions. Problems that existed within the system would prevent this account from re-joining Factions with another character even though technically no Faction character existed on that account any longer.
Latest Game Update :: Faction Election changes
Factions elections have been re-written to correct several problems. Elections will proceed in the following manner.

Normal Election cycles will be 9 days. They will consist of 3 sub-cycles termed “election pending”, “campaigning”, and “open voting”. Each of these election cycles can last from one to five days.
  • Election Pending
    • The election pending phase lasts five days, and during this phase players cannot run for office or vote for candidates.
  • Campaigning
    • This phase lasts 1 day, and is the phase where players choose to run for office.
    • Players must be of Faction rank 6 or higher to run for office.
    • Up to ten candidate slots are filled on a first come, first served basis.
    • Players that quit Factions before this phase ends are removed from the election list immediately.
    • If there are no candidates on the list at the end of this phase, the Campaigning phase repeats for an additional day.
    • If there is only one candidate, the voting phase is skipped and that one candidate wins by default.
  • Voting phase
    • This phase lasts 3 days.
    • All members of the Faction can cast one vote for one candidate on the list.
    • Each candidate’s name and current vote total are displayed to every Faction member.
    • If there are ties in the voting, the candidate first on the list wins.

Comments – 03rd May 01 – nocturne
Web Group Comments has a new post by Marketing, which, though we’re getting used to strange handles, actually represents the entire Marketing Dept.. Then again, judging from the results, Marketing at OSI is probably just one guy. How else can you explain releasing software before it’s ready…?
Dev Team Comments has yet another post, this time from Adrick, who fesses up to being behind the two most fucked up things in recent history – Factions and Localistation. Oh, wait, Vet Rewards was a fuck up too, and Third Dawn… mmm. Adrick actually does a rather good job, relatively speaking. Go Adrick!
And someone got fired – FYI :: Ultima Online Customer Service Employee Terminated
On Wednesday, May 2nd, Origin Systems (OSI) was alerted to the possible misconduct of an individual employed within the GM Support Department. Upon investigation, OSI found reason to believe that this employee was engaging in activities that breached the trust that must exist between a company, its employees, and its customers. The decision by OSI management in this case was immediate dismissal. All actions that are taken by members of our support staff are logged and monitored, and we investigate all reports of GM misbehavior that we receive. We are grateful to players who bring these incidents to our attention, as these reports are used to ensure that OSI representatives are providing the best possible service at all times. If you believe that a GM or any OSI representative is behaving in anything less than the highest standard of service, we ask you to please email uoconcern@uo.com with the details of your issue. Only the most senior representatives of our support staff read this mailbox, and we assure you that your issue will be thoroughly investigated. We take our responsibility to our customers very seriously, and we will not allow anyone – staff or otherwise – to abuse our terms of service or the trust of our customers.
Personally, I’ve yet to receive “the highest standard of service”, but that’s probably just me.
Get your Player Events here!

Faction Fixes – 03rd May 01 – nocturne
Patch May 01 – Fixes to Maker’s Mark and requirements to some craftable items requiring grandmaster skill to create, Facial Hair/Beard menus, Disguise kit menu, Faction joining problem with certain characters and changes to how the Faction Election System works.

Cloth Maps – 04th May 01 – nocturne
FYI :: Third Dawn Alpha and Beta Tester Map Offer
In appreciation for participation in the Ultima Online: Third Dawn Alpha and Beta Tests, we are extending the following special offer allowing Alpha/Beta testers to order one of our collector’s edition, full-color cloth maps of the original and Lost Lands of Britannia. This offer includes the map and cost of shipping for $5.95 domestic (U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) or $6.95 International.

To purchase the map as part of this special appreciation offer, please visit http://www.uo.com/tyou. You will be asked to enter your Ultima Online account name/password to validate your alpha/beta participation status. Please note that you must use the Ultima Online account name for which you registered as an Alpha or Beta participant. Shipping and delivery times may vary, but most domestic orders should be received within 10 business days and most International orders should be received within 21 business days. As Caf‚Press will be fulfilling these orders, your credit card statement will show billing from CafePress.com.

After completing your order, any questions related to order tracking or shipping should be emailed to customerservice@cafepress.com.
Dev Team Comments :: Prophet Speaks on Veteran Rewards –
Hail Citizens of Britannia,

As we begin public testing of veteran rewards, I believe this is a good time to stop for a bit and discuss it. If I’m correct, many of you are thinking, “What happened? Why was the system so late in the first place? Why is it so late coming back?” Well, I hope to answer many of those questions in the following paragraphs, as I explain the history of veteran rewards from the beginning to the present. I apologize in advance for the lengthy nature of this document, but as we all know, veteran rewards have been in development for a long time!

I want to preface that explanation with a very short account of my history here at Origin. I started working on UO in September of 2000 as a server programmer, dealing mostly with the back-end server systems of UO. Since then I have touched just about every section of code in one way or another, either through bug fixes or new content addition to all the various servers and both clients. My first encounter with veteran rewards was in November of 2000, so all my information from before that time has been re-constructed from conversations I’ve had with the various developers who have worked on veteran rewards.

“Ok, so what’s so special about veteran rewards and why is it so complicated? After all, you did the Christmas gifts without a problem!” Well, with veteran rewards, we are trying to distribute a limited amount of gifts by account over all shards rather than by the number of established characters per shard. There were several reasons for this – for one thing, storing extra data slows backups down and generally decreases the performance and lifetime of the server. As well, by distributing fewer gifts, we make them more intrinsically valuable to the players.

So everyone involved at the office decided that the idea of distributing gifts by account was great. Right from the start, two significant issues were recognized as problems that would have to be solved. The first was that shards had never talked to each other before – ever! So we were going to have to design and implement a method in which they could trade information, and have this system operate in real time. The second momentous task was the calculation of account age. As it stood, a shard knew how old any one character was, but did not know the amount of billed months an account had. That information was stored in a database deep in the heart of the operations group – a completely different team than the UO live group.

The task of getting the account age to the servers was given to the operations group, and the live team took up the task of getting the servers talking to each other. Development continued for a while as planned, and things appeared to be working out well. In the summer of 2000, problems surfaced in the account age determination method. The operations group suddenly discovered that the method they had designed was hindering operation of one of the back-end servers. They informed us that they would need to redesign their solution. In an effort to keep to the planned release date, it was decided to attempt to solve the account age problem from within the UO Live team. The UO team then started work on a completely different way of calculating the account age. The new method showed promise, and the shards were successfully talking to each other, so rewards were opened to the public for testing. This is about the time I came aboard. The programmer primarily responsible for veteran rewards was moving onto another project and they needed someone to maintain the system. I was given that responsibility.

During the initial testing phase, we received quite a bit of concerned player feedback, which convinced us to re-evaluate the rewards. We pulled rewards from testing and re-designed a number of the reward choices. By this time, veteran rewards was a few months behind schedule, and with factions on the way we were running out of resources to develop and test rewards. Factions were just about ready for launch, so a push was made to finish it. Development on rewards was frozen during this period.

Just before the Christmas holiday, we had a meeting on when we would launch rewards, detailing a plan that would launch the system without interfering with the final developments of Third Dawn. A major push was made to test the system and eliminate any bugs. It was launched on Sonoma, and a major problem was found and fixed. We then proceeded to launch on the rest of the North American and European shards.

I should pause in the story to mention some of the flaws in the system that we only found later. The veteran reward system was initially designed as a simple data storage system. Over time, it has been modified to be specific to veteran rewards. During all these modifications, one of the primary design goals was to have multiple safeguards to prevent a player from ever losing a reward during a backup and not being credited for it. The failure here was that little was implemented to prevent people from getting more rewards than they were supposed to.

This is the point where things really went awry. First of all, the central data server was getting requests for account age and reward information over 200 times a second. The problem was that each of the calls took half a second to compute. In other words, every 60 seconds the server was getting 100 seconds worth of work to do. This meant delays that quickly grew out of hand. People soon had to wait 5, 10, and even 15 minutes before they got to choose rewards. Then, to make matters worse, the server system would run out of memory at times, after which it would halt all work and try to reclaim that memory. This reclaiming period took approximately half an hour. Of course, during this 30 minute period, requests for information kept piling up, making the delays even longer.

So our first pressing issue was that it was taking over 500 ms to calculate the account age of a player. This was aggravated by aggressive information polling on the shards that caused it to “hit” the data server more often than it really needed to. We immediately got to work to come up with solutions as fast as possible. Within a day, we had come up with stopgap solutions to both these problems, and by prime time the next day we were looking much better.

Things appeared to be working fine, except for a trickle of reports from the player base that people were getting extra rewards on the European shards. We quickly investigated these reports. Part of the veteran reward system gives us the ability to see who is taking what reward, and how many rewards any one account has taken. Our generated reports told us that everything was fine. Little did we know that the server was telling us this because of a flaw in the program that was corrupting the data. The next day, the trickle continued, so we looked a bit harder at our reports and checked the raw data. Eventually we found one possible loophole that could have caused a few extra rewards. This was immediately fixed. However, we still hadn’t found the more serious flaw mentioned above. In a few more days, the trickle had become a flood. I just couldn’t believe the server would be lying to me – all the tests we ran showed things were working just fine! At this point, we looked hard at the raw data and uncovered some striking discrepancies in it. It was then that we finally found the problem and pulled rewards.

We stepped back, took stock in what had led us to this point, and discussed what we could do to fix rewards. A fix was found for the flaw but no one wanted to re-launch the rewards system without putting it back on a test center. The problem at this point was that we didn’t have the resources to test rewards, as we were well into the alpha of Third Dawn. In order to keep from skipping around and dividing our focus, it was determined that all development had to be put on hold until after Third Dawn launched.

After the release of Third Dawn, we took another long look at the rewards system. What we found was that too much had been patched into the system since its original design, adding too many unknowns. It was determined that we would clean up the back-end system. Over time, what started as a clean-up and an attempt to add more fail safes turned into an almost complete re-write of the system. The new system makes sure players will always get their allotted number of rewards, no more, no less. We also added more tracking and logging information, and we should be much better equipped to analyze what’s going on in the future.

So that’s pretty much were we stand today. We hope that you will take the time and test our rewards on our test shards. The more people we have trying out the system, the more confident we will feel that we indeed have a stable and robust system.

Yours truly,
Christian “Prophet” Lassonde
Lead Programmer
Ultima Online
What’s New :: Veteran Rewards in Testing –
After addressing several issues affecting the Rewards system, we have activated the Veteran Rewards system on the Test Rewards shard as of Friday, May 4th. We urge that all interested players stop by to participate in testing!

Please remember this is a test, and thus the rewards will not count toward the total rewards available to your account once the system is active on all shards. If you have previously accepted veteran rewards on a test shard or on a production shard, they will not affect the number of rewards available on the Test Rewards shard. All levels of rewards (1st, 2nd, and 3rd year) will be active and will be available based on your account age. It should be noted that the listed account age on your paperdoll may be greater than your actual account age. Once again, choosing a reward on the Test Rewards shard will not count as one of your choices on your regular shard once the system is fully tested and released.

If you’d like to learn more about the Rewards system, you can find information on determining account age and a list and description of the available rewards at http://update.uo.com/design_197.html.

Any bugs encountered during the test phase should be reported to uobugs@uo.com. Be sure to include your client version #, whether you are using the Renaissance or Third Dawn client, a detailed description of the bug, and the location you encountered the bug. Any questions pertaining to Veteran Rewards may be directed to the UO Message Boards at http://www.uo.com, or sent via email to uorewards@uo.com.

Once we have determined that the Veteran Rewards system is running optimally, we will determine a release schedule for the shards and will update you with the information. We look forward to your joining us on Test Rewards!

Rumors and Such – 05th May 01 – nocturne
FYI :: Prequel Fiction: Rumors and Such –
Rumors of orc sightings and talk of missing sheep has been percolating through some of the towns of Britannia. Could this be a natural migration? Some of the resident orc experts don’t think so.

“Well, I used to see orcs all the time near my house in Cove, but I haven’t seen one for days,” reported Dwiggit, a resident of Cove and a long-time orc hunter. “They didn’t even come around when I replanted my garden, and they’ve trampled that garden every season for two years.”

Well, whatever the reason, it can only be assumed that the orcs are moving. Why? No one knows… except perhaps the orcs themselves.
Looks like Calandryll’s events thing is coming up.

Ultima Online Program Changes – 09th May 01 – nocturne
FYI :: Ultima Online Program Changes –
In the coming weeks and months, Ultima Online players will begin to see changes to the UO experience that will affect and impact the game in many ways as we update systems, introduce new content, and continue to grow and expand the world of Britannia.

In addition to systems and design changes, we will address how Origin supports Volunteer programs. Effective today, May 9th, Ultima Online will no longer host Interest Volunteer, Quality Assurance Volunteer, and Counselor Volunteer programs in North America and Europe. Though it’s a difficult decision for us, it is based on the reassessment of our online, company-wide business structure as we address growth and changes in the online entertainment industry. As a result, volunteer programs throughout all of Electronic Arts have been affected by this reassessment. This decision does not affect the existing volunteer programs in Japan, nor does it currently affect the Companion program.

Whether answering questions, creating intriguing and amusing events, or aiding their fellow players in any number of ways, these volunteers have enriched their own Ultima Online experience and helped fulfill the Ultima Online experience for so many other members of the UO community. A permanent acknowledgement to these volunteers will be placed on both facets of each affected shard, located near the Britain Counselor Hall.

Over the last several years, players volunteering in Ultima Online have assisted their fellow players with great creativity, aptitude, and grace, and our thanks go out to all who have participated in these programs since their inception. This commitment to UO, as well as the commitment of hundreds of thousands of players worldwide, is the foundation on which we hope to grow and support the game far into the future.
I’m really wondering how much of UO Japan has to do with UO proper. It seems they follow a whole different set of rules.

As for the “permanent acknowledgement”, on Brit Tram Sonoma, at least, I saw a pair of statues, along with three “an ornate plaque”. I guess they acknowledge that the Counselor program did nothing at all.

Counselor Closing – 10th May 01 – nocturne
Some really good reading on the Counselor Program being cancelled is here in this post on LtM, along with its discussion thread.

Volunteer Relations has no comment.

Turns out you have to double-click the plaques to see the tribute, here’s a Screenshot. My own thoughts, for those poor souls bored enough to be interested, have not changed, I still believe OSI ought to get kids in China.

Destination Games – 11th May 01 – nocturne
Lord British will be at E3 to announce his newly formed Destination Games. As you can see from this article, Lord Blackthorn and LadyMOI are no longer unemployed.

Visit their under construction page, you’ll see something that will look quite familiar.

Lines of Communication – 14th May 01 – nocturne
It’s Melantus’s turn at the comments thing, where he talks about how he can’t talk about stuff, because after the whole Alchemy and Necromancy thing, OSI really doesn’t want to compromise its integrity any farther. Because, you know, not delivering on a promise is a bad as delivering half-way on a promise and all. Or something.

2D Patch 3.0.1a + 3D Patch 3.0.1d Build 63 – 15th May 01 – nocturne
FYI :: 2D and 3D Client Patch –
We will be releasing a client patch on Monday, May 14th at approximately 2:30 pm CDT. This patch will contain art changes and updates, an updated credits file, and a bug fix to allow players to sell items to vendors in Ilshenar.

The current versions should now be 3.0.1a (2D client) and 3.0.1d Build 63 (3D client).

Sage on Sat Loss – 16th May 01 – nocturne
Sage, 1337 Designer, posted the following, on Stat Loss and the bad ’ol days, to some email group I’m not on –
Stat loss. Those two words strike fear into the heart of every PK in the game. To understand why stat loss was put into the game, you need to analyze the past of Ultima Online in an objective manner.

Originally, the ability to kill an opponent in UO was a way for the players to police themselves. It was a survival of the fittest plan, where those people who bothered you could be killed by you. However, you could also be killed by people you weren’t bothering, or kill people who weren’t bothering you. The system did not try to divine intent, which is impossible for a game to do.

Those who did not wish to be killed could stay in towns, which were basically safe areas. The problem, of course, was that towns were not very interesting places. Other than buying things from the NPC vendors, the only thing to do in town was bank. Even the bank was a paranoia zone, because while murdering was outlawed in towns, sneaky thieves could steal with very little worry of being caught. Players were more wide-eyed and paranoid than a mob stool pigeon on crack in the Sopranos house. At that time, you had to yell “guards” for a thief to be caught, unless an NPC noticed it and yelled for you. Thus many people created the macro “Vendor, buy, bank, guards!” Even towns weren’t safety zones, and UO was basically a PvP world.

So what did a PvP world really mean? Basically, it boiled down to might makes right. As most of you know, in UO, might is equal to time. The time you invest in your character usually means your character will become better (usually being the operative word, since some people don’t spend their time on character growth). Thus those with more time to spend in the world could pretty much beat on (gank / r0xx0r) those who spent less time in the world, or those just entering the world. This, of course, created some pretty severe problems. As the game matured, you started to whittle down your playerbase because new players could not join the game without spending a majority of the time looking at a screen with more black and white than the first season of Gilligan’s Island. Some new players were tenacious and willing to stick it out, but many weren’t. Even older players got tired of getting beat on because they could not exact retribution.

Why could they not exact retribution? Kal Ort Por. The recall spell basically allowed any person intent on killing another to escape with less mana than it cost to begin the fight in the first place. By the time word that PKs were around reached the eyes of an anti (someone who enjoyed hunting PKs), the murderers would be gone, leaving only a pile of bodies and some “OoooO Oo Ooing” ghosts to mark that they had ever been in the area.

How bad was it really? Well, since I was a GM in the “old” days, I can tell you that one or two PKs could cause 200 calls in one night. Imagine that every call takes five minutes to answer on average. That is 16 man hours. Basically, one guy could cost you four headcount for the evening, and a lot of pissed off people. It didn’t matter that killing was part of the game, and should not have necessitated a GM call; people called into the queue anyway. It didn’t matter if most people were reasonable and wouldn’t kill everyone in sight; it only took one dedicated sociopath to create havoc.

At the time, the dev team responded with the new reputation system. They were under constraints to use a small amount of memory when creating a system to stem the flow of murderers. The idea of innocents=blue / and murderers=red was the plan they came up with. Still, players learned to skirt this system and use the boundaries to exploit every possible loophole. Eventually the system had to be modified to plug the holes, and the complexity grew. If players did actually become Red, they could make another character, and simply use that character to bank and go to town for them. (Townie mules.) Really, being a murderer wasn’t hard; it was quite easy. There were still no consequences that could not be avoided. Thus the idea of stat loss came up. Those who remember the early stages of UO may remember that stat loss was actually an original penalty for dying. Of course, realities of the internet changed the original design as people died due to lag, or at times, bugs. It was felt that loss of items and stats was too severe. However, the idea of stat loss was brought back up as a way to curb murder. People were voluntarily murdering other people, so it stood to reason that if they continued along that path, they would have to pay the penalty. What this really stopped were those people who went out and murdered, at will, any moving target. With the new system, if the PK died, they could not simply go back out and be at the top of their game. Basically, stat loss was effective at reducing the number of sociopaths from the game by costing them time. Still, even this did not really give those players who wanted nothing to do with murderers a place of reprieve. This is why Trammel was introduced. Trammel gave those people who did not like murdering a place to be safe. (Note: This is by no means a complete history and some motivations and facts have been left out in the name of brevity, which Cynthe would remind me is a good thing.)

Finally we get to the question that many have asked: why not remove stat loss on Felucca, since the introduction of Trammel allowed people to escape murderers? Right now, Felucca is still a place people can go to explore and socialize, and they can feel reasonably assured that they won’t get ganked ten seconds after stepping through the Facet Gate, leaving them staring at a black and white screen. Many people still have their homes and towns in Felucca. Removing stat loss would change all of this. The same problems that existed in UO before the split exist now. If we removed stat loss, we would simply be subjecting Felucca to the old times where people were free to kill everyone in sight. That means that very few people would ever go to Felucca. Far fewer than go there now. Felucca would become a wasteland of no visitors and the space there would be wasted.

I am now going to express my personal opinion on the subject. This in no way implies that any of the things I mention are going to implemented in UO at any time. So if you quote me out of context, you suck. The problem wasn’t the game mechanics of the system, the issue is that player to player interactions are social and require social fixes, not mechanical ones. Murdering was allowed for at least these two reasons:

1. It served as a form of player justice, something Tyrant might call the punch in the nose factor. You are far less likely to be a taunting moron if someone can end your foul mouth with a sword in the head. Taunting is somewhat less annoying when it is only OOOOoooOOOO.
2. It gave people a reason to band together. When you have a threat to your existence in the form of a sociopath, the way to solve it is to group together to get rid of the sociopath.

#1 failed because the outlaws grew stronger faster than those who were devoted to justice. #2 failed because people could not band together to form a posse if outlaws could always get away. What is incumbent to be done in the future is to look at social methods for solving social problems.

What kind of social methods? For instance, if someone is bothering you, rather than killing them, you could “tag” them with an opinion. Of course, that opinion could be given in a positive light as well as a negative. People who are thought of highly would have a little bit more say in your reputation, just as those who are thought of negatively would have less say or none.

Your reputation should carry over with you across any character on that shard. Your actions impact the community, therefore you should be subject to all of your actions in that community. You can’t escape your reputation. Of course, all of this would have to be tracked carefully, so a guild of griefers couldn’t tag any one person they didn’t like and make them suffer. And even more importantly, getting a good reputation should have rewards associated with it. Being Honorable is a really good thing.

Frankly, I feel combat should be moved into another place all together. Combat should be a badge of honor. Imagine a situation where you could only complete certain quests, gain items, etc. if you had Valor. Now imagine that Valor could only be gained if you agreed to participate in PvP. The more you win, the more Valor you receive. To gain more Valor, you would always have to take on people with greater or equal Valor. You could not take on someone with no Valor. The idea would be to encourage PvP without necessitating it, and to decouple it from one’s social reputation.

Another possible solution would be to make PvP combat more similar to PvM in tactics, so when players do try out PvP, it won’t be something they can’t be competitive at because they don’t understand undocumented tricks. An example of an undocumented trick is trapped pouches. No PvP player worth their salt leaves home without them, yet many players don’t even know why they would have them. Some console games do a great job of this, educating people into tactics gradually. Of course, this means monsters would have to use the same tactics players use.

So there are some ideas as to what can be done in the future. As I said, before stat loss could ever be removed, it would be crucial to have a better system in place. Just removing stat loss would not make Felucca into the great land of yesteryear. It would turn it into a ghostland. The ideal I hold is that one day there would be no more split, per se. The Virtues would bind the people and would reward good behavior. But I’m definitely an old school virtue nut.

Sometimes the Destination comes as a surprise to the destined. – 16th May 01 – nocturne
GameSpy interviews Lord British, in which it is explained the silver serpent on Destination’s homepage, the choice of the name ((a juxtaposition of Origin)) and other bits and pieces pre-E3, which is most interesting.

The British Lineage – 17th May 01 – nocturne
GameSpy’s E3 Coverage
In somewhat of a strange twist of events, Richard Garriot (AKA Lord Brittish and founder of Origin Systems) announced today that his company, Destination Games, would join Korean-based online game developer NCsoft. Garriot gave further details on his plans for his development team, which apparently involves NCsoft’s game, Lineage: The Blood Pledge.

Garriot’s first task will be to help introduce (and help implement) Linage: The Blood Page in Europe and North America. Garriot will also work on other online projects, but isn’t saying much about his plans right now.
I’ll just post this here on the off-chance that you haven’t been to any of the many many UO sites already quoting Jinx.
I’ve heard from a few sources that Paul “Sage” Sage and Kirk “Runesabre” Black are leaving UO. As always this is a rumor, but with Sage going to E3 “unofficially” to hang out with an “old friend who is not in the business”, it stands to reason (in my deluded mind, anyway) that he is going to see about hooking up with Richard “My Alter Ego is a Registered Trademark” Garriot’s new company or possibly to hook up with the Star Wars Galaxies team (either way he’ll be with former friends from OSI – OSI has more or less supplied every MMORPG development team in existence with at least 2 or 3 warm bodies).
Sage is the 1337 Designer, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, Runesabre is Producer, LB is LB, and forever will be.

In other moderately interesting news, Cynthe is still around. She’s married to Sage, btb, if you’re wondering about the name.

ASL ? – 18th May 01 – nocturne
This LA Times article makes a big issue out of gender identity. Here’s a clue – if you’re looking for something not game-related, download mIRC. If you’re looking for something game-related, it doesn’t matter if the avatar you’re dealing with is male or female.

As an afterthought, table-top RPing is a lot more fun, anyways.

We Have Arrived… – 18th May 01 – nocturne
We Have Arrived…The Destination Games page has been updated, with the Press Release of the NCSoft partnership and Bios of LB, Robert Garriott and Lord Blackthorn.

And it looks like LB has arrived in whatever-the-Lineage-world-is-called, at least, according to this Wired News Report.
He also plans to make an appearance in the Lineage world with his electronic alter ego. “In Ultima Online fiction, Lord British has already left Britannia (the fictional land he ruled in Garriott’s games), so this is a great opportunity for him to go and visit new worlds,” he joked.

Got Orc ? – 19th May 01 – nocturne
Orc with Club That Orc Thing is getting some attention from Calandryll in this post, along with a promise to surprise tamers, bards and everyone else as the scenerio moves on.
Also, I think the Shadowclan orcs (and other orc RP groups) will find the masks themselves to be of great interest.
The message after this post tells you exactly what the mask does, if you want a spoiler. Also word of a new Orc creature, the Orc Avenger, or something. The pic in this post is unused art from the 2D client. Hyper, isn’t he?

Calandryll also wrote a pretty cool post in this thread on the Lum the Mad Forums, about Marketing, Hype and stuff.
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Tabula Rasa – 20th May 01 – nocturne
WRE reports from E3 –
Garriott, Starr Long and NCSoft’s Jake Song (the creator of Lineage) will work on creating a new multiplayer title that will attempt to capture both U.S. and international audiences. The game, currently code-named “Tabula Rosa”, won’t be out for roughly another two-and-a-half years, but WRE was able to uncover a few details.
For the terminally bored, you can check out the meaning of the phrase at dictionary.com.

GameSpy also has an article covering the founding and immediate acquisition of Destination Games. Interesting news is that Jake Song and Taekjin Kim, CEO of NCsoft, will be relocating to Austin. Lum the Mad has a write-up, as well as some pictures of all the folks involved, in his E3 report. GameSpot has more pictures in its report.
Sage and Runesabre have left the building. This and more in this article from GameSpy –
When I was originally scheduled to meet with David Swofford to discussion the future of Ultima Online, he mentioned that Paul Sage, Ultima Online’s lead designer, would be with him, and Kirk “Runesword” Black, UO’s lead programmer and executive producer, might possibly even join us. That was about nine days ago. Since then, both have voluntarily left Origin Systems for parts unknown. So instead of meeting with them, I ended up meeting with David Swofford and Rick Hall.

On Quests – 21th May 01 – nocturne
Calandryll clarifies a statement made in the article in this thread on the Lum the Mad boards –
“It will even be possible to have different outcomes to the storylines per shard and world, although it doesn’t sound like the branching stories will be long lasting. It seems as though once a new cycle starts, all shards and worlds will begin at the same place once more.”

That’s not quite accurate, although I can understand why that would be an assumption, based on the way we are doing this. Parts of the scenario outcome will be determined by player actions, but once the outcome is decided, we won’t reset it and start over. There would be no point in that. :) True all servers will get the content at the same time, but aspects of it will require player interaction in order to “win”, unlock, and/or utilize everything we add in.

For instance, let’s say as part of a scenario, we had undead attack moonglow which affected reagent prices throughout the lands. If players did not fight back against the undead and win back the city, the reagent prices would never go back down. If they didn’t fight back enough, Moonglow would forever be invaded by the undead, until the players did. So in this example, on some shards Moonglow could be freed, while on others, it’s still being attacked. We wouldn’t stop the attacks ourselves just because the next scenario was starting.

Also, each 8 week scenario could tie into the one before it, essentially creating an even larger scenario over time. We’re doiing it in 8 week cycles more to keep things organized and to try to establish some patterns that players can get familiar with with.

I hope that made sense. It’s a little hard to explain without giving out details that could ruin the current (and future) surprises we have in store.

On the Boards – 22th May 01 – nocturne
Tyrant, like Big Brother, is still watching
I’ve recommended that when UO is no longer profitable that we license the shards to the remaining players (since it is their world). No guarantees of course on this, but it seems like the smartest move. We don’t have to worry about this for at least 5 more years though as UO is still growing. :)

Ex-Tyrant (but still watching)
Melantus is back from E3, and assuring you that everything is alright
Vet Rewards – Still in testing. We expect them to be in the next main publish, but that could change depending on if we find anything wrong to delay it. So far the test is doing well, and we will keep working on it.

Tabula Rasa – 22th May 01 – nocturne
More Tabula Rasa news in this GameSpot article
One of the main features that Garriott stressed about the game is that it will not be designed to reward devotion. That is, the phenomenon seen in many popular online role-playing games – that you need to invest a very substantial amount of time each week in order to be as experienced as other players – won’t be inherent in Tabula Rasa.
Also of note, RPGvault reports that Paul Sage has, indeed, joined Destination. I’ll quote the entire relevant bit, since the page hasn’t been archived –
Among the other Destination Games team members introduced last week were technical principals Jeremy Gaffney (Asheron’s Call, UWO: Origin), Bill Randolph (C&C, Ultima IX: Ascension) and Jay Lee (UWO: Origin, Navy Seals), plus creative principals Carly Staehlin (UWO: Origin, Ultima IX: Ascension), Victor Meinert (UWO: Origin, Ultima IX: Ascension) and Scott Jones (Ultima IX: Ascension, Ultima Online: Third Dawn). And another recent addition is Paul Sage, formerly of the UO Live team.
Cynthe is still with UO, as she mentions in this thread
I am indeed staying at OSI. :) I enjoy my job considerably, and still feel very strongly that this community and this game are worth supporting. We have a lot ahead of us, and we still have extremely talented people at the helm.

Sage has worked on UO from before it was even released, and still feels very connected to the game. But a great opportunity arose for him, and he’s doing what he thinks is best for him. This should in no way be seen as a sign of any impending doom to UO. :)

Skara Brae – 23th May 01 – nocturne
While we’re on the topic of game-design in Tabula Rasa, and narrative-design in UO, we have this article on Replayability in Games, from Gamasutra.
And if you take the ferry over to the Orkneys, you can visit dozens of ancient stone monuments left by people hardier than we: Neolithic farmers, Picts, Vikings. Among them is a beautifully preserved little village, Skara Brae, where all the walls, floors, and even furniture are made of flagstones. Nowadays you can stand on the wall-tops, look down into the roofless rooms with their beds and shelves and cupboards all of stone, and try to imagine what it must have been like during the icy howling darkness of a North Sea winter’s night, five thousand years ago. People dressed in skins, huddling around the hearth in the reeking gloom, burning such driftwood as they could find, the only light coming from the fire.
The New Yorker has a very long article about UO. She covers some history, chats with LB, DD, Dupre and Blackthorne, and finishes off by attending the wake. Pretty cool.

Gromm on the Stage – 23th May 01 – nocturne
Gromm speaks in Dev Team Comments, about how the scenerio now playing out is a lot like acting and all. Obviously doesn’t have a background in traditional RPing. More comments in NetOps Comments, about how great working at UO is and all, or something.
In Development :: Faction Changes and Corrections & Additional Fixes and Changes To Factions
  • A problem with Faction Commander messaging abilities has been fixed. Faction Commanders should now be able to send faction messages properly to the rest of the Faction, four per hour.
  • A problem with killpoints/kill deficit becoming reset has been fixed.
  • The “I honor your leadership” function should now work properly.
  • Problems with Faction Robes not appearing on those that join a Faction, or appearing on those that do not join a Faction, has been fixed. Players that join a Faction should now get their Faction robe properly.
  • Players who are not in a Virtue Guild (Order or Chaos), but were receiving certain aspects or benefits of a Virtue Guild, will no longer receive those aspects or benefits.
  • Faction Guards will no longer be subject to healing by “blue” non-faction players.
  • A problem with Faction players being unable to wear certain Faction items has been fixed.
  • Sigils will no longer be stealable for an hour after a shard comes back up.
  • Blue players within the Minax stronghold will be able to become “unstuck” from that location. Some blue players may have possibly logged out inside that stronghold before certain recent changes were put in to restrict blue player entry. This has caused some blue players to become stuck within the location.
  • Containers within the Minax stronghold will now be able to be destroyed properly, without the improper “house” error message.
  • Players can now “push through” Faction merchants without stamina loss or “blocking” by the merchant.
  • Aggressors can no longer use moongates of any type while they are classified as an aggressor.
Word is Adrick is being considered for 1337 Designer. God knows he’s the only one not on the scenerio team who seems to be working.

Bowed Over – 24th May 01 – nocturne
an orcish bow Orc Scouts, along with orcish bows, coming soon to a town near Yew!
Here’s the text you get when you Arms Lore an Orcish Mask –
This item, a mask of orcish kin, provides almost no protection. It looks unused.
This item also appears to have a strong orcish aura about it, and it smells rather foul to boot.
Just a quick note – the new distributed backup system will be activated on GL and LS today following maintenance. The new system is already on AOL and Atl, and will reduce backup time to between five and fifteen minutes. So, don’t do anything thinking it won’t “save”.

A man walks into a bar… *ouch* – 25th May 01 – nocturne
In Development :: Player Owned Bartenders
Tavern [140901] [Barkeeps] Players will now be able to purchase and own a barkeep, that can be placed in the player’s house. The barkeeps will serve as a method for players to support and announce their own events and quests, as well as give out scenario hints like town cryers.
Bitch about wanting to place one in your small house here. Oh, new orc story in BNN. I’ll probably put up a new section for the scenerio sometime soon.

Jake Song Speaks – 26th May 01 – nocturne
RPGVault has an interview with Jake Song, the other big name in the new Destination Games, being the creator of Lineage and all. You know, I actually like the guy, for some strange reason.
Baja Tram :: Made my first trip down to the Ogre Lord island today. I haven’t been there more than twice since it was the Luprechan island, however you spell that.

I must say it’s totally shocking. I mean, I knew from reading the boards that it was bad, I just didn’t imagine it was this bad. It’s wrong – yes, wrong – that someone can be a Lord or Lady with skills that low. Sorta gives a new slant to Despise.

Ah well, lots of people have registered their comment, so I’ll spare the rant. Honestly, though, if you aren’t GM, displaying your title to the world is just weak.

Hi to Samantha [+V+], who brought me there in the first place.

Hokuto Fel:: I ran into “a paladin”. Or, to be more precise, “a paladin the mystic llamaherder”. Totally weird. He was hanging round the T2A Orc Fort + Graveyard being beat down by a bunch of undead, repeatedly healing himself. He can’t seem to die. He’s probably still there now.

Here’s the screenshot – he looks just as nakedly pale in 3D, so I didn’t take a pic. Here’s a screenshot of a True Brit Guard paladin, for juxtaposition.

EA.com – 28th May 01 – nocturne
EA.com is confident of making money. No mention of UO, though, which I find surprising, seeing as UO is their cashcow. MoOOOooOOooo!

Destination Interview – 29th May 01 – nocturne
Voodoo Extreme has an interview with Lords British and Blackthorn, conducted at E3.
“It is absolutely not a medieval sword and sorcery game,” Garriott said, “It is absolutely not a science-fiction space opera game. In fact, the best characterization for our current thought, although this could change, but it’s definitely not the first two, I would call a ‘stylized contemporary reality’. We like to believe that we are really creating a new genre.”

On the Boards – 30th May 01 – nocturne
Is there a reagent issue? ((Of course I said there isn’t, I buy enough to support my characters with excess to sell.)) Vet Reward Update from Prophet. Scenerio and Siege questions answered by Cal, who also assures us the mask and bow are here to stay.

The Quest Goes On – 31st May 01 – nocturne

Fallen Comrades

Scenarios :: The Savage EmpireNew item – “an evil orc helm” – can be found on Orc Lords. More info as we get it.

I was told that Stratics has reported that using the mask and bow together will allow you to engage Orcs without the mask exploding. This is wrong. Also, orcs will target you should you polymoth while wearing the mask. This will cause the mask to explode.

The latest installment of the backstory has been posted – Homecoming.
General Testing :: Looting Rights Fixes
The following issues with looting rights have been modified:
  • Getting the last hit on a monster will no longer be a determining factor for looting rights.
  • Players will no longer get credit for damage done to a creature beyond the amount of hit points remaining when calculating looting rights. For example, if a creature has 5 hit points and a player casts a spell on it that does 40 hit points of damage, the player will now get credit for doing 5 points as opposed to the potential damage amount of 40 points.
This was coded by Adrick and Calandryll.
Dev Team Comments ((now coming three times a week!!!)) has a post by Hanse, about bug-killing and how it’s really rewarding and stuff.

FYI says “exploiting is bad and can get you banned”. Lum says “peekaying is bad and can get you banned”. Gosh, but the Tramfolk whine a lot.

Today is the last day for the Third Dawn Upgrade Order, or click here if you were an alpha or beta tester and just want the cloth map.

A Moment – 31st May 01 – nocturne
Allow me a moment –
My sister, Monique Esther Chaya Tester, died last night of complications from her metastatic breast cancer. She was 35 years old. She had been battling cancer for the last six years. Over the years, the cancer took her breasts, her ability have children and 5 inches of her height. It never took her resolve, her strength or her spirit. Monique is the strongest person I’ve ever known and will ever know. She suffered on a daily basis in a way most of us couldn’t imagine. I can never begin to express how proud of her I am or how much I admired her.

My sister was 29 when she first felt the lump. If you are a woman, I can’t tell you how important self-examination is. Its never too early to begin checking. If you don’t know how to, learn, learn now. If you find something or aren’t sure, go get checked immediately. Don’t be afraid and if, God forbid, it should be cancer, go for the most aggressive treatments you can. Your life is more important than anything the treatments could take away from you. It was something I wish I could have gotten my sister to understand earlier. If you need more information visit the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer web resource.

I’m think I’m going to be taking some time off. There was some things my sister wanted to do that she never got to. I’m going to try to do some of those things for her. I only hope I can be worthy of her. Watts will be running things from now on. If you have something to send, send it to him.

Rest well my baby sister, rest well.

From Jinx, over at the The Chosen. I don’t know Jinx personally, and I have nothing deep or meaningful to say, as no words can touch the depth of his loss. But I’d just like to take a moment, to reflect on life and time. And I hope you would too.
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